Why Isn't This A Film? - Snuff

What have we got here then?

Snuff is the 39th and most recent novel in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. It was released in the UK in October 2011.

OK fine. What’s it about?

Snuff focuses on previous Discworld hero Sam Vimes, who takes a holiday in the country and finds... all sorts of murderous goings on. It's like Midsomer Murders, with infinitely more Goblins. And, you know, some good writing.

Interesting. Is there something more?

Whilst Vimes is dealing with murder in the country, Captain Carrot is back in Ankh-Morpork dealing with Fred Colon, who seems to have turned into a Goblin himself. Might the two be related?! (Spoiler: yes).

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

Snuff is a good addition to the Discworld canon which gives the fans what they wanted and makes Vimes the unashamed focus of the narrative. Returning to strong showings like Men At Arms, Pratchett makes his main character the everyman-actionman of yesteryear, with subordinates to shout at, nobility to swear at and a convoluted plot to solve. With Vetinari scheming in the background, it's very difficult to see this as anything but a return to the series' strongest days.


Perhaps 'strongest days' is too much. The key failing with Snuff is the lack of other recognisable characters, excluding Vimes, this being endemic of the fact that Pratchett takes him out of the city and into the hitherto marginalised countryside. New character Upshot is OK, but he's no Carrot, Colon, Detritus or even Nobbs and the whole thing feels let down somewhat by how marginalised the rest of the watch is. The ultimate villain behind the whole scheme feels a bit too absent from the page.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

Discworld has been in and out of a chance to appear on film more often than Nobby Nobbs has been in to and out of trouble and Death has been in to and out of the hourglass room. The latest development surfaced at the start of October, when Pratchett brought back the right to produce his own properties and set up Narrativia to do so. TV series will mark the start of the process but films are very much on the future agenda.

It seems plausible that Snuff might make up part of The Watch series, one of the first thing that Narrativia will produce. It seems likely that, for part of that and to add variety, packing Vimes off on holiday might make sense, so expect to see Snuff on the small screen before Discworld finally makes it to the big screen. Or not. Again. As the case may be.

But who'd star in it?

Vimes is strong, funny and assertive but he is getting on a little bit and he needs to be older than most of the rest of The Watch. If you're going British then there's a crop of decent actors who might fit; Mark Strong, David Morrisey, etc. If the producers head internationally then the opportunities widen. I've always seen him as a bit of a Denis Leary, perhaps? All Discworld readers will have their own Vimes in their heads and will therefore be unhappy, whoever gets chosen. Casting him will be a nightmare. Idris Elba for Vetinari, who needs to be convincingly superior to Vimes.

Will it be any good?

Hogfather was promising (the same producer is part of Narrativia) but the other Pratchett TV adaptations have come under some fire. A procedural following The Watch is a brave way to go but it seems sound planning to start there and work towards a feature. Fingers crossed.

Anything else I should know about it?

If you want to prepare for the series, start with the first Watch-centred book, Guards! Guards!, which is probably the most fun you can have with a paperback until you get to its much better successor, Men At Arms. There are eight Watch-centred stories in total.

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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