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On film, his "List' reaches the masses

Author Thomas Keneally estimates there are three-million copies of his novel Schindler's List in print since its release in 1982. It doesn't surprise or sadden him that more tickets have already been sold to Steven Spielberg's film adaptation in slightly more than two months.

"Film takes up most of the available oxygen," Keneally mused in his Australian accent. "But the best people read the book _ the most intelligent, the most literate and discriminating people read the book."

The book and movie versions of Schindler's List were based on the true story of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,100 Jewish prisoners during the Nazi Holocaust.

Keneally visited Madeira Beach on Thursday to speak at the Pasadena Community Church in a fund-raiser for the local Holocaust Memorial Museum and Educational Center. Before that engagement, he spoke about the accuracy of Spielberg's vision.

"I didn't have unrealistic expectations, but I did notice that every time I talked to Spielberg, he was talking about the same story that I was," said Keneally.

Not everyone shared his faith in the filmmaker.

"People used to say: "What's it like to have a book in the hands of the man who made E.T,' as if it was entrusting your child to a molester or something," Keneally said with a grin. "I was always able to say from the first time I met him, he was concerned with the same issues as the book."

The novel Schindler's List _ released in Europe under the title Schindler's Ark _ was awarded the Booker prize, England's top literary award, in 1982. The next year, Keneally's book won the Los Angeles Times Prize for fiction _ a designation based on character composites Keneally said were approved by former Jewish prisoners.

Twenty-five Keneally novels have been published, including Gossip from the Forest, Confederates and The Playmaker, which will be the basis for the next film from director Peter Weir (Fearless) and the Merchant-Ivory production group (Howard's End).