I know. That’s not the topic. But, as I started writing it, I realized that there was a certain amount of overlap with the Desert Island Ten, and I didn’t want to repeat so much so soon. So, I looked at some previous topics, and thought this one would be fun.
So here, in no particular order, are ten books that should be made into TV series.
Pretty proud of myself to see that Wool, originally on the list, has been greenlit! Now, let’s get to the others!
Brilliance, Markus Sakey
In Wyoming, a little girl reads people’s darkest secrets by the way they fold their arms. In New York, a man sensing patterns in the stock market racks up $300 billion. In Chicago, a woman can go invisible by being where no one is looking. They’re called “brilliants,” and since 1980, one percent of people have been born this way. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in—and betray his own kind.
Brilliance is a book about mutants, and could be the origin story of a dozen or more superheroes. But what it is, instead, is a taut examination of a political environment which punishes people for not being quite human enough, which is so timely…and, unfortunately, timeless. It’s riveting. There has been some talk of this as a Will Smith vehicle, but that seems stalled. SYFY needs this show, now.
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
I know, there is about to be a movie based on this series. But this book, this series…it needs more than two or four or six hours to tell it properly. This series could easily be 100 hours of amazing, can’t-look-away television. And yes, the book was heartbreaking, and yes, I almost threw the kindle at the wall several times. But it’s the kind of heartbreak that means *big* ratings. I’m thinking AppleTV here.
I Am Not A Serial Killer, Dan Wells
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it.
He's spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.
He's obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn't want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he's written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.
Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don't demand or expect the empathy he's unable to offer. Perhaps that's what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there's something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat---and to appreciate what that difference means.
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can't control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.
Dan Wells's debut novel, I Am Not a Serial Killer, is the first volume of a trilogy that will keep you awake and then haunt your dreams.
This is another book that was made into a movie, when it should have been a TV series. There are so many books, so much story. So much nuance. I’m giving this to FX, with the hope that we can get Ryan Murphy onboard. It would be something else.
Land of Shadows, Rachel Howzell Hall
Along the ever changing border of gentrifying Los Angeles, seventeen year old Monique Darson is found dead at a condominium construction site, hanging in the closet of an unfinished unit. Homicide detective Elouise "Lou" Norton's new partner, Colin Taggert, fresh from the comparatively bucolic Colorado Springs police department, assumes it's a teenage suicide. Lou isn't buying the easy explanation.
For one thing, the condo site is owned by Napoleon Crase, a self made millionaire. . .and the man who may have murdered Lou's missing sister, Tori, thirty years ago. As Lou investigates the death of Monique Darson, she uncovers undeniable links between the two cases. But her department is skeptical. Lou is convinced that when she solves Monique's case she will finally bring her lost sister home. But as she gets closer to the truth, she also gets closer to a violent killer. After all this time, can he be brought to justice. . .before Lou becomes his next victim?
This has Network TV written all over it—ABC, maybe. The author and series lead are both women of color, and so this might be a perfect fit for Shonda Rhimes, who is always trying to make TV more diverse. Television needs Lou Norton, for so many reasons.
Chicagoland Vampires, Chloe Neill
Sure, the life of a graduate student wasn't exactly glamorous, but it was Merit's. She was doing fine until a rogue vampire attacked her. But he only got a sip before he was scared away by another bloodsucker and this one decided the best way to save her life was to make her the walking undead.
Turns out her savior was the master vampire of Cadogan House. Now she’s traded sweating over her thesis for learning to fit in at a Hyde Park mansion full of vamps loyal to Ethan Lord o the Manor Sullivan. Of course, as a tall, green-eyed, four-hundred- year-old vampire, he has centuries worth of charm, but unfortunately he expects her gratitude and servitude. But an inconvenient sunlight allergy and Ethan’s attitude are the least of her concerns. Someone's still out to get her. Her initiation into Chicago's nightlife may be the first skirmish in a war and there will be blood.
There are two things that I love-love-love about this series. One, the protagonist, Merit, is an academic. She is turned while she is in grad school, and so when faced with a problem, she defaults to thinking that the answer is somewhere in a book. There are so many scenes of Merit doing research in a library and each one warms my heart.
Also, these books are each structured like standard mysteries, so there is a fair amount of time spent on research, which I love.
However, that’s not why they would make great TV. They would make great TV because there is a great central love story, and no end of interesting, quirky, funny, smart secondary characters. You will fall in love with everyone in the book. And that is what makes for good TV. Amazon, are you listening?
I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes
A breakneck race against time…and an implacable enemy.
An anonymous young woman murdered in a run-down hotel, all identifying characteristics dissolved by acid.
A father publicly beheaded in the blistering heat of a Saudi Arabian public square.
A notorious Syrian biotech expert found eyeless in a Damascus junkyard.
Smoldering human remains on a remote mountainside in Afghanistan.
A flawless plot to commit an appalling crime against humanity.
One path links them all, and only one man can make the journey.
This plot, y’all. It’s unrelenting. Release one episode a week and you could re-animate appointment television. It would be like 24…but with better writers. HBO all the way here.
The Killing Floor, Lee Child
Ex-military policeman Jack Reacher is a drifter. He’s just passing through Margrave, Georgia, and in less than an hour, he’s arrested for murder. Not much of a welcome. All Reacher knows is that he didn’t kill anybody. At least not here. Not lately. But he doesn’t stand a chance of convincing anyone. Not in Margrave, Georgia. Not a chance in hell.
I know. I know. There are Jack Reacher movies, or at least movies that claim to feature Jack Reacher. But I know Jack Reacher and Tom Cruise is no Jack Reacher. This franchise needs Jim Caviezel and it needs him now. Give the project to Netflix. They will know what to do with it.
The Tourist, Olen Stenhauerr
In The Tourist, Olen Steinhauer—twice nominated for the Edgar Award—tackles an intricate story of betrayal and manipulation, loyalty and risk, in an utterly compelling novel that is both thoroughly modern and yet also reminiscent of the espionage genre's most touted luminaries.
“Here’s the best spy novel I’ve ever read that wasn’t written by John le Carré.” —Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
In Olen Steinhauer's explosive New York Times bestseller, Milo Weaver has tried to leave his old life of secrets and lies behind by giving up his job as a "tourist" for the CIA—an undercover agent with no home, no identity—and working a desk at the CIA's New York headquarters. But staying retired from the field becomes impossible when the arrest of a long-sought-after assassin sets off an investigation into one of Milo's oldest colleagues and friends. With new layers of intrigue being exposed in his old cases, he has no choice but to go back undercover and find out who's been pulling the strings once and for all.
I agree with Stephen King about so few things, but he is right about this book. Showtime, where y’at?
Dead Spots, Melissa F. Olson
Scarlett Bernard knows about personal space: step within ten feet of her, and anything supernatural is instantly neutralized—vampires and werewolves become human again, and witches can’t cast the slightest spell. Scarlett uses her status as a null to cover up crime scenes for Los Angeles’s three most powerful magical communities, helping them keep humanity, and the LAPD, in the dark.
One night Scarlett gets caught at the scene of a grisly murder by the all-too-human LAPD cop Jesse Cruz, who blackmails her into a deal: he’ll keep quiet about the supernatural underworld if she helps him crack the case. Their pact doesn’t sit well with Dashiell, the city’s chief vampire, who fears his whole empire is at stake. And when the clues start to point to Scarlett herself, it’ll take more than her unique powers to catch the real killer and clear her name.
I read a lot of urban paranormal. A lot. But this series has such a hook—the idea of a null is not unheard of, but it’s certainly not common. And having a character who is so ordinary at the center of a paranormal drama gives the audience a point of view that they understand. Plus, great secondary characters adds up to awesome. I’d give it to Hulu. They could make it work.
The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osman
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves the Thursday Murder Club.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it's too late?
CBS, anyone? I mean, it’s right in their wheelhouse. Cast Sally Field. Done and done.