Small books, and small movies, are anathema to summer. This season is about beach reads and blockbusters. But for every tepidly reviewed popcorn flick that adds to a bestseller's sales—we don't know how the forthcoming Eat, Pray, Love will sit with critics, but we assume the August Julia Roberts vehicle will drive ever more people to buy Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir—there's a glowingly reviewed indie that could turn the tide for an overlooked gem. Here are three small movies generating some very good buzz and, in the process, shining a very positive light on their literary source material.
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson (Vintage/Anchor)
About the Book: One of many backlist pulp novels by the author that Vintage publishes in its Crime/Black Lizard line.
About the Movie: Brit Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People) directed this twisted noir about, at least on the surface, a mild-mannered Texas sheriff who is secretly a sociopath. IFC opened the film in select markets on June 18.
Copies in Print*: 10,000; despite the small number, Russell Perrault at Vintage said the book's sales have gone up 500% since the movie buzz started. (Vintage stickered the book in lieu of a new cover.)
Raves That Came Through in the Press: In a June 3 Arts feature in the New York Times about the movie and Thompson, Charles McGrath noted that Killer is Thompson's best work and pulled a line from Stanley Kubrick, who called the 1952 novel "probably the most chilling and believable first-person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered."
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (Back Bay)
About the Book: Woodrell's eighth novel, and the first Back Bay published (after the author was with Pocket for years); the imprint released the hardcover in 2006 and the tie-in at the beginning of this month.
About the Movie: A hit at the Sundance Film Festival where it picked up both the Grand Jury prize and a nod for best screenplay, this starless vehicle—notably shot where the book is set, in the Ozarks—is being slowly rolled out to art houses throughout the country by distributor Roadside Attractions; it's currently playing at New York's Angelika Film Center.
Copies in Print*: 25,000; Back Bay is also planning an omnibus edition of Woodrell's work for next spring, which will include his first three novels: Under the Bright Lights; The Ones You Do; and Muscle for the Wing.
Raves That Came Through in the Press: In a glowing June 6 review in New York magazine, David Edelstein, describing how closely the film adheres to the book, said Woodrell "should be better known" and that "what people say about Cormac McCarthy (‘expands the territory of American fiction!' etc.) goes double for him. Possibly more."
The Duel by Anton Chekhov (Vintage)
About the Book: This public domain novella, which is part of a larger collection of Chekhov novellas Vintage publishes, is coming out as a stand-alone 144-page paperback original next month.
About the Movie: In her review in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis noted that this film, directed by Israeli filmmaker Dover Kosashvili, "came out of nowhere," opening in late April at the Film Forum after making the rounds at various festivals. It's currently playing in New York and L.A., and High Line Pictures will be opening it in other major cities on August 20.
Copies in Print*: 40,000; the tie-in also has a new introduction by translator Richard Pevear and preface by the film's screenwriter, Mary Bing.
Raves That Came Through in the Press: L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan, who called the film an "expert literary adaptation," offered a less effusive plug for the Russian master in a June 18 review. Nonetheless, he planted a seed that may interest readers when he noted that the novella is "the longest work of narrative fiction, in fact, in the great writer's portfolio."