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From screen to page: Tarantino to release debut novel

From Pulp Fiction to Django: Unchained, Quentin Tarantino has juggled screenwriting, directing and producing to create instant classics for over 25 years, but the moviemaking icon is now looking towards the world of books for his next creative endeavour. To some, this decision may come as a surprise, but he has long said that his tenth movie would be his last, having expressed fears of losing his edge in the industry as time wears on. He had even gone so far as to allude to his upcoming projects last year, sharing that he sees himself writing film books and theatre productions in the future. He has remained resolute in his assertion that he will only leave a 10 movie legacy behind. 

It’s difficult to imagine that Tarantino will ever be able to fully abandon movies, but regardless, he’s expanding his horizons. Harper Collins has signed for two books from Tarantino – one work of fiction, and the other a non-fiction deep dive into the movies of the 1970s, made up of essays, reviews and personal writing. These books seem to be a taste of what the rest of Tarantino’s career may bring us after he says goodbye to filmmaking. 

Perhaps he wants to create his own legacy of cult films to be debated over while he’s still alive to see it

“I think when it comes to theatrical movies, I’ve come to the end of the road,” he said to GQ last year, without giving away his full thoughts behind the self-imposed 10 movie limit, “I just think I’ve given all I have to give to movies.” Perhaps he wants to create his own legacy of cult films to be debated over while he’s alive to see it, or maybe he simply wants to stop while he’s ahead and avoid spoiling his achievements by sputtering out on a sub-par finale.

Tarantino thinks novel writing is simply the natural next step for his career – a less frantic, life-consuming passion that he can continue to excel in in his later years. Whether that’ll be true or not is yet to be seen, but the image of a writer alone at their desk sits in stark juxtaposition to that of a director rigorously managing a set – especially when you think of Quentin Tarantino and his meticulous, often brash dedication to the craft. 

For a visual storyteller, it will certainly be interesting to discover his talent for literature and whether he can meet the standard of today’s best selling novelists

At first, it seems that he may perceive writing to be easier than his current job, secondary and almost an afterthought, but he clearly has a passion for creative projects in all forms, even if film will always be his most treasured mode. He clearly expresses excitement at the prospect of what the more detailed form would bring, saying “I’m also thrilled to further explore my characters and their world in a literary endeavour that can (hopefully) sit alongside its cinematic counterpart”.

So, what can we expect from him in the written form? Tarantino has already penned a few books to date, including a collaboration with comic book creator Matt Wagner for a Django sequel, and Kill Bill, described as a “novelesque screenplay”, but none of his works resembling a traditional novel have seen the light of day – yet. For a visual storyteller, it will certainly be interesting to discover his talent for literature and whether he can meet the standard of today’s best selling novelists, or if he might fall short.

Due for release in June 2021, Tarantino’s “long-awaited first work of fiction” will be a novelisation of his most recent release, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The movie brings a tragic true story from 1970s Hollywood to a less morbid end, taking plenty of liberties but with just as much of an impact as the real event that it attempts to represent. It’s full of his characteristic pop culture references and unapologetic gratuitous violence, which is made all the more enjoyable for its happy ending that reality never gave us. For a story that has already been told, and told well, it’s curious that Tarantino is now working on retelling it in the novel form. Always one to make the most of the capabilities of film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a treat for the eyes with vivid, nostalgic styling and a star-studded cast. Such features are not possible in literature, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he manipulates the written form with the same expertise.

Tarantino has the potential to make reading more appealing to his fans and ultimately bring books to more people

With this book, Tarantino moves into what he sees as the “often marginalised, yet beloved sub-genre in literature” of movie novelisations. He’s right to label the reversal of the more popular book-to-film adaptation as marginalised: it’s something that is scarcely done to a high quality to reach a broad audience. But, Tarantino has the potential to reinvigorate the genre. Even more promising is the prospect that the popular name and original film behind the book may propel it towards an audience of more people who would not typically read anything at all.

Regardless of how you feel about the man himself or his movies, we should be excited about Tarantino’s apparent future in books, just as with any public figure who identifies strongly with a mainstream audience. There should be no place for elitism in publishing; we should celebrate those already successful and hugely influential figures for contributing to the market of books and improving the reputation of reading. This is especially true when those books come from writers like Quentin Tarantino, who have already demonstrated their skill for the craft through an existing award-winning repertoire. 

Tarantino has the potential to make reading more appealing to his fans and ultimately bring books to more people, and that’s always a great win. Although I will be picking up a copy of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood when it’s released for the story itself, the broader implications of this announcement are what really has me interested.

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