Sunday, March 23, 2014

Jane Nickerson's "The Mirk and Midnight Hour"

For many years Jane Nickerson and her family lived in a big old house in Aberdeen, Mississippi, where she was also the children’s librarian. She has always loved the South, “the olden days,” gothic tales, houses, kids, writing, and interesting villains. After five great years living in Ontario, Canada, Nickerson and her husband have returned to Aberdeen where they live in a lovely little old house that is a television star.

Here Nickerson dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Mirk and Midnight Hour:
You know, I do believe The Mirk and Midnight Hour would make a riveting costume drama—lush Southern scenery, heartwarming bits, chilling bits, moral questions to ponder, and an opportunity for lovely clothes and an all-star cast.

At first glance, the heroine, Violet, looks like an ordinary, not pretty, not plain 1860’s seventeen-year-old Southern farmgirl, but in reality she’s extraordinary. With cleverness and resilience, she deals with all that’s thrown at her—even the climactic scene where she must save her beloved Thomas from being a voodoo sacrifice. I would choose Jennifer Lawrence to play Violet. Jennifer is pretty, but not in a flashy way, and she could handle the required physical action.

Violet’s family includes gorgeous, spoiled stepsister, Sunny (Jessica Biel when she was a teenager), her dreamy, vague, laudanum-addicted stepmother, Miss Elsa (Cate Blanchett), her sometimes annoying, sometimes endearing ten-year-old cousin, Seeley (Haley Joel Osment when he was a kid), and her cousin Dorian. Oh, Dorian is a charmer! Blonde and handsome, funny and flirtatious. A young Matthew McConaughey would play Dorian to a T, and he even does the Southern accent.

Now we need Violet’s love interest—sensitive, intelligent, kind Lt. Thomas Lynd, who wrote Seeley’s favorite adventure books before he joined the Union army. Thomas was badly wounded and kidnapped by the mysterious VanZeldts, who are caring for him for reasons known only to themselves. Casting Thomas is tougher. He’s good-looking, but not pretty-boy, and he needs to show the vulnerability of his position since he’s physically helpless throughout the story, but still have an underlying strength of character. Maybe Ben Feldman could do it.

Laney, Violet’s African American best friend, who happens to be enslaved, needs to be curvy, pretty, and show common sense and shrewdness. Possibly Adepero Oduye, if we can make her seventeen.

Two other important characters are Miss Ruby Jewel and her servant, Jubal. Miss Ruby Jewel is old and shriveled and obnoxious. The actress Gloria Stuart was beautiful in her heyday, but she can be Miss Ruby Jewel now. Jubal’s casting is obvious. Morgan Freeman all the way. Jubal is elderly and tired, but he has dignity and a complicated relationship with the awful Miss Ruby Jewel.

The last key characters are the VanZeldts. Dr. VanZeldt is an impeccably-dressed, polite, but creepy Dutchman in his 60’s, loved as a father by the rest of his household. Donald Sutherland could do it. The most important thing about the African VanZeldts is their height and their movement—gliding along with silky grace. Amenze must be tall and lovely. Lupita Nyong’o should play the part. Uwa needs to be handsome, muscular, smooth, but a little scary. He also doesn’t really need to speak, since mostly he slinks around making Violet uncomfortable, but he has to be an amazing dancer. Therefore, I would have to take upon myself the enjoyable task of looking over male dancers from the Alvin Ailey dance theater for casting.

Oh, I want to see it!
Learn more about the book and author at Jane Nickerson's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Mirk and Midnight Hour.

--Marshal Zeringue