Thomas Berger's Comic Novels that Hollywood Should Adapt

“Meeting Evil” is categorized under genres such as mystery, drama and thriller in its movie form. The source material for this dark drama is a Thomas Berger novel. Berger specializes in comic novels, albeit the shades of his humor reveal that black comes in a variety of hues. “Meeting Evil” may be one of Thomas Berger’s darkest comedies, but it is a comic novel nonetheless. That blackness may not be well translated to the screen, but since Hollywood has experienced success with Berger’s novels before, there is no reason why they should stop even if “Meeting Evil” does not meet with success at the box office.


More than three decades after Thomas Berger published his most commercially successful novel, he wrote a sequel. “Little Big Man” was made into one of the finest revisionist westerns in Hollywood history and featured a monumental performance by Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman is too old to take on the younger part of Jack Crabbe in a big screen version of the sequel, but he could more easily play the centenarian narrator. “The Return of Little Big Man” features the same episodic structure of the original, but the centerpiece of the novel is one that reveals that Jack Crabbe was actually a witness to the Battle of the O.K. Corral and Wyatt Earp and his gang of brutes were not the heroes they made themselves out to be.


“Sneaky People” is one of the best novels I’ve ever read and in the right hands would make a magnificently funny film. In the wrong hands, like the ones who took Berger’s “The Feud” and stripped it of all its charm and rhythm, the novel would fall apart on the screen. A darkly comic tale of a used car salesman plotting to kill his wife and marry his cheap mistress seems a likely project for the Coen Brothers. That simplistic overview of the plot, however, is really just the thin layer of veneer plastered over a much deep investigation into the inherent sneakiness of the human race.


A great comic film about the world of King Arthur could even be fashioned from the novels of Thomas Berger. “Arthur Rex” covers not just Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere, but also Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Tristan and Isolde and Morgan Le Fay and Mordred. The novel is long, epic and upends the conventional dramatic impact of these stories by looking at chivalry from a comic perspective that ultimately deepens the tragic implications of these mythic tales.