As autumn rolls in, this October will provide readers (and viewers) with plenty of new book-to-screen adaptations. Don’t miss our upcoming, in-depth columns on a miniseries of James McBride’s National Book Award–winning The Good Lord Bird (Showtime, Oct. 4) and a film of Aaron Starmer’s Kirkus-starred YA novel, Spontaneous (video-on-demand, Oct. 6). There’s also a Clive Barker-inspired horror-anthology film, Books of Blood (Hulu, Oct. 7), on the way, and a new movie version of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic thriller, Rebecca (Netflix, Oct. 21). If you’re still looking for something to watch, here are four more book-based series headed to small screens:
Oct. 9: The Haunting of Bly Manor (Miniseries Premiere, Netflix)
Two years ago, Netflix released The Haunting of Hill House, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic 1959 horror novel. That miniseries, created by the brilliant director Mike Flanagan, barely resembled its source, which rankled some of Jackson’s fans, but was a complex and chilling tale in its own right. This new series installment, à la American Horror Story, brings back much of the cast of Hill House in different roles, including standout Victoria Pedretti. This time around, Flanagan draws inspiration from Henry James’ supernatural tales—particularly the 1898 ghost story The Turn of the Screw. Viewers can anticipate a unique spin on the material—the following trailer, for instance, includes an unexpected but wonderful orchestral version of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home”—but even James purists are sure to find it worth a watch.
Oct. 9: The Right Stuff (Series Premiere, Disney+)
Tom Wolfe’s 1979 nonfiction book about the U.S. space program was a National Book Award winner, and it’s already been the basis for a full-dress, three-and-a-half-hour film version in 1983 that won four Oscars. Like the book and movie, this dramatic series from National Geographic focuses on the seven astronauts in Project Mercury, the first American human spaceflight program; they include future U.S. senator John Glenn and Alan Shepard, one of the first men to walk on the moon. This first season is set in 1959, during the earliest days of the program; a Deadline article last year indicated that future seasons would tackle later missions, including the 1969 moon landing. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are very few women in the cast; it will be interesting to compare it to Apple TV+’s concurrent series For All Mankind, set in an alternate version of history in which American women become astronauts much, much earlier.
Oct. 23: The Queen’s Gambit (Miniseries Premiere, Netflix)
Anya Taylor-Joy rightfully drew praise earlier this year for her starring role in Emma, director Autumn de Wilde’s colorful but uneven adaptation of the Jane Austen classic. This new miniseries, based on Walter Tevis’ 1983 novel, promises another riveting performance; Taylor-Joy plays Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy who struggles with addiction, even as she becomes a top chess competitor. The book focused at length on her games, prompting Kirkus’ reviewer to write, “For serious chess-players, then: the novel of the year, at the very least—with special, enduring appeal to every young, ambitious, would-be Master.” It seems likely that the series will concentrate more on its cast, which includes Harry Melling, who recently stood out in the Netflix movie The Devil All the Time, based on the 2011 novel by Donald Ray Pollock.
Oct. 25: The Undoing (Miniseries Premiere, HBO)
This miniseries, based on Jean Hanff Korelitz’s 2014 novel You Should Have Known and starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, was originally set to air on May 10, but was delayed to Covid-19-related concerns. The novel tells the story of pop-psychologist Grace Reinhart Sachs, who’s about to publish a book when her marriage to Jonathan, a wealthy doctor, falls apart in the wake of a murder. The series reunites Kidman with creator David E. Kelley, who previously worked together on the HBO series Big Little Lies, based on the Kirkus-starred 2014 bestseller by Liane Moriarty, and it promises to offer a similarly diverting tale of familial drama.
David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.