My collection of movie novelisations is growing. I’ve got nearly sixty now. But I think I’ve only read two of them. That needs to change, so I’ve vowed to try to read one per month, amongst reading other books, while I increase my reading quota overall. I enjoy movie novelisations because often you can tell that the author was working from an early draft of the script, or includes some deleted scenes that were left on the cutting room floor. They also of course normally include some extra backstory to characters and scenes, so for movies that you love it can be very interesting to read the novelisation as it fleshes the content out even more for you.

If you have an interest in movie novelisations then I urge you to check out the I Read Movies podcast by my good friend Paxton Holley, where he talks about many movie novelisations and ‘reads them so you don’t have to’. And also take a look at where the awesome Shawn and Jamie Robare have archived a mountain of information about movie novelisations.

Pax adds a lot of detail in his podcast reviews. I’m nowhere near in that league, so my notes here are just going to be a brain dump of things I noticed whilst reading it. The book I picked to read first was The Blues Brothers by Miami Mitch. The UK publication is credited to Mitch Glazer but the US version, which I have, calls him Miami Mitch. He seems an interesting guy, having worked on several Bill Murray projects and being a reporter for Crawdaddy magazine.

The Blues Brothers is one of my favourite movies and one that I know almost off by heart, so I was eager to see how many differences there would be. I was very aware that Dan Akroyd had written a mammoth first draft which had to be drastically changed and edited by John Landis, so I was wondering what script the author would have received. Read on to find out more.

  • The inside cover lists a couple of songs that are in the book. It makes sense that it lists songs that are quoted in the book, but I’ve never really noticed that before in books. It lists the copyrights for ‘Gimme Some Lovin’ and ‘Rawhide’. See photo below.
  • The book starts with Jake’s birth and Elwood arriving at the orphanage, and reveals that they’re not actually brothers! Wow. Way to start with a twist, Mitch!
  • I loved how it specifies the exact model of sunglasses they wear. Ray-Ban 50-22 G15 shades
  • I also liked how each section within the chapters is separated out by two pairs of Ray-Ban shades. Very cool. See photo below.
  • The book explains how Jake got put in prison. The brothers were pulling a robbery of a gas station and Jake spent too long picking what to steal and the police descended and Elwood had to drive away. I really hadn’t pegged them as robbers. They’re pretty distinctive in their outfits so I’m not sure just a face mask would really help Jake not be recognised. When Jake gets caught by the police the book reads “Elwood, tears streaming from beneath his sunglassses, hit the slab at sixty and headed for Chicago. The dream was over.”
  • Some bits (like the meeting with the Penguin) sounded almost exactly like the film. Either the author saw some rough cuts, or the script was extremely descriptive.
  • Interesting having chapters interspersed with descriptions of ‘the girl’ (Carrie Fisher). This kind of happens like the movie, but there is a whole chunk of the book where we don’t see her at all, and then she suddenly appears again at the end.
  • Elwood calls his house ‘The Bluescave’. In the book he states, “Batman had the Batcave,” he said with a wink. “This is the Bluescave”. I like that.
  • In the movie there are some ‘magical’ bits where Elwood drives the Bluesmobile over a rising bridge, or the car backflips etc, but this is kind of just shrugged off in a comedy moment. In the book, however, there are several moments where Elwood is described as being an unbelievably skillful driver.
  • I’ve seen deleted scenes of Elwood working in a factory and it showing how he steals the glue which we later see being used later in the movie. In the book this is a bigger thread. We hear more about the factory and he doesn’t just steal glue but several canisters of propane too.
  • The first sign of luck or divine intervention in the book is when Jake slips on dogshit and doesn’t get hit by machine gun fire as they walk towards Elwood’s hotel.
  • In the book it’s actually normally Jake who keeps repeating that they are on a mission from God. In the film I’m sure it’s Elwood who keeps saying that line.
  • Apparently being called a ‘robot’ is a big insult. Several people, mostly Elwood, get called robots at various points in the book.
  • Jake gets confronted by a parole officer at Elwood’s hotel. He manages to sweet-talk his way out of having to stay at a halfway house that night. No talk of cheese-wizz anywhere in the hotel.
  • They refer to a guy eating at a ‘greasy spoon’. I always thought that was just a British expression.
  • The biggest difference between the book and film is that the majority of the book is spent getting the band back together. Almost every band member is in a different location or situation and they spend quite a while getting them on board. In the film I feel that’s all done in the first half of the movie. And the majority of these band recruitment scenes are very different from the movie. I think the only two ones that are the same are Mr Fabulous in the restaurant and also Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy (without Blue Lou though) at the diner.
  • Steve Cropper is apparently a big pool shark. They look for him in the pool hall, where apparently two guys both called New York Ray and New York Ray are playing? But they actually find Steve Cropper living in what I believe is an Amish community where he’s trying to stay on the straight and narrow. Jake and Elwood then arrive and the minute Steve gets in the car he’s asking to be dropped off at a pool hall!
  • Willie ‘Too Big’ Hall is in his own apartment somewhere and they basically trick him into coming back.
  • Duck Dunn fits alarm systems, and when they catch up with him installing a big loudspeaker Elwood grabs his microphone from the car and they sing and play harmonica on the loudspeaker and gather a bit of a crowd.
  • There’s a big new section about the band having a rehearsal in a new build property that Blue Lou Marini is a security guard or something. They rehearse in the partially built house, demolish some walls to get better acoustics, and then in the morning blow the house up and bulldoze over it. And Lou seems totally cool with it all. Saxophone players are just cool with everything I guess.
  • Jake keeps repeating the line “You’re the beating heart, the soul, the spine of a great rhythm and blues band” to every band member to try to convince them to rejoin. I think he only uses this once in the movie, with Mr Fabulous. In the book he’s obviously bullshitting the same line to everybody.
  • It seems like they spend all day in Ray’s Music Exchange, because Elwood goes to see Steve at the pool hall twice in that time. Steve is hustling money in a pool hall to try to get money to pay for the equipment.
  • It’s very different how he sees Maury the agent and very different how they get the Bob’s Country Bunker gig.
  • The actual Bob’s Country Bunker scene plays out almost exactly like the movie. So much so that the writing seems very lazy at one point. It feels as if he’s just describing what was on screen in the film directly. It’s confusing as things like this hint that he might have seen rushes of the film, but so much of the novelisation is different from the movie. It’s almost as if he wrote the first half of the book based on an early draft of the script and then by the time he got to Bob’s Country Bunker he had seen a first cut of that part of the film. He also, however, adds a random bit about a chainsaw to the Bob’s Country Bunker scene that isn’t in the movie.
  • The police really aren’t a constant presence chasing them, like they are in the movies. You do get the odd sections where one of the policemen and also one of the Nazis are trying to follow them, but there isn’t really much of an ongoing chase and I certainly don’t remember the mall car chase appearing in the book. Like I said, the majority of the book is about getting the band back together, whereas in the movie the second half of the movie is basically one big chase, with the police, the Nazis, Carrie Fisher and also the Good Ol Boys chasing them. The Good Ol Boys aren’t in the book at all.
  • Jake pulls a good scam over the phone to get rid of the band who were meant to be playing at the big Friday night gig. Tom Malone is so impressed with Jake’s acting that he even says the curious line, “Goddamn, kiss me where I pee.” I now dread to think how he got the nickname ‘Bones’.
  • Jake is quite the ladies’ man in the book and he manages to sleep with the venue owner within about an hour of meeting her. And he keeps his sunglasses on the whole time. I wonder if he kept his hat on too.
  • The ending of the book seems really rushed. The last car chase and troops descending on the Cook County Office happens over about three pages. I’d love to hear about the ‘making of’ the writing of this book. Feels like it started working off an early draft of the script, written in lots of detail, and then really rushes the ending once the movie was in the final stages of editing. I’ve checked Wikipedia and it says “The novel was based on the original version of The Blues Brothers screenplay written by Dan Aykroyd and John Landis. However, the original script that was used for the basis of the novel evolved so dramatically into what was used in the film that the two works only scantly resemble each other.”
  • At the end of the book there is an advert for a ‘Blues Brothers Private‘ book, which was apparently written by John Belushi’s wife Judith. It contains things like prison records and notes from the Penguin etc. Looks intriguing! I definitely need to get my hands on that. I’ve got all the Blues Brothers LPs on vinyl and I saw the Blues Brothers band live with Jim Belushi back in the 90s, so I’d love to expand my Blues Brothers media collection with that book.

So there you have it. To be honest I didn’t hugely enjoy this book. It was ok, and quite interesting to have some new, albeit random, scenes in there. It was almost unrecognisable in places. But it just didn’t really flow very well as a story, and I didn’t think it fleshed the characters out too well. Still well worth a read though if you are a fan of the film.

Next up… The Goonies novelisation!