Okay, so most of your first reactions may be something along the lines of: “Err, Harlan Who?” Hopefully that isn’t the case, though — after all the man seems to top the The New York Times’ bestseller list every time he releases a new book, of which he’s averaged about a book per year for the last four to five years. He’s also one of the best thriller writers in the business today (think Dan Brown but with more relatable, more realistic characters, all placed in situations that constantly force the reader to think, This could be me…).
To date only one of his novels has been adapted into a film:
The French film Ne le dis à personne (which won 4 Césars — the French equivalent to our Oscars) was adapted from Coben’s first stand alone thriller, Tell No One, and is to date, as mentioned, the only adaptation from any of his novels — he’s released seven more since Tell No One, and that’s not even including his original seven Myron Bolitar series novels featuring the loveable sports agent/wise-cracking sleuth himself.
But why should Coben’s novels be adapted, you may ask? It’s simple enough. Coben’s novel provide that rare blend of mystery, comedy, and heartfelt drama that mesh so perfectly together that the stories literally fly by and you find yourself finished within a day or two (three, max) — and what’s more, you’re actually sad when you’re done; sad that you must now leave that world and those characters behind. It’s like cake, really. And with each story clocking between 350 to 450 pages, they’re really the perfect books to adapt a two-hour (plus or minus) movie to.
Just this past April Coben released his seventh stand-alone (fifteenth altogether) thriller entitled Hold Tight, a story that asks, well, see for yourself:
It’s an interesting concept that Coben weaves brilliantly into his suburban every-man tale.
And while every Harlan Coben story features a constant stream of twists and turns that continually forces the reader to throw into question just about everything that’s going on, including character motives and plot direction, which novels, you may also ask, would make the best movies? Here’s a list of his best novels and why they should be adapted:
Gone for Good – Coben’s second stand-alone thriller and what is probably my favorite book by him so far. On his mother’s death-bed, Will Klein is told that his brother Ken, believed to be dead, is, in fact, still alive. And so begins Will’s skeptical, yet blissfully hopeful search for his lost brother which results in surprisings and soul-shattering consequences. It’s a tale about how we humans just cannot put our pasts behind us no matter how better off we’d probably be. The ending to this particular book probably contains Coben’s best final reveal to date. It was truly beautiful.
The Innocent – Matt Hunter was just another undergrad student until he attended a frat party with a friend one night… and accidentally became a murderer when trying to break up a fight. Years after serving a four year prison sentence that tore his family apart, Matt still struggles to keep his life in balance — all too familiar with how easy things can slip away in an instant. But then one day he receives a video message on his phone that threatens to bring his new life crashing to the ground all over again. Next to Myron Bolitar, Matt Hunter is definitely my favorite character from Mr. Coben because what makes us sympathize with Hunter isn’t that he went to prison for something that really wasn’t his fault, but because he never once believes himself to be completely innocent and constantly looks back and questions his actions on that fateful night.
From here, it’s a toss-up between The Woods and Hold Tight. The Woods, a story ultimately about the things in our past that we try to bury and keep hidden, definitely contained a darker tone than Coben’s previous outings but Hold Tight poses the timeless question of whether or not it’s okay for parents to spy on their children. Gun to my head, I’d choose The Woods if for no other reason than because Hold Tight contained a little too much teen drama than one may care for in an adult thriller.
But really, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if all of Coben’s book eventually get adapted, especially his Bolitar books — books that I’ve actually found myself laughing out loud to (a rarity). So come on Hollywood, give Mr. Coben his due, you shan’t be sorry: