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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Screen time

There’s nothing quite as fun as seeing a beloved book series make the transition to television

For the longest time ever, I have wondered why Daniel Silva’s creation, the Israeli spy, Gabriel Allon, does not get the James Bond (or even the Jason Bourne) treatment. For those who have not read Silva’s series of spy novels, Allon is a marvelous creation, art restorer by day and assassin by night (and sometimes the other way around), with a personal tragedy in his past life that haunts him to this day, even though a second marriage to a gorgeous Italian woman and a new family has eased his pain somewhat.

Allon always seemed like a character made for the movies to me. But, it turns out that he is destined to make his mark on the small screen, with MGM Television having acquired the rights to the collection of Silva’s Allon novels. So, Gabriel Allon will be arriving on a TV screen somewhere near you nearly 18 years after he first came to life in The Kill Artist (published in 2000) and I, for one, can’t wait.

As if this news wasn’t enough to send me into ecstasies, it turns out that another of my favourite novelists is having her works turned into a television show as well. Production on Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend – the first book of her Neapolitan quarter – is underway in Caserta, Italy. The book will be turned into an eight-episode TV series set in Naples, telling the story of Lenu (Elena Greco) and Lila (Raffaella Cerullo), the two girls who find each other in childhood and go on to have a life-long friendship with its share of ups and downs. (And the best part is that the series – produced by HBO in collaboration with Rai Fiction – will have the characters speaking Italian, which will give it a certain verisimilitude that wouldn’t have been possible with an Italian cast spewing heavily-accented English.)

But no sooner had I finished celebrating all this good news than my inner Greedy Gretel got going. And now, I can’t stop fantasizing about some of my other much-loved book series being adapted for television, allowing me a glimpse of my favourite characters on the small screen.

Here’s just a small sampling of some of my fantasy TV series.

Donna Leon’s murder mysteries

Set in Venice, this series revolves around the career and life of one of the most engaging private detectives of modern fiction. Commissario Guido Brunetti is not your average tortured detective, smoking and drinking too much as he tries to cope with challenging cases and a dysfunctional family. No, that kind of clichéd writing is not for Leon. Her detective is a family man who walks home to lunch everyday to feast on the three-course meals served up by his intelligent and feisty wife, Paola, so that he can enjoy the company of his two children, Raffi and Chiara.

The crimes themselves are interesting enough but the real star of the series is the city of the Venice itself. You can almost smell the dank scents rising from the canali and calli of the city, see the winding streets that lead to the waters of the Grand Canal and the laguna, and marvel at the architecture of the beautiful buildings that keep Brunetti company as he walks to and back from work.

Strangely enough, only a German production house had filmed some of the stories though the series hasn’t been distributed widely. It’s time someone in the English-speaking world stepped up and gave us Venice and Brunetti in all their glory.

Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances

Regular readers of this column will know what a dedicated fan of Heyer’s romances I am. So, it would be no exaggeration to say that I have spent the last two decades of my life waiting for someone to make a TV series based on her Regency novels. But much to my disappointment, while every ‘period’ work from Poldark to Howard’s End is regaling TV audiences across the world, nobody seems willing to give Heyer a shot.

It’s a baffling state of affairs. These are ready-made storylines, incredibly well-plotted, laced with humour and wit, and almost cinematic is their treatment. The characters are very well-drawn as well, both the dashing heroes and the sparkling, willful heroines who are no shrinking violets. And yet, nobody seems to have thought of bringing the lovely Arabella, the masterful Frederica or the amazing Grand Sophy to life.

Well, the first one who does will have a bonafide hit on his or her hands. Meanwhile, I live in hope.

Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers series

These were my absolute favourite books growing up. I would devour them late into the night, reading by the light of a torch that I had smuggled into my bed. And then, when I finally fell asleep I would dream of midnight feasts, night-time swims, classroom pranks, and so much more, waking up even more determined than ever to go to boarding school.

Well, that never happened. So, I guess the next-best thing – now that I am all grown up – would be to be transported to the world of Mallory Towers via my TV screen. Strangely enough, while the Famous Five and Noddy have had their stints on television, Darrell Rivers and her friends at boarding school have never managed to make that transition.

And that’s a pity, if you ask me. It’s time a new generation of children was introduced to the antics of this group of girls: the sensible but hot-tempered Darrell, her best friend Sally Hope, the spoilt little brat Gwendoline Lacey and the resident joker Alicia Johns. And what better way to do that for this non-reading generation than through the medium of television?

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