Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tamara Ellis Smith's "Another Kind of Hurricane"

Tamara Ellis Smith earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Richmond, Vermont, with her family.

Here Smith dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Another Kind of Hurricane:
I love color and shape, I love picture book illustrations, and I love movies – but I don't think in images at all. I think in words, and, more specifically in sounds and rhythms and energy. That said, I have definitely imagined Another Kind of Hurricane as a movie – Oh that would be so exciting! – but I have envisioned actors based on their energies more than anything. I love strong and quirky woven together. A few people have been in my mind from the get-go who bring that mix to their work.

I see Alfre Woodard as Ms. Cyn. I think I first saw her way back when in Passion Fish and have loved her ever since. She is fierce and funny, and has a sense of wisdom about her, a sense of knowing the truth of the matter.

I see Sam Rockwell as Jake. He is brilliant in Way Way Back – a bit of a smart-ass, disorganized and unwound like an empty spool attached to a pile of knotted thread. But really, deep down, he is solid in his beliefs and enormously big-hearted.

I imagine Chiwetel Ejiofer as Ben. I fell in love with him in Love Actually and will see anything he is in. He, too, is fierce and has an energy range that would allow him, I think, to dig into all of Ben's nuances.

I have always thought of Catherine Keener as Henry's mom, Eliza. I loved her in Walking and Talking, as well as Lovely and Amazing. She plays a great mom and she has a disheveled beauty, inside and out.

And Toni Collette would be fantastic as Wayne's mom, Annie. From the time I saw her in Muriel's Wedding I have been obsessed with her. She, like Catherine, plays a mean mom, and she just has this essence that is authentic and, for me anyway, mesmerizing. I adore her. Like Chiwetel, I actively seek Catherine and Toni out and will watch them in whatever I can find.

I've thought about some of the other main characters in Hurricane too. These took me a little longer to land on, but I can imagine Nimrat Kauer as Cora and Ariadne Gil as Margarita. I also see Jeffrey Wright as Tavius, Don Cheadle as Isaac and Jordan Peele as Skeet. What a dynamic trio!

Oddly, though, my two main characters have eluded me more than anyone else. I have gone around and around who could play Zavion and Henry, and truthfully, if Hurricane was really going to be made into a movie, and I had some say in who would get cast, I would ask that we go search for some unknown boys – kids that haven't necessarily done any TV work or movies, kids whose parents are not necessarily connected to the industry, but kids who have that certain energy. Probably kids who, in their actual lives, have experienced a tragedy or who have that unusual older-than-their-years feeling about them – like Alex Shaffer, who was brilliant in Win Win, but had never acted before. That said, if I had to pick right now I would probably pick Marcus Scribner to play Zavion. I like him in Blackish and I think he knows how to play obsessed and focused. And I'd probably pick Liam James to play Henry. He was in Way Way Back and pulls off awkward and inarticulate very well. Both boys have an off-the-beaten-path quality as well as a sense of depth, I think.
Visit Tamara Ellis Smith's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 28, 2015

Robert Masello's "The Einstein Prophecy"

Robert Masello is an award-winning journalist, television writer (Charmed, Sliders, Poltergeist: the Legacy) and the bestselling author of many novels and nonfiction books, including Blood and Ice, The Medusa Amulet, and The Romanov Cross. His most recent supernatural thriller, The Einstein Prophecy, occupied the # 1 slot in the Amazon Kindle story for much of July. He lives and works in Santa Monica, CA.

Here Masello dreamcasts an adaptation of The Einstein Prophecy:
At some point in every author’s life, he or she briefly dreams of what the book might look like as a movie, and who might be in it. I try not to focus on it, but since we’re dreaming here, if I were to cast the major roles in The Einstein Prophecy, I’d give some serious thought to the following.

For the role of Einstein, there’s a raft of veteran character actors (all of the ones who come to mind, interestingly enough, are from the UK) who might be wonderful in the role. In the book, set in 1945, Einstein is in his mid- 60s, so someone like Jonathan Pryce (who was so wonderful in Wolf Hall recently), or Gary Oldman (who can disappear into any role at all), or the venerable Derek Jacobi, whose face actually has much the right heft and shape to it.

For Lieutenant Lucas Athan, my hero . . . I’m drawing only one name – Michael Fassbender, also a protean actor -- who projects intelligence and intensity. Lucas is a wounded American war vet, who has returned to Princeton to teach art history, and then gets recruited by the OSS to decipher the meaning and importance of an ancient ossuary (a sort of sarcophagus) that has landed at the university for urgent study. This is a brilliant but tormented guy, with only eye left, and who has walled himself off from life in many ways.

For the heroine, Simone Rashid, I need an exotic beauty of half-English, half-Egyptian extraction. I wish I knew more Arabic actresses, but seeing as she is also half-English, I’d go with the beautiful Olivia Wilde. The character is a very determined and serious scholar of antiquity, strong and resourceful at every turn, with whom Lucas eventually falls in love.

Finally, when it comes to the director, I have two choices -- JJ Abrams, because he’s great at it and because this spooky material might really be up his alley. (Also, my young cousin works for his company, Bad Robot – which couldn’t hurt.) Or, if JJ’s too busy, I have a dark horse candidate – Mark Romanek, best known perhaps for his slew of stunning music videos, including my favorite, The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails. (If you haven’t seen it, watch it!) Also, he went to New Trier High School on the North Shore of Chicago; I went to its rival, Evanston Township. Together, we could create détente.
Learn more about the book and author at Robert Masello's website.

The Page 69 Test: Blood and Ice.

The Page 69 Test: The Medusa Amulet.

The Page 69 Test: The Einstein Prophecy.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

John Hagedorn's "The Insane Chicago Way"

John M. Hagedorn is professor of criminology, law, and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of People and Folks and A World of Gangs, coeditor of Female Gangs in America, and editor of Gangs in the Global City.

Here he and an associate dreamcast an adaptation of his latest book, The Insane Chicago Way: The Daring Plan by Chicago Gangs to Create a Spanish Mafia:
In$ane was the product of a unique collaboration between the author and an Outfit (Chicago’s mafia) solider, Sal Martino. Sal was the godfather of the C-Note$, the Outfit’s minor league team. Sal fondly called the five C-Note leaders he mentored, “Two Dagos, Two Spics, and a Hillbilly.” With Sal’s encouragement, the C-Note$ joined a secret “Spanish mafia,” Spanish Growth & Development, that had goals of controlling violence, organizing crime, and corrupting police. In$ane is a tragedy of how SGD rose and collapsed in a bloody “war of the families.” Since I’m not a movie buff, I asked Sal to write how he’d produce a movie base on the book. Here is what he wrote:
The film would open in 1989, focusing on five guys, Dominick, Sammy, Joey Bags, Mo-Mo, and Lucky, as they grow up in and around an area known as “The Patch,” in Chicago’s Little Italy.

Mo-Mo (Freddy Rodriguez) is a college student by day and a gangster by night, Joey Bags (Benjamin Bratt) is a high ranking old school gang member with ties to organized crime; Lucky (Stephen Dorph) and Sammy (Scott Caan) are currently incarcerated; Dominick (Jason Cerbone) is a section leader with family ties to organized crime. The film would offer a keen insight on the ties between gang violence, drugs, sex, and their ties to organized crime.

Mo-Mo has a young girlfriend Mercedes (Elisha Cuthbert) and is being recruited by the Chicago Outfit’s Grand Avenue Crew, but needs to run his own gang faction of the C-note$. Joey Bags is about to graduate from the gang to become an associate of the Grand Avenue Crew. Joey Bags has a girlfriend, Ala (Maria Bello). Tension exists between the two because he wants to have more than a sexual relationship with Ala, who resists the idea because of her ongoing relationship with a corrupt cop.

Mo-Mo is torn by his desire to be a success and live up to his family’s expectations and the pull of peer pressure to be more involved in the local organized crime culture with his new mentor Sal Martino (Andy Garcia).
Learn more about The Insane Chicago Way at the University of Chicago Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Shannon Grogan's "From Where I Watch You"

Shannon Grogan is a 2nd grade teacher who writes at night, and at Starbucks or the library while her kids are at ballet and baseball, in a tiny logging town east of Seattle, WA. She holds degrees in education and graphic design/illustration. When she isn’t writing or teaching, she likes baking (gluten-free), shopping at Target, losing to her kids at Skip Bo or Apples to Apples, camping, or wishing she was on a beach. But usually she’s reading, or watching scary movies like Jaws, or reality TV like Cake Boss or Long Island Medium.

Here Grogan shares some ideas about adapting her new YA thriller, From Where I Watch You, for the big screen:
This is easy. If they made my book into a film, I'd love two totally unknown actors to play the lead roles. I definitely have a visual image for my characters, and they don’t look like anyone I know or have seen in real life. Well, except Charlie—he has hair like Josh Duhamel.

I think Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, if they were younger, could play the characters, but they kind of have a famous movie together. (The Notebook!)

As for directors, David Lynch (Twin Peaks). We were born in the same town, Missoula, Montana, so, you know…

Of course if he were still around, Alfred Hitchcock. A girl can dream, can’t she?
Visit Shannon Grogan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 24, 2015

Nicole Galland's "Stepdog"

Nicole Galland's novels include The Fool's Tale; Revenge of the Rose; Crossed; I, Iago; and Godiva. She is married to actor Billy Meleady and owns Leuco, a dog of splendid qualities.

Here Galland dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Stepdog:
Well naturally, I think my own dog (who inspired the novel) should play the title role of the Stepdog, Cody, even though she’s the wrong breed, because she is the sweetest, gentlest, best-behaved, smartest, most photogenic dog in the world. Not that I’m biased.

The story is a sort of romantic bow-tie between the narrator (an Irish actor/musician), his bride, her dog and her ex. A frequent and very flattering comment I’ve been hearing from folks about Stepdog is that there is something Nick-Hornby-ish in the tone of the book, which thrills me as I’m a big Hornby fan. Since the movie About A Boy is my favorite adaptation of anything in the Hornby canon, I’d opt for its directors, the Weitz brothers, to direct Stepdog.

I’m going to skip commenting on how I would cast the antagonist, since describing his appearance would be a spoiler alert for the reader.

That leaves the male and female leads. In my mind’s eye Sara, the love interest and dog-owner, looks a lot like the French actress Audrey Tautou, but with an energy more like Jennifer Garner’s. Because the premise of Stepdog is autobiographical, this character is ‘based on’ me, and I have a hard time imagining myself on film (part of why I gave up acting).

I blush to disclose that my ideal actor to play Rory is…wait for it… a cartoon character. Walt Disney has an animated version of Robin Hood, and as a child, oh my goodness, I had such a huge crush on the red fox playing Robin Hood. If one could make him Irish instead of English, and replace the archery bow with a fiddle bow…sigh…oh, yeah… that’s my hero!
Visit Nicole Galland's website.

The Page 69 Test: Stepdog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Douglas Corleone's "Gone Cold"

Douglas Corleone is the author of contemporary crime novels and international thrillers. His debut novel One Man's Paradise was a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award.

Corleone’s highly acclaimed international thriller Good As Gone introduced former U.S. Marshal Simon Fisk, and was followed by Payoff, which Booklist called “a lean, mean, pedal-to-the-metal thriller.”

Here Corleone dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Gone Cold:
Remember Jaguar’s 2014 Super Bowl ad featuring “British villains” Sir Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston, and Mark Strong? That’s the tone I wanted to set for Gone Cold, the third international thriller to feature former US Marshal Simon Fisk. In Gone Cold, Simon returns to his birthplace, the United Kingdom, to discover what happened to his daughter Hailey, who was abducted twelve years earlier from the Fisk family home in Washington, DC. As mentioned in a previous MBTM blog post, my Simon Fisk is dream-played by action star Jason Statham.

Simon’s father, who makes his first on-page appearance in Gone Cold, would be played by Sir Ben Kingsley, while Terence Stamp, Clive Owen, Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, and Elizabeth Hurley round out the cast. Are British villains cooler than American villains? I don’t know about real life, but in fiction, you bet. And as James Bond and Simon Fisk prove, their good guys can be pretty badass too.
Learn more about the book and author at Douglas Corleone's website.

The Page 69 Test: Good as Gone.

My Book, The Movie: Payoff.

The Page 69 Test: Gone Cold.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 21, 2015

Stephen Emond's "Bright Lights, Dark Nights"

Stephen Emond is the creator of the Emo Boy comic series, two illustrated young adult novels, Happyface and Winter Town, and Steverino, a comic strip that ran in his local Connecticut newspaper.

Here Emond shares some ideas about casting an adaptation of his new novel, Bright Lights, Dark Nights:
Casting a movie for Bright Lights would be so difficult! I’m drawing a blank on who could play Walter. It feels like there’s a definite “type” for the white, awkward male lead. Freddie Highmore, Logan Lerman, etc. There was a guy, Jack Carpenter that we talked to when working on an Emo Boy movie that would be good if he isn’t too old. Maybe even Nick Jonas? For Naomi, I see people on TV all the time that would fit but I can’t think of their names! Vanessa Morgan is one. There’s a singer named Justine Skye that would be great. A young Nia Long or Janet Jackson? Jason Mills I did picture someone for, the rapper Tyler the Creator. Likewise I imagined Dean Norris (“Uncle Hank” from Breaking Bad) when I wrote Walter’s father. For Lester, maybe John Boyega, soon to be of Star Wars fame?

For the soundtrack, I’d go for a combo of Jon Brion, Tyler the Creator, and Babyface.
Visit Stephen Emond's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bright Lights, Dark Nights.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Bill Crider's "Between the Living and the Dead"

Bill Crider is the winner of two Anthony Awards and an Edgar Award finalist. An English college professor for many years, he’s published more than seventy-five crime, Western, and horror novels, as well as a number of children’s books.

Here Crider shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of his latest novel, Between the Living and the Dead:
Between the Living and the Dead is the 22nd book in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, and over the years I’ve fantasized about which actors I’d like to see play the sheriff. For a while I had James Garner in mind, but time went by and Garner aged and died. Then I thought about Tom Selleck, but he’s doing a couple of TV series and probably wouldn’t be available. Besides, the sheriff doesn’t have a mustache. At the moment, my choice is Dennis Quaid. He’s about the right age, and he has the right look. Also, he’s a Texan and wouldn’t have any problem with the accent. As for Seepy Benton, who’s starting to insist that he’s the real hero of the books, I’m thinking Patton Oswalt, although Seepy is holding out for Ryan Gosling or Chris Pratt.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Crider's website and blog.

Read the Page 69 Test entries for Crider's A Mammoth Murder, Murder Among the OWLS, Of All Sad Words, Murder in Four Parts, Murder in the Air, The Wild Hog Murders, Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen, Compound Murder, and Half in Love with Artful Death.

The Page 69 Test: Between the Living and the Dead.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jonathan Freedland's "The 3rd Woman"

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, a number one bestselling author, and a broadcaster. He is the Guardian's executive editor for Opinion and also writes a weekly column. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, and presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series The Long View. In 2014 he won the Orwell special prize for journalism.

Here Freedland dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The 3rd Woman:
Of course, I would say this – but I reckon any director would love to be handed the task of turning The 3rd Woman into a movie. I’d like to think that’s because it's a gripping story full of twists and turns, with a compelling central character. But, if I'm honest, what would surely prove irresistible to a moviemaker is something much more straightforward: the setting.

The 3rd Woman is set in a Los Angeles – and an America – that is a lot like today’s, but with a crucial difference. This America is getting used to the fact that it is no longer number one on the planet, having lost its place as the global superpower to China. In this LA, the slang, the food, the calendar, even the air people breathe is different. There are Mao-themed restaurants. Everyone covers their faces to keep out the smog. In late January, red lanterns hang from the trees to mark the Chinese new year. And looming over the city is a vast, secretive Chinese military base.

I suspect an imaginative director – whether Ridley Scott or Danny Boyle – could have great fun creating this new, subtly different LA. They needn’t go full Bladerunner. At first glance this city would look like the Los Angeles we all know. Only on closer inspection would it reveal itself as ever so slightly changed - if not warped.

What about the cast? At the centre of The 3rd Woman is Madison Webb, a dogged investigative reporter whose skill in the professional realm is matched only by the chaos in the personal one. She’s a brilliant and resourceful journalist, but a pretty hopeless girlfriend, daughter and sister. She’s also a chronic insomniac, kept awake by something she – and we – don’t quite understand (not at first, anyway). When her own younger sister, Abigail, is suddenly found dead, apparently from a drug overdose, Maddy refuses to accept the official version spun by the police and the city authorities. She deploys all her talent and persistence to get to the truth.

I would love to see Jessica Chastain in this role, though technically she’s a little older than Maddy who’s just turned 30. She conveys the intelligence, the inner strength, that I think define Madison. Younger, and also plausible, would be Emma Stone.

For Quincy Webb, Maddy’s older, bossy sister, I can see Jennifer Garner doing it – especially alongside Chastain. (The two women could pass for sisters.) And Alicia Vikander would be magnificent as the ghostly presence of murdered Abigail in any flashback scenes.

As for the Webb mother, an important part, Julianne Moore is surely too young (though the right colouring to be related to Chastain.) A cameo for Meryl Streep, perhaps?

Leo Harris is Madison’s ex-boyfriend and the political magician who serves as aide to the LA mayor seeking to become governor of California. Jake Gyllenhaal looks the part and could carry off that coolly cynical exterior. But Michael Fassbender would be intriguing too.

The mayor himself – cunning and charismatic – would be a meaty role for John Slattery, whose silvery mischief was such a delight as Mad Men's Roger Sterling.

Now that I think about it, I can almost see this movie already. Can someone get Mr Scott on the phone?
Visit Jonathan Freedland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Susan Campbell Bartoletti's "Terrible Typhoid Mary"

Susan Campbell Bartoletti is the award-winning author of several books for young readers, including Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845–1850, winner of the Robert F. Sibert Medal.

Here Bartoletti dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America:
If Terrible Typhoid Mary were to become a movie, I envision a musical. Its pitch line would be “Typhoid Mary meets My Fair Lady.”

The film would depict an arrogant, misogynist epidemiologist who wishes to transform a quiet, diligent Irish cook into a respectable lady so that she can become presentable in society and make her way in the world -- just as the phonetics professor Henry Higgins tried to do with Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and later the popular musical My Fair Lady.

Like Higgins, George Soper saw only dirt when he first meets Mary. He wants to fix her, give her a new identity, and like Higgins, it’s for his own gain. Soper initially uses “talk therapy,” thinking if he can just convince Mary that she’s a healthy carrier, that if he can just explain the facts of germ theory to her, he will be able to convince her to give up her gall bladder. Similarly, Higgins also employs talk therapy with Eliza Doolittle, attempting to change her Cockney accent into "acceptable" speech.

The desire to transform - sculpt - those we perceive as "other" is centuries old. Indeed, the story of Pygmalion dates back to Ovid's narrative poem Metamorphoses. For example, this desire shows up in other stories such as "Pinocchio", Pretty Woman, and even The Stepford Wives.

However, there is a significant difference between Higgins and Soper: Higgins had high expectations for Eliza Doolittle and eventually grows to care for her; Soper can’t get beyond his low opinion of Mary. To Soper, Mary is – and will always be – a “fallen woman.”

In psychology, there’s something called the “Pygmalion Effect”: the greater the expectation you have of someone, the better that person performs. Inversely, the lower the expectation, the lower the performance. This latter expectation is called the “Golem effect.” In postmodern theory, we call it the Lacanian mirror.

So whom would I cast in this musical? As serious as the story of Terrible Typhoid Mary is, I’d cast comedic actors in the roles. (Mind you, I don’t know if these people can sing, but most of Audrey Hepburn’s singing in My Fair Lady was dubbed by Mami Nixon, according to IMDb.) Before you balk at this choice, consider how effective Will Ferrell was in Stranger than Fiction and Steve Carell as the sick and twisted du Pont in Foxcatcher.

In the role of 38-year-old Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, I’d cast Tina Fey. I can imagine Tina Fey as the strong-jawed, determined Mallon who was immensely proud of her work and the wealthy families for whom she worked. Mallon was not afraid to stand up for herself.

Some called Mary Mallon “intelligent” but “non-communicative.” They said she had a “violent temper” and could silence a person “with a glare,” and who “walk[ed] more like a man than a woman.” When Soper (and later Josephine Baker) confronted Mallon with the possibility that her body harbored deadly bacteria, she attacked her accusers with a carving fork. If Fey doesn’t have the physical comedy chops to pull off this scene, we’ll use a stunt double.

I’d cast Stephen Colbert as George Soper, the arrogant bookish man responsible for identifying Mary as a healthy carrier. I view Soper as a Henry Higgins sort of fellow, a man who wants fame and prestige– and who has clear ideas about class, gender roles, and how a respectable woman should act. Colbert could pull this off in a song-and-dance number.

Dr. S. Josephine Baker was the tiny woman responsible for the successful arrest of Mary Mallon. Baker wore man-tailored suits and shirts and stiff collars and ties so that her male colleagues took her seriously.

In Baker, Mary had met her match. Once the four policemen got Mary into the ambulance wagon, Baker pinned her down, sitting on the kicking and screaming Mallon all the way to the hospital. Baker had once slugged a drunken man who had thrown scalding water on his pregnant wife. I’d cast 5’ 2’ Amy Poehler as Dr. Josephine Baker.

Admittedly, this is a 180-degree spin on a very serious story. I also confess that I didn’t think about these actors as I wrote Terrible Typhoid Mary. But I did think a great deal about the similarities between Henry Higgins and George Soper.
Visit Susan Campbell Bartoletti's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lisa Moses Leff's "The Archive Thief"

Lisa Moses Leff is a history professor at American University in Washington, D.C. and author of the recent history book, The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust.

Here Leff dreamcasts an adaptation of the new book:
The Archive Thief is about a Jewish historian named Zosa Szajkowski (Shy-KOV-ski) who stole tens of thousands of documents from the archives in France between 1940 (during World War II) and 1961 (when he was caught red-handed). What interested Szajkowski in the archives was anything that could be used for writing the history of the Jews of Europe— government documents, synagogue records, Jewish charity organization record books, you name it. Some of the stuff dated back to the 18th century, most of it was from the 19th and 20th century. He took all his booty back to the U.S., where he used it as evidence in his books and articles, and when he was done, he sold the documents off to American Jewish research libraries, which still have them today.

Ever since I started writing this book, people have asked me who would play Szajkowski in a future movie version. It’s a strange question for an academic to consider, but this isn’t your typical academic book. Szajkowski’s a fascinating character and the story is full of drama— so perhaps a movie adaptation will indeed be in the cards. I’ve certainly given the casting enough thought! The bulk of the action takes place before and during World War II, when Szajkowski served as a soldier first in the French Foreign Legion and then later, for the U.S. Army.

--For Szajkowski: Joaquin Phoenix. Szajkowski was both a tough guy and an intellectual— self-made, determined, and smart. He was emotionally strong, solid to the point of being hard. He saw firsthand the destruction of his family and his people and had the wherewithal to act decisively when he needed to, both to save himself and to help his people. Later, though, after the war, he showed signs of psychological damage. But he was still hard, a criminal hiding a shameful secret. Phoenix can play a hero, but also a rogue, and his strength of character comes through in every role he plays.

--For Ilusha and Riva Tcherikower: Liam Neeson and Susan Sarandon. Ilusha and Riva were a generation older than Szajkowski, and the closest thing he had to family once his siblings and parents were killed in World War II. They were childhood sweethearts in Russia who had lived through revolution and some of the worst anti-Semitic atrocities in history. They faced life as intellectuals devoted to their people and when Szajkowski met them in the 1930s, they were in their 50s already (he was only in his 20s) and they inspired him to care about history and see it as the best way to defend and protect the Jews. After Ilusha died in 1943, Szajkowski and Riva became even closer- their correspondence from World War II has the intimacy of a mother and son.

Neeson is perfect in the role of an engaged intellectual— and Sarandon’s warmth and flirtatiousness is exactly what Riva exuded in her correspondence with Szajkowski.
Learn more about The Archive Thief at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

James Abel's "Protocol Zero"

James Abel is the pseudonym for Bob Reiss, an accomplished author and journalist who has written extensively on the Arctic. He lives and works in New York City.

Here he shares some insights about adapting his latest novel, Protocol Zero, for the big screen:
I certainly would love for Protocol Zero to be a movie, but I don't really envision one actor or another in the part of Joe Rush. I think that's because the best actors always surprise us with their range. Once I sold a novel to Paramount because Jodie Foster wanted to play the lead. Unfortunately, the script was so late in coming in that Foster went on to other things, I was told. But the fascinating thing for me was that she'd wanted to play a part I wrote for a man. And she would have been perfect. That part was about strength through loneliness.

Joe Rush, my Marine doctor and bio-terror expert in Protocol Zero, is a strong, moral person but also someone who can't stop once he starts after something. Drive is his talent but also his flaw. Intelligence and bravery are his weapons but they backfire too. He'll put friends and loved ones at risk. He understands the horrible trade-offs, yet can't stop. You'd want to spend time with Joe, but you might pay for it. Any fine actor who projects intelligence, drive and comfort in solitude would make a good Joe Rush.
Visit James Abel's website.

The Page 69 Test: Protocol Zero.

Writers Read: James Abel.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 10, 2015

David Hofmeyr's "Stone Rider"

David Hofmeyr was born in South Africa and lives in London and Paris. In 2012 he was a finalist in the SCBWI Undiscovered Voices competition, and in 2013 he graduated with distinction from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People. He works as a Planner for Ogilvy & Mather in the UK.

Here Hofmeyr dreamcasts an adaptation of Stone Rider, his first novel:
I’m thrilled to say Working Title films have bought the option to make the film and they have already drafted in Dave Andron of Justified fame to pen the script.

If you’d have asked me to pick a screenwriter, I couldn’t have made a better choice. I love his writing. His dialogue is superb and he knows how to deliver a superb villain.

In terms of casting, it’s more difficult, because with YA books to film you’re often dealing with unknowns or kids with one or two films under their belt. But for the male characters I liked Theo James in Divergent. He’d be closest to my mysterious character, Kane. And I thought Brenton Thwaites was excellent in The Giver. He’d be perfect for the protagonist in Stone Rider, Adam Stone. As for my main female character, Sadie Blood I’d say some young, good-looking girl with attitude. I like the look of Zoey Deutch. Someone like that.

And when it comes to the director, I’d pick Clint Eastwood every day of the week, but if Quentin Tarantino is game then I’m all for it. Someone who directs like a modern Sergio Leone would be pretty damn cool too.
Visit David Hofmeyr's website.

Stone Rider is one of Rachel Paxton-Gillilan's five YA books for Mad Max fans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Sara Nickerson's "The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me"

Sara Nickerson began her professional writing career working in television and film. Her second novel, The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me, was inspired by her very first job: picking berries on a small blueberry farm in the Pacific Northwest. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons, two cats and one brave Chihuahau.

Here Nickerson shares some ideas about adapting The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me for the big screen:
I come from a TV/Film background, so you’d think this would be easy. My first novel, How To Disappear Completely and Never Be Found, was a story I’d originally written as a screenplay, and I was always casting it in my head. This one, though, was different, and I couldn’t quite envision it on the big screen. Then, a couple months ago I was walking my dog and it came to me: Hayao Miyazaki.

In Miyazaki’s hands, The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me would be a magically animated film. The novel does have several magical elements, but they are very much grounded in reality. Miyazaki’s film would take away that grounding and set all that glorious magic free. The plants would really talk. We could go inside the world of those purposeful marching bugs. Every trip to the wooden outhouse would involve a battle scene between the kids and the giant swarming flies. The hidden Little Field would be a vision of luscious color and magical creatures. Even the feuding farmers would have a slightly different edge – human and familiar, yet somehow from an alternate world. And when Missy, the main character, puts on her 3-D glasses, well – how perfect would that be?
Visit Sara Nickerson's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Sara Nickerson & Pico.

The Page 69 Test: The Secrets of Blueberries, Brothers, Moose & Me.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Maggie Mitchell's "Pretty Is"

Maggie Mitchell has published short fiction in a number of literary magazines, including the New Ohio Review, American Literary Review, and Green Mountains Review. Her story "It Would Be Different If" is included in the Bedford Introduction to Literature. She teaches English and creative writing at the University of West Georgia.

Here Mitchell dreamcasts an adaptation of Pretty Is, her first novel:
How irresistible, to envision the main characters of Pretty Is embodied by actors I admire! It seems particularly, inevitably apt, moreover, because the novel is in fact partly about the process of adapting a novel to the screen. Pretty Is tells the story of two girls who are abducted and held captive for six weeks when they are twelve; years later, when both are twenty-nine, their lives intersect again. One, Lois, has become an English professor (and, secretly, a novelist); the other, Chloe, is an actress whose movie career is slipping. The situation is complicated by the fact that Lois has written a novel loosely based on the abduction which is actually being made into a movie--so in fact the question of casting is explicitly addressed in the fictional realm, and it makes a strange kind of sense to take this improbable process one step further.

I think Jennifer Lawrence would make a perfect Chloe. (Since this is a fantasy, I feel free to ignore practical issues like availability, and the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is probably already committed for the next three years or more.) She is beautiful, certainly, but also possesses the kind of girl-next-door prettiness that Chloe despairs of and fears relegates her to the screen rather than the stage. More importantly, she has a sense of humor and something of Chloe’s brashness, and she’s more than capable of matching Chloe’s occasional vulgarity. (If you cross her characters from Winter’s Bone, American Hustle, and Silver Linings Playbook, I think you get a slightly younger version of Chloe.)

Carey Mulligan would be a good Lois: she’s petite and a bit elfin, and therefore a good physical match; but she also projects a quiet intensity and seriousness that would be perfect for my secretive professor. She can do an excellent American accent, but if an occasional hint of Britishness slipped through, it wouldn’t be out of character for a scholar of eighteenth-century British literature (notorious anglophiles, generally speaking). Lois’s sanity is in question for part of the novel, and I’d love to see Mulligan go a bit dark. (Literally: she’d have to dye her hair dark brown for the role. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind!)

The toughest character, for me, is Zed, who’s almost a movie cliché: tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, charming but dangerous…. And here I am going to go out on a limb and tap Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick on The Walking Dead. Another Brit, though you’d never guess it on the show, he’s equal parts volatile and laconic, charming and unnerving; he’s handsome but he has the necessary edge.

The younger girls should be played by unknowns, of course, as they are in the novel.
Visit Maggie Mitchell's Facebook page and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Lou Anders's "Nightborn"

Lou Anders drew on a recent visit to Norway, along with his adventures traveling across Europe in his teens and twenties, to write Frostborn and Nightborn, combining those experiences with his love of globe-trotting adventure fiction and games (both tabletop and role-playing). However, he has yet to ride a wyvern. With the addition of characters Desstra and Tanthal, Anders hopes that his second book in the Thrones and Bones series will continue to appeal to boys and girls equally. He is the recipient of a Hugo Award for editing and a Chesley Award for art direction. He has published over five hundred articles and stories on science fiction and fantasy television and literature.

Here Anders dreamcasts an adaptation of Nightborn:
When I write a book, I tend to think of the main characters as if I were casting a film. Sometimes I’ll have more than one actor in mind, using two or three to triangulate a type. I write in Scrivener, so it’s easy to snag photos and have them open when I need to remind myself of the sort of person I’m penning.

For the Thrones and Bones series, I had a number of people in mind for my major characters.

For Karn Korlundsson, a young farm boy in the Norse-inspired land of Norrøngard, I imagined Nathan O’Toole, who played the part of Bjorn Ironside on the first two seasons of Vikings. For Thianna Frostborn, the half-giant girl, I imagined what Lucy Lawless might have been like as a seven-foot-tall twelve-year-old. For the villain Sydia, I envisioned Skyfall’s Tonia Sotiropoulou, maybe mixed with a hint of Charlize Theron or Nicole Kidman. And for the great dragon Orm, the largest of all linnorms, I envisioned none other than David Bowie. In fact, I found old interview footage from early in Bowie’s career, and I studied how he coolly deflected the often-snide comments of older interviewers. Before starting each scene with the dragon, I would watch these to get the tone down, merging them with my memories of his performance as Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth.
Visit the official Thrones & Bones website, Lou Anders's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Nightborn.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Benjamin Johncock's "The Last Pilot"

Benjamin Johncock was born in England in 1978. His short stories have been published by The Fiction Desk and The Junket. He is the recipient of an Arts Council England grant and the American Literary Merit Award, and is a winner of Comma Press's National Short Story Day competition. He also writes for the Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife, his daughter, and his son.

Here Johncock dreamcasts an adaptation of his newly released first novel, The Last Pilot:
This is a tough one. I usually prefer to let readers form their own images and impressions… but, who can resist the fun of a game like this? Well, not me. I love the movies.

Let’s start with Harrison Ford, circa 1981 for Jim. I’ve also been mesmerized by Matthew Goode, an actor who can say nothing but convey everything. Matthew Goode is the scene. He’s a master. We were at the University of Birmingham together too, though our paths never crossed. Robert Bernstein, who produced the 2008 adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, said that Goode won the role of Ryder because of his wonderful stillness: “The sign of a truly great actor is not what he says but what he appears to say when the camera is on him, and Matthew has that.” It’s the same quality I see in Jon Hamm, although sadly he’s too old now to play Jim. Matthew Goode may be perfect.

For Grace, perhaps Carey Mulligan, who I love.

I have no idea who could take on Pancho.

Directors… where to begin? I’d love to see what the following would do with The Last Pilot: Alfonso Cuarón, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Kathryn Bigelow, Steven Spielberg, Jeff Nichols, Cary Fukunaga, Steven Soderbergh, Jane Campion, the Coen Brothers, Tom Hanks, JJ Abrams. I’d also love to see what Quentin Tarantino would do, playing it straight with someone else’s material, in the same way as he did with Jackie Brown. A Matthew Weiner take on The Last Pilot could be very special too - I’m a huge fan of his writing and direction on Mad Men.
Visit Benjamin Johncock's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Pilot.

Writers Read: Benjamin Johncock.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Justin Gifford's "Street Poison"

Justin Gifford is an Associate Professor of English Literature at the University of Nevada, Reno. His teaching and research focus on American and African American literature. His book, the first literary and cultural history of black street fiction, Pimping Fictions: African American Crime Literature and the Untold Story of Black Pulp Publishing, was a finalist for both the Edgar Allan Poe award for literary criticism and Phi Beta Kappa’s Christian Gauss Award for scholarship.

Here Gifford dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim:
When I began to contemplate the film version of Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim, a number of clear choices emerged for lead actor as well as director of the film. Street Poison is the remarkable true story of Robert “Iceberg Slim” Beck, a notorious criminal who pimped on the streets of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and many other American cities for twenty-five years. He served five bits in prison during this period, including a two-year term at the infamous Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary and a brief stint at the Chicago House of Corrections (he escaped from that prison in 1947). In 1962, Beck went straight and moved to California to be with his ailing mother. He published his autobiography Pimp: The Story of My Life and a handful of other streetwise crime novels with a third-tier paperback publisher, and in the process, he transformed himself from pimp to author. By the time of his death on the day of the Rodney King riots in 1992, Beck had sold over six million books, and his work had inspired the creation of blaxploitation film, gangster rap, and street literature.

When I began this book ten years ago I had always envisioned Samuel Jackson as the perfect person to play Beck. His roles as Elijah Price in Unbreakable, Neville Flynn in Snakes on a Plane, and especially Jules Winnfeld in Pulp Fiction had established Jackson as the Hollywood badass. However, Beck was more than just an icy sneer and a collection of one-liners like, “Yes, they deserve to die, and I hope they burn in hell!” Beck was a combination of coiled sexuality, vulnerability, calculated violence, cutting-edge style, and verbal muscle. It is for this reason that the black James Bond, Idris Elba is the best choice to play Beck. His roles as John Luther in the brilliant detective drama Luther and the coldblooded Stringer Bell in the series The Wire show that Elba has both the heat and the range to play America’s most infamous renegade pimp.

My pick for director of Street Poison would have to be Quentin Tarantino. With a resume that includes Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained, Tarantino has proven time and time again that he can tell stories of extreme violence and barely likeable anti-heroes with humor, grit, and an ear for clever dialogue. But although Tarantino is often criticized for his excessive use of the N-word in his scripts, even he might meet his match with Street Poison. Beck’s world is a world of pimps and prostitutes, prison cells, and underworld schemes; terms like the N-word, b!&$h, c*@t, and motherf^&+er appear regularly. This language (along with the specialized street slang used by the seasoned pimps) reflects the harsh ghetto environment from which Beck came, and the persistence today of racism, poverty, and police brutality in America helps explain why his works have had such a powerful impact on black comedy, gangster rap, and contemporary African American fiction. Whether or not any director could artfully represent the brutal and colorful realities of Beck’s life and times remains to be seen. In the meantime, readers who pick up Street Poison can experience the life of one of the most important African American writers in history and learn how he shaped contemporary culture from America’s shadows.
Learn more about Street Poison at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Judy Brown's "This Is Not a Love Story: A Memoir"

Judy Brown wrote the controversial novel Hush--a finalist for the 2011 Sydney Taylor Award for outstanding book on the Jewish experience--under a pseudonym because of feared backlash from the Chassidic world. Brown's identity has since been revealed and she has left Chassidism. She has been profiled in The New York Times Magazine and has written for the Huffington Post and the Jewish Daily Forward. She holds a master's in creative writing and lives in New York City.

Here Brown explains why an adaptation of her new memoir, This Is Not a Love Story, may not be in cinemas very soon:
Having grown up in ultra-orthodox Jewish community where movies, TV and any medium connecting one to the mainstream cultural world was forbidden, I do not know enough to fantasize about who would theoretically play the characters of my book should Hollywood come calling. I am sure there are many talented actors and actresses who could play the parts of the various Chassidim that fill my story. They would have to learn the cultural dialect of Yinglesh (a combination of English and Yiddish which is the language of that world), and adapt themselves to wearing many layers of clothing. This I suppose is a good enough reason for Hollywood not to come calling.
Visit Judy Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue