by David Barnett)
Two Neil Gaiman books are to hit the small screen at last – his 2001 novel American Gods and the sort-of follow-up Anansi Boys.
Gaiman confirmed on his journal that American Gods – which up to last November was due to be adapted by the American TV cable company HBO – was now in the hands of FremantleMedia's North American arm, while Anansi Boys will be made by acclaimed UK production company Red.
American Gods won a string of awards including the Hugo, the Nebula and Bram Stoker. It follows ex-con Shadow as he discovers incarnations of ancient gods from pantheons of the Norse, Greek, African and more locked in a power-struggle in the modern-day United States.
Gaiman says: "As to where you will be able to see it, who is going to be in it, who will be writing or show-running, none of these things have yet been settled. But it already looks like it's going to be a smoother run developing it than it had at HBO, so I am very pleased."
He added of the failed HBO deal: "HBO had an option on American Gods for several years. It went through three different pilot scripts. HBO has a limited number of slots and, after a while, passed it to Cinemax, who are in the HBO family, who decided eventually they didn't want to do it, and the option expired, which unfortunately meant we couldn't work with Tom Hanks' production company Playtone any longer, as they are exclusive to HBO."
According to FremantleMedia, which announced the deal on Tuesday: "Gaiman, the creator of the celebrated Sandman comic series, and the author of bestselling novels The Graveyard Book, Coraline and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, will executive produce the series along with FremantleMedia."
Meanwhile, Anansi Boys, featuring the sons of the African spider-god who featured in American Gods, will become a BBC mini-series produced by Red, which has been responsible for some of the biggest hits of recent years including Last Tango in Halifax, Scott and Bailey, and Queer as Folk.
Gaiman said: "Yes, I'm really thrilled about both of these things. Fremantle has the harder task, as they are going to have to open up American Gods into something bigger than the book. Red are just going to have to make an absolutely brilliant faithful version of Anansi Boys."
When asked for more information, a Red spokesperson said everyone was "very excited" but couldn't elucidate further as: "I'm afraid we are in very early development with Neil at the moment."
Gaiman has previously said that he wrote the main character, Charlie Nancy, with the actor and comedian Lenny Henry in mind, who later narrated the audiobook of the novel, though the book was released almost 10 years ago and Henry is now 55, much older than the character as written.