Sunday, July 12, 2020

Chris Nickson's "Molten City"

Chris Nickson is the author of The Molten City and seven previous Tom Harper mysteries, seven highly acclaimed novels in the Richard Nottingham series, and two Simon Westow mysteries. He is also a well-known music journalist. He lives in his beloved Leeds.

Here Nickson dreamcasts an adaptation of The Molten City:
I don’t really watch movies or TV, so I’m not up on actors. But there’s one man I could imagine playing Tom Harper, and that’s Christopher Eccleston. I first came across him in the television series Cracker, then the movie Shallow Grave. When they rebooted Dr Who, he played the doctor for one season. He’s Northern, and possesses that quiet strength and inner determination I see in Tom. Given that I don’t have a definitive physical idea of Harper, he could slide into that quite easily.

Tom’s wife, Annabelle, is the emotional linchpin of the series; she’s more than just a secondary character. Someone I’ve envisioned playing her from the first moment Annabelle appeared is Maxine Peake. She’s not well-known in the US (I doubt Eccleston is either, for that matter), but she’s another Northerner, a superb who covers a wide range of roles on TV and stage in particular. She’s also very political and working-class. I could readily imagine her utterly inhabiting Annabelle.

Of course, they do both come with a handicap for playing Yorkshire folk: they were born in Lancashire, on the wrong side of the Pennines (Yorkshire and Lancashire are ancient rivals – think of the War of the Roses). But at least they’re from the North, so they’d understand what makes Tom and Annabelle tick. Curiously, though, I’d be quite reluctant to have a film/TV show made of the series, however wonderful it would be. Why? Because once that happens, the characters take on the face and traits of those people on the screen, rather than the more physically amorphous vision in my mind. I’m worried I’d begin writing to the actors rather than the characters, if that makes sense.

A director? I know so few, really. Ken Loach is one of the British directors who can find the essence of the English character, and he did a stirring job with Peterloo. I don’t think he’s ever done a crime drama, but the social aspects of the book are equally important, especially in The Molten City with both the Suffragettes and unemployed men rioting.
Learn more about the book and author at Chris Nickson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Constant Lovers.

Q&A with Chris Nickson.

The Page 69 Test: The Molten City.

--Marshal Zeringue