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Three years after David Morrell’s ground-breaking novel First Blood became an equally ground-breaking film, 1985’s Rambo (First Blood Part II) established Rambo as an international thriller icon, breaking box-office records and adding Rambo’s name to the Oxford English dictionary.
Morrell’s novelization for Rambo (First Blood Part II) made a difference also. When the film’s producers asked him to write a book based on the script, he initially declined. After all, he hadn’t been involved in the film’s development, and at the time, most novelizations needed to adhere so strictly to the script that they were almost a form of automatic writing.
But then the producers gave Morrell permission to write whatever he wanted, provided that the novelization had a recognizable relationship to the film. Freed to be inventive and to make Rambo closer to the character as Morrell had portrayed him in First Blood, Morrell prepared a novelization that broke all the rules: one-third Morrell, one-third shooting script, and one-third material from James Cameron’s unused script for the film. (Yes, that James Cameron, before Aliens and Terminator Two.)
Continuing to break the rules, Morrell’s novelization was one of the first books of its kind to appear on the New York Times bestseller list. But even more unusual, Morrell had killed Rambo at the end of First Blood. The first version of the film killed him as well and was altered only after a near riot at a test screening, So how was Morrell going to resurrect his character for the novelization?