Is Your Favorite Novelist Writing For TV In 2016?
If you enjoy reading Electric Literature, join our mailing list! We’ll send you the best of EL each week, and you’ll be the first to know about upcoming submissions periods and virtual events.
Is there any difference these days between curling up with a good book and tuning into HBO? Or FX, or Amazon? More and more each year, novelists are taking their talents to the small screen, joining staffs helmed by literary showrunners like David Simon and Jill Soloway, or striking out on their own. The TV scene is so lousy with novelists it’s sometimes hard to keep track. So, to kick off your year of reading and watching, we made a list of authors who are bringing their fictions onto the screen and into your homes in 2016.
1. Noah Hawley, Fargo (FX)
The showrunner behind FX’s critical hit Fargo is also a novelist. Since the release of his debut in 1998, A Conspiracy of Tall Men, Hawley has penned three more books, most recently a psychological thriller, The Good Father (Doubleday 2012). Fargo was picked up for a third season (airing in 2017), which means we’ll likely be waiting a long while for Hawley’s return to hardcover.
2. Ali Liebegott, Transparent (Amazon)
Thanks to the success of her three novels (most recently, 2013’s Cha-Ching, from City Lights), Liebegott was already a prominent voice in the Queer lit community. Now she’s writing for Amazon’s hit show, Transparent. She shared writing credit with Jill Soloway (another accomplished author) on one of the first season’s great episodes: “Wedge.” If you want to know more about Liebegott’s thoughts on gender identity and writing for TV, check out her 2014 essay from The Atlantic: “Can a TV Show Save Lives?”
3. Joe Weisberg, The Americans (FX)
Besides creating The Americans for FX and serving as a CIA officer, Joe Weisberg also has a couple novels to his name, including a coming-of-age tale and, naturally, a spy thriller titled Ordinary Spy (Bloomsbury, 2007).
4. Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers (HBO)
Tom Perrotta is no stranger to screen adaptations. His novels Election and Little Children went on to movie fame. (Co-writing the script for the latter with Todd Field, Perrotta earned an Oscar nomination.) He later turned to TV, adapting The Leftovers (St. Martin’s Press, 2011) for HBO, along with showrunner Damon Lindelof. In the show’s excellent second season, the action moved beyond the book, but Perrotta has stayed on with Lindelof as a writer and executive producer.
5. George Pelecanos, The Deuce (HBO)
After publishing a string of acclaimed DC-based crime novels, Pelecanos joined the writing staff of The Wire and, later, Treme. (He’s credited with writing some of The Wire’s greatest hits, including “Hamsterdam” and “Middle Ground.”) In 2016, his work will be back on HBO. Along with Simon, he authored the pilot for The Deuce, set in the 1970’s and 80’s Times Square porn industry (starring, obviously, James Franco).
6. Richard Price, The Deuce (HBO)
Another esteemed novelist in the Simon orbit. (If you love crime writing and good TV, read Simon and Price’s conversation at the 92nd Street Y, published last year by Guernica as “The Cousins Karamazov.”) In addition to authoring classics like Clockers, Price has been writing for the screen for decades. He adapted Clockers with Spike Lee and went on to work with Martin Scorsese on The Color of Money, then later joined the writing staff of The Wire. Like Pelecanos, Price is now reportedly writing scripts for The Deuce.
7. DB Weiss & David Benioff, Game of Thrones (HBO)
As showrunners, they need no introduction. But both creators also have novelist bona fides. Benioff is, of course, the author of The 25th Hour (Plume, 2002), which later became a Spike Lee Joint (with Benioff penning the screenplay), as well as the 2008 historical novel, City of Thieves (Viking, 2008). Weiss’ debut novel, Lucky Wander Boy came out (also from Plume) back in 2003; supposedly there’s a second novel on a shelf somewhere. Both men are now busy deciding the fate of Jon Snow, with season 6 scheduled for an April 2016 premiere.
8. George Mastras, Vinyl (HBO)
At this point, what kind of HBO show would it be if there weren’t a novelist or two on the writing staff? Vinyl, the new HBO prestige program from Scorsese & Jagger, is no exception, counting Mastras, author of the 2009 international thriller, Fidali’s Way (Scribner, 2009), as one of its executive producers. Mastras has an impressive script pedigree: before Vinyl, which stars Bobby Cannavale and Olivia Wilde, he wrote for Breaking Bad and won a PEN Center USA West award for the episode, “Crazy Handful of Nothin’”.
9. Jonathan Ames, Blunt Talk (Starz)
Ames, author of I Pass Like Night, The Extra Man, and Wake Up, Sir!, is now a TV veteran. After Bored To Death’s three season run on HBO, Ames is back — this time on Starz — with Blunt Talk, starring Patrick Stewart as a British newscaster in LA.
10. Gillian Flynn, ???
After the success of Gone Girl, Flynn again partnered up with David Fincher, signing on to write every episode of a straight-to-series order for an HBO adaptation of the UK hit, “Utopia.” The series, set to star Rooney Mara, was well into production this summer when Deadline reported that Fincher and HBO couldn’t agree on a budget and that HBO was releasing the actors. Deadline also reported, however, that HBO remained “high on the project” and speculated that “Utopia” might eventually proceed with another director and cast. So, however unlikely it seems at the moment, we may yet see Flynn’s scripts brought to HBO soon.
Honorable Mention. Nic Pizzolatto, True Detective (HBO)
Nobody outside the hallowed HBO halls seems to know what, exactly, is going on with True Detective. Pizzolatto has signed an overall deal with HBO and is expected to develop several projects for the network. Will one of those projects will be a third season of True Detective? If so, when will it premiere? Probably not in 2016. Last week, in an interview with The Frame, HBO President of Programming Michael Lombardo suggested that season 2 had been rushed. In the meantime, you can check out Pizzolatto’s Gulf Coast thriller, Galveston (Scribner, 2010).