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