Friday, April 20, 2018

Spencer Kope's "Whispers of the Dead"

Spencer Kope is the Crime Analyst for the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office. Currently assigned to Detectives Division, he provides case support to detectives and deputies, and is particularly good at identifying possible suspects. In his spare time he developed a database-driven analytical process called Forensic Vehicle Analysis (FVA) used to identify the make, model and year range of vehicles from surveillance photos. It's a tool he's used repeatedly to solve crimes. One of his favorite pastimes is getting lost in a bookstore, and he lives in Washington State.

Here Kope dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Whispers of the Dead:
I’m guessing there are a lot of writers out there who, like me, flesh out their characters well before ever putting them to paper. I’ve gone as far as to cut out pictures of people that look like the mental image I have of a character. These go on my storyboard, where they constantly reinforce that image.

When I started writing Collecting the Dead, the first book in the Special Tracking Unit series, I pictured man-tracker Magnus “Steps” Craig as a shorter, mid-twenties version of Jared Padalecki, who plays Sam Winchester in the series Supernatural. He just seemed to fit. Sam’s brother Dean (played by Jensen Ackles) isn’t exactly what I pictured for Special Agent Jimmy Donovan, but he’s close enough. Maybe I just liked the way Sam and Dean work together and pictured Steps and Jimmy doing the same.

Or maybe I was watching too many episodes of Supernatural....

The third member of the Special Tracking Unit is the sometimes snarky Diane Parker. Though Diane is only in her mid-fifties, I’d love to see her played by Dame Judi Dench. Ellis Stockwell, the slightly eccentric neighbor who has an extensive collection of hats and likes to sunbathe in the nude, has to be played by either Tommy Lee Jones or John Cleese (though I’m leaning toward Cleese since Ellis insists on talking with a British accent, despite not being British).

In Whispers of the Dead, the latest edition of the STU series, Steps and Jimmy find themselves in El Paso, where they team up with Detective Tony Alvarado and Lieutenant Kevin Kelly. I have a hard time with Tony because I can picture him as Michael Peña, but I also like Benicio del Toro in that role. Michael Clarke Duncan of Armageddon and The Green Mile fame would be perfect for Kevin Kelly, but sadly we lost him a few years ago.

Somewhere in all this Lou Diamond Phillips has to make an appearance ... because he’s Lou Diamond Phillips.
Visit Spencer Kope's website.

Writers Read: Spencer Kope.

The Page 69 Test: Whispers of the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Cherie Burns's "Searching for Beauty"

Cherie Burns's books include the biography Searching for Beauty—The Life of Millicent Rogers, the American Heiress Who Taught the World About Style, The Great Hurricane: 1938, Stepmotherhood—How to Survive Without Feeling Frustrated, Left Out or Wicked, and Diving for Starfish: The Jeweler, the Actress, the Heiress, and One of the World's Most Alluring Pieces of Jewelry.

Here she shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of Searching for Beauty:
When I wrote Searching for Beauty—The Life of Millicent Rogers, I believed a wonderful movie lay within Rogers’s story. Any actress would want to play the beautiful, willful, stylish Standard Oil heiress who struggled to lead her stylish life out from under the oppression of, yes, wealth and the power it bestows on families to dominate their children. Millicent lived her life emblematic of each decade of the twentieth century until the movie star Clark Gable dumped her in Hollywood in 1946. She was a debutante, a flapper, a fashion muse, an expat, and poster girl for the US war effort in WWII. Her son would have even told you she’d been a spy. Then she came to New Mexico and found a different kind of peace and beauty with the landscape and Native American men than she had been able to achieve elsewhere. She was never still, always searching and changing. In my imagination I have seen Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Charlize Theron, and Elizabeth De Bicki, among some other leading actresses, play her. It is quite a role.

And the men! She had so many dashingly handsome men in her life. Tom Hiddleston would play Arturo Peralta Ramos, the Argentine playboy who becomes her second husband. I have always seen Viggo Mortensen as the older, Austrian Count Salm with whom she elopes to outrage her parents.

Jane Fonda, who is related to the Rogers family in real life, could be Mary Rogers, Millicent’s mother. Her strong-willed manipulatve father could be played by Bruce Greenwood. Her full story begins when she is coming out at her debutante ball and being courted by the Prince of Wales (Cillian Murphy?) and ends 30 years later with her early death in New Mexico. But flashbacks could handle this. Maybe there are parts here for two actresses. Naomi Watts would be a fine Dorothy Brett, the British aristocrat who came to Taos with the writer DH Lawrence and his wife and became an eccentric painter. Oh, there are so many characters. I haven’t even begun on the Native American men Millicent falls in love with. Tony Luhan, the Taos pueblo elder who was married to the socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan, charmed every woman from Georgia O’Keeffe on. I believe Millicent loved him, too. Now there is a casting challenge.! DH’s wife Frieda Lawrence is another great part for a character actress. Maybe I will be a casting director in my next life!
Visit Cherie Burns's website.

My Book, The Movie: Diving for Starfish.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 16, 2018

Susan Henderson's "The Flicker of Old Dreams"

Susan Henderson is a five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and the recipient of an Academy of American Poets award. She is the author of the novels Up from the Blue (2010) and The Flicker of Old Dreams (2018).

Here Henderson dreamcasts an adaptation of The Flicker of Old Dreams:
There is some Hollywood interest in this book, so let's hope all this casting is for real.

The book is about the death of small town America as told by a mortician. Mary, the narrator of the book, is the town's embalmer and more comfortable with the dead than the living. She's socially awkward but has a strong sense of self. Is there a female Edward Norton? An introverted Amanda Palmer? Whoever plays her has to be quirky and layered and have things to say but lack the courage to say them.

Matthew Gray Gubler (from Criminal Minds) or Ezra Miller (Perks of Being a Wallflower) could play Robert, the damaged outcast who returns to this small town to be with his terminally ill mother. His homecoming peels a scab off an old wound in town and sets the trouble in motion.

Frances McDormand (Fargo) would be great as his mother, Doris, who is dying of lung cancer and churns out paint-by-numbers art. Her character teaches Mary something about living.

I'd love to see Michael Keaton (Birdman) as Mary's father, the funeral director, who suffers from depression and alcoholism. He wants to find love, if only he could figure out how to do it better.

His best friend, the sheriff, would be really powerful with Benicio Del Toro or John Malkovich in the role, as he crosses a line to protect the traditions of this small town.
Learn more about the book and author at Susan Henderson's website.

The Page 69 Test: Up From the Blue.

The Page 69 Test: The Flicker of Old Dreams.

Writers Read: Susan Henderson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Amanda Ottaway's "The Rebounders"

Amanda Ottaway is an author and journalist whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Washington City Paper, VICE, The Nation, espnW, Charlotte Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and a few poetry anthologies. She is an International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) reporting fellow and a 2017-2018 Girls Write Now mentor. She is currently the Brooklyn courts reporter, covering the Eastern District of New York, for Courthouse News. Previously she worked at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, D.C.

Here Ottaway dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey:
For me, one of the most intriguing characters in The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey is head women’s basketball coach Deborah Katz.

She’s so complex I spend a good chunk of the book trying to figure her out. I still haven’t. But the first time I saw Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (incidentally, a movie adapted from a book), I knew I wanted that version of Streep to play Coach Katz if The Rebounders ever became a movie.

It’s because of the power.

Miranda Priestly, Streep’s character, oozes power. First of all, she’s brilliant. She also works constantly at the expense of everything else in her life, the way many high-level coaches have to operate. And because she works like that, she expects everyone around her to do the same -- like coaches do.

Anne Hathaway, who plays Priestly’s co-assistant, Andy, in the film, is forced to fully re-prioritize her life for her boss, which she does because it's such an incredible opportunity. But her relationship, friendships, social life, her own writing -- all bow to Miranda Priestly. All in, or go home.

I see similarities between Andy’s position and the schedules of Division I athletes. We loved basketball. But because of the financial bonanza of the scholarship and the awesomeness of the chance, we sacrificed for hoops almost every day.

*

Miranda Priestly does not yell. She does not throw temper tantrums or chairs or clipboards. She exudes a cool and quiet and terrifying power, translated by Streep’s withering gaze.

Coach Katz exercised a similar kind of power over us, and I think in a lot of ways Streep and Hathaway mirror the coach-player relationship.

Coaches are vulnerable. If they don’t win games, they don’t keep their jobs. But as a kid, as an eighteen-year-old, you feel like you’re more vulnerable than your coach is. She’s the grown-up. She’s the one who knows the athletic director. She could bench you for any reason, kick you out of the locker room, take away your scholarship. And because you are young and basketball is your life, it’s what you live for, what you love more than anything, and your coach knows that, getting benched is one of the most painful punishments there is. Losing a scholarship is one of the scariest things that could happen to you. So to us, that power dynamic felt uneven.

One of the main points I tried to convey in The Rebounders is that college coaches have more power over their young players than I think they realize.

We internalized everything our coaches said to us. Like Anne Hathaway, we listened closely and took them seriously and tried to please them and sometimes did not know how to, and that was scary. We also disagreed with them and sometimes got angry and lashed out at them. We all had a lot of money and emotion at stake.

Coaches, if you’re reading this, please be gentle with your players. You hold more sway with them than you probably know.

Meryl, Your Highness, if you’re reading this, call me.
Visit Amanda Ottaway's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Cherie Burns's "Diving for Starfish"

Cherie Burns's books include the biography, Searching for Beauty—The Life of Millicent Rogers, the American Heiress Who Taught the World About Style, The Great Hurricane: 1938, and Stepmotherhood—How to Survive Without Feeling Frustrated, Left Out or Wicked.

Here she shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of her new book, Diving for Starfish: The Jeweler, the Actress, the Heiress, and One of the World's Most Alluring Pieces of Jewelry:
My vote is for Reese Witherspoon to play me in the adaptation of Diving for Starfish. I’m the character who goes on a quest to find three famous ruby and amethyst starfish brooches made in Paris in the 1930s. Only as I have been out talking about the book this past week have I thought of it as a film narrative. It's a lot like The Orchid Thief. The reader, or audience in this case, would come along with me on my search which takes me into all sorts of places behind the scenes in the jewelry world and into the homes of some of the rich and famous women who have owned them. Millicent Rogers and Claudette Colbert. Great cameos there for Gwyneth Paltrow and Catherine Zeta Jones! Tim Hiddleston would be the leading jeweler Lee Siegelson. Kirsten Scott Thomas could be a superb Jeanne Boivin, the haughty French joailliére whose salon, the House of Boivin, created the starfish. Bruce Greenwood would make a superb Ward Landrigan. Brad Pitt could excel as the hustling Texas dealer in the story. Murray Monschein…. Hmmmmm? How about Danny Devito? Is he still out there.? Alicia Vikander as Nathalie Hocq, the French mystery beauty who owns the Boivin archives and smoked cigars. Lesley Manville suits the role of classic discreet Parisienne lady “authenticator.” Let’s go against type and have Helen Mirren play the plain-faced designer Juliette Moutard. I will give more thought to who should play all those fascinating jewelers in New York and Paris.

This could be fun!
Visit Cherie Burns's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Joanna Lewis's "Empire of Sentiment"

Joanna Lewis is an Associate Professor in the Department of International History, London School of Economics and Political Science, having previously studied at the University of Cambridge after winning a Thomas and Elizabeth Williams Scholarship for students with a first class degree, and first-generation to attend university.

Here Lewis dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Empire of Sentiment: The Death of Livingstone and the Myth of Victorian Imperialism:
This book begins with the dramatic but slow, painful death of Dr David Livingstone, an old man by this time. A cantankerous Scotsman who at the best of times had a short fuse, his painful demise and sense of failure for not finding the origins of the Nile makes for a tragic end to his life. So I would pick Daniel Day Lewis to play this eccentric and at times deranged characterful Celt. No relation, Lewis would be amazing showing Livingstone’s dark side as well as his quirkiness and soft, sentimental side, as he slowly went mad with frustration.

Livingstone at this time was being carried around and tended to by a group of talented, devoted and eclectic group of African men and women. Also in the party were young boys and girls. Many had been slaves and were still in a form of enslavement. After he died, they discussed and debated what to do, before making the heroic decision to carry Livingstone’s body back to the coast, a dangerous journey that would take them over six months. Again, there were powerful characters, determined and courageous present although we don’t know enough about them unfortunately due to the lack of written records. Some of the men closest to him, were given passage back to London for the funeral. Many went on to play important roles teaching ex slaves back in Africa, translating for missionaries or assisting the next generation of explorers.

My dream list would be Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker, Dan Cheadle, Idris Elba and Wesley Snipes, playing the role of the leaders of the various factions of Livingstone’s caravan of followers. For the women present, who get forgotten the most, I would beg Whoopi Goldberg, Hallie Berry, Vida Davie. For the younger slave girls and boys Tyler James Williams, Tyrel Jackson Williams, Keke Davies, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Yara Shahidi.

A number of powerful Victorian male figures in Britain campaigned to have Livingstone’s remains given a proper funeral and to keep the fight going against slavery in east Africa. These included the President of the Royal Geographical Society, the Dean of Westminster Abbey. I would have them played by Colin Firth and Jeremy Irons. Two important and slightly self-publicising figures were the slightly menacing figure of explorer Henry Morton Stanley and the Proprietor of the New York Herald Gordon Bennet. I would have them played by Russell Crowe and Robert Downey Jnr respectively.

Livingstone’s death inspired a generation of younger explorers and idealists to follow in his footsteps in the interior of central Africa. Many wanted to find his grave, push the frontiers of European knowledge, have an adventure or campaign against the slave trade. They all knew they were in grave danger of risking their lives. Some were on the spectrum as we would say now, loners or messianic Christians. Some never returned. In these roles, I would cast Ethan Hawke, Eddie Redmayne and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Finally, the story also includes white settlers in Central Africa. Hardened by life on the frontier, high death rates and poverty, these were a tough bunch of characters, racist in principle but reliant on African servants and labour which produced a unique set of tensions. For the patriarchs, slightly unhinged I would Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey; Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson. And for the equally, often tougher matriarchs, I would love to see Meryl Streep reprise her role in Out of Africa; Gillian Anderson doing another version of her brilliant Lady Edwina Mountbatten in the Partition of India film, Emma Stone and Melissa McCarthy.
Learn more about Empire of Sentiment at the Cambridge University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Empire of Sentiment.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Harold Schechter's "Hell's Princess"

Harold Schechter is an American true-crime writer who specializes in serial killers. Twice nominated for the Edgar Award, his nonfiction books include Fatal, Fiend, Bestial, Deviant, Deranged, Depraved, The Serial Killer Files, The Mad Sculptor, Man-Eater, and Killer Colt.

Here Schechter dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Hell's Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness, Butcher of Men:
Though it would be a dream come true if my idol, Vin Diesel, could star in it, I don’t realistically see a role for him.

I suppose if I were the casting director, I’d try to land Kathy Bates as the lead character, the plus-sized serial slaughterer, Belle Gunness. I suppose I think of her immediately because of her proven ability to play matronly homicidal maniacs.

As for her squirrely, scrawny, creepy nemesis, Ray Lamphere, I’d go, for obvious reasons, with Steve Buscemi.
Learn more about the book and author at Harold Schechter's website.

The Page 99 Test: Hell's Princess.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 6, 2018

J. Todd Scott's "High White Sun"

J. Todd Scott was born in rural Kentucky and attended college and law school in Virginia, where he set aside an early ambition to write to pursue a career as a federal agent. His assignments have taken him all over the U.S and the world, but a badge and gun never replaced his passion for books and writing. He now resides in the American Southwest, and when he’s not hunting down very bad men, he’s hard at work on his next book.

His debut novel, The Far Empty, was published in 2016.

Here Scott dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, High White Sun:
I was asked this question a lot for my first book (The Far Empty), so I guess it’s a good thing a few of the characters carried over to the new one! I didn’t have a specific actor in mind for former deputy, now Sheriff Chris Cherry, but my daughters have always insisted Chris Pratt fits the bill, and I think that works fine. America Reynosa is tough because she’s one of the younger characters in the books, but some actresses I think are fantastic are Aimee Carrero and Eiza Gonzalez. Steven Lang makes an excellent John Wesley Earl (he’ll need some tattoos…okay, a lot of tattoos). I like Richard Madden for Danny Ford (and I also like Game of Thrones!), and although I don’t know exactly where I’d cast them, I’m a huge fan of Ethan Hawke, Michael Shannon, and Viggo Mortensen…I should write them all into the next book.

As for a director, this is something I have given some “serious” thought to, since I love the idea of making films, and often visualize how I’d “shoot” my own book scenes as I write them. There are obviously the “name” directors that everyone knows, but I’ve also followed closely the work of some other directors who might not be as familiar: Taylor Sheridan (Wind River); Scott Cooper, who just did Hostiles; Joe Carnahan, who directed The Grey with Liam Neeson; Andrew Dominik, who directed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. All these movies have a definite raw, Western vibe to them, which fits my books.
Visit J. Todd Scott's website.

The Page 69 Test: High White Sun.

Writers Read: J. Todd Scott.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Jenny Thompson and Sherry Thompson's "The Kremlinologist"

Jenny Thompson runs an English-language school in Estepona, Spain. Before she retired, Sherry Thompson was the director of a nonprofit foundation. The authors, daughters of Llewellyn E Thompson, spent eight years of their childhood in Moscow.

Here the Thompsons share their dream cast and director for a mini-series based on their new book, The Kremlinologist: America's Man in Cold War Moscow, and sketch capsule summaries of each episode:
This book is not for everybody. Don’t pick it up unless you want to know what happened during the last Cold War. It’s not a tell-all or a thriller. But if it were to be on-screen, it would make a great mini-series because each part is a complete story in itself.

Main characters:
Llewellyn E Thompson played by Jimmie Stewart, Jane Thompson, played by Natalie Wood. Director: George Clooney.

Episode One The start of the 20th Century in the wilds of the American West. Ranch hands fend off murderous banditos in a boom and bust environment as Thompson finds his way to the University of Colorado, and, determined to find adventure, joins the newly created Foreign Service, is posted to Ceylon while the dustbowl hits back home, then finds education in Geneva.

Episode Two February 1941 Vladivostok as Thompson boards the Trans-Siberian for Moscow. There he remains as the government and diplomatic corps evacuates 800k away. Stalin and Molotov also stay behind, leaving young Thompson as intermediary between Stalin and Roosevelt while the Battle of Moscow rages.

Episode Three Post-war conferences, the start of the U.N., the beginnings of Covert operations and Containment policy. Thompson meets the love of his life on board ship and she agrees to marry by the time the ship docks.

Episode Four Thompson and family deplanes in Vienna for his first post as chief of mission. He puts his career on the line in State Treaty negotiations with a last minute bluff to prevent re-occupation of Austria. He also is secretly in London for months negotiating the near impossible settlement of Trieste. A disgruntled Tito and a hysterical Clare Booth Luce make waves every time an agreement is almost reached over the “rock pile.”

Episode Five Khrushchev’s enters stage at the Geneva Conference. Jane helps desperate Hungarian refugees as they cross the marshes at the border using reeds as snorkels.

Episode Six Thompson family arrives in Moscow with Thompson as ambassador. He develops an unusual relationship with Khrushchev; makes the first appearance by a US official on Soviet TV; the Berlin crisis; the Kitchen debate with Nixon; Khrushchev’s trip around the US and Camp David; the start of détente; the U-2 spy plane and the end of détente.

Episode Seven Hopes for détente rise with the young president Kennedy, then fall with the Bay of Pigs. Thompson and the Vienna Summit between Kennedy and Khrushchev; The Berlin crisis reignites. Thompson’s unusual visit to Khrushchev’s private dacha and his last, strange and prescient meeting with Khrushchev.

Episode Eight Thompson returns to the US the autumn of 1962 just before the Cuban Missile Crisis breaks. His intense time on Kennedy’s Ex Com at the brink of nuclear war.

Episode Nine Thompson and the Limited Test Ban negotiations; Kennedy’s American University speech; JFK’s assassination. Johnson keeps Thompson on and widens his role. Draws him into secret 303 committee meetings; brings him into the Vietnam issue.

Episode Ten Thompson’s last-minute breakthrough on disarmament talks. McNamara works behind his back to send him back to Moscow as Ambassador.

Episode Eleven A reluctant Thompson returns to Moscow with instructions to use Moscow to bring North Vietnam to the peace table. Six Day War. Thompson named to head disarmament talks. Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia kills talks. Ends with Thompson women leaving for US on board ship.

Episode Twelve starts with Thompson and Chip Bohlen’s retirement speeches days before Nixon’s inauguration. Nixon brings Thompson out of retirement for the SALT talks. Diagnosed with cancer. Thompson’s wife arranges to have famous musician smuggle Solzhenitsyn cancer cure out of Moscow, but it arrives too late.
Learn more about The Kremlinologist at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 2, 2018

Jamey Bradbury's "The Wild Inside"

Jamey Bradbury's work has appeared in Black Warrior Review (winner of the annual fiction contest), Sou’wester, and Zone 3. She won an Estelle Campbell Memorial Award from the National Society of Arts and Letters. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

Here Bradbury dreamcasts an adaptation of The Wild Inside, her first novel:
I don’t like describing characters. I figure, my job is to give the reader the emotional lives of the characters and to supply whatever physical details are important; the reader’s imagination is going to do the rest. So I don’t spend a lot of time describing Tracy’s physicality, other than to tell readers that she is a little short for her age, but broad and very strong. Her strength is the most important detail about the way she looks.

This means that, physically, Tracy doesn’t resemble most Hollywood actresses—she’s not a thin little wisp. I’d love to see some new actress discovered for the part of Tracy, but if we’re limiting options to known actresses, Anya Taylor-Joy from The Witch might be a good pick. From that movie, it’s clear she can do a lot by saying little, and in Split, she demonstrated a surprising physical presence—at first she seems like just a girl, but over the course of that film, she shows herself to be solid, this body that won’t back down. My other selection would be Brianna Hildebrand, who is usually sarcastic and sharp in her roles (in Dead Pool and television’s The Exorcist), but who, I think, could also be quiet and intense. Plus, I just love her face.

This is a spoiler for the book, but I think it’s also important to talk about: I would want to see a transgender actor playing the role of Jesse, who is a trans man who has become adept at keeping secrets and negotiating the wilderness. I think it’s important for a trans character to be played by someone with that lived experience, so I would love to see someone like Tom Phelan (who had a recurring role television’s The Fosters) play Jesse. Phelan is a little young for the role, so we’d have to wait a while to see him grow into this part, which would require someone who looks fairly young but has the aura of having lived many difficult years. Phelan has an incredibly expressive face, so it would be interesting to see him play someone who only rarely lets his emotions show.

For Tracy’s dad, Bill, I pictured someone like Jason Clarke, who was wonderful in Everest as Rob Hall: He looked like a strong, solid guy in that movie, but he also radiated a gentle kindness and a predisposition for caretaking. That’s Bill—a big, quiet guy who might come off at first as a little gruff, but whose main motivator is to make sure he’s doing right by his family.

And for Helen, you need someone who is immediately likable, since she enters the story late, and it’s important for the viewer/reader to know that while Tracy is suspicious of Helen, Helen is good for the family. Helen is kind, but tough—she’s made a life for herself in rural Alaska as a single woman, and that takes a kind of determination and resourcefulness. I pictured someone like Amy Ryan, or maybe even Carla Gugino, who was incredibly tough and resourceful in Netflix’s Gerald’s Game this year.
Visit Jamey Bradbury's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wild Inside.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 30, 2018

Christina Lynch's "The Italian Party"

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent for W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Lynch is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Italian Party, her debut novel:
I was delighted when Publishers Weekly said that my main character in The Italian Party, Scottie, would have been played by Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn. I agree! I had Grace Kelly in mind when I wrote her. The Italian Party takes place in 1956, and Scottie is 20 and somewhat naïve at the beginning of the novel, but a very capable woman by the end. Today I think she would be played by Margot Robbie.

Scottie’s husband Michael is darkly handsome, but insecure and anxious about the many secrets he is keeping. I think Ben Whishaw would be excellent casting—I loved him in The Hour, which was set in the same time period.

For Carlo, the Italian aristocrat/horseman, Raoul Bova would be great. Carlo’s wife, Franca, is still tortured by the death of their son during the war. I think Asia Argento or Monica Bellucci would be able to play all her layers.

Robertino is 14 and needs to be able to ride a horse really well, so that’s hard. I don’t know any 14-year-old Italian actors, but I loved Call Me By Your Name, so I would trust Luca Guadagnino to cast the perfect Robertino.

Sebastian is the most fun role in the book – I don’t want to spoil it, but he’s British-Italian and deliciously deceptive. I would love to see Jeremy Irons play him, or maybe Benedict Cumberbatch, just because I love him in Sherlock so much.

I’m sorry that Anthony Minghella and Saul Zaentz are no longer with us—they would have done beautiful things with this material, as they did with The English Patient. I worked in Hollywood for many years and have written lots of scripts, so I would definitely want to write the movie, but if I couldn’t, I would want Emma Thompson to do it. I loved her script for Sense and Sensibility.

Even though we need more women directors, I must admit I’d love to see Tom Ford or Luca Guadagnino direct the movie. I thought of Tom while I was still writing the book, because of his sense of style and because he knows what it’s like to be an American in Italy. Plus there’s a fox terrier in it, which he would love. As I said, I loved Call Me By Your Name, and I think Luca would capture the lazy beauty of summer in Siena in 1956.

Oh, and for Ecco the dog, I’d like to bring back Asta from The Thin Man, of course!
Visit Christina Lynch's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Daniel Livesay's "Children of Uncertain Fortune"

Daniel Livesay is associate professor of history at Claremont McKenna College.

Here he shares some insight about a big screen adaptation of his new book, Children of Uncertain Fortune: Mixed-Race Jamaicans in Britain and the Atlantic Family, 1733-1833:
In general, the thought of Hollywood being remotely interested in what I do feels pretty laughable. But, in some ways I think that a movie actually could be made about my book. Although there is a lot of historical context and analysis that runs through Children of Uncertain Fortune, it’s also largely a collection of stories about individuals. In this case, the stories are about mixed-race Jamaicans – the children of white men, and free and enslaved women – who leave the Caribbean for Britain to escape colonial persecution, but find new challenges across the ocean.

I do think that there are ways to make characters out of the subjects of the book. A number of the mixed-race migrants I trace have really remarkable stories. Some are born into slavery before being manumitted and sent to elite schools in England. Some wear disguises to hide their African heritage when interviewing for positions in Britain. Some travel on to India to try to make their own fortune. Others arrive in Britain, struggle to become accepted by their families, and return to Jamaica. So there are a lot of great accounts to work with.

A number of the subjects in the book are women, and I would love for their stories to come out. If I had to choose an actress to play one of those women, it would have to be Antonia Thomas. She is a terrific actress who has been in a number of great TV shows, including “Lovesick” and “The Good Doctor.” Antonia actually emailed me years ago after she discovered my dissertation online, so she already has an historian’s eye. It would be terrific to see her playing one of the individuals from the book.
Learn more about Children of Uncertain Fortune at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: Children of Uncertain Fortune.

Writers Read: Daniel Livesay.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sara Sheridan's "England Expects"

Sara Sheridan is an Edinburgh-based novelist who writes cosy crime noir mysteries set in 1950s Brighton and historical novels based on the real-life stories of late Georgian and early Victorian explorers.

Here she shares some thoughts about dreamcasting an adaptation of her new novel, England Expects, for the big screen:
I run a list at the back of my diary of actors I think could play roles in the Mirabelle books. Sometimes I spot a character actor in a minor role in a TV drama and I just know they’d be perfect for someone in the series so I take a note. But the thing is, I can’t tell you. I’m not going to tell you - because then if that person doesn’t get the part and somebody else does, well, it’s not polite, is all. And I’m British and very well brought up so - I can’t imagine spilling the beans! So Mum’s the word. But the series is currently with STV Productions and they are working with a screenwriter (hurrah) so maybe we’ll get to see who actually plays Mirabelle soon. I hope so!
Visit Sara Sheridan's website.

Learn more about England Expects.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 26, 2018

Kelli Stanley's "City of Sharks"

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Here Stanley dreamcasts an adaptation of her new Miranda Corbie Mystery, City of Sharks:
I had one actress in mind when Miranda Corbie introduced herself to me in City of Dragons.

Rita Hayworth.

Miranda looks like a young Rita, can turn on the kilowattage like a young Rita (think Gilda), and, underneath her hardboiled defenses, is an exquisitely sensitive soul. Her armor is as tough as she is vulnerable … indeed, that’s why the armor exists.

Rita could express that kind of vulnerability, even in more traditional (i.e. misogynistic) femme fatale roles (think Lady from Shanghai) … and, for my money, her performance as Gilda—the play of conflicting, competing emotions that played across her face in so many scenes—was one of the best in the entire noir oeuvre. Rita combined intelligence, strength, wit, sexual allure, romanticism, beauty and vulnerability in a way few actresses ever have.

But now we’re in the fourth book of the series—City of Sharks. Actresses that could’ve played the role several years ago—Charlize Theron, for example—have aged out of it. Could a contemporary younger actress capture Miranda? And capture her in a way that both evinces 1940 and transcends it?

Maybe. But the list is short.

Top choice, were I to ink a deal tomorrow, would likely be Haley Bennett, a young actress who can steal scenes from Emily Blunt and linger in your memory (she was one of the few good things in Girl on a Train). Haley’s got the acting chops and charisma, at least from what I’ve seen of her.

Other actresses in the age range (late ‘20s to early ‘30s) include Rebecca Ferguson, though I think she looks a bit too beautifully Scandinavian, and Margot Robbie, who played twitchy so well in both Suicide Squad and I, Tonya. Talent-wise, any of these three may be able to pull off the complex role of Miranda Corbie … Haley capturing Miranda’s vulnerability, Rebecca her decisiveness and courage, Margot her pain and determination.

As for directors, Patty Jenkins would far and away be my first choice, followed by Ava DuVernay and Todd Haynes.

And until all of this happens, I can at least queue up Gilda in the DVD player … and dream.
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Sharks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 23, 2018

Damian Dibben's "Tomorrow"

Damian Dibben is the creator of the internationally acclaimed children's book series the History Keepers, translated into 26 languages in over 40 countries. Previously, he worked as a screenwriter, and actor, on projects as diverse as The Phantom of the Opera and Puss in Boots and Young Indiana Jones. He lives, facing St Paul's Cathedral, on London's Southbank with his partner Ali and dog Dudley.

Here he shares some ideas about the above-the-line talent for a big screen adaptation of his new novel, Tomorrow:
My background is in screenwriting, having worked in the UK and Hollywood for ten years before I started writing novels. (Actually my first book, The History Keepers, was originally intended as a screenplay & when it was completed, Working Title bought the movie rights) That said, Tomorrow may just be un-filmable. It is filmic certainly, taking in an epic sweep of history from the reign of Elizabeth I of England, through the gruesome wars of the 17th century, Versailles, the golden age of Amsterdam and up to nineteenth century Venice, but it is also narrated by a dog and his voice, its reflective, philosophical quality is vital to the power of the story.

Of course, having originally been an actor too, I always think of casting. I would hold open auditions for the two principal dogs of the story, 'I' & 'Sporco', - the latter an endearingly eccentric stray from the alleyways of Venice - but the equally important human characters of 'the Master' and 'Vilder', both middle-aged but immortal, would provide great opportunities for two heavyweight British actors. 'The Master' would be Daniel Day Lewis, if he could be coaxed out of retirement. He would bring gravitas to this honourable, brave, but flawed gentleman. Colin Firth would do an excellent job too. 'Vilder' needs to have an altogether more dangerous, unpredictable edge and I would cast either Ralph Fiennes or Gary Oldman. (All four you'll note are Academy best actor winners.)

As far as directors are concerned, to tackle the tricky balance of epic, historical sweep and distinct narrative voice, it would need to be a visionary of the likes of Ang Lee (who did such a great job of another un-filmable book, The Life of Pi) or Guillermo del Toro. Personally I would never have started writing stories if it were not for the early films of Spielberg. The way he brought together real life, fantasy and profound emotion in films such as E.T. would make him an ideal choice.
Visit Damian Dibben's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Dennis Palumbo's "Head Wounds"

Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author of Writing From the Inside Out. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime. His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, feature psychologist Daniel Rinaldi, a trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police.

Palumbo applied the Page 69 Test to Head Wounds and reported the following:
After writing five books in my Daniel Rinaldi series, I have a pretty good feel for the continuing characters who populate my “mean streets” of Pittsburgh.

My lead character, Dr. Daniel Rinaldi, is an Italian-American psychologist who---like his author---was born and raised in the Steel City. He’s passionate about his work treating crime victims, is stubborn and opinionated, and has a snarky sense of humor. He’s also a former amateur boxer (Golden Gloves, Pan Am Games), so casting him for a film isn’t easy. I could see any one of Hollywood’s “usual suspects” like Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac or Michael Fassbender, though I really like Viggo Mortensen. A few years ago, he played Sigmund Freud in the film A Dangerous Method. I thought then what I think now: if Mortensen was good enough to play the father of psychoanalysis, he’s good enough to play Daniel Rinaldi.

For Noah Frye, a paranoid schizophrenic and Rinaldi’s best friend, I think I’ll stick with the actors I envisioned the last time I did this exercise: either Zach Galifianakis or Jonah Hill. Both are fine comic actors with just the right amount of pathos and lunacy in their eyes. Then there’s Joaquin Phoenix, another solid choice.

For Eleanor Lowrey, the beautiful Pittsburgh PD homicide detective whose relationship with Rinaldi goes from professional to personal, again I like my previous choices: either Kerry Washington (from Django Unchained and the TV series Scandal) or award-winning actress Viola Davis (from the film Doubt and the TV series How to Get Away with Murder). I also think Halle Berry would work in the role.

In Head Wounds, I depart from the usual structure of my novels and reveal the identity of the killer quite early on: a delusional computer genius who engages in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Daniel Rinaldi. I could definitely see Ewan McGregor (American Pastoral, The Ghost Writer, etc.) as the obsessed Sebastian Maddox, though either Michael Shannon, Sam Rockwell or Jude Law would make fine choices, too.

Finally, as the gruff, seen-it-all veteran police sergeant Harry Polk, I’d be happy with either Michael Chiklis or Woody Harrelson. Though, as I’ve written previously, the perfect choice would be one of my all-time favorite character actors, the late, great Jack Warden. In fact, he’s who I envision as I write the character.

Thanks for indulging my cinematic imagination!
Learn more about the book and author at Dennis Palumbo's website.

The Page 69 Test: Head Wounds.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 19, 2018

Jerry Gershenhorn's "Louis Austin and the Carolina Times"

Jerry Gershenhorn is Julius L. Chambers Professor of History at North Carolina Central University.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Louis Austin and the Carolina Times: A Life in the Long Black Freedom Struggle:
It’s March 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, in Durham, North Carolina, where African Americans are segregated and oppressed by Jim Crow-era white supremacy. Blacks attend segregated, woefully under-financed primary and secondary public schools. There is also a black public college in Durham, North Carolina College for Negroes (NCC), which suffers because of weak financing from the state government, and unlike the nearby white institution, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), NCC has no graduate or professional programs. The movie opens with four black men driving a 1928 Model A Ford from Durham to nearby Chapel Hill. In the car are two local lawyers in their early 30s, Conrad Pearson and Cecil McCoy; a black journalist, 35-year-old Louis Austin, the editor and publisher of Durham’s Carolina Times; and 24-year-old Thomas Raymond Hocutt, who dreams of becoming a pharmacist. However, no black college in North Carolina offers a pharmacy program. So Hocutt, backed by Pearson, McCoy, and Austin, has decided to mount the first legal challenge to segregated education in the South. A courtroom scene follows the opening scene, in which UNC’s registrar rejects Hocutt’s application.

Although my book chronicles Louis Austin’s life in the black freedom struggle in North Carolina from the late 1920s to the early 1970, the movie focuses on the Depression and World War II eras, highlighting the early decades of the long black freedom struggle before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. In addition to Hocutt’s lawsuit, scenes would include a white soda jerk’s 1931 attack on the state’s most prominent black businessman, C. C. Spaulding, because Spaulding transgressed the color line; an early voter registration movement led by Austin in the early 1930s, with tremendous opposition led by the white supremacist editor of the Raleigh News and Observer Josephus Daniels; and the 1944 murder of a black soldier, Booker T. Spicely, by a white bus driver, Herman Lee Council, following the soldier’s refusal to move to the back of the bus, and the subsequent trial of the bus driver.

Optimally, the film would be directed by the incomparable Ava Duvernay (Selma, 13th), with an amazing cast: Thomas R. Hocutt (Michael B. Jordan), Louis Austin (David Oyelowo), Louis Austin’s wife, Stella Austin (Tessa Thompson), C. C. Spaulding (Dennis Haysbert), Josephus Daniels (John Goodman), Conrad Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Booker T. Spicely (Anthony Mackey), Herman Lee Council (Brad Garrett), and Louis Austin’s father, William Austin (Morgan Freeman).
Learn more about Louis Austin and the Carolina Times at The University of North Carolina Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Louis Austin and the Carolina Times.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 16, 2018

Matthew Restall's "When Montezuma Met Cortés"

Matthew Restall is Sparks Professor of History and Director of Latin American Studies at Penn State. He is the author of Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest. He has had numerous conversations over the last thirty years with screenwriters and filmmakers in the US and Mexico interested in making a feature film, mini-series, or documentary on the Conquest of Mexico.

The challenges they faced are similar to those Restall considers here, as he dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, When Montezuma Met Cortes: The True Story of the Meeting that Changed History.
It would seem simple to cast three central characters in the epic tale of the Spanish invasion of the Aztec Empire: Benicio del Toro playing Hernando Cortés as a ruggedly handsome, fascinatingly flawed hero; one of the current Latina rising stars, like Ana de la Reguera (already a telenovela star in the Spanish-speaking world) to play Malinche, Cortés’s native interpreter and lover; and a Native American actor like Zahn McClarnon or Raoul Max Trujillo to play a brooding, doomed Emperor Montezuma.

But it is not that simple. Such a casting reflects the racist romanticism of the traditional narrative, in which Montezuma surrenders his empire and Malinche her heart to an irresistible Cortés—a metaphor for the providential inevitability of Spanish triumph. Such a movie might have worked in the mid-20th century, but today it would seem absurdly and offensively outdated. The reality of the co-called Conquest of Mexico was a brutal war of invasion, marked by massacres, mass enslavement, and horrific mortality rates among combatants and civilians. The true tale was dark, not romantic.

Cortés should thus be played by an actor who can foreground his flaws and insecurities (if it must be a star, Gael García Bernal or Diego Luna); in fact, the conquistadors should be an ensemble cast, with Alvarado, Sandoval, and several others given equal screen time (so, ideally, García Bernal and Luna). Malinche was a child of 12 or 13 when conquistadors acquired her as part of a grim trade in sex slaves; it would be a travesty to cast an adult star, especially a “hot” one, in the role. Both her and Montezuma should be played by native speakers of Nahuatl, as they should be speaking that language for most of their screen time. Trujillo spoke passable Yucatec Maya in Apocalypto (2006), so I’d enjoy seeing him manage Nahuatl as Montezuma or another of the Nahua protagonists, such as Ixtlilxochitl—an Aztec prince to whom I would give a central role, as he was more of an architect of Tenochtitlan’s fall than was Cortés.

In an endnote in When Montezuma Met Cortés, I speculate that one reason projected movies of the last thirty years on this topic were never made was because of the logistics and costs of re-creating and then destroying the Tenochtitlan of 1519. Advances in CGI now make that technically possible, but perhaps no less expensive. Two potential solutions that would also avoid the trap of the traditional narrative would be either to structure the movie as a Rashomon-style series of survivor perspectives (placing much of the movie in a more manageable post-Aztec early Mexico City, and reducing the screen time of the traditional big three characters), or to borrow the artifice used in También La Lluvia (2011), which was partly a film about making a film set in the Spanish Conquest era. In several scenes the actors playing actors debated the treatment of native peoples, permitting an airing of contrary perspectives that would be anachronistic in a movie set entirely in the 16th century. If When Montezuma Met Cortés were to be structured that way, García Bernal could reprise his También La Lluvia role as a Mexican film director, and Benicio del Toro could be deliberately miscast as Cortés.
Learn more about When Montezuma Met Cortés at the publisher's website.

The Page 99 Test: When Montezuma Met Cortés.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Alma Katsu's "The Hunger"

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank.

Here Katsu dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Hunger:
It’s fun to play this game this time around because The Hunger, unlike my previous books, has already been optioned for film. And by none other than Ridley Scott. His son Luke Scott is going to direct, and they’re working on the script now for Fox. I still can’t get used to saying that. Still, whether it will actually be made into a movie one day is a long shot, or so I’ve been told, and so being a ruthless pragmatist I’ve refused to dwell on it. This is actually the first time I’ve let myself think about it!

The Hunger is an ensemble cast and with few exceptions, the characters are based on real people. One of the main characters is Tamsen Donner, wife of George Donner, feckless leader of the wagon party. I’ve portrayed Tamsen as a bewitchingly beautiful, intelligent woman who is tired of being subject to the whims of men—which, given the times, can only lead to trouble and frustration. In an earlier era, Vivian Leigh would be the perfect Tamsen, but among today’s actresses, Jessica Biel (The Illusionist) or Olivia Wilde would be good choices for their cool beauty.

Charles Stanton is the closest thing to a hero in the novel. A bachelor, he makes a long, treacherous journey through wilderness to get supplies when the wagon party first runs out of food. He returns even though he has no familial ties, nothing to compel him to come back. There are a lot of actors I could see in this role but I’ve picked Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad). He looks like he could play someone haunted by a terrible incident in his past and, let’s face, given his lineage probably looks good in a cowboy hat.

I changed James Reed’s character for the book, giving him a fatal flaw that I’m sure he didn’t have in real life (and which I won’t reveal here so you’ll be surprised when you read it). An Irish immigrant who pulled himself up by his bootstraps, James Reed became the de facto leader when George Donner crumbled. This may seem like a funny choice, but I could see Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries) in this role. A little devilish, a little cunning, and hiding a big secret.

Several women in the wagon party emerge as leaders once things start going badly, and Mary Graves is one of them. It would be a great role for any young actress. The only requirements are that she should be tall and have a sincerity to her.

It will be hard for the setting not to run away with the movie: the story of the Donner Party transpired over flat-out gorgeous territory, from the red rock spires of Chimney Rock in Wyoming to the desert of the Bonneville Salt Flats to the lush mountain greenery of the Lake Tahoe area. The actors will have to work hard not to be outshone by the scenery.

If the movie ever gets made, let’s make a date to check back and see how accurate my picks were.
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 12, 2018

Phillip Margolin's "The Third Victim"

Phillip Margolin has written over twenty novels, most of them New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not Forgotten, Lost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases. Margolin lives in Portland, Oregon.

His new novel is The Third Victim.

Here Margolin dreamcasts the leads for an adaptation of The Third Victim:
There are two major characters in The Third Victim. Robin Lockwood earned part of her tuition at Yale Law School fighting in mixed martial arts tournaments, so I need a very athletic, mid-twenty-year old in the part. Alicia Vikander from Ex Machina and the new Lara Crof movie would be perfect.

The other lead is Regina Barrister, a dynamic criminal defense attorney and Robin’s idol, who is experiencing the onset of dementia in the middle of a death penalty case. Sigourney Weaver would be excellent in the role.
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Woman with a Gun.

My Book, The Movie: Violent Crimes.

Writers Read: Phillip Margolin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 9, 2018

John Marrs's "The One"

John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in London, England, who has spent the last twenty years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines. His novels include The Wronged Sons, Welcome To Wherever You Are, and, newly released in the US, The One.

Here Marrs dreamcasts an adaptation of The One:
The One is the story of five men and women who scientifically find their soul mates by being Matched by their DNA. That gives me five lead roles to fill. Growing up in the small working class town of Northampton, England, as a teenager I was obsessed with the escapism of watching American films, and in particular, anything starring the Brat Pack. The Breakfast Club, St Elmo’s Fire, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink … you name it, I’d have it recorded from it’s television broadcast and on to videotape.

So even though The One is set in the UK in the present day, I’m going to relocate my story to the US, choose five actors I grew up in awe of and retain them at the ages they were at the height of their fame.

One character that readers of The One are quite fascinated by is serial killer Christopher. He has made it his mission to murder 30 people one summer, however, he doesn’t count on falling in love in the middle bloody spree. Christopher is suave, handsome, educated, charming and women adore him. He has 1980s Rob Lowe’s name written all over him. And while I can’t quite recall seeing Rob clad in a black balaclava, brandishing cheesewire and murdering girls he’s been stalking in About Last Night or The Outsiders, there’s a first time for everything.

Character two is Nick. He’s a geeky good guy who’s about to marry his fiancée Sally. But when they take the DNA test, they discover he’s matched with a man. And when he tracks down his muscular, heterosexual supposed-soulmate Alex, so begins an awkward attraction. For their parts, I’m turning to The Breakfast Club and picking Anthony Michael Hall and Emilio Estevez. One’s a nerd, the other is a jock and I think they could play both the physical and mental awkwardness required absolutely perfectly.

Elsewhere, Mandy is in her early thirties and is looking for love. But after a failed marriage and watching her sisters find their Matches, she turns to science to locate her other half. Demi Moore is my pick to play her. Mandy has the joyous naivety of Demi’s character Debbie in About Last Night, and the potential to go off the rails like Jules in St Elmo’s Fire. And at the risk of giving a little of the plot away, she has much in common with Molly in 1990s Ghost.

Next up is Jade – a feisty, gutsy girl whose Match lives on the other side of the world. She takes the bull by the horns and surprises him with a visit – only she learns he’s been lying to her about something pretty huge. Molly Ringwald is my choice here. Anyone who has seen her in just about anything she did on film in the 1980s will know she can play spirited, scrappy, fiery and vulnerable at the drop of a hat.

Finally, there’s Ellie. She’s a strong, work-obsessed woman who runs her own multi-million pound business empire and is shocked to discover she has been Matched with Tim, her complete opposite. He’s a happy-go-lucky, fun kind of guy with little ambition. For this coupling, I’m going to cast Winona Ryder and Christian Slater circa 1989’s Heathers. While Winona’s Veronica wasn’t sassy or gutsy to begin with, by the end, there’s no doubt who was in charge. And as Tim isn’t quite who we think he is, Christian and his ability to out-side eye any of his co-stars off the screen is the perfect way to complete my retro casting.
Learn more about The One, visit John Marrs's website, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Writers Read: John Marrs.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

James Garbarino's "Miller’s Children"

James Garbarino holds the Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology and is Senior Faculty Fellow with the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago. He has served as an adviser to the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse, the National Institute for Mental Health, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and the FBI. He is the author of Listening to Killers: Lessons Learned from My Twenty Years as a Psychological Expert Witness in Murder Cases and Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them.

Here Garbarino dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Miller's Children: Why Giving Teenage Killers a Second Chance Matters for All of Us:
Were there to be a movie made of Miller’s Children, I would want the Director to be Martin Scorsese because he is expert at wrestling with the dark and the light of important human issues. I would want Liam Neeson to play my role, because he is not “flashy,” but rather “deep.” Here is the pitch:

The movie opens to a courtroom in 1998. A judge asks the defendant—a 17 year old boy named Mark who murdered “the girl next door” to rise, and then pronounces sentence: “The law in your case requires a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.” Teenage Mark is led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

Flash forward to 2018, in an interview room of a prison. Now 48, Mark sits across the table from Liam Neeson, the psychologist who has been asked to help the Court engage in a re-sentencing hearing as the result of a U S Supreme Court ruling that declared mandatory life without possibility of parole for teenagers who commit murder to be unconstitutional. It is up to the judge to impose a new sentence on Mark, a sentence that could range from 20 years (which would mean that Mark would walk free for “time served”) to life without possibility of parole.

Mark and Liam review the life Mark led up to the day he committed the crime for which he has spent more than half his life behind bars—the trauma, the rejection, the rage that propelled him to commit the crime and to be a disruptive and sometimes violent inmate for the first decade of his incarceration—but do not stop there. They talk about how Mark’s life changed when he reached his mid-20s (and his brain matured), how he begun to educate himself through a program of reading, how he began a serious spiritual practice of meditation and prayer, how he became a mentor to younger inmates, and how he participated in a wide range of programs—everything from anger management to substance abuse prevention, from getting his GED to becoming certified as a law clerk. Mark talks about his remorse for what he did and who he was then, and how he appreciates life in a new way now. At the end of the interview the two men embrace to celebrate the progress Mark has made towards leaving the world of darkness and joining the community of light.
Learn more about Miller's Children at the University of California Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Listening to Killers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 5, 2018

Anthony Grooms's "The Vain Conversation"

Anthony Grooms is the author of Bombingham: A Novel and Trouble No More: Stories, both winners of the Lillian Smith Book Award for fiction. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has taught writing and American literature at universities in Ghana and Sweden and, since 1994, at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

Here Grooms dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Vain Conversation:
Unlike my previous novel, Bombingham, I haven’t thought much about The Vain Conversation in cinematic terms. Though there is plenty of drama in the story, I see it largely in lyrical terms. There are three main characters, two of whom we see during a wide expanse of time. So for young Lonnie Henson, the novel’s protagonist, who at age 10 witnesses a lynching, I would need a child actor who can portray innocence corrupted, someone with dark undertones. River Phoenix comes to mind, but of course he is no longer with us. But I think Hunter McCraken (The Tree of Life) is a subtle enough actor to pull it off. As Lonnie in his thirties, I would look to Garrett Hedlund who played a restive WWII vet in Mudbound, and I would choose Jason Mitchell, who also played a vet in Mudbound for the role of Bertrand Johnson.

My character Bertrand, a black WWII vet like the Mitchell character, is looking for a fresh start in the Jim Crow South. Paul Bettany has the look of the reclusive planter Noland Jacks as a younger man; but I think Gary Oldman should play him as an old man.

I would want someone with the intensity of Viola Davis to play Luellen, Bertrand’s wife—though Oprah could play her because Oprah can play any role she wants in my book!

As for a director, I admire Raoul Peck, who is the current Haitian minister of culture. His film about the Rwandan genocide, Sometimes in April, was absolute genius. I think few can take on excessive and brutal violence and portray it in a matter that keeps it sickening and yet necessary to the plot. I also liked his film on one of my writer heroes, James Baldwin, called I Am Not Your Negro.
Visit Anthony Grooms's website.

Writers Read: Anthony Grooms.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 2, 2018

Shoba Narayan's "The Milk Lady of Bangalore"

Shoba Narayan is an award-winning author and columnist. Her books include Return to India: an immigrant memoir, Monsoon Diary: a memoir with recipes, and the newly released The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure.

Narayan graduated from the Columbia Journalism School which awarded her a Pulitzer Fellowship; and is an alumnus of Mount Holyoke College and Women’s Christian College.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Milk Lady of Bangalore:
The hardest part about making my book into a movie is to figure out who will play the main character, which is the cow, Anandalakshmi. We have had dogs act in movies, but not necessarily cows. For this reason, my book will have to be an animated movie. I would love the voice of my cow to be emoted by either Whoopi Goldberg or Chris Rock, preferably both because who is to say that cows have to follow our human protocol and have just a single-gender voice.

My Milk Lady, Sarala, can only be played by an Indian actress and for that I would choose Shabana Azmi, whose aura and work I love. In the film, Morning Raga, she transformed herself into a conservative South Indian aunty. I bet she’d have fun transforming herself into a milk woman.

As for who would play me, a girl can dream, can’t she? I love Isabella Rossellini and would love to see her morph into a middle-aged cranky Indian woman. The other actress I adore is Priyanka Chopra. Watch her in the film, Barfi, to see how she turns into a totally non-glamorous woman-- and what a killer performance.
Visit Shoba Narayan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Joy Fielding's "The Bad Daughter"

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Someone Is Watching, Now You See Her, Still Life, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels.

In her latest novel, The Bad Daughter:
A voice mail from her estranged sister, Melanie, sends Robin’s heart racing and her mind spiraling in a full-blown panic attack. Melanie’s message is dire: Their father, his second wife, and his twelve-year-old stepdaughter have been shot—likely in a home invasion—and lie in the hospital in critical condition.
Here Fielding dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
I really hadn’t given this much thought since I no longer hold my breath waiting for movie offers, but I consulted with my daughter Shannon and together we came up with the following: for Robin - Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Alicia Vikander, Rachel McAdams or Jennifer Lawrence. In short any of the top actresses working today. I also like Emma Stone, but think she’s a little young.

For Melanie, I like Angie Harmon or, if you were to play her older, Allison Janney. They would also work if it were a movie for TV. As would Mandy Moore for Robin.
Learn more about the book and author at Joy Fielding's website.

Writers Read: Joy Fielding.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Jennifer Frost's "Producer of Controversy"

Jennifer Frost is an Associate Professor in history at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Her books include Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood: Celebrity Gossip and American Conservatism.

Here Frost dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Producer of Controversy: Stanley Kramer, Hollywood Liberalism, and the Cold War:
Producer-director Stanley Kramer was one of Hollywood’s earliest and most successful independent post-World War II producers. From the 1940s to the 1970s, he made thirty-five films. Six received nominations for the Best Picture Academy Award. High Noon (1952) and The Caine Mutiny (1954) he produced, and The Defiant Ones (1958), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), Ship of Fools (1966), and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) he also directed. In 1962, he received the Academy’s prestigious Thalberg Award, bestowed on “creative producers” for “consistent high quality of production.”

But what made Kramer most stand out was his forthright commitment to political liberalism. At the height of the Cold War, Kramer wore his liberal politics on his sleeve. Politics showed in the subjects of his films: American race relations, the threat of nuclear war, violations of free thought and expression, and the Holocaust. He also took public stances for civil rights and civil liberties and against the anticommunist Red Scare and the Hollywood blacklist. In the process, he and his movies provoked discussion and debate. So much so, by 1961, he came to be called “Hollywood’s producer of controversy.”

Framing my movie about Kramer’s high-stress, high-stakes career and politics would be the tales of two significant productions. High Noon (1952) was a western made in the midst of anticommunist investigations of Hollywood. These events drove the screenplay, written by Kramer’s early collaborator and business partner Carl Foreman, and led to their personal and professional fallout. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), an interracial “dramedy” starring Sidney Poitier, reflected and affected the social, cultural, and political changes of the 1960s.

Kramer: For the lead role, I’d cast Gary Oldman. His appearance and build, energy and range make him the right actor to play Kramer. Oldman’s current award-winning performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour underscores his ability to immerse himself when playing historical figures. As an “actor’s director,” Kramer would have appreciated the versatility of this “actor’s actor” on screen, even if their off-screen politics would have differed.

Foreman: A major plot line of the movie must be the relationship between Kramer and Foreman. But it’s a complicated one and needs to be conveyed with care: this is not a “good guy” v. “bad guy” story. Anticommunists created untenable, “no-win” situations for Hollywood liberals and leftists like Kramer and Foreman. Projecting principles in conflict alongside Oldman could be Liev Schreiber. His role in the 2004 remake of the Cold War thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, chillingly captured the political stakes of Kramer’s era as well as our own.

Poitier: Since Sidney Poitier is still going strong at age 90+, I’d ask his opinion of who to cast as himself! He certainly offers opinions of Kramer. “I have to acknowledge Stanley as probably the most important element in my career,” he said in 2016. I would suggest two names to Sir Sidney, as Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Oyelowo would perfectly portray Poitier’s politesse. They have experience with historical roles and, as in Amistad (Ejiofor) and Lincoln (Oyelowo), working with my preferred director.

Director: Steven Spielberg is unsurpassed in historical filmmaking. Just off The Post—a movie about the controversy over the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers and freedom of the press—Spielberg makes movies Kramer would have appreciated. The reverse is also true. “I could never have made Schindler’s List, if it weren’t for Judgment at Nuremberg,” Spielberg credited Kramer. “You paved the way for me.”
My Book, The Movie: Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood.

Learn more about Producer of Controversy at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rachel Lyon's "Self-Portrait with Boy"

Rachel Lyon is the author of the novel Self-Portrait with Boy. She teaches for the Sackett Street Writers Workshop, Catapult, Slice, and elsewhere, and offers private writing coaching. Most weeks she sends out a free writing/thinking prompts newsletter. She is a cofounder of the monthly reading series Ditmas Lit.

Here Lyon dreamcasts an adaptation of Self-Portrait with Boy:
There's a line in Self-Portrait with Boy that hints at this question. My protagonist Lu Rile is all dressed up for a gallery opening, and the gallery owner Fiona Clay comes over and quips, "Left Johnny Depp at home tonight, have you?" When Lu looks confused she laughs and says, "Come on, no one's ever told you you look like Winona Ryder?" It's a surprising moment for Lu, because she does not think of herself as attractive. In fact she think of herself as remarkably unattractive compared to the sexy art world types around her. But I've always thought of her as kind of sexy in her own right. She's short and thin, like Winona, with tousled dark Reality Bites-era hair. Today Winona Ryder is a little too old for the role, I guess, but it tickled me, writing the book, to think how funny that line in particular would be, if it were addressed to Winona Ryder herself.

Once I started thinking about who'd play Lu Rile, I got a little obsessive about casting the dream movie version of the book. One day in August I spent a couple of hours procrastinating, coming up with a dream cast. Since Lu is 27, I needed someone else for her role, someone short and young who could play unbeautiful, withdrawn, hyperfocused, self-conscious, passionate, fearsome—and, on top of all that, who could speak with the hint of a Massachusetts accent. One of my favorite actresses of all time is Tatiana Maslany, who plays so many different roles in Orphan Black. I'm sure she could do it.

I'd want Kate Fine, the grieving mother of the boy who dies early on in the book, to be played by a tall former model with an interesting face. Beau Garrett would be great. I like the idea of casting people who used to be big in the 90s, since this book takes place in 1991. Ethan Hawke would be perfect for the role of Kate's husband Steve Schubert—a jerky, cocky, handsome, broken man.

Then there are all the neighbors. So many neighbors in this book! I don't have actors for all of them, but I'd love Philip Philips, a beautiful gay cross-dressing painter, to be played by Bryton Eric McClure, who was Richie Crawford on Family Matters. Daniel Baldwin would make a great Bob Maynard, the alcoholic sculptor who lives on the third floor. I might cast Rene Russo in the role of Cora Pickenpew, the regal artist who lives in the so-called penthouse, and Jane Lynch as Nancy Meister, the radical Christian activist with the big gray dog. David Paymer could play their landlord Gary Wrench, an old New York type, if we could make him look a little older. And Edie Falco could play his daughter Carmela Mola, if we could make her a little younger.

As for the other supporting characters, I definitely imagine Seth Green in the role of Chad Katz, Lu's annoying boss at the health food store. John Turturro would be an excellent Gideon Isaac, who's the unnerving, hyperintellectual, pompous yet playful headmaster at the private school where Lu ends up teaching. Wayne Salt, the wealthy, manipulative, one-legged Navy veteran and real estate developer, would have to be played by a middle-aged white guy with a bit of a menacing affect. I think of James Spader or John Malkovich. And Catherine Keener, another of my absolute favorites, would make a pitch perfect Fiona Clay.
Visit Rachel Lyon's website.

The Page 69 Test: Self-Portrait with Boy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, February 23, 2018

Brian E. Crim's "Our Germans"

Brian E. Crim is the John M. Turner Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and an associate professor of history at Lynchburg College. He is the author of Antisemitism in the German Military Community and the Jewish Response, 1914–1938 and the editor of Class of ’31: A German-Jewish Émigré’s Journey across Defeated Germany.

Here Crim dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Our Germans: Project Paperclip and the National Security State:
The incomparable Wernher von Braun, Disney legend and skilled self-promoter, had two movies made about him while he was still alive. One was a glowing biopic called I Aim for the Stars (1960) starring Curd Jürgens. The film completely sanitized the SS Major’s past and portrayed von Braun as the great idealist the Cold War national security state hoped the American public would accept. Humorist Mort Sahl did not buy it and recommended a more appropriate title, I Aim for the Stars ... but sometimes I hit London. East German cinema produced a more negative portrayal of “America’s rocket baron” entitled Die gefrorene Blitze (Frozen Lightning) (1967), which was actually more accurate despite its obvious propagandizing. My ideal Wernher von Braun is Michael Fassbender. Handsome, chiseled, and intense – Fassbender resembles von Braun and has already proven himself a convincing German in Inglorious Basterds (2009) (although he famously gave himself away) and as the young Magneto in the X-Men franchise. Wernher von Braun is neither a hero nor a villain, and Fassbender can play everything in-between.

Another key figure in Our Germans is a German-Jewish émigré named Walter Jessel. Jessel fled Nazi Germany in 1934 and became a US citizen just in time to enlist and return to his native Germany as a US Army intelligence officer. Jessel was among the first to interrogate the rocket team shortly after their surrender in May 1945. The experienced second lieutenant was skeptical of his subjects and wrote incredibly discerning reports. I see Logan Lerman, one of the finest young actors working today, as Walter Jessel. I was incredibly impressed with Lerman as the young recruit in Fury (2014) and the beleaguered first generation college student in Indignation (2016).

The final character to cast is the petulant State Department lawyer Samuel Klaus. A fierce critic of Project Paperclip, Klaus was outraged the US would grant citizenship to hundreds of ex-Nazis while leaving displaced persons, mostly Jews, languished in central Europe surrounded by the very people who tried to exterminate them. Unlike Jessel, Klaus had an edge and provoked many people with this strong personality. I think Andrew Garfield captures this complex figure. He can evoke empathy, but he is zealous and caustic at times.
Learn more about Our Germans at the Johns Hopkins University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue