Category Archives: 2009

2009

Lights, Camera, Novel: Nicholas Sparks’s The Last Song, The Lucky One and Safe Haven

When it comes to romance, Nicholas Sparks has made a name for North Carolina. Although not a native North Carolinian (he hails from Omaha, Nebraska) Sparks’s geographical obsession with the state has become a hallmark of his writing. In all, Sparks has authored seventeen novels and one autobiographical travelogue. All but the travelogue are set in various locations around North Carolina. Sparks is often very active and hands-on in the process of adapting his novels for the big screen. As of now, eight of Sparks’s novels have been made into films and the ninth and tenth are on the way. Three of the eight adapted novels have been blogged on here in the past: The Lucky One (2008), The Last Song (2009), and Safe Haven (2010), so we’ll focus on those. His five earlier adapted novels: The Notebook (1996), Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), Nights in Rodanthe (2002), and Dear John (2006) haven’t been covered on the blog, at least not just yet.

Chronologically, Sparks wrote The Lucky One before the The Last Song, but the film based upon the later was released first. The Last Song (book released 2009, movie released 2010) is a bit of an anomaly in that formulating the screenplay for the film inspired Sparks to create a corresponding novel.

The idea for the novel came about when Miley Cyrus, at the time primarily known for her starring role in Disney’s Hannah Montana, was searching for newer, more mature work. Cyrus met with Sparks and he devised an idea based on her interest. His story focuses on a daughter and father healing their estranged relationship. A budding romance between the daughter and a privileged local boy and loggerhead sea turtles appear heavily in the sidelines. The Last Song was a slight departure from his other works as the characters were teenaged and most of his works featured adult and middle-aged characters.

Although Sparks stuck to his customary North Carolina setting (Wilmington) for the novelization of The Last Song, the film was relocated to Georgia and shot on Tybee Island and in Savannah. North Carolina vied against Georgia during the selection process. Ultimately, Disney selected Georgia over North Carolina on the basis of film tax incentives. Losing a deal with Disney and The Last Song was an especially hard blow since Sparks’s last adaptation, Dear John, was also filmed outside of North Carolina. Reviews of the film were mixed, though Miley Cyrus’ performance was praised — see an enthusiastic review of her acting by Roger Ebert here.

By contrast, The Lucky One and Safe Haven featured romances between attractive twenty-and-thirty-somethings. The Lucky One (novel released in 2008, film released in 2012) starred another Disney teen sensation, Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling.  Like Cyrus, The Lucky One was one of Efron’s gateway roles as an adult actor. The plot follows a Marine, who during his third tour in Iraq, finds a photo of a mystery blonde woman that becomes his lucky charm. After his return to the US, the Marine searches for his lucky Jane Doe. Again, the setting was the defining change for the adaptation. The movie was set and filmed in Louisiana as a result of film tax incentives. Sparks seemed unconcerned about the geographical shift. In a quote from Nola.com, website of The Times-Picayune, Sparks explains that he aims for his novels to feel interchangeable and relatable: “I try to write stories that feel like they could happen anywhere…And that’s what I’m trying to do, too, is write a universal story that people will really enjoy.” Audiences enjoyed The Lucky One while critics were split.

Safe Haven (novel released in 2010, film released in 2013) tells the tale of another mystery woman, who quietly moves into the small, coastal city of Southport. She doesn’t mean to fall in love, but she can’t escape the attentions of a handsome widower with two children. Once she gets to know him, she can’t help but to fall in love. Unlike the other two films, Safe Haven was filmed entirely on location in Southport and Wilmington. IndyWeek notes that the movie is only the third of Sparks’ eight adaptations to be shot exclusively in-state. The other two films were A Walk to Remember (2002) and Nights in Rodanthe (2008). Yet again, the critical response was mixed. Roger Ebert issued a much harsher review compared to his review of The Lucky One, based on his visceral response to Safe Haven’s surprise ending. Despite critics’ response to Safe Haven, it was a success with audiences again. Clearly the divide between critics and audience is a pattern with Sparks’ book-to-movie adaptations.

A Look at box office stats

Screen capture from Box Office Mojo site representing the box office sales of Nicholas Sparks film adaptations.

While critics might not universally laud his films, audience-goers buy the tickets. All three films were box office successes. Sparks has cracked the secret to commercial success, now only if North Carolina could figure out a way to keep his adaptations in-state. The Best of Me stars James Marsden (who replaced the late Paul Walker) and Michelle Monaghan. Filming is underway in Louisiana. His latest novel, The Longest Ride, is in pre-production and it was recently announced that Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood will play one of the lead roles. Here’s to hoping that movie will be filmed locally in NC.

Read the original blog posts on The Last Song, The Lucky One, and Safe Haven. The novel and film for The Lucky One are available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. Currently, only the novels for The Last Song and Safe Haven are available. Both films are available through the Chapel Hill Public Library though.

Sources consulted:

Box Office Mojo, Forbes, Hollywood Reporter {two articles}, IMDb {Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song, The Lucky One, Safe Haven, The Best of Me, The Longest Ride, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, IndyWeek, Movie Clips, New York Times, News & Observer {two articles}, Nicholas Sparks, Nola, Relativity Media/iamROGUE, Roger Ebert {The Last Song, The Lucky One, Safe Haven}, Touchstone Pictures, Variety, Vox, Vulture, Wikipedia {Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song – novel and film, The Lucky One – novel and film, Safe Haven – novel and film}

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2010-2019, 2012, 2013, Brunswick, Coast, Romance/Relationship, Sparks, Nicholas

Lights, Camera, Novel: Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain.

If you’re in the right age bracket, you might remember Escape to Witch Mountain from your childhood. Which format and version you recall depends on your generation. Novelist Alexander Key first wrote the book in 1967. Key began his career as a well-known illustrator who eventually transitioned into writing. His writing can be described as science fiction for kids. Key was born in Maryland and spent many years in Florida before moving to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and son. A fan page on Key says that he and his family made the move after they “decided Florida was growing too fast.” Much of Key’s work is currently out-of-print. Escape to Witch Mountain is one of Key’s best known titles. The book tells the story of orphans Tony and Tia who possess supernatural gifts and are on the hunt to figure out their origins before the evil Lucas Deranian reaches them first.

In 1975, Disney released a film adaptation of the novel directed by John Hough, which, at the time, became one of their most popular live-action movies. The movie follows the basic plot from beginning to end with some noticeable modifications. First, the setting was relocated from the East coast to the West coast, where the movie was filmed. In the novel, Father O’Day helps the children on their quest and protects them from Deranian. In the movie, O’Day plays the same role, but his character is a widower named Jason O’Day. Deranian is the central villain in the novel, whereas in the movie he becomes ancillary to his mastermind boss, Aristotle Bolt. The child actors who play Tony and Tia aren’t perfect physical matches for their book counterparts who are supposed to look unearthly with their olive-skin and light hair. Instead, they look like wholesome child actors.

 

This clip, from TCM, shows Tony and Tia’s arrival to the orphanage. The movie’s portrayal is much lighter and more innocent: Miss. Grindley is kinder and Truck, a bully at the orphanage, is much less threatening. Yet the most surprising change is Tia speaking. Muteness is a major feature of her character. In the novel, Tia is seen as an oddity because she does not speak out loud. Instead, she carries a pad and pen around to communicate with other people. She is able to converse with her brother telepathically. Another clip from TCM shows that the movie still includes her telepathic communication with Tony.

Disney created a sequel called Return from Witch Mountain in 1978, also directed by John Hough. The same child actors, Ike (now known as Iake) Eisenmann and Kim Richards, reprized their roles as slightly older Tony and Tia. Bette Davis and Christopher Lee starred as the movie’s villains who hoped to manipulate the siblings’ powers. Four years later, Disney released yet another sequel, Beyond Witch Mountain with a new director. By this time, the original Tony and Tia has grown out of the roles and were recast. The plot appears to pick up from after the original 1975 Escape from Witch Mountain adaptation and it ignores the story-line from the 1978 Return from Witch Mountain. This second sequel was created as a pilot for a possible TV series. But since no networks expressed interest, no other episodes were filmed.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Disney remade Escape to Witch Mountain as a made-for-TV movie. The movie shared some elements with Key’s story, like orphaned siblings with powers (renamed Danny and Anna). Most of the TV movie departed from the original plot though, for instance Danny and Anna are initially separated. Finally, in 2009 Disney produced its latest rendition, called Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb and Carla Gugino. Like the 1995 adaptation, Race only shares some passing similarities to Key’s novel and the 1975 film. Adolescent Tony and Tia were remodeled as teenaged Seth and Sara. As the years passed, it seems that each revision departed further from the original, maybe as a means to refresh and modernize the story, while still maintaining essential characters and motivations.

Escape to Witch Mountain and its many adaptations are nostalgic classics. Alexander Key’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog and has been previously blogged on here. The film and TV adaptations are not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. If you’re local to the area, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) are available at the Chapel Hill and the Durham Public Libraries and could make an interesting back-to-back screening of two adaptations thirty-four years apart.

Sources consulted here: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksJenny’s Wonderland of Books blogLos Angeles Times (on the child actors from the 1975 & 1978 films), New York Times, Roger Ebert, TCMTCMDb, Thru the Forgotten Door: Into Alexander Key’s Magical Worlds (Alexander Key Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2004), Wikipedia (Alexander KeyEscape to Witch Mountain — Novel, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1975 Film, Return from Witch Mountain, Beyond Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1995 Film, Race to Witch Mountain), The Witch Mountain Experience (Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2007)

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1975, 1978, 1980-1989, 1982, 1990-1999, 1995, 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Key, Alexander, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Annis Ward Jackson. Blue Ridge Parkway Plunge. United States: SunnyBrick Publishers, 2009.

blue ridgeRachel Myers, who readers first met in Blind Malice, has moved back to her Blue Ridge home in (fictitious) Sheppard County, North Carolina.  Rachel feels guilty moving back now, rather than a few years earlier when her elderly father could have used her help, but now she has a good job waiting for her at a high-end retirement community near her hometown.  Donna Matheson, Rachel’s longtime friend, alerted her to job.  Now that Rachel is back in the area, Donna thinks that she has also found the right man for Rachel–Detective Robby Barnett.  This kind of meddling is what old friends do, right?

But the plot in this book centers on a different friendship.  Isaac Starling has been the hired man on the Myers farm for decades.  He was more than a workman, he was a loyal friend to Rachel’s late father, and Rachel is so fond of him that she wants him to live in the family home with her now.  So Rachel can’t refuse Isaac when he asks her to investigate the death of his friend, Jack Whaley.  Mr. Whaley’s body was found at the bottom of a cliff along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The authorities think that his death was suicide or an accident, but Isaac can’t accept that.  Isaac insists that Jack was an upright man, but under questioning by Rachel he remembers a few occasions when Jack bumped up against some trouble.  It’s not much to go on, but Rachel follows those leads–with help from that nice Detective Barnett.

This is the second book in the Rachel Myers Murder Mystery Series.  Readers will enjoy learning more about Rachel’s interests; gardeners will particularly appreciate the description of Rachel’s plans for the gardens around her family home.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Annis Ward Jackson. Blind Malice. North Carolina: Annis Ward Jackson, 2009.

blindIt’s every adult child’s nightmare: an elderly parent, isolated and confused, mishandles his financial affairs and winds up deeply in debt.  Rachel Myers never expected that to happen to her father Paul.  Yes, Paul was blind, but with the help of a housekeeper and a longtime farm hand and friend, Isaac Starling, he managed his mountain farm.  Rachel, who lives in Arizona, felt some pull to come home, but she knew she would never find a job in the mountains as good as the managerial job that she has in Flagstaff.

Only when Paul dies and Rachel comes back to North Carolina to bury him does she find out how bad Paul’s situation had become.  Rachel learns from Isaac that her father fired his longtime housekeeper soon after a local banker, Ed McKinney, became a frequent visitor to the farm.  And the farm itself has changed–the cattle have been sold and the house and surrounding yard have had expensive improvements that surprise Rachel.  But the biggest surprise is that Paul Myers died in debt to the tune of $230,000.  How did this happen–and does it have anything to do with the surveyor’s stakes that dot the nearby hill?  As Rachel looks into her father’s financial affairs, time and again she is led back to Ed McKinney and his puzzling influence on her father.

This is the first book in a  series of ten novels by Ms. Jackson, all set along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Watch this site for summaries of later books in the series.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Jackson, Annis Ward, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Caleb Wygal. A Murder in Concord. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2009.

concordLucas Caine thought that he was lucky to get a job with Fitzgerald, Incorporated in Concord, North Carolina right out of college. The Fitzgeralds–Trent Simon Fitzgerald II, and his father, Trent, Sr.–pay very well and Lucas has been proud to work for such a successful company.  Lucas is the personal assistant to Trent II, who runs the company; he handles his boss’s schedule and media interactions. Lucas thinks he knows his boss well, but everything that Lucas thinks he knows is called into question when he finds his boss shot to death in the company parking lot.

The murderer was someone with access to the very secure Fitzgerald, Inc. corporate compound. The police initially see Lucas as their prime suspect, in part because Lucas was the last person known to see Trent alive but also because Trent and the rest of the Fitzgeralds are such upstanding members of the Concord community.  To clear his name, Lucas looks into the circumstances of his boss’s death–why the security system went out and how someone could enter the parking lot undetected–and conflict within the Fitzgerald family.  What Lucas finds upends his view of his boss and changes his own life.

 

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Cabarrus, Mystery, Piedmont, Wygal, Caleb

Kathleen Thomas. Blackbeard’s Treasure. Greensboro, NC: Tudor Publishing, 2009.

Blackbeard's TreasureMatthew and Lauren Bakker, and their cousins Haley and Luke Bakker, are all set for a fabulous six weeks of summer camp on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Everyone is excited about different parts of the camp, but Matthew is focused on one thing only: Blackbeard. The most infamous pirate to terrorize the coast of the Old North State, Blackbeard supposedly left mountains of treasure behind when his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge sank in 1718. Matthew has been reading a book about the bloodthirsty buccaneer, and it’s not long before his enthusiasm infects his sister and cousins. Incredibly, when the four children arrive at summer camp, they discover that an underwater archaeological expedition is in progress nearby to find and recover Blackbeard’s ship for a local university.

Unfortunately, more than one person is interested in the sunken pirate galley. A private collector thinks he can beat the academics to what could be the discovery of the century. He’ll stop at nothing to steal the priceless wreck from under their noses and sell its treasure on the black market. Yet, the children come to suspect that a modern-day privateer is the least of their worries. Could Blackbeard’s angry spirit be haunting the beaches and coves of the Outer Banks, as well? With the help of the archaeologists, their harried camp counselors, and a crusty local former sailor, the four young troublemakers are determined to protect the treasure and thwart the ghost…by hook or by crook.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Carteret, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Thomas, Kathleen

Brenda J. Woody. More than Murder. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2009.

In More than Murder, Brenda Woody offers a glimpse into small town life in North Carolina in the 1960s.  When the two men who own the local record store are murdered there are a surprising number of potential suspects–some known to the police and some not.  The men threw wild parties attended by a mix of ne-er do wells, thrill-seeking teens, and a handful of “respectable” community members.  Someone started taking photographs of the goings-on at the parties and before long a blackmailer made demands to a few men.  Stopping the blackmail appears to be an obvious motive for the murders, but that doesn’t account for the third body found with the men’s corpses–that of a quiet woman who worked a factory job in a nearby town and kept to herself.  The local police chief thinks the photos are the key to the crime, but there are other factors in play, including loan sharking and drugs, along with a brother’s desire to protect his irresponsible brother and to preserve their family’s good name.

More than Murder is based on the true story of the murders of Vernon Shipman, Charles Glass, and Louise Davis Shumate in Hendersonville, North Carolina in July 1966.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Docufiction, Mountains, Woody, Brenda J.

Brenda Tetreault. The Witcher Legacy. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2009.

After a childhood spent moving all over the country with her restless mother, Melissa Witcher inherits her family’s ancestral home in Bounty Cove, North Carolina.  In Bounty Cove, she finds many things she yearns for: a chance for a relationship with the father she never knew and an immediate attraction to the handsome Michael Kemper, a local contractor who has been taking care of the abandoned Witcher house. But not everything is perfect.

Michael has just recently broken off his engagement to the two-timing Jessica, and he doesn’t want to rush into a serious relationship. Both he and Melissa are frustrated by taking things so slowly, but Michael insists. His last relationship ended so poorly because it was based on physical attraction and not true love, and something about Melissa is so special that he can’t afford to ruin what they might have. But while Melissa and Michael work on their budding romance, evil is afoot. The Witcher family has a dark history of murder, madness, and abuse, and restless spirits still linger around the venerable homestead. In addition to winning over the reluctant Michael, Melissa is determined to exhume her family’s ghosts, but this might prove more difficult (and dangerous) than she thinks. Strange phenomena have always been a part of the house: sometimes malevolent, sometimes beneficial. Will Melissa and Michael survive long enough to build a new future for the Witcher name?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Coast, Horror, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Tetreault, Brenda

Tamara Leigh. Southern Discomfort Series.

Author Tamara Leigh

The Pickwick family certainly has their share of characters, no one will deny that. A wealthy clan with a large estate in the mountains of North Carolina, they have a reputation stretching back generations for swindling and conniving their way to the top. But Uncle “Obe” Obediah, the current head of the family, has experienced a brush with his own mortality and decided that it’s time to make amends. This includes revising his will significantly to include estranged relatives and wronged parties, and then selling off the grand family estate. This puts the younger generations of Pickwicks in a pickle, since along with reducing their inheritance, Uncle Obe may reveal some of their best-kept secrets, putting them in uncomfortable positions. There’s Piper, who moved all the way across the country to Los Angeles and changed her name to escape her family; there’s beautiful Maggie, who struggles with choices she made in high school that left her a single parent, and last but not least, feisty but grief-stricken Bridget, who turned her back on God and the world when she was widowed at 33.

But maybe Uncle Obe, with his insistence on putting the past to rights for all the Pickwicks, will unintentionally allow each of these young women a way to find a future brighter than she thinks possible.

Find more detailed summaries of all the installments in the Southern Discomfort Series in the Read North Carolina Novels blog. Then, check out their availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog:

 

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, 2010, 2010-2019, 2011, Leigh, Tamara, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Series

Paul Clayton. White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. [Bangor, ME]: Booklocker.com, 2009.

White Seed follows the journey of the settlers of the Lost Colony, the third group sent to the Americas by Sir Walter Raleigh, as they fight to survive on what is now the North Carolina coast. But who would be daring, or desperate, enough to abandon his or her homeland, England, for the wilds of the Virginia Colony?

Maggie Hagger, a simple Irish girl running from a terrible deed, seeks indentured passage as a means of escape from the faceless man who pursues her. Accepted as a maidservant for Governor John White’s pregnant daughter Eleanor Dare, Maggie has no idea that she may be trading one death sentence for another. Thomas and Lionel, her erstwhile companions, flee from similarly unsavory fates in England, while others, like the greedy Portuguese captain Simon Fernandes, seek only the opportunity to take what fortune they can from the Natives or fat Spanish ships. As for Governor White, he plans to live out his days peacefully in the tranquil Chesapeake, where the Natives are friendly and the land is mild. But all these hopes are dashed when they are put ashore in Roanoke.

There, a bellicose chieftain, Powhatan, has already determined that he will capture and kill any English who return to his land. He is especially reliant on Towaye, the spy he instructed to be captured before the last English returned to their native land. Now Towaye is back with these new settlers, although he finds himself under the watchful eye of Manteo, a Native loyal to the English who raised him from a child in this interpretation of the tale. But Powhatan isn’t the settlers’ only problem. When John White returns to England for supplies, conditions begin to deteriorate, and soon Maggie, Thomas, Manteo, and others find themselves fighting not one, but two enemies: the angry Natives…and their own soldiers.

Readers will enjoy this fast-paced, epic account of the Lost Colony’s still-unknown fate, and will find the author’s artistic choices to be interesting deviations from accepted research and other fictional versions.

Check the availability of this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library’s catalog.

 

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Clayton, Paul, Coast, Dare, Historical