Monday, June 22, 2009

Henry Perez's "Killing Red"

Henry Perez has worked as a newspaper reporter for more than a decade. Born in Cuba, he immigrated to the U.S. at a young age, and lives in the Chicago area with his wife and children.

Here he shares his thoughts on the principal cast of the movie should Killing Red, his first novel, be adapted for the big screen:
Like a lot of people I know, I developed an obsession for movies at an early age. I studied film, both production and theory, in college, and tend to think of my stories in a visual, cinematic way as I’m writing them.

In writing Killing Red, my debut mystery, I approached the plotting and pacing much like I would a screenplay. I got the action on the page in my first draft, making sure there was nothing there that was unnecessary or that might slow things down. I colored in many of the details in subsequent revisions.

So discussing what it might be like to see my first book turned into a film seems quite natural in a way. Killing Red is the story of Alex Chapa, a Chicago-area newspaper reporter who made a name for himself fifteen years ago when he broke the story of the capture of Kenny Lee Grubb, after a young girl named Annie Sykes escaped and led police to the mass murderer’s home. Now, less than a week before Grubb is to be executed, Chapa is summoned to the prison for one last interview. But instead of the usual death row confessional or final declarations of innocence, Grubb boasts that a copycat has been retracing his steps, and that Annie Sykes, now in her twenties, will be the final victim. Chapa has just a few days to find Annie before someone else does.

The first question authors are usually asked on the subject of their book being turned into a film concerns casting, and I’ve heard some speak candidly about having this actor or that actress in mind when they were creating a character. I never did that while writing Killing Red. Though I had a clear image in my mind of what each character looked and sounded like, I did not picture any actual people, famous or otherwise, in those roles.

The protagonist seems like a logical place to start, and Alex Chapa is not an easy character to cast. Though he’s resourceful, and ultimately heroic, Chapa is an everyman who’s got some mileage on him, and it shows. He is Cuban-American, but I’m not a hard-liner when it comes to casting an actor whose heritage matches the character’s. Still, it would be nice. Andy Garcia comes to mind right away, since he’s been the most prominent Cuban-American actor for some time. But I also like Danny Pino (Cold Case). If it were up to me I’d cast Benjamin Bratt.

Grubb, and the threat he represents to everyone in the book, haunts every page of Killing Red. That sense of impending violence can be reproduced on screen, but it takes a great performance to do it. I don’t want to give away too much, but Grubb has a couple of scenes in the book that I would imagine some actors would love to play. Josh Brolin or Mickey Rourke would knock one out of the park in that role. A reader suggested Willem Dafoe.

Author J.D. Smith recently suggested that Ellen Page would make a great Annie Sykes. That would be a bit of dream casting. And yes, she would be perfect in the role.

It’s a fact that very few crime novels are ever sold to Hollywood, and only a small percentage of those actually get made into films. Only a handful of authors are fortunate enough to see their work on screen, and just about none of the ones who do have any say over scripting or production, let alone casting.

But it’s always fun to imagine what it might be like…
Preview Killing Red, and learn more about the book and author at Henry Perez's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue