Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Molly MacRae's "Crewel and Unusual"

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent  bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Crewel and Unusual (Haunted Yarn Shop Series #6):
A few years ago, I cast the recurring characters in the Haunted Yarn Shop mysteries (see My Book, The Movie – Knot the Usual Suspects, October 21, 2015). Those choices still stand, so here’s my dream cast for the characters new to the series who appear in Crewel and Unusual. (Side note: I chose this cast two weeks before the Golden Globes and I can’t believe how prescient I was considering Patricia Arquette’s win and the stir created by Jamie Lee Curtis’ stunning appearance).

For Belinda Moyer – Patricia Arquette. Belinda is bright, but not terribly well-educated. She knows a good deal when she sees one, but isn’t the savviest businesswoman. She’s suspicious and secretive. Arquette will be able to balance these contradictions sympathetically. Of course, now that Arquette has won the Golden Globe, she might be too busy.

For Martha the enamelist – Jamie Lee Curtis. Martha is confident, matter-of-fact, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. She wears her gray hair in a long braid, so Curtis will have to wear a wig, but I bet she’ll do it and look like a goddess.

For Sierra Estep – Emma Roberts. Sierra is a young woman tackling her first professional job after graduate school and faced with some unusual and trying situations. Roberts will bring the right notes of high-strung energy and comedy to the role.

For Simon Grace – Drew Carey. Simon is a man who loves to play roles. He’s a college administrator, part time bookseller, and a not terribly successful amateur actor. Carey will understand the complications of Simon’s life.

For Russell Moyer – Kevin Bacon. Russell is a quiet, retired civil servant who doesn’t quite understand what’s going on. Bacon will give him with the right laconic touch.

For Nervie Bales – Parker Posey. Minerva “Nervie” Bales scurries and worries. Posey will give her the right nervous energy.

For Al Rogalla and Inspector Bruce of Scotland Yard – the real deals. Inspector Bruce can only be played by the real Bruce, a Scottie who lives with my friends Val and Mike Rogalla. Mike “Al” Rogalla can play himself, too.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

The Page 69 Test: Crewel and Unusual.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Jess Montgomery's "The Widows"

Jess Montgomery is the author of the Kinship Historical Mysteries. Under her given name, she wears several other literary hats: she is a newspaper columnist, focusing on the literary life, authors and events of her native Dayton, Ohio for the Dayton Daily News; Executive Director of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop at University of Dayton; and is an adjunct mentor in the Seton Hill University Low-Residency Writing Popular Fiction M.F.A. program.

Here Montogomery shares some ideas for a big-screen adaptation of her new novel, The Widows:
As I wrote The Widows, I listened—repeatedly—to the soundtrack from the movie, Batman Begins. There are no bats in The Widows. The novel is set in 1920s Appalachia, as two women investigate murder and fight for their community.

But I’ve come to love writing to acoustic music. It helps me focus. And the sweeping, rhythmic score of Batman Begins was empowering to me, giving me courage to write some of the tougher scenes that at first I wanted to shirk from. (But that, of course, would not be fair to readers—or to me as a writer.)

Music also plays a role in the novel, particularly ballads and gospel. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the first thing I think about with “My Book, The Movie” for The Widows is who I’d like to write a theme song. And that is… Roseanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, and singer-songwriter in her own right. I think she’d love and understand the two narrators of The Widows--Lily Ross (inspired by Ohio’s true first female sheriff in 1925) who becomes sheriff after her husband Daniel is killed in the line of duty, and Marvena Whitcomb, widow of a coal miner, a union organizer, and moonshiner. I believe Ms. Cash would find plenty to inspire her in their gritty, challenging yet ultimately hopeful story.

Though Daniel dies early in the novel, he lives in the memories of Lily and Marvena, and in people in the community. He is an important presence, and would need to be portrayed in flashback scenes. I’d love to see the actor Jared Padalecki play Daniel, especially if The Widows became the basis of a limited television series. Of course, Mr. Padalecki plays Sam Winchester on the long-running television show Supernatural, so I’m not sure when he’d find time to fit this project into his schedule! Still, Supernatural is my not-so-guilty television-watching pleasure, and I’ve come to admire Mr. Padalecki’s range in portraying emotions in a subtle way. He also looks similarly to how I see Daniel—tall, a bit larger-than-life, dark-haired.

I’d love to have a woman direct The Widows movie/series. This is, after all, a novel that stars two tough yet tender women. So, why not have Reese Witherspoon direct? Or Geena Davis? I’d certainly be thrilled.

Of course, this leaves the main characters—Lily and Marvena. But the truth is, I’m stumped as to who should play these roles. They’d have to be played by actresses who could carry strong roles, yet not overshadow one another. I’m sure either Ms. Witherspoon or Ms. Davis will find the right actresses!
Visit Jess Montgomery's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mark Alpert's "The Coming Storm"

Mark Alpert is an internationally bestselling author of science thrillers. His first novel, Final Theory (2008), was published in 24 languages and optioned for film. He says his latest thriller, The Coming Storm, is a cautionary tale that President Trump will probably savage on Twitter.

Here Alpert dreamcasts an adaptation of the new novel:
My latest science thriller, The Coming Storm, is set in a dystopian near-future in which global warming has swamped New York City and a brutal White House has forced immigrants and the poor into the flooded detention zones. The novel’s heroine, Jenna Khan, is a brilliant geneticist who quits her laboratory after the government uses her genetic-engineering research for its ruthless campaign of repression.

Jenna is a Muslim woman in her thirties, a daughter of Pakistani immigrants. A good actress to portray her would Sofia Boutella, who appeared in Atomic Blonde and Star Trek Beyond. Boutella has done plenty of physically demanding roles, and that talent would definitely come in handy for playing Jenna, who has to race across Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens to stay ahead of the militarized federal police.

Jenna’s companion at the start of the novel is Derek Powell, a former soldier victimized by the government’s experiments. He’s an ambiguous character, part hero and part villain, so my choice for this role would be Michael B. Jordan, the hero of Creed and the villain of Black Panther.

A more purely villainous character in the book is Lieutenant Rick Frazier, who is a queasy combination of badass and psychopath. I see someone like Chris Hemsworth in the role, assuming the Thor actor is willing to venture into darker places.

Last but not least is the character of the U.S. president, who roughly resembles the current occupant of the office but is even farther gone. (Which is hard to imagine, right?) It would be wonderful if the director of The Coming Storm movie could find a real politician to play the role. Maybe it could be arranged as part of a community-service sentence, a plea deal negotiated between the Special Counsel and the indicted co-conspirators? We shall wait and see.
Learn more about the book and author at Mark Alpert's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Omega Theory.

My Book, The Movie: Extinction.

My Book, The Movie: The Furies.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, January 7, 2019

Eyal Kless's "The Lost Puzzler"

Eyal Kless is a classical violinist who enjoys an international career both as a performer and a teacher. Born in Israel, he has travelled the world extensively, living several years in Dublin, London, Manchester, and Vienna, before returning to Tel Aviv. Kless's first novel, Rocca's Violin, was published in Hebrew in 2008 by Korim Publishers. He currently teaches violin in the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, and performs with the Israel Haydn String Quartet, which he founded.

Here Kless dreamcasts an adaptation of the first of his sci fi/fantasy novel series, The Lost Puzzler:
One constant remark I receive from readers of The Lost Puzzler, is that it is “definitely a movie, or a TV series…no definitely a movie.”

I am pretty happy about this because frankly, I saw this book playing in front of my eyes so many times, I had to keep reminding myself that it hadn’t happened (yet!)

There are four main characters in The Lost Puzzler (and several more minor characters with very memorable roles,) but I will concentrate on the ones that I feel closest to.

Vincha is by far the strongest female character and the main driving force behind the storyline. We meet her when she is in her 40s. A tough ex-mercenary called a Salvationist, who used to raid a mysterious alien city in search for technology and loot. She is not a dainty woman, I do imagine her being able to floor a man with a well-aimed punch, and she can take a lot of damage too. Vincha is also an ex-addict, and she lies, cheats, steals and fights with no hesitation. A few tough female actresses come to mind. My first thought would be the young Sigourney Weaver, but I bet even Sigourney would think twice before facing ex-Xena princess warrior Lucy Lawless (now that’s a great name). Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie is another warrior I would rather not face under any circumstances. Hilary Swank, star of Million Dollar Baby could stand her ground against anyone.

If the role of Vincha had me torn between several actresses, only one name springs to mind when I think about Galinak. Like Vincha, is a retired Salvationist who works as a tour-guide/bodyguard in the city’s most notorious district, The Pit. Galinak’s age has not diminished his sense of adventure or juvenile attitude. While Vincha fights as a survivalist, Galinak sees it as an art form, and his carefree, no bullshit attitude leaves me with only one name in mind to play him: the great Woody Harrelson.

As a stark contrast to both mercenaries stands the novel’s narrator, known only as Twinkle Eyes. He is no muscly, chiseled super-hero, on the contrary. He is just a lowly secondary scribe in the Guild of Historians thrust on a mission beyond his expertise. But Twinkle Eyes is a fast learner and a quick thinker and his learning curve may be steep, painful, or even downright wrong, but he rises to the occasion every time. So when I think of the ordinary hero of The Lost Puzzler, Twinkle Eyes, the actor I think would be right for the role would be either Forest Whitaker or Martin Freeman.
Visit Eyal Kless's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lost Puzzler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Karin Vélez's "The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto"

Karin Vélez is associate professor of history at Macalester College.

Here she dreamcasts a movie based on her new book, The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto: Spreading Catholicism in the Early Modern World:
While Hollywood movies feature a surprising number of houses these days, few of the houses of the silver screen have the chops to play the miraculous Holy House of Loreto. Two candidates immediately spring to mind because they have already demonstrated that they can fly: Dorothy’s house in the original 1939 Wizard of Oz and the house in the 2009 animated feature Up. Dorothy’s house has more star power, but unlike Loreto’s Holy House, it is best known for falling on and killing the Witch of the East—a darker claim to fame than the Holy House, which is known for being the original house of the Virgin Mary, mysteriously flown from the Holy Land to Italy in the thirteenth century without squashing anyone upon landing. The house in Up better embodies the situation and the varied historical movements of the Holy House of Loreto. It was also an old, cherished home in need of rescue. Likewise in Up, the house’s means of propulsion were varied and prosaic to the point of amusement: it was shifted by a bunch of balloons, a large bird, an old man and a boy. As discussed in my book, the Holy House of Loreto was transported, dispersed and replicated in hard copy by a similarly unexpected and unsolicited cast of Jesuits, Slavic migrants, and Huron, Moxos and Monquí Indians. It leapt the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas and the Atlantic Ocean at the hands of these self-appointed assistants.

Another necessary casting call for The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto would be for Mary, the Christian icon and renowned Holy Mother of Jesus. I would start by casting Hollywood leading ladies Maria Bello, Mary Steenburgen, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mary Alfred Thoma, Maria Valverde, and Mary Stuart Masterson in no particular order. In Chapter 6 of my book, I argue that Huron, French, Spanish and English women of the 1600s and 1700s who coincidentally shared the name Mary ended up inadvertently influencing artistic depictions of the Virgin Mary. A great way to illustrate this on the movie screen would be to cast a different actress called Mary to play Jesus’ mother every time she makes a new entrance. The most famous Mary of all could thus be literally rendered as a composite creation of many diverse, often unrelated women who share her name.
Learn more about The Miraculous Flying House of Loreto at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Leslie Archer's "The Girl at the Border"

Leslie Archer is the nom de plume of a New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five novels.

His new novel, The Girl at the Border, features renowned archaeologist Richard Mathis, who is half a world away on the island of Crete when he learns his daughter, Bella, has gone missing. Within twenty minutes, he’s on his way back to the States. Two days later, he’s dead. Richard’s young assistant, Angela Chase, is devastated by the loss of the man who had become both mentor and friend, and she’s determined to find the missing girl, who seems to have made dangerous connections—and whose lonely childhood so resembles Angela’s own.

Here Archer dreamcasts the leads in an adaptation of the novel:
Ha! This is a good one; always a great thought experiment.

Okay, let’s go for it: for Angela: Natalie Portman.

For Richard: Tom Hardy.

For Bella: Saoirse Ronan.

For Jimmy Self: Forest Whitaker.

My, what a handsome bunch you are! Perfect too.
Visit Leslie Archer's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl at the Border.

Writers Read: Leslie Archer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 31, 2018

Nancy Kress's "Terran Tomorrow"

Nancy Kress's many books include over two dozen novels, four collections of short stories, and three books on writing. Her work has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. Kress’s work has been translated into two dozen languages, including Klingon, none of which she can read.

Here Kress dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Terran Tomorrow: Book 3 of the Yesterday's Kin Trilogy:
What a treat! I get to cast my movie! Since this will never happen in real life, I can have anyone I want, so here goes:

For Marianne Jenner, sixty-ish geneticist, I want Helen Mirren. Helen is older than Marianne and British rather than American, but she can play anything. Hell, to have Helen Mirren, I’d make Marianne younger, British, whatever. For Helen Mirren, who I would watch recite the phone book if phone books still existed, I would rewrite the entire trilogy.

For Colonel Jason Jenner, late thirties, handsome and very earnest, I need someone who can portray strong-silent-type stress from the burden he’s carrying (basically, the survival of civilization). Ryan Gosling, maybe? DiCaprio is too old.

For Jason’s second-in-command, the reserved and frighteningly competent Major Elizabeth Duncan, I want Mary Jackson, who was so terrific in Hidden Figures.

For Dr. Lindy Ross, Jason’s estranged wife and his moral scold, Olivia Coleman.

Jason’s brother, the eco-minded rebel, I’m not sure. Colin Jenner is shorter, not handsome, but with charisma. The person who would be perfect is the young John C. Reilly, now nowhere near young enough—but you did say I could have anyone I wanted, regardless of temporal physics!

A major character in the book is an “alien” who is not really alien. She’s from a group of humans transplanted from Earth to another planet 140,000 years ago. That’s enough time for evolution to make some genetic changes, but not enough time for species to diverge. There is only one choice: Saoirse Ronan, who somehow looks alien even when playing the Irish girl in Brooklyn or the Scots Queen Mary. She has a spooky, beautiful-in-a-strange way face. And talent to burn.

For the young, nerdy and brilliant techie Carter, Lucas Hedges.

Now my movie costs gazillions of dollars because none of these actors come cheap. But…Helen Mirren! Helen Mirren! Maybe she could just do the novel as a one-person show on Broadway and play all the parts. I would be in the front row every single night.
Visit Nancy Kress's website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Page 69 Test: Tomorrow's Kin.

The Page 69 Test: If Tomorrow Comes.

The Page 69 Test: Terran Tomorrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Ann Howard Creel's "The River Widow"

Ann Howard Creel writes historical novels about strong female characters facing seemingly impossible obstacles and having to make life-changing decisions. In her new novel, The River Widow, a former tarot-card reader turned widow and stepmother must escape the clutches of an evil family while also facing the crime she herself has committed.

Here Creel shares some ideas for the above-the-talent who might bring The River Widow to the big screen:
If they make my book into a movie, I’d love to see Reese Witherspoon play Adah. Even though Adah’s hair is brown, I don’t care. Reese can show just the right mix of vulnerability and fighting instincts to make her a perfect Adah.

For Jack I’d choose Mark Wahlberg. Such a talented actor, he would be able to portray Jack’s hard side and his soft side, too. Besides, he’s not hard on the eye.

For a director, I’d choose one of the masters: Stephen Spielberg or Ron Howard.
Visit Ann Howard Creel's website.

The Page 69 Test: The River Widow.

Writers Read: Ann Howard Creel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Mary Stockwell's "Interrupted Odyssey"

Mary Stockwell is the former chair of the history department at Lourdes University in Ohio and the author of Unlikely General: "Mad" Anthony Wayne and the Battle for America, The Other Trail of Tears: The Removal of the Ohio Indians and other books.

Here Stockwell dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians:
His picture is everywhere this holiday season: in stores, especially near toy departments, in online ads that pop up while browsing the web, and most of all, in posters mounted in front of local movie theaters. He is Aquaman, the latest DC comic book hero to come to life in cinemas around the world. Fierce and muscular, his arms and chest are wrapped in the golden scales of a magical sea creature. He wears shining blue-green pants and boots that clearly show he belongs in the depths of the ocean. His gloves are the same color and made of the same glistening material. In his right hand, he grasps a golden trident that brings to mind the ancient legends of Neptune, the ruler of all the waters of the world. Standing high on a ledge with a stream flowing under his boots and still more showers cascading behind him, he scowls at the viewer. He frightens us until we remember that he is a hero who has come to save us from the dangers that swirl about us on the land as well as the sea.

Every time I have looked back at Aquaman staring at me from a poster or a computer screen, I have thought of only one thing. Jason Momoa, the actor who plays Aquaman, would be the perfect Ely Parker if my latest book, Interrupted Odyssey: Ulysses S. Grant and the American Indians, was ever made into a movie. Parker was a Seneca Indian, born on his people’s Tonawanda Reserve near Buffalo, who became Ulysses S. Grant’s military secretary and later, after Grant was elected President of the United States, his first Commissioner of Indian Affairs. When just eighteen, he had been named the Seneca’s official spokesman as they fought against their removal from New York. Sent to Washington to speak to Senators like Henry Clay and Daniel Webster and even to President James K. Polk, he had a hard time finding suits that could fit his tall and muscular frame. In my mind’s eye, I can see Momoa in a tightfitting 19th century suit, a head taller than everyone around him, strolling into the Capitol and the White House. In another scene, First Lady Sarah Polk stops her carriage on a crowded Washington street so she can give the handsome young Seneca a lift to his next destination. Still later, he wears the dark blue uniform of a Union soldier. He is at Grant’s side, carrying a stack of papers in his arms and with an ink bottle tied by a string to a button on his coat. At Appomattox, I hear Momoa’s deep voice reminding a startled General Robert E. Lee, who has recognized Parker at last as a “real American,” meaning an Indian rather than a black man, that “we are all Americans.”

But Jason Momoa is more than an actor who matches Ely Parker’s physical appearance. He is a master of silent acting, where a performer conveys deep emotions with few words, as he proved in his role as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. He would bring his acting skills to bear in the tragic tale of Parker’s attempt to craft a policy, with the help of his friend Ulysses Grant, that would save the Indians from certain destruction by making them American citizens. Parker did everything in his power to protect the tribes but ultimately failed. The ending of Interrupted Odyssey will therefore not be the same as the ending of Aquaman. Parker will fail in his efforts to defend the Indians even as Aquaman will surely save the world.
Visit Mary Stockwell's website.

My Book, The Movie: Unlikely General.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 17, 2018

Debra H. Goldstein's "One Taste Too Many"

Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series, which debuts with One Taste Too Many on December 18, 2018. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly.

Here Goldstein dreamcasts an adaptation of One Taste Too Many:
What excitement! Not only is One Taste Too Many the debut novel for Kensington’s Sarah Blair cozy mystery series, but now there’s a wish-list casting call if they make the book into a movie. It is a good thing it is a wish list because not every actor who could play the role perfectly is either the right age now or still alive.


Married at eighteen, divorced at twenty-eight, Sarah Blair reluctantly swaps her luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a law firm receptionist job in Wheaton, Alabama. With her feisty Siamese cat, RahRah, and some clumsy domestic skills, she’s the polar opposite of her bubbly twin, Emily—an ambitious chef determined to take her culinary ambitions to the top at a local gourmet restaurant.

Sarah knew starting over would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by Emily’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and Emily wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!

Space only allows casting consideration for a limited number of roles here. The rest will be filled by auditions and casting agent recommendations.

Sarah Blair – tall, willowy, clumsy and inept in the kitchen – age 28 –younger Sandra Bullock (think Ms. Congeniality or Ya-Ya Sisterhood) or perhaps Jennifer Garner or Claire Foy

Emily – Sarah’s twin – small, cheerleader type, a pro in the kitchen – age 28 – a very young Kristin Chenoweth or perhaps Margot Robbie, Jennifer Lawrence, or Sweet Home Alabama’s Reese Witherspoon.

Bill – the ex – handsome, debonair, and must make a good corpse – Scott Eastwood

Peter –police chief – intelligent, easy on the eyes – Andrew Garfield or Chris Hemsworth

Harlan – Sarah’s attorney boss, clever, thoughtful, short – Alan Ladd, Matt Damon or James Wolk

Jane – red-headed fireball – Christina Hendricks, Jessica Chastain, Amy Adams, or Bryce Dallas Howard

Marcus – chef who loves clogs and balloon pants - Mario Batali

Grace – chef - elegant one of a kind – Grace Jones

Jacob – chef - real estate developer – Paul Walker or Ryan Reynolds

Richard – chef - Jared Leto or Johnny Depp

RahRah – the most important character – Siamese Cat – chocolate point – must have attitude but is sleeker and sharper looking than Grumpy the Cat --- open casting call – will be well treated – own dressing room/stock of tuna/a trainer will be engaged for support and comfort.
Visit Debra H. Goldstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: One Taste Too Many.

--Marshal Zeringue