Posted on Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 by Russ Fischer
Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk called Craig Clevenger‘s debut novel The Contortionist’s Handbook “A stunningly intense debut novel…I swear to God this is the best book I have read in easily five years. Easily. Maybe ten years.” So when you consider a film version of the novel, naturally Channing Tatum is the first name that comes to mind to produce and star, right? (Hey, was Brad Pitt the first name you would have thought of for Fight Club? Maybe not.)
Deadline says that Tatum will produce the film using Robin Shushan‘s script. There’s no director yet. Furthermore, Tatum’s current overbooked schedule will keep the film from going into production until late next year. But it has already been in the development machine for a while, so a few more months won’t make much difference.
I’ll go to Irvine Welsh for a description of the plot (or part of it) as appeared in his review of the novel in The Guardian.
John Dolan Vincent, a highly gifted forger who suffers from life-threatening migraines and black-outs. In order to escape from the terrible skull-crushing pains he experiences, Vincent self-medicates. Following such episodes he invariably wakes up in a county hospital compelled to undergo psychiatric evaluation. At this point, things get interesting. Taking his forging skills to their apogee, Vincent emerges into a new identity he’s previously faked for himself, to avoid detection for crimes committed in his previous lives.
Maybe not so difficult to see why Palahniuk liked the novel — that plot snippet, and things that follow, sound a lot like something he might have written. Or, at least, like something heavily influenced by him.
That’s an easy segue to another point. I don’t lightly make that opening reference to Fight Club. That film was at the end of a run of movies that helped mold Brad Pitt from pretty boy to actor. Tatum has been good in films (Stop-Loss, for example) but does enough fluff that he’s often written off. Will this be the movie that changes things?
Here’s Welsh again, with gushing praise for the novel:
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Craig Clevenger comes up with an interesting and perfectly realised concept, featuring an engaging anti-hero whose story is told with the gutsy sass of an Elmore Leonard thriller, shot through with an elegant literary sensibility. While this constitutes a potent enough blend, The Contortionist’s Handbook also has in play that wondrous alchemy that is the real beauty of the winning novel. What this generally comes down to is the writer’s ability to order their material and tell the story effectively. Craig Clevenger reigns supreme here: the book is a stylistic triumph, showing his strong eye for informative detail, but never letting that interfere with the pacy narrative. The novel has substance too; its biting critique of American psychiatric and criminal justice systems often evokes a modern One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.