There are some books that are sacred. I'm not talking about the Bible or the Koran. I'm referring to those classic mysteries that I believe it's damn near sacrilege to change so much as a comma, let alone the storyline. But that's exactly what happened a few days ago. There I was, comfortably ensconced on the sofa, Diet Coke in hand, popcorn at the ready, all set to watch one of my favorites: Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library.
Of course, I'd read the book. Of course, I'd seen Joan Hickson's 1984 version. So I was psyched to see a remake, this time with Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple. But suddenly Ms. Marple, who has been transformed into a 21st century feminist sleuth, appears to have been dropped into a very dumb episode of All My Children, except in this version Susan Lucci has a British accent. I mean the tele-movie used all the names of Christie's characters, but somebody, and I'm looking at you screenwriter Kevin Elyot, had the gall to change everything else. Somehow Ms. Marple found herself in the midst of a lesbian triangle. Hell, even the murderer had been changed.
Have you no shame Mr. Elyot? What's next? You've decided to rewrite Gone With the Wind? Scarlett O'Hara undergoes a sex-change operation and become Sam O'Hara, owner of Tara, a tranny bar in Greenwich Village?
J. W. Eagan, and try as I might I can't find out who this pundit is, once said: Never judge a book by its movie. More power to the screenwriter who succeeds in preserving the essence of a beloved book while transforming it to the big (or small) screen. All hail Horton Foote who took Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and wrote a screenplay worthy of that powerful novel.
I confess. Both halves of Evelyn David regularly play the casting game for Murder Off the Books. I'm envisioning a 30-years younger James Garner as Mac, and maybe Karen Allen for Rachel. My Irish Terrier Clio thinks she has the style and wit to play Whiskey and no one will notice that she's 80 pounds lighter and five feet shorter. Dreams were made of lesser things. The Southern half has her own casting choices. Should we ever be lucky enough to sell the book (we're looking at you Hallmark Channel) – well, I hope that our literary integrity would withstand any financial incentives (but I'm not putting all my money on it).
But Dame Agatha? Maybe the executors of her estate are laughing all the way to the bank and aren't offended at all by the changes in her immortal plots and words. But this fan is "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." You don't mess with my Aggie.