Gillian Flynn’s addictive thriller “Gone Girl” drew some complaints over its contrived ending, but the popularity of the novel about marital dysfunction can’t be denied — there were 40 printings of the hardcover edition alone.
With the film version of “Gone Girl” about to equal the buzz, we wondered, how many movies have matched or surpassed the power of the original mystery/suspense novel?
■“The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris. It was author Harris who conjured up Hannibal Lecter and the traumatized FBI agent Clarice Starling, but thanks to actors Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster, the film made them famous.
■“The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler. Chandler’s works were too dark and unsettling to be literally adapted into Hollywood films in the ’40s, so the novel and the films adapted from it are significantly different. But this novel inspired the classic 1946 early noir starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, one of their most celebrated pairings.
■“Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin. Set in New York’s atmospheric Dakota apartment building, the novel depicting an upper middle class woman’s encounter with devil worshippers was the talk of the summer of 1967. A year later, the Roman Polanski film, with Mia Farrow as the haunted pregnant woman and John Cassavetes as her ambitious husband, produced even more buzz.
■“Psycho” by Robert Bloch. This 1959 novel was based at least in part on a real crime; Bloch’s theme of a horrifically deranged murderer appearing as just a mild, normal guy was brilliantly transformed into the 1960 film by Alfred Hitchcock.
■“Rum Punch” by Elmore Leonard. It became Quentin Tarentino’s “Jackie Brown,” the 1997 film starring Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson. Brown is such a quintessential Leonard heroine — complicated, pretty, immensely likable and despite the odds, managing to whip the butts of the males conspiring against her.
■“Anatomy of a Murder” by Robert Traver. Traver was the pen name of Michigan Supreme Court justice John D. Voelker, and the novel, depicting a northern Michigan murder mystery, with a savvy country lawyer outwitting a big city attorney, was a national best-seller. The 1959 Otto Preminger movie, filmed on location with Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick and Ben Gazzara, with a score by Duke Ellington, is considered a classic.
■“L.A. Confidential” by James Ellroy. Ellroy is unsurpassed in his graphic depiction of the underbelly of Los Angeles crime of the ’40s and ’50s, but the critically acclaimed 1997 Curtis Hanson film based on the book brought us the previously unknown Russell Crowe, in one of his best roles, alongside Kim Basinger and Kevin Spacey.