News Home RSS Feed

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Dark Tower Beckons

Written by Jon Williams

As The Dark Tower opens in theatres this week, casual observers could be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing more than another Stephen King adaptation; there are certainly quite a few of those happening right now. More devoted King fans will tell you that The Dark Tower is more than just a book, more than just the seven-book series it eventually turned out to be. It is, in fact, King’s magnum opus, spreading its tendrils to touch, in one way or another, perhaps every book he has ever written.

The series begins with the simple yet elegant line that has become one of King’s most famous: “The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.” He wrote those words in 1970, as a senior at the University of Maine. He was inspired by a poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning, which itself comes from a line in Shakespeare’s King Lear. He wedded that in his imagination with elements of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, and the Arthurian legends, among other influences, for a dark fantasy quest that was unlike any other.

He began writing in 1970 and laboured for twelve years before the first volume, The Gunslinger, was published in 1982. This established a pattern that would persist for much of the series, with several years elapsing between the publications of the individual volumes. The second book, The Drawing of the Three, came out in 1987; the third, The Waste Lands (also inspired by a poem, this one by T.S. Eliot), in 1991. One of the longest gaps, six years, came before Wizard and Glass appeared, with its many Wizard of Oz references, in 1997. This exploration of the gunslinger’s fundamental backstory will be the basis for an upcoming TV series that will feature Idris Elba in a reprisal of his role from the movie.

It was another six years before another Dark Tower book would be published. In 1999, King was hit by a minivan while out for a walk, an incident that threatened his life and drastically altered his writing career when he was finally able to get back to it. Seeing the Dark Tower series as his life’s work and now feeling his own mortality, King set to work with a will. Wolves of the Calla was released in November of 2003; the sixth and seventh books, Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower (currently unavailable on audiobook) came out three months apart in 2004.

The Dark Tower brought the series to a conclusion, but that wasn’t quite the end of the story. In 2012, King returned with The Wind Through the Keyhole, another framed story of Roland’s backstory that fits in between Wizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. There’s also a bit of backstory to be found in “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” a short story written in 1998 and included in the collection Everything’s Eventual.

Of course, the full tale of the Dark Tower isn’t contained solely in these books and stories. Readers and listeners will notice connections throughout King’s entire oeuvre, some more pronounced than others. For instance, near the beginning of Wizard and Glass, the gunslinger and his band of travelers pass through a world that has been ravaged by Captain Trips, the weaponized flu strand from The Stand. The man in black that Roland pursues throughout the first book of the series (played in the movie by Matthew McConaughey) appears, in different forms, in both The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon. The character Father Callahan from ‘Salem’s Lot joins Roland’s crew for a time beginning in Wolves of the Calla, and Dinky Earnshaw (from the title story of Everything’s Eventual) and Ted Brautigan (from Hearts in Atlantis) show up with roles to play as well. The 1994 novel Insomnia becomes a plot point of its own in the final book of the series.

While the Dark Tower books are popular in their own right, they are somewhat less well known than King’s other works. With the movie in theatres and a TV show in the works, though, the series is about to come to the forefront in a big way. Patrons who are stepping into this world for the first time have a rich, rewarding journey ahead of them, and others will want to relive Roland’s adventures again and again. Make sure you have the series and its related works on your shelves for them to explore and enjoy.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dunkirk Brings WWII to Life

Written by Jon Williams

May, 1940. With World War II in its early days, the Battle of France raged. As the month wore on, the advance of the German military left a group of Allied forces cut off and pushed back to the sea near Dunkirk. Thus began Operation Dynamo, a British-led effort to evacuate the Allied soldiers, so crucial to the already tenuous war effort, from their perilous situation. Because of the shallow waters in the area, only small craft could be used. Nevertheless, the eight-day action resulted in the successful rescue of more than 300,000 men.

This is the story told by the new epic war movie Dunkirk, in theatres this week. It’s the latest from filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who’s known for his trilogy of Batman films (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises), as well as movies like Inception and Interstellar. Dunkirk stars Batman alumni Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy along with Kenneth Branagh and pop star Harry Styles in his acting debut.

Patrons interested in the story behind the Battle of Dunkirk are in luck, with a wealth of materials examining this momentous event. To go along with the movie, historian Joshua Levine has taken a fresh look at the lives of all those involved in the battle for a companion audiobook. Walter Lord’s 2012 work The Miracle of Dunkirk was based on extensive interviews with the battle’s survivors. And in 2004, the BBC put together a three-episode docudrama that broke the battle down to show how it progressed on a day-by-day basis.

With the end of World War II now more than seventy years in the past, it won’t be long before it fades from living memory. However, there is no shortage of media that will preserve its legacy for future generations. One of the most valuable contributions is from acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns, whose documentary series The War deals primarily with the perspective of Americans on the home front. Along similar lines is WWII in HD, which uses immersive footage to depict the front lines. Also produced by the History Channel, The Third Reich examines the rise of Nazi Germany. On the other side of the world, War in the Pacific and Hell in the Pacific look at the war as it took place away from the Atlantic Theatre.

There are also plenty of dramatized accounts; as Dunkirk shows, World War II is always fertile ground for stories to be told on the big and small screens. Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers come immediately to mind, as do The Dirty Dozen and The Bridge on the River Kwai, as well as Schindler’s List for the Holocaust. The miniseries The Winds of War, based on Herman Wouk’s novel, follows a far-flung American family as they get caught up in the war along with the United States. On the Pacific side, Clint Eastwood’s duology consisting of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima is hard to beat.

There are literally hundreds more documentaries and movies which delve into World War II and its various aspects. To find more, simply SmartBrowse World War II on our website, and please let us know about those you’ve found to be interesting and/or popular at your library in the comments section below.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

hoopla digital Inks Expanded Content Agreement with HarperCollins Publishers

Category-creating digital service for public libraries expands eBook catalog with thousands of award-winning titles from HarperCollins

HOLLAND, OH (June 22, 2017) – hoopla digital (hoopladigital.com), the category-creating digital service for public libraries, today announced a new, expanded agreement with HarperCollins Publishers to add more than 15,000 award-winning eBooks to hoopla’s dynamic collection, available July 5. With this content agreement, patrons of participating libraries will have access to the HarperCollins global English Language catalog of acclaimed authors – which includes titles from HarperCollins Christian Publishing, HarperCollins UK and Harlequin – via hoopla digital’s app and online service.

This agreement expands on a deal last year that brought HarperCollins Publishers’ entire digital audiobook backlist catalog to hoopla’s collection. The new deal adds the deep backlist works of bestselling HarperCollins authors Neil Gaiman, Louise Erdrich and Dennis Lehane to hoopla digital’s catalog of more than 600,000 movies, TV shows, music albums, eBooks, audiobooks and comics. Patrons of libraries who partner with hoopla digital can access this dynamic content anytime on their smartphones, tablets and laptops.

"We are thrilled to expand our successful partnership with HarperCollins and excited to build our eBook catalog with thousands of popular and award-winning titles from their iconic authors. On hoopla digital, these titles are available anytime, anywhere without any holds or waits," said Jeff Jankowski, co-founder and owner of hoopla digital.  “eBooks is one of our strongest growth areas with high demand from libraries and their patrons and we will continue to make a significant investment to assemble a deep offering of titles for the libraries we serve.”

hoopla now offers a catalog of eBook and audiobook titles across a broad spectrum of adult and children’s genres, including romance, thriller, literary fiction, self-help, Christian living and non-fiction content.

"HarperCollins has enjoyed the additional discovery achieved through hoopla libraries and their patrons with regard to HarperCollins audiobooks," said Adam Silverman, Senior Director, Digital Business Development. "We look forward to building on our success with this expanded agreement."

There is no waiting to borrow titles on hoopla digital since on-demand content can be enjoyed by multiple patrons simultaneously. Patrons who use hoopla digital also avoid library late fees as digital content borrowing periods simply expire without charges.

hoopla digital has partnerships with more than 1,500 public library systems across North America including Boston Public Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, Chicago Public Library, San Francisco Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, and Edmonton Public Library.

To access eBook and audiobook titles from HarperCollins Publishers, cardholders of participating libraries can download the free hoopla digital mobile app on their Android or iOS device or visit hoopladigital.com.

About hoopla digital

hoopla digital is a category-creating service that partners with public libraries across North America to provide online and mobile access to thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, comics, movies, music, and more. With hoopla digital, patrons can borrow, instantly stream, and download dynamic content with a valid library card. All content is accessible via hoopla digital’s mobile app and www.hoopladigital.com. hoopla digital is a service of Midwest Tape – a trusted partner to public libraries for over 25 years.

For more information, please contact 800-875-2785 (US) or 866-698-2231 (Canada).

About HarperCollins Publishers
HarperCollins Publishers is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, with operations in 18 countries. With two hundred years of history and more than 120 branded imprints around the world, HarperCollins publishes approximately 10,000 new books every year in 17 languages, and has a print and digital catalog of more than 200,000 titles. Writing across dozens of genres, HarperCollins authors include winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Newbery and Caldecott Medals and the Man Booker Prize. HarperCollins, headquartered in New York, is a subsidiary of News Corp  and can be visited online at corporate.HC.com.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

40 Years of a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Written by Jon Williams

Forty years ago today, on May 25, 1977, Star Wars opened in just thirty-two theatres across the United States. That number quickly expanded as the film took off, and many theatres were still showing the film on its first anniversary. A lot has changed in the intervening years—even that first movie’s title, which has expanded to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope—but the voracious appetite that fans have for stories set in the galaxy far, far away has not abated. Luckily, there’s a wealth of new material coming out.

Fans at the recent Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, as well as those streaming the event live around the world, were treated to the first teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Releasing in December, this will be the second in the new trilogy that picks up the story of the galaxy thirty years following the events of Return of the Jedi. The first installment, The Force Awakens, brought in nearly $1 billion at the box office in North America alone, and more than $2 billion globally. It came out in 2015; the most recent Star Wars movie, Rogue One, the first standalone, non-trilogy film, leads directly into the events of the original Star Wars.

Those who attended Celebration also got a first look at the upcoming fourth season of Star Wars: Rebels, the animated show that follows a small band of freedom fighters in the early days of the Rebel Alliance’s fight against the Galactic Empire. Show creator Dave Filoni also announced that the upcoming season will be the show’s last. The third season featured characters that appeared in Rogue One, such as Rebellion leader Mon Mothma and renegade Saw Gerrera, who was first introduced in Star Wars: Clone Wars.

The third season of Rebels also brought back Grand Admiral Thrawn, a beloved character from the old expanded universe that was wiped out to make way for new stories with Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise. Thrawn’s original entrance came in 1991’s Heir to the Empire, the popular novel by Timothy Zahn that revived interest in Star Wars and can be credited for everything that has come since. With the character coming back into the universe, Zahn stepped in once again to write a novel, released in April, detailing how the Grand Admiral rose to his rank in the Imperial military.

Novels and short stories are a great source of new stories in the Star Wars universe. Chuck Wendig’s recently concluded Aftermath trilogy picks up shortly after the destruction of the second Death Star and details the fall of the Empire and the first seeds of the First Order rising in its place. James Luceno’s Catalyst serves as a prequel to Rogue One, while Rebel Rising by Beth Revis and Guardians of the Whills by Greg Rucka (both unavailable on audio but available in eBook format on hoopla digital) give back stories for some of that movie’s heroes. Finally, releasing in October and celebrating forty years of the original Star Wars movie, From a Certain Point of View explores iconic scenes from that movie from the perspectives of background characters.

The popularity of Star Wars means that patrons will always be looking for the latest materials in your library. SmartBrowse on our website for more, and don’t forget to remind patrons that they can look on hoopla for even more Star Wars audiobooks, eBooks, comics, and music.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stephen King Fills 2017 with His Brand of Horror

Written by Jon Williams

Call it a hunch, but we’re guessing that a lot of your patrons are Stephen King fans. Luckily for those patrons, there’s plenty of recent and upcoming King material to keep them quivering in fear for quite some time.

To start, we need to go back almost to the very beginning. Now, of course, King is a well-known, bestselling author with more than fifty books to his credit, but that wasn’t always the case. The Dead Zone was just the fourth novel King published under his own name. Released in 1979, it deals with a young man both gifted and cursed with psychic abilities after a catastrophic car accident. The novel spawned both a 1983 movie and a 2002 TV series that ran for six seasons, but it has never been available in audiobook format until now. This classic is narrated by actor James Franco.

There’s also plenty of new material from King. His latest release, out this week, is Gwendy’s Button Box, a novella written with help from publisher, editor, and fellow horror writer Richard Chizmar. The story takes place in Castle Rock, Maine, a familiar setting for King fans. The Dead Zone was set in Castle Rock, as were Cujo, The Dark Half, and a number of novellas and short stories scattered throughout his collections. The 1991 novel Needful Things was originally billed as “the last Castle Rock story,” but apparently he wasn’t done with the little town after all.

And that’s not the only collaboration King has on his docket. Coming this September is Sleeping Beauties, a new novel written in tandem with his son Owen King. It details a dystopian future in which all women (except one!) fall prey to a strange cocooned state while they sleep, and men are left to their own devices. Of course, King is no stranger to this type of collaboration, having teamed up with his other son, author Joe Hill, for the short stories “Throttle” and “In the Tall Grass.”

As popular as his books are, when it comes to Stephen King, they’re only part of the story. Another part is all the adaptations that have taken his work from the page to screens both big and small. In that regard, there’s a pretty full slate on the horizon. First up is The Mist, a ten-episode series premiering on Spike on June 22. The novella, available on its own or collected with other short stories in Skeleton Crew, was previously made into a movie in 2007. Then, on August 9, Mr. Mercedes comes to the Audience Network, based on the first book of a trilogy King wrote about a retired detective facing off against a twisted killer.

In addition to regular TV, fans can also look to the streaming services for some upcoming adaptations. Coming to Netflix later this year is Gerald’s Game, the story of a woman who is trapped handcuffed to a bed after her husband dies suddenly. Much of the novel takes place within main character Jessie Burlingame’s head, so it will be interesting to see how it translates to the screen. Also coming to Netflix in 2017 is 1922, about a man who is convinced his murdered wife is haunting him. It’s based on a novella in Full Dark, No Stars, which also contains the story that was the basis for the movie A Good Marriage. Then, beginning production later this year with no set debut date, is the Hulu series Castle Rock. Not much is known about it other than the setting, the small Maine town mentioned above, but the first teaser contained elements of King classics like Misery and plenty of others.

And speaking of King classics, one of the biggest (both literally and figuratively) is coming to theatres on September 8. It, the epic novel about a shape-shifting creature that feeds on children and the gang of outcast kids that decide enough is enough, has engendered a fear of clowns in readers since its release in 1986. It’s a whopper: the print edition comes in at over 1,000 pages, and the audiobook narration takes up 35 discs. A previous adaptation came in the form of a 3-hour miniseries in 1990, and this time around will be split into two feature films, with the second installment coming in 2018.

And then there’s The Dark Tower…but we’ll have more to say about that soon. In the meantime, make sure you have plenty of Stephen King material on your shelves for patrons to explore and enjoy as these new works and adaptations come along. And don’t be surprised if some of them ask you if they can check out a nightlight, too.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Period Dramas Draw TV Viewers

Written by Jon Williams

Based on a series of memoirs by Jennifer Worth, the hit TV show Call the Midwife focuses on a group of midwives and nuns working at Nonnatus House, a convent in post-WWII London. The show debuted to high ratings in 2012, and it has steadily gained popularity ever since. The sixth season currently airing on PBS (it concluded in March on BBC One in the UK) takes place in 1962 and sees the first effects of the cultural changes that took place in that tumultuous decade.

This sixth season is notable for another reason, as it will be the last as a series regular for Ben Caplan. The actor, who previously starred in HBO’s World War II drama Band of Brothers, has played policeman Peter Noakes since Call the Midwife’s first season in 2012. He’s looking to add some more variety to his acting career, but fans can rest easy. With the show already renewed through Season 9, Caplan is certain that his character will resurface somewhere down the line. The same is true of another fan-favourite that left the series previously. Miranda Hart, who played Sgt. Noakes’s wife Chummy, left the show after Season 4. Like Caplan’s character, a reappearance for Chummy is not out of the question for the show’s future.

British period dramas are very popular for PBS right now. The trend got rolling with Downton Abbey, which ran for six seasons beginning (on PBS) in 2011. That show was both critically acclaimed and very popular, leading the way for the current wave of shows, including Call the Midwife. The series Poldark follows a man returning to the shattered remains of his former life in Cornwall following America’s Revolutionary War. Beginning in 2015, it’s an update of a 1975 BBC series, and both are based on a series of novels by Winston Graham. Beginning earlier this year, Victoria details the early life of the UK’s long-serving queen. Former Doctor Who companion Jenna Coleman plays the role of the queen in question, and there’s also a companion novel by show creator Daisy Goodwin.

Of course, the phenomenon isn’t limited to just PBS. With the popularity of these shows and others like them, it’s no surprise that the streaming services have jumped in to bring some to their audiences as well. When the show Ripper Street was threatened with cancellation after its second season, it was picked up by Amazon Video in the UK (the series has been available on BBC America in North America). Focusing on the aftermath of Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, the recently concluded sixth season was the show’s last. Still in progress, on the other hand, is Peaky Blinders, a show about a criminal organization in the days after World War I. The first three seasons are available from Netflix in the US, and at least two more seasons are in the offing.

This is just a small sampling of the period dramas that are so popular right now. TV lovers will love to see these in your library so they can check them out and binge-watch, and that’s especially true for shows on cable and streaming services, which everyone may not have access to. What’s popular in your library right now? Let us know your patrons’ current favourites in the comments section below.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What’s the Deal with James Patterson?

Written by Jon Williams

First off, a happy belated birthday to the author, who turned 70 last week.  As a librarian, you are no doubt aware of Patterson’s prolific nature and his constant presence on the bestseller lists. Have you ever wondered, though, exactly how he manages to put out so many books?

Patterson published his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, in 1976, before he turned 30, but it wasn’t an easy road. He had a full-time job in advertising as he wrote it, and the novel was rejected 31 times before it finally found a home. It won the 1977 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, but did not sell many copies. Nevertheless, his career path was set. For the next twenty years, he continued to work in advertising as he wrote novels, including two of his best known: Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls.

Those two novels introduced detective Alex Cross, one of Patterson’s most lucrative creations. As of now, there are 25 Cross novels, the most recent of which, Cross the Line, was published in November. The character has also made the jump to the big screen: Kiss the Girls (1997) and Along Came a Spider (2001) starred Morgan Freeman; then, in 2013, the character was rebooted in Alex Cross, with Tyler Perry in the title role. That movie was based on Patterson’s 2006 novel Cross, and a second movie starring Perry is in production based on 2007’s Double Cross.

For twenty years after The Thomas Berryman Number was published, Patterson continued to work full-time as he wrote. He retired from advertising in 1996 (although he continues to be involved in campaigns for his own work). In those twenty years, he published eight novels. Following his retirement, his publication pace really picked up. In 1996 alone, he released three novels: Hide & Seek, Miracle on the 17th Green, and Jack & Jill. Since then, not a year has passed without the publication of at least one Patterson book, and most years have featured several.

How does he do it? For one thing, the writing in Patterson’s books is relatively simple, streamlined for maximum readability. Secondly, he has turned his books into a cottage industry, collaborating with a number of other writers to produce many of them. This 2015 article in Vanity Fair describes the process, in which Patterson provides his collaborator with an extensive outline that details the plot from beginning to end, and then revises and rewrites the manuscript to his specifications once it is fleshed out. Some of his collaborators have included Richard DiLallo, Mark Sullivan, Michael Ledwidge, Liza Marklund, and Maxine Paetro. Patterson’s most recent novel, Black Book, published earlier this week, is a collaboration with David Ellis.

Part of the strategy behind Patterson’s writing style is his intention to appeal to an audience that may not otherwise be interested in reading, as a way of promoting literacy. When he noticed that his own son Jack was a reluctant reader, Patterson decided to jump into the arena of young adult literature. Thus, in 2005, the Maximum Ride series was born with the first book, The Angel Experiment. Now his involvement in the genre has grown to include seven more series (including Middle School, which led to the recent feature film) as well as quite a few standalones. Lately, Patterson has turned his attention to adults as well, launching a series of Bookshots: short, exciting reads that can be easily consumed in one sitting (and although he’s not as involved in the writing process, there’s also a line of Bookshots Flames aimed at romance readers).

So that’s the “secret” behind how James Patterson writes to many books. Needless to say, such a large share of the market has made him quite a wealthy man, and he has put a substantial amount of that money where his mouth is, donating large sums to fund scholarships and literacy programs, in addition to launching ReadKiddoRead, a website devoted to providing resources to parents in the effort to pass the joy of reading to their kids. That being the case, there’s really not much else to say, other than: Go, James, go! To share more of his impressive oeuvre with your patrons, SmartBrowse his name on our website, and point them toward our collection of his audiobooks on hoopla digital.
2QR6U2XUTHA3