Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Benjamin Johncock's "The Last Pilot"

Benjamin Johncock was born in England in 1978. His short stories have been published by The Fiction Desk and The Junket. He is the recipient of an Arts Council England grant and the American Literary Merit Award, and is a winner of Comma Press's National Short Story Day competition. He also writes for the Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife, his daughter, and his son.

Here Johncock dreamcasts an adaptation of his newly released first novel, The Last Pilot:
This is a tough one. I usually prefer to let readers form their own images and impressions… but, who can resist the fun of a game like this? Well, not me. I love the movies.

Let’s start with Harrison Ford, circa 1981 for Jim. I’ve also been mesmerized by Matthew Goode, an actor who can say nothing but convey everything. Matthew Goode is the scene. He’s a master. We were at the University of Birmingham together too, though our paths never crossed. Robert Bernstein, who produced the 2008 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, said that Goode won the role of Ryder because of his wonderful stillness: “The sign of a truly great actor is not what he says but what he appears to say when the camera is on him, and Matthew has that.” It’s the same quality I see in Jon Hamm, although sadly he’s too old now to play Jim. Matthew Goode may be perfect.

For Grace, perhaps Carey Mulligan, who I love.

I have no idea who could take on Pancho.

Directors… where to begin? I’d love to see what the following would do with The Last Pilot: Alfonso Cuarón, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Kathryn Bigelow, Steven Spielberg, Jeff Nichols, Cary Fukunaga, Steven Soderbergh, Jane Campion, the Coen Brothers, Tom Hanks, JJ Abrams. I’d also love to see what Quentin Tarantino would do, playing it straight with someone else’s material, in the same way as he did with Jackie Brown. A Matthew Weiner take on The Last Pilot could be very special too - I’m a huge fan of his writing and direction on Mad Men.
Visit Benjamin Johncock's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Pilot.

Writers Read: Benjamin Johncock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Justin Gifford's "Street Poison"

Justin Gifford is an Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Nevada, Reno. His teaching and research focus on American and African American literature. His book, the first literary and cultural history of black street fiction, Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing, was a finalist for both the Edgar Allan Poe award for literary criticism and Phi Beta Kappa’s Christian Gauss Award for scholarship.

Here Gifford dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim:
When I began to contemplate the film version of Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim, a number of clear choices emerged for lead actor as well as director of the film. Street Poison is the remarkable true story of Robert “Iceberg Slim” Beck, a notorious criminal who pimped on the streets of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and many other American cities for twenty-five years. He served five bits in prison during this period, including a two-year term at the infamous Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and a brief stint at the Chicago House of Corrections (he escaped from that prison in 1947). In 1962, Beck went straight and moved to California to be with his ailing mother. He published his autobiography Pimp: The Story of My Life and a handful of other streetwise crime novels with a third-tier paperback publisher, and in the process, he transformed himself from pimp to author. By the time of his death on the day of the Rodney King riots in 1992, Beck had sold over six million books, and his work had inspired the creation of blaxploitation film, gangster rap, and street literature.

When I began this book ten years ago I had always envisioned Samuel Jackson as the perfect person to play Beck. His roles as Elijah Price in Unbreakable, Neville Flynn in Snakes on a Plane, and especially Jules Winnfeld in Pulp Fiction had established Jackson as the Hollywood badass. However, Beck was more than just an icy sneer and a collection of one-liners like, “Yes, they deserve to die, and I hope they burn in hell!” Beck was a combination of coiled sexuality, vulnerability, calculated violence, cutting-edge style, and verbal muscle. It is for this reason that the black James Bond, Idris Elba is the best choice to play Beck. His roles as John Luther in the brilliant detective drama Luther and the coldblooded Stringer Bell in the series The Wire show that Elba has both the heat and the range to play America’s most infamous renegade pimp.

My pick for director of Street Poison would have to be Quentin Tarantino. With a resume that includes Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained, Tarantino has proven time and time again that he can tell stories of extreme violence and barely likeable anti-heroes with humor, grit, and an ear for clever dialogue. But although Tarantino is often criticized for his excessive use of the N-word in his scripts, even he might meet his match with Street Poison. Beck’s world is a world of pimps and prostitutes, prison cells, and underworld schemes; terms like the N-word, b!&$h, c*@t, and motherf^&+er appear regularly. This language (along with the specialized street slang used by the seasoned pimps) reflects the harsh ghetto environment from which Beck came, and the persistence today of racism, poverty, and police brutality in America helps explain why his works have had such a powerful impact on black comedy, gangster rap, and contemporary African American fiction. Whether or not any director could artfully represent the brutal and colorful realities of Beck’s life and times remains to be seen. In the meantime, readers who pick up Street Poison can experience the life of one of the most important African American writers in history and learn how he shaped contemporary culture from America’s shadows.
Learn more about Street Poison at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Judy Brown's "This Is Not a Love Story: A Memoir"

Judy Brown wrote the controversial novel Hush--a finalist for the 2011 Sydney Taylor Award for outstanding book on the Jewish experience--under a pseudonym because of feared backlash from the Chassidic world. Brown's identity has since been revealed and she has left Chassidism. She has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine and has written for the Huffington Post and the Jewish Daily Forward. She holds a master's in creative writing and lives in New York City.

Here Brown explains why an adaptation of her new memoir, This Is Not a Love Story, may not be in cinemas very soon:
Having grown up in ultra-orthodox Jewish community where movies, TV and any medium connecting one to the mainstream cultural world was forbidden, I do not know enough to fantasize about who would theoretically play the characters of my book should Hollywood come calling. I am sure there are many talented actors and actresses who could play the parts of the various Chassidim that fill my story. They would have to learn the cultural dialect of Yinglesh (a combination of English and Yiddish which is the language of that world), and adapt themselves to wearing many layers of clothing. This I suppose is a good enough reason for Hollywood not to come calling.
Visit Judy Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 31, 2015

Frankie Y. Bailey's "What the Fly Saw"

Frankie Y. Bailey, a professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY), is the author of mysteries as well as non-fiction titles that explore the intersections of crime, history, and popular culture. She is a Macavity Award-winner and has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards.

Here Bailey shares some insights about an adaptation of What the Fly Saw, her second Detective Hannah McCabe mystery:
I have no one in mind for the role of my protagonist, Hannah McCabe. Even though we have been together for two books (The Red Queen Dies and What the Fly Saw), I have only a general idea of what she looks like. She is tall (around 5’8”), pale brown (biracial, black mother, white father) with brown eyes, curly, somewhat unruly, dark hair with a hint of red (her father had red hair in his youth). She is in excellent physical condition because she’s a cop and works out. But I tend to see her from the inside out. She doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about how she looks and that means I don’t either – unless I am seeing her through the eyes of another character and watching that character respond to her. But then it tends to be more about that other character than about Hannah.

I do know who I would cast as McCabe’s father. Angus McCabe is a retired journalist and newspaper editor. I imagined him before I imagined Hannah. I saw him as the late actor Darren McGavin, who I’ve always enjoyed watching.

As to who I might like to direct the movie, I think that would depend on the script. For example, if the emphasis were on suspense, I would have to go with my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. But I can imagine Kathryn Bigelow, who directed Strange Days, doing really interesting things with the near-future, urban setting. And since Hitchcock is dead....
Visit Frankie Y. Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: What the Fly Saw.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jane Lindskold's "Artemis Invaded"

Jane Lindskold is the bestselling author of the Firekeeper series, which began with Through Wolf’s Eyes and concluded with Wolf’s Blood, as well as many other fantasy novels. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Here Lindskold shares some ideas for an adaptation of her new novel, Artemis Invaded, the second book in the Artemis Awakening series:
Several times in the past, I’ve cheerfully participated in the The Page 69 Test and discussed what I’m reading for Writers Read. However, I’ve always dodged the My Book, The Movie.

There’s a reason for this... I don’t know the names of very many actors. If I’ve liked an actor in a role, I fall for the role, not the actor…

So when people say “Who would you like to play…” I can never think of anyone. My characters look like themselves, not like Humphrey Bogart or Audrey Hepburn.

There’s an added complication to playing the casting game. Artemis Invaded, like many of my works, has animal characters. The two primary ones are Sand Shadow the puma and Honeychild the bear. Even with the increased use of CGI, the most effective non-human characters have been those who are more or less human-shaped and, therefore, are, in essence, still being played by a human.

Let me stress, these are animal characters not sidekicks, pets, or fashion accessories. So, after meditating if I were going to cast Artemis Invaded as a movie, I think I’d want it animated. That way animals and humans alike could be done in the same format and there wouldn’t be that jar-jar, uh… I mean jarring failure when a CGI character interacts (or fails to interact) with a character played by a live human actor.

I’m a fan of animation, especially Japanese anime. Despite the common misconception, anime encompasses a lot more than characters with big eyes, tiny mouths, brightly colored hair, and outrageous outfits. Those elements are certainly present but, as works like Hayao Miyazaki’s Whispers of the Heart demonstrate, more realistic portrayals exist, too.

(Don’t know Whispers of the Heart? It should be required viewing for anyone who wants to follow their heart into an impossible career choice – like being a writer or musician. I highly recommend.)

After mulling and musing, if I think that I’d choose either Miyazaki or Rumiko Takahashi (Inuyasha, Ranma ½) to be in charge of an anime Artemis movie, Both of them have shown sensitive handling of non-human characters. In Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki not only had giant wolves, but also a kudu-like elk as major secondary characters. Overall, he handled four-legged characters with a lot of grace.

Much as I like Miyazaki’s work, though, for Artemis Invaded I have a slight preference for Rumiko Takahashi. Her work almost always includes animals, so I suspect she likes them as much as I do. Inuyasha had a large cat character, Kirara. Kirara’s moods and “conversation” were handled almost entirely through body language. This would help with showing Adara and Sand Shadow’s non-verbal communication. As I’ve tried to get across in the books, even when they “talk” telepathically, it’s image-based, not chatting with words.

Takahashi is also very good with rendering oddball characters. I could see her doing a great job with the precognate Ring, or with some of Griffin’s odder brothers… And anime would be a great format to get across how Adara’s lithe grace is little more than human.

And Artemis herself, with her manifestations in various forms of fungi… I imagine that would animate with eerie beauty.

So, yeah… I can’t help with casting Artemis Invaded the movie in a conventional sense, but I think I’d have a lovely time working with character design for an animated version.

Any takers?
Visit Jane Lindskold's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Artemis Awakening.

Writers Read: Jane Lindskold.

The Page 69 Test: Artemis Invaded.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Lee Robinson's "Lawyer for the Dog"

Lee Robinson practiced law for over 20 years in Charleston, South Carolina, and was the first female president of the Charleston County Bar. She teaches at the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

Here Robinson dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Lawyer for the Dog:
There was a movie playing in my head while I wrote this book. (I go to movies all the time. I’m a movie nut. I’ll watch almost anything. If the movie’s really good, I learn something about dialogue, pacing, scene-setting. If it’s really bad, I learn something about what not to do.) Sally Baynard, the main character and narrator of Lawyer for the Dog, is almost-fifty, single, a smart and spunky lawyer. Sandra Bullock has the right combination of emotional depth, tenderness and toughness for this role. And if not Sandra, Julianne Moore. Sally’s mother, Margaret, is near eighty, a southern-belle-wannabe who’s in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but she’s still got plenty to teach her daughter. What about Ellen Burstyn, or Sissy Spacek? Margaret’s caregiver, Delores, is “a cross between a saint and a drill sergeant.” Please, could we lure Viola Davis? Sally’s ex-husband Joe, a family court judge who’s disappointed with his life, has a crush on Sally despite having been divorced for 18 years. For this role, Robert Downey, Jr., has the perfect kind of maddening charm. Joe appoints Sally to represent a dog in the middle of a bitter divorce case. Bill Murray would be great as the defendant, Rusty Hart (he even lives in Charleston!) and Sissy Spacek for his wife, Marianne. The dog’s vet, Tony, does his best not to take sides, but he can’t help falling for Sally. No doubt in my mind that George Clooney could be a perfect Tony. But what about the real star of the show, the miniature schnauzer, Sherman? I’m at a loss. This one might require some canine auditions.
Visit Lee Robinson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 27, 2015

Bridget Foley's "Hugo & Rose"

Bridget Foley has always loved storytelling. She's the author of several screenplays and is often featured on annual industry best-of lists.

Here she shares some insights about a big screen adaptation of Hugo & Rose, her first novel:
I lived in Hollywood for 13 years.

That means I know first hand that the correct answer to the question, “Who do you want to star in the movie of your book?” is “Whoever the hell gets it made.”

That sounds jaded.

And I guess it is… a little.

But here’s what’s likely to happen if you ask anyone who has had a front row seat to the making of a film if they still believe in the “magic” of movies.

They will tell you that the magic died the day they realized that all filmmaking is a series of devastating compromises, budget considerations and jurassic egos.

Watch enough movies get made and you stop believing in the magic of movies and you start believing in the miracle of movies.

Movies are gargantuan efforts put forth by hundreds of people. Even the tight ships are a mess.

And good movies? Movies like The Godfather or Alien? Movies where God kissed the director on the head and said, “Go forth and film, my child, for I have blessed you with the perfect cast, editor and composer.” These films are something more than miracles. We need a new word for what they are. Benefilms. Or Miraculcinema.

The Germans probably already have a word for it, though I doubt I can pronounce it.

Work (or try to work) in Hollywood long enough and you’ll notice all your main characters have a way of evolving into the AMORPHOUS 30 to 50 YEAR OLD MALE that encompasses anyone who can get financing. Chris Pratt and Liam Neeson aren’t anything alike, but I guarantee you both Darkman and Starlord are on dozens of lists as potential leads for the same role.

In fact, I’m working on a script starring Amorphous Male right now.

(This isn’t a joke.)

But I couldn’t do that to Hugo & Rose.

In fact, the reason my book is a book is because it’s a woman’s story. There were many reasons I didn’t write it as a screenplay, but way down on the list (#64) is the fact that I didn’t want to have to explain to executives who loved the idea of two people who dream of each other every night and then finally meet in real life that the story belonged to the person who had the most at stake.

Namely the happily married mother of three.

Oh, and did I mention that even though she looks like a super model in the fantastical portions of the book that most of the time Rose is thirty to fifty pounds overweight? And that even though the book features actions scenes with giant monsters, that the edge-of-your-seat stuff comes from scenes in our Rogaine scented reality?

I know there’s only one woman who can green light a movie.

And while I would love to see her gain thirty (okay, eighty) pounds to play Rose, she’s a little busy at the moment fighting hunger, directing movies and being married to Brad Pitt.

But a girl can dream… I mean, I haven’t completely died inside.

Sometimes I think I’d rather like to see Kate and Leo reunited to play Hugo & Rose… not just because they’re spectacular actors, but because there’s this adolescent part of me that just wants that old magic back.

But if I’m honest, the Hollywood survivor in me has a potential cast list that runs from Amy Adams to Melissa McCarthy to Beyonce. None of them is necessarily perfect… but they would be the instant they said yes.

Because that would be more than magic, that would be a miracle.
Visit Bridget Foley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Taylor Stevens's "The Mask"

Taylor Stevens is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of The Informationist, The Innocent, The Doll, The Catch, and the novella The Vessel. The series featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe has received critical acclaim and the books are published in twenty languages.

Here Stevens dreamcasts an adaptation of The Mask, the latest Vanessa Michael Munroe novel:
Vanessa Michael Munroe is a quasi-psychotic, knife-wielding, butt-kicking, mercenary information hunter cut from the same cloth as characters like Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher. She’s tall, lithe, and androgynous and, because she spends most of her time working in developing and despot run countries, she sometimes spends more time under the guise of a male than she does as a female. This makes her a difficult character to cast.

Also at issue is the way Hollywood typically presents female action heroes—not so much as characters or people who own their choices or bodies, but as fantasy objects sewn up in tight, pleasing and teasing outfits, put there for eye candy. A phrase I once heard that accurately summed up this type of character was “Fighting F_ck Toy.” And Vanessa Michael Munroe is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an FFT—unless, of course, you’re her mark and a fighting f_ck toy would get her into your head faster than any other guise. In that case she’ll be that FFT until she’s gotten everything she wants from you, and then she’ll vanish.

Readers do love to play the “who should be Munroe in the movies” game and often send me suggestions, all of them fun, all of them fantastic actresses. The closest representation to Munroe that I’ve ever personally seen on screen is Carrie-Anne Moss in her role as Trinity in The Matrix. If I had my druthers (to clarify: I have absolutely no say-so in casting decisions), I’d want an unknown actress to claim this role so that she could own the character completely in a way that a “star” just couldn’t.

James Cameron and Jon Landau, through their production company Lightstorm Entertainment, currently hold film option rights to Vanessa Michael Munroe. James Cameron has a long history of bringing strong women to film, and he’s never made a bad movie. If Vanessa Michael Munroe does hit the big screen, it will be as much of a surprise to me to watch her come to life as it will be to the many readers who love her, but the one thing I know for sure is that there’s no one else’s hands in which I’d prefer she be.
Visit Taylor Stevens's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ted Kosmatka's "The Flicker Men"

Ted Kosmatka was born and raised in Chesterton, Indiana, and spent more than a decade working in various laboratories where he sometimes used electron microscopes. He is the author of Prophet of Bones and The Games, a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel and one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2012. His short fiction has been nominated for both the Nebula and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards and has appeared in numerous Year's Best anthologies. He now lives in the Pacific Northwest and works as a writer in the video-game industry.

Here Kosmatka dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Flicker Men:
I grew up going to the movies all the time, so for me, now that I’m a writer, picking out actors to play the movie in my head is always a lot of fun. The main character of The Flicker Men is Eric Argus, a troubled scientist who soon finds himself out of his depth. I’m a huge fan of what James McAvoy did in The Last King of Scottland, so I’d love to see what McAvoy could do as Eric. For Satvik, one actor leapt to mind—Irrfan Khan, most recently the park boss on Jurassic World. He'd bring exactly the solemn thoughtfulness that the role needs. For the part of Joy, I think Margot Robbie could be a great fit. For Point Machine, I can totally see Steven Yeun, from The Walking Dead. For Mercy, Sienna Miller would fit the bill nicely. For Vickers, I can see somebody with the quiet, understated authority of Robin Wright Penn. For Stuart, we could use the manic intelligence of Jesse Eisenberg. For Gillian, I’d love to see someone like Marcia Gay Harden, who you can't help but like on screen. On the flip side of things, I can see Neal McDonough’s piercing eyes glaring at you as the confident and powerful Brighton. For Boaz, the menace of Mads Mikkelsen would work well. There are a few other more characters, but I think this list covers most of the main speaking parts.
Writers Read: Ted Kosmatka.

The Page 69 Test: The Flicker Men.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Siobhan Roberts's "Genius At Play"

Siobhan Roberts is a Toronto journalist and author whose work focuses on mathematics and science. Her new book is Genius at Play, The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway (Bloomsbury, 2015). While writing the Conway biography, she was a Director’s Visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, and a Fellow at the Leon Levy Center for Biography, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City.

Her previous books are Wind Wizard: Alan G. Davenport and the Art of Wind Engineering (Princeton University Press, 2012), and King of Infinite Space: Donald Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry (Bloomsbury, 2006). King of Infinite Space won the Mathematical Association of America’s 2009 Euler Prize for expanding the public’s view of mathematics.

Roberts also wrote and produced a documentary film about Coxeter, The Man Who Saved Geometry, for TVOntario’s The View From Here (September 2009).

Here Roberts dreamcasts an adaptation of Genius at Play:
The movie script for Genius At Play, which is in fact quickly writing itself in my head, bears the working title Let It All Hang Out, since that is Conway’s policy toward life in general, and in a sense toward mathematics as well. For the lead role, for young John, we’d need someone who can play the rogue, as well as smart and funny and deep, and with Mick Jagger’s performative charisma and sex appeal. Tom Hardy would do the trick (most recently in Mad Max: Fury Road). I also consulted Conway’s wife Diana on this, and for the older Conway she said there was no question: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) — though I’m not sure Bridges can play a Brit (Hardy with makeup could play both). Ron Howard would be a natural for director (A Beautiful Mind). Or maybe Darren Aronofsky (π), who is known for his surreal films.
Learn more about the book and author at Siobhan Roberts' website.

Writers Read: Siobhan Roberts.

The Page 99 Test: Genius At Play.

--Marshal Zeringue