One of my favorite places to hang out is the library. Last week, my oldest son asked if we could go there so he could look up some things for a homework project. While he was working on that, I naturally started browsing. I always start in the New Fiction/New Non-Fiction section. By doing this, I have stumbled onto some books that I may never have read (I love to do this at the book store, too!).
While looking at the new titles on the book spines, one jumped out at me – “Marley”. Two things come to mind when I hear “Marley”: (1) Marley and Me (the movie about a dog) and (2) Jacob Marley from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (which I just read for the holiday). I picked up the book and saw that surrounding the title were links of chains. Marley’s Ghost in Dickens’ story appears weighed down by chains.
As you can see by the cover, the book is indeed about Jacob Marley. I read that this author, Jon Clinch, also wrote a “back story” to Huckleberry Finn, which focused on Huck’s father. This backstory, gives new light to the story we all know so well. That is what this book does, as well. In Dickens’ tale, we don’t know much about Jacob Marley.
We know that he was Scrooge’s business partner and that he is forced to walk the earth bearing the chains he forged in life. But what led him to this fate? Why is Ebenezer Scrooge the way he is? This book tells us. I am only a few chapters in, but am enjoying it so far.
It’s been done before – many times
This is not a new concept. There have been many books, movies, and TV shows that explored how well known characters became the way they are. Fans of the TV show Taxi may remember a flashback scene where Reverend Jim was drug free! Jack Benny did many shows telling the story of how he met members of his cast. The TV show How I Met Your Mother used this entire premise for the entire series.
It is no secret that I am a HUGE fan of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I loved the book, and loved the movie trilogy. The novel was published in 1969, and the film was released in 1972.
Marlon Brando played Vito Corleone, the head of the Corleone Crime family.
Two years later, in 1974, The Godfather Part II was released in theaters. It consisted of flashbacks of how Vito became the Don. The role was played by Robert DeNiro.
But what about other characters? Ed Falco’s 2012 novel “The Family Corleone” tells us.
The book is based on an unproduced screenplay that Mario Puzo had written. It gives us a look at some of the minor characters, like Luca Brasi, and how they come to know the Don and how they join the family. A couple books that “fill in the gaps” between the Godfather movie trilogy came out in 2004 (The Godfather Returns) and 2006 (The Godfather’s Revenge) written by Mark Winegardener.
Good characters – Good Stories
When we come to love good characters, we tend to want to know more about them. We want to see them or read about them in another story or adventure. Perhaps that why there are so many books that feature a star character (like Alex Cross, or Cotton Malone) or movie sequels (like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Toy Story). In the 60’s and 70’s, many TV shows had novels or short stories based on characters (like Get Smart, Kojak, Columbo, and countless Star Trek books).
I LOVE the concept of exploring a well known character and shedding light on their back story. I am hoping this book on Jacob Marley does not disappoint.