Tuesday, October 26, 2021

James Kestrel's "Five Decembers"

Formerly a bar owner, a criminal defense investigator, and an English teacher, James Kestrel is now an attorney practicing throughout the Pacific. His writing has won advance praise from Stephen King, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Meg Gardiner, James Fallows, Pico Iyer, and numerous other authors. A sailor and world traveler, Kestrel has lived in Taiwan, New Orleans, and a West Texas ghost town. He lives in Volcano, Hawaii.

Here Kestrel dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Five Decembers:
When I set out to write Five Decembers, I wanted to write a murder mystery set in Honolulu during World War II, but early on my vision for the book grew to something on a much larger scale. Yes, it’s a murder mystery, but it stretches across the entire war and its aftermath, and there is a turn of events about midway through that may place it in another genre altogether. It’s a big book, and couldn’t be shot on the cheap, so if I had my choice of any director it would have to be Steven Spielberg. He’s tackled the period from many angles, but much of Five Decembers would be new to him, so perhaps he’d have some fun with it.

But, in thinking about the book, perhaps there is an opportunity to do something fairly novel in filming it. The most significant elements take place in either Honolulu or Tokyo. A hefty portion of the Tokyo scenes would need to be shot in Japanese. The producers of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! (about the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor) faced the same problem of a film split evenly between Japan and Hawaii, and they had a great solution: the Hawaii scenes were directed by Richard Fleischer, and the Japanese scenes were directed by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku. (Originally, the Japanese side was to be directed by Akira Kurosawa, which would have been fantastic). I would love to see that approach to Five Decembers.

As for casting—the main character, Joe McGrady, is a Honolulu Police Department detective, but is an outsider to Hawaii, having stayed in the Territory after his stint in the Army. We meet him a few weeks before the war breaks out, while Honolulu is simmering with tensions. He’s cool headed and logical, is tender to his friends, but can be vicious when it’s called for. So I think Tom Hardy would be ideal for the role. He’s an actor who can carry an entire film without ever speaking more than a handful of words (think Mad Max: Fury Road, and Dunkirk). He’d be a great Joe McGrady, so he should start studying Japanese now.

Ken Watanabe, who acted so well in Letters from Iwo Jima, would be great as Kansei Takahashi, a high official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who plays a key role in saving McGrady’s life and helping his investigation. Mr. Takahashi’s daughter, Sachi, also plays a pivotal role in McGrady’s life. She would need to be played by an actress who was thoroughly fluent in both Japanese and English. That is well outside my area of expertise, but Sally Amaki comes to mind, and she certainly looks the part.

And finally, as there appears to be an unwritten law that any successful WWII film must have Tom Hanks connected to it in some way, he’d be ideal in the role of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who was the commander of Pearl Harbor when the bombs began to fall.
Follow James Kestrel on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Bethany Ball's "The Pessimists"

Bethany Ball was born in Detroit and lives in New York with her family.

She is the author of What To Do About The Solomons.

Here Ball dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Pessimists:
My first choice for Virginia Powers, my main protagonist, is Uma Thurman. I wanted to explore an idea of fading American middle-aged beauty. I’m a little ashamed of the fact that this beauty is very cisgender, blonde, and white. I know it’s changing. But I’ve experienced having a close friend who was blonde and tall and walking down the street with them and feeling utterly invisible. I always wondered what it would feel like to have all eyes on you, to be a “ten” and then to watch as that sort of beauty faded or was actually, as in Virginia’s case, taken away to some extent. My mother would never buy me a Barbie doll because, as she said, she was quite certain I wouldn’t look anything like one. The American or maybe even world obsession with the tall beautiful white blonde is a strong one and my character Virginia has been sort of drifting along on the power of that myth.

Rachel is a transplant from New York City to the suburbs and she was in part inspired, at least physically, by a woman I went to high school with who I see from time to time in New York City. Miriam Shor. She is famous for playing the uber trendy managing editor Diana Trout on the TV show Younger. There’s a line in the first chapter of the book: “She was tiny and dark and cool in a black sheath and heels, like the city was still in her pocket.” That’s how I think of Miriam. She shares Rachel’s down to earthness and just sort of oozes cool. And like Rachel she is open and real.

Richard is a big American jock. He wants an orderly house, some women to ogle (or maybe a little more than ogling), and sports. At the same time, he has a tender side, he likes to read and he likes poetry. He isn’t ashamed of it, there’s just no room for it in his suburban day to day life. I can see a Liev Schreiber kind of actor playing him. I used to see Liev around Miami when I lived there and he has this big man way about him but there’s something vulnerable in his face too.

Tripp is another big American jock type, but much darker and more tortured than his pal Richard. He is a hard, cold guy. Maybe Christopher Walken in his soul but a little Bradley Cooper on the outside. He’s beautiful, like Virginia. I never think it’s a good idea for two truly beautiful people to hook up. One has to be beautiful and the other has to be on the plain side, for balance. That’s part of Virginia and Tripp’s problem, maybe.
Visit Bethany Ball's website.

The Page 69 Test: What To Do About The Solomons.

Q&A with Bethany Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

David R. Slayton's "Trailer Park Trickster"

David R. Slayton grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver, Colorado and writes the books he always wanted to read. His debut, White Trash Warlock, was published in October 2020 by Blackstone Publishing.

Here Slayton dreamcasts an adaptation of Trailer Park Trickster, the sequel to White Trash Warlock:
In White Trash Warlock we meet Adam Binder, a working class witch living in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The complex and shifting relationships between the characters is the core of the book in my opinion, so it would take talented actors to coax that onto the screen.

Setting-wise, the books shift back and forth between the normal world and the Spirit Realm, so it would need a director or a showrunner like Noah Hawley, who made Legion to capture that sometimes subtle, sometimes jarring, differences.

The main character, Adam, has a lot of innocence and a dash of cockiness that hides his insecurities, which mostly come from his rural background. He knows he doesn’t have a lot of magic and that makes him cautious when dealing with the beings and threats he sometimes has to. I’d love to see somebody play him who could show those sides, someone like Ross Lynch (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) or Sean Grandillio (Youth or Consequences, MTV’s Scream series).

Vic Martinez is a rookie cop whose whole world gets turned upside down when Adam saves him from a Grim Reaper, an intervention with major consequences for both men. Vic is a fan favorite. He’s a genuine person who knows who he is and does his best to roll with the changes. I think Danny Ramirez (Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Top Gun: Maverick) would be awesome as Vic.

Silver is Adam’s ex. The elven Knight of Swords, he’s all grace and classic looks with a bit of a mobster vibe. I knew Ludi Lin (Mortal Kombat, Power Rangers) would be perfect once I saw a pic of him in a pinstripe suit. Like most of the elves he has a lot of faces and events force him to assume a new mantle and appearance in Trailer Park Trickster. Lewis Tan (Mortal Kombat, Into the Badlands) would make a great choice for the role Silver plays by the end of Trickster.

Argent, the Queen of Swords, is Silver’s Twin. She’s infinitely powerful with a penchant for stealing cars. She first shows up in a dress that makes Adam think of classic Hollywood, so when I saw Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars, Raya and the Last Dragon) in a dress for the Rise of Skywalker premiere, I’m like yep, that’s Argent. She’s also a playful character and I think Tran would rock those contrasts.

Sara is bubbly and gregarious but don’t mess with her. She’s the easiest dreamcast for me. I knew right away that Nicole Byer (Nailed It, Wipe Out) had just the right energy for the enigmatic information broker who knows way more than she’s letting on.

Brian J. Smith (Sense8, Treadstone) would make a great Robert Binder. Give him a bit of a beard and he’d look the part of Adam’s older brother, the doctor who got away from Oklahoma only to have the supernatural side of his backwoods past catch up to him in Denver.

Finally, Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager, Orange is the New Black) is my dreamcast for Adam’s Great Aunt Sue. She’s been Adam’s caretaker since he became estranged from his mother and brother. Her Sight is powerful and she’s the one who sets Adam on his path to Denver. She loves Adam, but has her own secrets, all of which spill out in Trailer Park Trickster.
Visit David R. Slayton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 1, 2021

Jane Casey's "The Killing Kind"

Jane Casey has written eleven crime novels for adults and three for teenagers. A former editor, she is married to a criminal barrister who ensures her writing is realistic and as accurate as possible. This authenticity has made her novels international bestsellers and critical successes. The Maeve Kerrigan series has been nominated for many awards: in 2015 Casey won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for The Stranger You Know and Irish Crime Novel of the Year for After the Fire. In 2019, Cruel Acts was chosen as Irish Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. It was a Sunday Times bestseller.

Born in Dublin, Casey now lives in southwest London with her husband and two children.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Killing Kind:
In my standalone thriller The Killing Kind, Ingrid Lewis is a young lawyer who becomes convinced someone is trying to kill her. There’s an obvious suspect: John Webster, the man who stalked her after she represented him on a harassment charge. Because of him she lost her fiancé, her home and very nearly her life. But he denies any involvement. In fact, he offers to help her find out who is targeting her – at a price.

The Killing Kind is set in the London legal world, which is at the heart of London. It begins at the main criminal court, the Old Bailey, with St Paul’s Cathedral overlooking a gruesome murder – if you know anything at all about London, you will be able to imagine the scene! It’s a glamorous yet gritty world, very historical, and completely unique.

Ingrid is half-Danish and appears to be something of an ice queen. She keeps up a confident façade but she’s actually very vulnerable and sweet-natured. I think my ideal Ingrid would be Saoirse Ronan. She could be a believable lawyer, standing up to argue a case with devastating, incisive intelligence, but she would also let you see the impact that Ingrid’s fear has on her. As the plot progresses Ingrid allows herself to show her true feelings more and more. I think Saoirse would do a brilliant job of letting us see this process. I’m a huge fan of hers since her first appearances in Atonement and Hanna, and as an Irish writer I’d love to see an Irish actor take centre stage!

I’m also turning to Ireland for the part of John Webster, a charming man full of soft, terrifying menace. He operates outside the law and he’s capable of anything. Ingrid doesn’t trust him but she does have to decide whether or not to put her faith in him. Any actor who played him would have to make you like him in spite of yourself – I want you to root for the bad guy! – and for me the obvious choice is Andrew Scott. He can charm the birds from the trees but he has a genuinely chilling quality when he’s being scary. When I was writing the book I heard his voice in my head whenever Webster was speaking.

Webster’s main opposition in the book is Adam Nash, a police officer who tried to get him convicted once and failed. He’s driven and determined and Ingrid finds herself drawn to him. I’d love to see Regé-Jean Page from Bridgerton in this part (I love to see Regé-Jean Page in any part – he lights up the screen).

Ingrid’s best friend Adele is really a key role – she has a significant part in the plot and she’s one of my favourite characters. She’s funny, strong-willed and assertive and a very good friend to Ingrid. I think Maisie Williams would do such a great job of playing her. Since her breakthrough in Game of Thrones she has excelled in everything she’s done, and I think she has the most fascinating face – I never get tired of looking at her.

Finally, there’s Ingrid’s ex-fiancé Mark who is really significant in the plot, since what happened before the threat to Ingrid’s life is just as important as what comes after. He’s sort of an ideal man – wealthy, talented and thoughtful – but is he too good to be true? John Webster thinks so, but is that just jealousy or does he see something in Mark that Ingrid refuses to acknowledge? Mark has a bad temper and Ingrid’s life was far from perfect before the relationship ended. Tom Hiddleston would be superb as Mark. I’ve always loved him as Loki but I’ve also seen him on stage playing a difficult husband in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and he was electrifying. He brings out the dark side of a character so brilliantly.

The Killing Kind has been optioned for TV and is in development at the moment, which is so exciting for me. They haven’t got as far as casting any of these award-winning A-list actors yet – but an author can dream!
Follow Jane Casey on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Georgie Blalock's "The Last Debutantes"

Georgie Blalock is a history and movie buff who loves combining her different passions through historical fiction, and a healthy dose of period piece films. When not writing, she can be found prowling the non-fiction history section of the library or the British film listings on Netflix or in the dojo training for her next karate black belt rank. Blalock also writes historical romance under the name Georgie Lee.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Last Debutantes:
If they made a movie of The Last Debutantes, a heavily British cast would be brilliant for bringing the characters and story to life. I would first cast Lily James as Valerie de Vere Cole. I believe she has the range to play a young woman who must overcome her impoverished upbringing to survive the rigors of the 1939 debutante Season while navigating the politics of No. 10 Downing St. Lillie James, through her various roles in Downton Abbey, Darkest Hour and the current The Pursuit of Love miniseries, has shown that she can simultaneously portray strength and vulnerability, a very necessary trait for anyone playing Valerie.

I think Emily Blunt would make an excellent Vivien Mosley, Valerie’s foil and nemesis during the 1939 season. Emily Blunt can be wonderfully elegant and wicked as seen in The Devil Wears Prada. That mix is something that Vivien has in spades.

For the rest of the debutantes, I would choose Saoirse Ronan as Dinah Bridge, Lady Astor’s niece and Valerie’s best friend who helps welcome Valerie into society. Her role in Mary Queen of Scots showed that she has the refinement to play a young woman raised in society but who is vulnerable and a touch naïve at the same time. I would cast Emma Watson as Christian Grant because she has that sense of innocence and grit that the real life Christian possessed. I would cast Gemma Arteron as Eunice Kennedy because she has a slight physical resemblance to Eunice.

As for Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain, I think James Cromwell would make a great Neville Chamberlain. He is an excellent actor who has the tall, thin look and regal bearing of Neville Chamberlain. Helen Mirren would make an excellent Anne Chamberlain. She has the refinement mixed with a no-nonsense seriousness to portray Valerie’s caring aunt who understands the social world and politics and helps Valerie to navigate both.
Visit Georgie Blalock's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Other Windsor Girl.

The Page 69 Test: The Other Windsor Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 30, 2021

Andrew Welsh-Huggins's "An Empty Grave"

A son of the Finger Lakes in western New York State, Andrew Welsh-Huggins now calls himself a “proud native adopted Ohioan.” By day, he is a reporter for the Associated Press in Columbus. By earlier in the day, he is the author of seven books in the Andy Hayes private eye series, featuring a former Ohio State and Cleveland Browns quarterback turned investigator.

Here Welsh-Huggins dreamcasts an adaptation of the latest novel in the series, An Empty Grave:
I get this question a lot, and the answer is easy: the best person to play Andy Hayes, my disgraced former Ohio State University quarterback, is actor Keanu Reeves. Why? He’s done it twice on screen already.

The first time, in 1991’s Point Break, he teamed with Patrick Swayze in a crime fiction tale involving the FBI’s investigation of a violent California bank robbery gang whose members investigators believe are surfers. Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former Ohio State quarterback who quit the sport after blowing out his knee, and later becomes an FBI agent. The second time, in the 2000 sports comedy The Replacements, Reeves plays Shane Falco, a former Ohio State quarterback who saw his star dim after a blow-out loss in the Sugar Bowl. In the movie, he’s hired during an NFL players strike to join the fictional Washington Sentinels, coached by Gene Hackman. To my mind, Reeves' brooding skepticism, moodiness, and perpetual sense of hauling around baggage fit Andy perfectly. At fifty-six, Reeves is probably a little older than I imagine Andy at the moment—Andy’s in or around his early forties—but Reeves is still my sentimental favorite.
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Jo Perry's "Pure"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

About Perry's new novel, Pure:
Caught in a pincer movement between the sudden death of Evelyn (her favourite aunt) and the Corona virus, Ascher Lieb finds herself unexpectedly locked down in her aunt's retirement community with only Evelyn's grief-stricken dog Freddie for company.

As the world tumbles down into a pandemic shaped rabbit-hole Ascher is wracked with guilt that her aunt was buried without the Jewish burial rights of purification.
Here the author dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of Pure:
Ascher requires a character-actor, not a movie star––someone really funny and real to bring her to life. A young Sarah Silverman would be perfect. I wish Ascher and Silverman were the same age, but Ascher is much younger. I’m pretty sure Silverman could play a character younger than she is now, but if she couldn’t, the comedian Ester Steinberg (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) would be perfect, too.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Amy Mason Doan's "Lady Sunshine"

Amy Mason Doan is the bestselling author of Lady Sunshine, The Summer List, and Summer Hours.

Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon with her family. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a reporter & editor for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, and other publications. Doan has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Lady Sunshine.
Jackie – Florence Pugh
Willa – Elle Fanning
Shane – Luke Kirby
Bree – Queen Latifah
Graham – Jeff Tweedy

Lady Sunshine is a surprise inheritance story that, in my totally unbiased opinion, would make a fantastic movie. We follow main character Jackie Pierce in two time periods – 1979 and 1999. In ’79, Jackie is a restless, fiery, unhappy teen sent to live with her musical, bohemian relatives for the summer at The Sandcastle. It’s a gorgeous place cut off from the rest of the world -- a wild, sprawling estate in far northern coastal California. She forms an intense bond with her hippie cousin Willa, although the two couldn’t be more different, and she has the best summer of her life with the many free spirited visitors who flock there.

But at the end of the summer, Jackie flees for mysterious reasons. Twenty years later, Jackie, now a staid music teacher in Boston, inherits The Sandcastle and returns “just to pack up and sell it.”

Of course it’s not that simple…

Jackie in ’99 is keeping a lot of secrets, and she’s buried her teenage boldness for reasons we don’t understand until the end of the book, but we can still see a flicker of that fire. The musicians who come to The Sandcastle to record a tribute album to Jackie’s uncle in the present thread of the story help her rediscover that old self – and the passions she’s been stuffing deep down for many years.

Florence Pugh would capture both Jackie’s fierce and tender sides, and would make us feel her joy and vulnerability as she opens up to love with album producer Shane. (Plus, I’ve seen Pugh’s incredible performance in The Little Drummer Girl so I know she can rock 70s fashion…)

Willa, Jackie’s cousin, is ethereal and dreamy. She loves the outdoors, surfing, Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading. She spends weeks by herself alone in nature, but she sees a lot in those woods. Elle Fanning, who was brilliant in the 70s-set family drama 20th Century Women, would be amazing.

Shane, the love interest and general pot- (and plot-) stirrer in 1999, is obsessed with the music Jackie’s late uncle made, and he convinces her to let him and his entourage stay at The Sandcastle to record a tribute album. Jackie’s immediately drawn to him, though she doubts his motives.

Luke Kirby would embody Shane’s mysterious and playful sides. I love him as Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and I’m obsessed with his performance in Sarah Polley’s haunting film Take this Waltz.

Bree Lang is a famous singer who takes part in the 1999 tribute-album project for personal reasons. She and Jackie become unlikely friends. She’s one of the few characters in the book who manages to handle her fame with grace, and she can slip seamlessly between private and public worlds. Bree is authentic one-on-one and on-stage.

I’ve always visualized Queen Latifah in this role. Her performance as a mesmerizing singer and Holly Hunter’s friend in Living Out Loud is one of my favorites among her many roles. She’d be a dream.

Graham Kingston is Jackie’s uncle & Willa’s father. In 1979, he’s a faded folk singer who presides over The Sandcastle like a king. He relishes that role since his star has dimmed...we learn that record producers “see only his numbers, not his words.” Jackie idolizes him and his songwriting talent, but she realizes that he’s a deeply flawed human. I think I based Graham on David Crosby with dashes of Jackson Browne and James Taylor. Graham is leonine in appearance-- hulking and heavyset, with a mane of blond hair. I’d love to see Jeff Tweedy of Wilco explore a darker side of his artistic personality for this role.

Since I got the idea for Lady Sunshine’s central plot (the tribute album) from the Wilco/Billy Bragg album Mermaid Avenue, it’d be fitting.
Visit Amy Mason Doan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Hours.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 20, 2021

Kira Jane Buxton's "Feral Creatures"

Kira Jane Buxton's writing has appeared in The New York Times, NewYorker.com, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, and more. Her debut novel Hollow Kingdom was an Indie Next pick, a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, the Audie Awards, and the Washington State Book Awards, and was named a best book of 2019 by Good Housekeeping, NPR, and Book Riot. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, five Steller's jays, two dark-eyed juncos, two squirrels, and a husband.

Here Buxton dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Feral Creatures:
It’s tremendous fun to imagine the dream cast for Feral Creatures. The novel, a sequel to Hollow Kingdom that can also be read as a standalone, is narrated by a foul-mouthed crow named S.T. There are interstitial chapters narrated by other animals to give a glimpse into what is happening around the world in this post-apocalyptic funny fable. As a result, there are a great many characters, many of whom are lively and humorous. Someone recently wrote to me to ask when Patton Oswalt would be voicing S.T. on the big screen, and I think Patton would perfectly actualize a snarky American crow with a huge heart and a penchant for puns, poetry and Cheetos!

I am a very big fan of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, and could imagine them voicing the roles of Ghubari the intellectual African Grey and Tom Hanks, a theatrical cockatoo whose erstwhile owner was in the performing arts.

The character of Oomingmak, the lovable but gassy musk ox who would lay down his life for his beloved Dee, requires an actor with a deep voice. I imagine Vin Diesel or Sam Elliott would be spectacular.

There are three capricious tiger characters and I suspect they would be beautifully voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Since I get to muse and choose for this fantasy dream casting, I would love to see a young, up-and-coming actress in the role of Dee, the last child on earth. Dee has been predominantly raised by a crow and a parliament of owls, has a deep and abiding connection to nature, and is one of the titular “feral creatures” of the novel. I’m an eternal optimist who loves to see a dream fulfilled, so I would be thrilled to see the role of Dee go to someone relatively unknown in the industry and be the first break of their acting career.
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Nev March's "Murder in Old Bombay"

Nev March is the recent winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Award for Best First Crime Fiction.

After a long career in business analysis, in 2015 she returned to her passion, writing fiction and now teaches creative writing at Rutgers-Osher Institute. A Parsee Zoroastrian herself, she lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Murder in Old Bombay is her debut novel.

Here March dreamcasts an adaptation of Murder in Old Bombay:
With five nominations for national book awards, Murder in Old Bombay has attracted interest for its screen rights.

Murder in Old Bombay is a cinematographer’s delight, because it’s set amid the vast vistas of Colonial India, from posh Bombay mansions and royal durbar halls to old fortresses and mountain villages on Himalayan slopes by way of army cantonments, boxing gymkhanas and seedy dockyards. In the vein of a Merchant-Ivory production, I’d love to see it produced by Deepa Mehta (Bride and Prejudice) or Gurinder Chadha (Beecham House) or Michael Engler (Downton Abbey)!

In 1892, Captain James Agnihotri, a recuperating officer in British ruled India reads a despairing letter from a widower, Adi Framji and is intrigued. Seeking redemption for his own missteps, he decides to help Adi solve the mystery behind the puzzling deaths of his wife and sister, who plunged to their deaths from a university clocktower in broad daylight. Captain Jim’s investigations lead him through dangerous adventures to reach the ultimate prize—a sense of belonging.

Captain Jim is of mixed race. While this poses a significant social impediment in his personal life, it allows him to investigate both upper class society folk as well as the dark underbelly of Indian society. Through his investigation, he will encounter young Diana Framji’s “diamond sparkle,” a team of lost urchins, as well as the man accused of the crime, who’d “stood trial, suffered censure and public vitriol, all to protect the memory of two friends.” And he will fall in love with his client’s family, including Mrs. Framji who feeds him sumptuous meals at every opportunity and Burjor, the broad-chested open-hearted patriarch. Diana is his client’s sister, educated in England, polished at a finishing school, dynamic and assertive, she chafes against her Victorian limitations and restricted lifestyle. And she has secrets.

Among his allies he will find Editor Tom Byram:
Smooth. The man was so composed I disliked and admired him at the same time,
Police Superintendent McIntyre:
“Evening,” he said Abruptly. Not disposed to think well of me, then.
And unexpected, heroic aid from one fragile, sweet child.
Chutki had the sort of pluck no one expects, the courage to endure the unspeakable in Jalandhar, to walk on bloodied feet, to protect a babe and save little scraps to feed it when she had nothing for herself…
Above all he will encounter India.
“When I rose, dusk was creeping up the mountain. Birds trilled and crickets called to each other, friendly sounds, yet they reminded me of my solitary state.”
The male lead, Captain Jim, could be played well by British actor Blake Ritson, or Indian actor Hrithik Roshan because they both have a certain angularity to their features, good physique and are great character actors. The actor would need to don a number of disguises and completely disappear into them, the way Captain Jim does in imitating Sherlock Holmes!

The female lead could be Bangladeshi actress Bidya Sinha or Annet Mahendru, born in Afghanistan to a Russian mother and an Indian father, from the FX show The Americans.

With a panoply of memorable characters and Bombay, queen of imperial cities as backdrop, I can just see this emotional story filling the big screen and the hearts of movie-goers. See more locations, characters, and casting choices.
Visit Nev March's website.

Q&A with Nev March.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Old Bombay.

--Marshal Zeringue