Thursday, June 28, 2007

Judy Clemens's "Till the Cows Come Home"

Judy Clemens's Till the Cows Come Home was a 2005 Anthony Award Nominee for Best First Novel and 2005 Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel.

Now, with her fourth "Stella Crown" mystery on the way, Clemens speculated about which actors might star in a film adaptation of Till the Cows Come Home:
When Marshal asked me to write a blog about my Stella Crown series, giving thought to what actors I would choose for the movie, I had to laugh. Which one of us authors doesn’t dream of our book hitting the big screen? Or even the little screen, these days. Seems like television gets as much play as theaters anymore.

Till the Cows Come Home, the first book in my series, introduced the protagonist – a twenty-nine year old female dairy farmer and HOG enthusiast. She is edgy, brittle, and somewhat foul-mouthed, but also has more likable traits, such as loyalty, honesty, and a solid work ethic. People have often asked me who I’d cast in her role, and the actresses that come to mind are ones who have dared to play characters with a harder personality – people like Hilary Swank or Charlize Theron. I wouldn’t want a “soft” version of Stella, and these are women I think would be up to the task.

A few of the supporting characters deserve some thought, too, when considering casting. Nick Hathaway, Stella’s love interest (well, one of them!) is a blond, blue-eyed Virginian with “teeth as white as milk.” A few of my friends (and my husband) are convinced they were the catalyst for this character, and those who are actors want to play him. I, however, think Matthew McConaughey would fit the role to a T. He can do the “gorgeous guy with a soul” rather well.

I had a hard time thinking of someone for Abe Granger, Stella’s one-time love interest but actual best friend. He is handsome, but more in the guy-next-door kind of way. A younger version of Matthew Broderick would be perfect. Or a bit older version of the kid on the Mac commercials who’s now in that Die Hard movie with Bruce Willis and played Warren on Ed. Perhaps someone can give a better suggestion. Most movie stars tend to be dreamboats, and it’s difficult to come up with someone who’s good-looking in a more approachable way.

It’s fun to think about casting the characters, but I know it’s pretty much a dream. Should the book ever get sold to Hollywood I realize I would lose complete control of it. They’d probably cast some model-type with big boobs as Stella, and Abe would become just as much of a heartthrob as Nick, making a love triangle of immense proportions. They’d also most likely change most of the storyline and add a few characters I’d never imagine.

But you know, I suppose that would be okay. I’ll take the advice of some other authors I’ve met who say, “Take the money and run.” For the money they pay for movie options, I could run a long, long way.
Visit Judy Clemens's website and her blog, and read an excerpt from Till the Cows Come Home.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 25, 2007

Kelley Armstrong's "Exit Strategy"

Exit Strategy, the first of Kelley Armstrong's "Nadia Stafford" series, debuts in July.

Here's the lead-in to the story, from the publisher:
Regulars at Nadia’s nature lodge don’t ask what she does in the off-season. And that’s a good thing. If she told them, she’d have to kill them. She’s a hit woman for a Mafia family. Tough and self-sufficient, Nadia doesn’t owe anyone any explanations. But that doesn’t mean she always works alone. One of her contacts has recruited her in the hunt for a ruthlessly efficient serial killer cutting a swath of terror across the country. The assassin is far too skilled to be an amateur — and the precision of the killings is bringing the Feds much too close to the hit man community for comfort.

To put an end to the murders, Nadia will have to turn herself from predator to prey as she employs every trick she knows to find the killer. Before the killer finds her…
So who might the author see carrying her story to the big screen? Kelley Armstrong:
Ah, the “casting game.” One of the first contests I ran on my website was a fantasy casting for my first novel, Bitten. At the time, Warner Bros had optioned it, and Angelina Jolie was signed to star. The project died in development, but it was fun while it lasted.

One thing I learned from that experience was that any casting choice (even hypothetical!) is bound to be controversial among readers. There were lengthy and heated debates on my discussion board about the suitability of Ms. Jolie to the role. At the time, I avoided any prodding to pick my own choices, but for this new novel, I’m going to have some fun and play the game.

Exit Strategy is a crime novel about a contract killer for the Mob who is persuaded to join a small group of her colleagues tracking down a hitman who appears to have turned serial killer.

Nadia Stafford

I’m going to pick Evangeline Lilly from Lost for my main character. It might be just the show setting, but she has that fresh, outdoorsy look that fits my wilderness-lodge-proprietor protagonist. On Lost, Lilly does a good job of playing a character who seems very normal, likable and friendly, but harbours a dark past. That fits Nadia. She isn’t “playing” the sociable, friendly lodge hostess. That’s one side of her. The other is a deeply damaged ex-cop whose past caused her to snap and kill a suspect. Now, to keep her lodge afloat, she’s a contract killer for a small New York mob family … and it’s a job that satisfies more than her need for cash.


For Nadia’s mentor, I’m going with Gabriel Byrne. He’s got the basic look, and he’s Irish, like my mysterious, monosyllabic hitman. He’s a bit older than Jack, but in Hollywood terms, that’s not big an issue as it would be with a female character. Jack is a true professional killer, and I’ve seen Bryne in several criminal roles, which probably influences my choice. Like Nadia, Jack shift between dangerous and disarmingly normal with ease, and I think Bryne could do that easily.


Ah, Evelyn. My retired hitwoman. Jack’s former mentor, she’s an invaluable resource and she knows it, offering her skills to get closer to Nadia — the “project” Jack stole from her. I’m going to pick Helen Mirren for Evelyn. She doesn’t physically resemble my image of the character, but having seen her play a no-nonsense woman in a man’s profession (Prime Suspect) she’d be an excellent Evelyn.


I’m tempted by Quentin Tarantino. I’m a huge fan of his early work and he’s always good with edgy female characters. But this wouldn’t be his kind of story, and if he took it, he’d turn it into something that suited him better. I’m not a writer who would expect the movie version to be a literal translation of her story. It has to be an interpretation better suited for the big screen. But I’d like it to be recognizable as my story, and Tarantino works with original ideas, not adaptations.
Read more about Exit Strategy at Kelley Armstrong's website and read the first three chapters online.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Matt Haig's "The Dead Fathers Club"

Matt Haig is the author of a new novel for young readers Shadow Forest (in the U.K.; Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest in the U.S.) and two novels for adults: The Last Family in England, which tells the story of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1 with the protagonists as dogs, and The Dead Fathers Club, which is based on Hamlet and is a "hilarious and touching novel narrated by an eleven-year old boy who is visited by his father’s ghost."

While The Dead Fathers Club may well be coming to a cineplex near you in the not too distant future, Haig was good enough to share his thoughts on who might direct and star in such a film:
Okay, well this is a little tricky as the book is already optioned by David Heyman’s Heyday Productions, and I have supreme confidence that David knows far better than I do the kind of movie it would make.

But I’m pretty sure every writer daydreams about how what once existed solely inside their own head could be projected onto the screen, and I’m no exception.

The tricky thing with The Dead Fathers Club is how to do the ghost of the father, whether just to have him standing there free from any special effects, or to actually give him a transparent hologram feel which would be closer to Philip’s description of him as ‘pale and see through like the ghosts at the Haunted Mansion in Disney World’ with ‘blood running down from his hair’.

The ghost experiences great terror though, when it flickers out, and I always pictured these moments as being like those anguished portraits by Francis Bacon of screaming Popes – ‘flickering and screaming but with the volume down’.

As for the setting it would be great if it could be filmed where it is actually based, in the market town of Newark-on-Trent in Nottinghamshire, England, where I grew up. It’s a strange town, which looks quite pretty and historic, but which I considered to be the seventh circle of Hell as a teenager. It would be a vengeful kind of fun to see my interpretation of the place up on the screen.

Lee Hall, of Billy Elliot fame, would be the perfect screenwriter, and I would be confident he could get inside Philip’s mind.

As for directors, that’s difficult. I was extremely flattered and dumbstruck when I found out Stephen Daldry had not only read but had also enjoyed the book. He’d be great. But there are so many directors I love, and there are probably at least thirty out there who could do it justice.

Now, for my fantasy cast. Well, the perfect Philip would be an unknown 11-year-old, who wouldn’t make the audience think of any other movies he’s been in. And as for the apparently slimy Uncle Alan I’ve said before that Ray Winstone is how I view him, physically, but Tom Wilkinson, from In the Bedroom and loads of other films (one of my all-time favourite actors) would be an equal top choice.

The ghost would have to be someone who can do ‘blank’ very well. A Kevin Spacey-type, but with an English accent. Ben Kingsley twenty years ago would have been perfect.

Philip’s mum would be someone quite attractive but who wasn’t afraid to look haggard, so Charlize Theron or her British equivalent.

And in the Dead Fathers Club there’s also a film within the book. It’s called The Murder of Gonzago, the same title as the play within Hamlet, and it stars Joaquin Phoenix, Mel Gibson and Tobey Maguire, for the different connotations these actors have. (Joaquin Phoenix reprising his Gladiator role; Mel Gibson because he once played Hamlet in a movie; and Tobey Maguire because Philip is obsessed with Spiderman).

But I think to get all three of them just to be in one scene might be stretching the budget, even a fantasy budget, a little too far.
Visit Matt Haig's website and MySpace page.

The Page 69 Test: The Dead Fathers Club.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 18, 2007

Scott Reynolds Nelson's "Steel Drivin' Man"

Scott Reynolds Nelson's Steel Drivin' Man: John Henry, the Untold Story of an American Legend has won much acclaim and multiple book awards.

Here Nelson develops some casting ideas for a feature film adaptation of his book:
The John Henry that worked alongside a steam drill between 1871 and 1873 was five feet 1 and 1/4th inches tall. It seems impossible, but it turns out that short stature was a necessary attribute for tunnel drivers. I could see Ving Rhames in the role, of course, but that would be the John Henry of myth, the powerful steel drivin’ man that emerged by the 1920s. Given that John Henry was a convict and quite young, we can’t assume that he had Rhames’s build. While neither actor is that short, I could see the actors Andre Braugher (of Gideon’s Crossing but also the movie Get on the Bus) or D.B. Woodside (who was the President Palmer in 24 and Principal Robin Wood in Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Both have the dramatic range to appear wounded, angry, and tragically courageous. What would motivate a man to engage in a contest with a steam drill? Certainly he could have been forced to, but there would also have to be a little hubris and perhaps the understanding that his victory might make him the subject of a hundred folk songs.

Who could play Polly Ann, the woman, a convict herself perhaps, who drove steel after John Henry died? I imagine her as light-skinned, blue-eyed, and a good dramatic actor. Theresa Randle (of Girl 6 fame) or Rosario Dawson (of Sin City and Men in Black II) would be terrific I think.

As for Lieutenant Burd, the man with the hole in his forehead who put John Henry in prison on what appeared to be trumped-up charges? It would have to be a high-energy, but controlled and slightly disturbed character: Eric Stoltz, perhaps (remembering Pulp Fiction and The House of Mirth) or even Kiefer Sutherland.

I have always seen Harvey Keitel in my mind when I think of Major C.R. Mason, the ex-Confederate contractor who drove the workers back into the tunnels after the nitroglycerin blasts. A reporter described Mason as “a short, stout, firmly built man, with a head like a Senator’s, plain of dress, direct and brief of speech, with that undeniable air of ease that comes to a man who has acquired all he knows from experience….” To me, that sounds like Harvey Keitel, a man who plays ruthless, unpolished characters.

Collis Potter Huntington, the man who made a second fortune from John Henry’s tunneling would have to be withdrawn, intense, smug, and entirely unprincipled. It would be a good dramatic role for Steve Martin, who resembles him very slightly, though a more obvious choice would be Philip Seymour Hoffman (who starred in Capote and was Reverend Veasey in Cold Mountain).

My students at William & Mary have told me that if I were to appear in the film discovering the postcard that led to John Henry’s burial place that I would have to be played by Will Ferrell who the students say looks like me. I can’t see the resemblance myself.

A lot of folks have suggested that the story of John Henry as I’ve reconstructed it is structured like a movie. After I won the National Award for Fine Arts, I heard that one of the judges, Joyce Carol Oates, thought that the story was so moving and dramatically paced that I should give up history and become a novelist. If only I could! While I like thinking about character and motivation, I cannot plot the way a novelist can. I think the strangest, most horrible and beautiful plots come from actual events. That makes history the best place for me. I will keep my day job.

Who would direct the film? Spike Lee would be a great choice, as would Brian De Palma. But what do I know? I’m only a historian.
Learn more about Steel Drivin' Man at the Oxford University Press website.

The Page 69 Test: Steel Drivin' Man.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sandra Ruttan's "Suspicious Circumstances"

Sandra Ruttan's debut crime novel is Suspicious Circumstances, which Clive Cussler called "one of the most satisfying mysteries going that grips the reader from beginning to end."

Here Ruttan shares some thoughts about the casting for a film adaptation of the novel:
In Suspicious Circumstances reporter Lara Kelly suspects there’s more to the story than what meets the eye – or in this case, the lens. When Duane Brodie turns up in her office with a video of a woman apparently falling to her death, Lara’s curious. When Duane claims he took the video to the police and they dismissed him, she’s intrigued.

Her article on an apparent suicide could have been the end of the story. Instead, her editor talks about smearing the local police captain. Captain Patrick Collins sends Detective Tymen Farraday to check out Lara’s story. When Lara is attacked Farraday is forced work with her to find out what really happened to the woman on the video.

This is the kind of story where the catalyst is just the tip of the iceberg. It delves into conspiracies, the politics of power and people who manipulate the law for personal gain. At the heart of the story, the issue is one of trust. Lara and Farraday both have reasons to be reluctant to trust each other, and the heart of the book is about the evolution of their relationship, and how they deal with their doubts about each other and all the people around them, while knowing their lives are at risk in a case that’s anything but what it originally appeared to be. Suspicious Circumstances could make a great movie if it had the right director and great writers handling the screenplay.

Director: Clark Johnson would make a great option. He has experience on both sides of the camera. Directed three episodes of The Shield, two episodes of The Wire. Has directed episodes of Law & Order: SVU and NYPD Blue. This guy understand cop dramas. He understands how to deal with both action and intelligence in a script. He’d be a good choice, but in all honesty any director David Simon recommends would have me jumping for joy.

Writers: Someone capable of doing what Tom Fontana did when he wrote "Three Men and Adena," an Emmy-winning script, for Homicide. The strengths were in dialogue and facial expressions and interactions between people. My writing is heavy on dialogue.

A few thoughts on actors.

Lara Kelly: Vera Farmiga, (The Departed) would be a good choice, or Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Last King of Scotland). Gillian’s great. Cross Keri Russell with Julianne Nicholson (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Conviction) and you’d have the perfect look.

To play Tymen Farraday? Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s Jordan Bridges is a good fit. If I were to pick someone with more experience, I would select Guy Pearce. I loved him in L.A. Confidential. My only hesitation is the age. I think for Farraday Jordan might be a better fit overall.

Jimmy? Jeff Perry (Grey’s Anatomy, Nash Bridges).

To play Patrick Collins? Jay Karnes (The Shield), maybe. It took me two days to come up with the main characters, because I didn’t have actors in mind when writing, and I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore.

The actors portraying Lara and Farraday could make or break the movie. They’d need a certain chemistry, the kind of bond that comes from trust, not sex. I’d be happy to leave the decisions to the pros, although it was fun to think about it.
Visit Sandra Ruttan's website, her blog, and Spinetingler Magazine.

The Page 69 Test: Suspicious Circumstances.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 11, 2007

Robert Greer's "The Fourth Perspective"

Robert Greer is the author of five CJ Floyd mysteries with a sixth, The Mongoose Deception, due in October.

Greer introduced CJ Floyd in The Devil's Hatband:
Cheroot smoking African-American bail bondsman CJ Floyd is a man who plays the odds whether chasing down bond skippers, keeping a thumb on Denver's gang-banging vermin, or working on the occasional bounty hunting case that comes his way. Dressed in a Stetson, cowboy boots and a black leather gamblers vest, CJ, a Vietnam veteran help keeps his "home front" community of Five Points together and its denizens on the straight and narrow.
So who would the author entrust to bring his character to life in the movies? Here's Greer's answer:

There’s an old Hollywood bromide that states that you have to have a bankable box office star to have a chance at financial and artistic success with a movie. Hogwash! At least when it comes to films that star white actors. Take L.A. Confidential and the first Star Wars movie, for instance, no superstars bringing home the bacon there, although some of the actors went on to become superstars. When it comes to movies with black actors in lead roles, however, Hollywood finds it even more prudent — some might say necessary in fact, to go with an actor with a name. So, if your lead actor is black, the rule of thumb is, “hit a home run with your casting.” Even Denzel Washington, a Hollywood golden boy, found the going tough in the classic noir film, Devil in a Blue Dress, a directorial artistic gem but box office flop. I always felt that Washington was miscast as Walter Mosley’s Easy Rollins character, but “bankable” he was, and that’s the ultimate show biz buzz word.

That said, and given my choice of choices when considering who I’d like to see play my mystery series protagonist CJ Floyd, I’d go with Dennis Haysbert, currently America's hottest black TV star to play the role of my Denver-based bail bondsman, reluctant sleuth and Vietnam vet. Why? For the simple reason than Haysbert has the talent, the carriage and that tough reluctant hero’s look and swagger. Not to mention the fact that CJ and Haysbert are almost exactly the same age and height. They even have identical skin tones and the same wiry hair. Haysbert also has a military series repertoire to draw from (The Unit) and his portfolio of military roles in many ways parallels CJ's Vietnam experience, an experience that plays heavily on Floyd's psyche — something that Haysbert, giving his acting kills, could run with on screen. I didn't have Haysbert in mind when I came up with CJ Floyd as a character in 1995. In fact, I’d never heard of him. But, paraphrasing one of Haysbert’s ubiquitous All State Insurance commercial taglines, “CJ Floyd would be in good hands, with Haysbert.”

So much for the lead, and rightfully so, since I’ve always felt, to the consternation of my actor friends, that it’s the director who provides overall vision for any theatrical production and with any hundred productions, it is that person who probably has more to do with a movie's artistic success than anyone. In looking for a director to shepherd The Fourth Perspective from script to screen, I’d look no further than the accomplished donnie l. betts (you've got it right, all lower case letters). That’s how betts pens his name in homage to his more important “upper case” African ancestors. Best known for his production and direction of the historic radio dramas, Destination Freedom and his most recent award-winning PBS documentary, Music is My Life, Politics My Mistress: The Story of Oscar Brown, Jr., betts although not a household name would get my nod. Check out the Oscar Brown, Jr. story and you’ll see what I mean. The film is powerful, provocative, and historic. betts could handle The Fourth Perspective, no question, and with ease. So there’s my duo — Haysbert and betts. They’d make The Fourth Perspective a movie you’d want to see. Trust me. And no doubt, you would be in good hands all the way.
Read more about the CJ Floyd mysteries, including excerpts from the novels, at Robert Greer's website.

Greer is a professor of pathology, medicine, surgery, and dentistry at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center where he specializes in head and neck pathology and cancer research. He also holds a masters degree in Creative Writing from Boston University and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Miami University, his alma mater.

He is the author or co-author of three medical textbooks and over 125 scientific articles. His short stories have appeared in dozens of national literary magazines and his short story collection, Isolation and Other Stories, sold out its hardback printings and is now in trade paperback.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Perspective.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ronlyn Domingue's "The Mercy of Thin Air"

Ronlyn Domingue is the author of The Mercy of Thin Air, which Jodi Picoult called "that rarest of first novels -- a truly original voice, and a truly original story."

Here Domingue shares some thoughts about the casting for a film adaptation of the novel:
Here’s the basic story of The Mercy of Thin Air: New Orleans, 1920s. Raziela Nolan is in the throes of a magnificent love affair when she dies in a tragic accident. In an instant, she leaves behind her one true love and her dream of becoming a doctor -- but somehow, she still remains. Immediately after her death, Razi chooses to stay between -- a realm that exists after life and before whatever lies beyond it. Seventy-five years later, in this ghost-like state, Razi takes residence with a troubled couple whose history mirrors her own. Her intervention in their lives forces her to face the truth of what happened to her beloved Andrew and the nature of her very existence.

Movie-worthy? Readers certainly think so, because I’m asked all the time whether a movie is coming out. I’ve dabbled with the fantasy myself, right down to who might play certain roles. If I had any say in the matter, these are some picks I’d like to see.

Razi Nolan: Though many a fine contemporary actress has come to mind, Scarlett Johansson is the one who’d be the ultimate bee’s knees to play this intelligent, vivacious, and sensual character. I shall refrain from gushing any further.

Andrew O’Connell: If there’s a young actor who can fulfill this bit of cinematic alchemy, I’d like to see a combination of a young Paul Newman (without any overdone Southernisms) and Joaquin Phoenix, who handles emotional sensitivity and depth very well.

Amy Richmond: Here I see Kate Winslet or Jenna Fischer. Either could capture Amy’s spunk and sweetness.

Scott Duncan: Again, a tough call. However, Campbell Scott has shown a range in his roles that makes him a contender. (No Roger Dodger in this instance, though.)

Young Twolly (Razi’s friend): Despite Twolly’s reserved nature, she has a spirit about her. Maggie Gyllenhaal could tap into many facets of this character.

Chloe (Amy’s friend): Zooey Deschanel could handle the edginess and humor that’s part of Chloe.

There are several other minor roles, which may not even appear in a movie. But if Razi’s father Barrett did have a part, I vote for Johnny Depp, because of the way his eyes hold grief, but my agent picks Gabriel Byrne, who’s certainly an apt choice as well. For a quirky choice for Noble, the man who’s been between for about 200 years, Harvey Keitel could bring a simmering sullenness.

If/when a movie happens, it absolutely must be filmed in New Orleans, where this story lives and breathes. Other cities in Louisiana are part of the setting, and I’d like to see those included, too.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any films that accurately portray Louisiana and its people in our beauty and diversity. One of my greatest wishes is to have a team that will respect this uniqueness and not turn the story, its characters, or its places into Southern clichés. That’s been done enough. Time for something new.

All I have to wait for now is a major stroke of good luck for a stellar option.
Visit Ronlyn Domingue's website and MySpace page.

About The Mercy of Thin Air: read an excerpt; hear a clip; praise; Q&A.

The Page 69 Test: The Mercy of Thin Air.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, June 4, 2007

Robert Ward's "Four Kinds of Rain"

Robert Ward is a novelist, professor, screenwriter, producer and actor.

Marilyn Stasio of the New York Times called Ward's latest novel, Four Kinds of Rain, "Fiercely funny ... as sharp and nasty as a paper cut."

Here he shares some ideas about the casting for a film adaptation of the new novel:
In my novel Four Kinds of Rain the main character is a 50-something-year-old shrink named Bob Wells, who was once a radical. He's spent his life living in the ghetto trying to help relieve the mental and spiritual pains of the poor and dispossessed. At one time years ago he had a group of other young idealists who lived with him. But when the group hit 30 the others left the rad lifestyle to start families and cash in. Only Bob and his then wife Meredith stayed on. However, as the book opens we find that Meredith has left Bob to live with one of his old communards, Rudy Runyon, now a touchie feelie talk radio shrink with a show called Ask Dr. Rudy. Plus Bob is about to lose his clinic altogether. Desperate, he drinks all day and takes Ambian to sleep at night. Finally, he gets a break and meets a great girl named Jesse Riordan who is trying out to be the lead singer in his oldies band The Rockaholics. She tells him she digs him but can't go with another broke guy. Been there, done that. Thus Bob switches from good guy to felon. He hears of a valuable artifact, a mask, from one of his patients, and decides to steal and sell it, thus financing his retirement and his new life with Jesse. This decision leads him down a pathway which could either lead to riches or to a very dark corner.

So, who could play such a guy? He's got to be weak, and strong, charming, and yet underneath he's filled with fury, the fury of being left out of the great American sweepstakes of money and fame. He was ready to be poor, but not ready to be laughed at by a world where all values except market values are considered passé.

My actor would have to be both strong and pathetic and then finally enraged in a way that the audience can't predict. In short, Bob Wells will take a great actor. Someone who is old enough to recall the former Zeitgeist of peace, love and revolution, and also capable of a wide swing of emotion ... not to mention humor. Much of the humor of the novel comes from Bob's rationalizations as he heads down the path of greed and self-deception. He lies to the reader and to himself, at every false step. So our actor must have wit as well. And he must be able to play mid 50's. And it would help if he could sing a little for the rock scenes.

So who is our guy?

There are only a few actors who can do it all. My number one pick would be (trumpets blare) Kevin Spacey. Yeah, he's too young but we can make that work. In my mind he's one of the great film actors ever. He's got the sensitivity and the mean wit. And when he does blow up, well, we know he'll get there in short order. Plus, he's verbal, and fun. He would make a great Bob Wells.

As for the girl lead, Jesse ... I'd go with Deborah Kara Unger, a great actress who doesn't near enough work. She's blonde, beautiful and can really act. There you go, and may God send this little dream directly to the top producers and heads of all the major studios.
Ward's first novel was the critically acclaimed Shedding Skin, winner of the National Endowment of the Arts award for first novel of exceptional merit. He has since written seven more novels, including Red Baker, which won the PEN West prize for Best Novel of 1985.

Visit Robert Ward's website and read an excerpt from Four Kinds of Rain.

The Page 69 Test: Four Kinds of Rain.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, June 1, 2007

Richard Aleas's "Little Girl Lost"

Richard Aleas’s Little Girl Lost received nominations for both the Edgar Award and the Shamus Award.

Here he shares some thoughts about the casting for a film adaptation of the novel:
Talking about who it might be appropriate to cast in a film version of Little Girl Lost is a bit tricky, since I'm currently working with Papazian-Hirsch (producers of HBO's Rome, among many other things) to develop just such a film, and I wouldn't want to suggest with my random musings that any of the people I mention here have actually been approached or will be cast. In the end, the casting decisions will all be up to P-H and whichever director they hire, not me.

That said, I can certainly describe the sorts of actors I had in mind when writing the book. The main character, detective John Blake, is supposed to be young and look younger -- more like a prep school kid than like a detective. Elijah Wood and Tobey Maguire both have something of this quality, and of course Brick makes it natural to think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the role. (Though he may not be eager to do yet another noirish crime story, having also done a turn recently in The Lookout.) My favorite out-of-left-field candidate: Jesse Eisenberg, star of the forthcoming The Education of Charlie Banks, an outstanding drama that lit up the Tribeca Film Festival -- he's got the intelligence, the innocence, and the requisite baby face.

For Leo's older and wiser boss, ex-cop Leo Hauser, there are two generations of character actors you could imagine in the role. Robert Duvall could do it; so could Dennis Franz.

For Susan, the stripper who helps John crack the case and falls in love with him in the process, you want a self-possessed and charismatic but vulnerable brunette, plus unless you want to spend a bundle on CGI, she's got to be stacked -- Jennifer Love-Hewitt comes to mind (when he was working on sketches for the cover, Robert McGinnis drew one that looked just like her).

And for Miranda, the great love of John's life who winds up murdered in the opening scene and returns in flashbacks throughout the story, you need a blonde who can mix tragedy with an element of madness -- someone like Ali Larter, who's so good in the schizoid role on Heroes, or Zooey Deschanel, or even (if she'd go blonde for the job) Christina Ricci.

Just some thoughts -- there are lots of talented folks I'm leaving out, including some, I'm sure, who would knock the ball out of the park.
Richard Aleas is a pseudonym for Charles Ardai, who also earned a Shamus award nomination for his short story, "Nobody Wins." His work has appeared in dozens of publications including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine as well as anthologies such as Best Mystery Stories of the Year and The Year’s Best Horror Stories.

“Home Front,” Ardai's Edgar Award-winning short story, is available online courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

Richard Aleas's new novel, Songs of Innocence, releases this July.

The Page 69 Test: Little Girl Lost.

--Marshal Zeringue