Starz’s Best Book-Based TV Shows (So Far)


While many simply know Starz as the channel with recently released movies, the network has actually hosted a variety of fairly popular original shows. Foreign, black sailsand Able prove that this nearly 30-year-old network can do long-running, multi-season programming. This lineup also includes a few book adaptations with more on the way. Recently, Starz ordered Liaison officers in case of danger by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos and currently has The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez in development.

Before going further, I must warn you to put some nuances because this list is very white. Yes, I’m very aware of many of these shows below, and the network has a small handful of people of color stories about people of color. That last part is key, so don’t come for me because I know the first author comes from Mexican-American heritage. Stories about people of color in current and past Starz programming simply aren’t adapted from the books, and this is a list of books. (Starz, do better.)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  Picture: Dell.

Alright, so maybe you were aware of this one. This is probably one of three shows that keeps this network alive and subsidizes smaller projects. Despite her impressive background in STEM-related projects and research, Dr. Galbaldon has a strong interest in history. Because it was something she could research immensely, she decided to try her hand at writing historical fiction and fantasy. She’s pretty hands-on with all six seasons of the show and just released Book 10 (of 12.)

Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, has just returned from the war and reunited with her husband for a second honeymoon when she crosses a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the islands British. Suddenly she is a Sassenach – a “stranger” – in a Scotland torn by war and clan raids in the year of Our Lord. . . 1743.

Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life and threatens to break her heart. Left amidst danger, passion and violence, Claire learns that her only chance of safety lies with Jamie Fraser, a valiant young Scottish warrior. What begins with constraint becomes an urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.

The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory (and many others)

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.  Image: Washington Square Press.
(Washington Square Press)

Part of The Plantagenet and Tudor novelsby Starz The White Queen (co-produced with the BBC), and its two spin-off series (The white princess and The Spanish Princess) all come from Gregory’s historical novels. Gregory is best known for his writings about real-world women influencing Europe, mainly from 1430 to 1568. This includes the book The other Boleyn girladapted into the popular 2008 film. I’ve included this even though it’s biographical because these are written in novel form and Gregory is setting up a story.

Elizabeth Woodville is a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition. His mother is Jacquetta, also known as the Mystical Lady of the Rivers, and she is even more determined to bring power and wealth to the family line. One day, while riding through the woods, Elizabeth captures the attention of the newly crowned King Edward IV and, despite her common upbringing, marries him in secret.

When elevated to queen, the English court is outraged, but Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for dominance over her family. Yet despite his best efforts, and even with the help of his mother’s powers, his two sons become pawns in a famous unsolved mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the lost princes in the Tower of London.

In this dazzling tale of the deadly Wars of the Roses, a brother turns against his brother to win the ultimate prize: the throne of England.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  Image: William Morrow & Company.
(William Morrow & Company)

With all we know about american gods, this inclusion is not an endorsement to watch the show. However, if you’ve done it before or are still interested in the story, you’re still in luck because the series was based on a book. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, this award-winning book Hugo and Nebula imagines a modern America (2000) ruled by our own set of gods.

This is the story of Shadow – released from prison just days after his wife and best friend were killed in an accident – who is recruited to be a bodyguard, driver and errand boy for the enigmatic Trickster, Mr. Wednesday. Thus begins Shadow’s dark and eerie road trip, which introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. For, beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and Shadow stands squarely in its way.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.  Picture: vintage

Freshly arrived in New York, twenty-two-year-old Tess lands a job in a restaurant in the city center. What follows is her upbringing: in champagne and cocaine, love and lust, dive bars and fancy dining rooms, as she learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting and punishing life she chose. The story of a young woman’s coming of age, set in the glitzy and grimy decor of New York’s most elite restaurants, in bittersweet Stephanie Danler skillfully conjures up the uninterrupted, high-adrenaline world of the food industry and conjures up the endless possibilities, unbearable beauty, fragility and brutality of being young and adrift.

Tower by Daniel O’Malley

Daniel O'Malley's Tower.  Image: Back Bay Books.
(Back Bay Books.)

Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park surrounded by corpses. With her memory gone, she must trust the instructions left by her ancestor to survive. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level agent in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there’s a mole inside the organization, and that person wants him dead.

Struggling to save herself, Myfanwy will encounter a four-bodied person, a woman who can enter her dreams, children turned into deadly fighters, and a terrifying conspiracy.

(photo: Starz)

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