Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mark Coggins's "Candy from Strangers"

Mark Coggins is the author of three novels featuring PI August Riordan: The Immortal Game, Vulture Capital, and Candy from Strangers. (A fourth, Runoff, is due for release this fall.)

The notion that August Riordan could make the leap from the page to the screen is not entirely hypothetical; if (or when) that happens, who should play Riordan? The author weighs in:
If Candy from Strangers were made into a movie, the key casting decision would be who to put in the role of jazz bass-playing private eye August Riordan.

As it turns out, my first novel, The Immortal Game, was optioned by a producer in Hollywood and a script for the book was written by James Robinson of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen fame. The project never got any further than that, but as The Immortal Game also features Riordan as the protagonist, I had a lot of fun batting around the names of actors to play Riordan with the producer.

But before talking about specific names, let’s review the requirements for the character. Riordan narrates most of the novels himself, so the reader only gets a few hints about his physical appearance. However, Vulture Capital is told in an objective third person point of view, and there is a description of him in the scene where he meets venture capitalist Ted Valmont:

He was over six feet tall, but his heavy musculature made him appear shorter — especially in contrast to Ted Valmont’s willowy stature. His forehead and jaw were square and his mouth was a crooked line that seemed fixed in a sardonic grin. A crookeder scar traced a route from the corner of his mouth to the edge of his jaw. He had brown eyes and tousled brown hair that he had not invested over $10 to have cut. His suit — with puckered seams and lapels that would not lay flat — was poorly made and its fit on his heavy frame was bad. His nose had been broken at least once.

As far as personality goes, he is pretty much of a wiseacre, although he is more of a counter-puncher: while quick with a comeback line, he doesn’t go out of his way to antagonize people upon first meeting — at least in the later books. And in the intelligence department, he’s not dumb, but he’s not a genius either.

The first suggestion the producer had seemed to me to come completely from left field: Jeff Goldblum. I didn’t think he was the right physical type, and he didn’t exude the sort of aggressive masculinity I associated with August. However, after thinking about it, I decided that Goldblum would be very good with wisecracks and comeback lines, and perhaps he could come across tougher for this part than he had in other roles. (It’s interesting to note, by the way, that Goldblum is now staring in a TV show where he plays a police detective.)

The producer’s other suggestion was Clive Owen. At that point, I’d only seen Owen in Croupier and thought he might be a little too slick for the role, and maybe too handsome, but I did think he could be tough and good with a wisecrack.

My pick was Clint Eastwood. At the time, he was definitely older than August, but The Immortal Game has no love interests for August (so no unbelievable May/December parings) and no particularly demanding physical stunts. He seemed to meet all the other requirements, and the thing I really liked is that Eastwood has an interest in jazz, and his son is a jazz bassist. In Candy from Strangers, he would be called upon to do a bit more physically, but the love interest is actually on older, married woman, and we all know he has experience with those sorts of relationships from The Bridges of Madison County!

It was all good fun, but none of the actors were ever contacted because we never got funding for the project. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, “so it goes” (in Hollywood).
Read the results of the Page 69 Test for Mark Coggins's, Candy from Strangers.

Visit Coggins's website and his blog.

--Marshal Zeringue