An alien predator is stalking the streets of New York, and a tough cop is out to stop it.
In the early 1990s I decided that I wanted to try my hand at a novelization. I wasn't really in a position to get a gig novelizing a movie; the studios had a list of authors with Alan Dean Foster at the top, and unless every single person on that list said no, they didn't look elsewhere. Movie novelizations had very rigid standards in some respects -- deadlines were absolute, the author had to be able to work fast and clean and stick to the script, etc. The studios didn't trust first-time novelists and only used them when desperate.
I didn't want a desperation job, which meant I wasn't going to get a movie, but there are other novelizations. Dark Horse was looking for someone to do a novelization of their Predator comic book mini-series, for example.
I thought that looked like lots of fun, but there was a problem. I was trying to narrow the Watt-Evans brand to fantasy and wanted to credit the novelization to Nathan Archer, and Dark Horse wanted a writer with a track record, not a first-time author. So in order to get the Predator job, I needed to get Nathan another credit ASAP.
So I wrote a Deep Space Nine novel first, then went back to Dark Horse, and they said yes.
There are some differences; let's see if I can remember them all...
The title: The original comics were simply called Predator, as you can see in the image to the left. Since my book had to be clearly distinguished from the movie novelization, I needed a new title. Kurt Busiek suggested "Concrete Jungle," which I thought was too obvious, but I figured what the heck, the publisher or 20th Century Fox could come up with a better one. Except they didn't; it was published as Predator: Concrete Jungle, and in fact all later printings of the original comic books got that title, too.
The subway scene: The comic books, which were originally published after the first movie came out (obviously) but before "Predator 2," had an important scene with a Predator attacking a subway car full of people. I was informed that I could not use this scene because it had been used (uncredited) in the second movie, so to fill the hole that left in the plot I substituted a scene in the NYPD shooting range. Which is real, by the way; see below.
Added scenes: Basically, my first draft, which included everything in the comics, ran a little short, so I added stuff. Chapter 15, for example, is entirely my invention.
One thing I saw as a possible problem when I agreed to write this novelization was that I didn't know much about cops or guns, and the story is built around cops and guns. Fortunately, my editor had foreseen this possibility and had arranged a contact for me at the NYPD, for research purposes.
What this meant, in practice, was that I spent almost an entire afternoon on the phone with Lt. Adam Kasanoff, going over what would work and what wouldn't, what sort of weapons would be best in what situation, and so on. He was the one who told me about the police shooting range on Twentieth Street, including giving me a pretty detailed description of the place. The book is still full of Hollywood-style absurdities, of course, but that talk with Lt. Kasanoff provided at least a little grounding in the real world and made it a much better story. He was a very pleasant guy to talk to, very helpful, and I'm grateful.
My other essential research, of course, was watching the movies. There were only two at that point, "Predator" and "Predator 2," but I got VHS tapes of both and watched them through carefully a few times, noting down details to make sure my novel didn't contradict anything, or add anything that might be an issue later.
The only problem with that was that at the time I had two young kids, and I didn't want them watching movies that violent, not to mention the sexy stuff in "Predator 2." (I was pretty sure the dirty jokes in the first film would go right over their heads.) So I forbade them to come into the den while I was doing my research.
What I didn't think about was the fact that you could sit on the stairs, out of my line of sight, and see straight into the den, with a good view of the TV. Which of course they did.
It doesn't seem to have done them any harm in the long run.