Friday, June 14, 2019

Robyn Arianrhod's "Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science"

Robyn Arianrhod is Adjunct Research Fellow at the School of Mathematical Sciences at Monash University. Her previous works include Seduced by Logic and Einstein's Heroes.

Here Arianrhod dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science:
The long-lost Elizabethan scientific genius Thomas Harriot lived a dramatic and extraordinary life. Arriving in London as a brilliant young Oxford graduate from the wrong side of the tracks, he was soon swept up in the most glamorous of Elizabethan circles. His first boss – who became a lifelong friend – was the brilliant, impetuous Sir Walter Ralegh, favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.

Harriot is a mysterious character, and I have more to say about him. But first, who better to play the larger-than-life Sir Walter than Ioan Grufudd: tall, dark, handsome, and with the beard he sports in the TV series Harrow, he even sort of looks like Ralegh! And for Elizabeth I, the fabulous Fiona Shaw is terrific at playing powerful, morally ambivalent women – need I say more than Killing Eve? Or the legendary Helen Mirren, who’s already played Elizabeth I (and II) marvelously.

Harriot was Ralegh’s navigational advisor, and sailed to America as part of Ralegh’s First Colony. He also learned the American (Algonquian) language, and enjoyed the indigenous way of life even as he unwittingly helped sow the seeds of its tragic destruction. There’s a host of fascinating minor characters in this part of the story, and I’d love to take the time to cast them if this were not just a fantasy (sigh) – so let me move on.

A few years later, Ralegh incurred the queen’s wrath by secretly marrying the charismatic, fiercely determined Bess Throckmorton. The wonderful Kate Winslett would be a terrific Bess – or, on the theme of Killing Eve and charismatic women, the extraordinary Jodie Comer. Or the remarkable Tilda Swinton…

This clandestine marriage was just the beginning of Ralegh’s troubles – and of Harriot’s, too, although he soon attracted a second patron, the earl of Northumberland. The earl was a wealthy, aristocratic playboy-scholar who recognized Harriot’s genius, and encouraged him to freely explore science and mathematics. Who should play the generous, complex earl? Well, James Norton (Grantchester, War and Peace) is eminently watchable in whatever he does.

Ultimately, Harriot and his benefactors couldn’t take a trick – in the early 1600s first Ralegh and then the earl were locked away in the Tower of London on false charges of treason. Harriot himself ran foul of the authorities. It was a dangerous and tumultuous time – a time of deadly religious wars and dastardly political rivalries, of plague and superstition. Mathematics and science seemed so arcane to most people that its practitioners were often regarded as ungodly astrological and magical conjurors. Speaking of which, the famous Dr Dee was a friend of Harriot – how about the edgy Benedict Cumberbatch for Dee?

Despite all the adventures and dramas in his life, Harriot left behind thousands of unpublished manuscript pages, which lay lost or forgotten for centuries. Today they show him to have been “England’s Galileo”, and the greatest British mathematical scientist before Newton.

Who should play the publicity-shy genius? Ben Whishaw: is there any actor today who can better convey the subtle range of emotions that he does? Perfect for the enigmatic Harriot, who so often had to juggle his passion for science, his evident if understated love of life, and his loyalty to his beleaguered patrons.
Learn more about Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Seduced by Logic.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Becky Masterman's "We Were Killers Once"

Becky Masterman grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and received her MA in creative writing from Florida Atlantic University.

Here she dreamcast the leads for an adaptation of her new novel, We Were Killers Once:
Despite being purchased last year by a production company, my first book Rage Against the Dying has yet to flicker onto a screen of any size. Since it was published I've fantasized about many an actress to play my aging yet powerful series protagonist, Brigid Quinn. Holly Hunter, Glenn Close, Emma Thompson, and Jamie Lee Curtis are all possibilities. But whenever I speak of the actor to play Brigid's husband Carlo DiForenza, I get disbelieving stares. Okay, so Carlo is an ex-Catholic priest who mildly quotes Bonhoeffer. But why not Jeff Goldblum? Goldblum is tall and has those soulful Mediterranean eyes. Sexy without being self-aware. And while no one seems to get this, I know there's an irony underlying everything that Carlo says, even when he appears at his most earnest. That's signature Jeff Goldblum right there.

My fourth book in the series, We Were Killers Once, puts Carlo in mortal danger from a killer no one, especially Truman Capote, ever thought existed.
Visit Becky Masterman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Rage Against the Dying.

My Book, The Movie: Fear the Darkness.

My Book, The Movie: A Twist of the Knife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Elizabeth Goldring's "Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist"

Elizabeth Goldring is an honorary associate professor at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance at the University of Warwick and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist:
Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist tells the story of Nicholas Hilliard, portrayer of Elizabeth I, James I, and their courts. Born into a family of Devon goldsmiths at the tail-end of Henry VIII’s reign, Hilliard lived an exceptionally long and rich life, notable for the wide range of people he met and portrayed, as well as for his own journey to the heart of the English court – and, indeed, to the heart of the French court, where he spent about two and a half years as a court painter (in all probability doing a bit of spying for Elizabeth I on the side).

Hilliard’s fame derives chiefly from his exquisitely detailed portrait miniatures: tiny images painted in watercolour on vellum using a brush made from squirrel hairs set in a bird quill. Most are no bigger than the lid of jam jar, though some are as small as a watch-face. In an era long before the invention of the photograph – much less the instantly communicable imagery of the mobile telephone – portrait miniatures had the great virtue of being easily portable and thus of helping to create intimacy (or the illusion thereof) across long distances. Hilliard was the first native-born English artist to acquire a reputation for excellence both at home, where poets such as John Donne sang his praises, and abroad, where his paintings were admired by the Medici, the Valois, and the Habsburgs. In addition to kings and queens, Hilliard’s sitters included royal favourites the earls of Leicester and Essex; Shakespeare’s patron the earl of Southampton; the explorers Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Ralegh; and members of the aspirational middle class from which Hilliard himself hailed.

My book traces Hilliard’s rise to fame, his personal struggles and quest to become the social equal of his aristocratic sitters, his role as teacher to the next generation of English painters, and his influence on writers such as Donne. In addition, it brings to life the political and religious upheavals of the age. But a film adaptation – rather than trying to recount all seventy-two years of Hilliard’s turbulent life and times – would perhaps be most effective if it focused on the thirty-two-year relationship between Hilliard and Elizabeth I.

Prior to Hilliard’s appearance on the scene, Elizabeth had been highly self-conscious about her image, particularly when exchanging portraits with Mary Queen of Scots, a legendary beauty who had some of the most gifted painters at the French court at her disposal. But Hilliard gave Elizabeth a makeover and, virtually overnight, emerged as her most trusted portraitist. Between 1571, the year in which he first portrayed Elizabeth from the life (a time-consuming business which meant spending three or four days together), and 1603, the year in which she died, Hilliard produced hundreds of portraits of Elizabeth. Hilliard knew how to flatter. All the portraits that he painted of Elizabeth towards the end of her life – by which stage she had lost most of her teeth and hair – depict her as an eternally youthful, wrinkle-free maiden, with glorious golden-red ringlets. Yet in spite of Hilliard’s many years of faithful service, Elizabeth was slow to pay – which, when coupled with Hilliard’s expensive tastes (to say nothing of the fact that he and his wife had seven children), meant that he frequently found himself on the run from creditors or doing business with less-than-salubrious characters.

My dream casting would be Benedict Cumberbatch as Hilliard and Gillian Anderson as Elizabeth I. Both are gifted actors and particularly good in period pieces. There is also, in each case, a strong physical resemblance to the historical figure to be portrayed – something which, though not essential, is always a bonus.
Learn more about Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Jennifer Ryan's "The Spies of Shilling Lane"

Jennifer Ryan grew up in Britain and moved to Washington, DC fifteen years ago. Previously a non-fiction book editor, she now writes novels set in Second World War Britain and inspired by her grandmother’s stories of the war.

Her second novel, The Spies of Shilling Lane, tells the tale of a woman who heads into the London Blitz to see her daughter, only to find her missing.

Here Ryan dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel:
The Spies of Shilling Lane is about female spies in Second World War London. It combines a thriller with the devastation of London in the Blitz, with British humor and warmth woven throughout. It’s with this in mind that I create a fantasy cast list.

Mrs. Braithwaite has to be played by Julie Walters (Donna’s friend Rosie in Mamma Mia, the Weasley’s Mom in Harry Potter). I think she could convey the blend of bombastic yet loveable, the bumbling un-self-consciousness of the middle-aged mom.

Betty Braithwaite, the young, fearless spy, would of course be Emma Watson (Hermione in Harry Potter). She has the perfect blend of astuteness and quiet confidence. She could, in fact, be her!

Betty’s landlord, the timid accountant Mr. Norris, should be played by Ralph Fiennes (Monsieur Gustave H. in The Budapest Hotel, Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, Justin Quayle in The Constant Gardener). He would be master of the pensive, stilted turns and deep heart.

Good-looking and raffish, Mr. Baxter would be Matt Smith (Prince Philip in The Crown), for his continual smirk and all that intensity packed inside.

Florrie, the pretty and harebrained roomie of Betty’s, would be played by the striking Lily James (the young Donna in Mamma Mia 2, Lady Rose in Downton Abbey). She combines sweetness and chaos all in one.

For Betty’s other roommate, the beautiful, haughty Cassandra, I see the wonderful Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary in Downton Abbey). Her proud, condescending manner would be perfect for the role.
Visit Jennifer Ryan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Rachel Barenbaum's "A Bend In The Stars"

Rachel Barenbaum is a graduate of Grub Street’s Novel Incubator program. In a former life she was a hedge fund manager and a spin instructor, before moving to the New Hampshire woods to write. She has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and an AB in Literature and Philosophy from Harvard College.

Here Barenbaum dreamcasts an adaptation of A Bend in the Stars, her first novel:
A Bend In The Stars is set in 1914 Russia. The novel is focused on the brother and sister duo of Miri and Vanya. The two are snared by the Czar’s army as his forces tighten their grip on the local Jewish community in preparation for war with Germany. While the catalyst for Miri and Vanya’s journey is Vanya’s drive to beat Einstein, to be the first to prove relativity – Miri is the hero. She is one of Russia’s first female surgeons, a trailblazer and her courage is epic. So too is her love for her fiancé… and for a soldier she rescues from a river. This love triangle dominates the plot just as much as science, relativity and history. With that in mind, there are four central characters that my readers love most – four characters that I would want to cast first if Bend was made into a movie.

Miri: One of Russia’s first female surgeons, she is brave and powerful. Obvs - Gal Gadot would be perfect. She’s strong, a force to be reckoned with but also someone who wears her heart on her sleeve, who falls in love but relies on her intellect above all.

Yuri: Miri’s fiancé. He has a dark past and a brilliant mind. He’s madly in love with Miri but also possibly broken by whatever secret he’s holding. Anderson Cooper – if only he were an actor! Or Benedict Cumberbatch.

Sasha: This is the hardest one. He’s a soldier who’s killed and fought to stay alive. He’s penniless and a wanted man. He’s also in love with Miri and not afraid to let her have the spotlight, to admit that she’s smarter than him. Armie Hammer because he was so good in On The Basis of Sex.

Vanya: A brilliant physicist who is also a little absent minded. Jesse Eisenberg. He’s perfect.
Visit Rachel Barenbaum's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Robert Blaemire's "Birch Bayh: Making a Difference"

Robert Blaemire began working for Senator Birch Bayh while a freshman in college and remained on his staff for the next 13 years. After Bayh's election defeat in 1980, Blaemire formed a political action committee, the Committee for American Principles, to combat the influence of the New Right in American politics. In 1982, he began a long career providing political computer services for Democratic candidates and progressive organizations. An early participant in the rise of big data, he owned and managed Blaemire Communications for 17 years. Born in Indiana, he lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and has two sons and a daughter-in-law.

Here Blaemire dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of his new book, Birch Bayh: Making a Difference:
Birch Bayh remains a very distinct image in my mind and I find it difficult to come up with a good idea of who might portray him in a movie. He would be best described as handsome and virile, athletic, with striking blue eyes. An actor like Clive Owen might do the trick, black hair, masculine, he’d have to mask his British accent. On the other hand, George Clooney represents a handsome actor who does an equally good job being serious and being comedic. Birch liked to have fun and was quite playful, though he never told a joke very well. Going back further in time, Cliff Robertson could have played him well and was probably closer to looking and sounding like Birch Bayh than he did when he played JFK in PT 109.
Learn more about Birch Bayh: Making a Difference at the Indiana University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Roxana Robinson's "Dawson's Fall"

In Dawson’s Fall, Roxana Robinson’s new novel based on the lives of her great-grandparents, we see America at its most fragile, fraught, and malleable. Set in 1889, in Charleston, South Carolina, Robinson’s tale weaves her family’s journal entries and letters with a novelist’s narrative grace, and spans the life of her tragic hero, Frank Dawson, as he attempts to navigate the country’s new political, social, and moral landscape.

Here Robinson dreamcasts the leads for an adaptation of the novel:
For Frank, Hugh Grant; for Sarah, Kristin Scott-Thomas.
Learn more about Dawson’s Fall, and visit Roxana Robinson’s website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Cost.

My Book, The Movie: Cost.

The Page 69 Test: Sparta.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, May 24, 2019

Martine Bailey’s "The Almanack"

Martine Bailey’s third novel, The Almanack, is a historical mystery tale set in rural England in 1752, the year the calendar lost 11 days.

The philosophy of time, destiny and the stars pervade this intricate historical mystery in which a young woman determines to avenge her mother's death. Following a desperate summons from her mother, Tabitha Hart departs London for her home village of Netherlea - only to discover that Widow Hart has drowned. Determined to discover the truth, Tabitha consults her mother’s almanack and finds a series of cryptic notes describing her mother's terror of someone she names only as 'D'. Teaming up with young writer Nat Starling, Tabitha begins a race against time to unmask 'D' before more deaths follow. But as the summer draws to a close and the snow sets in, Tabitha and Nat are forced to face the darkest hours of their lives. Each chapter is prefaced by one of 50 historical riddles for the reader to solve – with answers at the back.

Bailey lives in Chester, England. Her first novel, An Appetite for Violets, was a Booklist Top Ten Crime Debut and her second, A Taste for Nightshade, was a Sunday Times Best Summer Read.

Here Bailey dreamcasts an adaptation of The Almanack:
My heroine Tabitha was a courtesan in London, and is sharp-witted, light-fingered and bold, a shrewd handler of people, and charming when she wants to be. To play her I had in mind Crystal Laity’s performance as harlot Margaret Vosper in Poldark, a mix of intelligence and physical allure.

Tabitha’s love interest is rakeish poet Nat Starling, a Cambridge University drop-out, obsessed with time. His creativity mixes with bouts of stupidity and drunkenness. No apologies for casting Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark) as the intense, long-haired writer.

Joshua Saxton is Tabitha’s devoted old flame, now a widower and the dogged village constable. Rugged Alex O’Loughlin would be ideal (convict Will Bryant in mini-series Mary Bryant).

Joshua’s daughter Jennet leads the younger generation: still girlish at 15, her pursuit of romance and superstition leads her into danger. I’d love a young Christina Ricci, circa Sleepy Hollow to play her.

Youngest of all is Bess Hart, the infant left in the care of murdered Widow Hart. Precocious and beautiful at 3-years old, some claim she has second sight. I picture little Sally Jane Bruce who played Pearl in the 1955 classic, The Night of the Hunter.

The book is located in Chester, a 2,000 year old walled city in England famed for its distinctive black and white high-gabled buildings. Tabitha’s home village of Netherlea is scattered around a manor house, where country customs are celebrated, from a blood-stained harvest through autumn bonfires and a snowbound Christmas.

I would love to see a director capture the mix of fairy story meets murder mystery, so someone with the unique talent of The Night of the Hunter’s Charles Laughton springs to mind. I’ll never forget the magical escape of the children along the benighted river with a soundtrack of Pearl’s eerily sung lullaby.

I’m sure Laughton would more than do justice to the stars and moon reflected in the watermeadows, the snowbound castle, and flickering candlelight as Tabitha and Nat study the almanack for the next riddle and revelation.
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

My Book, The Movie: A Taste for Nightshade.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Clark Thomas Carlton's "The Prophet of the Termite God"

Clark T. Carlton studied English and Film at Boston University and UCLA and have worked as a screen and television writer, a journalist, and as a producer of reality television in addition to a thousand and one other professions.

Here he shares some thoughts on the above the line talent to adapt his novel The Prophet of the Termite God (and its fellow books from the Antasy Series) for the big screen:
Notice for my book when it was an indie came about through its optioning by a pair of successful Hollywood screenwriters working with film producer Lawrence Bender. The studios, especially Sony, were interested but they wanted to know why my book hadn’t been acquired yet by a publisher. Well, as William Goldman told us, nobody knows anything, and that opportunity could come around again now that the Antasy series has been released through Harper Voyager.

The ideal directors for my first book Prophets of the Ghost Ants and its sequel, Prophet of the Termite God are Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. The third sequel should be directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. These are three of our greatest living directors and each of them has made masterpieces. All of them are from Mexico and all would understand my themes about race, religion and caste. Mr. del Toro is as fascinated by insects as I am and Mr. Cuarón made the best of all the Harry Potter movies, The Prisoner of Azkaban which was also the most visual. I’d be thrilled if Peter Jackson was interested in my novels, but I don’t know that he’d want to make another epic trilogy. Since the setting is in a micro-world, all of the acting would take place before a green screen. It would be 12 weeks of shooting actors and then years of digital artists and animators creating the insects and their habitats.

As for casting, my protagonist, Anand, is a brown-skinned outcaste boy when we meet him and he’s still a young man when he leads a defensive war against a powerful enemy. Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt or Esai Morales could have played him when they were in their teens. His eventual ally, Queen Polexima, might have been played by Emma Thompson, Cate Blanchett or Charlize Theron. Commander Tahn might be played by George Clooney if he wished to play the heavy. And as for the Learned Elders of Dranveria, they should be played by the surviving cast members of Star Trek and Star Trek Next Generation.
Visit Clark Thomas Carlton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, May 16, 2019

S. C. Megale's "This is Not a Love Scene"

S. C. Megale is an author and filmmaker. She's been profiled in USA Today, The Washington Post, and New York Newsday, and has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and the CBS Evening News for her philanthropic and literary work. As a humanitarian, she's spoken on the USS Intrepid, at the NASDAQ opening bell, and to universities and doctors nationwide. She enjoys making connections all over the world.

Megale was raised in the long grass of the Civil War, hunting for relics and catching fireflies along the banks of Bull Run. A shark tooth, flutes, and a flask are some of the items that hang from her wheelchair, and she had a fear of elevators until realizing this was extremely inconvenient. She lives with her family which includes her parents, sister and brother, service dog, and definitely-not-service dog.

Here the author shares some thoughts on adapting This is Not a Love Scene, her first published novel, for the big screen:
Of course, if they make my book into a film, I want to work on the set. My wheelchair makes an exceptional coat rack.

Much of This is Not a Love Scene involves filmmaking and the quirks of the industry (read my book to find out what a "stinger" is on a film set), and I studied video for two years at community college. That's why, funnily, I'd focus less on casting the film (for me there'd only be the factor of how well the person portrayed the character, no matter their background) and more on what professionals I know who I'd love to see involved. My #1, naturally, would be Nina Jacobson, producer of The Hunger Games, whom I met and become smitten with on all three of the Hunger Games film sets when I was a recurring guest.

The movie soundtrack of the book would be fun, too. I imagined a super punk line up: Sum 41, Avril Lavinge, Jonas Brothers, etc.
Visit S.C. Megale's website.

--Marshal Zeringue