Sunday, February 2, 2014

Tessa Harris's "The Devil's Breath"

Since leaving Oxford University with a History degree, Tessa Harris has been a journalist and editor, contributing to many national publications such as the Times and the Telegraph.

Here Harris dreamcasts an adaptation of The Devil's Breath, the third novel in her Dr Thomas Silkstone Mystery series.
My Dr Thomas Silkstone mystery series actually started life as a screenplay. The premise was this: a young 18th century anatomist from Philadelphia crosses swords with another (less morally scrupulous) practitioner in London in an action-packed tale based on a true story. The script was optioned but remained languishing in so-called ‘development hell’. Determined that none of my vast research into the period should be wasted, however, I decided to develop my main character. Dr Thomas Silkstone was born. Based on a real-life anatomist by the name of Dr William Shippen Jnr, he was intelligent, handsome, sophisticated, and above all, a voice of reason in an age where old practices and attitudes were clashing with Enlightenment thinking.

I didn’t have an actor in mind to play Thomas, although I’d pictured him so many times. I just couldn’t think of someone sufficiently appealing but moody and suave enough. Until, that is, I saw Twilight in 2008. The first time I set eyes on Robert Pattinson I knew instantly he was my perfect Thomas. Ignoring his vampire tendencies, here was a young man, cool on the outside, yet caring and sensitive on the in.

As for his love interest, Lady Lydia Farrell, there could only ever be one actress. Dark, beautiful, and hiding a terrible secret that makes us see her as a tragic figure, it could only be the fabulous Keira Knightley.

There are other characters who keep reappearing in my series. The portly Oxford coroner, Sir Theodosius Pettigrew, is a bon viveur and a great ally to Thomas. Robbie Coltrane would be my first choice. The role of Dr Williiam Carruthers, Thomas’s blind and benign mentor, would go to an actor whom I’ve personally interviewed for a magazine article, Sir Anthony Hopkins. And as for Thomas’ nemesis and the villain of the piece Sir Montagu Malthus? He’s a domineering lawyer with a Machiavellian streak. I describe him as “a great raven of a man” and I’d give the part to Ciarán Hinds, a great character actor who’s recently appeared Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, The Woman in Black and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Game of Thrones on TV.

So, there you have my dream team of actors should any of my novels make it to the screen. A major production company has recently expressed interest in the series and I’m currently adapting The Anatomist’s Apprentice for TV, so who knows? The dream might soon be turning to reality!
Visit Tessa Harris's website.

--Marshal Zeringue