Monday, August 20, 2007

Sam Reaves's "Homicide 69"

Sam Reaves was raised in small Midwestern towns but has lived in Chicago or its environs for most of his life. He was president of the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America from 2001 to 2003. He has published eight novels prior to Homicide 69, five as Sam Reaves and three as Dominic Martell.

Here he takes Homicide 69 through the "My Book, The Movie" exercise:
I’d be lying if I said I never thought about it, though the literary purist in me wants to resist seeing things in Hollywood terms. I definitely do not have actors in mind when I write the book; the characters in my mind’s eye are creations out of whole cloth. It’s when the book is finished that the thoughts start to sneak in: the dream of a movie sale, the idle pastime of wondering who might play the roles. Maybe a Russell Crowe type of look....

In all honesty, I’m handicapped by my relative lack of familiarity with Hollywood actors. I don’t watch a whole lot of movies, and I can’t always put a name to a face I recall. Russell Crowe I can identify, but I don’t think there’s a role for him in Homicide 69, my latest novel, which tracks a Chicago homicide dick through the turbulent summer of 1969. So who do we go with?

Mike Dooley is middle-aged and starting to get worn down by the job, a man who in his youth spent three long years out in the Pacific fighting the Japanese and has twenty hard years on the job. I can see him clearly: a sturdy, athletic man (he played a year of minor league baseball in that last idyllic summer before the war) a shade over six feet tall, broad in the shoulders and steady on his feet, starting to thicken a little around the waist but still a formidable opponent in a fight. The hair is going gray at the temples and the eyes have a bit of a heavy-lidded, hooded look; they’ve seen it all. Dooley is a man with a mission in a department with too many cops for sale. “My job is to catch killers, and I don’t expect anything for it but a paycheck,” he says.

There are probably a lot of actors who could do a jaded homicide dick to perfection, so let’s narrow the field a little. Homicide 69 is a Chicago book, deeply rooted in the city’s history and culture, and it deserves Chicago actors. Nothing steams me like movies supposedly set in Chicago in which all the actors sound as if they’re from New York. If Homicide 69 gets to the big screen, I want to see Chicago guys up there. And let’s start with the director: I can’t think of anyone better to make this film than Michael Mann, the Chicago guy who made Thief and Crime Story. Mann grew up in sixties Chicago and is eminently qualified to put a credible version of it on the screen.

As for Dooley, I run through the list of actors I know, and another Chicago guy pops up, not least because he’s worked with Michael Mann: William Petersen. He’s about the right age and has about the right persona. He’s got the look, the presence, the gravitas and the attitude. He could capture Dooley’s stubborn integrity in a corrupt world.

Finally, there would be a bit part late in the film for a man who really was a Chicago cop during the summer of 1969. While researching the book I came across a small item in the Chicago Tribune that referred to an arrest made by “policeman Dennis Farina.”

I’m not going to tell you what part Farina would play, because it would be a spoiler. When you read the book you’ll see it.

Homicide 69 is all about Chicago, and only Chicago guys can do it justice on the screen.
Visit Sam Reaves's website and his blog.

Read an excerpt from Homicide 69 and see how the Page 69 Test served the novel.

--Marshal Zeringue