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Sundance Advance

Courtesy of Corgi Books

What to read on the way to Park City

Sundance has become a place where less well-known fiction -- Push (2009) and Winter's Bone (2010) -- blossoms into prize-winning adaptations. Here are the books behind four films debuting at this year's festival.

Goats
by Mark Jude Poirier (Miramax Books, 368 pages, $18)

This offbeat first novel tells the coming-of-age story of a 14-year-old boy (played in the film by The Good Wife's Graham Phillips) living an unconventional existence in Arizona with his hippie mother and Goat Man (David Duchovny), her pot-smoking caretaker/shaman, when he suddenly is sent off to prep school. He thrives there while still smoking a lot of dope, but the real challenge comes when he and Goat Man (and some fantastic talking goats) go on an a drug-fueled wilderness trek to Mexico during his vacation.

Lay the Favorite: A Memoir of Gambling
by Beth Raymer (Spiegel & Grau, 240 pages, $25)

Stephen Frears directs an all-star cast including Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the adaptation of the story of a woman (Rebecca Hall) who goes from part-time stripper to skilled bookie. Her encounters with a motley crew of gambling pros who serve as mentors are sharply and often sympathetically drawn, as is Raymer's own romance with the excitement and profits of gambling.

Shadow Sancer
by Tom Bradby (Corgi Books, 413 pages, $9.25)

A widely praised thriller set in late-'90s Northern Ireland by a British journalist who was stationed there. Acclaimed documentarian James Marsh (Project Nim) helms from a script by the author. The story revolves around an Irishwoman (Gillian Anderson) involved with the IRA who becomes an informant and her MI5 handler (Clive Owen) whose black-and-white view of the conflict is slowly eroded.

John Dies at the End
by David Wong (St. Martin's Griffin, 480 pages, $14.99)

Courtesy of Loose Gravel Press
Courtesy of Spiegel & Grau
Courtesy of St. Martin's Griffin

This wacky story about two college kids fighting other-dimensional demons while tripping on a drug called "soy sauce" started as a series of online stories that proved so popular, it was picked up by St. Martin's. Cult horror favorite Don Coscarelli (Bubba Ho-Tep) directs.