Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sandra Parshall's "Poisoned Ground"

Sandra Parshall grew up in South Carolina and has worked as a reporter on newspapers in South Carolina, West Virginia, and Baltimore. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a long-time Washington journalist, and three cats.

Here Parshall dreamcasts an adaptation of Poisoned Ground, her latest Rachel Goddard Mystery:

After six novels, my mental images of my protagonists, Rachel Goddard and Tom Bridger, are cemented in place. They’re unique individuals. What actors could possibly step into their roles and become them in a film?

This is one of the countless reasons most writers have no say in casting movies made from their books.

Readers, who form their own mental images of characters, don’t hesitate to offer suggestions. A surprising number of people have told me they see Rachel as Clare Danes. I’m not sure what accounts for that, but while I admire Ms. Danes enormously as an actress, she wouldn’t be my first choice. If she colored her hair auburn, I would be happy with Rachel McAdams. I see my own Rachel in her smile.

Tom is more of a problem because of his Melungeon — mixed race — heritage, which gives him dark olive skin, Cherokee features, and coal-black hair. I’ve never seen an actor who made me think, “That’s Tom.”

But oh, the secondary characters in Poisoned Ground — what a dream cast they inspire. From the moment I conceived the character Jake Hollinger, lumber mill owner and aging Don Juan, I’ve pictured him as Ted Danson, complete with that wonderful thick white hair. For Jake’s love interest, widow-with-a-past Tavia Richardson, Jessica Lange would be perfect. No actor could do a better job than Rob Lowe as Lawrence Archer, the slimy rep for the development company that wants to erect a sprawling resort for the rich in my little Blue Ridge Mountains community.

The real fun is in casting the Jones sisters, never married and growing old and increasingly eccentric together in the family home. Meryl Streep would be fabulous as the sharp-tongued oldest sister, Winter, whose mission in life is to keep her sisters in line. Spring, the second sister, makes no concession to age in choosing her flamboyant clothing, hair color and makeup, and Susan Sarandon could capture her perfectly. Summer, the youngest, seems shy and quiet but allows glimpses of a simmering dark streak. I want Mia Farrow in this role.

I think Poisoned Ground would make a terrific movie — it has action, it has conflict of every variety, it has more than one murder. And I’m not one of those writers who can’t bear the thought of turning filmmakers loose on their books. After all, my book won’t change; it will remain between its covers, exactly as I wrote it. So if we could get past the difficulty of finding the right actor to play Tom Bridger, I’d be happy to go along with a film project. I have a few ideas on casting the rest of the characters, too...
Learn more about the book and author at Sandra Parshall's official website.

The Page 69 Test: Disturbing the Dead.

The Page 69 Test: Poisoned Ground.

--Marshal Zeringue