Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Craig McDonald's "Print the Legend"

Craig McDonald's debut novel Head Games, was selected as a 2008 Edgar nominee for Best First Novel by an American Author. It is followed by Toros & Torsos and the newly released Print the Legend.

Here he explains which actors--and director--might be best suited to bring his characters to life on the big screen:
Like many novelists, I’ve had my intoxicating near-brushes with film adaptation.

Based solely on its description in a Publishers Lunch announcement, my debut novel, Head Games, attracted quite a bit of film interest. My own secret choice to play my continuing character Hector Lassiter in that novel, bizarrely enough, asked my publisher for a look at the novel. My vision of Hector Lassiter almost came to me.

Like most novelists who get Hollywood nibbles, my chance to have my first-choice actor portray my ongoing character didn’t bite firmly enough to be reeled in.

Print the Legend, my third novel, again features crime novelist Hector Lassiter, who is popularly known as the “man who lives what he writes and writes what he lives.”

Print the Legend explores the death of Ernest Hemingway in Ketchum, Idaho, in the summer of 1961, and raises questions regarding the possibility that Hem’s death was something other than an act of suicide. The novel also explores J. Edgar Hoover’s crazed and too-often destructive surveillance of key American writers, including not just Hemingway, but Carl Sandburg, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner and Dorothy Parker, among many others.

Hector Lassiter has centered two previous novels, both of which dropped Hector on to famous film sets: Head Games found Hector visiting the set of Orson WellesTouch of Evil. Toros & Torsos placed Hector on the set of The Lady From Shanghai. Because my novels tend to spread over decades and to dart in and out of time, they present certain challenges in casting. In Toros & Toros, we variously encounter 35-, 37-, 47-, 59- and 61-year-old Hector.

Print the Legend, on the other hand, is set largely in the mid-to-late 1960s. Hector’s age ranges from 65 to 72 through this novel. I’ve long established that Hector bears a strong resemblance to actor William Holden; Hector has a kind of Old Hollywood panache. As Holden is no longer available, my own choice to portray the Hector of Print the Legend would probably be Harrison Ford…a man of the right vintage, but still a physically imposing and vital masculine presence.

Print the Legend positions Hector between two formidable female foils. One is aspiring young fiction writer Hannah Paulson, an unhappily married, Scottish immigrant who is also nine-months pregnant. The other is Papa’s widow: the profane, alcoholic, sharp and salty tongued Mary Hemingway. Print the Legend might be the one of my novels that could actually present a potential acting role for Meryl Streep: she has the look, and the talent, to evoke all of the bombastic, alcoholic, larger-than-life, infuriating — and ultimately tragic — facets of Papa’s last wife.

Hannah is probably the most-challenging role to cast. She retains her Scottish accent; she is blond, pretty and has some very dark undertones. The woman I keep finding my mind returning to is the British actress Sophia Myles.

For the role of Donovan Creedy, rogue and racist FBI agent/paperback thriller writer — Hector’s bête noire and a character inspired by Watergate Plumber E. Howard Hunt — I favor John Hurt.

Head Games I have always have envisioned as a Robert Rodriguez-directed film (Sam Peckinpah being, well, very dead). Toros & Torsos I’ve privately imagined as a Guillermo del Toro film.

Print the Legend I’d love to see interpreted by director Alan Rudolph, whose film The Moderns partly inspired Toros & Torsos and whose blurring of art and reality informs all of the my novels published to-date, but none perhaps so strongly as Print the Legend.

Odds of any of this happening?

Damned near zero.

But as Hemingway wrote at the end of The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”
Read more about Print the Legend, and learn more about the author and his work at Craig McDonald's website, blog, and Crimespace page.

Read "The Story Behind the Story: Print the Legend, by Craig McDonald," at The Rap Sheet.

The Page 69 Test: Toros & Torsos.

The Page 69 Test: Head Games.

The Page 69 Test: Print the Legend.

--Marshal Zeringue