Classic Returns Returns! And Goes to the Movies | Classic Returns

Summertime is all about beach reads and blockbuster films—slipping into that air-conditioned cinema to cool off and escape reality for 90 minutes or so, immersing oneself in an alternate universe. We’re going to the movies for this return of Classic Returns, with rereleases and reissues of books that were made into movies, and are about to be given the film treatment, or are somehow film-related. Grab a bucket of popcorn and a tub of soda and let’s catch an all-nighter run at the Classic Returns Twin Cinema.

                 Emmanuelle2 Emmanuelle1

Arsan, Emmanuelle. Emmanuelle. 248p. ISBN 9780802122353; ebk. ISBN 9780802192714.
Emmanuelle II. 382p. ISBN 9780802122360; ebk. ISBN 9780802192707.
Ea. vol. Grove Atlantic. 2014. pap. $15. EROTICA
Move over, Fifty Shades lovers, and give space to Emmanuelle, the free-spirited bisexual adventuress who stars in “Em 1” and “Em2” as we’ll call them. First written in the late 1950s by a French diplomat and his wife, Em1, the story of a young woman’s sexual awakening, was privately circulated in France, published (in French) in 1967 and finally arrived in the States in 1971 (with an English translation by Lowell Bair). The book sold over a million copies worldwide and became, along with Pauline Réage’s Story of O, which “paved the way for contemporary erotica.” The 1974 soft-core French film, directed by Just Jaeckin and starring Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel in the title role, was a huge hit in Europe, and was the first X-rated film to be distributed by Columbia Pictures in the United States.

The success of Em1 created a frenzy of desire for a sequel. In 1974, Em2 was published in the United States (with an English translation by Anselm Hollo this time out) and was adapted into another movie also starring Kristel. The movies and books became so popular that the name “Emmanuelle” came to symbolize an entire genre of soft-core erotica. Kristel, who died in 2012 (thanks to School Library Journal Assistant Editor Kent Turner for this and other film info nuggets) became quite famous for her turns as Emmanuelle in several sequels.

HogButcherFair, Ronald L. Hog Butcher. Northwestern Univ. 2014. 182p. ISBN 9780810129887. pap. $18.95. F
A promising young black basketball player is shot by Chicago cops on the city’s South Side, mistaken for a fleeing burglary suspect. Two young fans of Nathaniel “Cornbread” Hamilton, who was headed to college on a scholarship, witness the shooting of their idol. Sadly, this story could be ripped from the headlines of yesterday or two weeks ago. This particular novel was written in 1966 during a very incendiary time in the United States, when many people took to the streets to protest police brutality. In the forward to this edition, author Cecil Brown puts it succinctly: “In 1966, the year Hog Butcher was published, America was in flames. The plot of the novel—about a young black man killed by the police in an urban ghetto—seemed to have been taken from the headlines across the country.” Fair took pen in hand and joined the ranks of “protest fiction” writers with this title (and 1965’s Many Thousand Gone), in which the two young witnesses face difficult choices about whom and what to tell. Brown calls Fair’s book “a milestone,” along with Richard Wright’s novel Land Today!, in its use of interior monolog “to portray the consciousness of African American characters—a development that takes on more resonance in the context of slaves being forbidden from learning to read and write.”

It took nearly ten years to get this book on the big screen (1975’s Cornbread, Earl, and Me, directed by Joseph Manduke). While Brown is dismissive of the film’s direction and screenplay (the producers rejected two screenplays written by Fair), he praises the “brilliant work” of African American actors Bernie Casey, Rosalind Cash, and  Laurence Fishburne in one of his very first film roles.

Lewis, Ted. Get Carter. Soho Crime: Syndicate. Sept. 2014. 216p. ISBN 9781616955038. pap. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616955045. MYS
First published in 1970 (titled Jack’s Return Home), this GetCarterBritish noir novel, as well as the 1971 film of the same name starring Michael Caine, are credited with redefining British crime fiction and cinema. Crime writers such as Dennis Lehane, Derek Raymond, James Sallis, and David Peace praise Lewis’s novels (he wrote nine, including three “Jack Carter” books) as “classic,” “the finest,” “the most influential” and call Lewis “one of the first British writers in the Sixties to take Chandler literally.” This is the story of London-based “fixer” Jack Carter, who returns to his steel mill hometown in northern England to investigate the suspicious death of his brother, Frank. Mike Hodges’s directorial debut was such a hit that subsequent issues of Lewis’s book were retitled; Hodges provides a foreword to this edition. His brief discussion of class differences and the Sixties and Seventies vibe in England is eye opening. This and all the other Ted Lewis (1940–82) novels will be rereleased by Syndicate Books, a “new publishing venture” by Paul Oliver, a former bookseller who now works at Soho Press as director of marketing and publicity. The plan is to publish five to ten novels a year, “focusing on out-of-print or neglected mystery and crime fiction of cultural relevance,” according to the press release that accompanied Get Carter.

RaintreeReissueLockridge, Larry. Shade of the Raintree: The Life and Death of Ross Lockridge, Jr., Author of Raintree County. Indiana Univ. 2014. 520p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780253012814. pap. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780253012982. BIOG
Ross Lockridge was a Hoosier success story. The Bloomington, IN, native published his first novel, Raintree County, in 1948, and it was hailed as a major event. The book was excerpted in Life magazine, chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection, and won MGM’s Novel Award (and a movie deal; more about that later). But two months after its release, Lockridge took his own life. Lockridge’s son Larry, five years old at the time of his father’s death, is a success story himself: a Guggenheim Fellow, he is professor of English at New York University. This title, originally published in 1994, is a son/survivor’s exploration of his famous father’s life and death. Indiana University is calling this reissue a centennial edition—Ross was born in 1914—but it’s a 20th anniversary rerelease as well, complete with a new introduction by Larry. Included are descriptions of the Lockridge family’s visit to the Danville, KY, set of the Edward Dmytryk–directed 1957 film. The movie stars Elizabeth Taylor, Eva Marie Saint, and Montgomery Clift, who famously crashed his car and smashed his face in the middle of shooting (it’s painfully obvious which scenes were filmed pre- and postcrash).

I’ll have more film-related Classic Returns in the next column, as well as a punk photography title, some smashing art books, and a couple of lovely literary reissues.

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Liz French About Liz French

Library Journal Senior Editor Liz French edits nonfiction and women's fiction reviews at LJ and also compiles the "What We're Reading" and "Classic Returns" columns for LJ online. She's inordinately interested in what you're reading as well. Email:, Twitter: @lizefrench