Let’s start with a very simple question: why is Hollywood wasting money on those Marvel comics flicks, instead of finding a good director and a good cast, and start making movies based on the Jack Hunter stories by Stephen Jared?
Or any other book of his, really.
But I’d rather have a Jack Hunter series of movies, thank you.
Three, for starters. Or a good TV series with high production values.
Yes, a TV series would be perfect.
So listen up, Netflix: look at Miss Fisher’s murder mysteries, take notes, then option Stephen Jared’s Jack Hunter books.
Start earning the money we pay you, what the heck.
OK, hyperbole apart, what am I talking about?
Let me tell you…
It all started with Jack and the Jungle Lion, a novella that introduced to the world Jack Hunter, a 1930s actor specialized in heroic roles, that finds himself in a situation that calls for real heroics when his plane crashes in the Amazon jungle.
And you might tell me that there are no lions in the Amazon, but you don’t know Max, the lady that’s travelling with Jack.
Jack and the Jungle Lion was a great nostalgic adventure romance, with humor and drama and a nice take on some classic characters and situations.
I read the book in 2011, soon after its publication, and I loved it. I have the paperback edition, because at the time I did not have one of these new-fangled e-reader thingies.
In 2013 it was the time for Jack to take part in the war effort, with The Elephants of Shanghai.
I devoured the book in two nights, feeling a little apprehensive – I was after all writing a novel set in Shanghai in the 1930s, and I was somewhat worried that Jack would rain on my parade. But I should not have worried, because the Jack Hunter stories are straightforward thrillers, while I write historical (more or less) fantasy.
In this new adventure, Jack finds himself involved in an international intrigue with mobsters, spies and assorted mysteries and surprises. Are there elephants in Shanghai, you ask? Yes, there are, but they are not what you might expect.
Jack is now married to Max, and his character has matured (a little) from the previous outing. The novel is superb, and my ebook edition reprints the Lion novella as an appendix. Great value for money.
And now, instead of writing the novel I promised my publisher I’d deliver by the first week of August, here I am with The Chameleon Thief of Cairo, and Jack is on the road again, this time in post-war Egypt, somehow caught in an international plot of espionage and derring-do.
And it’s a blast.
Now, what I find particularly good about the Jack Hunter novels is the way in which they never derail, never go over the top, and never never never wink at the audience. It would be easy to play Jack for laughs, or conversely, to sell him like some kind of super-competent guy, Doc Savage style. Instead, the action and the plot remain realistic, almost naturalistic in their simplicity. There is good drama, good comedy, and good romance, in these stories1.
These are really like old-time adventure movies, and they never detour in matinee/serial territory.
Cary Grant could have played Jack. Or maybe, two decades later, Roger Moore.
You need that level of class, to bring the character to life on the screen.
Who could play the part right now?
I don’t know.
But those guys at Netflix are better get moving.
- mind you, I don’t mean romance as in bodice rippers or sex books for ladies. I mean romance as in romantic adventure. ↩