Saturday, January 11, 2020

Chad Dundas's "The Blaze"

Chad Dundas’ debut novel Champion of the World was a 2016 Boston Globe Best Book of the Year as well as a finalist for the David J. Langum Sr. Prize for Historical Fiction and Reading the West Book Awards. His short fiction has appeared in the Beloit Fiction Journal, Sycamore Review, Sou’Wester and Thuglit.

Since 2001, he’s worked as a sportswriter for outlets such as ESPN, NBC Sports, The Sporting News, Bleacher Report, and the Associated Press, among others.

Here Dundas dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Blaze:
A person much wiser than myself, a hardened publishing industry veteran, once advised me that if Hollywood ever comes calling with an offer on one of your books, you cash the check and never think about it again. If they ever actually start filming, he said, then it’s OK to get excited. Maybe for that reason, I seldom imagine my characters as famous actors while I’m writing.

In fact, one of the main characters in my first book, Champion of the World, is a 40-something African American wrestler training for a chance to compete for the world championship while dealing with his own long-buried secrets. Yet it wasn’t until months after the book came out that a reader pointed out to me there’s a very famous actor who fits that physical description almost exactly. Sorry, Dwayne!

After having it painstakingly pointed out to me that maybe I dropped the ball not checking to see if The Rock and his Seven Bucks Productions company were interested in the movie rights to Champion of the World, I tried to be a bit more mindful of such things while writing The Blaze. Though, honestly, just barely.

The Blaze is a very different book than Champion. It’s a contemporary mystery/thriller set in my hometown of Missoula, MT. Matthew Rose, the male lead, is a late-twenties Iraq war veteran who returns to Montana having suffered significant memory loss after sustaining a traumatic brain injury during an IED explosion. To play him, you’d need somebody age appropriate who can bring an innate likability while also having an edge to them and capturing the confusion and vulnerability of a man who remembers very little of his own life. I’m reminded by the job Rami Malek did on USA Network’s Mr. Robot, even though Malek is a good 10 years older than Matthew and now a bonafide Oscar winner. I think a young actor like Logan Lerman or Josh Hutcherson might fit the general physical requirements and have the depth to pull it off.

The female lead, Georgie Porter, is Matthew’s lifelong friend and former romantic partner. She’s working as a small-town newspaper reporter when Matthew comes back to town. Georgie is smart, ambitious, stubborn and totally perplexed by the version of Matthew who reappears in her life after the two of them have been estranged for a few years. After seeing her in The Leftovers and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, I’m a little bit partial to Margaret Qualley in that role. As an added bonus Qualley, the daughter of longtime in-state resident Andie McDowell, is actually from Montana. So, she wins the role based on that alone.

The book takes place during a brutal Montana winter and my hope is that any movie adaptation would be cold and atmospheric and – maybe – could even be filmed on location.

But I’m not holding my breath.
Visit Chad Dundas's website.

--Marshal Zeringue