Monday, July 16, 2012

Ben H. Winters' "The Last Policeman"

Ben H. Winters is the author of several novels, including the New York Times bestseller Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and the middle-grade novel The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman, an Edgar Award nominee and a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of 2011. Winters’ other books include the science-fiction Tolstoy parody Android Karenina, the Finkleman sequel The Mystery of the Missing Everything, and the supernatural thriller Bedbugs, which has been optioned for the screen by Warner Brothers. Winters also wrote the book and lyrics for three musicals for young audiences: The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, A (Tooth) Fairy Tale, and Uncle Pirate, based on the award-winning children’s book by Douglas Rees.

Here he shares some ideas for casting a big screen adaptation of his new novel, The Last Policeman:
Detective Palace, the hero of The Last Policeman, would be hard to cast, at least as I’ve described him: He’s extremely tall and thin. People call him “Stretch” or “Tallboy,” and he is very uncomfortable in his lanky frame—he sits awkwardly, folding one leg over the other, and he’s always banging his knees on things.

He doesn’t really sound like a movie star. And I expect, if I were lucky enough that Hollywood took this to the screen, they won’t waste a lot of time finding an action-movie lead who looks like Ichabod Crane—they’ll just skip over the detail.

But when I imagine Palace, I imagine a body and a face like that of Jim True-Frost, who played the role of Pryzbylewski on The Wire. I don’t know how tall that guy is, but he plays like I imagine Palace—thin, wiry, hunched, interesting looking, inward, unconventionally handsome.

So then, as long as I’m in Wire world, I’ll take Wendell (“Bunk”) Pierce as Detective Culverson, Palace’s quasi-mentor and (per page 22) “the Only Black Man in Concord”. For Palace’s screw-up sister, Nico, who may or may not be involved in overthrowing a government conspiracy that may or may not exist, I imagine Rose Byrne, from Damages and Bridesmaids. She’s got this kind of angular toughness that emerges in Nico towards the end of the novel, though we’d have to scruff her up a little for the first three-quarters of the movie.

Finally, some stunt casting: in the role of tough but kindly Chief Ordler, who appears exactly twice over the course of the book, for one page each, I cast Tom Waits. But only because I’d really, really like to meet Tom Waits.
Learn more about the book and author at the official Ben H. Winters website.

--Marshal Zeringue