Saturday, June 14, 2014

Donis Casey's "Hell With the Lid Blown Off"

Donis Casey is the author of seven Alafair Tucker Mysteries, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled, The Drop Edge of Yonder, The Sky Took Him, Crying Blood, The Wrong Hill to Die On, and Hell With the Lid Blown Off. The award-winning series, featuring the sleuthing mother of ten children, is set in Oklahoma and Arizona during the booming 1910s.

Here Casey dreamcasts an adaptation of Hell With the Lid Blown Off, which deals with murder near the small Oklahoma town of Boynton after a killer tornado sweeps through in the summer of 1916:
My sleuth, Alafair Tucker, is a woman in her early forties, who lives with her husband Shaw and their ten children on a prosperous farm in Oklahoma in the early part of the Twentieth Century. She never sets out to solve murders, but all those pesky kids keep getting involved in unsavory situations and need their mother to get them out of trouble. Fortunately for me, Alafair is the kind of woman who will literally do anything, legal or not so legal, for her kids.

Many of the details of Alafair’s life on the farm, such as using kerosine-soaked corn cobs to start a fire, come from my mother, who grew up on a farm during the Depression. Many of the incidents related actually happened, both in my family and my husband’s (the less savory ones, he points out).

I made a point of not physically describing my main character, Alafair, except in generalities, even though I have a clear picture of her in my head. After seven books, a few details about her appearance have slipped out. She has dark hair that she can’t do anything with. She has dark eyes and a sun-browned complexion. She’s middle-sized. I didn’t create Alafair or any of the other characters with actors in mind. Alafair and her family are all based on friends or relatives of mine, living and dead.

But that doesn’t keep readers from casting my movie for me.

One fan of the series suggested to me that Alafair should be played by Kathy Bates. Not two weeks later, another woman thought Joan Allen would be a good Alafair. That certainly runs the gamut of physical types. I’d be thrilled to have either of these actresses play Alafair. However, not to put too fine a point on it, they’re both too old. Sandra Bullock is closer to Alafair’s age, though considering that Alafair is a farm wife with many kids, Sandy would have to be deglamorized quite a bit. Of course, if Meryl Streep would agree to the part, that would suit me just fine, no matter how old she is.

Alafair’s husband, Shaw, is one-quarter Cherokee, six feet tall, hazel eyed, with black hair and a floppy mustache. Sounds just like Burt Reynolds or Tom Selleck in his prime. However, Shaw has a certain straightforward, honest, Western sensibility that reminds me of parts I have seen played by Matt Damon or Matthew McConnaughey. Two blonds who’d need a dye job to portray Shaw, but they’re about the right age. If George Clooney is looking to expand his repertoire, I’d be willing to give him a shot at it.

Jubal Beldon, the villain/victim in Hell, hardly has a redeemable feature and is pretty creepy-looking, too, rather like Giovanni Ribisi’s weirdly calculating backwoodsman in Cold Mountain. But I vote for Tim Roth as Jubal. He was a fabulous villain in Rob Roy--heartless, smart, yet with a hint of wistfulness.

It’s good for a writer to keep in mind that once your work is out of your hands, the characters aren’t yours any more. They’re the reader’s. So I leave it to the readers to cast red-headed Trent, exuberant Wallace, mysterious Randal, Miz Beckie, and all those lively Tucker children and members of the extended Tucker family. Except for Grandma Sally, that is. I’ll play her myself.
Visit Donis Casey's website.

Writers Read: Donis Casey.

The Page 69 Test: Hell with the Lid Blown Off.

--Marshal Zeringue