True Stories To Read Before The Movie


We all like to be that person, nodding smugly at a film trailer as if to say they’re the only person to have read the book on which it’s based.

Because, let's face it, being an expert on a film before you’ve walked into the cinema doesn’t just give you a more erudite aura, it gives licence to pour praise/scorn on said film in equal measure.

With this in mind, and a bevy of true life tales so outlandish Hollywood’s finest scriptwriters would struggle to rival them, primed for some serious Oscar-bothering blockbusters, we’ve picked the very best books to get stuck into while the going's good.

So grab a notepad, take a pen and get ready to indulge in some non-fiction treats.



Black Mass - Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neil

Paunchy, balding and grey, the near unrecognizable pap' shots of Johnny Depp as former Boston crime lord Whitey Bulger have already sent keyboards ablaze in their bid to harvest information on Black Mass, the forthcoming drama based on the titular book written by Boston Globe reporters Lehr and O’Neill. Like the book, the mostly '70s-set film focuses on Bulger’s relationship with John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), the FBI agent who Bulger became an informant for in order to flatten his rivals and continue his ruthless reign of the city until he went on the run in the mid-90s, though another subplot to watch will be between the gangster and his politician brother Bill Bulger (Benedict Cumberbatch) who went on to become president of the Massachusetts Senate. Tight, neat and with testimony from those with an ear to the street, there's no better way to get the real skinny into these blood soaked dynamics than with Lehr and O’Neill's gripping book.


Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand

US Olympian competes at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics, later joins the air force during WW2 where he subsequently survives a plane crash in The Atlantic by living on a raft for 47 days, from which he's plucked off and sent to a Japanese internment camp. Try as you might, you won’t find Unbroken in the fiction aisle. Laura Hillenbrand’s account of Louis Zamperini’s extraordinary life is all true, every page, and it’s about to be immortalised on the big screen by Angelina Jolie, directing Brit star Jack O’Connell as the US track-and-airfield hero in a dead certain Oscar magnet.


Kill The Messenger - Nick Schou

“This is a true story,” implores Jeremy Renner to Michael Sheen in the new trailer for Kill The Messenger. “Some stories are just too true to tell,” comes the reply. Well not on the basis of this they’re not. Fast paced and scarcely believable, Renner stars as firebrand reporter Gary Webb, whose Dark Alliance series saw him take on shadow-cloaked forces as he doggedly pursued an alleged CIA-drug smuggling cover-up, all documented in this book by investigative journalist Nick Schou. With Webb’s maverick reporting at San Jose Mercury News in the mid-90s eventually leading to tragedy, this highly charged conspiracy read packs an emotional punch. Expect the same of the film.


American Sniper - Chris Kyle

There are three very good reasons to get excited for American Sniper, based on the memoirs of ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, famous for recording the most confirmed kills in US military history. The first being that Clint Eastwood is directing (and if one man knows his way around a gritty war film, it’s the steely eyed veteran); the second being that Bradley Cooper is starring as the man who chalked up over 150 kills between 1999 and 2009; then, finally, there’s the fact that Kyle’s book, weaving the adrenaline highs of conflict while providing an earnest insight into the morally apathetic mind of a trained killer, was a former number one New York Times bestseller. Consider your interest piqued.


Then They Came For Me – Maziar Bahari

Jon Stewart’s directorial debut is anything but a laughing matter. Clearly putting his mini hiatus from The Daily Show to good use earlier this year, with Rosewater he looks set to have crafted a politically mindful and gut-wrenching drama. Its name is taken from that of the interrogator who kept Canadian-based Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari captive in Iran for 118 days during 2009's election protests, and it's based on Baharai’s hugely successful memoir Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love. Ignore the schmaltzy title, the book’s as hard-hitting as they come.


Travelling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen – Jane Hawking

While it might sound like a biography for Buzz Lightyear, this written account of Jane Hawking’s life with her husband and scientific luminary Stephen, touches more on the pair’s time spent absorbed in one another than it does the Cosmos. Man On Wire’s James Marsh is bringing it to the screen under the title The Theory Of Everything, while Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne star as the lead duo as the film chronicles their time spent together at Cambridge University and, ahem, beyond.


Alan Turing: The Enigma - Andrew Hodges

Another biopic concerning a great British thinker who suffered great hardship, here, albeit a different sort. Based on Andrew Hodges’s unflinching biography of Alan Turing, The Imitation Game sees the unfailingly brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch step into the shoes of the genius cryptologist who broke the Enigma Code to help defeat the Nazis before being prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952, and subjected to horrific treatments to ‘cure’ it. It's a harrowing, unjust and hurtful piece to read, but nonetheless an important one. Long seen as one of the best biographies ever put to paper - of anyone, not just Turing - we implore you seek Hodges's work out immediately.