Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Phillip Margolin's "Woman with a Gun"

Former trial attorney Phillip Margolin has been writing full-time since 1966. All of his many novels have been New York Times bestsellers.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Woman with a Gun:
Woman with a Gun takes place in three time periods. In the present (2015) Stacey Kim, a young woman who has just gotten her MFA, goes to New York City to write the great American novel and develops writer’s block. While on a lunch break from her job as a receptionist she goes to the Museum of Modern Art and sees Kathy Moran’s Pulitzer Prize winning photograph, “Woman with a Gun.” She is mesmerized by the photograph and researches its origin with the idea of writing a novel inspired by the photo. Stacey discovers that the woman standing on the beach in her wedding dress staring out to sea while holding an antique, western six shooter is Megan Cahill. In 2005, Moran found her in shock on the beach in the early morning in the seaside town of Palisades Heights. Moran took the famous photo before leading Megan up to the million dollar beach front home she shared with multi-millionaire Raymond Cahill to whom she was wed only hours earlier. Moran finds Raymond in his den where he has been shot to death. Ten years later the crime has still not been solved.

The novel moves back to 2005 and we meet Jack Booth, a heavy drinking, womanizing Special Prosecutor who has been sent by the Justice Department to help the local DA who is way over his head with this headline making case. It turns out that Jack and Kathy Moran have a history and a good part of the book deals with the rekindling of their steamy relationship while Jack is trying to figure out who killed Raymond Cahill.

As I wrote the scenes with Jack and Kathy I found myself thinking about the old, black and white noir crime movies like The Big Sleep and my favorite, The Maltese Falcon, or their modern equivalents like Body Heat. If Woman with a Gun is ever made into a movie I’d cast Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as Jack and Kathy. Are they still available or have they retired?
Visit Phillip Margolin's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 28, 2014

John Oller's "American Queen"

John Oller, a lawyer, is the author of four books, including, most recently, American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague—Civil War “Belle of the North” and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal (Da Capo Press, 2014). It has been praised by Pulitzer prize-winning author Debby Applegate as “a terrific work of historical research and reconstruction” which tells “the story of the Civil War and its scandalous aftermath—its assassinations, impeachments and sexual hijinks—from an entirely fresh perspective.”

Here Oller dreamcasts an adaptation of American Queen:
Kate Chase, the beautiful, charismatic daughter of Abraham Lincoln’s treasury secretary, Salmon P. Chase, was the undisputed “Belle of Washington” during the Civil War. A brilliant conversationalist, shrewd political strategist, and “People Magazine” personality a century before People was first published, her goal was to make her widowed father president of the United States and herself his first lady. To that end she set up a rival salon “court” against Mary Lincoln and married one of the richest men in America, the “boy governor” of Rhode Island, in the social event of the Civil War. A fashion plate eagerly followed by readers of the society pages, she adorned herself in the most regal Parisian gowns. But when William Sprague turned out to be less of a prince as a husband, and an economic depression ended his fortune, she found comfort in the arms of a powerful married senator, New York’s Roscoe Conkling. The ensuing sex scandal ended her virtual royalty; she became a social outcast and died in poverty, yet in her final years found both greater authenticity and an inner peace that had always eluded her.

My biography, American Queen: The Rise and Fall of Kate Chase Sprague—Civil War ‘Belle of the North’ and Gilded Age Woman of Scandal, may be riper for a television mini-series (shades of Downton Abbey) than a feature length film. Either way, here are my casting choices for the four main, real-life characters, and some other ideas:

Kate Chase -- The most obvious candidates here would be Anne Hathaway, Kate Beckinsale or Keira Knightley. And I would be thrilled with any of them. But for the “Scarlett O’Hara of the North,” I would do what David O. Selznick did in casting the lead in Gone with the Wind:--go for someone relatively unknown. And so my vote here goes to Joanna Vanderham, a 23-year-old Scottish actress who played the lead in the eight-part BBC costume drama series The Paradise. She’s almost a spitting image of Kate Chase.

William Sprague -- Sprague was a drunk and womanizer and, perhaps, suffered from a mental impairment akin to bipolarism. The project would require someone who can veer from low to high energy. My choice: James Franco.

Salmon Chase -- Kate Chase’s father (a governor, senator, and Supreme Court chief justice in addition to his stint as treasury secretary), was reserved, dignified, and a bit of a cold fish (“Salmon,” get it?). I don’t normally think of Ed Harris in that vein, but then again, Harris can play anyone. And he looks the part.

Roscoe Conkling -- Probably the toughest main character to cast. Conkling was vain, arrogant, a flamboyant dresser—a “peacock” in the words of many. Women loved him for his raw masculinity, well-maintained physique, and low, booming voice. Spaniard Javier Bardem usually plays foreign types, but I’d give him a chance to Americanize himself for a change. He’s certainly got the sex appeal that would give the character credence.

Others -- Someone would have to play Abe and Mary Lincoln, but I don’t think Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field would jump at this one. Liam Neeson, who was originally cast for the Spielberg movie? Holly Hunter for Mary Todd ? As for the likes of Grant, Sherman, Garfield—stick a beard on just about any good actor and you’ve got yourself a supporting character.

Director -- David E. Kelley (The Practice; Boston Legal; Ally McBeal) hasn’t had a good gig in a while. He’s shown he can do wonders with television soap operas that have “procedural” elements (which this could well be). He’d be my choice.
Visit John Oller's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 26, 2014

Craig Nelson's "The Age of Radiance"

Craig Nelson is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Rocket Men, as well as Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations (winner of the Henry Adams Prize), The First Heroes, Let’s Get Lost (shortlisted for W.H. Smith’s Book of the Year), and The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era.

Here Nelson dreamcasts an adaptation of The Age of Radiance:
If The Age of Radiance, a history of the Atomic Age from the birth of X-rays to the meltdown of Fukushima, were made into a movie, a great through line would be to focus on the women. Greer Garson did the American version of Marie Curie, relentlessly saintly and revered, but the reality is a Polish immigrant who arrived in Paris with 2 cents and turned herself into Madame Curie. No one does drive, ambition, and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps like Joan Crawford.

Marie's daughter Irene was no slouch in the drive department - her mom was the first woman to win a Nobel, and she was the second - so Reese Witherspoon.

The completely forgotten woman who discovered fission, Lise Meitner, deserves a big star who can glow while motionless - Angelina Jolie.

Enrico Fermi co-invented the nuclear reactor; his wife Laura resembles Audrey Tatou.

Edward Teller co-invented the hydrogen bomb; his wife Mici could be related to Jane Wyman, and wouldn’t Jane vs. Audrey be great to see onscreen?

Robert Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty was not at all like her rendition in the opera Doctor Atomic, but instead something of a schemer — perfect for goody-two-shoes Norma Shearer. All these women more or less knew each other, if not directly then serially, and most were married to men who were alternately competing and collegial. So there was quite a bit of drama beyond chalk on a blackboard….
Learn more about The Age of Radiance at the Scribner website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Nicholas Wapshott's "The Sphinx"

Nicholas Wapshott's books include Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics and Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage. A former senior editor at the London Times and the New York Sun, he is now international editor at Newsweek.

Here Wapshott dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, The Sphinx: Franklin Roosevelt, the Isolationists, and the Road to World War II:
If they make The Sphinx into a film, here's who I'd like to play the lead role(s):

Franklin Roosevelt: John Lithgow
Winston Churchill: Charles Laughton
Eleanor Roosevelt: Katharine Hepburn
Adolf Hitler: Charles Chaplin (playing it ultra-straight, not as in The Great Dictator, as a buffoon)
King George VI: Ronald Reagan
Joseph Kennedy: Benedict Cumberbatch
Charles Lindbergh: Leonardo di Caprio
Father Charles Coughlin: Claude Rains
William Randolph Hearst: Orson Welles
Henry Ford: Daniel Day Lewis
Walt Disney: Ronald Coleman

The characters in my book were so strong I did not need to imagine who would play them. The trick for a film maker (I would ask Michael “Red Shoes” Powell, or Carol “Third Man” Reed) is to find actors who would be forceful enough to play such powerful characters.

Plainly the person playing FDR is key and while I greatly admired the recent portrayal of him by Bill Murray in Hyde Park on the Hudson to be credible and rich, I feel that Lithgow could add the level of stage theatricality that FDR always seemed to enjoy. FDR was a consummate actor, charming and persuading everyone he was on their side – hence The Sphinx -- and he always played himself to perfection.

The same is true of Churchill and if Laughton were not available (btw he was a fine director; if you only make one movie, The Night of the Hunter would be the one), Anthony Hopkins would do the cigar-chomping, champagne and whiskey swilling prime minister to perfection. Katie Hepburn has the right level of faux Englishness and down-to-earth aristo-confidence to play the greatest American woman who ever lived. Di Caprio has already played the flier Howard Hughes for Marty Scorsese, and his boyish looks would bring Lindbergh to frightening, plausible life. Welles has played Hearst before, but this time we would probably face a thumping great lawsuit for going head on with The Chief. Dan Day Lewis is not only a fine actor, he actually looks like the wretched Ford.

The great thing about this story – and any film that might ensue – is that these are no mere cameo roles: they were big characters playing for the big prize, the future of western civilization no less, and each used the last ounce of their fame, celebrity and personality to stamp themselves on history. Happily the right characters won in the end, but it was a close run thing.

For instance, if The Sphinx were to be a comedy, I might try: FDR – Groucho Marx, Winston Churchill – W.C. Fields, Eleanor – Margaret Dumont, Joe Kennedy – Spike Jones (without his City Slickers), King George VI – Ronald Reagan, Henry Ford -- Edward Everett Horton, Hitler – Charles Chaplin, Charles Lindbergh – Justin Bieber, William Randolph Hearst – Orson Welles, Rose Kennedy – Phyllis Diller... Directed by Billy Wilder.

Thanks for asking me to do this. Enormous fun and a brilliant dinner party game. We used to play it at the London Observer, so that whenever there was a news story with big characters we would cast it, often with hilarious results.
Learn more about The Sphinx at the publisher's website and follow Nicholas Wapshott on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Andrew Hadfield's "Edmund Spenser: A Life"

Andrew Hadfield is Professor of English at the University of Sussex. He is author of a number of works on early modern literature.

Here Hadfield dreamcasts an adaptation of his book, Edmund Spenser: A Life:
I have always wanted to make a film or have a film made of Edmund Spenser’s life, preferably an experimental film that linked his life and works. I think Benedict Cumerbatch should play Edmund Spenser as a tormented, slightly quizzical and disaffected intellectual aware of his own brilliance. Colin Farrell will play Gabriel Harvey, Spenser’s irascible mentor who cannot resist a quarrel but who also has much to offer. Jude Law would be Sir Walter Raleigh, brutal, histrionic and self-regarding, but not without flamboyant abilities even as he slightly patronises Spenser. Elizabeth Olsen will play Machabyas Childe, Spenser’s first wife; Abbie Cornish or Chloe Sevigny, Elizabeth Boyle, the second wife about whom Spenser writes so much and who he clearly valued highly as a woman of substance and a partner. Gillian Anderson will play Elizabeth I, haughty and aloof and aware that time is running out for her. Guy Pearce will play Arthur, Lord Grey de Wilton, the Lord Deputy of Ireland for whom Spenser worked as a secretary, and who was responsible for the notorious Massacre at Smerwick in 1580.

The action will take place principally in London, Dublin and south-west Ireland, and will concentrate on the beautiful but very alien Irish landscape that haunted the poet’s imagination. Some distinguished actors will be required to play significant courtiers and patrons of Spenser – the earls of Essex, Leicester and Worcester; William Cecil, Lord Burghley – as well as other literary figures – Sir Philip Sidney, Thomas Nashe, William Shakespeare – but these will be relatively minor roles in the film. There will need to be a cast of Irish figures as well as the military personnel that Spenser would have known in Ireland, but most of these will be relatively small roles too. The main substance of the film should be limited to the interactions between a relatively small number of characters which would more accurately – and interestingly – represent Spenser’s intense and often quite isolated life. The film should not be a grand costume drama.

I will direct it, even though I have no relevant experience. My Oscar speech is already written.
Learn more about Edmund Spenser: A Life at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nina Darnton's "The Perfect Mother"

A journalist for thirty years, Nina Darnton wrote her first novel, An African Affair three years ago.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her recently released second novel, The Perfect Mother:
This is always fun. It is not completely pie-in-the-sky, though perhaps it mostly is, because Susan Tarr, a screenwriter who lives in LA, and I have written a screenplay based on the book. It is currently making the rounds and who knows, maybe we will be lucky enough to actually be doing this exercise for real one day.

For now though, let’s dream. The most important characters to cast are, of course, Jennifer, the mother, Emma, the daughter, Roberto, the Spanish detective, and Mark, the husband. Let’s look at each of them.

Jennifer: Cate Blanchett, because she is wonderful and can do anything, or Claire Danes because she has an edge that Jennifer should have, or maybe Charlize Theron.

Emma: Chloë Grace Moretz, Dakota Fanning or Emma Watson.

Roberto: This one is easy: Javier Bardem (I thought of him when I wrote the book) or Gael Garcia Bernal (another person I thought of as I was writing.)

Mark: Bradley Cooper, Clive Owen or Ethan Hawke.

Okay, now all I can say is from my keypad to God’s ear…
Visit Nina Darnton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Lee A. Farrow's "Alexis in America"

Lee A. Farrow is professor of history and distinguished teaching professor at Auburn University–Montgomery.

About her new book, Alexis in America: A Russian Grand Duke's Tour, 1871-1872:
In the autumn of 1871, Alexis Romanov, the fourth son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, set sail from his homeland for an extended journey through the United States and Canada.... Alexis in America recounts the duke’s progress through the major American cities, detailing his meetings with celebrated figures such as Samuel Morse and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and describing the national self-reflection that his presence spurred in the American people.

The first Russian royal ever to visit the United States, Alexis received a tour through post–Civil War America that emphasized the nation’s cultural unity. While the enthusiastic American media breathlessly reported every detail of his itinerary and entourage, Alexis visited Niagara Falls, participated in a bison hunt with Buffalo Bill Cody, and attended the Krewe of Rex’s first Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. As word of the royal visitor spread, the public flocked to train depots and events across the nation to catch a glimpse of the grand duke. Some speculated that Russia and America were considering a formal alliance, while others surmised that he had come to the United States to find a bride.

The tour was not without incident...
Here Farrow dreamcasts an adaptation of Alexis in America:
What a dream come true that would be! Obviously, since my book is nonfiction, I am choosing actors I like who I think look the parts. If my book became a movie, I would want Aaron Taylor-Johnson to play Grand Duke Alexis; Matthew McConaughey to play Custer; Jude Law to play General Sheridan; Matt Bomer to play Buffalo Bill; and, Diane Kruger as Alexandra Zhukovskaya. There would have to be dozens of others, but these would be the main characters.
Learn more about Alexis in America at the LSU Press website.

Writers Read: Lee A. Farrow.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 15, 2014

Stacy Henrie's "Hope Rising"

Stacy Henrie has always had an avid appetite for history, fiction and chocolate. She earned her B.A. in public relations from Brigham Young University and worked in communications before turning her attentions to raising a family and writing inspirational historical romances.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Hope Rising:
Nearly from the first, I had Rupert Penry-Jones in mind when I wrote Corporal Joel Campbell’s character in my WWI romance Hope Rising. His light hair and aptitude for both seriousness and clever wit fit Joel so well.

For a heroine, I would choose Hayley Atwell to play American Nurse Evelyn Gray. They both have those lovely dark eyes and hair. Like Atwell, Evelyn is naturally beautiful but she’s also strong, especially when it comes to those she cares about.
Visit Stacy Henrie's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Joyce and Jim Lavene's "Spell Booked"

Joyce and Jim Lavene write mystery and urban fantasy because they like it and because they have to do something to pay the bills. They live in North Carolina with their family.

Here Joyce dreamcasts an adaptation their new novel, Spell Booked:
I would love to see Spell Booked made into a movie! I know every author says that, but I've given it some serious thought.

First of all, the movie could be filmed in Wilmington, where the book is set, as it has a thriving movie and TV-making community. The Witches of East End was filmed here, and so is Sleepy Hollow and Vampire Diaries. So we can use all the landmarks – the Cape Fear River, the Atlantic Ocean, the Cotton exchange, Oak Island, and the old waterfront. Those places would look great on the screen.

I'd like to see Nicole Kidman play Molly. She'd have to be a little older, but it would be a few years, right? And they can use some extra make up on her. Something about her attitude reminds me of Molly Addison Renard, the voice of our witches in Spell Booked.

I'd like to see Jane Fonda play Olivia. She'd be just right for the part, but they’d have to make her wear a wig or dye her hair blond. No one says sexy and slightly above it all like Jane Fonda!

Elsa Lanchester as Elsie would be awesome! She was in The Bride of Frankenstein and Mary Poppins. What? She's dead? Oh well. I’ll have to think about that a little more.

Anne Hathaway from Les Mis would be a great Dorothy. She's a little tall, but it could still work. I could picture her as our would-be witch librarian. She might be a little expensive, but well worth the money!

As for Brian, I'd like to see Ian Somerhalder from the Vampire Diaries play Brian, mostly so I can meet him. He'd be a cute Brian too, and haughty to begin with. Plus Ian should be looking for a new part since he’s not playing Mr. Grey in the movie, and the Vampire Diaries is on its last legs.

And playing the Bone Man would be Vin Diesel, in costume of course. Great voice! He could carry out our seven-foot quasi-bad-guy who may be dead or may be an Irish sea god who lives on Oak Island. He’d be perfect messing with the witches when they come to trade favors.

Jon Tenney would be good as Molly’s cop husband, Joe, who gets mixed up in the magic all the time. Once again – a good actor looking for a part. He’s very talented at playing police detectives too!

And that’s the biggest part of our movie cast! I’ll just run over and start a new Facebook page now where I can ask for money to make this happen. Spare change anyone?
Learn more about the authors and their work at Joyce and Jim Lavene's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Joyce and Jim Lavene & Rudi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mingmei Yip's "Secret of a Thousand Beauties"

Mingmei Yip is the author of six novels (the 7th coming out in 2015), including her new release Secret of a Thousand Beauties (the story of a former imperial embroiderer and her orphaned, supposedly celibate followers), The Nine fold Heaven (an ex-spy looking for her lost love and supposedly still born baby), Skeleton Women (story of three femmes fatales), Song of the Silk road (adventure on China’s ancient route with a three million dollar award), Petals from the Sky (inter-racial love story), and Peach Blossom Pavilion (story of the last Chinese geisha).

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Secret of a Thousand Beauties:
Secret of a Thousand Beauties is a novel set in China when it was just beginning to become modernized. While most characters are Chinese, there are two Americans – the missionaries Father Edwin and his young assistant Ryan McFarland.

First choice for the fiercely resourceful and independent protagonist Spring Swallow is Zhang Ziyi. She has played in Hollywood movies and is famous for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Zhang is perfect to play a young woman who is soft outside but tough inside.

Spring Swallow’s embroidery teacher Aunty Peony is a brilliant mentor but personally is cold-hearted and distant, due to the many tragedies she had to bear in her life. Joan Chen, who soared to fame in the West for her role in The Last Emperor would be perfect to play this seasoned, older woman.

In Secret of a Thousand Beauties, Father Edwin is the middle-aged missionary who takes the orphaned Spring Swallow under his wing and teaches her English, poetry and philosophy. An older actor best to play this character would be Tom Hanks -- mature, honest, and most important, compassionate looking.

I think Ryan Gosling would be perfect for the younger, naive, and enthusiastic missionary Ryan McFarland -- they even share the same first name!
Visit Mingmei Yip's website, and view the book trailer for Secret of a Thousand Beauties.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Molly Cochran's "Seduction"

Molly Cochran has written and ghostwritten over 25 novels and nonfiction books, including the Edgar-winning bestseller Grandmaster and The Forever King, recipient of the New York Public Library award for Books of the Teen Age, both co-written with Warren Murphy, and the nonfiction bestseller Dressing Thin.

Here Cochran dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest YA novel, Seduction:
Who is Gaspard Ulliel?

He's the French hottie who played young Hannibal Lechter in Hannibal Rising, and more recently, the nameless but gorgeous Male Face of Chanel. Temptation personified!

My latest YA novel, Seduction, is all about temptation--or, rather, Temptation, with a capital T. The hapless characters in Seduction--Katy Ainsworth, played in this mental movie by Zooey Deschanel (whom I've always, from the beginning of the series, pictured as Katy), and her erstwhile boyfriend, Peter Shaw (Liam Hemsworth, using his superb, if studied, American accent)--are tempted at every turn by riches, beauty, ambition, knowledge, and even immortality.

From the moment Peter learns that he can make gold from base metal, his life takes a sharp upturn. Living in Paris with a house full of beautiful, if shallow, women who adore him, he is surprised to encounter his old flame Katy, who has come to Paris to study cooking. Katy, meanwhile, faces some temptations of her own, mainly in the form of a sexy French millionaire named Belmondo (Ulliel) who plays lead guitar in a rock band as a hobby, and is an expert in, well, seduction.

Then there's Katy's grandfatherly friend Azreal, whom Katy discovers living beneath the famous Paris sewers. Although it would ruin the surprise if I mentioned why, this character would require an actor of extraordinary range, so I'm putting my money on Benedict Cumberbatch, who I think could carry age well. Azreal possesses an extremely rare book, a handwritten history of Paris that begins in the twelfth century, told from the point of view of an immortal alchemist. When charming-but-klutzy Katy inadvertently breaks the binding of this book, her first course of action, being Katy, is to steal it, hoping that she'll be able to repair the damage and return it before Azreal finds out.

While she's sewing the binding (and reading the pages as she works) Katy discovers the dark and ancient secret kept by Peter's sophisticated housemates that leads her back to her old nemesis, the Darkness, an entity whose evil consciousness threatens to destroy Katy's sorely tested innocence as well as her life.

The Darkness has no body, but It does have a voice. Let's call James Earl Jones.
Learn more about the book and author at Molly Cochran's website and blog.

My Book, The Movie: Legacy.

The Page 69 Test: Poison.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stephen Policoff's "Come Away"

Stephen Policoff has taught writing at Wesleyan and Yale and is currently Master Teacher of Writing in Global Liberal Studies at NYU. His books include the novel Beautiful Somewhere Else, the memoir Sixteen Scenes from a Film I Never Wanted to See, two YA books, The Dreamer’s Companion and Real Toads in Imaginary Gardens (co-authored with Jeffrey Skinner), and the children’s book Cesar’s Amazing Journey.

Here Policoff dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Come Away:
I do think Come Away would make a great movie, though it would probably take a Bold and Fearless director/producer to try to get it done. A dark domestic comedy with a mild buzz of the supernatural? A film featuring a small green girl who may or may not be a hallucination of the main character, the loosely-wrapped Paul Brickner? Sure! Bring it on.

I have always thought Edward Norton would be a great Paul (who is the main character also of my first novel, Beautiful Somewhere Else). He has the right blend of intensity, goofiness, and vaguely endearing inhibition which I see in Paul, not unlike the character he played in Moonrise Kingdom. Paul’s wife Nadia is harder; maybe Olivia Wilde, who is both beautiful and still somehow real-looking, and seems to like appearing in indie films (which, come on, this would probably have to be); the character she plays in the under-rated Drinking Buddies suggests to me she could pull-off the down-to-earth-yet-quirky Nadia.

My college friend John Rothman would be a fine Dr. Maire. John often plays slightly foolish but somehow charming character roles; I think he would be able to present Dr. Maire’s pomposity and his not-entirely-convincing heroic gestures, and make them believable. And I think that Robert De Niro would make a wonderfully unlikely Dr. Grunwald, who has to be seen both as slightly menacing (hello! paging half of the roles De Niro has ever played!) and slightly clownish as well (ditto).

As for a director…well, I think Michel Gondry would be really interesting; I don’t love all his stuff but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is quite brilliant in its melding of the plausible and the fantastical, which is Come Away’s milieu. Wes Anderson, with his stylized painterly vision might be appropriate too.

My fear is that the ambiguity of the novel—Is the green girl a hallucination? A changeling child? Is Paul losing his mind or is he onto something about the nature of what we call reality?—might be turned into an M. Night Shyamalan kind of farrago, which I would hate (though I guess I would cry all the way to the bank).
Visit Stephen Policoff's faculty webpage and Facebook page, and learn more about Come Away.

Writers Read: Stephen Policoff.

The Page 69 Test: Come Away.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 5, 2014

Beth Bernobich's "The Time Roads"

Beth Bernobich is an American science fiction and fantasy author. Her short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Interzone, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com, among other places. Her novels include the fantasy trilogy River of Souls and the YA fantasy Fox & Phoenix. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, son, and two idiosyncratic cats.

Here Bernobich dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Time Roads:
The Time Roads is probably the first novel where I matched real-world actors to the characters in my head. It's also a novel that consists of four separate stories, written over the course of twelve years, so my choices reflect not only how I pictured my characters, but when I first wrote the story where each first appeared.

Áine Devereaux, the Queen of Éire, is easy. My choice is Cate Blanchett as she appeared in Elizabeth. She has the height, the regal attitude, the ability to play both sides of Áine's character, by turns cool and dispassionate, fierce and quick-tempered.

Continuing along the list of actors from Elizabeth, Joseph Fiennes is the man to play Breandan Ó Cuilinn, the scientist who becomes the Queen's first favorite, and whose studies of time travel launch the book's events.

For Aidrean Ó Deághaidh, the Queen's spymaster and a high-ranking member of the Queen's Constabulary, my top choice would be Cíaran Hinds. Look at pictures of Hinds over the past twenty years. (I certainly can. *fans self vigorous*) He's got the brooding look of the younger Ó Deághaidh, and careworn face of the older and somewhat disillusioned man.

Choosing a director is much harder for me, because I don't always remember the names behind a film. However, there is one name that stuck with me long after I saw his take on the themes of time and time travel. That would be Alfonso Cuarón for his work on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
Learn more about the book and author at Beth Bernobich's website.

The Page 69 Test: Passion Play.

The Page 69 Test: The Time Roads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tawni Waters's "Beauty of the Broken"

Tawni Waters is an award winning writer and poet, and her work has been featured in The Best Travel Writing of 2010. She teaches creative writing in Phoenix, Arizona.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Beauty of the Broken, her first novel:
Beauty of the Broken would make a kick-ass movie. My agent says so, which is sort of like your mom saying you’re special, but still.

The book’s protagonist Mara Stonebrook is a quirky, tortured girl growing up in an abusive family in the small, bigoted town of Barnaby, New Mexico. In a fit of drunken rage, her daddy beats her beloved brother Iggy so badly, he gives him brain damage. Mara’s depressed, alcoholic mother does nothing to protect Iggy, leaving Mara responsible for his welfare.

To make matters worse, Mara finds herself falling in love with Xylia Brown, a beautiful, hip transplant from San Francisco who worships goddesses rather than a male version of God. Mara’s lesbian ardor is so not cool in her hyper-religious community. Let’s just say the townsfolk frown on homosexuality. Emphatically frown. Sometimes, with weapons.

Enter Henry Begay, who moves to Barnaby from his home on the nearby reservation, spouting “blasphemous” religion and sporting braids, thick glasses, and white-freckled clothing because his father is obsessed with squirting things with bleach.

Mara, Henry, Iggy, and Xylia form an alliance of soulful rejects. The fiery, hateful Reverend Winchell is not amused by the influx of heathens, and his son, the pimply, self-righteous Elijah Winchell takes it on himself to torture them. Hijinx ensue. And by hinjinx, I mean mayhem and death, with a generous side-helping of forbidden love.

On the chance that Hollywood agrees with my agent, my dream cast for Beauty of the Broken:

Jennifer Lawrence as Mara: She reminds me of Mara in so many ways. Down-to-earth, sassy, irreverent, and beautiful.

Emma Stone as Xylia: She’s funny, doesn’t give a shit what people think, and could totally pull off looking like a rock star in a small town where most people dress up like the cast from Leave it to Beaver.

Jesse Eisenberg as Iggy: He has that intense, powerful, other-worldly aura Iggy has. Also, Iggy is described as having “see-clear-through-you” eyes.” Check.

Matthew McConaughey as Daddy: He’s one of the best actors alive, as demonstrated by his breathtaking performances in Mud, Dallas Buyer’s Club, and True Detective. He has also frequently showcased his ability to play hillbillies, which would serve him well were he to play drunken, nasty, downright backwoods Daddy.

Cate Blanchett as Momma: I love her, and this is probably the only way I’ll ever get to tell her. Also, she’s freaking brilliant and was made to play a drunken, tortured ex-beauty-queen. I’m misty thinking about the moment when she placidly gets up from the table to get Iggy ice for his bruises after Daddy beats him. I bet her hand would tremble just so as she wrapped the ice cubes in a washcloth.

Taylor Lautner as Henry: The only young, uber-famous Native American actor I could think of was the kid from Twilight. I thought I was just being dense, but when I Googled “young Native American” actors, he was the only one I recognized. That absolutely has to change, America. Get with the program. He’s a great actor, but he’d have to ditch the super model muscles to play Henry. Taylor, it’s you and Medifast for a few months. Sorry.

Jeff Bridges as Reverend Winchell: He’s awesome, and I’m pretty sure he could go real dark, real scary, and real fat real fast if he had to.

Tom Felton as Elijah: Throw a few pimples and some greasy hair on him, and Draco Malfoy is Elijah.

Bonus: Johnny Depp as the weird schoolteacher, Mr. Farley, who shows creepy slideshows featuring toe fungus and cadavers.
Visit Tawni Waters's Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 1, 2014

Donald Stoker's "Clausewitz: His Life and Work"

Donald Stoker is Professor of Strategy and Policy for the U.S. Naval War College's program at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is the author of The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Clausewitz: His Life and Work:
I think a movie about Carl von Clausewitz, the nineteenth-century Prussian officer best known for penning On War, would be quite interesting, though for reasons many might not know. When I ask my students “Who was Carl von Clausewitz?” they invariably reply “a theorist” or “a German general.” He certainly was these things, but he was much more besides.

It is this “much more” that would make a movie about Clausewitz a fascinating period piece. Our backdrop is the tumult of the French Revolution and the sweep of the Napoleonic Wars (1789-1815). Clausewitz grew up in and fought his way through this chaotic maelstrom. Born in 1780, he went into the Prussian army as a boy (probably shortly before his twelfth birthday), and saw combat for the first time before he was 13. He participated in the shelling and siege of Mainz (1793), and then fought in the back and forth campaign in the rugged Vosges. He served as a young officer in the 1806 war with France, fought in the rearguard at Auerstedt, then survived a 14-day fighting retreat and nearly a year of imprisonment in France. Meanwhile, he carried on a long, romantic courtship of Marie von Brühl, a beautiful and exceedingly intelligent woman of superior social station. They married at the end of 1810; Marie’s widowed mother—after seven years—had finally given her blessing.

Clausewitz joined the Russian army in 1812 and served from beginning to end in one of the most famous campaigns in history: Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. He fought in the rearguard, participated in the battle of Borodino, saw the burning of Moscow, and the carnage of Napoleon’s famous retreat across the Berezina River. Clausewitz went on to fight in the 1813 campaign (where he was wounded), and also fought in the 1814 campaign and 1815’s Waterloo campaign. With Napoleon safely dispatched to St. Helena, Clausewitz then wrote On War and many other works.

The ideal actor to play Clausewitz is Ioan Gruffudd. The Welsh actor is currently the star of the television series Forever. But he is probably best known to American audiences for playing Horatio Hornblower in the wonderful A&E series based upon the C.S. Forester novels. Gruffudd not only looks a little like Clausewitz, but through his depiction of Hornblower has in many ways already played the part. Brave, intelligent, resourceful, but also awkward, uncomfortable around his men, and annoying to less capable and pedantic superiors: this was Clausewitz.
Learn more about Clausewitz: His Life and Work at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 29, 2014

E.B. Moore's "An Unseemly Wife"

E. B. Moore grew up in a Pennsylvania fieldstone house on a Noah’s ark farm. The red barn stabled animals two-by-two, along with a herd of Cheviot sheep. After a career as a metal sculptor, she returned to writing poetry. Her chapbook of poems, New Eden, A Legacy (Finishing Line Press, 2009), was the foundation for her novel, An Unseemly Wife, both based on family stories from her Amish roots in Lancaster. E. B. received full fellowships to The Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo. She is the mother of three, the grandmother of five, and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Here Moore dreamcasts an adaptation of An Unseemly Wife:
An Unseemly Wife tells the story of Ruth and her land-obsessed husband, Aaron. He tore his family from a Pennsylvania farm, and against their Amish faith (they should have stayed separate), headed for Idaho in the mid-1800s where he believed great tracts of free land waited. Ruth, being a week overdue with their fifth child, resisted.

Never the less, Aaron loaded his enormously pregnant wife and four children, ranging in age from eleven down to three-year-old Esther, into a Conestoga wagon for the 2000-mile trek. On the trail, temptation abounded as the family faced prejudice and a myriad of ways to die.

Their survival depended on being part of the dreaded English community. The self-proclaimed moral leader of the group, Hortence, wore grey, not the fancy colors of other women, and as a preacher’s wife she seemed like-minded, if a bit overbearing. Another who crowded Ruth’s boundaries was Sadie a loud young woman dressed in men’s fringed pants and jacket. Dependence brought them both close, and forbidden friendships with English happened. They grew, even flourished, until prejudice and jealousies lead to betrayal, and the separateness Ruth believed would save their souls, proved catastrophic. This left the family abandoned on the trailside fighting for their lives.

In writing these characters, I tried to become each one, but being an actor wasn’t for me. No cameras, not even an author photo on the book’s cover.

Now, encouraged to think of the book as a movie, I find the actors with names and faces I know are too long in the tooth, basically too old or too dead. However, if they were alive and the right age, I’d cast Gregory Peck (seen in To Kill A Mockingbird). He’d make a perfect Aaron, capable of great devotion and steely anger when crossed. Meryl Streep (in Sophie’s Choice) could play Ruth, her children’s lives at stake as she’s torn between obeying her husband and obeying her faith. No matter which way she turns there’s no avoiding catastrophe.

Esther, the feisty child nearing her fourth birthday, wields a sharp intuition for survival. She could be played by Helen Mirren at that tender age. Then there’s Hortence, heavy set, friendly by all appearances, but prone to underhanded acts. Kathy Bates (Misery) has the required wickedness.

As a director, Lisa Cholodenko (Olive Kitteridge) would be great, following a script by Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge). They have the unflinching grit I’d like to see attached to An Unseemly Wife.
Visit E.B. Moore's website.

The Page 69 Test: An Unseemly Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ann Purser's "Suspicion at Seven"

Ann Purser's latest Lois Meade mystery is Suspicion at Seven.

Here the author shares some ideas for the above-the-line talent to adapt the series for the big screen:
Benedict Cumberbatch as Inspector Cowgill, or any other character that would suit BC`s chameleon-like talents.

And Steven Spielberg to direct, in the hope that he would not have read anything like Suspicion at Seven and might enjoy making it into a movie.
Learn more about the book and author at Ann Purser's website.

The Page 69 Test: Found Guilty at Five.

Writers Read: Ann Purser.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Todd Moss' "The Golden Hour"

Todd Moss, formerly the top American diplomat in West Africa, draws on his real-world experiences inside the U.S. Government to bring to life the exhilaration—and frustrations—of modern-day foreign policymaking. His new novel, The Golden Hour, was originally inspired by the August 2008 coup d’état in Mauritania when Todd was dispatched by Secretary Condoleezza Rice to negotiate with the junta leader General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

Moss is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and has taught at the London School of Economics (LSE) and at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). He holds a PhD from SOAS and a BA from Tufts University. Moss is currently Senior Fellow and Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington DC.

Here Moss dreamcasts an adaptation of The Golden Hour:
I get this question a lot, which hopefully means readers believe The Golden Hour would make a terrific movie. Judd Ryker is not your typical gun-wielding thriller hero. He’s a 30-something soft-spoken professor on leave from Amherst College who arrives at the State Department armed with data and ideas. Judd’s a nerd who’s much more comfortable with numbers than people, but as a diplomat, this is a problem he needs to quickly overcome. (I know a lot of successful people like this—they are brilliant analysts, but they could work on their people skills!) Jake Gyllenhaal would be perfect.

More interesting is who would play his wife, Jessica? She’s a scientist, a mom, and Judd’s rock. I originally wrote the character with Liya Kebede in mind, so I think she would be ideal.
Visit Todd Moss' website.

Writers Read: Todd Moss.

The Page 69 Test: The Golden Hour.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 24, 2014

Elizabeth Kadetsky's "The Poison that Purifies You"

Elizabeth Kadetsky is the author of the memoir First There Is a Mountain (Little Brown), a novella (On the Island at the Center of the Center of the World), and the story collection The Poison that Purifies You. She lives in New York City’s East Village and in State College, Pennsylvania, and her works in fiction, memoir, personal and lyric essay, and long form narrative journalism have been published widely.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Poison that Purifies You:
The twenty main characters in The Poison that Purifies You abide by the David Mitchell/Wachowski Brothers principle, also known as the Vertigo principle: a core of actors plays multiple roles. Also, time collapses which in this case allows for actors from past and present to co-exist in the same collection and even story. And, of course, race is no object—characters’ hair color and ethnicity easily shift. Since Hitchcock has been evoked, casting begins with Kim Novak, and to match eras loosely, she plays alongside Jon Voight, in his Midnight Cowboy iteration, in the short story “Loup Garou.” Novak, hair curled and dyed black, plays the part-native French Canadian former waitress Cecile. Jon Voight plays across from her as John, who, in the writing was named for, yes, Jon Voight. He wears tight white jeans, a cowboy hat and a Western snap shirt and drinks straight from Cecile’s whiskey glass in a strip club. Need more be said? Any film casting of which I have a part starts with Idris Elba, of the tweet “Idris Elba ain't help you look for your phone for 20 min even tho it was just in your purse like it always is. I. Did. That.” Since The Poison doesn’t actually depict any African American (or Afro British) characters, Idris plays the Italian–American Angelo, now renamed Angel, in “Geography,” the war vet/love interest who is the collection’s one leading man. Let’s just say it’s an inimitable chick flick role. Also important in all casting by me is multiple appearances by Gael García Bernal, of Mexico. The collection goes to Guatemala, but Bernal’s starring leads take place in India, where he plays the male “femme fatale” (“homme fatal”?) Rohit, an Indian Muslim impersonating a Hindu who lures Jack through beauty and gay seduction into a kidnapping trap. He also plays Ganesh, an illiterate sweeper, in “Il Negro”—set in India—alongside Om Puri as Arun and Andy Garcia as the Italian Milo. Judy Davis, with multiple hairstyles and at multiple life stages, plays the collection’s several unreliable-narrator female characters: bicycle messenger Allison; baby-thief Maria; skin-on-fire college professor Naomi. Davis is qualified by her hair, and though this appears died, straightened, French braided and otherwise coiffed, its dominant trait is its Medusa–like wildness. Since the Vertigo/Cloud Atlas principle might also be considered the Dr. Strangelove principle, Peter Sellers appears in cameo, dressed in his War Room aspect. He is the love interest/antagonist Hank in “Dermagraphia,” a college professor who lives in his past and who, like Sellers, morphs from benevolent to menacing to forever undermine the narrator’s grip on reality.
Learn more about the book and author at Elizabeth Kadetsky's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Claire Prentice's "The Lost Tribe of Coney Island"

Claire Prentice was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. She was working as a journalist in New York when she chanced upon an old black and white photograph of a group of tribespeople wearing g-strings. She knew from the moment that she set eyes on them that she had to uncover the real story of the tribespeople in the picture.

Here Prentice dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Lost Tribe of Coney Island: Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled Off the Spectacle of the Century:
On March 29, 1905 Dr Truman K. Hunt boarded the RMS Empress of China at Hong Kong Harbor, bound for Vancouver. Hunt was almost forty, a medical man from Iowa who had served as Lieutenant-Governor of the remote Bontoc region of the Philippines. And he wasnʼt traveling alone. With him were 50 Bontoc Igorrotes, tribesmen, women and children from the far north of the Philippines.

Ahead of them lay 20 days and nights at sea. And when they arrived on dry land they had another vast journey ahead of them, this time by train. It would take them across the United States to their new home, Coney Island. There, among the fairground rides and ʻfreak shows,ʼ the Igorrotes would perform a distorted sideshow version of their tribal life for the public who paid a quarter to gawk at the “dog eating, head hunting savages” [these were their managerʼs words]. Within weeks the Igorrotes were the talk of America.

Hunt would be a dream role for a gifted character actor. In fact he was a gifted actor himself. A brilliant self publicist, he sold stories about the Igorrotes to newspapers across the country. A charmer with an eye for the ladies, and the capacity to impose his will by flattery and force of personality, by the end of the summer he shows a darker side to his nature. He is a hero who turns villain, a chancer who believes his own tall tales. It would be a great role for Matthew McConaughey, with his trademark glint in his eye.

There are a number of other juicy parts in the film.

Julio Balinag, the principled, ambitious and dandyish translator is a role made for the talented Filipino Broadway actor Jose Llana, and Iʼd cast Vanessa Hudgens to play Julioʼs wife, Maria. Aljur Abrenica would be great as the popular outspoken tribesman Feloa, who isnʼt afraid to stand up to Truman Hunt.

Frederick Barker is the high minded, dogged and handsome government agent who proves to be Huntʼs nemesis. Far more than just eye candy, the actor who plays him needs depth and has to be someone who would be a convincing opponent for the wily and unscrupulous Truman Hunt. Iʼm casting James McAvoy (a great actor and a fellow Scot). If James McAvoy wasnʼt available, my next call would be to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Trumanʼs formidable female lawyer Antoinette Funk would be the perfect part for Kathy Bates to get her teeth into, while Tina Fey would make for a charmingly eccentric Baroness Adele von Groyss, the bohemian Austrian society hostess who invites the Igorrotes to perform head hunting dances at her avant garde parties designed to thrill and shock her friends.

Finally, Iʼd love to see Robert Downey Jr and Leonardo DiCaprio respectively as the “Kings of Coney,” Frederic Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy. Talk about dream casting! The movie takes the tribespeople from the wilds of the Northern Philippines to the wilds of Coney Island in the summer of 1905. At the climax Hunt even takes the Igorrotes on the run across America and into Canada by train, pursued by Barker and Pinkerton detectives.

Weʼre talking about a big film which would need a big budget. Now all thatʼs left is to sell
the film rights and find some suitably deep pockets...
Visit Claire Prentice's website. and follow her on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 20, 2014

John Lawton's "Sweet Sunday"

John Lawton has written seven Inspector Troy thrillers, two standalone novels, and a volume of history, and has edited several English writers (Wells, Conrad, D. H. Lawrence) for Everyman Classics. His thriller Black Out won a WH Smith Fresh Talent Award, A Little White Death was named a New York Times notable book, and his latest Troy novel A Lily of the Field was named one of the best thrillers of the year by the New York Times. His recent novels include Then We Take Berlin, the first book to feature Joe Wilderness, and the newly released Sweet Sunday.

Here Lawton dreamcasts an adaptation of Sweet Sunday:
Sweet Sunday? Oddly, I never cast anyone for Raines in the Cinema-of-the-Mind. Only time I have so lapsed. Troy? Easy … James Mason … and I have argued the case for Robert Downey Jr with producers on several occasions to no avail. (Dear Bob, I do hope you’re reading this ... the part is yours for the asking.) Tosca? … Janeane Garofalo to a T.

The parts I cast in this book were mainly the women … Rose is Alex Kingston (ER, Dr Who, Moll Flanders), Althea is Alfre Woodard (First Contact) and perhaps Lois would be Grace Zabriskie … and, sad to say, as fictions never age and actors do ... all of them as they were ten or twenty years ago.

Turner Raines … well, he’s a Texan and perhaps Texas’s most famous actor is Tommy Lee Jones, but TLJ must be my age at least so maybe Texas’s 2nd star actor gets the part … Matthew McConaughey. His rise to fame passed me by (I know, I should get out more) but two US TV dramas (not requiring me to leave the house) have had me by the b*lls this year – Fargo and True Detective, and after the latter I seek out everything McConaughey has ever done. Sahara? Not as bad as is claimed. Lincoln Lawyer, OK. Will anything measure up to the performance he gives in True Detective? Looking up his track record, I realise he played the lawyer in A Time To Kill. Never even clocked his name at the time. But, an aside, … it occurs to me I have never seen a duff film made from a Grisham novel, or for that matter a Stephen King novel. So how come Gorky Park and Fatherland got slaughtered on the silver screen? Hmm….

I’d love to write for Billy Bob Thornton, but I’d be too scared to meet him. I have just seen The Judge, with the Roberts Duvall and Downey … Billy Bob gets a cameo, and the reveal as the camera finally shows you his face plays upon the sheer scare factor Fargo has built up for Billy Bob.

Directors? I’m not sure I could name you a film director since Hitchcock. The ones I liked are mostly dead … eg. Michael Powell, Francois Truffaut … but then, they were also writers … so what did I like about Truffaut? His scripts or his way with his own scripts when he directed them? Dunno … but it brings me, at last, to a director still among the living … Joel Coen … do I like his writing or his directing? No idea.
Learn more about the book and author at John Lawton's website.

The Page 69 Test: Then We Take Berlin.

Writers Read: John Lawton.

The Page 69 Test: Sweet Sunday.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sean Williams's "Crashland"

Sean Williams is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of several novels for adults as well as the coauthor of the middle grade series Troubletwisters with Garth Nix. As a resident of South Australia—which he reports is a lovely place a long way away from the rest of the world—Williams has often dreamed of stepping into a booth and being somewhere else, instantly. This has led to a fascination with the social, psychological, and moral implications of such technology. When not pondering such weighty matters, he can generally be found eating chocolate (actually, he eats chocolate when pondering these matters, too).

Williams's newest book is Crashland, the sequel to Twinmaker.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Crashland:
My usual response to this question is that my main character, Clair, would be played by Amandla Stenberg, who played Rue in the first Hunger Games movie. I didn’t have her in mind, but as soon as I saw her I thought “Yes!” Clair is 17, so they’re almost exactly the same age right now. Hurry up, Hollywood!

But I thought this time I’d consider another character, that of Clair’s boyfriend’s father, Dylan Linwood. This would be a challenging role to play. In Twinmaker, he’s a prickly outsider artist who doesn’t get on with Clair at all. And then, um, something happens to him (trying to avoid spoilers here for those who haven’t read the book) and he seems to become a completely different person. He looks the same, if a bit more beaten up than he was before, but he sounds different, acts different, and has very different reasons to try to catch Clair. He’s trying to murder her, in fact. So he goes from boyfriend’s dad to psycho killer overnight, which is bad for everyone.

In Crashland, that tension is ramped up even higher, when Dylan is copied many times over (people can do that in this world, although they’re not supposed to) and his obsession with Clair becomes even more deadly. Then, in Hollowgirl (book three), he’s back to normal, but not necessarily on her side. In fact, you could say that he’s a terrorist. Hard to say if that’s an improvement or not.

So, anyway, an interesting role to play. Who could possibly pull it off?

I was a watching a completely unrelated movie the other night (Mystery Road) when the answer occurred to me: Hugo Weaving.

He’s had experience in this genre, and in The Matrix his character was copied many times, so he’s no stranger to that either. He can do grouchily sympathetic by eyebrow acting alone. And he can do grizzled outsider as well. In short, he’d be brilliant.

And I say this not just because I’m a fellow Australian. He didn’t get to play Elrond by calling in a favour. He’s the real deal, and from now on I’ll picture the character exactly like him.
Visit Sean Williams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Crashland.

Writers Read: Sean Williams.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Kaya McLaren's "The Firelight Girls"

Kaya McLaren is the author of Church of the Dog, On the Divinity of Second Chances, How I Came to Sparkle Again, and most recently, The Firelight Girls.

Here McLaren dreamcasts an adaptation of The Firelight Girls:
The Firelight Girls is a story about friendship, forgiveness, and forging paths forward during those times in life when the paths forward are difficult to find. Not only would it make a heartwarming movie, it would be visually breath-taking, set in a summer camp on the shores of beautiful Lake Wenatchee in the mountains of Washington State especially with the touches of color that autumn offers.

Ethel is the 78 year-old former camp director and the central figure of the five main characters. Judi Dench would make a great Ethel, I think. She has soulful eyes. Ethel is grieving for her life partner and grieving for the summer camp that is slipping through her hands, but at her essence, she is a joyful, generous, loving spirit with a lot of maternal energy.

Shirley MacLaine would be perfect as Ruby. Ruby is a bit of a pistol and ran away from her wedding reception back in the mid-fifties after realizing she had made a mistake, and in the present time, she begins a new romance with Ethel’s neighbor, Walt. Shirley MacLaine has the sass and verve needed to pull this role off.

Jennifer Garner has this powerful essence of purity and goodness about her that would make her a great Laura. Laura is all heart. She is at a fork in the road with her marriage and needs to make a choice about whether it’s time to go separate ways with her husband and begin again or whether she needs to figure out a way to reengage and reconnect.

Shannon used to be excessively driven and hyper-competitive as a child, but along the way she mellowed and eventually burned out as a public school teacher, a profession she likens to being married to someone who tells you that you’re ugly and stupid every day. Christina Applegate or Cameron Diaz… someone like that would be the right person for the job… someone with energy and a strong sense of personal power under normal circumstances, and someone who can be intense but still likeable.

Finally, Amber is a fifteen year-old runaway who more or less had raised herself even before she left home. Avalon Robbins might be too young, but I think she could be tough and edgy and extremely vulnerable all at once.

So there you go. Now you’ve got me dreaming of this all-star cast bringing my story to life. Wouldn’t that be fun? Thanks for the opportunity to dream. Enjoy! Maybe because of this blog, one of these actresses will pick up my book, see herself in it, and make this miracle happen.
Visit Kaya McLaren's website.

Writers Read: Kaya McLaren.

The Page 69 Test: The Firelight Girls.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 14, 2014

Benjamin E. Zeller's "Heaven's Gate: America's UFO Religion"

Benjamin E. Zeller is Assistant Professor of Religion at Lake Forest College.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Heaven's Gate: America's UFO Religion:
Heaven’s Gate is really a story about its founders and how they developed a deep spiritual partnership that led them to eventually form their own monastic religious community. Its founders, Marshall Herff Applewhite and Bonnie Lu Nettles, were described as having a sense of innate charisma, a sort of intense otherworldliness.

Members and ex-members alike described Herff (as he was called by his friends) as having a magnetic personality and being able to form immediate connections with people. Some said he possessed hypnotic or telepathic abilities. He was also tall, somewhat lanky, and had a caring and fatherly face. I would cast Ed Harris in the role. Remember Harris’s role in The Truman Show as the director Christof, the mastermind behind the operation? That was Herff in Heaven’s Gate.

His spiritual partner Bonnie was described as maternal and caring, but also as a powerful presence who served as sort of mental and spiritual battery for Herff, and then for the group. Ex-members and members have said that she was the center of Heaven’s Gate during her lifetime (she died in 1985). When she walked into a room, people saw in her a sense of quiet power. My choice to play her? Kathy Bates. She possesses the sort of gravitas needed to play Bonnie.

I weave a few other individuals in and out of my narrative as I describe the rise and fall of Heaven’s Gate. Jmmody (his name inside the group) is one of these individuals. He was smart but a bit of a goofball. I would have wanted the late Harold Ramis to play him. Heaven’s Gate wasn’t just a monastic religious community, it was a family. Ex-members have told me that life inside the group was intense but fun at the same time. They were on a collective spiritual journey. Ramis could have captured that.
Learn more about Heaven's Gate at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Marcus Wynne's "The Sword of Michael"

Marcus Wynne is a charter member of the Been There, Done That Club. He's got all the T-shirts and knows all the secret handshakes. He enjoys poetry, ballet, knife fighting, and serial monogamy with fierce feminists. He is the author of multiple Amazon ebook bestsellers including contemporary thrillers No Other Option, Warrior in the Shadows, Brother in Arms, as well as With a Vengeance, Johnny Wylde, and Air Marshals.

Here Wynne dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Sword of Michael:
Oh man, do I have fun with this! Part of it is my particular writing process…since I also write screenplays, I think in classic three-act structure and it really, really helps me stay focused on a character if I “pre-cast” the characters before hand.

The Sword of Michael is my first foray into urban fantasy, so I spend time thinking about the implications of shamanism and magic on character development. I always consider how background and training and life experience shape a character in everything from how they dress to how they speak, so this was really fun for me to go in a new direction.

I’d want John Logan of Penny Dreadful to adapt The Sword of Michael. He’s one of the great screenwriters we have and expanding his palette into episodic TV with Penny Dreadful has produced some of the best dark television drama of the 21st century (so far).

Marius Winter — He’s a dark guy with a great sense of humor, serious about his Work but not so serious about himself. I really see Clive Owen, the Clive Owen of Sin City, as Marius. While humorous isn’t the first thing that leaps to mind about Owen, I’ve always felt that hidden behind that somber expression is a seriously funny guy. He’d get a chance to work that out with the character of Marius.

Dillon Tracy — for my half-Irish, half-Iranian special operator who’s the Hawk to Marius’s Spencer, I see the one and only Michael Fassbender. Who else right now can capture that gleeful dangerous gleam of a serious fighter…and carry off witty repartee at the same time?

Jolene LaMoore — for Marius’s elegant Wiccan girlfriend, my first thought was Eva Green…with her hair dyed red. She’d kill it (and she’s John Logan’s muse, so it would be a given). She’d bring that smoky dangerous sexuality and dark-sider competence to life in Jolene.

Sabrina Murphy — one and only one candidate for that kick ass biker-chick/Native American medicine woman…Lena Headley. She’s got the poise and the rawness, and she’d rock the back and forth between the medicine woman and the hard-drinking biker chick.

Alternates: Marius — Gerard Butler, Dillon — Tom Hiddleston, Jolene — Jessica Chastain, Sabrina Murphy — Katee Sackhoff.

Movie scouts, pay attention!
Visit Marcus Wynne's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sword of Michael.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 10, 2014

Renée Rosen's "What the Lady Wants"

As clichéd as it sounds, Renée Rosen is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, the author loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written.

Here Rosen dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, What the Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age:
What the Lady Wants is a novel about a lover’s quadrangle between the Chicago retail tycoon, Marshall Field, his wife, Nannie, his mistress Delia and her husband Arthur Caton.

Given that the story spans more than 30 years, starting with the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and continuing through the death of the Merchant Prince in 1906, we have to take the aging process into account as well as the fact that Field was 20 years older than Delia. So given all that, this is a smattering of who I could see bring these real characters back to life:

Marshall Field: Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood, Sam Waterston or Tom Hanks. Picture them with white hair and bushy mustache.

Delia Spencer Caton: Keira Knightley, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett. With the exception of Anne Hathaway, these actresses would all have to go brunette for the role.

Arthur Caton: Ryan Gosling, Matt Damon or Bradley Cooper. That’s all I will say about that role—no spoilers here.

Nannie Field: Glenn Close, Susan Sarandon or Meryl Streep. Nannie was wicked so I’m thinking any one of these ladies could pull that off.
Visit Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

Writers Read: Renée Rosen.

The Page 69 Test: What the Lady Wants.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Robyn Muncy's "Relentless Reformer"

Robyn Muncy is associate professor of history at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Creating a Female Dominion in American Reform, 1890–1935 and the coauthor of Engendering America: A Documentary History, 1865 to the Present.

Here Muncy dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Relentless Reformer: Josephine Roche and Progressivism in Twentieth-Century America:
The central character in Relentless Reformer is the indomitable Josephine Roche, a progressive reformer who achieved political celebrity in the 1930s as a pro-labor and feminist member of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal government.

To play the adult Josephine Roche, I would cast Meryl Streep. Streep has the range and vitality to play this bronco-busting westerner who castigated anyone with no “guts” and at the same time charmed the Washington press corps with her easy grace.

Roche’s dramatic life would give Streep’s versatility full expression. Roche was in 1912 Denver’s first policewoman; in the 1920s, she took over and ran a coal mining company; in the 1930s, she served as the second-highest-ranking woman in the New Deal government; and, as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, she started the conversation Americans are still having about the federal role in health care. She shaped the Social Security Act in 1935 and eventually pioneered managed care in medicine. She remained an activist into the 1970s, when she was, in her 80s, trying to bring down a murderous regime within the United Mine Workers of America, a labor union she had allied with for over 40 years.

Since Roche was active in public life from her teens into her old age, we might need additional actors for earlier moments of Roche’s life. Jennifer Lawrence would certainly do justice to the young Roche, as she pursued higher education at Vassar College and then graduate work in political science at Columbia University. Lawrence would be brilliant as the idealistic graduate student who joined the picket lines with striking garment workers in 1909 and lived in Greenwich Village during its heyday as America’s Bohemia. She would shine in the scenes of Roche interviewing young prostitutes and visiting tenements as she sussed out the effects of sweatshop labor on the hopes and dreams of immigrant girls.

Colin Firth would be terrific in the role of Edward Costigan, an upright Denver attorney and activist, who mentored Roche and was eventually elected to the U.S. Senate. Benedict Cumberbatch might play Edward Hale Bierstadt, Roche’s dashing writer-husband. Because the marriage lasted only two years (1920-1922), this would be a small but interesting role: Bierstadt married Roche when she was his boss! At the time of their impetuous nuptials, Roche was running the Foreign Language Information Service, an organization that helped immigrants navigate American life, and she had hired Bierstadt as her associate director. For marrying a woman who was his employer (in 1920), Bierstadt deserves a moment in the spotlight even though the marriage did not ultimately take.

The most significant male role will be that of John L. Lewis. President of the United Mine Workers of America, Lewis became in the 1930s Roche’s closest political ally, and the two worked hand in glove until Lewis’s death in 1969. Their most important joint project was the United Mine Workers’ Welfare and Retirement Fund, which supported the post-World War II labor movement and provided state-of-the-art medical care to coal miners all over the United States. Lewis was, of course, a titan of organized labor, renowned for his girth, awning-like eyebrows, and blustery speeches. John Goodman would be perfect in the role.

Susan Sarandon will put in a cameo as Eleanor Roosevelt, a great admirer of Roche.

To direct, we need someone who can represent complicated and powerful women with warmth and admiration. Any applicants?
Learn more about Relentless Reformer at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Louisa Treger's "The Lodger"

Born in London, Louisa Treger began her career as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher.

Treger subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a PhD in English at University College London, where she focused on early twentieth century women’s writing.

Married with three children, she lives in London.

Here Treger dreamcasts an adaptation of The Lodger, her first novel:
When I was invited to do this blog, I jumped at the chance. Surely choosing movie stars for your characters is a game every author plays once in a while?

The Lodger is a biographical novel about the writer, Dorothy Richardson. She was a little-known peer of Virginia Woolf, a lover of H.G. Wells, and a pioneer of a new style of fiction that became known as ‘stream of consciousness’. My novel is set in England in 1906: Dorothy is in her early twenties, existing just above the poverty line, working as a dental secretary, and living in a seedy boarding house in Bloomsbury. She is full of contradictions: torn between being bohemian and being respectable, exulting in her independence but frightened by it, attracted to men and women, wanting close relationships but repudiating them. She has a demure, proper exterior, beneath which turbulent feelings rage. I would choose Mia Wasikowska to play Dorothy, because as Jane Eyre, she excelled at being cool and sedate on the outside, yet passionate at the right moment.

The other main female character is Dorothy’s strikingly beautiful friend, Veronica, who comes from a wealthier background than Dorothy, but is just as rebellious. Veronica becomes involved with the militant suffragette movement: she has the courage to go to prison and endure the horrors of forcible feeding for the sake of her beliefs. She is vibrant, capricious and captivating; I think that Rachel Weisz would portray every one of her qualities to perfection.

For the role of H.G. Wells, I am torn – Russell Brand? Johnny Depp? I need a male lead with a working class edge; someone able to portray a man who pulled himself out of poverty through sheer intellect and grit. H.G Wells was a complex character: dynamic, eloquent and fiercely intelligent, yet prone to black moods. He was full of charm and warmth, yet he could let you down in an instant. On reflection, a young Michael Caine would be best suited to the role (it’s is my fantasy, so I can flip backwards and forwards in time, right?) by turns generous and astonishingly selfish, charismatic but a touch vulgar, with a voracious appetite for life, and a growing interest in Dorothy.

I would like Jane Campion to direct because she does period drama to perfection, and she is particularly good at capturing the unspoken tensions and undercurrents that simmer beneath the surface of life.
Visit Louisa Treger's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Lodger.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Susan McBride's "Very Bad Things"

Susan McBride is the USA Today bestselling author of Blue Blood and four other award-winning Debutante Dropout Mysteries from HarperCollins/Avon, including The Good Girl's Guide To Murder, The Lone Star Lonely Hearts Club, Night Of The Living Deb, and Too Pretty To Die. A sixth title, Say Yes to the Death, will be out in September 2015. McBride has another series with Avon that debuted in May 2014, the River Road Mysteries, starting with To Helen Back and followed by Mad as Helen (July 2014) and Not a Chance in Helen (September 2014).

Here McBride dreamcasts an adaptation of her young adult thriller, Very Bad Things:
Oh, how I would love to see what a director could do with Very Bad Things, considering the story unravels from three different character’s points of view, one of whom may be a killer. I’d vote for Chris Columbus to take it on as I think he did an amazing job with the first two Harry Potter films. Casting the movie would be a challenge as I haven’t really seen much TV or film in the past two or three years because of book deadlines and having a baby (now a full-fledged, tantrum-throwing toddler—yay!). But I did some sleuthing online and spied a few faces that might work.

This guy would make a perfect Mark Summers: Nicholas Hoult, the ex-boyfriend of Jennifer Lawrence. He might have to lighten his hair, but I read that he’s 6’ 3” so I could picture him as the hockey jock that steals Katie’s heart and was the last to see Rose Tatum alive.

As for Katie Barton…hmm, my first instinct is Shailene Woodley. Katie’s pretty, but not a great beauty. She loves poetry and she’s a little shy, but she’s way stronger than people think. Figuring out what happened to Rose and who did it definitely tests her mettle.

The character I’m finding hardest to cast is Tessa Lupinski. She’s Katie’s best friend—and no friend of Mark’s—and she’s small but mighty. She’s suffered a lot so she’s put up a wall around herself. Because of that, other students at Whitney Prep think she’s a bit of a bitch. Maybe Elizabeth Olsen could do the part justice, although she’d have to play down her looks.

Okay, I think that’s it. Now to sell the film rights!
Learn more about the book and author at Susan McBride's website.

The Page 69 Test: Little Black Dress.

Writers Read: Susan McBride.

The Page 69 Test: Very Bad Things.

--Marshal Zeringue