Saturday, September 29, 2007

Victor Gischler's "Shotgun Opera"

Victor Gischler is the author of four hard-boiled crime novels. His debut novel Gun Monkeys was nominated for the Edgar Award. His work has been translated into Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese. He earned a Ph.D. in English at the University of Southern Mississippi. His fifth novel, Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, is due out in June 2008 by the Touchstone/Fireside imprint of Simon & Schuster.

In March 2007 he applied the Page 69 Test to Shotgun Opera. Now he has taken the novel through the "My Book, The Movie" exercise and has come up with these ideas for a film adaptation:
I forget who said it, but somebody remarked Shotgun Opera would make a cool John Woo film. I guess I don’t have any problem with that. Shotgun Opera certainly has enough action. And it might have been excellent author J.D. Rhoades who said it reminded him of those Transporter films. That would be cool too. All of my novels have a cool dose of action, but it was Shotgun most of all that I wanted to have a “nonstop” feel, and so the above comparisons seem pretty good to me. If you took John Woo and a healthy pinch of that Robert Rodriguez quirkiness, I think you’d have it.

The protagonist of the book is a fellow named Mike Foley. Mike is in hiding now from him past life when he and his brothers hired out as freelance guns for the mob. Mike is in his mid-sixties, and I think Gabriel Byrne would be perfect for the part if he’d let the makeup artists age him by 10-12 years. I think he’d nail the part.

Casting the Three Sisters would be crucial and tricky. Nikki Enders (the oldest sister) needs to be somebody athletically kick-ass and in her mid-thirties. Hilary Swank? Hmmmmm. Maybe. Eva Longoria might make a good Middle Sister, and Baby sister needs to be some fierce-eyed, seventeen-year-old punk newcomer.

And let’s not forget our carnival freaks. I’m not sure who should play Jack Sprat, but his Alligator-wrestling wife should definitely be played by wrestler Joanie Laurer.

I suppose most authors think their novels would make pretty good films. I’m no different. My first novel Gun Monkeys is currently under option and The Pistol Poets has been optioned previously. There are some folks looking at Suicide Squeeze right now. But so far not a lot of film interest in Shotgun Opera. I think it’s a screenplay waiting to happen.
Visit Victor Gischler's Blogpocalypse.

The Page 69 Test: Shotgun Opera.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 24, 2007

Matt Beynon Rees' "The Collaborator of Bethlehem"

Matt Beynon Rees is an award-winning foreign correspondent and author of the nonfiction work Cain's Field: Faith, Fratricide, and Fear in the Middle East.

His debut novel, The Collaborator of Bethlehem, is the first in a series about Palestinian sleuth Omar Yussef. Rees lives in Jerusalem.

Here he explains the origins of the story, the problems (and opportunities) with adapting the novel for the screen, and speculates about who might play his protagonist:
The spark for my novel The Collaborator of Bethlehem was my friendship with a Palestinian in late middle-age who lives in the Dehaisha Refugee Camp, a southern neighborhood of Bethlehem. I admired this man deeply for his integrity and decency, despite the violence engulfing his community during the intifada. But I also found him to be extraordinarily prickly. He would become angry at me for my misunderstandings of Palestinian life, for my friendships with others whom he didn't trust, or simply for not having to undergo the same humiliations that were a daily source of pain to him. I made considerable allowances for the pressures under which he lived and enjoyed his wonderful insights and great humor, but even so it was difficult to face his occasional wrath.

On a break from covering the intifada for Time Magazine, in a hotel room in Rome, I decided to turn my friend into Omar Yussef, the schoolteacher forced to turn detective in a lawless Bethlehem. It struck me that instead of feeling hurt by my friend's outbursts, I could view them as research. Omar made it possible for me to grow even closer to my friend.

When I wrote the book, I always had this friend's image, voice and thinking in my mind. I didn't need to place an actor in the role of Omar Yussef -- though I believe that's a good technique for writers seeking to make their characters concrete in their own heads. I always had this friend -- and other friends on whom the main characters are based -- before me.

But as soon as the book sold to Soho Press in the U.S., people began to ask, "Who'll play the lead in the movie version?"

Of course, it depends on just who buys the movie rights. It strikes me that it isn't likely to be a big studio, because even though the book isn't political I think big studios would be put off simply by the fact that it's about the Palestinians. That makes it unlikely that Al Pacino will play Omar -- though his ability to be both raging and soft would make him terrific for the role. I doubt the movie will be made in Arabic and, in any case, the best Arabic crossover actor, Omar Sharif, is now a little too old for Omar. (I'd expect it to be filmed in the Middle East, of course -- though Bethlehem might be too sensitive a location, because some local institutions get it in the neck in my book.) Most likely, it'll be made by a smaller production company, perhaps in a co-production stretching across many European (financing) borders.

My pick would be Bruno Ganz, the great Swiss actor. Omar has to demonstrate a wide range of emotions, from the sympathetic relationship he has with his granddaughter to the prickliness of his friendship with Bethlehem's police chief to the bravery and aggression with which he confronts the lawless gunmen of the town. Ganz could handle that. If you've seen him as the sensitive waiter in the wonderful Italian love story Bread and Tulips or as Adolf Hitler in his final days in Downfall, you'll know what I mean about Ganz's range.

He also seems to speak just about every European tongue, so whoever finances the movie can ask him to play Omar in their language. Whether he's shooting in Tunisia or Turkey.
Read more about the novel at Matt Beynon Rees' website and his blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Collaborator of Bethlehem.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer's "Agnes and the Hitman"

Bob Mayer is the New York Times bestselling author of over 35 books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Two of his more recent books -- Don’t Look Down and Agnes and the Hitman -- were written with Jennifer Crusie.

Here Mayer explains how he and Crusie use the movies to aid their collaboration:
When Jenny Crusie and I co-write, we start with two characters. The hero and the heroine. Because we're 600 miles apart we have to help each other with the characters. So we end up picking actors and actresses to be the templates for our characters so the other person can visualize them. And not just the name, but the role they were in, because that means a lot too. So for Don’t Look Down, Jenny picked Lucy Lawless to play Lucy Armstrong, her heroine. I used Kurt Russell in the movie Soldier. For Agnes and the Hitman, Jenny picked Selma Blair and I used George Clooney from the movie The Peacemaker.
Read an excerpt from Agnes and the Hitman and an excerpt from Don’t Look Down, and learn more about the books at Jenny Crusie's website and Bob Mayer's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Elisabeth Ladenson's "Proust’s Lesbianism"

Elisabeth Ladenson is Associate Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

Earlier this year she applied the Page 69 Test to her latest book, Dirt for Art's Sake: Books on Trial from Madame Bovary to Lolita.

Here she sketches the story behind the film adaptation of her first book, Proust’s Lesbianism:
I have always been amazed that Hollywood had not until now recognized the tremendous cinematic potential of academic literary criticism. Luckily, Marshal Zeringue has now rectified this by selling Miramax an adaptation of my first book, Proust’s Lesbianism. And as though Marshal’s screenplay were not compelling enough, he has convinced them to sign Kevin Spacey for the part of Marcel Proust. Spacey spends much of the action looking through a keyhole taking notes as Albertine (Keira Knightley) and Andrée (Christina Ricci), go at it in a luxurious Belle Époque brothel. He then returns to his cork-lined room to write volumes 5, 6 and 7 of his great novel. In the meantime, the action is framed by the reminiscences of a middle-aged academic (Kathy Bates) as she recalls her attempts to get her first book published so as not to lose her job at a prominent state university founded by Thomas Jefferson (Nick Nolte, reprising this role in a cameo).

If this film does as well as predicted, the sky’s the limit for film adaptations of academic monographs. Who has not dreamt of a movie version of Derrida’s Of Grammatology, to name only the most obvious example?
Read more about Proust’s Lesbianism at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: Dirt for Art's Sake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law"

Matthew Warshauer is Associate Professor of History at Central Connecticut State University and author of Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law: Nationalism, Civil Liberties, and Partisanship.

His subject is already featured on the $20 bill and presides over Jackson Square in my hometown, so who would Warshauer cast in a film adaption of his book?
I’ve given a lot of thought to who could possibly play Andrew Jackson, especially in a military role and one that involved the first time that civil liberties were ever suspended in the United States. The difficulty is that the Battle of New Orleans involved such amazing contrasts, relating to both Jackson and what his various decisions generated in the city. On the one hand, he achieved a military success never paralleled in the young nation’s history. On the other, he utilized decidedly unconstitutional means in order to secure that victory. Moreover, he never lost a night of sleep in making such a decision. There have been a couple of movies on the Battle of New Orleans, the most well known of which was The Buccaneer, which starred both Yul Brynner, as the pirate Jean Lafitte, and Charlton Heston as Jackson. Produced way back in 1958, it had all the classic elements of a nationalist tale of heroism and challenge. It certainly did not portray Jackson as much less than the towering hero.

Here is the difficulty in adding my book, Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law, which addresses the duality of Jackson’s image; both his heroism and despotism. One of the big issues related to Jacksonian scholarship is Jackson’s character. Some historians think he was unhinged. I agree that Jackson could be brutal and quite willing to resort to violence, but I do not agree that he was a nutcase.

In considering who could play Jackson for a movie rendition of my book, I had to consider someone who could portray Jackson’s intensity and amazing magnetism, and also his intolerance for those who attempted to thwart his will, as well as his ability to explode into tirades. There is only one choice to play the role: Al Pacino. He’s got it all. Consider his role in Scent of a Woman. Viewers both loved and loathed him for his unique, complex, and oftentimes mean spiritedness. At the bottom, however, viewers came away with the sense that he did have something to offer, a quality and conviction that mattered, a devotion to some greater principle. This was most certainly Jackson. Pacino will have to work on a little Tennessee Southern twang, and perhaps stand on a soap box for height, but that can certainly be worked out. -- Without question, Al Pacino is the man.
Read more about Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law at the publisher's website.

Matthew Warshauer is also the author of the forthcoming Andrew Jackson: First Men, America’s Presidents. His articles have appeared in Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Connecticut History, Louisiana History, and New York History.

The Page 69 Test: Andrew Jackson and the Politics of Martial Law.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Rick Mofina's "A Perfect Grave"

Rick Mofina's third book in the acclaimed Jason Wade series, A Perfect Grave, releases today.

Here he explains which talented (and bankable) actor he'd like to see in the lead role of the film adaptation of his novel:
Sure, I admit I have often cast a movie version of my books. It's fun to play around. Actually, I always pictured Ethan Hawke in the role of Jason Wade, a crime reporter with the Seattle Mirror, who is the lead in my newer series. It debuted with The Dying Hour, which was named a finalist for 2006 Thriller Award by the International Thriller Writers. It was followed by Every Fear and A Perfect Grave, released September 2007.

Wade is loner who grew up in the shadow of a brewery in a blue-collar neighborhood. His old man, Henry Wade, is an alcoholic who crawled into a bottle after Jason's mom walked out on them years earlier when Jason was just a kid.

Henry Wade let go of life to take a job in a brewery, haunted by an incident that happened a life time ago when he was a rookie Seattle cop. He never revealed his dark secret to Jason, who refused to be dragged down with his old man as he battled his demons.

Jason instead pursues his dream, putting himself through community college driving a forklift while freelancing crime stories. He eventually beats the odds, and several arrogant wealthy interns from big schools, to land a staff reporter covering crime at the Mirror.

Ethan Hawke, has the still-waters-run-deep, persona to capture Jason. He has the dark, quiet intensity I see in Jason. Hawke's mind-blowing Oscar-nominated job supporting Denzel Washington in Training Day did it for me.

Jason's gritty, edgy, but honest, hard-working, afraid at times, but the kind of guy who just will not give up. He learns from the mistakes he makes along the way to becoming what he is: An every day hero who does not consider himself a hero. A kind of Springsteen-esque street warrior.

Jason first saves himself from what should have been a dead-end life, then he works on rescuing his old man.

For the role of Henry Wade, I always thought of two guys. Nick Nolte, or Harvey Keitel. Each has the presence, weight and depth to play a man whose spirit died in single-life changing instant that haunts him. An incident he cannot disclose or discuss it. One so painful it has to be numbed by alcohol.

To see Hawke and either, Nolte or Keitel, take my story from the page to the screen would be very cool.
In addition to the Jason Wade series, Mofina's novels include Be Mine, If Angels Fall, Cold Fear, No Way Back, and Blood of Others, which won an Ellis award for Best Novel. He won a second Ellis award for his short story “Lightning Rider” in the anthology Murder in Vegas.

The Page 69 Test: Every Fear.

Visit Rick Mofina's website.

--Marshal Zeringue