Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jason Goodwin's "An Evil Eye"

Jason Goodwin's Edgar Award–winning series set in Istanbul at the end of the Ottoman Empire--The Janissary Tree, The Snake Stone, The Bellini Card, and An Evil Eye--features Investigator Yashim: detective, polyglot, chef, eunuch.

Here Goodwin shares some ideas about a big screen adaptation of the books:
I just got back from a book tour through the USA, much enlivened by the company of my 17-year-old son. Bars were out, so we downloaded some movies to watch in the hotel.

No Country for Old Men was one I'd missed (to be honest I miss 'em all these days, and we have no TV). It was, I seemed to remember, a sensitive portrayal of Southern life starring George Clooney. Where could we go wrong?

We watched No Country for about forty minutes, until it became so frightening we agreed to switch off, and just read some thrillers before lights-out. George had so far failed to appear.

After that, every night, we watched another ten minutes or so of the movie. I think we were hyper-sensitive because the film is really all about the creepiness of American hotels. Plus no reassuring George. Clooney isn't in No Country for Old Men, at all. My mistake.

Only there were scorching performances by the whole cast - and the magnificent Javier Bardem.

One of us said - maybe just to lower the tension - 'he'd make a fabulous Yashim.' Look. Yashim's my detective. It's Istanbul in the 1830s, really tense times, harem intrigue, high politics, low tactics, the works.

Bill Nighy plays Palewski, the Polish ambassador. He's Yashim's oldest friend.

And Yashim?

Well, last time I was in LA they congratulated me for coming up with a really successful series. Great location - the Ottoman Empire. Great stories - death and double-dealing on the Bosphorus. Hey, you won an Edgar!

And your books are also completely Hollywood-proof.

I say, excuse me? I mean, these people aren't Hollywood themselves. They just happen to live in LA.

And they splay fingers, raise eyebrows and say: The detective is a eunuch.

I'm not arguing. Yashim's a eunuch - but not a hairless oddball with a falsetto voice. He's a man, with a secret sorrow - and a moustache - who finds solace in cookery and detective work. He's a complex, wronged and compassionate man: he can talk to anyone in Istanbul, because he can visit the harems of the city. He falls in love like any man. He even makes love.

But I see what my friends in LA are saying. Regular A-listers don't dare risk the eunuch.

Javier is different. He's got a fabulous range (I've checked). He is a serious character actor. He has huge charisma, and fonts of compassion - but he can be hard as nails, too.

And to be fair, it takes balls to carry the part of Yashim: cojones, indeed. Meanwhile Javier Bardem is married to Penélope Cruz, the mother of his child (that came out of the fact-check, too).

And if she'd like to play the murderess in An Evil Eye, we have a deal.
Learn more about Jason Goodwin and his work at his website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Snake Stone.

The Page 69 Test: The Bellini Card.

--Marshal Zeringue