Friday, September 5, 2014

Thomas H. Cook's "A Dancer in the Dust"

Thomas H. Cook is the author of more than 30 critically-acclaimed fiction and non-fiction books. Born in Fort Payne, Alabama, Cook published his first novel, Blood Innocents, in 1980 while serving as the book review editor of Atlanta magazine. Two years later, on the release of his second novel, The Orchids, he turned to writing full-time. Cook published steadily through the 1980s, penning such works as the Frank Clemons trilogy, a series of mysteries starring a jaded cop.

He found breakout success with The Chatham School Affair (1996), which won an Edgar Award for best novel. His work has been praised by critics for his attention to psychology and the lyrical nature of his prose. Besides mysteries, Cook has written two true-crime books, Early Graves (1992) and the Edgar-nominated Blood Echoes (1993), as well as several literary novels, including Elena (1986).

Here Cook dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, A Dancer in the Dust:
I had no problem in deciding who I’d like to play Martine Aubert, the heroine—and she is exactly that—in my latest novel, A Dancer in the Dust. From the first line, and probably even before the first line, I had an actress in mind, namely, Jessica Chastain. I had very much enjoyed her performance in Zero Dark Thirty. She gave her character toughness, courage and iron-clad determination, and these, along with a terrible vulnerability and sense of impending loss, are exactly the qualities I imagined for Martine, a white, native Lubandan who stands against various schemes for her country’s “development.” Even love cannot distract her from the love she has for her country, though in the end, it is not a country that loved her back. A weepy, over-the-top performance would be completely wrong for this character, and I saw none of those characteristics in Ms. Chastain’s performance in Zero Dark Thirty. Even at the moment when she stares at Osama Bin Laden’s dead face, a man she has been tracking all her professional career, Ms. Chastain does not descend to melodrama. She stares at that malignant visage with the same determined gaze with which she has trailed him through the years. I only wish he could have opened his eyes long enough to see this proud, competent and utterly professional young American woman towering over him. That I felt this way at the end of the film is a tribute to Ms. Chastain, and I feel certain that she could bring the same resolve and sense of purpose to Martine Aubert.
Learn about Thomas H. Cook's top ten mystery books and his five top books on the writing life.

Visit Thomas H. Cook's website.

Writers Read: Thomas H. Cook.

--Marshal Zeringue