Monday, April 27, 2015

Ed Kovacs's "The Russian Bride"

Ed Kovacs is the author of the critically-acclaimed Cliff St. James mystery/crime series published by St. Martin’s Press. Kovacs has studied martial arts, holds many weapons-related licenses, certifications and permits, and is a certified medical First Responder. Using various pen names, he has worked professionally around the world as a screenwriter, journalist, and media consultant. He is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, American Legion Post 299, the International Thriller Writers association, and Mystery Writers of America.

Here Kovacs dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Russian Bride:
The hero of The Russian Bride is Kit Bennings, an American military intelligence officer in the army's most secret unit. I envisioned a man who could not only blend in amongst various cultures, but who could alternately appear harmless or extremely menacing.

I settled on Karl Urban, who played a deadly assassin in The Bourne Supremacy—he was the guy who killed Bourne's girlfriend. Urban is handsome, rugged, and can deliver a chilling gaze. Perfect. I printed out his photo and tacked it above my writing desk.

As for my Russian heroine, Yulana Petkova, I couldn't decide on an actress who'd be perfect, so I found a Russian fashion model's headshot that just seemed to nail it.

Having spent a lot of time in Russia myself—including working with intelligence agents (I stayed in the same hotel in Kazakhstan as the notorious Russian deep cover agent Anna Chapman), I wanted a beautiful, exotic female with an undercurrent of melancholy and the suggestion that she had many secrets to hide. Perhaps readers could suggest the perfect actress for Yulana.
Learn more about the book and author at Ed Kovacs's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Russian Bride.

Writers Read: Ed Kovacs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Michael Gregorio's "Cry Wolf"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. They live in Spoleto, Italy. Michael Gregorio was awarded the Umbria del Cuore prize in 2007.

Here Michael Jacob dreamcasts an adaptation of their latest novel, Cry Wolf:
Cry Wolf is a rogues’ gallery, more or less. There’s only one good guy, Sebastiano Cangio, and he’s a park ranger, so we need a weathered, ornery-lookin’ guy to play the part. He needs to combine old-fashioned charm with a wry sense of humour, so I reckon I could play him perfectly with a lot of help from the make-up girls. Seb’s attractive girlfriend, Loredana, was invented by my co-author and wife, so Daniela would be the best person to take on that role. Once again, the skills of the professional make-up department will be in great demand, as Loredana and Seb are decades younger than us. We’ll need to infuse our relationship with a pinch of playful spice, which may be kinda tough after thirty-six years of marriage, so we will definitely need a director with the wit of Billy Wilder, the grit of Billy Wilder, the sh... Okay, okay. Billy gets to write the screenplay and direct the film.

This rogues’ gallery is going to be a hard nut to crack, though.

I mean to say, where in Hollywood are we going to find a wild enough bunch of miscreants to do all the corrupt and nasty things that all the corrupt and nasty people do in our novel? We’d need to find the most unethical cop the world has ever seen: a sort of scheming Richard III (minus the hump), or loan shark come to collect his debts. Stanley Tucci in a nasty mood, maybe? We’ll also need four ’Ndrangheta (mafia) hoods – one teetering dangerously on the brink of senility, one up-and-coming go-getter, the third, a regular butcher, and finally, Corrado Formisano, a lovable, out-of-work hit man with a pistol he adores. We may have to persuade the Italian authorities to let some of our creative writing students out of the local maximum-security prison on a special permit to play these parts, but can we claim that it will make them better, law-abiding men?

And then there’s the Queen, a dynamic young politico with unlimited ambitions and bolts of raw lightning exploding out of every pore of her curvaceous body: Jennifer Aniston? Salma Hayek? Or maybe a combination of the two with a bit of clever computer manipulation...

Having indulged ourselves for half a page, it might be better if we wait for Hollywood to make the big decision and buy the film rights. No doubt they’ll have the right actors queuing up outside the gates, and a shit-hot director who has been wasting his life away just waiting for the opportunity to direct Cry Wolf by Michael Gregorio.
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Michael Gregorio's Hanno Stiffeniis novels.

The Page 69 Test: Cry Wolf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Jan-Philipp Sendker's "Whispering Shadows"

Jan-Philipp Sendker, born in Hamburg in 1960, was the American correspondent for Stern from 1990 to 1995, and its Asian correspondent from 1995 to 1999. In 2000 he published Cracks in the Wall, a nonfiction book about China. The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, his first novel, was an international bestseller. He lives in Berlin with his family.

Here Sendker dreamcasts the lead in an adaptation of his new novel, Whispering Shadows:
Many readers around the world have asked me if I was Paul Leibovitz, the main character in Whispering Shadows.

Of course I am not but there are some similarities and he would be the role (and it happened to be the lead role) I would play.

He is in his early fifties (like me), he used to be a journalist (like me), lives in Hong Kong (like I used to) and is fascinated by China (like me).

He does not have much of sense of belonging, born in Germany, growing up in New York, having lived in Asia for 30 years.

He had lost his child to leukemia and lives as a recluse on a small island in Hong Kong, trying to find a way back into life after such devastating loss.

He is a man full of grief, passion and longing and deeply hurt. At the same time he is a very gentle soul, always ready to help. A very interesting character, full of contradictions and emotions.

I see the Oscar coming…
Visit Jan-Philipp Sendker's website.

The Page 69 Test: Whispering Shadows.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Martin Goldsmith's "Alex's Wake"

Martin Goldsmith, author of Alex's Wake: The Tragic Voyage of the St. Louis to Flee Nazi Germany--and a Grandson's Journey of Love and Remembrance, is the host and classical music programmer for Symphony Hall on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and previously hosted NPR's daily classical music program, "Performance Today," from 1989 to 1999. He is the author of The Inextinguishable Symphony and lives in Maryland.

Here Goldsmith dreamcasts an adaptation of Alex's Wake:
I cannot imagine an author alive today who has not dreamed, either by day or by night, of his/her words being made flesh and flickering on a screen, either large or small. More than a few of those kind readers who have contacted me after undertaking the journey that is Alex's Wake have declared it to be movie-worthy, to which I often respond with the time-honored, "From your lips to God's ears!" Just in case that Almighty Casting Director is paying attention, here are some hopeful suggestions:

I first encountered Kenneth Branagh in London in the late '80s, where he was appearing nightly in repertory in Shakespeare's As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet. I couldn't take my eyes off him when he was on stage and have loved his work ever since, convinced that he can bring any character to vivid life. Since part of the irrational impetus for my writing Alex's Wake was to save the lives of my relatives who were murdered ten years before I was born, the idea of Mr. Branagh bringing Grandfather Alex back to life is immensely appealing. For the role of Alex's son, my Uncle Helmut, a generous, inquisitive, good-humored young man, I would love to cast the sweet yet whip-smart Eddie Redmayne, who so recently and memorably gave life to Stephen Hawking. Young Mr. Redmayne also shares a birthday with my mother, which I consider a most auspicious sign.

Three smaller yet crucial roles in the story are those of Gustav Schroeder, the dedicated and righteous captain of the SS St. Louis, the infamous refugee ship that Alex and Helmut boarded with such hope in Hamburg in May of 1939; Federico Bru, President of Cuba, who turned the St. Louis away from Havana as part of a power play with his fellow Cuban officials and some American negotiators; and Morris Troper, the representative of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee who brokered a deal to allow the St. Louis passengers to avoid going back to Germany. Those roles I would eagerly deliver to three actors of range, intelligence, power, and depth: the Academy Award-winning Christoph Waltz, the Emmy Award-nominated Giancarlo Esposito, and the Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning Paul Giamatti.

Finally, and a bit uncomfortably, I need to cast a couple of actors to play two people I know quite well: my wife and me. Alex's Wake tells the tale of Alex and Helmut's odyssey between 1939 and 1942 through Germany and France to their eventual murder in Auschwitz. But it is also the story of our attempt to follow in their footsteps seven decades later, to breathe the air they breathed before they breathed their last, and to bear witness. My dear wife Amy is loving, supportive, clever, decisive, and very funny, qualities captured so effectively so often by the Oscar-winning actress Julianne Moore. How much fun would it be to spend time on the set with the creator of Maude Lebowski and of the only slightly less believable character known as Sarah Palin? To play Martin Goldsmith on screen I would nominate the amazing Bryan Cranston, whose Walter White in Breaking Bad is one of the sublime performances in dramatic history. It strikes me as more than right that for such an uncertain prospect as a movie based on Alex's Wake, one of the leading parts should go to an actor famous for creating a role inspired by the author of the Uncertainty Principle: Werner Heisenberg.
© 2015 Martin Goldsmith
Visit the Alex's Wake website.

The Page 99 Test: Alex's Wake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Joy Fielding's "Someone Is Watching"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, Shadow Creek, and other acclaimed novels.

Here Fielding dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest thriller, Someone Is Watching:
If Someone Is Watching were to be made into a movie, I'd love for Emma Stone to play Bailey. I actually didn't have anyone in particular in mind when I was writing the book, but having given the matter considerable thought over the last few days, I've come to think that Emma Stone would be perfect. She's probably a little young - Bailey is 29 and I think Emma Stone is at least a few years younger than that - but I still think she could make it work. She's a great actress with lots of spunk, two things that would be essential in bringing Bailey to life. Jennifer Lawrence would also be terrific, although she, too, is a few years younger than Bailey. But she's used to playing older than she actually is - think Silver Linings Playbook - so I don't think this would be a problem.
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

Writers Read: Joy Fielding.

The Page 69 Test: Someone Is Watching.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Joyce E. Salisbury's "Rome’s Christian Empress"

Joyce E. Salisbury is professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. She is the author of Perpetua’s Passion: Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman and The Beast Within: Animals in the Middle Ages.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Rome's Christian Empress: Galla Placidia Rules at the Twilight of the Empire:
Throughout the time I was writing this book, I pictured Angelina Jolie as playing the empress Placidia. First was the obvious –her looks. Galla Placidia was reputed to be stunningly beautiful with dark hair and dark eyes, and her one portrait (on the cover of my book) shows this. Beyond this, however, I’d need an actress who could express a range of emotions and embrace seemingly conflicting character traits. Placidia was deeply religious, yet she boldly exerted power even when her actions might seem unchristian at best. She approved of the execution of her stepmother; her disagreeable husband died under surprising circumstances; she was accused of inappropriate affection with her brother when she needed his support. Yet, Pope Leo knelt at her feet looking for her support. I love that she was complicated – it made her fun to write about, and I can only imagine someone like Jolie might be able to express these complexities.

There is a role for Brad Pitt –the handsome, competent barbarian who kidnaps Placidia then marries her. Though he does die early in the film leaving Jolie to embrace the role of the woman who lives a long, influential life dominating church, state, the arts and her own difficult children.
Learn more about Rome's Christian Empress at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Rome's Christian Empress.

Writers Read: Joyce E. Salisbury.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Adam Mitzner's "Losing Faith"

Adam Mitzner's books include A Case of Redemption and A Conflict of Interest.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Losing Faith:
I try to stay away from imagining the book on film as I’m writing because I think it can make the descriptions of the characters less rich, using short-hand rather than really delving into their characteristics. That being said, I'd absolutely love to see Losing Faith on the big screen (or the small one), and here’s who I would cast in its leading roles:

Aaron Littman. The protagonist of Losing Faith is fifty years old and the chairman of the most powerful law firm in New York City, and the book’s main story line concerns his efforts to stay atop that lofted perch. I think the obvious choice would be George Clooney, but I could also see Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, or even Pierce Brosnan playing the role – assuming they would do it with a New York accent.

Cynthia Littman. Aaron’s wife has to be a match for her husband, and believable as a doctor. Julianne Moore would be perfect.

Faith Nichols. The title character should mirror Cynthia Littman – an equal to Aaron in every way. I’d give Julianne Moore her pick of whether she’d rather play Faith or Cynthia, and if she then cast the other with one of the following: Julianna Margulies, January Jones, or Halle Berry.

Samuel Rosenthal. The description of Rosenthal on the first page is my favorite one in the book:
Samuel Rosenthal is almost comically the opposite. He’s more than a half foot shorter than Aaron, he doesn’t have a single hair on his head, and his right side droops slightly, the last vestige of the accident that nearly killed him decades ago. Yet Rosenthal is the personification of the expression that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. At seventy-one, he’s still a wartime consigliere of the first order. The type of lawyer who takes no prisoners and leaves no earth unscorched.
I’d cast a Hollywood legend in that role: Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Kingsley. Perhaps not legends in the same category, but Joe Pesci and Danny DeVito would be fun to see as Rosenthal too.

Rachel London. The beautiful and ambitious lawyer in love with Aaron, with secrets of her own. Claire Danes is a favorite. Also Olivia Wilde.

Nicolai Garkov. He is obviously the most difficult to cast – as a 7-foot-tall Russian is likely not found in Central Casting. Whoever plays the role has to tower over everyone else, and have the swagger of a Bond villain. I can see Vince Vaughn (assuming he dons a blonde wig), chewing the scenery quite nicely.
Learn more about the book and author at Adam Mitzner's website.

The Page 69 Test: Losing Faith.

Writers Read: Adam Mitzner.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bruce DeSilva's "A Scourge of Vipers"

Bruce DeSilva is a former journalist whose Edgar Award-winning hard-boiled crime novels chronicle the adventures of Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for the dying Providence Dispatch.

Here he shares some thoughts about adapting his new novel,  A Scourge of Vipers, for the big screen:
Mulligan is a 44-year-old journalist who has difficulty with authority and is prone to ill-timed wisecracks. He has a strong but shifting sense of justice, willing to break rules, and even the law, to bring bad guys to justice in Providence, R.I., a city with a long history of organized crime and political corruption. The music of blues musicians such as Buddy Guy and Koko Taylor form the soundtrack of his life. Howard Frank Mosher, author of Waiting for Teddy Williams and one of my favorite writers, sent me an email proclaiming that Mulligan is “the most human, unpredictable, and anti-authoritarian fictional character I’ve met since Ranger Gus McCrae of Lonesome Dove.” I’d like to think he’s right.

In A Scourge of Vipers, the governor proposes legalizing sports betting as a way to ease the state’s budget crisis, and organizations who have a lot to lose if it passes flood the state with millions of dollars to buy the votes of politicians. Soon, a powerful state senator turns up dead, a mobbed-up bagman gets shot down, and his suitcase full of cash goes missing. As Mulligan digs into the story, shadowy forces try to derail his investigation by destroying his reputation, his career, and even his life.

The novel has a colorful cast of characters, many of whom appeared in the three previous novels in the series.

I’d love to see this book turned into a movie, of course, but I think the Mulligan novels may be better suited to a quality television crime drama. Most crime movies are full of gunfights, car chases and explosions but there’s not much of that in my novels. They are more character driven, much like TV shows such as The Sopranos, Justified, and True Detective.

Here’s my dream cast:

--Denis Leary (Rescue Me) as Mulligan. He’s a bit old for the part but can play younger, and he embodies the smart mouth and bad attitude toward authority that is Mulligan.

--Jason Beghe (Chicago PD) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) as the homicide twins, two Providence cops who have it in for Mulligan. They both know how to give somebody a hard time.

--Kevin Bacon (The Following) as RI State Police Captain Stephen Parisi. He does the steely-eyed thing really well.

--Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) as Fiona McNerney, aka Attila the Nun, a former religious sister serving as Rhode Island’s take-no-prisoners governor.

--John Francis Daley (Bones) as Mulligan’s young newspaper sidekick, Edward Anthony Mason III, AKA Thanks-Dad. Like Thanks-Dad, he conveys a misleading naivety that makes him easy to underestimate.

--Frankie Valli (The Sopranos) as Domenic “Whoosh” Zerilli, Mulligan’s bookie and close friend. He provides the same sly menace I associate with Whoosh.

--Steve Schirripa (The Sopranos) as Joseph DeLucca, the often unemployed, smarter-than-he-looks friend of Mulligan’s. He’s got the right look and the right working-class manner of speaking.

--Jada Pinkett Smith (Gotham) as Yolanda Mosley-Jones, Mulligan’s on again, off again love interest. She embodies Yolanda’s elegance and intelligence.

--Bruce DeSilva as Ed Lomax, managing editor of The Providence Dispatch and Mulligan’s former boss. Lomax is a man of few words, so I should be able to remember my lines.
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce DeSilva's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Rogue Island.

Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva and Brady.

The Page 69 Test: Cliff Walk.

Coffee with a Canine: Bruce DeSilva & Rondo and Brady.

My Book, The Movie: Providence Rag.

The Page 69 Test: Providence Rag.

The Page 69 Test: A Scourge of Vipers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Claire Kells's "Girl Underwater"

Claire Kells was born outside Philadelphia and has lived in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco since graduating from Princeton University in 2005. An English major, she didn’t start writing fiction until her first year of medical school. Now a second-year resident, she spends her free time writing stories about love, loss, and adventure.

Here Kells dreamcasts an adaptation of Girl Underwater, her debut novel:
I’ve always been fascinated by casting directors, who play such a critical, yet unsung role in the filmmaking process. I feel like I finally got to experience their job for a few hours while searching for the perfect cast for Girl Underwater on IMDb—and it wasn’t easy! Fortunately I don’t have to audition any of these people in person (although that would be cool). Anyway, here goes:

Avery: Dakota Fanning. She’s young and talented and played a swimmer in Man on Fire when she was a kid—what more could you ask for? I think she would do an incredible job bringing Avery’s physical and emotional journey to life.

Colin: Ansel Elgort. He’s 6’4,” which is a plus. I loved his portrayal of Gus in The Fault in Our Stars, which he played with sensitivity and humor. He just needs to shave his head, then we’re good to go.

Lee: Does Jason Momoa have a younger brother? If so, he’s hired.

Avery’s Dad: J.K. Simmons. I love this actor. Anybody who can play a tough, no-nonsense, completely irreverent teacher in Whiplash with the brilliance he did could nail the part of Avery’s dad.

Edward: Chris Hemsworth. There will always be a role for Chris Hemsworth in every novel/screenplay/poem I write if he wants it.

Tim, Liam, and Aayu: I’m hoping a talented casting director would have better luck finding the right child actors than I did. That said, it can certainly be done (see Dakota Fanning, above).

Swimmer #19: Me. I’d even be willing to wear a swimcap and goggles for my cameo.

There it is! My dream cast.
Visit Claire Kells's website.

The Page 69 Test: Girl Underwater.

Writers Read: Claire Kells.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 13, 2015

Kirker Butler's "Pretty Ugly"

Kirker Butler has worked as a lifeguard, a country music DJ, a Tommy Hilfiger Jeans specialist, a medical supply deliveryman, a Christian music DJ, a bartender, a precious jewelry clerk, a prop PA, a telemarketer for a comedy club, a wedding DJ, a brewery waiter, a videotape editor, an entertainment news producer, an actor, a bouncer at a nightclub (one night), a host at a different nightclub, a singing telegram guy, a receptionist at Neiman Marcus, and the set decorator for N’SYNC’s first “I Want You Back” video.

Today, Butler is a two-time Emmy nominated writer and producer who has written for Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, The Neighbors, and Galavant. His graphic novel, Blue Agave and Worm was published in 2010. Additionally, Butler has written for The Academy Awards, E! News Daily, and the WB series What I Like About You.

Here Butler dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Pretty Ugly:
Knowing the current state of Hollywood, I’m assuming that if they make my book into a movie, at least half of the cast will be Australian. That being said, the book is set in Kentucky, so I am going to play this game by casting only actors from Kentucky.

My first choice for Miranda, the former pageant queen and current stage mother to a champion child pageant contestant, would have to be Jennifer Lawrence (Louisville). There is no bigger star from Kentucky than Jennifer Lawrence. She’d be perfect… except that she’s a bit too young. I would then say that maybe she could play Courtney, the teenaged “other woman,” but she’s a few years too old. So, I guess I would have to say Jennifer Lawrence. I mean, of course it has to be Jennifer Lawrence. What am I, an idiot?

Ray, Miranda’s husband, could be played by either George Clooney (Lexington) or Johnny Depp (Owensboro) because it’s a Kentucky state law that you have to bring up these two names any time you’re talking about famous people from Kentucky. Ray is an overworked nurse who’s having an affair with the orphan granddaughter of one of his hospice patients, Courtney (Jennifer Lawrence). I think someone like Rob Riggle (Louisville) could pull this off pretty well. He seems like a regular guy from Kentucky, which he is, so it’s perfect.

Miranda’s mother, Joan should be played by my friend Becky Ann Baker (Fort Knox). You might know her as Lena Dunham’s mother on Girls, but she’s also an established stage actress who is incredibly funny, and would kill this part in a million different ways. She also helped me get my first job, so I owe her one.

I like Ashley Judd (Ashland) as Theresa, Miranda’s primary nemesis. Ashley seems like she could hold her own in a fight while also staying glamorous. She’s also a rabid UK basketball fan, and could probably get me some really good seats.

Harry Dean Stanton (West Irvine) could play Courtney’s grandfather, the terminally ill Marvin Daye. We wouldn’t even have to use a lot of makeup.

Loretta Lynn (Butcher Hollow) and My Morning Jacket (Louisville) could collaborate on the soundtrack. Even if this never happens for this movie, can we try to get these guys to make music together? That would be awesome.

John Carpenter (Bowling Green) has directed some of my favorite movies, but let’s not forget that George Clooney is also an accomplished director. So, Clooney should direct, or if he’s not available maybe Jennifer Lawrence could do it.
Visit Kirker Butler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Pretty Ugly.

Writers Read: Kirker Butler.

--Marshal Zeringue