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