In 1966, author Roderick Thorp created a gritty detective novel entitled The Detective. It dealt with a homicide detective for the NYPD who is in charge of the investigation into the murder of a gay man in what was clearly a hate crime. The novel delved deeply into the different feelings people had towards homosexuality and those that prey on the gays. Two years later a movie was released with the same name and starred Frank Sinatra as the detective, Joe Leland. Both the book and the movie enjoyed reasonable success.
Thirteen years and several novels later, Thorp returned to the crime scene after a few books about widely different subjects. The story goes he had watched the movie The Towering Inferno and dreamt that night about a man being chased through a skyscraper. The idea stayed with him and in 1979 he revised his character Joe Leland. Instead of New York, though, he set the scene in L.A. where Leland was visiting his daughter. The culprits were terrorists led by a man named Gruber whom Leland had known briefly during WWII. The second book was called Nothing Lasts Forever.
Some years after the book was released, its rights were purchased and a movie made of it. The character name was changed to John McClane and the person McClane was visiting went from a daughter, Stephanie Gennaro, using her mother's maiden name, to be Holly Gennaro McClane, estranged wife of the Leland/McClane. The director switched the lead bad guy from a terrorist to a master criminal masquerading as a terrorist and threw out the part about the two character having met before. Other than that, much of the book made it into the screenplay, superbly penned by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza.
The movie did very well, producing very respectable profits for the studio and turning Bruce Willis, already a television star from Moonlighting into a major action hero.
In 1987, highly skilled and terribly underappreciated author Walter Wager published a stand-alone action novel entitled 58 Minutes. Mr. Wager, no stranger to spy novels having penned several books in the I Spy and Mission: Impossible series under his penname of John Tiger, was also very adept in the action crime novels. In this book Frank Malone is a NYPD captain, divorced, who is at JFK to pick up his daughter coming in from California for Christmas. A man calling himself 'Number 1' takes control of the airport and those in the area and gives them just 58 minutes to meet his demands. The planes circling above are due to start crashing from lack of fueld and Malone knows he has to step in to catch the man behind it all.
Looking around for another good book to use as a sequel to Die Hard, the studio bought the rights to the book and brought in one of the screenwriters from the first movie to adapt it. The reason for the airport seizing and the person behind it were changed but the basic concept remained and once again the NYPD detective John McClane was doing his thing.
The third, and so far last, novel in the series was a novelization well crafted by Deborah Chiel based on an original screenplay by Jonathan Hensleigh. Hensleigh had originally created the story Simon Says but modified it to be a John McClane action piece.
So far no books have been penned on the last two movies.