memories of the ’80s – Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

At the beginning of a new decade, the launch of a unique book series started jumping onto bestseller lists across North America: Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel.

The Earth’s Children series focuses on the possible interaction between Neanderthal and Cro-Magnum humans.

Auel spent hours in libraries and at archaeological conferences to learn about the current research into these two groups.

Auel’s story revolves around a five year old Cro Magnum girl who survives an earthquake, but her family and camp have disappeared. She wanders aimlessly, attacked by wild animals and on the brink of death is found by a Neanderthal medicine woman, whose home and fellow community have also been displaced by the earthquake.

Adopted by the new community, the girl is named Ayla and soon is thought to be good luck as they discover a safe cave for the community to inhabit. Unlike herself, the Neanderthal’s have limited speech and use sign language to communicate. As she grows, Ayla continues to conflict with her new family and struggles against the rules that are placed upon her being a female and an outsider.

Auel’s historical book of the Ice Age was first published in 1980 by Crown Publishing and earned an endless list of positive reviews including one from The New York Times.

In consequent years, the series continued to include six books, which detailed the world of the humans in the Ice Age as well as revealed the universal story of survival, conflict, love and family.

The book was adapted for the big screen in 1986, starring Darryl Hannah, in which she rarely spoke, making it a unique film of the decade for its odd production with almost no dialogue.

For the book world, this historical fiction series stood apart, choosing to go back into the depths of time far beyond the usual bounds of history to reveal the early beginnings of mankind.

memories of the ’70s – Watership Down by Richard Adams

In the early 1970s, a fantasy novel about the life of rabbits in England became a bestseller on the literary lists: Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Inspired by his home in Hampshire, England and the writings of British naturalist Ronald Lockley in his book The Private Life of the Rabbit, Adams started telling stories to his daughters about local rabbits.

Encouraged by their devotion to the stories, Adams started to write down the tales, translating his struggles faced during WWII into how the rabbits would be struggling in their world. Adams created Lapine, a rabbit language used in the novel.

Rejected six times by publishers, Adams persisted and Watership Down was published in 1972.

The story rotates around Fiver, a runt rabbit who has extra-sensory perception, who sees into the future that the rabbit warren will be destroyed. With the help of his buddy Hazel, the rabbits flee the warren to find a new home, and face obstacles in their search for a safe new place with pals Bigwig and Silver.

Seen as an allegory, the novel focuses on the universal truths such as survival, struggle between tyranny and freedom and the rights of the individual versus the rights of a group.

Winning the Carnegie Medal in 1972 as the best children’s book of the year and the Guardian’s Children Book Prize, Adams book received rave reviews as well as became recognized as an important addition to British children’s literature.

In 1978, the book was adapted and made into an animated film – and its lasting effects has made the book one of the 100 best British children’s books of all time.


memories of the ’80s – The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Published in 1984, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera focused the turbulent year of 1968 and the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Kundera’s five characters, sugeon and intellectual Tomas, his photographer wife Tereza, Tomas’ mistress Sabina, her Swiss lover Franz, Simon, Tomas’ son from a previous marriage and Karenin, Tomas and Tereza’s dog, provide the insight into the dramatic changes to Czech society.

As the characters deal with the effects of the loss of freedoms and Communist rules, the history is revealed within their relationships. Based loosely on Nietzche’s theory of eternal recurrence, Kundera’s focus is that each person only has one life to live and must somehow deal with what he or she is given.

The beautiful prose of Kundera, originally written in Czech in 1982, was translated into French 1984 and published by Gallimard. Exiled book publishers 68 Publishers, based in Canada, published the Czech translation, with Faber & Faber publishing in the UK and Harper & Row in the US publishing the book in English.

Receiving accolades from reviewers and literary fans, the book was adapted for the big screen starring Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Stellan Skarsgard and Lena Olin in 1988.

Nominated for numerous awards including Oscar, Golden Globe, National Society of Film Critics Award, Independent Spirit Awards and Writers Guild of America Awards, the film won a BAFTA and Boston Film Critics Awards.

Despite the praise and the fact that Kundera was active during the making of the film, he said the film had nothing to do with the book, and has refused to consent to ever allow his books to be adapted for another medium ever again.

For culture fans, these two creations brought to light existentialism, history, politics, war, love and relationships, in the backdrop of Kundera’s Czechoslovakia.

memories of the ’70s – Helter Skelter

Four years after the grisly revelations surrounding the actions of cult leader Charles Manson and the Manson Family came the book, written by the lead prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi: Helter Skelter.

The name comes from a theory that there would be an apocalyptic race war, which Manson believed would happen on Earth.

Los Angeles prosecutor Bugliosi, working with writer Curt Gentry, recounts the investigation, arrest and prosecution of one of the notorious figures of the late 1960s – cult leader Charles Manson.

Manson and the Manson Family were convicted of the murders of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, actress Sharon Tate and several other victims.

Published by W.W. Norton in 1974, the true crime book became a bestseller, despite the three years that had passed since the convictions in 1971. In 1975, Helter Skelter won the Edgar Award for Best Crime Book.

Seven million copies of the book sold, detailing the world of Manson and his followers and how police investigators investigated to find the evidence to prove they had committed murder.

In 1976, a tv movie was done based on the book, once again showcasing the bizarre and twisted view of the world created by Manson. Still imprisoned in California, Charles Manson’s story has become an integral part of pop culture history.

memories of the ’80s – Tom Clancy

For thriller fans of the 1980s, there’s one name that became a must-read: Tom Clancy.

With a fascination for espionage, military and and the geopolitical players that are trying to control the planet, Clancy’s first book was The Hunt for Red October, published in 1984, which told the story of a Soviet naval captain who wanted to defect.

Published by the US Naval Insitute Press, this first novel is still one of their most successful publishing projects to date. The book was publicly endorsed by US President Ronald Reagan.

In this first novel, Clancy introduced Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst, who would become his long-running character in his books, as well as US Navy Captain Mancuso, who rises in the ranks in subsequent novels.

Clancy continued his streak in the 1980s, with the publication of Red Storm Rising in 1986, Patriot Games in 1987, The Cardinal of the Kremlin in 1988 and Clear and Present Danger in 1989.

With each book, fans grew and the legend of Jack Ryan and Captain Mancuso also grew, which led Clancy to Hollywood’s doorstep. In 1990, The Hunt for Red October was made into a film, starring Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan and Sean Connery as Soviet Captain Ramius.

In addition to the steady stream of novels, Clancy has also written several non-fiction books, all related to his favourite themes of espionage, history and military.

His passion for showing the CIA pursuing the bad guy has consequentely fueled millions of readers to follow his characters, as well as many movie fans to watch his characters on the big screen, well into the 21st century.

memories of the ’70s – Frederick Forsyth

In the early 1970s, the world of thriller writing added a voice – Frederick Forsyth.

This Brit was a former freelance journalist, who turned his hand to write novels, inspired by the time he spent covering wars and news stories on the African continent.

His first book, The Day of the Jackal, was based on the real-life attempt by Organisation Armee Secree to assassinate the French President Charles de Gaulle.

Published in 1971, this first novel won the prestigious Edgar Allen Poe Award as well as becoming a worldwide bestseller. The following year in 1972, Forsyth penned The Odessa File, about a reporter tracking down an ex-Nazi SS officer.

His third book, The Dogs of War, published in 1974, was closely followed by The Shepherd in 1975, all bestsellers. Forsyth finished the decade with The Devil’s Alternative, which was set in the future and focused on the Soviet Union’s crisis with a bad grain harvest and how several players try to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

For the 1970s, Forsyth’s mix of politics, recent history and strong characters made his books popular with readers and bookstores, using his knowledge and imagination to create a fictional world that wasn’t too far from reality.

No surprise that of his books published in the 1970s, the majority were also made into successful films by Hollywood.

Focusing on the details, the spies, assassins, diplomats and mercenaries that inhabit the books are meticulous in their plotting, and Forsyth’s revelation of their worlds make for compelling reading, even in the 21st century.

memories of the ’80s – Tempestuous Eden by Heather Graham

As the changes in society happened, so did the chaste world of romance novels, with the debut of Dell Books new collection of books, Candlelight Ecstasy Supreme, and its first book Tempetuous Eden by Heather Graham.

The rules of romance had started out with chaste loves, as virginal girls found their journeys to the altar a bit more difficult thanks to bad men and scoundrels, rakes and wastrels, but ultimately their hero would come to find them, love them and marry them.

But seeing the changes that came from Avon Books in the 1970s, with romances now sharing more intimate details and the readers buying them in the millions, book publishers decided to get with the times.

In 1983, Dell Books debuted its new imprint, Candlelight Esctasy Supreme – dedicated to romance stories that broke a new rule – that its heroine wasn’t a virgin.

The first book of the series was Tempetuous Eden by Heather Graham, who also writes under the name Shannon Drake. This novel was set in Central America, with main character Blair, former socialite widow who decided to have one night of romance in the jungle with Craig.

But Blair knew nothing of Craig – was he a mercenary, government agent or a terrorist? Now that she was captured by him, was this a ruse or an actual kidnapping? Blair battles trying to understand the developing romance between her and Craig Taylor, hero.

Readers loved this new series, happily spending millions to see what happened with these female characters – one who weren’t virginal misses with no knowledge of the world, but those who had experience life and were trying to find that man to be with them.

Dell Books reportedly had over the top sales, with reports of US$30 million after one year of the series being published. The series contains 160 titles.

With these changes in the category, mainstays like Harlequin Books and Silhouette Books, changed and adapted too. The romance reader was the big winner, finding their options growing greater by the month.