Thursday, June 4, 2015

Christopher Brookmyre's "Dead Girl Walking"

Christopher Brookmyre is one of Britain's leading crime novelists. He has won many awards for his work, including the Critics' First Blood Award, the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, and the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Award. He has worked as a journalist for several British newspapers and is the author of many novels, including One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night, Quite Ugly One Morning, Not the End of the World, and Bred in the Bone.

Here Brookmyre shares some ideas for a big-screen adaptation of his latest novel, Dead Girl Walking:
The first thing to remark about the movie of Dead Girl Walking is that it would be a feast for the eyes due to the richness of its locations. From the picturesque wilds of remote Scottish islands to the glamour and majesty of several European capitals, not to mention chase sequences and acrobatic escapes inside Berlin’s Hauptbanhof and the Reichstag itself, it would be a cinematographer’s playground.

It is about the sudden disappearance of singer Heike Gunn on the last night of her band Savage Earth Heart’s European tour, just as global stardom appears to be within her grasp. The story is told partly through the tour blog of fiddler Monica Halcrow, the band’s talented but naïve new recruit; and partly via journalist Jack Parlabane, who has been asked to investigate by Savage Earth Heart’s manager when her own inquiries run up against the rock-band omerta of “what happens on tour, stays on tour”.

My ideal director for the movie would be Stephen Herek, principally because he directed my favourite music movie, the inexplicably underrated Rock Star. It featured Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston in the story of what happens when a tribute-act singer replaces his hero and starts living the dream as the frontman of Steel Dragon.

Musically it might seem a long way between an Eighties hair metal supergroup on a US arena tour and a Scottish alt-folk indie band playing clubs and theatres, but Herek handled a lot of similar themes and conflicts with the perfect blend of humanity, empathy, humour and pathos. He also knows how to convey what it feels like to be excited about both being a fan and being the person up on stage.

Both stories in their own different ways are about the long journey from ambition and obscurity to the world stage, and the question of whether it was what you really wanted, or what you thought you wanted; what compromises and betrayals you needed to make in order to get there; what the world now expects of you, and the life you have carved out for yourself. They are both about the joy of playing music with friends, of the intimate relationships necessary to writing songs, and the tensions and jealousies that inevitably creep in when success comes along, particularly because success seldom visits us all equally.

As well as a feast for the eyes, it would be a feast for the ears too, as a movie like this would need a killer soundtrack. Since the novel’s publication earlier this year, I have often been asked what Savage Earth Heart would sound like. The shorthand version is to say that if you listen to the song “Heart is Hard to Find” by Jimmy Eat World and imagine it being sung by Karine Polwart, you’d be pretty close to what I imagined in my own head while writing it.

But as I’m in the realm of the ideal here, the movie would be able to go further and recruit the likes of Jim Adkins and Karine Polwart to write songs especially – maybe even together – to bring the band’s sound to life. I’d also throw Billy McCarthy into the writing mix, and I’d make the cast go see his band Augustines play a show in order to witness an incomparable example of what a joyous and emotionally exhausting experience every live performance ought to be.
Visit Christopher Brookmyre's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bred in the Bone.

--Marshal Zeringue