Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Judith Kelman's "The First Stone"

Judith Kelman's new novel The First Stone is certainly cinema-worthy, based on the publisher's description:

He's a world-renowned, brilliant cardiac surgeon. But since Dr. Malik moved in upstairs with his family, Emma has started to wonder what kind of a man he really is. On quiet nights, home alone with her three-year-old, pregnant Emma can hear muffled thumps and screams from the apartment above and pleading words in a little girl's voice. If she reports Dr. Malik, she might put her own husband's career on the line. But the sounds from the apartment above keep haunting her, until she confides in a friend.

Soon, Malik becomes the target of an investigation. When he discovers the role Emma played in it, her life begins to unravel. And just as she is about to bring a new life into the world, she starts to fear for her own.

Here Kelman explores some ideas about the casting for a film adaptation of her novel:
At the gala premiere of The First Stone, I'll ask to be seated next to leading lady Renée Zellweger. I can easily picture her as the big screen embodiment of my protagonist, Emma Colten, a talented portrait artist, wife of a surgical resident, and mother of a rambunctious three-year-old son with a baby daughter on the way. Zellweger has the right comedic sensibility and a perfect hint of endearing self-doubt. She comes across as likable, honest, and resilient, all hallmarks of Emma as she navigates some serious emotional white water in this story of hospital politics, sexual duplicity, and the lethal danger that can be unleashed by an innocent disclosure.

Edward Norton would be perfect as Emma's husband. He has Sam Colten's distractible, sad-puppy appeal along with a hint of a simmering undercurrent that leaves you wondering whether the aw-shucks facade might be hiding something darker.

To play Mrs. Kalisher, Emma's wise octogenarian friend and neighbor, I'd wish to channel the spirit of Helen Hayes. Casting directors like to go with what's safe, but authors can claim far greater latitude, so I'd hold an open call to fill this role with a living counterpart of Ms. Hayes and to find the perfect, puckish little boy to play Sam and Emma's son Tyler.

The monsters in this piece: Sam's cold, arrogant father and Dr. Douglas Malik, the world's leading cardiovascular surgeon (who is ironically heartless) could be portrayed deftly by Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro. Then what couldn't they play deftly? And while I'm fantasizing, why not swing for a grand slam home run?

Which reminds me. I'll have to remember to call before the opening and ask Renée what she plans to wear. If she showed up in the same dress or looked so unforgivably fabulous she made me seem like an even bigger troll by comparison, I might feel duty-bound to kill her off (loosely disguised, of course) in my next book.

And then who would I get to play the heroine in that film?
Learn more about The First Stone at the publisher's website.

Check out The First Stone at "The Page 69 Test" and "The Page 99 Test."

--Marshal Zeringue