Summer reading suggestions for TV nerds
Get the jump on the best new TV shows due to come out soon by reading the juicy books they’re based on.
Raven: The Untold Story of the Rev Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman
In 1978, 909 followers of cult leader Jim Jones committed mass suicide in the socialist commune they’d established in Guyana. Followers had been starved, some were drugged or subjected to beatings and mind control techniques, and they had been told that they were in danger of being attacked and killed by the CIA or, worse, forced to live in a capitalist society.
In America, relatives had grown increasingly concerned and a delegation of politicians and journalists visited, which culminated in a shooting on an airstrip. Among them was journalist Tim Reiterman, who had been covering Jones since 1977.
How do you convince so many people to follow you into death? How do you convince parents to feed their own children cyanide? Reiterman’s 1982 book Raven is considered the definitive account, and it’s the basis for a new HBO miniseries to be made by Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul creator Vince Gilligan, which promises to be ridiculously intense and all anyone talks about for months.
The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
Even fans who have watched Twin Peaks multiple times still have plenty of unresolved questions about its stylishly spooky universe. In advance of a third season of the 25 year old cult crime drama due to arrive next year, co-creator Mark Frost has released a novel that further enriches that universe.
Ostensibly a cool-looking dossier of annotated reports, clippings and Agent Cooper’s journal entries now in FBI’s archives, it shades in more details about mysterious characters like the Log Lady and Dr Jacoby. And for super-nerds, there’s a 10-hour audio book voiced by original cast members including Kyle McLachlan.
Vulgar Favors by Maureen Orth
Vanity Fair special correspondent Maureen Orth had already begun writing about Andrew Cunanan before he murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace in 1997. A cunning con artist and former sex worker, Cunanan had already killed four others and lead police on a two-month manhunt, before killing Versace, and then himself, leaving behind a lot of hydrocortisone cream and CS Lewis books. Some of his victims were wealthy and successful and known to Cunanan, one was a graveyard caretaker and a stranger. No one has been able to figure out what motivated the killings, but Orth’s 1999 book is as close as we will get to understanding his psychopathy.
The third season of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story, which has so far focused on OJ Simpson’s murder trial and Hurricane Katrina, will tell Cunanan’s story, basing the script on Orth’s relentless reporting.
First Women: The Grace & Power Of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Andersen Brower.
Long underestimated, the power of first ladies is examined in a timely TV drama directed by Robin Wright, who plays a FLOTUS in House of Cards. It’s based on a bestseller by a political reporter, which focuses on 10 First Ladies, from Jacqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama -- their political and domestic responsibilities, their friendships and rivalries, the coteries that protected them, and the gossip that embellished their legacies. (Apparently the Obamas were the first family in the White House to turn the lights off themselves.)
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
British fantasy novelist Neil Gaiman already had a huge following and a lively social media presence, but when a big budget adaptation of his 2001 epic American Gods airs next year, his audience is going to explode. The series places old-world gods into a modern world, where they wage war with new gods (like money, technology and media). Hannibal director Bryan Fuller has lead the production, which stars Ian McShane (Deadwood), Crispin Glover and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files), and which includes Gaiman-approved extra material, and Gaiman has hinted that a sequel novel is also in the pipelines. Now’s a good time to jump into this rich universe.