Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jamie Malanowski's "Commander Will Cushing"

Jamie Malanowski has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and the New York Times. His books include And the War Came, about America’s six-month-long descent into war after Lincoln’s election, and the newly released Commander Will Cushing: Daredevil Hero of the Civil War.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Commander Will Cushing:
My book is about a little-remembered hero of the Civil War, a brash, rebellious, instinctual naval officer named Will Cushing. A midshipman at Annapolis, Will managed to so infuriate the administration with his antics and his underachievement that he was expelled on the slenderest of pretexts a mere two months before he was to graduate. Fortunately for Cushing, war broke out, and an almost fully-trained officer was too valuable a commodity to discard. The navy took him in, and soon he began developing a record that showed him to be courageous, inventive, and a prodigy at behind-the-lines warfare. In his greatest exploit, he led what was generally thought to be a suicide mission to sink the Albemarle, a fearsome confederate ironclad, an act that, in true David vs. Goliath fashion, he accomplished while standing in an open boat.

Who could play Cushing? The contentious, combative, resourceful Steve McQueen of The Great Escape, flying his motorcycle over the barbed wire fences, would have been perfect. The young Paul Newman would have been fine, the young Bruce Willis might have sufficed. Of the current crop of actors, it's a bit hard to pinpoint a perfect fit. For one thing, Cushing had a certain rugged look; pretty boys need not apply. For another, he was very young, 19 when the war began, just 21 when he sank the Albemarle. Men in their thirties just won't do. My current candidates are Taylor Kitsch, who was so impressive in the TV series Friday Night Lights, and the young British actor Eddie Redmayne. I suspect, however, that if you tipped Australia on its side and shook it, a half dozen good candidates would fall out.
Learn more about the book and author at Jamie Malanowski's blog.

Writers Read: Jamie Malanowski.

--Marshal Zeringue