Producers decided that fans might be devoted enough to want to re-experience the stories in the form of a book. But if the film was based solely on a screenplay, a book needed to be created. A writer was hired to novelize the screenplay, describing the characters and the settings while letting readers know what the characters were thinking.
Some producers demanded that the writer make no changes to the plot and the dialogue. That could be difficult for a novelizer. How much description and how many thoughts could the writer add until the story lost its momentum?
Other producers understood that the writer needed a margin of freedom, and some interesting novelizations resulted, particularly William Kotzwinkle’s 1982 adaptation of E.T., which book critics reviewed favorably and which sold an astonishing million copies. Eric Segal’s bestselling 1970 Love Story was promoted as an original novel, but actually Segal wrote the screenplay first and then novelized the screenplay to promote what became an immensely popular film. John Wayne’s 1953 film, Hondo, was based on a Louis L’Amour short story, “The Gift of Cochise.” L’Amour then combined his short story and James Edward Grant’s screenplay into a novelization for the film. With a publicity quote from John Wayne on the cover, it boosted L’Amour’s career.
So there are interesting examples of novelizations, but I don’t think any of them had a history quite like Rambo (First Blood Part II). In 1972, I sold the film rights of my debut novel, First Blood, to Columbia Pictures for Richard Brooks to write and direct. A year later, Columbia sold the rights to Warner Bros., where Martin Ritt was considered as the director, with Paul Newman perhaps as the police chief. When that production possibility fell apart, Sydney Pollack was hired to direct Steve McQueen as Rambo, but that production fell apart, also. More studios and scriptwriters became involved until finally, in 1982, Carolco Pictures filmed my novel, with Sylvester Stallone as Rambo.