Sunday, August 31, 2014

Margaret Maron's "Designated Daughters"

Margaret Maron grew up on a farm near Raleigh and lived in Brooklyn for many years. Returning to her North Carolina roots prompted Maron to write a series based on her own background, the first of which, Bootlegger's Daughter, was a Washington Post bestseller and swept the major mystery awards for 1993.

Here Maron dreamcasts an adaptation of Designated Daughters, the nineteenth book in the acclaimed Deborah Knott series:
Rather than a movie per se, I'd rather see all 19 of my Judge Deborah Knott novels turned into a series for "Masterpiece Mystery." (Hey, if you're gonna aim high, might as well shoot for the moon, right?) I've never cast the characters in my head except for Deborah's daddy. The only actor I've ever seen that matches the description of that tall, blue-eyed fiddle-playing bootlegger is Kris Kristofferson. He's just about the right age now. The Masterpiece producers do such a good job with matching actors to parts, that I'd leave the rest up to them as long as they didn't make Deborah look like an anorexic teenage sexpot.
Learn more about the book and author at Margaret Maron's website.

The Page 69 Test: Three-Day Town.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 29, 2014

Douglas Corleone's "Payoff"

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels and international thrillers. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.

Corleone’s highly acclaimed international thriller Good as Gone, introducing former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk, was hailed by the Huffington Post as “a heart-wrenching, adrenaline-producing adventure that leaves the reader gasping for breath.”

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Payoff, the second Simon Fisk thriller:
Since the opening scenes of my new novel Payoff take place at the Calabasas, California home of movie mogul Edgar Trenton, My Book, The Movie presents an ideal question.

When Edgar Trenton’s teenage daughter is kidnapped during a violent home invasion, he turns to former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk to ensure a smooth ransom exchange. Not just because Simon Fisk is a kidnapper’s worst nightmare, but because Simon owes Edgar Trenton a favor. Years ago, Edgar granted Simon’s request to nix the film version of a book based on Simon’s own real-life nightmare – the abduction of his six-year-old daughter Hailey and subsequent suicide of his beloved wife Tasha. When Simon made the request, the film already had a star attached – Jason Statham was under contract to play Simon Fisk.

But if Payoff were to be made into a movie, who would fill out the rest of the cast?

While writing the book, I imagined Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) playing the role of movie mogul Edgar Trenton, and Jennifer Connelly playing his (much younger) wife.

The female lead in the book, a beautiful Latin American woman named Mariana Silva, should be played by Penélope Cruz.

In Bogota, Colombia, Simon Fisk receives the assistance of two hard-boiled DEA agents, Samuel “Grey” Greyson and Emanuel Vega, who I envision being played by Denzel Washington and Benecio Del Toro, respectively.

All right, so we may already be well over-budget. But with Jeffrey Katzenberg and Jeffrey Bruckheimer as executive producers, money shouldn’t be an issue, right?
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

Writers Read: Douglas Corleone (August 2013).

The Page 69 Test: Good as Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bruce Grierson's "What Makes Olga Run?"

Bruce Grierson, author of U-Turn (Bloomsbury USA) and co-author of Culture Jam, with Kalle Lasn, is a social-science writer living in Vancouver, BC.

Here Grierson dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, What Makes Olga Run?: The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives:
Coming soon to your local multiplex, What Makes Olga Run?, the movie. It’s the story of an uptight city guy’s slow absorption of the paleo lifestyle – primitive food, polyphasic sleeping and intense barefoot workouts with boulders — which he views as the secret of recovering his lost youth. His mentor on this journey, the Burgess Meredith to his Rocky, is a 90-something track athlete with Old Country grit and a Zen-like intelligence: Olga Kotelko.

There’s surely an Oscar waiting for the actress who can pull off the role of Olga. The part demands a pretty serious level of physicality. The real Olga Kotelko notched more than fifty world records in three age categories — most recently women aged 95-99. She was a sprinter and a high jumper. It’s hard to imagine, say, Betty White, putting that kind of spring into even her walking step.

But here’s the thing: In every physiological test done on her by specialists across North America, the real Olga scored at least 30 years younger than her chronological age. And in physical appearance she was at least 25 years younger. So we’re not looking for a 90-year-old actress here. We’re looking for a 65- to 70-year-old actress. That opens up the field to all those late-Boomer Oscar-winners who must be dying for another chance to carry a film: Goldie Hawn, Glenn Close, Sigourney Weaver, Cher. (!). (Okay, the last two are probably out, since Olga was five-foot-zero and 125 pounds.)

For pure athleticism, a casting director’s thoughts might drift to Jane Fonda, who will turn 77 in December. But it would be a stretch for Fonda to capture the humble Olga vibe. There’s too much muffler-dragging liberal egotism there. Olga was a Saskatchewan farm kid turned elementary school teacher turned churchgoing grandmother — a “Plain Jane” (by her own description), not a Botoxed Jane.

So here’s my vote: Sally Field. She looked passably like Olga as Forrest Gump’s mom. She has the right kind of simple wholesome gravitas. She’s 67; she could probably run the 100m in under 20 seconds: close enough. Whether she could throw a javelin or discus convincingly who knows, but that’s what body-doubles are for. Better to have the character of Olga shine through and fake the running scenes than vice-versa.

As for who would play me, I’m thinking David Cross, the Mr. Show guy. He looks as if he could have been a runner in his younger days, but he also has the air of a guy who lost his wheels in midlife, possibly in a package deal with the hair.

The chemistry between Cross and Field would be crucial. Think Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude, or more recently Steve Coogan and Judi Dench in Philomena.

And the director? How about Phil Alden Robinson, the guy best known for skirting sentimentality (barely) in his adaptation of W.P. Kinsella’s Field of Dreams. The temptation would be to overmilk the premise for comedy, which would be a mistake. So no Ben Stiller or Judd Apatow. This is a sweet film, at bottom, not a farce.

Cue the popcorn sales. Hold the butter.
Learn more about the book and author at Bruce Grierson's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 99 Test: What Makes Olga Run?.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Kevin Baker's "The Big Crowd"

Kevin Baker lives in New York City with his wife. He is the author of the “City of Fire” series of historical novels, Dreamland, Paradise Alley, and Strivers Row, as well as the author or co-author of books on American history, baseball, and the graphic novel, Luna Park.

Here Baker dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel, The Big Crowd:
The Big Crowd is based closely on a series of real events, about a New York City mayor just after World War II who was forced into exile in Mexico, after he was accused of taking part in the greatest unsolved murder in mob history.

It’s a story about politics and crime, with all sorts of conflicting loyalties between what we owe the people we love, and our duty to the rest of those around us, so naturally I thought of Martin Scorsese as the ideal person to direct it. Someone else who understands the nuances of civic and personal corruption in a big city would be James Gray.

For the mayor, Charlie O’Kane, who started out as an Irish immigrant and a beat cop, I thought of Liam Neeson, who can convey that sort of bluff ruggedness but also a certain vulnerability. Someone else like that might be Bryan Cranston. Charlie is married to a much younger woman, his second wife, who was also a socialite and the most sought-after fashion model in the country. January Jones seems like someone who could fit that role, but also maybe Charlize Theron or even Kate Winslet, women who could play someone who is more than just the pretty face, but able to think and maneuver for herself.

For Charlie’s younger, idealistic brother, Tom, who is determined to clear his name, Josh Brolin could do the job, and maybe Barry Pepper. Rachel McAdams or Kelly MacDonald could play Ellie, Tom’s fellow assistant DA, who works on the case with him and becomes his lover, a smart, feisty woman.

A central character in the book, a man everyone called “Mr. Big” because he controlled the Port of New York, a son of famine-Irish parents who worked his way up from nothing, could be played by Sean Bean, or Ray Winstone—maybe even Albert Finney, who is too old for the character officially for the role, but can do anything. Joseph Gannascoli, who played Vito on The Sopranos, would be perfect as Abe Reles, the mob killer turned snitch from Murder, Inc. And for a dying police captain from Brooklyn, a legendary individual known as “The Old Man” by everyone, I can only think of James Cromwell. Who else could possibly be a tough old, dying Irish cop from Brooklyn? Well, maybe Finney…
Learn more about the book and author at Kevin Baker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

M. P. Cooley's "Ice Shear"

A native of upstate New York, M. P. Cooley currently lives in Campbell, California.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Ice Shear, her first novel:
Figuring out who would play the characters in the movie of Ice Shear is a challenge, but a fun one. My book is populated by regular folks who lack shiny hair and coordinated outfits, and for many of them, I didn’t develop a fixed idea of actors who might play them. Even my hero June only came to me in flashes: blond with pale blue eyes, slim, broad shouldered, and with a stillness and strength that comes from living through the grief of her husband’s death and taking care of her young daughter. Charlize Theron has that stillness as well as a physicality that convinces me that she could beat up an enforcer for an outlaw biker gang.

June’s partner Dave could be played by Mark Ruffalo, who has Dave’s black curly hair, laconic wit and hidden intensity. FBI Special Agent Hale Bascom never shies from a confrontation, and I’ve often pictured him as all angles, strong featured and square jawed, with sharp creases in his well-made suit. Guy Pearce would be perfect.

Danielle Brouillette, the hardheaded daughter of a Congresswoman, was the only character where I had a specific actress in mind as I wrote: Amanda Seyfried. She could play the whip-smart golden girl married to the ex-outlaw biker Marty, who could be played by Chris Hemsworth. Mary McConnell could play cool, steely Congresswoman Amanda Brouillette and Gary Sinise would make an excellent Phil Brouillette , the billionaire whose rough roots run through who he is and how he talks to people.
Learn more about the book and author at M. P. Cooley's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Nomi Eve's "Henna House"

Nomi Eve is the author of Henna House and The Family Orchard, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club main selection and was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.

She has an MFA in fiction writing from Brown University and has worked as a freelance book reviewer for The Village Voice and New York Newsday.

Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train Stories, The Voice Literary Supplement, Conjunctions, and The International Quarterly.

She lives in Philadelphia with her family.

Here Eve dreamcasts an adaptation of Henna House:
My book takes place far from Hollywood in an early twentieth century community of Jews in Northern Yemen. For authenticity, I would cast Yemenite Jewish actors in Israel in all the main roles. My characters would look like the singer Achinoam Nini, who is widely known as Noa. She is one of the most beautiful, talented people in the world. Unfortunately, she is too much a woman to play the girls in my book, but if she had a niece, a daughter….that’s who I would pick for Hani.

As for the director, I would choose Anthony Minghella, who unfortunately passed away in 2008. His film, The English Patient, based upon Michael Ondaatje’s novel breaks my heart every time I see it. And if Minghella could make the Saharan desert work as the backdrop for that film, the hillside villages of North Yemen would be a piece of cake. The sun-burnished vistas of that film are the self same colors of my characters’ lives.
Visit Nomi Eve's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Courtney Miller Santo's "Three Story House"

Courtney Miller Santo teaches creative writing at the University of Memphis, where she earned her MFA. She is the author of the novels The Roots of the Olive Tree and the newly released Three Story House.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Three Story House:
Given the importance of setting in Three Story House, any adaptation of the novel would need to be set in Memphis on the bluffs that overlook the Mississippi river. Once that was in place, it becomes a perfect vehicle for an ensemble of female actresses. (Of course I’d also love to see a female director, like Anne Fletcher who would put her trademark zaniness into the production).

Jessica Biel would make a near perfect Lizzie. Not only does she have ties to Memphis (thanks to that hunk J.T. she hangs around with), but she also played soccer in high school. Lizzie’s identity as an athlete is what protects her from her family secrets and yet at the same time also prevents her from moving forward with her life.

Elyse, who is in some ways in the middle of the other two cousins needs an actress who is warm and loud and irreverent. For me, that would have to be Kat Dennings. She is an actress, like Lucille Ball, who understands how to throw her whole self into a role. She is brilliantly witty on her sitcom, Two Broke Girls and I’d love to see her apply that same energy to Elyse, who is so unsure of herself except when she’s with her cousins.

I love thinking about where people I grew up watching are now. I always loved Madylin Sweeten on Everybody Loves Raymond, especially in the show’s last years when we all got to see how beautiful and talented she’d become. She’d be perfect in the role of Isobel, who is a former child actress trying to decide if she should keep pursuing her dream of acting or find another path. In what Madylin has done it is clear that her talents go beyond playing a cute kid.
Learn more about the book and author at Courtney Miller Santo's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Roots of the Olive Tree.

Writers Read: Courtney Miller Santo (November 2012).

My Book, The Movie: The Roots of the Olive Tree.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Carys Bray's "A Song for Issy Bradley"

Carys Bray completed an M.A. in creative writing at Edge Hill University in 2010. That same year she won the M.A. category of the Edge Hill Prize for the Short Story, and her stories have since been published in a variety of literary magazines. She was awarded the Scott Prize for her debut collection, Sweet Home. She lives in Southport, England, with her husband and four children.

Here Bray dreamcasts an adaptation of A Song for Issy Bradley, her first novel:
I didn’t have any actors in mind as I wrote A Song for Issy Bradley, so it was a somewhat tricky task to look back and pair the characters with actors. Having said that, it was also quite fun!

A clean shaven, bespectacled Jude Law would make a good Ian Bradley, but David Tennant would also be great – in fact, my children are ardent Doctor Who fans and would be immensely impressed if David Tennant appeared in the film of my novel, so I’ll plump for him. Suranne Jones would be perfect for Claire Bradley (she has appeared in a number of British television shows including Scott and Bailey, The Secret of Crickley Hall and the Crimson Field). I’d like to see Robbie Coltrane as the rather eccentric but very kind-hearted Brother Rimmer. He’s the right shape and size, and I think he’d do a great job of playing a character who is ever-so-slightly bonkers.

The other important characters are children, and I found it difficult to select child actors - when I checked online, they were all much older in reality than they were in my imagination. So I decided to cheat and pick actors who might need to borrow the Doctor’s TARDIS and undertake some time travel in order to appear in the movie. I’d have Holly Bodimeade as Zipporah Bradley, Bill Milner as Alma Bradley and a very young Asa Butterfield as Jacob Bradley.

While I’m in charge of the film I’d also like to stipulate that the beach scenes are filmed in Southport, where the novel is set. And I’d like David Tennant to pop round to my house for tea at least once during filming – that’s not too much to ask, right?
Visit Carys Bray's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tom Leveen's "Random"

Tom Leveen is the author of Sick, Party, Zero, and manicpixiedreamgirl. Zero was named to YALSA’s list of Best Fiction for Young Adults.

His latest novel is Random.

Here Leveen dreamcasts an adaptation of Random:
Man, she’s way too old now, but Jennifer Lawrence would be awesome as Tori. Tori’s tough because she is not a likeable protagonist, nor was she ever meant to be. So having someone who could visually portray her weaknesses and vulnerabilities with the kind of understated strength that Lawrence has would be great. For a closer age, I’d like to see Valerie Tian (Words and Pictures) give it a whirl. She was fun in that.

For Noah, Chandler Riggs (Walking Dead) might be a fun choice. It’d be great to get him before anyone else does once WD is over!

And for Andy, how about Josh Ssettuba, also from Words and Pictures. Or better yet, put Riggs and Ssettuba in a room together and make ‘em read for both parts, see who’d be better for which.

A cool cameo would be Kiefer Sutherland as Tori's dad. Just so I could meet him.
Learn more about the book and author at Tom Leveen's website.

My Book, The Movie: Zero.

My Book, The Movie: Sick.

The Page 69 Test: Sick.

Writers Read: Tom Leveen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Edgar Cantero's "The Supernatural Enhancements"

Edgar Cantero is a writer and cartoonist from Barcelona working in Catalan, Spanish and English.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his novel The Supernatural Enhancements:
First off, if my book were made into a movie, I’d want to be part of it. Even if I’m not allowed to take decisions.

I actually talked to producers already regarding The Supernatural Enhancements. When asked who would I cast to play the most charismatic role in the story—mute, punk-haired, Catholic-raised Niamh—, my answer was, “no one I know.” It still is. I’m not up to date on teen actresses, but Niamh seems too young to be played by anyone who has built up much of a name. Her partner and chronicler A. is slightly older, but I think anyone who reads the book will agree that Niamh is the real heroine, and I wouldn’t like a male star to steal the spotlight from her. So I’d go for relatively unknown actors in the lead roles.

One person I’d love to recruit for a supporting role: Carel Struycken as Strückner. Struycken is a Dutch-born character actor who played Lurch in the Addams Family films and was also Jack Nicholson’s servant in The Witches of Eastwick. I remember I checked his entry on IMDb once years ago, and there was a single thread in his discussion board, with the subject line “He’s my uncle,” allegedly started by Struycken’s proud nephew, explaining how his uncle was the nicest guy ever, although he was always unfairly cast as a freak because of his height. And I thought then it would be fun to create a redeeming character for Struycken—a seven-feet butler working in an eerie mansion who happened to be the kindest, most soft-spoken man in the world. I even named him after the actor, and I had Struycken’s picture up on my plot board while I wrote.

As for Aunt Liza, that’s where I let my ambition loose. Gemma Arterton is the least crazy of my options.
Visit Edgar Cantero's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 18, 2014

Stephan Eirik Clark's "Sweetness #9"

Stephan Eirik Clark was born in West Germany and raised between England and the United States. He is the author of the short story collection Vladimir's Mustache. A former Fulbright Fellow to Ukraine, he teaches English at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

Here Clark dreamcasts an adaptation of his newly released debut novel, Sweetness #9:
The character of David Leveraux came to me fully-formed. Even before I knew that he would fail to blow the whistle on a potentially dangerous new artificial sweetener, I could hear his washed-out English accent and see his neatly parted hair. Even before I knew he'd have a family that would inherit the same side-effects he first observed while testing that artificial sweetener on rats and monkeys, I could see him flashing a polite smile and feel his eagerness to please.

What I didn't ever picture when imagining David was a movie star, not in the beginning at least. David was always just David, and thankfully so. If I had started out picturing an actor in his place, that actor's personality and style of speech would have taken control. That actor would have become my character.

Instead, the reverse happened. I only started to cast Sweetness #9 in my mind when the novel was all but finished. By then, David was safely on the page, so I could entertain thoughts about who might best play him.

David works as a flavor chemist and lives in New Jersey, but he grew up in England and still has an accent that suggests as much. His personality is also more English than American, or at least what we used to think of as English. You know, a stiff upper lip, his emotions in check, his greatest efforts at control and restraint.

I'd trust an American like Steve Carell with the part, but I'd prefer to see a Brit take it on: Michael Sheen would be good, but because the story is a comic one, I think Steve Coogan -- with a proper haircut -- might be best.
Visit Stephan Eirik Clark's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Martha Woodroof's "Small Blessings"

Martha Woodroof was born in the South, went to boarding school and college in New England, ran away to Texas for a while, then fetched up in Virginia. She has written for NPR,, Marketplace and Weekend America, and for the Virginia Foundation for Humanities Radio Feature Bureau. Her print essays have appeared in such newspapers as the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Small Blessings is her debut novel. She lives with her husband in the Shenandoah Valley.

Here she passes on the opportunity to dreamcast an adaptation of Small Blessings:
I must say no, no, no! to visualizing actors as the characters in Small Blessings. They are much to specifically drawn inside my head for me to see them inhabited by anyone else. I blame my mother for this. She read aloud to me long past the age I was able to read to myself, and got me into the habit of such precise imagining that I was ruined for life as far as movie adaptations of books go.

This does not mean, naturally, that I wouldn't love to see Small Blessings made into a movie. Just don't ask me to help cast it, okay?
Visit Martha Woodroof's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jon Keller's "Of Sea and Cloud"

Jon Keller is the author of the novel Of Sea and Cloud. He holds an MFA from Boise State University. After graduate school, he moved to a remote stretch of the Maine coast and spent several years working aboard a lobster boat and writing for a commercial fishing newspaper. Now a clam digger, he divides his time between Maine and Montana.

Here Keller dreamcasts an Of Sea and Cloud adaptation:
I’m not much of a movie watcher—though I love them, I don’t live in a place conducive to watching many. I now live aboard a boat, and before that in an isolated cabin, so my power supply is limited, as is my internet service.

That said, the actor that pops into my head concerning Of Sea and Cloud is Daniel Day-Lewis as Osmond Randolph. I see Osmond as a huge, epic sort—ideally, of a stature akin with “The Butcher” in Gangs of New York. They look a bit the same, too, now that I think about it…
Visit Jon Keller's website.

Writers Read: Jon Keller.

The Page 69 Test: Of Sea and Cloud.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Toby Ball's "Invisible Streets"

Toby Ball was born in Washington, DC, grew up in Syracuse, NY, and attended Trinity College (CT). He has had stints in journalism (Congressional Quarterly), education (one memorable year as a high school social studies teacher), and nonprofits (the Carbon Coalition among others). He is now the Business Manager at the Crimes against Children Research Center and the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. He lives in Durham, NH, with his wife and two children.

Ball's novels include The Vaults, Scorch City, and the newly released Invisible Streets.

Here Ball dreamcasts an adaptation of Invisible Streets:
While I visualize scenes before writing them, I’ve never mentally put specific actors in the place of characters. I have a pretty strong sense of what I think the characters look like and what their demeanor is, and these two factors drove my thinking when casting these parts. So, without further ado:

Phil Dorman – Channing Tatum. This was the hardest one to cast. You need a younger guy, handsome, physically strong, who also conveys intelligence. Nobody seemed perfect, but Tatum seems close.

Torsten Grip – Mark Wahlberg. He’s not a great physical match, but he definitely can project that middle-age tough guy aura mixed with a hint of regret.

Frank Frings – Stanley Tucci. Sixty-ish, smart, charming, and attractive without looking like a model. He also has the right amount of toughness for when the chips are down.

Nathan Canada – Paul Giamatti. I think he could have a lot of fun with this role – similar in a way to what Ben Kingsley did in Sexy Beast. You can intimidate through force of personality rather than physical presence.

Speaking of whom…Panos Dimitropolous – Ben Kingsley. A once-big man, now shrunken and physically weak, but still mentally strong.

Will Ebanks – Johnny Depp. Again, not a great physical match, but he could portray the combination of languor, self-importance, and suppressed rage.

Joss Eastgate – Elizabeth Olson. I really like her as an actress and think she would be great as a child of wealth who is more enthusiastic about than committed to her passing interests.

Stanley Kubrick would have to direct.
Visit Toby Ball's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Vaults.

Writers Read: Toby Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Holly Menino's "A Distance to Death"

Holly Menino grew up in a small Ohio college town, where her passionate interest in animals showed itself by age three, about ten years before she heard the call to be a writer. A graduate of Smith College, she has worked in both scholarly and popular publishing and is the author of Murder, She Rode.

Here Menino dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, A Distance to Death:
A movie? Based on my book? How fun is that?

But really a movie is not such a far-fetched idea. A Distance to Death is about a horse race over pretty scary terrain. A hundred miles of it—when, remember, the horse playing Seabiscuit, was supposed to run only a mile and three-sixteenths. So, plenty of time and room for action and two murders.

The plot's a done deal. The images come naturally. But casting the film is going to be trickier. The characters in my mysteries come to me as infusions from people I know, all blended together. Sometimes it takes four or five friends to create a character, and none of my friends are movie stars or any other kind of public figure. They're real. I hope that's what gives life to my characters, but I know it's also what makes it difficult for me to imagine a celebrity "doing" one of my characters. That mental block aside, I suppose any actor worth his or her salt should be able to play Tink or Charlie or any of the characters who are essential to the plot. I also suppose that physical resemblance should be a consideration.

So let's start with Tink, who's in the race only to prove she can finish it, that is, until the race gets really dirty. I would find Helen Mirren, in her blonde no-makeup phase, pretty believable. She's got the height, the legs, the right number of years. And she's played women with plenty of grit.

Now, what about Charlie, her third husband after four marriages—you'll need to read Distance to Death for an explanation—an astute businessman and card sharp who is kidnapped because of this talent. The actor for Charlie's role should be able to make a quiet, unprepossessing person come alive with subtleties, make it clear that still waters run deep. That requirement calls for an actor like Paul Giamatti. Again, the right build and age, and Giamatti can definitely carry off what Tink thinks of as Charlie's most attractive asset, his gaze.

Tink's close friend Frankie Golden, who ends up a close second to a man on a mule, will be played by Christina Hendricks, whose day job is playing Joan Holloway on Mad Men. She'll need a Minimizer, though, and not just for the bra. For professional reserve. Frankie will blow that all to hell. With similar downsizing advice to Christopher Walken, I nominate him for the role of the reluctantly wealthy scientist James Grant-Worthington.

The Isabel Rakow role? For her propriety and obsession with Darwin and success I need a combination of Shirley Temple and Donna Tartt. Please forward your recommendations.

My imagination is beginning to grind down. So for the next actor I'll turn to my list of real friends. Here I find the perfect actor to play Farrell, the ear-to-the-ground proprietor of the guest ranch. It's the guy who shoes my horse, Kurt Fisk. He is the right amount of gregarious, has the right amount of smarts mixed with a particular bumbling form of tact, and, like Farrell, is possessed by a dog.

But all this still leaves me with a casting problem. Gary Stevens, the most beautiful rider I've ever seen. He's the jockey-actor who portrayed George Wolff in Seabiscuit and would have had a major role in Luck if the series hadn't crashed before it opened. But I can't seem to find a spot for him. Maybe I need to take Tink out to the track in the next one....
Visit Holly Menino's website.

Writers Read: Holly Menino.

The Page 69 Test: A Distance to Death.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kelli Stanley's "City of Ghosts"

Kelli Stanley is a critically-acclaimed, multiple award-winning author of crime fiction (novels and short stories). She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Stanley is best known for the Miranda Corbie series of historical noir novels and short stories set in 1940 San Francisco. The first novel of the series, City of Dragons, introduced Miranda, the unforgettable protagonist Library Journal calls "one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

City of Dragons won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Novel, and was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Shamus Award, a Bruce Alexander Award and an RT Book Reviews Award, was a Mystery Guild selection of the month, and placed on many “best of the year” lists.

City of Secrets, the sequel to City of Dragons, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur to great critical acclaim, was nominated for a number of awards and won the Golden Nugget for best mystery set in California.

Here Stanley dreamcasts an adaptation of the latest novel in the series, City of Ghosts:
City of Ghosts is really the third part of what is, in effect, a trilogy. By the end of this novel, Miranda Corbie has changed from who she was when we met her in City of Dragons.

Because I write a series—and because a series gives an author the best chance possible to show the age, life, and growth that a person undergoes in the real world (as opposed to the unreal world of “reality” television)—as much as I’d love to see Miranda on the big screen, I think a television series would be an even more suitable venue for her.

Just think—we’re actually in the middle of a television Renaissance, propelled by cable, HBO, Showtime, and those upstart streamer-dreamers at Netflix. Now, If we could only ban vacuous, pampered socialites, pawn shop owners and stage mothers with precocious, singing toddlers …

So let’s talk TV.

My network of choice? I’d lean toward HBO. They’ve got decades of experience at producing drama that pushes the boundaries … just as Miranda pushes the boundaries of literary conventions.

The show runner of my dreams would be Terence Winter, the genius behind Boardwalk Empire (which also features Incubator Babies, at least in the opening credits) and the screenwriter of Wolf of Wall Street. Nic Pizzolatto would also be fantastic, of course—he created True Detective and his literary and academic chops would fit nicely into what I’ve tried to do with Miranda Corbie. I’d like to team them both up with Veena Sud (The Killing), who would provide a needed feminine perspective for the series.

Now, for the actors. Miranda’s tough exterior hides enormous pain, vulnerability and existential self-doubt. She suffers from PTSD; she is nearing 34 and still doesn’t know exactly who she is; she is self-destructive. Her outrage against social injustice and political hypocrisy borders on the obsessive—it is the focus of anger both generalized and personal, and her need to confront and battle it is ultimately far stronger than her cynicism. She is highly intelligent, courageous, audacious, uncompromising, and fiercely honest. Sadly, these descriptors are more commonly used and accepted for male protagonists, a stereotype that Miranda, in character and as a character, tries to explode.

Her use of her own sexuality—the only tool conventional society allows her—her locked-in yearnings to open up, to trust, to reveal her vulnerability—her fight to be both a woman and a human being and to be appreciated for who she is rather than what she is—all of these factors make her an exceedingly complex female protagonist, called by Library Journal “one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”

So who could play Miranda? An exceptionally skilled actress with great intelligence, strength, beauty and vulnerability. Someone adept at playing a role within a role within a role. My choice … Michelle Williams.

Rick, of course, also grows and changes, especially in City of Ghosts. For Rick, I could see James McAvoy, Daniel Gillies or Cam Gigandet.

1940 San Francisco is a good CGI job and a few exteriors away. Chinatown could still be used as a filming location in many places.

I love movies, don’t get me wrong, but my dreams for Miranda are currently set on television. City of Screens, anyone?
Learn more about the novel and author at Kelli Stanley's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kelli Stanley & Bertie.

The Page 69 Test: City of Dragons.

The Page 69 Test: City of Secrets.

The Page 69 Test: City of Ghosts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ken Kuhlken's "The Good Know Nothing"

Ken Kuhlken’s stories have appeared in Esquire and dozens of other magazines and anthologies, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and earned National Endowment for the Arts Writing Fellowship. His novels have been chosen as an Ernest Hemingway Best First Fiction Book, a Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel, and a Shamus Awards Best Novel. The novels are Midheaven and the Tom Hickey California Crime series.

Here Kuhlken dreamcasts an adaptation of the new Tom Hickey novel, The Good Know Nothing:
I once tried to get The Loud Adios to Steve Martin, thinking a comic actor in a dramatic role might inspire some interesting complexity. Otherwise, after seven Tom Hickey novels, I haven't assigned the role of Tom to any actor, in part because he keeps aging. In The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles, he's 22. In The Vagabond Virgins, he's 74.

But for Tom's sister Florence, who I sometimes consider the main character of The Good Know Nothing, I would cast a clone of Marion Davies, the actress who was also William Randolph Hearst's long-time beloved mistress. Or a clone Mary Pickford might work, since Tom's mother both works for and is a ringer for Pickford, and Florence, who resembles her mother, could be a double for Marion Davies.

Now that I'm casting, I wonder if Scarlett Johansson might be the answer. She could play all four of those women, two of whom are fairly angelic, another somewhat snooty and conniving, and the fourth deeply wicked.

And Harry Longabaugh, aka Hiram Beebe and the Sundance Kid, of course needs to be played by Robert Redford, who is about the right age.
Visit Ken Kuhlken's website.

Writers Read: Ken Kuhlken.

The Page 69 Test: The Good Know Nothing.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kim Boykin's "Palmetto Moon"

Kim Boykin is the author of The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule, and the newly released Palmetto Moon, also from Berkley.

Here Boykin dreamcasts an adaptation of Palmetto Moon:
I think and write cinematically, so this isn't the first time I've daydreamed about Palmetto Moon, the movie. Vada Hadley is a gorgeous bubble headed blonde on the surface, but underneath all that fluff beats the heart of a very smart and funny Audrey Hepburn. When I see the hero, Frank Darling, in my head, I see an actor many may not know or remember. Big, tall, gorgeous Paul Newman. Please note that Frank is at least six inches taller than Paul, so we're stretching him a bit.

There is a rather unconventional love story between Vada's friends Claire and Reggie.If we're sticking with Hollywood of Yesteryear, I'm going with Joanne Woodward who was wonderful at playing strong women, and, I suspect she was probably one in real life. I can't see Paul Newman married to anything but. As for Reggie, I'd pick Rock Hudson, who was a, big, beautiful, strapping gay man, but had to hide that in real life. I think he'd do Reggie proud.

Keeping it old school, for big, mean old Miss Mamie, I'd choose Shelley Winters. For Vada's hoity-toity parents I'd have to pick Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall. One thing is for sure a movie set with all these huge stars wouldn't be boring.
Learn more about the book and author at Kim Boykin's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Wisdom of Hair.

My Book, The Movie: The Wisdom of Hair.

Coffee with a Canine: Kim Boykin & Wylie, Molly and Toby.

Writers Read: Kim Boykin.

The Page 69 Test: Palmetto Moon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 8, 2014

Joseph F. Spillane's "Coxsackie: The Life and Death of Prison Reform"

Joseph F. Spillane is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida. He is the author of several books, including Cocaine: From Medical Marvel to Modern Menace in the United States, 1884–1920.

Here Spillane dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Coxsackie: The Life and Death of Prison Reform:
Coxsackie tells the story of a “reform” prison built in Depression-era New York State, built to educate young men who were thought to be more promising than adult male felony offenders. Built on a foundation of good intentions, Coxsackie prison quickly foundered on the shoals of violence and racial division. For the thousands of young men who experienced imprisonment there, Coxsackie was an education of the worst kind. The collapse of progressive good intentions is a powerful one, but ultimately a depressing one, and I am not sure that it contains the sort of redemptive element that would make for a mainstream film. Still, one can fantasize…

When thinking about casting a film based on the book, I can’t help but think back to the 1955 film, Blackboard Jungle, directed by Richard Brooks. Brooks adapted the screenplay from Evan Hunter’s 1954 novel of the same name, which Hunter had based on his short time spent teaching English at two vocational high schools in New York City. These were the very places from which the young men that served time at Coxsackie were drawn, and I can’t help but imagine casting the prisoners in similar fashion, using relatively unknown young actors. Oddly enough, just as some of the young actors in Blackboard Jungle went on to fame (Sidney Poitier, Vic Morrow), so too did some of the actual inmates at Coxsackie, the ranks of which included future world middleweight champions Rocky Graziano and Jake LaMotta (Raging Bull), and the actor Charles McGregor.

Coxsackie featured the same kinds of idealistic but overwhelmed teachers that Glenn Ford played so beautifully well in Blackboard Jungle. I can’t help but imagine someone like Adrien Brody to portray a teacher whose reformist ambitions are mixed with the certain world-weariness and resignation that came with life behind bars.

My book begins by describing an unlikely partnership between Austin McCormick, the most influential prison reformer and warden of the New York City Penitentiary, and artist Ben Shahn, the renowned muralist and social realist. Alfred Molina already played Shahn’s contemporary, Diego Rivera, in the film Frida, and I am convinced who could probably play Shahn as well. As for MacCormick, a tough, determined, but slightly built son of a Congregational minister from Maine—well, he could have been played by Alan Ladd (if we were casting this movie in 1946!). Sadly, with Ladd no longer available, we might consider the British actor Martin Freeman. A different look, but he captures that everyman’s intensity, while being sufficiently short.

Finally, Coxsackie also tells the story of Robert Martinson, a leftwing Berkeley activist in the 1950s, a Freedom Rider for civil rights in 1961, and eventually a leading critic of what he perceived to be the excesses of liberalism. A crusader in every instance, Martinson found national celebrity leading the attack on the idea of rehabilitation in the hopes that prisons like Coxsackie would eventually be torn down. Instead, Martinson’s crusade helped lay the groundwork for a more nakedly punitive approach to imprisonment, upon which our present system of mass incarceration is built. Recoiling at the movement he had helped unleash, Martinson eventually took his own life. For the gangly, intense, and ultimately tragic Freedom Rider, I can think of no one better than Sean Penn. Fantasy over!
Visit Joseph Spillane's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 7, 2014

James Howard Kunstler's "A History of the Future"

James Howard Kunstler was born in New York City in 1948. He is the author of numerous novels, including World Made By Hand and The Witch of Hebron, and four nonfiction books, including The Long Emergency. He is a frequent lecturer at colleges and professional organizations across the country. He lives in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Here Kunstler dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, A History of the Future:
This book is third in a four-book cycle called collectively the World Made By Hand novels, named after the first of the series. They are all set in a small town in far upstate New York in the years following the economic collapse of the USA. I’ve already made two journeys (2009, 2011) to the top level of HBO with these books — both times I was beaten out by rival books that featured zombies (mine lacked zombies). A central character in all the books is the evangelical minister, Brother Jobe, head honcho of a Jesus cult that has left the “disorders” of the south to settle his 78 “brothers and sisters” in my northern village of Union Grove, New York. Early on, I had imagined Philip Seymour Hoffman in the role, because he was physically right and emotionally very powerful. Ironically, after Hoffman’s death this year, I learned that he was a fan of these books.
Visit James Howard Kunstler's website.

Writers Read: James Howard Kunstler.

The Page 69 Test A History of the Future.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Katrina Leno's "The Half Life of Molly Pierce"

Katrina Leno grew up in Connecticut and spent her childhood summers by the shore in Massachusetts, where The Half Life of Molly Pierce, her first novel, takes place. Leno was first published at the age of sixteen in the Connecticut Review and now holds an MFA in creative writing.

Here Leno shares some thoughts about casting an adaptation of The Half Life of Molly Pierce:
This is a hard one because there are so many phenomenal younger actors right now, so instead of naming names, I’m going to be a bit more vague. I’d love to see someone with a larger body type playing Molly. I think all bodies are great and beautiful (small bodies, big bodies, short bodies, tall bodies) but I think we currently have an underrepresentation in media of fuller figured women (and young women). I’d love to see Molly bring some curves to the screen, because skinny women have definitely received their fair share of airtime. I wish we would get over our obsession with size zeros and start showing love to every body type.
Visit Katrina Leno's website.

Writers Read: Katrina Leno.

The Page 69 Test: The Half Life of Molly Pierce.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ellen Cooney's "The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances"

Ellen Cooney is the author of A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies and other novels. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker and many literary journals. She has taught writing at MIT, Harvard, and Boston College, and now lives in Maine with her dogs Andy, Skip, and Maxine—who are each, in their own way, rescues.

Here Cooney dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances:
My novel takes place at a mountaintop sanctuary for rescued dogs. It has more characters on four legs than on two, so liking dogs is automatically a requirement for anyone who wants to do a movie. It’s about healing abuses of the past, and how people who harm animals are basically scum. The book comes with a sense of humor too, along with a hardcore belief in making connections with each other and “being real.”

My dream director? I’m not thinking along the lines of Eight Below or any other “dog movie.” I’m thinking: Sofia Coppola. So what if there’s nothing in her work (so far) that has animals, and my novel isn’t in another country, or California? She has a style all her own, sensitive and strong at the same time. She takes chances. She’s humane. She’s does amazing things with light and most of all, everything she does has a feel of being genuine. I think she’d do a wonderful job bringing to the screen the story of the main character, Evie, a young woman in recovery from drug addiction who wants to work with abused, rescued dogs.

My dream Evie? Ellen Page of Juno. The other human main character, Mrs. Auberchon, is a fifty-year-old old staffer at the animal sanctuary who “pretends” she’s a stern, awful toughie and no one’s friend. She would be: Frances McDormand.
Visit Ellen Cooney's website.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Ellen Cooney & Andy, Skip, and Maxine.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 4, 2014

Jaclyn Moriarty's "The Cracks in the Kingdom"

Jaclyn Moriarty grew up in Sydney, Australia, with 4 sisters, 1 brother, 2 dogs, and 12 chickens. She studied law at the University of Sydney, Yale, and Cambridge, and worked as an entertainment lawyer before she wrote the Ashbury High novels, including The Year of Secret Assignments, The Murder of Bindy Mackenzie, and The Ghosts of Ashbury High.

Here Moriarty dreamcats an adaptation of The Cracks in the Kingdom, the second novel in The Colors of Madeleine series:
There are plenty of characters in The Cracks in the Kingdom so I think there is room for all of my favourite actors. I love Frances McDormand, Rebecca Pidgeon, Lauren Graham, Meryl Streep, Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo and I think they should all live in the farming town of Bonfire in the Kingdom of Cello. Mark Ruffalo could play Deputy Sheriff Jimmy. I think George Clooney should be the King of Cello. Jennifer Lawrence could be Princess Ko. Matt Damon could be the computer guy downstairs in Cambridge, England. Or he could play anyone he likes. Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling are also welcome to any roles they like. I could go on.
Visit Jaclyn Moriarty's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Cracks in the Kingdom.

Writers Read: Jaclyn Moriarty.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Laurie Faria Stolarz's "Welcome to the Dark House"

Laurie Faria Stolarz grew up in Salem, MA, attended Merrimack College, and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston.

Here she dreamcasts a big screen adaptation of her new novel, Welcome to the Dark House:
When I was writing this book, I was picturing Nina Dobrev from Vampire Diaries. I did this for descriptive purposes - hair, eyes, the shape of her face - and so that when I was writing the dialogue, I could hear her voice in my head, since I know what she sounds like.

As for my book becoming a movie or TV show for real, I’d be happy with any actors the director felt were right for the roles. To be able to see my work come to life on a screen - that would be amazing on its own.
Visit Laurie Stolarz's website.

The Page 69 Test: Welcome to the Dark House.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 1, 2014

Emily Arsenault's "What Strange Creatures"

Emily Arsenault is the author of The Broken Teaglass, In Search of the Rose Notes, and Miss Me When I'm Gone.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, What Strange Creatures:
What Strange Creatures is about a woman, Theresa, whose brother is accused of a murder. Theresa is quirky and self-deprecating and loyal. When I considered who I’d have play her, a particular actress came to mind so immediately that I going to ignore the fact that she is probably a little too old for the role now: Joan Cusack. She has just the right balance of intelligence and goofiness. I’m thinking of how entertaining she was in School of Rock. Of course, I’d probably want her to tone down the silliness just a bit for this role, since What Strange Creatures is a murder mystery and of course, consequently, some pretty tragic things happen. Still, I wrote several of Theresa’s amateur sleuthing scenes to be comedically uncomfortable for her, and I think Joan Cusack could convey that kind of humor rather well.

No actor came so immediately to mind for Theresa’s brother, but Jake Gyllenhaal comes closes to how I pictured him. Jeff is more troubled than his sister, and there is often a slight sadness and innocence to Jake Gyllenhaal’s demeanor that would probably work well in the role.

Jeff’s girlfriend Kim—the murder victim—would require an actress that conveyed youthful confidence, but with a bit of mystery—I’m thinking maybe Evan Rachel Wood?

For Theresa’s two potential love interests, let’s throw in Joaquin Phoenix as Nathan and Alexander Skarsgård as Zach. I hadn’t originally conceived of either of those characters as being so hunky as those two actors, but this is a fantasy movie, after all, and I’d like to treat the hapless Theresa (for whom I have great affection—probably more so than any of my previous narrators) to something nice.

And I’d like a cameo as the drive-thru worker when Theresa pauses in her sleuthing to buy a Wendy’s double cheeseburger to share with her dog.
Learn more about the book and author at Emily Arsenault's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Broken Teaglass.

--Marshal Zeringue