Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Todd Ritter's "Death Notice"

An editor and journalist for more than 15 years, Todd Ritter began his career as a film critic while attending Penn State University. His favorite films are thrillers, although he has a soft spot for horror movies that scare the wits out of him. He considers Alfred Hitchcock to be the greatest director the world has ever seen. His debut mystery, Death Notice, was released in October by Minotaur Books.

He thinks it would make a fantastic movie. With, he writes, the correct casting, of course:
I know a lot of authors envision actors and actresses when writing their main characters. I’m guilty as charged. Kind of. When I started writing Death Notice, one particular actress served as my muse for Chief Kat Campbell, the heart and soul of the book. Her name is Elizabeth Mitchell, and fans of the show Lost will know her as Dr. Juliet Burke. Kat is a single mother to a 10-year-old son with Down syndrome. She’s also the police chief of a small town terrorized by a serial killer. The actress who plays her needs that rare combination of maternal warmth and kick-ass toughness. Mitchell has that combo in spades. Plus, she really knows how to wield a gun. (The runner-up would be Ashley Judd, my agent’s suggestion and another great choice to play Kat.)

The two male protagonists of Death Notice are more difficult to cast, mostly because everything about them — looks, attitudes, flaws and strengths — sprang completely from my imagination. Nick Donnelly, the state police investigator brought in to help Kat catch the killer, is handsome, intelligent and brings a bit of street smarts to a sleepy farm community. Jon Hamm, of Mad Men fame, would make a great Nick. He’s got the looks and the smarts, plus he’d be able to show the way the case slowly eats away at Nick piece by piece.

Then there’s Henry Goll, the obituary writer who becomes the unwitting link between the police and the killer. Henry is scarred, both physically and emotionally, from an accident five years earlier. He is also a bit of a recluse, and the murders drag him kicking and screaming into a world of human interaction that he wants no part of. Whoever plays him needs to express Henry’s fear, reticence and pain while simultaneously showing a man waking up to all that the world can offer. In other words, we need a heavy-hitter.

Enter Robert Downey Jr. He can do drama. He can do action. And he can do world-weary. Even better, he can do all three at once. In my mind, he’s the perfect Henry.
Learn more about Death Notice and its author at Todd Ritters' website.

Writers Read: Todd Ritter.

The Page 69 Test: Death Notice.

--Marshal Zeringue