Friday, April 27, 2018

D.J. Butler's "Witchy Winter"

D.J. (“Dave”) Butler grew up in swamps, deserts, and mountains. After messing around for years with the practice of law, he finally got serious and turned to his lifelong passion for storytelling. He now writes adventure stories for readers of all ages, plays guitar, and spends as much time as he can with his family.

Here Butler shares some casting ideas for an adaptation of his new novel, Witchy Winter:
I haven't cast all the roles of the Witchy War books in my head, but I have thought about several:

Krysten Ritter plays Jessica Jones with the kind of damaged fragility and rage that my protagonist Sarah Elytharias Penn needs to show. Her coloring is also right, and if she's clearly much too good-looking ... well, that's Hollywood.

Jeff Bridges might now be getting too old. But whoever plays Bad Bill, the fallen Cavalier military man become a gunfighter and thug in New Orleans, should play him like Bridges played Rooster Cogburn. Occasionally baffled, often over his head, but loyal and able to be decisive. And Bridges in that role looked the part.

I really like Chiwetel Ejiofor for Etienne Ukwu. Again, he might now have aged past the part, but the kind of self-possession, focus, and threat that Ejiofor emanated in Serenity are what the gangster son of the Bishop of New Orleans needs to broadcast.
Visit D.J. Butler's website.

The Page 69 Test: Witchy Winter.

Writers Read: D.J. Butler.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Man Martin's "The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome"

Man Martin writes and teaches in Atlanta, Georgia. He has been twice named Georgia Author of the Year.

Here Martin dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest novel, The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome:
Bone King, suffering a mysterious neurological condition that intermittently prevents his going through doors, consults with the famous Dr. Limongello (pronounced Lemon Jell-O) who gives a bizarre diagnosis - King’s soul is becoming detached from his brain - and an equally bizarre therapy; when stuck at a door, he is to dance - following the same logic that stutterers communicate clearly when they sing. And each day, to address the underlying problem, he must perform a series of tasks aimed at relearning empathy for others and ultimately for himself.

Casting this to my satisfaction will require a time-machine.

Dr. Limongello is a bit “mad;” a doctor whose infectious self-confidence could make a patient accept a patently absurd diagnosis. Who better than John Astin, best known for his role of Gomez Addams on television’s The Addams Family. Cartoonist Charles Addams’ original Gomez was pudgy and sleepy-eyed, but Astin’s version was an irresistible manic force. He didn’t merely kiss his wife, her devoured her, starting at the fingertips and working his way up to her neck. That’s Limongello; fizzing with manic energy, evidence that if the world is cockeyed, you have to be a little cockeyed yourself to live in it properly.

Bone King is a socially awkward grammar nerd, afraid - quite rightly - that his wife is carrying on with the yardman. I visualize him played by Alec Guiness with the same dreamy abstraction he brought to The Man in the White Suit. Guiness is a master of physical comedy, but what sets him apart is his expression of forlorn unsurprise at the disasters that rain down on him, a look of wounded dignity. This is the look Bone might wear, finding himself frozen at a threshold in some public place, and compelled to break into dance to get through.
Visit Man Martin's website and blog.

Coffee with a Canine: Man Martin and Zoe.

The Page 69 Test: The Lemon Jell-O Syndrome.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, April 23, 2018

J. E. Smyth's "Nobody's Girl Friday"

J. E. Smyth is Professor of History at the University of Warwick and author or editor of Reconstructing American Historical Cinema from Cimarron to Citizen Kane (2006), Edna Ferber's Hollywood (2009), Hollywood and the American Historical Film (ed., 2012), Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance (2015), and the BFI classics monograph on From Here to Eternity (2015).

Here Smyth shares some ideas about developing a film version of her new book, Nobody's Girl Friday: The Women Who Ran Hollywood:
It’s a catchy title. But a feature film? Meh. I happen to think actress Olivia de Havilland was quite right about Feud (2017) and the scandalous way the male screenwriter portrayed her, playing fast and loose with the facts to construct a story about another Hollywood catfight between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. The California judge was correct when she said no one “owns history,” but 75 years ago, Hollywood producers routinely consulted living historical subjects and scrutinized the script to avoid libel suits. I think in this recent case, the writer was too sloppy or stupid to realize Ms. de Havilland was still alive.

What I would like is to develop Nobody’s Girl Friday as a documentary, assembling as much archival footage as I can to complement the story of the women who ran Hollywood in its “golden era.” I certainly don’t want Susan Sarandon playing Bette Davis in a feature film—and if a feature had to be made, I would rather wait till CGI had improved enough to cast Davis as herself (with the family’s permission, of course). But there are certainly great individual stories in the book that would make strong biopics. Mary C. McCall Jr., Barbara McLean, Silvia Schulman, Dorothy Jeakins—their lives are far more interesting and poignant than anything some contemporary screenwriter could dream up.

I admire the work of Margot Robbie and Lena Headey (a perfect Joan Harrison), but very few contemporary actresses could fill the shoes of the women in Nobody’s Girl Friday. Their attitudes toward work, equality, power, education, and fulfillment are often strikingly different from those held by women in today’s Hollywood.

#MeToo has certainly done a lot to highlight sexual harassment in contemporary Hollywood and promises great strides towards gender equality, but too often the studio era has been wrongfully dismissed as a system bent on the disempowerment and abuse of women. The media has forgotten the achievements of other generations. The image of the victimized woman has been selling in movie theaters for decades. Nobody’s Girl Friday would offer something different—and some might not be ready for the challenge.
Learn more about Nobody's Girl Friday at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nobody's Girl Friday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Nell Hampton's "Lord of the Pies"

An avid foodie and writer, Nell Hampton (AKA Nancy J. Parra) decided to finally combine her two loves. She lives in Richmond, VA.

Her new novel is Lord of the Pies.

Here Hampton/Parra dreamcasts a small-screen adaptation of Lord of the Pies:
I think my book is better as a television series. I think you could enjoy seeing each episode play out allowing the characters room to grow.

I would like Carrie Ann to be played by Kelly Cuoco and I can imagine her new friend Penny played by Karen Gillan who played Amy Pond – my favorite Dr. Who character.

Martin Freeman is a favorite actor. I think he could play the police inspector.

Ian Gordon would be played by a young Sean Connery and Jasper is definitely Chris Hemsworth. So many fun characters in this series.

Mrs. Worth could be played by Penelope Wilton and Chef Butterbottom could be played by Richard Griffiths.
Visit Nell Hampton / Nancy J. Parra's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Nancy J. Parra and Little Dog.

The Page 69 Test: Lord of the Pies.

Writers Read: Nell Hampton.

--Marshal Zeringue

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.
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The Page 69 Test: The Wild Inside.

--Marshal Zeringue