Grip­ping Mar­tian tale ripe for the big screen

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By David Pitt

IN The Mar­tian (Broad­way, 387 pages, $18) by Amer­i­can au­thor Andy Weir, an astro­naut is stranded on Mars. With its shift­ing points of view — jour­nal en­tries of astro­naut Mark Wat­ney al­ter­nate with chap­ters de­tail­ing the earth-bound ef­forts to cob­ble to­gether a res­cue mis­sion — the story is both wildly imag­i­na­tive and fright­en­ingly plau­si­ble. Ri­d­ley Scott ( Alien, Blade Run­ner) is mak­ing a movie out of the book, and it’s easy to see why: Wat­ley’s story of sur­vival against ex­treme odds is mes­mer­iz­ing (he has to find ways to grow food, keep warm, and make wa­ter), and the fran­tic race to save his life is ex­tremely sus­pense­ful. Bril­liant. Ray­mond Khoury has a pretty clever an­swer to one of his­tory’s more in­ter­est­ing mys­ter­ies: how the in­fa­mous Grig­ory Rasputin went from be­ing a peas­ant to a con­fi­dant of the Rus­sian royal fam­ily at the turn of the 20th cen­tury. Rasputin’s Shadow (Signet, 517 pages, $12) is the lat­est Sean Reilly thriller; look­ing into the mod­ern-day death of a Rus­sian diplo­mat, Reilly un­cov­ers a tan­gled plot that reaches back into his­tory. Khoury, who lives in London, Eng­land, has a real knack for mix­ing real peo­ple and events with made-up char­ac­ters and fic­tional sto­ries. This page­turner is almost seam­less: you re­ally do think that Reilly, his fic­tional FBI agent, has stum­bled on the so­lu­tion to the mys­tery sur­round­ing the very real Rasputin. Another first-class thriller from an al­ways en­ter­tain­ing writer. If you want to know how to make a bad movie — an aw­ful, almost cheer­fully in­ept movie, like the kind of thing Ed Wood used to make, only some­how even more in­com­pe­tent — you should pick up The Dis­as­ter Artist (Si­mon & Schus­ter, 268 pages, $19) by Greg Ses­tero and Tom Bis­sell. It’s the story of how the fa­mously bad movie The Room got made (and, if you can be­lieve it, re­leased) about 10 years ago. The movie was sup­posed to be a sort of ur­ban love story about a man, his fi­ancée, and another man. Ses­tero, who played one of the movie’s ma­jor char­ac­ters (Mark, the other man), chron­i­cles the chaotic day-to-day pro­duc­tion, but that’s only half the story. The other half is the story of his ec­cen­tric re­la­tion­ship with the film’s au­teur, the almost com­i­cally enig­matic Tommy Wiseau, a man so in­scrutable that even Ses­tero doesn’t know what na­tion­al­ity he is or how he got the sev­eral mil­lion dol­lars he spent on the movie. Ses­tero and his co-writer, mag­a­zine jour­nal­ist Bis­sell, both work in L.A., and have pro­duced what might be the most en­ter­tain­ing, psy­cho­log­i­cally com­pelling mak­ing-of book ever writ­ten. If you’ve ever won­dered what goes on be­hind the scenes of some of your favourite tele­vi­sion se­ries — House of Lies, The Good Wife, Bones, Sons of An­ar­chy, The Big Bang The­ory, and many oth­ers — you should check out Showrun­ners: The Art of Run­ning a TV Show (Ti­tan Books, 240 pages, $17), by New Jersey’s Tara Ben­nett. Based on Ben­nett’s doc­u­men­tary of the same name, the book fea­tures in­ter­views with some of TV’s top cre­ators, writ­ers, and pro­duc­ers. A showrun­ner is the per­son who steers a tele­vi­sion se­ries through its day-to-day op­er­a­tions — they over­see ev­ery­thing from set de­sign to cast­ing to mak­ing sure the scripts are suf­fi­ciently pol­ished to mas­sag­ing frag­ile egos. Read­ing this fas­ci­nat­ing book, you get the sense that it’s one of those jobs that’s both in­cred­i­bly tough and re­ward­ing, both mas­sively frus­trat­ing and ex­hil­a­rat­ing — the kind of job only a cer­tain kind of per­son is cut out for. The book is like a crash course in tele­vi­sion pro­duc­tion, and a must-read if you’re a fan of well-crafted TV shows. Hal­i­fax free­lancer David Pitt’s col­umn ap­pears the first week­end

of ev­ery month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.