A Piece of My Mind: Stealing
from the Classics
(Tribute: For my Aunt Barbara Zuckerman, she
Every thing old is new again
Imitation is the best form of flattery
I truly dislike remakes on TV and in movies. However, in hindsight, I
realized that we are all watching remakes of some sort or another.
How many of us out there like or read classic literature? Do you
see that we steal from the classics of literature all the time, even
today? Are you confused about this idea, what I am talking about? Well stick
around. You will see the logic in the idea. You will also see how you and I
can do it in our own work.
Lets say a family is chased by the law and steals from the local rich
corrupt land baron. Then they share with the poor of the county? Sound like
the Dukes of Hazard doesn't it? It's really the idea of Robin Hood.
His "family" was his merry band of followers. The law is the Sheriff of
Nottingham. The land baron is Prince John. Can you see it? One of the best
web links to understand the Robin Hood legend is
Lets have another example . . . There is a dark knight avenging
against the evil of the night. He is aided by his assistant who helps him in
his quest. By day, he takes an identity of a millionaire playboy . . .
at night, he is a demon avenger seeking justice. Sound familiar?
You may think Batman, Green Hornet or even Zorro,
right? Wrong answer! What it is, is Baroness Orczy's classic novel series
from 1623: The Scarlet Pimpernel. One of the best sites to
view the books in this series is
may say most of the ideals of dual identity characters from The Lone
Ranger to Bart man (from The Simpsons) owe a tip of the
fedora to the Pimpernel.
There is a family of people who become misplaced on a deserted island and
try to make due with what they have. You could say this idea is
Gilligan's Island, Survivor or even the hit TV show Lost,
right? How about the Swiss Family Robinson? If you haven't read the
book, hSere is a link to the
original classic novel. Now if you think
about it, such ideas have also been bastardized into such TV space fare as
Lost in Space, Battlestar Gallactica and Star Trek
Voyager...except it's space instead of a desert island. Not bad for a
book from the 1700's.
Okay, I want you to think how many current movies and TV shows state they
owe a debt to Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's immortal character Sherlock Holmes.
Think of such TV shows on air today as C.S.I. , Criminal
Minds, House, or Law and Order Criminal Intent . .
. All of these shows have a basis in Holmes' style of deductive reasoning.
His first adventure A Study in Scarlet, was published in the year 1888
(the best link regarding Sherlock Holmes is
www.sherlockian.net) . However, to let the real facts be known
Edgar Allan Poe is the true father of the modern day deductive detective
his story The Murders in the Rue Morgue written in 1843 (the
best Poe site). This story of detective Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin
was written forty-five years before the first Holmes story ever appeared.
However most credit Holmes as the modern deductive reasoning detective. From
Dupin and Holmes, other authors have spawned such well known detective
characters as Hercule Poirot, Spenser, Sam Spade, Charlie Chan, Inspector
Morse and many more.
Doctor Richard Kimble stated his wife was killed by a one-armed man. He
is hounded by a police officer wherever he goes. You can tell yourself, this
story (the TV shows and the movie of The Fugitive) isn't inspired by
classic literature. You would be wrong! Lt. Gerard, the police detective who
had hounded him mercilessly and unjustly and Dr. Richard Kimble , according
to the show's creator Roy Huggins, "carried the mythic resonance of quest
narratives from The Odyssey to Les Miserables"
This idea spawned such TV shows and movies as The Immortal,
Logan's Run, Run for Your Life, Kung Fu and
So how can this idea of copying the classics help the writers of modern
day? Think of your favorite novel or short story and try to rewrite it with
a modern slant.
Since this is my column, I want to say I did a failed (as in "not
published") novel of a revised version of The Count of Monte Cristo.
This novel was entitled Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold (a line I
stole from Moby Dick). The novel's time line began in the 70's
and finished up in the 90's. It had all the elements of Cristo; a
man convicted of a crime he didn't commit, three young men who framed him, a
MAFIA don with a hidden stash of loot, a woman that the hero loved, and of
course revenge. After I completed it, it was shopped out by my agent to many
publishers for five years and then I pulled it. This failure does not mean I
stop trying...When you stop trying, turn in your WRITER card! Maybe
one day, I will shop this book out again.
So when you say you have no ideas and you have nothing to write about,
look to the classics.
As always, Reach for the Stars.
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About the Writer:
Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in
175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and
reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery
Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and
many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN
Forum. View his web site at