Why Isn't This A Film? - The Infant Of Prague

What have we got here then?

The Infant Of Prague is a 1987 novel from American thriller writer Bill Granger, one of the many in his The November Man series of books.

OK fine. What’s it about?

Devereaux, code name 'November', is a US spy on the fringes of the security establishment, attached to a secret bureau called R Section. Called in from a period of inactivity, Devereaux is assigned the apparently simple job of escorting Czech defector Miki from Brussels to the States. But why is the job important enough to call Devereaux in? And what exactly does Section want with Miki?

Interesting. Is there something more?

At the same time as one defector is being escorted by Devereaux, another switches sides live on TV in Chicago, after apparently having witnessed a miracle. Were the two defections timed? And how does the fact that both Czechs are involved in the movie industry fit into things?

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

Despite the rather hackneyed sounding plot synopsis, Granger's novel is actually a very tautly plotted Cold War-era spy drama. Whilst the subject may have aged, the John le Carré-esque thrills still hit home and the book rattles by at just a touch over 250 pages with frequent chapter breaks. Granger's cast of supporting characters are varied, his plot machinations satisfying and his villains a mixture of the diabolical and genuinely scary. Devereaux's world weariness is pleasant rather than cumbersome and the whole thing ends up as a nicely under-played international spy drama.


In 250 pages, Granger attempts a hell of a lot and at times the large cast of characters can get confusing. There's Czech agents in Prague, Czech agents in Belgium, Section agents everywhere, a disgraced Colonel, a Movie producer, a Movie star, a Movie 'fixer' and more than one employee of a TV station. Whilst the plot does 'work', the feeling of 'where the hell are we now?' at the start of the novel is frequent and distracting. As the plot suggests it can also veer into spy-hokum territory on occasion, not that that's a problem if you like that sort of thing.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

In 2005, Variety reported that The November Man would be one of new studio Wildflower Entertainment's first films and that it already had Pierce Brosnan attached to return to the spy genre. Several other sites picked up on the report and at the time, it seemed a sure thing that the series would be coming to screens imminently. An article on another site in 2010 placed Granger's series in the 'Should Be Made' category but as yet, no-one has picked up the now defunct idea and ran with it. The topical nature of Granger's Cold War-set novels now makes the property a long shot to secure a release but Hollywood has returned to the period before and if one or two future spy thrillers become big hits then don't bet against producers starting to scour the market for properties exactly like this one.

But who'd star in it?

Brosnan was a good choice for Devereaux in 2006 but is arguably an even better choice for him now. Continuing to age gracefully (as the above shot from new film Salvation Boulevard shows), the former Bond would provide a marketable presence in the lead as a spy who is probably in to his fifties in the novel. George Clooney would provide a similarly-aged and similarly-marketable presence whilst the outside bets could be anyone from Eric Bana to CiarĂ¡n Hinds.

Devereaux's love interest, Rita, is a strong presence in the book and would suit an actor perhaps a bit younger than the lead. Kate Winslet would be a solid choice and it would also be nice to see Julia Roberts attempt something serious for a change. Naomi Watts is now surely an obvious call for spy-related stuff.

Will it be any good?

There are the ingredients here to make this work. The novel is short enough to adapt almost verbatim and the intricacies of the book naturally lend themselves to being portrayed visually. The difficulty is in making Cold War era spy games applicable today and for that reason, the film might struggle to find an audience.

Anything else I should know about it?

Although dealing with Mossad agents, The Debt, a Sam Worthington vehicle due out at some point this year, returns to a similar period of espionage and conspiracy and looks well worth looking in to.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.

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