Sunday, March 2, 2014

Doug Most's "The Race Underground"

Doug Most is the deputy managing editor for features at The Boston Globe. He is the author of Always in Our Hearts: The Story of Amy Grossberg, Brian Peterson, the Pregnancy They Hid and the Child They Killed (St. Martin's True Crime, 2005). He has written for Sports Illustrated, Runner's World and Parents and his stories have appeared in Best American Crime Writing and Best American Sports Writing.

Here Most dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway:
I have thought about the cinematic aspects of this book, because the story has a number of riveting, dramatic scenes and storylines. And certain characters it's quite easy to imagine them being played on screen.

The most obvious is Alfred Ely Beach. He was a skinny, opera-loving inventor, who was in perpetual motion and loved to work with his hands. His stand-off with the 300-pound crime boss, Boss Tweed, is an incredible David-and-Goliath tale. For Beach I could envision Steve Buscemi, who is sort of this wired character, skinny and could really capture the quirks of Beach. For the nemesis, Tweed, that would have been a great role for James Gandolfini, sadly. Instead, John Goodman could be great, his voice booming as the corrupt state senator.

Two other key characters are the Whitney brothers, Henry and William. For Henry Melville Whitney, the older brother, who was short and stocky and had a thick mustache, it feels like a role for Matt Damon to inhabit. Naturally, as a Bostonian, he seems like a logical person who should be involved! And as it so happens, William Whitney was the skinnier, taller, more athletic looking brother, and so naturally that has to be Ben Affleck. As for William Whitney's wife, Flora, the handsome woman who loved to entertain, Frances McDormand is a good fit.

Two of the most important roles are William Barclay Parsons, the famous New York engineer who designed the subway, and William Steinway, the brilliant piano manufacturer and businessman who played a critical part in bringing the subway to reality. Parsons was tall, Lincolnesque in stature, with deep set eyes. Daniel Day Lewis is too obvious, however, so instead I could imagine Hugh Jackman really bringing Parsons to life. And Steinway, a husky man with a deep dark beard, would be played by another Les Miserables cast member, Russell Crowe.

The brilliant engineer Frank Sprague needs an older actor to inhabit him. Harrison Ford, who looked so great with glasses as Branch Rickey, would fill Sprague's role.
Learn more about the book and author at Doug Most's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue