Movie-tie-in mass-market paperbacks

As a boy growing up with four younger sisters, family trips to the movie theater were exceedingly rare. My family was of modest means, and taking the whole herd out for that kind of outing was a very pricey proposition. Unfortunately for my mom, I was cinema-obsessed from a young age. Whenever a movie I was excited about was on the verge of release, I would keep a blank tape in the VCR so that on the off chance a commercial was shown I could record it for later viewing. (I even got the idea once that if I taped enough different trailers, I would have the whole movie recorded).

There were a few occasions when my frothing demand for a movie was so overwhelming for my poor mother that she would drop me off at the movies by myself and take my sisters somewhere else for a few hours before coming back to pick me up. This is how I saw Ghostbusters II, and I never had the heart to tell my mother how much it failed to live up to the expectations of my 10-year-old self.

On other occasions, our whole family would go out to see a movie, but usually not until it hit the third-run, dollar theater. By the time I saw Back to the Future Part III, I had seen so many commercials for it that I already knew that the way our heroes would make their way out of the past was by way of a modified steam locomotive. This is the first time I remember my voracious appetite for clips and trailers that I spoiled a movie for myself. I wonder now if that wasn’t the reason I didn’t care for the film, despite being a huge fan of the first two entries in the series. I haven’t seen the movie all the way through since that theater outing as an 11-year old, and I’m considering moving that trilogy to the top of my Netflix queue so I can re-evaluate the film after so many of the GameSpite commenters disagreed with my disregard for that film.

[[image:090421_mti.jpg:Some books on my bookshelf:center:0]]

Still, trips to the movie theater were a rare treat. It was always much easier to talk my mom into buying me the novelization of the film. My first experience with Gremlins, another landmark film in my childhood, was with the novelization. Likewise with the sequel. So many of the movies I now consider seminal experiences that shaped my tastes and preferences were introduced to me via their (often poorly written) movie-tie-in mass-market paperbacks.

Even today I have a soft spot for film tie-ins and novelizations and was even collecting them for a time. Bret Easton Ellis is a writer whose work I greatly admire, and despite already owning his novel American Psycho before the movie of the film was released, I imported the MTI from England so I could own a copy of the book with the movie poster as the cover. The majority of what I read for pleasure these days are books that take place in the Star Wars universe, and while these are mostly originally tales they are all also technically MTIs. I have the MTIs for several works of literature that wouldn’t be out of place taught in a university English course: Jack London’s The Sea Wolf and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road among them, and I have multiple versions of Tolkien’s works with images of Peter Jackson’s films adorning them.

[[image:090421_mti2.jpg:Virtual Bookshelves Just Aren’t as Satisfying:center:0]]
The movie-tie-in satisfies multiple urges present in my lizard-brain: love of reading; love of cinema; love of collecting; and above all my addiction to nostalgia and things that remind me of my youth. As I increasingly move away from collecting physical objects (already I lack room for the hundreds of books I own) and instead get my books delivered digitally (via two magnificent iPhone apps: Stanza and Kindle) I feel like I’m leaving something important behind. Just the other day while browsing the books at the grocery store, I saw a MTI written by legendary sci-fi author Timothy Zahn — a prequel to the upcoming Terminator movie — and I didn’t immediately buy it. I decided instead to see if it was available on the Amazon Kindle store. The ten-year-old me would never understand that decision, as owning something like that would have been one of the coolest things ever.

Oh, what the hell. I think I’ll go back tomorrow and buy it. Can’t read a Kindle book in the tub, after all, and it probably wouldn’t have the movie art, one of the best things about a MTI in the first place.

19 thoughts on “Movie-tie-in mass-market paperbacks

  1. Weirdly enough, I was just thinking about the Gremlins novelization (which I read many times before actually having the chance to see the movie) a few days ago. Specifically, I’m still impressed by the fact that the book has a chapter that’s just two words: “Billy forgot.” Random thing to remember while walking back to the office from lunch, and even more random for you to mention the book a couple of days later. GET OUT OF MY BRAIN

  2. I was always a big fan of nabbing movie tie-in books from those Scholastic book ordering things back in middle and elementary school. Oddly enough, the only ones I actually remember are the ones that were books to begin with (Matilda and Harriet the Spy stick out in my mind; “Now a major motion picture!”). Any straight-up movie adaptations seems to have been struck from my memory. A defense mechanism, maybe?

  3. Aside from Star Wars novels, I know I read the MTIs for Terminator and Little Monsters several times each. And the editions of Neverending Story, LOTR, Narnia and Princess Bride would count too, I think.

  4. The novelization of The Goonies was one of the best I ever read as a kid – it was written from a first-person perspective and ended with a bunch of newspaper clips depicting the characters’ fates beyond the scope of the movie. It was also wildly embellished with all kinds of stuff that never wound up in the film, including a great bit where the kids read the incredibly dark and depressing last entry in One Eyed Willy’s journal before the Fratelli’s show up, which ends like this:

    “Take here what thee will. What was mine now is thine. Yet if thee take it all, do thou get it all ——– all the running from shadows, the ( ) greed which hungers more it is sated, the friendless old age, the grave of deep waters. Take rather that which is suited to the treasure thine own heart seeks, and seek not for treasure cold and shiny, lest it lead thee to far caverns and chain thee there on a throne of waves, thou King of Empty Wishes.

    William B. Pordobel
    this 25th day of October, 1684”

    I always thought that was pretty cool (especially for a character whose name is a euphamism for a penis).

  5. Does a cover redesign of the novel of which later a movie is made with the same title count as a movie tie-in?

    I mean, it’s an adaptation of the novel (though films like I, Robot take the term very loosly indeed), not the other way ’round.

  6. This post made me laugh. I am with Kayma on this one. I had a shelf full of books from the Scholastic book drive too. I was cleaning out some old stuff from my parents house a few years ago and found several boxes of those books. Back then it was awesome having those, but when I rediscovered them a few years ago, I was slightly embarrassed and hid them from my wife. I mean, who in their right mind would willingly buy and read (multiple times) copies of Harry and the Hendersons, Spaceballs, and Adventures in Babysitting?! Ok maybe Spaceballs….but nobody F*cks with the Babysitter!

  7. I used to have a fair number of movie novilzations when I was a kid (Even BTTF III!), but most are long gone now. I have a few dogeared paperbacks that I still read that are the original book but have the movie tie in on the cover. I just got finished rereading my copy of The Three Musketeers with the poster of the Disney film on the cover. I’m sure I looked quite insane.

  8. There is a difference between an MTI edition of a book and a novelization. While a novelization of a film is necessarily an MTI, an MTI is not necessarily a novelization. An edition of a book released to “tie-in” with a film is an MTI, regardless of which came first.

  9. I’m surprised you went to such effort to get a paperback with the movie’s poster. As for myself, I’m always a little irritated that I have to buy something emblazoned with a poster for an invariably inferior movie adaption. It’s sort of like I feel like they’re ignoring the author by putting some famous pretty person on there. And it’s usually just bad design, too.

  10. I never read novelizations of movies, but a few of games. Always neat to see how the writer can make narrative sense out of game items, (ex: a character thinking “Well this medallion must be of some importance later on! Also, I feel my health regenerating.”). Along with every other adolescent boy, I read Fight Club, but before seeing the movie. When I saw the movie, I liked it but it felt like a fan boy ode to the book and the ending did not work for me at all.

  11. I’m with alexb on this one – I simply refuse to buy a book if it has something related to a movie version on the cover. If I’m going to read it, it’s because of the merits of the book, not the movie.

  12. @ Levi:

    What, a film adaptation superceeds it’s source?


    So now the Mario Bros games are tie-ins to the Mario Bros movie?

  13. I paid an extra 8 bucks for a copy of Matheson’s I Am Legend because I didn’t want to own anything with Will Smith on the cover (and because it had better paper stock, but that was just a justification). I hate MTIs, as much as I love movies – usually the original cover art is better, simply because movie poster art is so awful these days.

    And MTIs of children’s books (some of which I really love) always have those awful glossy inserts of stills from the film and cheap paper – Ms. Fisby and the Rats of NIMH is a particularly bad offender because it doesn’t have the (quite beautiful) original art in it. If I remember right the original art in The Rescuers was also excellent.

  14. @ Dizzy: Oh man I read quite a few of those bad video game tie in (VGTI?) books back in the day. I remember that the Resident Evil books were major perps for trying to make literary sense of random puzzles and medallions.

  15. What is so hard to understand about MTIs? Books are repackaged to exploit the marketing push the film is getting. When solicited to bookstores, these books are referred to as Movie-Tie-Ins. This exact phrase is often printed on the spine. Online booksellers even include this phrase in the description because some folks strongly prefer not to get the MTI edition. It has nothing to do with which came first.

  16. Macc: I read the Resident Evil books! What’s pathetic is how much better they are than the movies. If only Paul W. S. Anderson took the time to read them. They were not knock-outs, but they were entertaining.

  17. My parents have (or used to have, I haven’t checked…) an MTI version of Dracula–a hardback that ties in with the Bela Lugosi film.

Comments are closed.