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Harlan Coben Moves to TV With ‘The Five’

New Jersey-based novelist Harlan Coben (“Missing You,” “Six Years”) segues to TV with “The Five,” a drama about four 12-year-old friends and the disappearance of one boy’s 5-year-old brother. Flash forward 20 years and the missing brother’s DNA is found at a crime scene. “The Five” premieres April 15 on Sky 1 in the U.K.; an American outlet has not been announced, but Coben and producing partner Nicola Shindler (“Happy Valley,” “Last Tango in Halifax”), founder of RED Production Co., recently created a shingle, Final Twist, with distribution through Studiocanal.

Why move into TV?

I wouldn’t leave novel writing.­ I’ll still be writing as many novels, but I love storytelling and I really do think we’ve been living in a golden age of television. TV’s never been more equipped to do what I do with more extended storytelling.

What was your involvement in “The Five” like?

I don’t write the actual scripts, but the story is all mine. I’m the executive producer and creator and I’m involved in every aspect of it, which is new for me. I watched every audition tape, gave notes on scripts. Every day they’d send me rushes by email and I would study them like a rabbinical student studies the Talmud. I was there for all the table reads and met with the director many times.

What was your inspiration for the series?

It was an idea niggling in my brain to maybe make into a novel, but I’d never written a novel with four leads, which this has … I always see stories visually and this one was more visual than most. When Nicola Shindler approached me about a book that was already under option, I said, “I have this other idea that’s sticking in my head.”

Is there a plan for a second season?

I’m not going to not give an answer [to the mystery] just to have a season two. By the end [of season one], you’ll find out where Jesse has been, who’s lying, who’s telling the truth. I won’t make you wait another year after you’ve invested in 10 episodes. I do have an idea for season two, but it may be in a different way like “American Horror Story” or “True Detective” do it with a whole new story. It won’t be this story.

What’s the biggest challenge of creating a story for TV as opposed to a novel?

There are certain things that will not work on TV. You cannot have introspection on TV; everything has to be presented visually, which was sort of a fun challenge.

What can we expect from Final Twist?

Nicola and I found her sensibility and my sensibility worked well together and we both really enjoyed the process, so [we said], “Let’s take this collaboration and bring it to the States.” It’s time for Nicola to come to the States and time for me to get more involved in TV. Our first show will be based around my novel “Six Years.” I’ll probably collaborate with a writer, but it has to be the right partner. If not, I might write the pilot myself.

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