Silver City

Soon after West Block appeared, Penguin approached me with a proposition.  I’d been working on a second novel about an Australian filmmaker hoping to make a name for himself in Hollywood.  To boost my meagre bank account and acquaint me with the local film industry, they proposed that I write a novelisation of an Australian movie, Silver City – a first for Penguin.  

My contract stipulated that I was to work from the screenplay but that I’d be able to diverge from it whenever I thought it necessary to make the story work as a novel. I visited the set as Silver City was being filmed and was given eight months to write the novel, to coincide with the movie’s release.  Needless to say, it was a challenge.

The novelisation didn’t garner the reviews an ordinary book would.  I remember a short one in the Los Angeles Times but I haven’t been able to find it.  As Silver City is the story of a group of Polish migrants who come to Australia after the Second World War, at one stage the book was being translated into Polish, but I don’t know what came of that either. 

However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to discover the following, written some 21 years after the movie and the book came out:


“Sara Dowse didn’t just adapt a screenplay but wrote a great novel besides. ‘Silver City’ (Penguin, 1984), a novel based on the (1983) screenplay by Sophia Turkiewicz (the film’s director) and Thomas Keneally’, is a rich and moving story about a group of Polish refugees fleeing World War II Europe for a new life in Australia, beginning at the transit camp known as Silver City. One senses that Dowse was truly inspired by the story, especially with the characters of Nina and Anna. The text is filled with character reminiscences, thoughts, and descriptions that simply couldn’t be captured as well (if at all) on film. A great read, a work of art.”  5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Novelisation of a Screenplay. (Customer Reviewed, United States, January 2, 2005, Jaye Valentine)