Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Released on 05.20.2008
"The name is Jones. Indiana Jones."
He's back. Everyone's favorite globe-trotting, tomb-raiding, wisecracking archaeologist is finally at it again - hurtling headfirst into high adventure and relying on his wits, his fists, and his trusty bullwhip to get him out of deep trouble. But the man in the jaunty brown fedora and battered leather jacket is no ordinary digger in the dirt. From the fabled lost Ark of the Covenant to the legendary Holy Grail, he's salvaged the world's most amazing artifacts, while beating the baddest villains and defying the most breathtaking odds.
Now it's 1957, the atomic age is in full swing, and McCarthy-era paranoia has the nation on edge. But for Indiana Jones, the Cold War really heats up when his latest expedition is crashed by a ruthless squad of Russian soldiers. Commanded by a sword-wielding colonel who's as sinister as she is stunning, the menacing Reds drag an unwilling Indy along as they brazenly invade American soil, massacre U.S. soldiers, and plunder a top-secret government warehouse. Their objective: a relic even more precious–and powerful - than the mythic Ark, capable of unlocking secrets beyond human comprehension.
Fast thinking and some high-speed maneuvers help Jones turn the tables, and a one-in-a-million escape narrowly saves him from certain death. But when he's tarred as a suspected spy and fired by his university, Indy thinks it may be time to hang up his hat.
Fate, however, has other plans. Suddenly the road to retirement takes a sharp detour when a colleague's kidnapping leads Jones into the depths of the Amazon jungle on a desperate rescue mission. With a hot-headed teenage biker as his unlikely wing man and his vengeful new Russian nemesis waiting for a rematch, Indy's back in the game–playing for a prize all the wonders of the world could never rival.
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A chapter excerpt from the publisher is not available with this release.
Indy is one of America's favorite movie heroes. He's one of mine, too. I'm not surprised by all the questions this novelization has sparked.
Q: It has been a tradition with Indiana Jones to have novelizations come out with the movies. Why do you think the books are essential companions to the films?
A: There's the old adage: The book was better than the movie. And I think that mostly arises from the fact that books allow readers to experience the story through more intimate eyes. In the case of Indiana Jones, they get to put on that fedora, pick up that bullwhip, crawl through the ancient ruins. The reader gets to experience the adventure at a new and deeper level. The book also expands what is covered during the two hours on the screen with new scenes, new insights, new depths of character and plot. A good novelization should do all that, and that was my goal when I took on this project.
Q: So howwereyou chosen to write the novelization to Indy 4?
A: Well, over the years, my books have been critically compared to Indiana Jones – I think mostly due to the historical or archaeological nature of the novels. In fact, one reviewer of my book, Map of Bones, described it as a cross between Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code. And such reviews did eventually draw the attention of Random House, which obtained the adaptation rights to the film. After that, my name got submitted, and I got the thumb's up.
Q: Why was it important for you to write this book?
A: I would've written this in my own blood if they'd asked me to. I'm a huge Indy fan. In fact, I remember seeing Raiders for the first time. There was a sneak preview of that movie, and I had to be the first to see that movie. I'm just that sort of movie geek (and proudly so!). In fact, I still have a “May the Force Be With You” button from being one of the first 100 people into the first screening of Star Wars. Needless to say, I had to see that sneak preview of Raiders. BUT…I had booked a white-water rafting trip for that day. I remember paddling really, really fast to make sure I was out of that river in time to make the movie. I didn't quite make it. I had to go straight from the river to the theater. So I watched Raiders with soaking wet sneakers and damp clothes. All in all, it's not a bad way of watching Raiders. It added a little something to the viewing.
Q: What was it like to pen the character of Indiana Jones?
A: It was somewhat intimidating to step into Indy's shoes, smash on that fedora, and grab that bullwhip. After Indy's absence for 19 years, expectations for his return were huge - including my own. I was going to have to do him justice. Yet to be able to dabble with the mythology and legacy of this character – what more could an adventure writer ask for? As I began working on the book, I found myself getting lost in the character. Soon I was cracking that whip and crawling through those ancient ruins alongside Indy.
Q: Take us through the process: reading the script, adapting it into a novel.
A: It was an absolute blast! I first read the script back in the late spring of 2007. At that time, security was as tight as a bank vault. To even read the script, it required a drive over to Lucasfilm studios in the Presidio of San Francisco. But over time, I was allowed access to the script at home and granted a key to a site where still shots from the movie were uploaded. So between reading the script, talking with the screenplay writer (the amazing David Koepp), and viewing the shots from the production department, I was able to begin working on the novel.
I found it an interesting and fascinating challenge. It was both involving and liberating: deconstructing the script, creating internal monologue, expanding some scenes, contracting others, and inventing brand new scenes. The studio gave me a fairly free hand. And all in all, I was able to add about a dozen entirely new scenes that aren't in the script or movie.
Q: Explain how Harrison Ford's portrayal can be translated into words and how readers will recognize the Indy from the films.
A: Harrison Ford brings much more to the character than just his dialogue and actions: the way he shifts his fedora, the glint in his eye, the slight snarl or grin. It tells us much more about the character, and my goal was to try to capture that on the page, to bring to life not only the external Indy…but also the internal. What he's thinking, how he reacts, what he sees…and sometimes more importantly, what he DOESN'T see. That was both the challenge and the exhilaration in bringing this character to life on the page.
Q: Why is Indy not only a perfect hero for the screen but also a character who comes alive on the page?
A: For me, Indiana Jones is the everyman hero. He doesn't have any super powers, nor does he have any cool gadgets like James Bond. He perseveres through both dogged willpower and the strength of his intelligence. He is scarred, weathered, and tempered by his experiences. Plus he does not take himself too seriously. He pokes fun at himself with his wry humor as often as he does the world.
Q: Explain the romantic angle of the story and Marion Ravenwood's relationship with Indy.
A: Who didn't fall in love with Marion Ravenwood from the opening scene in the Raven Saloon in Nepal, where she drinks a competitor under the table? Even by then, it's already clear that Indy had a rocky relationship with the fiery Ms. Ravenwood. Jump decades into the future and nothing has changed! When those two meet, it's like tossing oil on gasoline.
Q: Did you find yourself inventing a lot of backstory to what has happened to Marion since we last saw her in Raiders?
A:Some of it was hinted at in the script, but I was allowed to expand on it during scenes from Marion's perspective. She's as fiery as Indiana, so is it any wonder their relationship didn't last? But as time has passed, she's gained some perspective on both herself and Indy…reaching perhaps a deeper understanding of the man than Indy has for himself. It's that healing of a wounded relationship that becomes a strong thread throughout both the movie and the novel.
Q: Tell us about Mutt?
A: After Indy, Mutt was the one of the best characters to write. A motorcycle-driving, prep-school drop out with a chip on his shoulder the size of the Empire State Building. But he's also sharply intelligent and as keen of eye as Indy. The two make a great team…if they can stop from killing each other first.
Q: We also meet some lethal villains: How do you handle them?
A: Ah, the sword-wielding Irina Spalko and her icy bodyguard Colonel Dovchenko. The pair are part of an elite team of Russians seeking to shift the balance of power during the Cold War through research into psychic weapons, to unleash the hidden potential of the human mind in order to achieve dominance. There are depths to both of them that are explored more intimately in the novel.
Q: Did you research any aspects of the story: The red scare, the Russian government's obsession with the supernatural and psychic powers?
A: It was actually a weird bit of serendipity. Even before being approached for this project, I had already researched quite a bit about the Russian's experimentation into psychic powers forThe Last Oracle. That book deals with a Russian experiment with autistic children who show exceptional savant talent in an attempt to enhance the children's abilities. In my book, that research had its roots during the Cold War where the Russians truly were exploring the possibility of developing psychic weapons. So it was a great deal of fun to bring to life that period of time in the Indiana Jones novel.
Q: What can you tell us about the Crystal Skull?
A: I've always been fascinated by the mythology surrounding the Crystal Skulls, especially the Mitchell-Hedges skull found in Belize in 1926. It became known as the Skull of Doom because of a curse supposedly around it. Other skulls have been found throughout South America…some fake. But some true artifacts demonstrate an astounding crystal-sculpting technology for the pre-Columbian time period. It is such mysteries, represented by such an iconic symbol – the crystal skull – that makes for a perfect object to build a story around.
Q: The story is full of colorful secondary characters such as Mac and Oxley. How did you bring a voice to them in the book?
A: That is one of the things that make each Indy movie so unique. Besides the central MacGuffin – the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, the Crystal Skull – it's the varied and wonderful cast of supporting players. They aren't simple cardboard cutouts, proverbial spear holders. They are conflicted, real people with pasts that are intimately woven into both the story and Indy's past. And to write scenes – especially from Mac's perspective – allowed me to explore a complex and unique character in more depth than time allows on the big screen.
Q: Can we expect a bit of a geography lesson in the book through the different countries visited by Indy on his adventure?
A: Of course! I always loved that part of the earlier movies where you see the plane coursing across a world map, from one exotic locale to another. And this story is no different. Setting is a character in and of itself. Geography and local mythology play an intimate role in the plot and story. From the remote deserts of the United States, to the strange drawings carved into the plains of Nazca, Peru, to the deep jungles of the Amazon. This story paints a broad canvass.
Q: The story takes place in 1957. How is that era reflected in the story?
A: As with the geographical setting, the world view of the time is as much a character in the book as Indy. Where before it was the global threat posed by the Nazis during World War II, this time it's the Cold War…a world of paranoia, rampant suspicions, the McCarthy trials, the execution of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying. Throw into that mix one world-hopping archaeologist with a penchant for stirring up trouble and you have a perfect powder keg for a fantastic story.
Q: Quick answers to rapid-fire reader questions:
Protective weapon of choice (we hope not a bull whip):
My charming personality (okay, I'm doomed).
What you'd do in the face of someone trying to remove your still-beating heart:
Run really, really fast.
Swimming with sharks. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Favorite sidekick of all time:
My golden retriever, Penny.
To what lengths would you go to rescue your favorite hat:
I'd let it go. It would just give me another reason to go shopping.
Will you still crave adventure in your AARP years:
No doubt. Though maybe I'll skip the fried tarantulas. (I heard they're high in cholesterol.)
Favorite watering hole in exotic locale:
Ha! Not a quick answer: The restaurant D'Vijff Vlieghen (translation: The Five Flies). It's located in the cellars of a 17th century building in Amsterdam and serves the best jenever (Dutch gin made out of juniper berries). The typical way to consume jenever is known as kopstott (head butt, a fitting name) where a glass of jenever is followed by a beer chaser. Very potent combination. I think I've just about recovered.
Last Question: How do you feel about snakes?
With a little ketchup, they aren't bad.