Saturday, July 30, 2016

Gareth Dale's "Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left"

Gareth Dale is senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Brunel University, London. His books include Karl Polanyi: The Limits of the Market (2010), Karl Polanyi: The Hungarian Writings (2016), and Green Growth: Ideology, Political Economy, and the Alternatives (2016).

Here Dale shares some ideas about the above-the-line talent for an adaptation of his latest book, Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left:
In Karl Polanyi: A Life on the Left I explore the history and contradictions of a political current, left social democracy, through the biography of one of its most distinguished voices. As genre, tragic drama or tragicomedy would fit the bill, for this was a battle of idealism against brute structures of power. Valiantly, as individuals and in organized bodies, the socialists aimed to vanquish and overcome capitalism but in the process found themselves sucked in or suborned; the red flag ended up on the mantelpiece if not the fire.

What director understands this history better than Ken Loach? His nose for amateur talent could lead him to cast Jeremy Corbyn in the lead role. In outlook and temperament the (current) British Labour Party leader resembles Polanyi more closely than any prominent individual. On second thoughts, Polanyi’s role demands a skilled ironist. His character was maverick and richly wrinkled. He was a Christian who never worshipped God, a modernist who immersed himself in study of the ancient world, and an ardent supporter of the peasant’s cause who chose only to inhabit sprawling cities. He was in love with a Bolshevik while spurning Bolshevism, a life-long social democrat who disparaged the social-democratic orthodoxy, and a liberal who charged classical liberalism with full responsibility for the collapse of its dreams. He was a humanist and yet a staunch defender of Stalin’s regime in Russia. In his correspondence he can appear moralistic, even straitlaced, but he was an eager reader of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and his favourite Shakespeare poem was the unreservedly lustful Sonnet 129.

Polanyi wrote brilliantly—in The Yale Review—on Hamlet, his most cherished Shakespeare play. It would be appropriate if he were played by one of the best ever Hamlets, Mark Rylance. Beyond their common passion for Shakespearian tragedies, Rylance shares Polanyi’s socialist convictions. He excels at conveying paradoxical characters in a deeply human way and at playing tragedy with understatement and twinkling irony. Polanyi’s wife, Ilona Duczynska, should be played by an actor who is equally at ease reflecting on Clausewitz or reloading a Kalashnikov. Saffron Burrows was as if born to play Ilona.
Learn more about Karl Polanyi at the Columbia University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Karl Polanyi.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai's "Northern Character"

Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai is Assistant Professor of history at Angelo State University. He is co-editor (with Lorien Foote) of So Conceived and So Dedicated: Intellectual Life in the Civil War–Era North.

He Wongsrichanalai dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Northern Character: College-Educated New Englanders, Honor, Nationalism, and Leadership in the Civil War Era:
There’s certainly a good deal of drama in Northern Character as young men wrestled with decisions about how to behave consistent with an ideal that they’ve internalized. The fights between young men who felt compelled to volunteer in the Union Army and their parents could be quite emotional. Not to mention the horrific scenes of the battlefield where many of these elites felt compelled to test themselves in the heat of combat.

Some of the individuals mentioned in Northern Character have already been portrayed in several films. Matthew Broderick played Robert Gould Shaw in Glory and Jeff Daniels portrayed Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in both Gettysburg and Gods & Generals. Both actors did a superb job.

For Northern Character, I would add several key figures. Charles Martin Smith could play Charles Francis Adams, Jr., grandson and great-grandson of U.S. presidents, and William O’Leary could portray Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the founder of the Hampton Institute. Both Adams and Armstrong led African-American troops during the war.
Learn more about Northern Character at the Fordham University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Northern Character.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Shawna Yang Ryan's "Green Island"

Shawna Yang Ryan is a former Fulbright scholar and the author of Water Ghosts and Green Island. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Her short fiction has appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Asian American Literary Review, Kartika Review, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She is the 2015 recipient of the Elliot Cades Emerging Writer award.

Here Ryan dreamcasts an adaptation of Green Island:
I see the movie adaptation of a book as a fantasy version, with the characters gaining a Hollywood level of beauty. So in Green Island, the movie….

The unnamed narrator of Green Island doesn’t give us any hints to how she looks, except that she has long hair in 1971, but I always imagined her as Taiwanese actress Shu Qi. Gorgeous, pillow-lipped and sleepy-eyed—the kind of beauty that seems a bit vulnerable, almost damaged, and oblivious to how stunning she is.

Her husband, Wei, is described as having the broad shouldered build of a hockey player, a Romanesque nose and thick eyebrows. He’s half Taiwanese and half Japanese, so who better to play him in a movie than Takeshi Kaneshiro? He’s as beautiful as Shu Qi, but there’s a little bit of arrogance in his attractiveness.

The other key character is Jia Bao, the Taiwan Democracy activist who escapes house arrest in Taipei and is sheltered by the narrator and her husband. The narrator and Jia Bao have a special connection, something approaching—or perhaps surpassing—love. I see Chang Chen in the role—a chance to reunite him on screen with Shu Qi—they both starred in Hou Hsiao Hsien’s heartbreaking Three Times (2005).

Edward Yang’s Yi Yi (A One and A Two, 2000) was a stylistic inspiration for the novel. I admired the frank and unadorned style of the film and how the story just seemed to unfurl in an unforced way. Unfortunately, Yang passed away in 2007, so for a dream director, I’d choose Taiwan-born Ang Lee. It would be wonderful to see him return to Taiwan as a subject!
Learn more about the book and author at Shawna Yang Ryan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Water Ghosts.

The Page 69 Test: Green Island.

Writers Read: Shawna Yang Ryan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bill Broun's "Night of the Animals"

Bill Broun was born in Los Angeles to an English machinist and an American nurse. He was educated at University College London and Miami University (Ohio).

He also holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston. He is Associate Professor of English at East Stroudsburg University.

Here Broun dreamcasts an adaptation of Night of the Animals, his first novel:
If Night of the Animals were made into a film, I don’t think anyone could more relish seeing how the casting unfolded than I. It’s something I’ve thought about way too much, actually. I would be oohing and aahing at every little scrap of a development. I’d probably coronary-out before the movie were finished, such would be my exhilaration.

Michael Caine is someone I’ve often fantasized about in protagonist Cuthbert’s role. He’s a little short, at only six foot, and at age eighty-three, a tad young, but if he could be coaxed from retirement, he would be my first choice all day long.

No question that, for me, a close second would be English comic genius, Stephen Fry. At six foot four inches, he’s got the stature and heft, and he has been able to hit the portly girth a Cuthbert needs, at times. And he’s got that sweetly open face.

The main co-protagonist in Night of the Animals is a British-Catholic police officer and recovering drug addict named Astrid. Irish actress Kerry Condon adopted two dogs from the streets of Los Angeles, reportedly, and that almost says it all for me. But she also has a look I’ve associated with Astrid in my mind, especially in her eyes – determined, intense, stronger than she realizes.

British actress Antonia Thomas would need to take the role of super-intelligent Police Constable Jasmine Atwell. In her very different role on British TV’s Misfits, she shows the quick-thinking astuteness of a longtime Londoner.

Kunal Nayyar (Big Bang Theory – a show I confess I’ve never seen a single episode of) isn’t Sikh, but his face has a kindness and vulnerability I imagine in Cuthbert’s long-suffering physician, Dr. Bajwa. He’d need to work out and bulk up. Dr. Bajwa is muscly. I think that Khaled Abol Naga (see below) would also be just about perfect.

The vast majority of other major characters are animals, which means voice actors. The incredible English actor who does the audiobook for Night of the Animals, Ralph Lister, could cover several roles, but he’s the main lion, Arfur, in my mind.

Egyptian heart-throb and brilliant actor Khaled Abol Naga would work well as the garrulous sand-cat character, Muezza, although he would make an excellent Dr. Bajwa, too.

For direction, there’s only one choice for me, and that’s Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi). Few directors show quite the breadth of talent and topical experience, compassion, and ground-breaking skill in bringing animals realistically to life.

And do I get a cameo? There’s a wily black-market street vendor, Gadge, who makes a brief appearance in Camden Town in a greasy, food-stained suit jacket. That’s definitely me, and I’d be hawking underground novels or something.
Visit Bill Broun's website.

Night of the Animals is among five top books that find beauty in the apocalypse.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bill Loehfelm's "Let the Devil Out"

Bill Loehfelm is the author of Doing the Devil’s Work, The Devil in Her Way, The Devil She Knows, Bloodroot, and Fresh Kills. He lives in New Orleans with his wife, the writer AC Lambeth, and plays drums in a rock-’n-’roll band.

His new book, Let the Devil Out, is the fourth book in the Maureen Coughlin series.

Here Loehfelm shares some ideas for bringing the Maureen Coughlin books to the big (or small) screen:
“Why don’t we put her in charge?”
– Private Hudson, Aliens

From the beginning of the series, I’ve felt Rooney Mara would be the best possible Maureen Coughlin. There’s a dark, volatile incandescence to Mara that’s terrifying, exciting, and perfect and my opinion on that hasn’t changed.

So for this post, for the fourth book in the series, I’ve been thinking in a different direction, of a big, fun way to play with the idea of the Maureen Coughlin books coming to the screen. Who, if I could pick anyone, would I want in charge of the project? I think it’d be fascinating, and probably not a little bit difficult to see someone else interpret and present my material, see them rebuild the world I’ve built according to their own vision. How would it look, feel, and sound? That would be such a crazy, challenging experience, as a novelist, to share like that.

I started out thinking of directors. My first thought was Michael Mann, who’s done a couple of my favorite movies, Heat and Collateral. After seeing him shoot L.A. and Miami, I’d love to see him shoot New Orleans, especially since so much of the series takes place at night. He takes time with character building and with the smaller, human stories that unwind over the course of an exciting crime story. David Fincher is another choice, his films are so immersive, and for how well he does with character. He is certainly not afraid of the dark, both lighting and material. I think Fincher takes violence and its consequences very seriously, which would be important to me.

But over the past couple of years, I’ve thought a lot about what it would be like turning control of the series over to a woman for the TV or movie version. I’d love to see it in the hands of a woman producer/director/writer, an artist who could really put her personal stamp on it. Someone like Charlize Theron or Angelina Jolie. Another great choice would be Kathryn Bigelow, a genius with tension, action, and difficult subject matter. I mean, Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, and the original Point Break? I’d really love to see what Robin Wright could do producing and directing the Maureen Coughlin series. She’s done such amazing work in every way on House of Cards, which Fincher helped bring to Netflix, so we see how time, and Hollywood, is a flat circle. And both Theron and Wright would be great actors to portray Maureen’s detective mentor, Christine Atkinson.

Another producer’s name that jumped to mind is Gale Ann Hurd. These days she’s a driving force behind The Walking Dead, but she’s also responsible for helping get Sarah Connor of The Terminator films, and Ellen Ripley of the Alien franchise to the big screen. Both of those characters have been huge influences on the character. Their DNA is in Maureen’s blood for sure.
Learn more about the book and author at Bill Loehfelm's website.

The Page 69 Test: Fresh Kills.

My Book, The Movie: The Devil in Her Way.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Catherine Egan's "Julia Vanishes"

Catherine Egan grew up in Vancouver, Canada – a beautiful city nobody in her right mind would ever leave, but leave she did, and you may draw the obvious conclusions about her mind. Since then, she has lived on a wee volcanic island in Japan (which erupted during her time there and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband), Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing, an oil rig in the middle of China’s Bohai Bay, New Jersey, and now Connecticut, where she writes books and defends the Eastern seaboard from invading dragon hordes alongside her intrepid warrior-children.

Here Egan dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Julia Vanishes:
It must be incredibly strange (and exciting, of course!) for authors to watch screen adaptations of their books, the settings and characters reimagined by somebody else and surely deviating wildly from the author’s own vision.

The idea of “casting” my book stumps me almost completely; my characters are so themselves in my head that it’s impossible to imagine them any other way. However, I was able to think of actors for the older members of Julia’s gang of crooks. Csilla and Gregor, the glamorous con artist duo, are the easiest to cast, since I always imagined them as a kind of “golden age of cinema” dreamy-looking pair. I’d say Gregory Peck for Gregor and Jayne Mansfield for Csilla. Esme, the crime boss who adopted Julia and Dek after their mother’s death, is trickier. She’s a large, powerful presence, somebody capable of being tender but also turning on a dime to be truly menacing. Maybe an even-taller-than-she-really-is Glenn Close, looking sort of like her Albert Nobbs incarnation, but with a serious edge.

The younger characters – Wyn, Dek, Frederick, Julia herself – would have to be played by charismatic young unknowns with amazing chemistry who look and behave exactly like the characters in my head. The movie would launch their careers and I’d follow them ever after with a sort of maternal eye, clucking over their tabloid-reported love affairs and bad behavior, and always sending a card full of unsolicited bad advice on their birthdays.

I’d like Claire Danes to be in the movie, because I’d like Claire Danes to be in everything, but I can’t imagine who she’d play. Next time I’ll write a book with a character for Claire Danes.
Visit Catherine Egan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Julia Vanishes.

Writers Read: Catherine Egan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 18, 2016

Janice Warman's "The World Beneath"

Janice Warman is a South African–born journalist whose career spans the Observer, the Guardian, the Spectator, the Daily Mail, and the BBC. She has published two nonfiction books for adults, including The Class of ’79, about three students who risked their lives to help abolish apartheid.

Here Warman dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The World Beneath:
If The World Beneath was made into a film, I’d like Ava DuVernay to direct it. As the brilliant director of Selma, the story of Martin Luther King’s campaign to win equal voting rights with a march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, she would be ideal to look at the issues of apartheid and the 1976 Soweto uprising that are the setting for the book.

I’m also a huge fan of David Oyelowo in the Martin Luther King role and would like him to play Tsumalo, the freedom fighter on the run.

I met Ava and David at a screening of Selma at London’s Mayfair Hotel last year, and afterwards gave them each a copy of the book to read. They were both charming. So here’s hoping. We sat in the front row, and during the Q&A I asked whether Ava had thought of making a film about apartheid South Africa. She said she’d consider it; David smiled at me and said, “Why, do you have a script?” I said no, but it had been a leading question, and he laughed and said, “If this was LA, there would be scripts raining down from the back of the room!”

I would like Joshua, the boy hero, to be played by someone like Presley Chweneyagae, the star of Tsotsi, the Athol Fugard novel about a young thug who rescues a baby that was filmed by the South African director Gavin Hood and won the Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2006. Of course Presley will be too old for the role now, but I would take advice on who to cast.

As his mother, Beauty, the maid, I’ve made an unusual choice – Pumeza Matshikiza, the internationally famous Xhosa opera singer who grew up in the townships of Cape Town. She looks just as I imagine Beauty to look, and her astonishing singing ability could run through the film, as song is such a natural part of life in South Africa. I think the soundtrack would have an important role in the film, and I could imagine her singing Tula Baba, the traditional lullaby, to Joshua, and hear the freedom fighters singing the African National Congress song (and now the South African anthem) Nkosi Sikilele I Afrika.

I could see Mr Malherbe, the angry, drunken, abusive husband, being played by Charles Dance, the classically British actor who has played a succession of difficult men, most recently as Tywin Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Mrs Malherbe, his abused but ultimately courageous wife, could be played by Meryl Streep, an actress whose mastery of all her roles I admire. I am interested to see that she will soon be accompanying Michelle Obama and her daughters to Africa, to look at the challenges faced by women.

As Robert, her journalist son, I would like to see Sharlto Copley, a South African actor who came to fame with the sci-fi action films District 9 in 2009 and Elysium, with Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, in 2013, both written and directed by the South African director Neill Blomkamp, and whose Hardcore Henry is out later this year.

I met Sharlto first when he was the blonde-haired toddler son of a fellow journalism student, Linda Copley, at Rhodes University in South Africa, and again recently with Linda, when in the role of King Stefan, he was filming the story of Snow White’s evil stepmother, Malificent, with Angelina Jolie in the UK. He has a dangerous edge that would suit the role perfectly (but of course he’s utterly charming in person!)
Follow Janice Warman on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sharon Potts's "Someone Must Die"

Sharon Potts is the award-winning, critically acclaimed author of five psychological thrillers, including In Their Blood—winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award and recipient of a starred review in Publishers Weekly, and the recently released The Other Traitor. A former CPA, corporate executive, and entrepreneur, Potts has served as treasurer of the national board of Mystery Writers of America, as well as president of that organization’s Florida chapter. She has also co-chaired SleuthFest, a national writers’ conference. Potts lives in Miami Beach with her husband and a spirited Australian shepherd named Gidget.

Here is Potts’s unusual take on the casting of an adaptation of her new novel, Someone Must Die:
An Interview with Alfred Hitchcock

I: Mr. Hitchcock, welcome back. You’re looking well, though perhaps a bit stiffer than the last time we met.

AH: Good evening. Stiff, you say? My young sir, you should try digging yourself out of a grave.

I: Um, yes, well. I appreciate you speaking to us about your latest project, Mr. Hitchcock. We’ve heard rumors that you’ve agreed to produce and direct a new movie based on Sharon Potts’s latest novel Someone Must Die.

AH: The rumors are indeed true. Potts’s new suspense novel is about how the past haunts the present, a theme I find particularly intriguing. The backdrop for Someone Must Die is the college revolutionary period of the late sixties, a volatile time that’s been on my movie-project bucket list. But the story is very much a present-day psychological thriller about a young woman who becomes an inadvertent victim of her parents’ activities during the sixties.

I: Can you give us a brief overview of the plot?

AH: Certainly. When her six-year-old nephew is abducted from a neighborhood carnival, Aubrey Lynd discovers long-buried secrets about her parents’ past that force her to make impossible choices.

I: I imagine there’s a great deal of tension and conflict between Aubrey and her parents.

AH: You are quite right. Aubrey has avoided confrontation with her parents her entire life. Now, with her nephew’s life at stake, she must ask questions that no one wants to answer. But the more Aubrey digs, the more she realizes how little she knows who her parents really are and what they’re capable of.

I: Your previous productions of Sharon Potts’s novels—In Their Blood, Someone’s Watching, and The Devil’s Madonna were box office successes featuring several renowned actors. May I ask whom you are considering for Someone Must Die?

AH: I am fortunate in that I have access to many fine actors, those still living and many who once gave the performances of their lives, but have since gone underground, so to speak. And so, I am thrilled to announce that Audrey Hepburn (as she was in Wait Until Dark) has agreed to play Aubrey Lynd. In addition, given that Someone Must Die takes place in both the past and present, I have chosen actors who can play both their younger and their mature selves. Peter O’Toole will be taking on the role of Aubrey’s father when he was the young ‘Lawrence of Columbia’ (in a reprise of Lawrence of Arabia) as well as the older, desperate Larry Lynd. Katherine Ross (The Graduate) will play Diana as a young college student, and will also use the paranoia she exhibited so beautifully in The Stepford Wives, as she matures into Aubrey’s mother.

I: That sounds like a fantastic cast, Mr. Hitchcock. One final question. I understand that the author, Sharon Potts, had a difficult decision to make regarding the ending of Someone Must Die. Will the movie stay true to the book in that regard?

AH: Absolutely. I am reassured by what Publishers Weekly had to say: Aubrey realizes that the only way to save her nephew is to uncover the truth about her parents’ past. In the end, Aubrey faces a tough ethical decision. Readers will applaud her courage. And, my young sir, I intend to make certain the audience will applaud my movie. I enjoy applause.

I: Thank you for your time, Mr. Hitchcock.

AH: Thank you and good evening.
Learn more about the book and author at Sharon Potts's website.

My Book, The Movie: In Their Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Craig A. Monson's "Habitual Offenders"

Craig A. Monson is Paul Tietjens Professor Emeritus of Music at Washington University in St. Louis. His recent books include Nuns Behaving Badly: Tales of Music, Magic, Art, and Arson in the Convents of Italy (2010), Divas in the Convent: Nuns, Music, and Defiance in Seventeenth-Century Italy (2012), and the co-edited essay collection, Music in Print and Beyond: Hildegard von Bingen to The Beatles (2013).

Here Monson dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest book, Habitual Offenders: A True Tale of Nuns, Prostitutes, and Murderers in Seventeenth-Century Italy:
Several friends have remarked Habitual Offenders might work better as a TV series than as a movie, given its episodicity, shifts of time and place, secondary characters that appear, loom large for a while, then disappear. One screenwriting challenge (or creative opportunity) involves the book’s “leading ladies,” who have fled the convent before page 1 and turn up dead around page 85; they are much spoken of but barely speak (at least in the book). It really seems more like a “guy movie,” but one more about acting than action. Given the financial challenges of “costume dramas,” at least in this one the women’s outfits would come relatively cheap: nuns, housemaids, nothing fancier than a medium-grade courtesan. Dressing the men might be costlier: lots of lace, both in and out of church.

A significant angle in terms of casting: in their time, the leading ladies were perceived as “old dearies”: both are a decade older than their respective alleged seducers. Several of the spectacularly misbehaving males are around the age of today’s college pranksters. In the book’s two “love scenes” (overheard through a locked door), the man is 31 and the woman, 40.

Sister Laura Vittoria: an ex-prostitute turned nun and still a head-turner at age 30—5'10", with flagrantly red hair (hence her trade name “La Rossa”), lovely white complexion, beautiful hands, lively personality, vivid imagination, but with a long scar running down her left cheek (a work related injury). In love with Donato Guarnieri. Susan Sarandon—yes, I know I’m thinking White Palace, and I know that was 1990 and that Sarandon is now nearing 70, but nevertheless… . Or perhaps Allison Janney or Jessica Chastain?

Sister Silveria Catterina: "cute," with a great personality—40, barely 5' tall, "round like a plum," chestnut hair, a full set of beautifully white teeth, and a smile that drew men to the convent parlor even in her middle age. Apparently ambivalent about her lover, Carlo Possenti. Sally Fields—yes, I know, I can do the math: she, too, is nearing 70, but that smile… Or how about Patricia Arquette, who could convey the important impression of vulnerability?

Carlo Possenti: 31-yr-old priest and poet, the son of a tailor, who longs to be a gentleman; witty, outwardly confident, brave, but prone to violence—he threatens to shoot Sister Silveria Catterina through the convent grate. He dies under torture, without revealing anything. Joaquin Phoenix tops my list. Or Tyler Hoechlin? Kit Harrington?

Donato Guarnieri: a callow mercenary soldier and another head turner—about 20, 6' tall, slender, blond, with crazy blue eyes, boyish enough to catch the eye of an aristocratic sergeant major as well as Sister Laura Vittoria; not the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Survives torture and must eventually be released, “the last man standing.” Douglas Booth—no, I’m not thinking Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but he has the look. Or Matt Barr? Perhaps Armie Hammer?

Giovanni Braccesi: about 30, a brainy, calculating, ambitious “virtuoso of taste” and right-hand man to Cardinal Antonio Barberini; something of an invalid, a bit priggish. Framed by Pope Innocent X, he consistently outwits the prosecutor. Benedict Cumberbatch would be great. Or Adrien Brody?

Giandomenico Rossi: 49, the determined, audacious papal prosecutor,"both notorious and cruel" (think Baron Scarpia from Tosca); follows orders, will stop at nothing. Mark Rylance’s Cromwellian manner could be perfect.

There’s also a rich assortment of ancillary characters: nuns, maidservants, prostitutes, military men, cardinals, popes, who count as much more than walk-ons. A couple possibilities:

Pope Innocent X: F. Murray Abraham—perfect. (I even see a resemblance.)

The strong-minded, plucky Prioress, Lucina Conti: Tessa Peake Jones (from Grantchester); I also thought of Pam Ferris (from Call the Midwife, where her character seems perhaps too "low brow" for a prioress—even one who in this case is an ex-hooker).

Alternatively, a friend suggested now that Mad Men has finished, why not make up the cast from that series—Jon Hamm (Possenti), Vincent Kartheiser (Braccesi), John Slattery (Rossi), Christina Hendricks (La Rossa), Elisabeth Moss (Silveria)?

“Craig’s Book, the Movie” has become a favorite online party game for me and several friends. Would anyone else care to play?
Learn more about the book and author at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Nuns Behaving Badly.

The Page 99 Test: Habitual Offenders.

Writers Read: Craig A. Monson.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Anthony Ryan's "The Waking Fire"

Anthony Ryan is the author of the Raven’s Shadow novels, including Blood Song, Tower Lord and Queen of Fire.

Here Ryan dreancasts an adaptation of The Waking Fire, the first novel in the Draconis Memoria series:
Writers are notoriously bad at casting - Ian Fleming wanted Cary Grant to play James Bond for example (eesh) – and I’m always reluctant to link actors to my characters as I prefer to leave it to the reader’s imagination. That being said, I did have some actors in mind when writing The Waking Fire so what the hell, here goes (I’m sure they’ll all be available and won’t cost too much):

Claydon Torcreek – John Boyega.

Braddon Torcreek – Lawrence Fishburne.

Lizanne Lethridge – Emily Blunt,

Lt. Corrick Hilemore – Henry Cavill.

Madame Bondersil – Michelle Rodriguez (Missy from Dr Who).
Visit Anthony Ryan's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Waking Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 11, 2016

Caroline Angell's "All the Time in the World"

Caroline Angell grew up in Endwell, N.Y., the daughter of an electrical engineer and a public school music teacher. She has a B. A. in musical theater from American University and currently lives and works in Manhattan. As a playwright and director, she has had her work performed at regional theaters in New York City and in the Washington, D.C., area.

Here Angell shares some ideas about casting an adaptation of All the Time in the World, her first novel:
I hear the voices of my characters pretty distinctly when I’m working on a novel or a play. (Now there’s a sentence that will mark me for the nuthouse right off the bat.) I mention this because for me as a writer, the process is not as visual as it is auditory. I think a lot about essence, and the speech patterns and cadence of characters’ voices while I’m writing. Stylistically, I can see the movie of my book being similar to the TV show Parenthood, where the dialogue is messy and sometimes overlaps. No one says anything perfectly, but the moments come through in a vital and authentic manner.

I consciously try not to go too far into physical descriptions of my characters, unless it’s necessary to the point of view I’m working from. Mainly because I would love for a reader (or an actor) to be able to pick up my book and say, I see myself in this situation. I can relate to this. For that reason, I haven’t given a whole lot of consideration to how the movie might be cast.

But, I mean, if one of Meryl Streep’s kids wanted to play the lead role, I’d probably be cool with that kind of talent. Or if Matt Damon sees himself playing the role of Scotty, the father of the two little boys in the story, I definitely wouldn’t object.
Visit Caroline Angell's website and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Kelly Oliver's "Wolf"

Kelly Oliver is the author of Wolf, the first novel in the Jessica James, Cowgirl Philosopher, Mysteries. The second in the series, Coyote, will be out in August.

Oliver grew up in the Northwest, Montana, Idaho, and Washington states. Her maternal grandfather was a forest ranger committed to saving the trees, and her paternal grandfather was a logger hell bent on cutting them down. On both sides, her ancestors were some of the first settlers in Northern Idaho. In her own unlikely story, Oliver went from eating a steady diet of wild game shot by her dad to becoming a vegetarian while studying philosophy and pondering animal minds. Competing with peers who’d come from private schools and posh families “back East,” her working class backwoods grit has served her well. And much to her parent’s surprise, she’s managed to feed and clothe herself as a professional philosopher. When she’s not writing Jessica James mystery novels, Oliver is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She earned her B.A. from Gonzaga University and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She is the author of thirteen scholarly books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles.

Here Oliver dreamcasts an adaptation of Wolf:
I’m a big fan of Hollywood blockbusters. And, I’ve written several nonfiction books about film. When I wrote my first novel, Wolf, I thought a lot about its cinematic quality. It’s a dialogue and action driven novel with strong characters. The titular character of the mystery series is Jessica James, the cowgirl philosopher who with more wit than grace finds herself in the middle of art scams, murder plots, mafia revenge, rape conspiracies, and high-stakes poker games. Tripping over her own feet, but not over her sharp tongue, she stumbles upon the murderer in the nick of time. I could imagine Jessica being played by Jennifer Lawrence, who is known in real life for her smart-mouth and falling on the stairs.

Jessica James has a kickass best friend, Lolita Durchenko, who is a black-belt in karate and known around Chicago as the “poker Tsarina” for her high-stakes games. Because I loved the debates in the blogosphere about who was tougher, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games or Kristen Stewart in Twilight, it would be fun to case Kristen Stewart as Lolita and get J-Law and K-Stew fighting together on the same side.

For their rescue-remedy pushing buxom redheaded friend, Amber Bush, I’d go with a younger Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), or Scarlett Johansson. You just can’t go wrong with Scarlett Johansson. She’s great in everything!

Lolita’s father, Dmity Durchenko, escaped Russia twenty years ago with his life, his wife, and part of a mafia fortune, including two priceless painting. I see Christian Bale fighting the Russian mafia with understated courage and grace. He’s an amazingly versatile actor and very easy on the eyes.

As long as we’re going for the YA blockbuster heroines, we might as well cast Theo James in the role of Vanya Ivanov, the tattooed, chain-smoking young thug with a soft spot for a certain Siberian Husky. Of course, Theo is hot in Divergent, but I thought he was even hotter in Downton Abbey as the Turk who deflowered Lady Mary (gasp!).

To round out the cast, I’d go with American Horror Story’s Evan Peters as the brilliant, foul-mouthed, pothead, medical student, Jack, and the handsome Matt Bomer as Jessica’s mysterious love interest, Nick.
To learn more about Oliver or The Jessica James Mysteries, visit Kelly Oliver's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Simone Zelitch's "Judenstaat"

Simone Zelitch's novels include Louisa, which won the Goldberg Prize for Emerging Jewish Fiction. Her work has been featured on NPR and recent honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

Here Zelitch dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Judenstaat:
Not that I’m biased, but Judenstaat would make a terrific movie. Its heroine is a film archivist, and there’s plenty of opportunity for black-and-white historical footage to be interspersed with the noir-style, semi-grubby, Eastern-bloc-style late 1980s present. I even have a soundtrack. My very hip older sister recently compiled a Judenstaat mix-tape of Schumann, Eisler, East-German underground punk rock, Yiddish ballads, and some Queen (one character’s favorite band!).

As for casting, Judit Klemmer the archivist/widow heroine would need to be introverted, dogged, and secretly beautiful . Claire Danes (with brown hair) would be perfect. I can imagine her wrapped in her dead husband’s overcoat, and casually addressing his ghost. She could play Judit as a college girl, in awe of her Hannah Arendt-like, brilliant, cynical, professor, Anna Lehman (as played by Kathy Bates), and also as a woman in her 30s, losing patience with her overbearing and well-meaning mother (Julie Kavner).

The men in Judit’s life are harder to cast, but the same sister who made the mix-tape gave some suggestions. Michael Fassbender would be a fine Hans Klemmer—Judit’s husband, the Saxon, non-Jewish orchestra conductor who haunts Judit in her archive. He’s already German, of course, and would make a very convincing ghost. Then there’s the Stasi agent, Joseph Bondi. I’ll admit that when I first envisioned Bondi, I thought of him as a kind of young Vladimir Putin (who actually was in East Germany in the 1980s) but as the novel evolved, so did Bondi. Channing Tatum has the right build—compact and muscular—and the right emotional range. He would be holding something back, and only a woman as self-absorbed as Judit wouldn’t know it.

All of the above is open to negotiation, but not this part: the playwright Tony Kushner has to adapt the book into a screenplay. Kushner will recognize every obscure reference to Soviet purges, Yiddish socialism and Zionist history, and will create a film that is a philosophical thriller, true to the book’s intentions. He’s done this before, in the troubling and profound screenplay for Munich—the best movie ever made about Israel. Maybe he can talk Spielberg into directing. I wouldn’t say no.
Visit Simone Zelitch's website.

The Page 69 Test: Judenstaat.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Susie Steiner's "Missing, Presumed"

Susie Steiner is a former Guardian journalist. She was a commissioning editor for that paper for eleven years and prior to that worked for The Times, The Daily Telegraph, and the Evening Standard. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Here Steiner dreamcasts an adaptation of Missing, Presumed, her second novel:
I've probably given this more thought than I ought to, as Missing, Presumed has been optioned for television here in the UK. It was hard to think of an actress for Manon, as in my mind she's such a big character and no actress seemed to fill her boots. But I've recently watched Keeley Hawes in UK dramas Line of Duty and The Durrells and think she has the knack for comedy that Manon needs.

Will Carter clearly needs to be played by someone devastatingly handsome, so James Norton would do the trick.

And as I was writing, I pictured Charles Dance and Judi Dench as Sir Ian and Miriam Hind, though in fact they are a decade older than the characters should be.
Visit Susie Steiner's website.

Writers Read: Susie Steiner.

The Page 69 Test: Missing, Presumed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 3, 2016

J.C. Lane's "Tag, You’re Dead"

J.C. Lane’s favorite movies are Raiders of the Lost Ark, Enchanted April, and How to Train Your Dragon, which proves that she can’t settle on any one genre (or demographic). She is currently binge-watching Lost, which she never got around to before, and has spent many hours of her life with the LOTR movies, as well as the BBC Jane Austen films.

Here Lane dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Tag, You're Dead:
Just thinking about this makes me crazy with excitement. I would so love to see this book as a movie. As millions of other people have thought about their own books (right?), Tag, You’re Dead would lend itself very well to the big screen!

Tag, You’re Dead has six protagonists – all teenagers. I scoured the web and my brain for teenage actors who would fit the parts, and came up short. All of the actors I considered were too old, or just not quite right for some other reason. Perhaps the best way to cast this movie would be to find six people who are unknown, so that casting would be even throughout the story. Plus, I would feel so great if this book could be a launching pad for six great young actors. But I’ll give my own casting a shot.

Race and body type are important for several of the characters, as those characteristics play parts in the story. For instance, Tyrese Broadstreet is a big, athletic African-American basketball player (described as “glorious”). I think of him as a younger Michael B. Jordan (or the other Michael Jordan, for that matter). His counterpart, Robert Matthews, is equally as big, also a basketball player, but white. Someone like a teenage Charlie Hunnam would be great, although Robert is not supposed to be quite that awesome looking!

Amanda Paniagua is of Peruvian descent. She is small and agile, but not necessarily athletic. She likes a few piercings and colored strips in her hair, and is very independent and smart. Aimee Carrero would have a good look for Amanda. Charles Akida, Amanda’s opponent, comes from Japanese ancestors, and could be any size, really. He is incredibly intelligent, and the actor has to be able to pull that off! Kenichi Matsuyama has a fantastic look for Charles, but alas, is too old.

Laura Wingfield has the traditional pretty blonde look, like Olivia Holt. It would be easy to cast her by looks in Hollywood, I would think, but she also needs to be believable as the Girl Next Door, with a welcoming demeanor and an aura of kindness. Laura’s It, Brandy Inkrott, would be interesting to cast. I couldn’t find anyone with her type of look, because no one really wants to look like a Botox experiment gone wrong (I hope). Perhaps with some special effects make-up casting could find someone appropriate!

As for the director of the movie, I would be thrilled with Joss Whedon, because I’m a huge fan of Buffy, and I appreciate his views on women in the movie industry. I’d also love to see Kathryn Bigelow direct it, because of her experience and success with action movies, such as The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

But you know, when it comes down to it, I’d love to see this book as a movie however it would be cast! Go, Hollywood!
Visit J.C. Lane's website and tell her what movies and TV shows are your favorites.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 1, 2016

Larry Watson's "As Good As Gone"

Larry Watson grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota and his PhD in creative writing at the University of Utah. He is the author of the novels Let Him Go, Montana 1948, American Boy, In a Dark Time, White Crosses, Laura, Orchard, and Sundown, Yellow Moon; the fiction collection Justice; and the chapbook of poetry Leaving Dakota.

Here Watson shares some ideas about casting an adaptation of his new novel, As Good as Gone:
I’ve been asked in the past, when there’s been a flurry of film interest in a novel of mine, whom I’d like to see play certain characters. And though it’s just an exercise in fantasy (after all, the producers will decide that the female octogenarian poker player will work better as a nine-year-old boy who’s a chess genius) I’ve never been able to play along. I can see my characters very clearly, and I just can’t substitute another face in my imagination. In As Good As Gone, however, I can get in on the game because a few reviewers have already been casting the movie in their remarks about the novel.

Clint Eastwood, Sam Elliott, and Robert Duvall have all been suggested as the right actor to play Calvin Sidey, the cantankerous aging cowboy who has signed on to watch his grandchildren while their parents are away. I admire those actors, and I’m sure any of them would be terrific.

And for Calvin’s love interest, Beverly Lodge, let’s use actors who have paired successfully with those men before. Meryl Streep with Clint Eastwood, Anjelica Huston with Robert Duvall, and Katharine Ross with Sam Elliott--a real-life couple for many years.
Visit Larry Watson's website.

The Page 69 Test: As Good as Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue