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From page to screen in 2021

In 1899, the French illusionist and filmmaker Georges Méliès made a short film generally regarded as being cinema’s first literary adaptation. His six-minute version of Cinderella was not only a precursor to his groundbreaking A Trip to the Moon, but effectively paved the way for thousands of others to take literature as the inspiration for their movies in the decades – and centuries – to come.

Some 120+ years later and creatives in film and television still often take their cue from the stories laid down in books. 2021 won’t be bucking the trend and is due to see plenty of novels adapted for the screen. And with crime fiction being naturally action packed and cinematic in its very essence, our favourite genre will see plenty of big and small screen adaptations.

Here’s some of the most exciting crime fiction due to be lifted from the page in 2021…

The best book adaptations in 2021:

Films

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy

While never quite hitting the dizzying heights of the James Bond or Jason Bourne franchise down the years, Jack Ryan adaptations have still won over a decent fanbase, whether it’s been via the Harrison Ford/Alec Baldwin/Ben Affleck movies or the John Krasinski TV series. Next up from the Ryan universe? Michael B Jordan in Without Remorse.

This Paramount picture is a spin-off from the Jack Ryan series and sees the charismatic Creed and Black Panther star as John Clark, a Navy SEAL out to avenge the murder of his wife by a drug cartel. Given it’s based on a Tom Clancy book, he soon finds himself caught up in a wider conspiracy, of course.

The writer/director team behind Sicario: Day of the Soldado are in charge, so we’re expecting this to be a cut above the usual Clancy fare.

Where? Amazon Prime Video
When? Unconfirmed

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith

Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr Ripley, starring Matt Damon and Jude Law, is one of recent decade’s finest crime novel adaptations. If this cinematic version of Highsmith’s thrilling 1957 tale of marriage and murder is half the film that Anthony Minghella’s was back in 1999, we’ll be very pleased indeed.

Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas head up a cast that features the likes of Tracey Letts (Homeland), Rachel Blanchard (Peep Show) and Dash Mihok (Ray Donovan).

Where? Cinemas
When? August

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, along with everyone else with a Netflix subscription, will be able to watch Creep director Patrick Brice’s film version of her fourth novel this year.

The Walking Dead’s Sydney Park stars as Makani Young, a teenage girl from Hawaii who gets sent to live with her granny in the rural Midwest. Pretty soon a masked killer starts slicing up her schoolmates in this slasher flick that’s primarily aimed at a ‘young adult’ audience, but given the plot – and director’s credentials – it’ll no doubt have a crossover appeal with older viewers.

Where? Netflix
When? Unconfirmed

Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould

Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould

Look out for the movie version of the first of Howard Michael Gould’s Charlie Waldo books next year. The Gentleman’s Charlie Hunnam will play Waldo, an ex-LAPD type who’s jacked in his career to go live off-grid in the woods. The mysterious death of a TV star’s wife sees him lured out of early retirement. The books are fast and funny, so seem perfect for the big screen treatment. Mel Gibson, Dominic Monaghan, Rupert Friend and Method Man all appear.

Like many films out in 2021, this has been moved from 2020, so it’ll be good to finally see it.

Where? Cinemas
When? Unconfirmed

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

Writer David Grann’s 2017 book Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI is also getting a movie adaptation in 2021. Grann can’t have imagined when the rights to his work were bought, that the project would attract such cinematic royalty. In the director’s chair is none other than the legend that is Martin Scosese. Playing the two leads? Scorsese’s darlings, both Leonardo DiCaprio AND Robert De Niro.

The film charts the incredibly scandalous real-life story of the murders of senior members of a Midwestern Native American tribe, the Osage Nation, after oil is discovered on their land in Oklahoma in the ’20s.

Where? Cinemas and Apple TV+
When? Unconfirmed

The Woman in the Window by A J Finn

The Woman in the Window by A J Finn

Movie bigwigs saw the potential of A J Finn’s debut thriller before it was even released back in January of 2018. The rights were bought, a script was written and a film was made. By October of 2018, the movie was in the can. But fans wanting to watch Amy Adams in the window giving it serious Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window vibes have had to wait. And wait. And wait.

Initial test screenings weren’t warmly received in 2019, so an edit or two was made. Then Covid-19 scuppered a 2020 release. Now it looks as if this Joe Wright film, co-starring Gary Oldman, won’t even see multiplexes. Still, we won’t be put off, we’ll be streaming the thing as soon as it hits smart TVs across the globe soon.

Where? Netflix
When? Early 2021

Cherry by Nico Walker

Cherry by Nico Walker

Author Nico Walker’s debut novel Cherry hit bookshops and online outlets in the summer of 2018. It came out to rave reviews, but Walker was unable to enjoy the plaudits too much. Only he was in prison.

Cherry is a semi-autobiographical tale of an army vet that gets hooked on opiates and starts robbing banks to pay for his addiction. The movie will see Tom Holland from The Devil all the Time playing the in-part fictionalised version of the author.

Walker’s out of jail now, by the way. So he’ll be able to enjoy the film of his book from the comfort of his own living room.

Where? Apple TV+
When? March

TV

Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief by Maurice Leblanc

Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief by Maurice LeBlanc

Not many brand new, high-octane Netflix series take short stories from 1907 as their inspiration. Lupin does, though. Maurice LeBlanc’s collection Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief forms the basis of this energetic new French crime-action series.

The story isn’t set in the early 20th century, though – this is ‘a contemporary retelling’ of the story. Omar Sy plays Assane Diop, a man who inherits a magic book. Its title? Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief. The original stories will inspire many of the show’s plots. How very meta.

The book, by all accounts, gives Diop special powers, which he uses to become a modern-day Lupin. A 21st century gentleman burglar. Sounds daft, looks fun.

Where? Netflix
When? January

The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake

The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake

This 1938 work of detective fiction is something of a classic. It’s one of 15 Nigel Strangeways books written by Nicholas Blake – pen name of Cecil Day-Lewis, Daniel’s dad – so if this adaptation proves successful, this could run and run for the BBC.

This five-part series stars Chernobyl and Mad Men’s Jared Harris, one of the finest British character actors working today, and follows a revenge theme as a grieving mother infiltrates the life of the man she believes killed her son. This could be a big one to watch.

Where? BBC One
When? Late 2021

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

An impressive all-star cast including the likes of Sienna Miller, Rupert Friend, Naomi Scott and Michelle Dockery are due to star in this six-part series from Big Little Lies series creator David E Kelley. Set in Westminster, Kelley has recruited Succession director S J Clarkson to help adapt Sarah Vaughan’s bestselling 2007 work.

In it, a British politician (Friend) is accused of raping an aide that he’s having an affair with. His wife (Miller) is convinced of his innocence, his prosecutor (Dockery) is convinced of his guilt. The series is being intended as the first in an anthology.

Where? Netflix
When? Late 2021

Dead Simple by Peter James

Dead Simple and Looking Good Dead by Peter James

The popular Roy Grace novels by Peter James are ripe for adaptation. ITV spotted them a while back and tied up John Simm to play the main role, something the author was chuffed about. James reckons he’s always seen Simm as playing Brighton-based detective Grace – which is either a huge coincidence or Peter James is just a very polite and smooth-talking man.

The series will consist of just two episodes – one covering the debut book Dead Simple and the other taking its cue from book two, Looking Good Dead.

Where? ITV1
When? Early 2021

Heard of any other crime novels being turned into big or small screen drama in 2021? Let us know in the comments below!

Steve Charnock
Steve Charnock
Steve Charnock

Steve Charnock is a freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card.

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