Walter Tevis has some serious cultural clout. Two-thirds of his literary longform production was transformed into other forms – high profile forms at that. He wrote six novels: four of those were adapted for the screen.
The Hustler (1961) won 2 Oscars and was nominated for 7 more. The Color of Money (1986) was directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, and nominated for 4 Oscars, of which Paul Newman won Best Actor. The Queen’s Gambit became a very successful & critically acclaimed Netflix series in 2020.
The reception of the movie based on The Man Who Fell To Earth wasn’t as glowing, but it does star David Bowie. On top of that, the book was made into a TV-series twice, once in 1987 – conceived as a sequel to the 1976 movie – and in 2022, by Showtime. Bowie’s 2015 musical Lazarus – directed by the internationally admired Ivo van Hove – was also inspired by the novel, continuing its story.
Another thing that struck me was that at least three of Tevis’ books deal with addiction: The Queen’s Gambit‘s prodigy protagonist is addicted to painkillers, humans in Mockingbird’s future “spend their days in a narcotic bliss or choose a quick suicide rather than slow extinction” and Thomas Newton, the humanoid alien from Anthea and protagonist of The Man Who Fell to Earth, becomes an alcoholic. So when I did a bit of research for this review, I wasn’t surprised to learn that Walter Tevis was an alcoholic himself.
‘Write what you know’ is an often parroted as writing advice. So, did Tevis’ condition make this a better novel?