Favorite: “ ‘No Country for Old Men’ is about as close to a perfect movie as I’ve ever seen. I hadn’t read the book, actually, and when I did, I was amazed at the faithfulness of the Coen brothers’ adaptation. It’s one of the rare cases where the script is just waiting there on the pages. Also, there’s almost no music in the movie, and the effect is striking. I wish more book-to-movie adaptations had the courage to forgo all those swooping cinematic strings.”
He is the author of the long-running Lincoln Rhyme crime series, which began with “The Bone Collector” (adapted into a film) and continues with “The Kill Room,” which comes out June 4.
Favorite: “I’ll go with a film from the genre in which I work: ‘The Day of the Jackal’ (1971) directed by Fred Zinnemann and based on the novel by Frederick Forsyth. For one thing, the book is naturally cinematic; it engages readers in much the same way a movie does viewers. I’ve often wondered why directors occasionally make it so hard on themselves, trying to adapt stories that are internal, digressive or ambiguous. Not every book, after all, has to find its way to the silver screen.”
Least favorite: “I’m picking ‘Dune,’ directed by David Lynch and based on the book by Frank Herbert. If you’re going to tackle the adaptation of a lengthy novel or epic, there are two ways to handle it successfully: Pick a book whose core story can be told through a limited number of key scenes (‘The English Patient’ or ‘Empire of the Sun’). Or shoot the whole damn thing (‘Lord of the Rings’), however many episodes you need.
“‘Dune’ did neither. In a little over two hours, it attempted to recreate Hebert’s sprawling fantasy novel in its entirety. Even a fine cast couldn’t overcome the excessive explanation necessary to help readers make sense of the plot.”