Sunday, October 16, 2016

Eric Jager's "Blood Royal"

Eric Jager teaches medieval literature at UCLA and wrote The Last Duel, short-listed for the Crime Writers' Association "Gold Dagger" in Nonfiction and being developed as a feature film, with Francis Lawrence (The Hunger Games) attached to direct.

Here Jager dreamcasts an adaptation of his latest true-crime story, Blood Royal: A True Tale of Crime and Detection in Medieval Paris (2014):
As the story opens in the year 1407, King Charles VI is insane, and his brother Louis of Orleans rules in his place, sparking rivalry in the royal family, outrage among nobles whose wives Louis has bedded, and hatred from the heavily taxed populace.

One chilly November night, shortly after leaving the queen’s palace, with whom Louis may be having an affair, he is attacked and cut to pieces in the street by a gang of masked men who leave his bloody corpse on the pavement and disappear into the night.

Guillaume de Tignonville, the provost of Paris and the city’s chief law-enforcement officer, is soon at the crime scene. He and his men examine the victim’s body, collect physical evidence, and summon neighbors to give sworn statements about anything they saw or heard. As the Paris gates are closed to stop the assassins from escaping, a city-wide manhunt begins.

The possible suspects are many: nobles enraged by Louis’s adulteries, foreign agents in the city, jealous royals, even the insane king — who once threatened Louis — and the seductive, scheming queen.

In his sleuthing, Guillaume is methodical, rational, even scientific — like a modern detective. We know this from a surviving parchment scroll, a kind of fifteenth-century police procedural. It contains his autopsy report, his detailed notes on the case, and sworn statements he and his men collected from several dozen ordinary Parisians.

Within days, Guillaume targets a prime suspect and sets a trap for him. Cornered, the suspect confesses — but then manages to escape! A new chase is on, and the quest for justice suddenly seems far more daunting.

My top choice for the detective is Tom Hardy. Here, as in the atmospheric thriller Child 44, he would personify the smart, courageous and determined sleuth who must almost single-handedly track down elusive evidence and battle corrupt officials in a dysfunctional government to solve a notorious crime.

Emily Blunt or Rosamund Pike would be great as the scheming and seductive queen Isabeau, the femme fatale who may have lured Louis to his doom.

Gary Oldman (also in Child 44) could play to perfection the now-mad-now-lucid-again King Charles whose powers are up for grabs again with Louis’s death.

Tim Roth as the murder victim, the libertine Louis of Orleans who lives large at everyone else’s expense, would steal the show until his early exit.

And John Malkovich is perfect for the arch-villain and architect of Louis’s demise — whose historical identity I won’t reveal here (read the book!).
Learn more about Blood Royal.

--Marshal Zeringue