Columns > Published on April 25th, 2018

If Classic Novels Were More Like Blockbuster Movies

Not too long ago I found out that Bram Stoker’s original version of Dracula ended in an explosion. Unfortunately, Stoker didn’t have the good sense to keep it in the final draft. Instead he went on about some nonsense, probably something about how Arthur was a lord of whatever. Snooze.

It makes a person wonder. What if other books had alternate, more exciting, more explosive sections? What if classic novels worked more like blockbuster movies?

'Don Quixote'

Alonso Quixano finishes dictating his will, and he’s left to rest in his room. He breathes, calm, and watches a distant windmill slowly turn.

As he does so, a mysterious figure rides up on horseback. Quixano first mistakes the rider for a child, but as he gets closer Quixano can see the years in the man’s face and the cigarette holder in his hand. A curious thing, a cigarette holder that accommodates five cigarettes side by side.

The man dismounts, and he says, “Got a light?” He gestures towards Quixano with the 5 cigarettes.

Quixano waves to indicate no.

The man says, “You know I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t serious. But...I need you to come back. One more mission, Don Quixote.”

Quixano squints. His mind flashes through the many brave deeds and beatings he’s suffered over the years.

“Don Quixote,” he says. “That’s a name I haven’t heard for a very, very long time.”

[amazon B001R1LCKS inline]


'Moby Dick'

Exhausted and floating on the coffin, Ishmael saw, to his horror, the white whale’s great body rise to the surface. He stared at the beast. He stared a long time before he realized it was dead. Dead. But somehow, still moving.

As Ishmael watched the beast's motions, he realized they weren’t of the whale, but IN the whale.

A burst of gore rushes from the whale, into the water, and surrounds and warms Ishmael. He could only watch as a smaller whale tore through Moby Dick and swam into the waiting ocean.

Moby Dick wasn’t a male whale asserting his dominance. Moby Dick was protecting her young.

[amazon B07BJBLTSG inline]


'To Kill A Mockingbird'

Boo Radley, once again safe in his home, lifts the head of his Shakespeare bust, revealing a small red button. He presses the button, which turns a bookcase around, revealing an array of crimefighting gear. He replaces a small blade in its spot, a knife sheathed in a leather pouch branded with the outline of a ghost.

“Boo!” he says, as he shuts the bookcase.

[amazon B00K0OI42W inline]


'Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland'

Alice woke up and realized it was all a dream. But what she didn’t realize is that her reckless dreaming forged a connection between their world and ours, a connection the Queen used to bring her armies into the real world, our world. And that’s when the beheadings begin.

Alice, now with an eye patch and stubby cigar in her mouth, looks over maps and says, “We’re through the looking glass here, people.”

Alice WILL return in part two: Alice Through The Looking Glass: Requiem

[amazon B00OC9EX4O inline]


'The Stranger'

Meursault falls asleep in his cell, but when he wakes he’s in a posh hotel room overlooking the square where he’s to be executed. He watches out the window as a man, his perfect double in every way, is led to the guillotine.

We hear the blade slice down and thunk through the man’s neck.

Meursault hears the strike of a match, and he turns to see a small, well-appointed man lighting 5 cigarettes, all held in the same cigarette holder.

The man says, “I know that most wouldn’t consider your...attitudes to be gifts. But used properly, I think we can find useful sport for your mind without separating it from your body to fill a basket.”

[amazon B008QLXSG8 inline]


'Catcher In The Rye'

As Holden watches Phoebe circle on the carousel, a shot rings out in the distance. Holden looks to find the shooter, and he sees a wild-haired, Nicolas Cage type step out of the grass with a rifle. As Phoebe passes by on the carousel, she’s slumped over, red blood leaking onto her white horse.

Cut to Holden in an interrogation room. A man, a John Travolta type, steps in the room.

Holden says, “I already told the other guy everything I know. Some guy folded up a gun into this crummy suitcase and ran off.”

The Travolta type, very seriously, sits across from Holden and says, “Do you know why someone wanted to kill your friend?”

Holden, in tears, shakes his head.

Travolta says, “He didn’t. He didn’t care about your friend. He was gunning for me.”

Holden stands and starts pounding his fist on Travolta’s chest, calling him a phony. Travolta holds him back, and says, “Listen to me. We can get him. But I’m going to need your face.”

[amazon 0316769177 inline]


'Lord of the Flies'

Camera pans away from the soldiers and crying children, up to the sky where we find a large airship suspended.

Soldier: “Sir, Project Jaguar Experiment #66592 is complete.”

General: “Excellent. Reset the grounds and prepare the next class for splashdown by 0800 tomorrow. And this time do not forget the giant mechanical praying mantis.”

[amazon 0399501487 inline]


'Devil In A Blue Dress'

After the whole Monet thing, I was sitting under the fruit trees in my front yard when a man walked up, sat in the chair across from me. He held a folder. He said, "Are you Ezekiel, 'Easy' Porterhouse Rawlins?"

I nodded.

He said, "War hero? Battle of the Bulge? Then you worked in aviation? Champion Aircraft?"

I leaned forward in my chair.

He said, "I need you to find something for me. I think you might be just the right man for the job."

He passed the folder to me, and I opened it to find a picture of the Moon.

I said, "I don't appreciate you wasting my time."

He said, "Please, Mr. Rawlins. I assure you. We are in desperate need of your services."

"Who's 'we?'" I said.

"NASA," the man said. 

[amazon B003R0LC48 inline]



As the creature drifts away on an ice raft, he’s startled by the sudden appearance of a strange, metallic fish in the water nearby. A small door opens at the top of the fish. The creature realizes this is no fish, but in fact, a ship.

A small man, impeccably dressed and smoking 5 cigarettes through one of those multi-cigarette holders, steps on top of the fish and regards the creature. He says, “Seems a waste of your talents to just leave you floating out here, Mr…?”

[amazon B075SVRMD8 inline]


'The Joy Luck Club'

The mahjong tiles clack against the small table as the mothers draw and discard. 

A man enters the room, flanked by two soldiers. The man entering the room has a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He says, "Ladies, I hate to interrupt, but I have a request from the President of the United States."

The women look up briefly, but their game continues.

The man holds up his briefcase, snaps his fingers, and one of the soldiers stands to the side and holds the briefcase. The man opens the case using a key on a chain around his neck, and inside is a small screen that begins showing a video.

The man narrates what's happening, saying, "At 1600 hours, the President's daughter was kidnaped by a rogue nation of prisoners from the Staten Island prison colony, which, as you know, was sectioned off from the mainland and made into a land of prisoners, which seemed like a good idea at the time for some reason and now seems like the worst idea we've ever had. Anyway, their leader, James "Slaughter" Quinn released his demands.

The tape cuts to a shirtless man with a long, flowing royal cape draped over his shoulders. He says, "I will release the child on one condition: You must find a mahjong player who can defeat me. You have 48 hours."

The mothers sit quietly, then resume their game. The man closes his briefcase and licks his lips. He's not looking forward to telling them about the supervirus he'd dosed them with, a virus he will cure for them only if they complete the mission. 

[amazon B004IYISSK inline]


'The Picture Of Dorian Gray'

As Gray enters the room with the intention of slashing the portrait, he sees that the image of himself, too, holds a knife. As Gray gets closer, the old man in the portrait reaches out from the painting and steps into our world.

“What say we finish this, once and for all, boy?” The haggard, older Gray says.

“Indeed,” Gray says.

They tussle, slashing at each other until both lose their knives. They begin wrestling, crashing each other into antiques stored in the attic. As they fight, the years pass between them. Sometimes the portrait version being old, sometimes the real world version. The years flow back and forth, blow by blow, until they seem to even out, at which point the servants burst into the room with pistols. Both versions of Gray are shouting, “Shoot him!” “No, shoot HIM!”

One servant says to the other, “Do you know what I’m thinking?”

And the second servant says, “Yeah, buddy. Let’s do it.”

They count to three, and they both fire.

Both Grays fall dead to the floor.

The first servant says, “Huh. I thought for sure this one was the real Dorian,” as he nudges the body shot by the second servant.

The second servant says, “Oh, he was. I’m sure of it.”

[amazon 0375751513 inline]


'Gulliver’s Travels'

Obsessed with the Houyhnhnm and wanting only to return to a land where the horse is king, Gulliver uses technologies cobbled together from his various travels to construct a gene bomb designed to mutate the horse population, turning them all into hyper-intelligent beings.

As he's about to detonate the bomb, he hears a whipcrack, and a whip wraps around his arm.

Gulliver says, "Who the hell are you?"

"Indiana Jones," the man says. 

Gulliver feels this is an odd name, but somehow also knows that it wouldn't be odd a few hundred years in the future.

This "Indiana" pulls Gulliver away from his detonator, and makes short work of tying the much older recluse up and absconding with his device.

Cut to a storehouse. A pair of men hammer the top on a large barrel. Or they hammer the metal hoops on or whatever part you hammer last on a barrel. They count to three and hoist the barrel onto a shelf, next to other barrels. As the camera pulls back, we see the storehouse is vast and filled with barrels. 

[amazon 1593081324 inline]


'Jane Eyre'

"Am I hideous, Jane?", Rochester asks.

"Very, sir: you always were, you know", she answers.

After witnessing the scars inflicted upon Mr. Rochester by Bertha, Jane decides she still loves him. She takes a moment to excuse herself and check herself in the mirror. As she reaches for the towel, she finds a curious knob hidden in the bathroom. She presses the button, and a door slides aside, revealing a laboratory full of large cylinders filled with a green liquid. Jane enters the laboratory and approaches one of the tanks. She sees, inside, a human figure, a face without lips, but that is still unmistakably Bertha.

Tank after tank, she examines and finds a version of Bertha, an imperfect, warped clone in each.

Then she hears the door snap shut, and Rochester is there.

He reaches up and places his palm on the surface of one of the tanks.

“Sadly, their minds are often warped far more than their bodies.”

Jane says, “How many have…”

“Many,” he says. “There must always be a Mr. Rochester. And always, always, there must be a Mrs. Rochester.”

[amazon B01LB13HII inline]


'The Scarlet Letter'

Pearl visits her mother’s grave, intent on finally leaving behind the scarlet “A” she wore on her dress for so many years. Pearl fondles the fabric, running her fingertips along the curious metalwork on the underside of the “A” when it hits her. "Of course!"

She clutches the “A” and runs back to her mother’s modest home, sprints around to the side of the house and approaches a large stone with an odd etching in it. She places the “A” on the stone, and the ground shakes and moves aside, revealing a set of stairs leading down into the darkness.

“So the stories were true,” she says. “Hester’s treasure has been here, untouched, all this time!”

[amazon 9780142437261 inline]


'A Tree Grows In Brooklyn'

While Francie looks out her window, probably thinking about pickles or a kid reading a book or some mundane bullshit, she hears the door of her apartment swing open.

A man, a small man, lights a cigarette, then another, and then another until all 5 cigarettes in his holder are lit. He takes a deep drag and says, “Did you really think it would work?”

Francie turns to face the man head-on.

He says, “Did you really think living the most boring, mundane life of all time would keep you safe? That it would undo all the things you did? That the world would just forget who you are, what you can do?”

She begins to speak, telling him a tale of how much a thing used to cost in a store that doesn’t exist anymore.

He says, “Don’t bother. My ears are completely plugged. Your spells won’t lull me to sleep."

Francie looks confused, but then shining silvery claws emerge from the ends of her fingertips, and leathery wings sprout from her back.

The man says, "Most of the world forgot about your atrocities, 'Francie,' but not me. And not my friends.”

Out from the shadows creeps an inhuman monster with stitches covering his body. A plain-looking man with a bored look on his face. And a man in full knight’s armor, brandishing what appears to be some sort of electric sword.

The small man says, “I can’t hear you. So I’m going to assume that you’re telling me you want to do this the hard way.”

[amazon B000FCK65W inline]

Got a favorite book that needs the treatment? Comment below. I'll take on the challenge!

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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