Monday, October 24, 2016

Tabish Khair's "Just Another Jihadi Jane"

Born and educated in a small town of India, Tabish Khair now lives in a village of Denmark. Winner of the All India Poetry Prize and shortlisted for a number of international fiction prizes, including the prestigious Man Asian Booker and Encore Prize in UK, Khair’s latest novel is Just Another Jihadi Jane.

Here Khair dreamcasts an adaptation of Just Another Jihadi Jane:
My novel tells the story of two British-Asian girls who run off to Syria-Iraq to join the so-called ‘jihad,’ and what happens to them. One of them, Jamilla, has been born and brought up in a narrowly religious Muslim family from Pakistan, and almost grows into fundamentalism. The other, Ameena, comes from a broken Indian Muslim household, and is attracted to Islamist extremism for another set of (personal and political) reasons. Both are in their early 20s. Jamilla is studious, submissive and has been wearing a hijab from the time she turned thirteen; she is also strikingly beautiful: I think Nazneen Contractor, from Star Trek Into Darkness, has the sort of sensuality that will come across even in a hijab, and hence she will be good for the role, despite being a few years older than Jamilla in the book. Ameena is a different kind of girl, spunky, more conflicted that Jamilla: the Canadian actress, Lisa Ray from I Can’t Think Straight, or Freida Pinto, from Slumdog Millionaire, though both are probably a bit older than Ameena in my novel. But then all three look much younger than they are, or they would hardly be actresses in Hollywood, would they?

In my novel, Ameena and Jamilla are recruited online by a woman in her 40s, an attractive and suave Arab woman, whose husband is an ISIS commander. Her Twitter handle is Hejjiye. She needs to be someone who can exude authority as well as beauty: The Syrian actress, Sulafa Refat Memar, comes to mind. At 40, she is younger than Hejjiye in my novel, but only a bit. She has the presence.

There are many other interesting female characters in Just Another Jihadi Jane, but only two male ones: Alex, a high-school heart-throb of Ameena’s who ditches her, and the angry jihadi, Hassan, whom Ameena marries after running away from home. Alex is blonde, handsome, athletic and vain: Robert Pattinson from Twilight maybe, with his hair dyed a lighter shade? Hassan is an older Arab man, in his thirties, heavy-set, brutal and charming in turns: Wouldn’t it be fun to cast Henry Cavill from Man of Steel in that role? He has the build, and with a bit of makeup, he can look Arab.

The biggest problem will be casting the landscape: my novel is set in England, Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and it unlikely that the last two devastated places will be harbouring film crews in the near future. But that, of course, is the minutest of so many problems and tragedies besetting that part of the world.
Visit Tabish Khair's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Thing About Thugs.

Writers Read: Tabish Khair.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Keally McBride's "Mr. Mothercountry"

Keally McBride is Professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco. Her books include Collective Dreams: Political Imagination and Community, Punishment and Political Order, and with Margaret Kohn, Political Theories of Decolonization: Postcolonialism and the Problem of Foundations.

Here McBride dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Mr. Mothercountry: The Man Who Made the Rule of Law:
I envision Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role of Mr. Mothercountry, playing James Stephen, who was given that name because he ran the British Empire from 1813-1847. Running the British Empire sounds like a big job, but back then it was considered dull, pesky detail work. No one had ever heard of those places now that the North American colonies had declared independence! Stephen worked in a building that was literally falling down and regularly had raw sewage seep into its floors from London. Day-Lewis would be sitting in a basement usually alone, surrounded by maps, pouring over documents that determined the fates of thousands of people. The surprising thing is that Stephen really cared about all of these people, and worked himself into nervous exhaustion trying to use his position to be a force for good in what he saw as the evils of the British Empire. He was educated, devout, and hypersensitive. His wife said he was “a man with no skin”. He hated looking in mirrors, loved playing with the babies of his family, and led a life of complete rectitude and self-renunciation. His children said: “He was a walking categorical imperative.” His granddaughter, Virginia Woolf, recounted that he smoked a cigar once, and liked it so much that he never allowed himself to do it again.

Day-Lewis would be perfectly cast to display the existential torments Stephen felt every day in his office--helpless to stop the abuses of British colonialism. Why did he go to work every day? His greatest triumph was writing the bill to abolish slavery in the Empire. There were many other decisions he would rail against, but was unable to change. The film would move back and forth, as the book does, between scenes of turmoil and confusion in the colonies, to the office in London staffed by Stephen. Day-Lewis/Stephen would slowly unravel over the course of the film, defeated by the enormities of trying to tame the British Empire with the rule of law.

Over the course of his career, more and more people begin to take notice of the commercial opportunities available in the colonies, and they slowly start to encroach upon Mr. Mothercountry’s regime. He keeps fighting for a noble version of the law, but ultimately he realizes that he has completely lost his battle and has a nervous breakdown and is forced to leave his life’s work and his position.

His son, ascends to power and influence in the colonial legal regime, and undoes much of his father’s lifework. This character, James Fitzjames Stephen, would be played by Benedict Cumberbatch. He rejects his father’s deistic vision of bringing grace and justice to the earth through law. He embraces law as a science of control, dispassionate, and precise. He categorized people, actions, and terms to make colonial law an often inhumane system. Naturally, it is his legacy that remains intact around the globe…..
Learn more about Mr. Mothercountry at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Mr. Mothercountry.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 20, 2016

J. M. Tyree's "Vanishing Streets"

J. M. Tyree is Distinguished Visiting Professor at VCUarts and Nonfiction Editor of New England Review. He is the author of BFI Film Classics: "Salesman" and the coauthor of Our Secret Life in the Movies (with Michael McGriff) and BFI Film Classics: "The Big Lebowski" (with Ben Walters).

His new book is Vanishing Streets: Journeys in London.

Here Tyree discusses how the autobiographical impulse in his writing connects with his love of film:
As a writer, I blend personal and creative writing with my academic interest in cinema. In Vanishing Streets, I originally planned to write a series of essays about the Free Cinema movement of British documentary that flourished in London in the 1950s. But the book quickly spiraled out of control into a highly personal project that includes my autobiography and my photography as well as my notes on traveling to film-related and literary locations in London. As far as I wandered, I found my own experience was inescapable, and that I would need to write about my life, my marriage, and my friendships as well as my journeys if I wanted to be honest about my own research and writing process.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I don’t think my book would make a very good movie. It’s never occurred to me to try to cast the film of my book in my imagination, and it’s difficult to see any three-act narrative structure that would compel audiences to watch the story of my time in London. That said, my writing “method” involved my best effort to emulate two of the films I love most, Robert Vas’s Refuge England (1959) and Agnes Varda’s Daguerreotypes (1976). These movies set out to reenchant the everyday landscape by transforming banalities into charms. They are urban films that conjure delights out of ordinary moments. They are films bound by location – London and Paris – and doubly bound by viewing their respective cities through a single keyhole.

In Vas’ film, a newly arrived Hungarian refugee spends his first day in London looking for an address – 25 Love Lane – where he has been told he will find shelter. But he has not been provided with the postcode, and this omission forces him to travel across the city, searching out many different Love Lanes in many different neighborhoods. In Varda’s film, the great auteur limits herself to exploring her own street, Rue Daguerre, and takes her camera as far as the “umbilical cord” of her electric power cable will allow her camera to roam. The little stars of her drama, she explains in the film, are “bread, milk, hardware, meat, and white linen…short hair, and always the accordion!” Both Vas and Varda use synecdoche to reveal their respective cities to their viewers, while defamiliarizing the experience to refresh our gaze.

In The Gleaners & I (2000) and The Beaches of Agnes (2008), Varda turns the camera back on herself. Yet the results do not appear narcissistic, they are merely honest about the plain fact that when we set out to discover the world we find that we also encounter our unavoidable self. Maybe any documentary contains a more or less hidden self-portrait, although ideally it is one that is able to encompass others in the process. It’s a risk to put your chips down on yourself but then again nobody else is going to do that for you, and if you’ve got a smartphone you can make your own movie. Besides, now might be a good moment to question celebrity culture by reversing the focus of attention away from stars and towards people and places that are supposedly not worth noticing. There are, of course, no such things.
Learn more about Vanishing Streets at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stephanie Gangi's "The Next"

Stephanie Gangi is a writer living and working in New York City. The Next, now out from St. Martin’s Press, is her debut. She is a published poet compiling a chapbook, and is at work on her second novel.

Here Gangi dreamcasts an adaptation of The Next:
Cinematic, cinematic, cinematic, that’s what readers say. That’s what the literary agents say. That’s what the CAA guy says.

I’m still waiting for the call, Hollywood. Female directors, hellooo?! I’ve given you a complex woman and her younger lover. There are hipster sisters. For goodness sakes, there’s an irresistible dog! The plot serves up revenge, magical realism, the mysteries of love and loss and a haunted dive bar in Manhattan. Bonus: a soundtrack featuring Fleetwood Mac, the Roots, Gotye, Citizen Cope, U2, Elvis Costello and Fiona Apple, Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, Patti Smith. And Adele. Adele!

Here are my picks for above-the-line players:

  • Jane Campion for Top of the Lake and everything
  • Lisa Cholodenko for Top of the Lake
  • Sofia Coppola for everything
  • Mary Harron for American Psycho
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu for 21 Grams, Birdman, Babel, and fine, all the Oscars
  • Patty Jenkins for The Killing
  • Jennifer Kent for The Babadook
  • Mimi Leder for The Leftovers
  • Ida Lupino because she was the only woman to direct a Twilight Zone episode, also The Hitch-Hiker and The Trouble with Angels. I know she’s dead, but so’s the protagonist. Think of the insights!
  • Sam Taylor-Johnson because I secretly loved Fifty Shades of Grey (and I believe she has a younger husband.)


Joanna DeAngelis, late forties to early fifties, boho, blonde, dead for most of the book but a big presence. Half of the novel is narrated by Jo. It’s a tour de force part for:
  • Tilda Swinton, because she looks otherworldly and is brilliant
  • Diane Lane because of the scene on MetroNorth in Unfaithful
  • Maura Tierney because of the scene in The Affair when she dances in Spanx to Lucinda Williams
  • Kate/Cate, duh
  • Julianne Moore, also possesses an otherworldly quality, is complex, and a New Yorker

Ned McGowan, rock star professor at Columbia, early thirties with mismatched eyes and a shock of white through his black hair
  • Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey)
  • Rupert Friend (Homeland and everything else)
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Walk, Don Jon, Inception)
  • Theo James (Divergent)
  • James McAvoy (X-Men, Wanted, Atonement)
  • Eddie Redmayne (everything)

The sisters, Anna and Laney, 26 and 22
  • The Mara sisters, Rooney and Kate
  • Kristin Stewart for Anna
  • Zoe Kazan for Laney

Tom, the big poodle
Visit Stephanie Gangi's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Stephanie Gangi & Enzo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Eric Jager's "Blood Royal"

Eric Jager teaches medieval literature at UCLA and wrote The Last Duel, short-listed for the Crime Writers' Association "Gold Dagger" in Nonfiction and being developed as a feature film, with Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games) attached to direct.

Here Jager dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest true-crime story, Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris (2014):
As the story opens in the year 1407, King Charles VI is insane, and his brother Louis of Orleans rules in his place, sparking rivalry in the royal family, outrage among nobles whose wives Louis has bedded, and hatred from the heavily taxed populace.

One chilly November night, shortly after leaving the queen’s palace, with whom Louis may be having an affair, he is attacked and cut to pieces in the street by a gang of masked men who leave his bloody corpse on the pavement and disappear into the night.

Guillaume de Tignonville, the provost of Paris and the city’s chief law-enforcement officer, is soon at the crime scene. He and his men examine the victim’s body, collect physical evidence, and summon neighbors to give sworn statements about anything they saw or heard. As the Paris gates are closed to stop the assassins from escaping, a city-wide manhunt begins.

The possible suspects are many: nobles enraged by Louis’s adulteries, foreign agents in the city, jealous royals, even the insane king — who once threatened Louis — and the seductive, scheming queen.

In his sleuthing, Guillaume is methodical, rational, even scientific — like a modern detective. We know this from a surviving parchment scroll, a kind of fifteenth-century police procedural. It contains his autopsy report, his detailed notes on the case, and sworn statements he and his men collected from several dozen ordinary Parisians.

Within days, Guillaume targets a prime suspect and sets a trap for him. Cornered, the suspect confesses — but then manages to escape! A new chase is on, and the quest for justice suddenly seems far more daunting.

My top choice for the detective is Tom Hardy. Here, as in the atmospheric thriller Child 44, he would personify the smart, courageous and determined sleuth who must almost single-handedly track down elusive evidence and battle corrupt officials in a dysfunctional government to solve a notorious crime.

Emily Blunt or Rosamund Pike would be great as the scheming and seductive queen Isabeau, the femme fatale who may have lured Louis to his doom.

Gary Oldman (also in Child 44) could play to perfection the now-mad-now-lucid-again King Charles whose powers are up for grabs again with Louis’s death.

Tim Roth as the murder victim, the libertine Louis of Orleans who lives large at everyone else’s expense, would steal the show until his early exit.

And John Malkovich is perfect for the arch-villain and architect of Louis’s demise — whose historical identity I won’t reveal here (read the book!).
Learn more about Blood Royal.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 14, 2016

Jan Fedarcyk's "Fidelity"

Upon her retirement in 2012 Jan Fedarcyk was the only woman to lead the FBI’s prestigious New York Office as Assistant Director in Charge. Fidelity, her first novel, draws upon her twenty-five years of experience as an FBI Special Agent.

Here Fedarcyk dreamcasts an adaptation of Fidelity:
Some authors will dream of seeing their work make it to the silver screen. I’m no different. As the Fidelity characters – amalgams of people I’ve known through the years - came alive on the page and in my mind’s eye, I asked myself what actress or actor I thought could portray them onscreen.

I’ve toyed with the idea that the character of Susan Jeffries would be a perfect role for Jodie Foster – reprising her Silence of the Lambs character as an older, wiser individual who mentors protagonist Kay Malloy.

As for Kay Malloy, Anne Hathaway could bring the initial naivete of a young Agent and the savvy, sophisticated, more mature one that she becomes later in the book.

Andrew? We need someone who can portray a sexy, handsome, intellectual match for Kay Malloy, and Hollywood is filled with those, right? Someone like Diego Boneta or Ryan Gosling.

Torres sets up as a colleague and mentor for Kay Malloy, and John Cusack or Vince Vaughn could pull off the gruff, witty, and ultimately caring character of Mark Torres.
Visit Jan Fedarcyk's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Gísli Pálsson's "The Man Who Stole Himself"

Gísli Pálsson is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iceland.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan:
I envisage a full-blown film dramatizing a particular part of the complex journey of Hans Jonathan from bondage to freedom, from St. Croix to Denmark and Iceland: His escape to a small fishing and trading station in Djupivogur in East Iceland, I imagine, would be the focus of the drama, with occasional flashbacks to his childhood in Denmark and St. Croix. The film would be shot in the scenic landscape around the village, the harbor where Hans Jonathan arrived, the trading station where he worked and where he met his future wife (Katrin Antoniusdottir), the valley in the mountains where they got engaged, and the peasant house where they raised a family. The drama would reenact the cultural differences between the worlds of husband and wife, their anxieties regarding Hans Jonathan’s enslavement, the tensions in his work as he tried to negotiate between the demands of the owners of the trading store where he worked and the needs of the poor local peasants he served, the relaxed attitude to “color” in the village, and the intimate bond that developed between the couple.

I would like to see Hans Jonathan played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, known for his role as Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave. London-based Icelandic actress Heida Reed (Heida Run Sigurdardottir) who has played in a series of TV productions (including the BBC drama Poldark) might take the role of Hans Jonathan’s wife, Katrin Antoníusdóttir. Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur, who has directed several acclaimed films, would be good as script writer and director, given his knowledge of the Icelandic and Danish contexts.
Learn more about The Man Who Stole Himself at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 10, 2016

Meera Lester's "The Murder of a Queen Bee"

Meera Lester is the author of nearly two dozen nonfiction books and the proprietress of the real Henny Penny Farmette, located in the San Francisco Bay area. Raising chickens and honeybees, she draws on her life at her farmette as the basis of her Henny Penny Farmette mysteries.

Here Lester dreamcasts an adaptation of her second Henny Penny Farmette mystery, The Murder of a Queen Bee:
At the start of one of my mysteries, I create an “incident board.” This board contains the names of my story’s characters, their relationship to the victim, and columns for motivation, opportunity, and means to commit murder. On the board, I tape magazine photos of my sleuth, the victim, and the suspects. The English actress Honeysuckle Weeks her Foyle’s War role as Samantha (Sam) Stewart embodies many of my 37-year-old sleuth Abigail Mackenzie’s Abby’s features, qualities, and vulnerabilities. Like Weeks, Abby looks younger than she is. She has shoulder-length reddish-gold curls, a dusting of freckles over her nose, and the capable hands of a farm woman—efficient at kneading bread, cutting capped cells of wax on a frame of honey, or taking down a perp with Judo moves she learned as a cop back in the day. Like Weeks, Abby projects a blend of being forthright and inquisitive while also demonstrating a quiet vulnerability (especially in the romantic arena). On personal issues, she remains intensely private.

The actress Katherine Heigl could easily portray Officer Katerina Petrovsky, Abby’s former cop partner and best friend in Las Flores, California. A career-ending injury to Abby’s right thumb (her shooting hand) also ended her ability to play the violin (a private joy). In The Murder of a Queen Bee (like A Beeline to Murder, the first book in the series), Abby works at carving out a new life as the owner of a rundown farmette. She ekes out a living growing and selling her heirloom vegetables and fruits, keeping chickens and bees, and harvesting lavender honey. And occasionally, she’ll take some part-time investigative work with the local DA’s office. It’s Kat who isn’t afraid to speak up about Abby’s “money pit” or the ticking of Abby’s biological clock. Because she knows Abby wants to “nest.” Heigl has done sassy and empathetic aspects of characters in her various roles and she looks a lot like Kat. Bryan Cranston would fill the boots of the enigmatic Chief of Police Bob Allen. Few people can understand the chief. Abby compares him to an onion--multi-layered with a small, insecure boy at the center.

Murder is the necessary critical situation that launches each of my mysteries. I write them cinematically—that is visually descriptive and patterned as an emotional roller-coaster. Abby working through the ensuing investigation dictates how the story unfolds. Add in an entertaining coterie of friends, a generous helping of charm, a dash of small town flavor, the twist of a second or third murder, and a satisfying ending and you get escape fiction that’s a fun read.
Visit Meera Lester's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 7, 2016

Alexandra Chasin's "Assassin of Youth"

Alexandra Chasin is associate professor of literary studies at Eugene Lang College, the New School. She is the author of several books of fiction and nonfiction.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Assassin of Youth: A Kaleidoscopic History of Harry J. Anslinger's War on Drugs:
To play Anslinger, there has never been any question in my mind: Woody Harrelson actually looks like Harry J. Anslinger, and with his pro-pot politics, he would be perfect.

Harry J. Anslinger was commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from its founding in 1930 until his retirement in 1962. He was like the J. Edgar Hoover of drugs, but without the personality. Anslinger was a consummate bureaucrat, surviving both Republican and Democratic administrations. He passed federal legislation criminalizing marijuana, and supported harsh penalties (including compound penalties for repeat offenders), and mandatory minimum sentencing. And he had a particular genius for propaganda, forging indelible connections between certain drugs and certain racial and immigrant groups. In other words, he started the war on drugs, long before Nixon’s declaration in the 1960s and the Rockefeller Drug Laws of 1973.

But before all that, Harry grew up in Altoona, the sixth of nine children born to a couple who had immigrated from Switzerland just a few years earlier. Altoona was a company town, the headquarters of the mechanical shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and Anslinger worked his way up through the PRR, learning the ways of the ascendant corporation (the PRR was the largest private corporation in the world at the time) before taking those lessons with him into government service.

So, he was a rigid, doctrinaire Midwesterner who could make the trains run on time. Though friends describe him as having a sense of humor, there is not much funny about his contributions to the mass incarceration system, which so disproportionally damages African-American and Latino men, their families, and communities, that it looks like that’s what the war on drugs is for.
Visit Alexandra Chasin's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

William C. Dietz's "Into the Guns"

New York Times bestselling author William C. Dietz has published more than fifty novels some of which have been translated into German, French, Russian, Korean and Japanese. Dietz also wrote the script for the Legion of the Damned game (i-Phone, i-Touch, & i-Pad) based on his book of the same name--and co-wrote SONY's Resistance: Burning Skies game for the PS Vita.

He grew up in the Seattle area, spent time with the Navy and Marine Corps as a medic, graduated from the University of Washington, lived in Africa for half a year, and has traveled to six continents. He has been employed as a surgical technician, college instructor, news writer, television producer and Director of Public Relations and Marketing for an international telephone company.

Dietz is a member of the Writer’s Guild and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. He and his wife live near Gig Harbor in Washington State where they enjoy traveling, kayaking, and reading books.

Here Dietz dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Into the Guns:
On May Day, 2018, sixty meteors entered Earth’s atmosphere and exploded around the globe with a force greater than a nuclear blast. Earthquakes and tsunamis followed. Then China attacked Europe, Asia, and the United States in the belief the disaster was an act of war.

Washington D.C. was a casualty of the meteor onslaught that decimated the nation’s leadership and left the surviving elements of the armed forces to try and restore order as American society fell apart. As refugees across America band together and engage in open warfare with the military over scarce resources, a select group of individuals representing the surviving corporate structure makes a power play to rebuild the country in a free market image as The New Confederacy.

Into The Guns has two main characters, a young army officer named Robin Macintyre (Mac), and Secretary of Energy Samuel T. Sloan, who is elevated to the presidency after Washington D.C. takes a direct hit from one of the meteors.

My choice for an actress to play Mac is Kristen Stewart, who has a long list of screen credits, and a demonstrated ability to play action roles. In my opinion there is a great hard/soft aspect to Stewart’s persona which would be perfect for the role of Robin Macintyre.

And for the role of Samuel T. Sloan I would choose actor Chris Pine, who has a proven ability to handle action roles (three Star Trek movies plus Shadow Recruit) and is the right age for the part. There, I’m ready to go! Hold on… The phone’s ringing. Could that be Hollywood>
Visit William C. Dietz's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Into the Guns.

--Marshal Zeringue