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A Pair of Synners

12 Oct

October 12, 2019

 

This is Doctor Syn: A Smuggler Tale of Romney Marsh, written by Russell Thorndyke and published in 1915.

From Wikipedia, which can’t be wrong about a book this old, right?:

Doctor Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh is the first in the series of Doctor Syn novels by Russell Thorndike. In this story we are introduced to the complex Christopher Syn, the kindly vicar of the little town of Dymchurch. Syn seems pleasant but we soon learn that he has a sinister past. At one time he was the vicious pirate Captain Clegg and he is also the mysterious “Scarecrow of Romney Marsh”, masked leader of the local smugglers.

This was filmed a few times, first in 1937, then in 1962 as Captain Clegg starring Peter Cushing, and again in 1963 as Dr. Syn, alias The Scarecrow, part of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV series starring Patrick McGoohan. This version is hard to find as it had only a limited home video release and copies go for big bucks.

Luckily, the Disney version had a novel adaptation by prolific Disney author Vic Crume.

 

 

The novel was turned into a movie, and the movie turned back into a novel by a different author.

You have to admit that doesn’t happen too often.

So the plan is to read the original Russell Thorndyke novel and then the Disney novelization of the film, and see what the heck Disney did to it. To be fair, the Disney film is highly regarded. 

It’s a little like the old children’s game of telephone, where a short sentence is whispered to one child, then passed along from ear to ear, then finally getting to the last child in, usually, a phrase unrecognizable from the original. This is essentially a novel to film to novel game of telephone.

I’m very curious to see where this goes.

 

 

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My Review of Star Wars: Tarkin, by James Luceno

25 Jan

January 25, 2019

In Star Wars, Grand Moff Tarkin was played by Peter Cushing. He’s easily my favorite character, more villainous in the film than Darth Vader. He’s also played by one of my favorite actors, so when this book came out I went against my better judgement and read a Star Wars novel. I’m glad I did.

I give Tarkin 5 stars, but bear in mind, this 5 star rating is not the same 5 stars I give Flowers for Algernon. This is 5 stars as far as Star Wars books go, a totally different scale. Flowers for Algernon is a triumph of literature. This is a good read.

I generally dislike Star Wars novels. This one, though, breaks the mold. It is more sci-fi than fantasy, ignoring all the Jedi mumbo-jumbo nonsense that other books get bogged down in. In fact, being from the bad guy’s point of view, this has a nicely negative view of the Jedi. It reads more like the old Alan Dean Foster novels, like Splinter of the Mind’s Eye or the original Han Solo novels. It bridges the gap to the New Hope era, disposing of The Clone Wars and entering the better era of Star Wars. If  you need a movie reference point, consider this as happening just before Rogue One.

Peter Cushing

Some reviewers don’t care for the plot, which they dismiss as Tarkin and Vader chasing around some random disposable rebels. They miss the point. This book is all about the backstory. You learn a lot about Tarkin and what molded and motivates him. You also learn a bit about The Emperor and Vader too. The main plot is really just the skeleton that the meat of the backstory hangs on. This is a character study / biography of Grand Moff Tarkin, and as such it works. The novel also explores the relationship between Tarkin and Vader, and for all those who wonder why Vader would take orders from anyone besides the Emperor, let alone someone who isn’t even a force user, this book explains.

The writing is also well done. In fact, just compare it to the two excerpts of novels by other authors that follow it in the paperback edition. Not only is neither the least bit interesting or original, but their writing is clearly not as good. James Luceno may be the only Star Wars writer today worth reading.

 

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