So I've been reading Deliverance this week, and am very familiar with the plot from having seen the movie several times. Knowing more or less what's going to happen makes for a fairly quck read, and I'm a little over half done already. So far, the book has followed the movie rather closely; okay, let me rephrase that, the movie has followed the book quite closely, but from my current perspective it's the other way around.
Not only are the main plot elements identical, the characters also seem to be bang on. When Dickey is describing the main players in the beginging of the book, it's quite easy to picture Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds and Ronny Cox. Ned Beatty's character didn't seem to be as close a match as the others, but fits the bill rather nicely either way. I wonder though if the descriptions seems to match because that's who I'm picturing in my mind whilst I'm reading, regardless of the words on the page, or if the actors in the movie actually do resemble the descriptions. I guess it's a bit of a "chicken or the egg" question.
Despite all the similarities though, I was shocked to learn that one of the most famous scenes from the movie is not in the book. Warning: The rest of this paragraph will have spoilers if, for some reason, you are not already familiar with what happens. The famous rape scene, the most pivotal scene in the entire story, is told differently in the movie from the book. The main elements are the same, Ned Beatty still gets cornholed (Dickey's word, not mine), and Jon Voight avoids his special moment by a split second. However, in the book, the hillbillies do not make Ned Beatty crawl around on all fours and 'squeal like a pig!' I was surprised this wasn't in the book, as it is such a memorable part of the movie, and adds to the savagery of the scene.
By the way, this was an important seen in "A Christmas Deliverance" as well, where hillbilly Santa demanded that two canoers "squeal like a pig before they get any presants." Again, I'm not kidding, that is what actually happend.