Sunday, August 17, 2008

Real to Reel with Roger M Sobin

Today’s guest blogger is Roger M. Sobin, author of The Essential Mystery Lists: For Readers, Collectors, and Librarians, published by Poisoned Pen Press, December 2007. It has been nominated for the Anthony and Macavity nonfiction mystery awards. Roger also writes a column in Mystery News, "Real to Reel." He has written for (Give me That) Old-Time Detection magazine. Roger is a true mystery lover and today he tells us about his hobby of comparing books and the movies made from them in a program he calls “Real to Reel”. You can send Roger an e-mail at or have a look at his web page

The table of books/movies/dates didn't turn out too well on the blog page, but hopefully you can still get something out of it.

"Real to Real" Program – Sharing an idea . . .
By Roger M. Sobin

For the past (almost) eight years, my wife and I have hosted a gathering once a month called "Real to Reel." This play on words is to say: we read a "real" book and then watch a "reel" movie that has been created from the story. At first we met at a local Barnes & Nobel Bookstore, but after a couple of years they kicked us out because they needed the space for other purposes. So we moved to our home. We have eighteen in our group and fourteen or more are at every gathering (vacations, work, etc. seem to take two or three away some months).

This program and the discipline/commitment by the folks involved, is tremendous. I would like to share a bit on how we approach the idea and carry out the program in hopes that some of you might take some of our ideas and create something for yourselves and friends.

Meeting time: Usually the first or second Friday night of the month, 7 p.m. (try and gather about fifteen minutes early to set up). We meet in our home, with 50-inch screen, and use DVDs as the source. Folks are asked to bring a movie snack/food to share (a must). In the early days, we discussed books/films to watch, but sometimes found it difficult to decide on a title. Now the group allows me to select the titles and I try to keep a balance in the selections. Friday: 7:10 p.m. I give a brief introduction. We usually take a break in the middle of the film. Then after the film, we have a discussion of the film and book. I usually talk with several members in the group on selecting titles, send out the information via e-mail and include purchasing, library, and ordering suggestions for that title. On some of the older titles, out of print, and (used book section) have been helpful. Yet, many older titles are still in print in later additions.

Handout sheet: For each book/film I create a handout sheet of 8 to 12 pages. Use of, web searches on the author, films are used. Some photos and film lobby cards, posters are added for creativity (from the web). The handout sheet is e-mailed the Sunday night prior to the Friday we gather. From the IMDB web site, I restructure information from: Plot Outline, Cast, Crew, Trivia, Memorable Quotes, Taglines, User Comments, External Reviews (professional), Awards, Plot Summary, Plot Keywords, Goofs, Filming Locations, Photographs. (If you go to the web site, you will see these terms on the left side of their web page.) In other words, I do not write a paper on the material, I use items from the web.

Also, I search for information on the author, list of their writings, try to find a picture of them, a review of the book, sometimes even check or read a bit from a biography of their life, etc.

We tried the play, The Petrified Forest (1935) by Robert Sherwood, obtained copies, and enjoyed the re-mastered 1936 film with Humphrey Bogart and Betty Davis. They really enjoyed reading the play. Many screenplays are available online, free.

Short stories are another possibility. For example, we have used Stage to Lordsburg by Ernest Haycox (1937) that was made into the 1939 classic Stagecoach with John Wayne. Also, Duel by Richard Matheson which was Steven Spielberg's early classic film made originally for TV.

Why a Real to Reel approach? This event opens up the reading of many older books. In our situation, probably no one would have read any of the books we have used – on their own. We have stayed away from most newer films for three reasons: A) many people have seen newer films recently, B) do not want to be any competition with movie theaters, and C) some newer films have heavy, or very adult subject matter that can embarrass some folks. Try to be sensitive.

Concerns: Getting over the fact that in almost every case, the book and the film will have differences and in some cases the film version makes many major changes. This bothered some folks at first, but now they have worked through that.

Films: Over half are mystery, crime fiction, adventure, espionage, thriller types. Some titles are selected for seasonal reasons. Others for a change of pace. Every March is baseball month for me (I go to spring training for 10 days) and we have watched a baseball theme film. Christmas time, use of a film that has that theme. When the Pope died, we read/watched: The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris West. People in the group offer suggestions to me and I keep a list. Sometimes, when an older film has been re-mastered and released on DVD, we will go with it (like In a Lonely Place, June 2007; Von Ryan's Express, July 2007). I try to use DVDs and several times have recorded films from Turner Classic Movies. The reason I like to obtain the DVD is for the director or historical commentary track. Sometimes there are special shorts on the film, actors, writers, and subject matter. I always watch those in advance and try to share a bit of the helpful information to the group.

A comment on the handout sheet that I create for each title. I do not write a paper or do personal writing, instead, I use the sources I mention above and enhance those sources.

OFFER: if any of you would like to view an example of the handout sheets, e-mail me ( and I will send you one. Also, if you would like to be on my e-mail list to receive them each month, let me know and I will see about adding you to the bulk mailing list.

I now write a column in Mystery News (a mystery fan magazine) called "Real to Reel," and in each issue, I write about one book/film. So far I have written articles on: Laura, The Petrified Forest, To Russia With Love, In a Lonely Place, The Mask of Fu Manchu, and the Eye of the Needle will be sent in by September 2.

Here are some of the titles we have used in our monthly program gathering; underlined are those in the mystery, adventure, espionage, thriller area (60 percent):

Done Title Author Publish date Film date

Accidental Tourist, The Tyler, Anne 1985 1988
Adventures of Robin Hood, The writings 1938
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Gillette, William (play) 1890 1985
Advise and Consent Drury, Allen 1959 1962
African Queen, The Forester, C. S. 1935 1951
Alexander's Ragtime Band screenplay 1938
All the King's Men Warren, Robert Penn 1946 1949
All the President's Men Bernstein & Woodward 1974 1976
Amadeus (Mozart) screenplay 1984
Americanization of Emily, The Huie, William B. 1959 1964
An Affair to Remember screenplay 1957
And Then There Were None Christie, Agatha 1939 1945
Andromeda Strain, The Crichton, Michael 1969 1971
Bang the Drum Slowly Harris, Mark 1965 1973
Big Sleep, The Chandler, Raymond 19391944/46
Breakfast at Tiffany's Capote, Truman 1958 1961
Bridge of San Luis Rey, The Wilder, Thornton 1927 1944
Chocolat Harris, Joanne 1999 2000
Coma Cook, Robin 1977 1978
Contact Sagan, Carl 1985 1997
Count of Monte Cristo, The Dumas, Alexander 1845 1934
Day of the Jackal, The Forsyth, Frederick 1971 1973
Dead Reckoning screenplay 1947
Death on the Nile Christie, Agatha 1937 1978
Double Indemnity Cain, James M. 1936 1944
Duel (short story) Matheson, Richard 1971 1971
Eye of the Needle Follett, Ken 1978 1981
Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury, Ray 1951 1966
Field of Dreams (Shoeless Joe) Kinsella, W. P. 1982 1989
Four Feathers, The Mason, A E W 1902 1939
From Russia, With Love Fleming, Ian 1957 1963
Gentlemen's Agreement Hobson, Laura Z. 1947 1947
Girl With the Pearl Earring Chevalier, Tracy 1998 2003
Glass Key, The Hammett, Dashiell 1931 1942
Good Earth, The Buck, Pearl 1931 1937
Great Train Robbery, The Crichton, Michael 1975 1979
In a Lonely Place Hughes, Dorothy B. 1947 1950
Inherit the Wind (play) Lawrence & Lee 1955 1960
Jane Eyre Brontë, Charlotte 1847 1944
King Solomon's Mines Haggard, Rider 1885 1950
Lady in the Lake, The Chandler, Raymond 1943 1947
Laura Caspary, Vera 1943 1944
Lost Horizon Hilton, James 1933 1937
Lust for Life (Vincent van Gogh) Stone, Irving 1945 1956
Maltese Falcon, The Hammett, Dashiell 1929 1941
Man from the Alamo Busch, Crawford 1953 1953
Mask of Fu Manchu, The Rohmer, Sax 1932 1932
Miracle on 34th Street Davies, Valentine 1947 1947
Mrs. Miniver Struther, Jan 1940 1942
Natural, The Malamud, Bernard 1952 1984
On the Beach Shute, Nevil 1957 1959
Petrified Forest, The (play) Sherwood, Robert 1935 1936
Picture of Dorian Gray, The Wilde, Oscar 1891 1945
Postman Always Rings Twice, The Cain, James M. 1934 1946
Rear Window (short story) Cornell Woolrich 1942 1954
Rebecca du Maurier, Daphne 1938 1940
Red Violin, The screenplay 1998
Riders of the Purple Sage Grey, Zane 1912 1996
Saint Maybe Tyler, Anne 1991 1998
Shane Schaefer, Jack 1949 1953
Shoes of the Fisherman, The West, Morris 1962 1968
Simon Birch (A Prayer for Owen Meany) Irving, John 1990 1998
Somewhere in Time (Bid Time Return) Matheson, Richard 1975 1980
Spirit of St. Louis, The Lindbergh, Charles 1953 1957
Stagecoach (Stage to Lordsburg) Haycox, Ernest 1937 1939
Strangers on a Train Highsmith, Patricia 1950 1951
Talented Mr. Ripley, The Highsmith, Patricia 1955 1999
Thin Man, The Hammett, Dashiell 1934 1934
To Have and Have Not Hemingway, Ernest 1937 1944
To Kill a Mockingbird Lee, Harper 1960 1962
Topkapi (The Light of Day) Ambler, Eric 1962 1964
Treasure of the Sierra Madre Traven, B. 1927 1948
Tree Grows in Brooklyn, A Smith, Betty 1943 1945
Von Ryan's Express Westheimer, David 1964 1965
War of the Worlds, The Wells, H.G. 1898 1953
Witness for the Prosecution Christie, Agatha 1925/53 1957


snickersnee said...

can you provide some links on where I could find the scripts of The Petrified Forest online, for free?

I've been looking and haven't found any so far.

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