We're all well aware that 'The Help' was a book before it became a blockbuster Emma Stone movie, but did you know that the upcoming Ryan Gosling flick 'Drive' was borne as a deliciously noir page-turner?
You may also be surprised to learn that this week's release 'Straw Dogs' isn't just a remake of the 1971 flick of the same name starring Dustin Hoffman. The story originated as a novel, the long out-of-print 'The Siege of Trencher's Farm' by Gordon Williams, originally published in 1969. Thanks to renewed interest in the story (due to the latest adaptation starring Alexander Skarsgard, Kate Bosworth and James Marsden), British publisher Titan Books is re-releasing the pensive thriller.

While the movie dials up the action, suspense and violence to create a nail-biting horror, the book employs more of a slow build that emphasizes the culture clash at play when an American professor moves into a farm next to an isolated community in northern England. The villagers are suspicious of the fancy American next door, and all hell breaks loose when he winds up reluctantly protecting an escaped child killer from the villagers thirsty for vigilante justice. The professor struggles with his staunch anti-violence stance while he tries to protect his family.

In the movie, on the other hand, the protagonist played by Marsden seems a little more capable of defending his family against a pack of angry irrational men than the book's meek, nerdy professor. This time around, our hero is a Hollywood screenwriter who accompanies his wife (Bosworth) back to her remote town in the deep South. The local hicks (including Skarsgard) don't take kindly to Mr. Hollywood.

While the movie is obviously inspired by the book, it does take a lot of liberties. The book's married couple certainly has their share of difficulties, but a sexy ex-boyfriend who looks like a Swedish god is not among them. Also, the book's mentally challenged little girl is a sexy teenager (Willa Holland of 'Gossip Girl') on the big screen. The book has more (possibly molested) sheep, too. Baaaa.

This year, the theatres have been teeming with film adaptations of high-profile best sellers, from 'Water for Elephants' and 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' to the latest 'Twilight' and 'Harry Potter' installments. However, there has also been a healthy helping of flicks based on books that haven't been dominating book clubs, bestseller lists, tea parties and slumber soirees. Here are five 2011 releases you may be surprised to learn began as novels.

'Drive.' Based on 'Drive' by James Sallis. It's obvious why this slick thriller nabbed Hollywood's attention. It has all the elements of a big screen suspense, including an enigmatic hero, heists gone sour and amazing chase scenes. Throw in Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, Carey Mulligan and Christina Hendricks and you've got yourself movie gold.

'Limitless.' Based on 'The Dark Fields' by Alan Glynn. A drug that turns you into a super-productive winning machine? Sign me up! The intriguing premise of Glynn's techno-thriller translated well onto the big screen, with Hollywood hot stuff Bradley Cooper tackling the starring role. Too bad the movie left out the part about the President also being doped up on MDT. Like 'Trencher's Farm,' 'The Dark Fields' was re-released to coincide with the 'Limitless' theatrical launch.

'Unknown.' Based on 'Out of My Head' by Didier van Cauwelaert. Who knew the life of a botanist could be so full of intrigue? Liam Neeson does an excellent job playing van Cauwelaert's confused amnesiac protagonist. The filmmakers were wise to set the story at a conference in Berlin -- being away from home compounds our hero's disorientation.

'The Thing.' Based on 'Who Goes There' by John W. Campbell Jr. This 1938 novella is often cited as one of the best sci-fi novellas ever written. The fact that a sci-fi story that's over 70 years old still resonates with audiences today more than speaks for itself. No wonder it's been adapted for the big screen so many times. Next up: the October release of 'The Thing,' a prequel to its 1982 predecessor of the same name.

'The Eagle.' Based on 'The Eagle of the Ninth' by Rosemary Sutcliff. This historical adventure novel was ripe for Hollywood's picking. After all, old-timey epics about major quests have a history of performing well at the box office (cough, cough, 'Lord of the Rings'). Besides, parlaying the story into a film provided an excellent excuse for Jamie Bell to appear shirtless on the big screen.

Straw Dogs
Based on 29 critics

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