Friday, March 1, 2013

Bruce Macbain's "The Bull Slayer"

Bruce Macbain holds degrees in classical studies and ancient history, with a specialty in Greece and Rome. Upon retirement a few years ago, he decided to give up writing scholarly monographs which almost no one read, and turn to the more congenial realm of fiction. His debut mystery, Roman Games, set in first century AD Rome, was published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2010. His second novel, The Bull Slayer, comes out this month. Macbain is also a book reviewer for the Historical Novels Review.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of The Bull Slayer:
What is it about the Romans that makes us imagine them speaking with British accents? Presumably, all those fine British actors who have played them over the years in films and on television. So it will come as no surprise that I have cast Derek Jacobi in the leading role in my fantasy film of The Bull Slayer. My sleuth is a historical character, Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Younger), who was a Roman senator, a provincial governor, and a compulsive letter writer. His hundreds of letters illuminate the world he lived in as well as his own personality—tolerant and compassionate, yet at the same time rather vain and fussy, and often perplexed. The Derek Jacobi of I, Claudius and Brother Cadfael would get him exactly right.

In my latest novel, in which Governor Pliny tracks down the murderer of an unpopular tax official, he is assisted by his adjutant, Suetonius. Here I have cast Jude Law (as he looks today, thinning hair and all) to play the cool, urbane, sardonic biographer of The Twelve Caesars.

Continuing with the Brits, I like Christopher Lee (as he looked circa 1966 in Rasputin, The Mad Monk) for the role of Pancrates, a cultist and faith-healer who knows everyone’s secrets and sells them for a price. And, in the role of Diocles, an orator and power broker, whom I describe as a small man with a deep voice and silver hair, who struts like a cock with his chest thrust out—who else but John Thaw of Inspector Morse fame?

But, lest we have no Americans in the cast, I have chosen Winona Ryder (as she looked circa 1999 in Girl, Interrupted) in the key role of Pliny’s young wife, Calpurnia. She is half the age of her elderly husband and has accompanied him to his province, where she feels cut-off, lonely, inadequate--and ripe for seduction by a handsome Greek youth (played, incidentally, by a young Billy Zane). I think Ryder’s winsome vulnerability captures Calpurnia precisely.

What would we fiction writers ever do without Google Images and Wikipedia to jog our memories of faces long gone?
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce Macbain's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bull Slayer.

--Marshal Zeringue