The Lost BoysBy Craig Shaw Gardner (Berkley; 1987)

One of the most collectible of all movie novelizations, this paperback was number 98 on Bookfinder.com’s top 100 most sought-after out-of-print books 2012 listing. It was the first movie tie-in written by the prolific fantasy novelist Craig Shaw Gardner, who followed with novelizations of the first two BATMAN and last two BACK TO FUTURE movies, among many others.

Surprisingly, this novel isn’t all that bad–even if it contains the expected hasty prose and wobbly storytelling I’ve come to expect from movie novelizations–being quite slick and enjoyable overall. Gardner was already adept at crafting audience-pleasing fiction, and shows off that talent here in admirably unaffected prose, related in a succession of short, pointed chapters and an economical 220 page count.

I’m sure you already know the story: the teenaged Michael and his younger brother Sam move with their recently divorced mother to their eccentric grandfather’s home in the (fictional) California beach town Santa Carla. Apparently the “Murder capitol of the world,” Santa Carla is home to a coven of teen vampires known as the Lost Boys, who live in a seaside cave and are lorded over by an elusive head vampire.

In keeping with his reader-friendly bent, Gardner keeps his descriptions short and to-the-point. This isn’t always for the best, as in the chapter where Michael and the Lost Boys hang from the underside of a railroad bridge as part of an initiation ritual; as related here, the succeeding action is all-but incoherent, even for readers who’ve already seen the LOST BOYS movie. I’ll also complain about the rushed and perfunctorily described action of the final third, although Gardner nearly redeems himself in an intriguing two page coda (which didn’t make it to the screen) suggesting that the Lost Boys weren’t the only inhabitants of the aforementioned seaside cave.

One of the strong points of the movie was its skillful juxtaposition of screwball comedy and R-rated horror. That combination of goofiness and scares is definitely present in this novel (often in the same paragraph), but the mixture is far less harmonious. That’s due most likely to the accelerated time frame granted for movie novelizations, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for nuance. So no, Craig Shaw Gardner’s LOST BOYS won’t ever pass muster as a “real” novel, but again, for what it is it’s not all bad.