Monday, October 26, 2020

Sarah Tolmie's "The Fourth Island"

Sarah Tolmie is a poet, speculative fiction writer, finalist for the Crawford Award and professor of English at the University of Waterloo. Her books of poetry, Trio in 2015 and The Art of Dying in 2018, were shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award and the Griffin Prize, respectively. Her fiction includes the novels The Little Animals (2019) and The Stone Boatmen (2014), the dual novella collection Two Travelers (2016), and the short fiction collection NoFood (2014).

Here Tolmie dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novella, The Fourth Island:
Who would want to make a movie of a quiet sort of book set in an imaginary Aran island in 1840, before the famine? Jim Sheridan, perhaps? But then, what if the story was also a time-travel story? Aha, like Outlander, genre moviemakers might say? Sadly no, there’s not enough sex or violence. Plenty of implied violence. After all, the story features Cromwell. And two priests who escape the Belgian revolution of 1830. But the main gambit of the book is despair. The experience of despair is the ticket that gets people to Inis Caillte, the fourth, lost Aran island. Who wants to make that movie?

My first thought was Anthony Minghella. Let’s face it, he’s about as likely as anybody. He would have done beautifully with it. The man who could make the poet’s book that is The English Patient into a movie —a feat that I seriously doubted was possible — would be the dream director for a book like this. The whole thing is about texture and mental experience, and about coming out the other end of deadly suffering. Into what? A bit more life, perhaps, in a low-key sort of place, a small island with no government and no God. Come to think of it, another director who would have affinity for this story would be Hirokazu Kore-Eda (who is A. alive, and B., a towering genius). His beautiful movie Afterlife has exactly the tone I would want to see for The Fourth Island. On the wild offchance that Neil Gaiman would want to make his directorial debut with this movie, he would also be welcome. I say this on the strength of my admiration for The Graveyard Book. There are some overlaps in ghostliness between the two stories.

Cast. No idea. I assume — and would prefer — that any movie made of this book would be some kind of Canadian-Irish/EU co-production. Therefore the actors would mostly be Irish. There are plenty of them. We would, in justice, have to throw in a few Canadians. Colm Feore could play Old Conor MacIntosh, patriarch of Inis Caillte and friend and protector of the main character, Meg, a camp follower from Cromwell’s army who accidentally ends up there after a battle in 1650. (You may have heard the old line “There are only seven Canadian actors and three of them are X.” I would say Feore now holds the title.) The other main character, Nellie, is deaf. Casting a deaf actress in the role would be one of the most important things that such a movie could do. Nellie, who grows up nearly feral on the outskirts of a village on Inis Mor, is transported to the lost island while dying of a fever in 1828. When she awakes on the shore of Inis Caillte, she can hear. The island endows the people who land on it with the gift of tongues: people from many places and times can speak to each other. This is the form the magic takes for Nellie and she is less than thrilled with it. After a rough transition to the hearing world, she ends up becoming the island’s most famous poet, a job she can occupy partly in a self-imposed silence. As a role it would give a deaf or hearing-impaired performer a lot to do: it’s a lead role, and one in which deafness is treated as more than a disability.

Having written this about these two female leads — there are two central male characters, as well, though now that I consider it in the light of casting, it seems to me that the women are the true leads — it has suddenly popped into my head: Patricia Rozema. Yes! She is the one! Revisionist historical fiction! Female leads! Samuel Beckett! Irish co-productions! Despair. An unassuming sort of survival. Why didn’t I think of her immediately?

Now I have.
Visit Sarah Tolmie's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fourth Island.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 23, 2020

Anna Ellory's "The Puzzle Women"

Anna Ellory is the author of two novels, The Rabbit Girls (2019) translated into 14 languages and The Puzzle Women (2020).

She has always been an avid reader and after becoming a mum she started writing too. Prior to this she worked as a nurse. In 2018 she completed an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University. The Puzzle Women was written, in part, on this course.

She lives with her family, including a dog called Seth, and writes in pockets of borrowed time. She is currently working on her third novel.

Here Ellory dreamcasts an adaptation of The Puzzle Women:
If they make my book into a movie (which would be amazing as I see the whole scene before I place a word on the page so I can already see it) here’s who I’d like to play the lead roles.

Lotte – a young actress with Down Syndrome there are so few actresses with Down syndrome, I believe this should change, a younger Sarah Gordy (who is exceptional) – someone who can capture the joy and happiness Lotte exudes even in her darkest moments.

Rune – A 20 something guy, tall and handsome in a quirky way, very insecure. I love Manchester by the Sea (one of my favourite films) and Lucas Hedges would make an incredible Rune.

Mama – Carey Mulligan as I was writing Mama I had Carey Mulligan in mind, that never changed through three years of writing. She has a unique strength in her tone and I watched Suffragette and her role as Maud Watts was powerful and cemented my image of Mama in The Puzzle Women.

To have the power to cast a director … (I love this game) my dream would be Andrea Arnold. She offers images of loneliness, not only what does it look like, but as a viewer you get under the skin of this isolation, it’s uncomfortable because it’s real. Her female characters are strong and flawed and utterly human and she doesn’t shy away from trauma, the power of her work is in the raw truth of facing up to the captivity of our lives. I would love to see what she could do with the landscape of Berlin in The Puzzle Women too.
Visit Anna Ellory's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Puzzle Women.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 19, 2020

Cathy Marie Buchanan's "Daughter of Black Lake"

Cathy Marie Buchanan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Painted Girls.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Daughter of Black Lake:
Daughter of Black Lake tells a story and love and survival in the northern misty boglands of pagan Britain.

Black Lake lies far beyond the reach of the Romans invading hundreds of miles to the southeast. Here, life is simple—or so it seems to the tightly knit community. Sow. Reap. Honour Mother Earth, who will provide at harvest time. A girl named Devout comes of age, sweetly flirting with the young man she’s tilled alongside all her life, and envisions a future of love and abundance. Seventeen years later, though, the settlement is a changed place. Famine has brought struggle, and outsiders, with their foreign ways and military might, have arrived at the doorstep. For Devout’s young daughter, Hobble, life is more troubled than her mother ever anticipated. But this girl has an extraordinary gift. As worlds collide and peril threatens, it will be up to her to save her family and community.

The narration alternates between Devout and Hobble. Devout’s chapters take place during her youth, and as they progress, we learn of a complicated love triangle that has far reaching implications. Hobble’s story unfolds years later as the Roman invaders inch their way westward across Britannia, drawing ever closer to the remote settlement.

Because the story moves back and forth in time, two of the novel’s main characters—Devout and her mate Smith—appear both as youths and as adults, adding an extra layer of challenge to casting the movie. For youthful Devout, I choose Kiernan Shipka, and for her adult counterpart, Emma Stone. I admire both, and think their shared traits of fair skin, wide eyes and broad mouths might make them plausible as the same person at different ages. My reasoning is similar in casting Smith: As his youthful self, Timothée Chalamet; and as his adult self, Kit Harington (who doesn’t love Jon Snow?). As Hobble, I cast Mckenna Grace. She could pass as Emma Stone’s daughter, and a talent like Mckenna could pull off Hobble’s beyond-her-years wisdom and strength. That leaves only Fox uncast. Who best to play the druid priest who arrives at Black Lake hellbent on stirring up rebellion to Roman rule and who becomes Hobble’s chief adversary when she gets in his way? Sam Heughan? In the novel, I describe Fox’s ridged brow, his grooved cheeks—a face made lean by unrelenting effort, by quick accomplishment. Yes, Heughan’s got the chops to play a fanatic, a man incapable of reason, incapable of adopting any view other than his own.
Learn more about the book and author at Cathy Marie Buchanan's website

My Book, The Movie: The Painted Girls..

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Emily Carpenter's "Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters"

Emily Carpenter is the bestselling author of Until the Day I Die, Every Single Secret, The Weight of Lies, and Burying the Honeysuckle Girls. A graduate of Auburn University, Carpenter has worked as an actor, producer, screenwriter, and behind-the-scenes soap opera assistant for CBS television. Raised in Birmingham, Alabama, she moved to New York City before returning to the South, where she now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her family.

Carpenter's new novel, Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters, is about:
a faith healer’s elusive and haunted past.

Dove Jarrod was a renowned evangelist and faith healer. Only her granddaughter, Eve Candler, knows that Dove was a con artist. In the eight years since Dove’s death, Eve has maintained Dove’s charitable foundation—and her lies. But just as a documentary team wraps up a shoot about the miracle worker, Eve is assaulted by a vengeful stranger intent on exposing what could be Dove’s darkest secret: murder…
Here Carpenter dreamcasts the leads for an adaptation of Reviving the Hawthorn Sisters:
I envisioned Florence Pugh playing both roles of Eve Candler and Dove/Ruth. Several times in the book, people comment about how Eve resembles her grandmother and I love the idea of them being almost identical looking and using it as a connection between the two. As Eve comes to learn more and more about her grandmother Dove, she realizes they are a lot alike - and both have very good reasons for keeping secrets and hiding things from the people they care about.

I think Florence Pugh is one of the most talented actresses out there and, as she did in Little Women, she can play a range of ages so incredibly well.
Visit Emily Carpenter's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Christiane M. Andrews's "Spindlefish and Stars"

Christiane M. Andrews grew up in rural New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, on the edges of mountains and woods and fields and sometimes even the sea. A writing and literature instructor, she lives with her husband and son and a small clutch of animals on an old New Hampshire hilltop farm.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Spindlefish and Stars, her first novel:
Inspired by Greek mythology, Spindlefish and Stars tells the story of a girl named Clothilde who goes in search of her missing father. Taking the ticket of “half-paffage” he left for her, she journeys across the sea and finds herself trapped on small gray island inhabited only by ancient, creaking fisherman, a piggish cat, a moon-cheeked boy named Cary, and an apple-faced old woman who locks Clo away. Though Clo is desperate to escape the island and the old woman—who sits weaving an enormous gray tapestry day after day—she soon begins to realize that the island may be the only place she can truly help her father, as well as all those she left behind.

Many of the characters of Spindlefish and Stars are meant to appear as not exactly human. The islanders, especially, have attributes that suggest they’ve been crafted out of objects: the old woman’s face is “shriveled and shapeless as a dried apple”; others look like “misshapen lumps of clay” or have skin of parchment. Even Clo’s father, who is very much of the “real world,” should not seem realistic, as he has aged in an impossibly rapid way.

The island also has many fantastical elements, in particular the fishing grotto Clo chances upon, as well as the tapestry that she will eventually discover is not, in fact, gray at all. For this reason, I think Spindlefish and Stars would work best as an animated film, perhaps something like one of the stop-motion films by Henry Selick (or, just generally, the Laika studio), or as a film that fully interweaves the real and magical. Guillermo del Toro is remarkably adept at this, and I can see the world and characters of Spindlefish and Stars being developed much like the world and characters of Pan’s Labyrinth. J. A. Bayona’s A Monster Calls, though, is another possible model; the watercolor animation used in that film would work well as Clo discovers her father’s past in his notebook, and a similar technique could be employed as she examines the threads in the old woman’s tapestry.

As for actors: this is far more challenging, especially considering how ancient or unrealistic many of the characters are meant to seem! I don’t generally think of actors when I write, so I have no specific individuals in mind, even for the two central child characters, Clo and Cary. However, someone like a young Alex Lawther could play a brilliant gentle Cary (as could perhaps one of the boys from Jojo Rabbit, Roman Griffin Davis or, especially, Archie Yates). Someone like Keisha Castle-Hughes as she appeared in Whale Rider would make an excellent determined Clo; a young Julia Garner, too, could capture Clo’s bravery and (slightly prickly) self-confidence similarly well.
Visit Christiane M. Andrews's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 9, 2020

Michael Cannell's "A Brotherhood Betrayed"

Michael Cannell is the author of four non-fiction books, most recently A Brotherhood Betrayed: The Man Behind the Rise and Fall of Murder, Inc.. His previous books are Incendiary: The Psychiatrist, the Mad Bomber and the Invention of Criminal Profiling, The Limit: Life and Death on the 1961 Grand Prix Circuit and I.M. Pei: Mandarin of Modernism.

Cannell has worked as a reporter for U.P.I and Time, and as an editor for The New York Times. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and many other publications.

Here Cannell dreamcasts an adaptation of A Brotherhood Betrayed:
A Brotherhood Betrayed: The Man Behind the Rise and Fall of Murder, Inc is a preposterously cinematic story, rich with zoot-suited gangsters crashing nightclubs with blinged out chorus girls and bodies dumped from Pontiacs in the dark reaches of the Brooklyn waterfront.

For a decade the heavy-browed, jut-jawed Jewish mobster Abe Reles ran Murder, Inc., an assassination squad charged with eliminating informants. He was short with bulging Popeye arms and a manner so menacing that his presence intimidated everyone in the room. “There was something about Reles’s physical bearing, a look in his eye, that actually made the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” a district attorney said. His role would once have gone to Joe Pesci, but Pesci is too old to play it now. So let’s give it instead to the Irish actor Tom Hardy, provided he can pull off a plausible Brooklyn accent. I bet he can.

For Lucky Luciano, the scar-faced, cobra-eyed mob lord who rarely expressed any emotion, I’d tag the ever steely Daniel Craig. Luciano had a cold regal bearing, and that’s Craig’s stock in trade. I can picture him in a double-breasted suit ruling the mob’s coast-to-coast rackets from his suite in the Waldorf-Astoria and flying to Miami to bet on the horses surrounded by his bodyguards.

The prosecutor Thomas Dewey is a tougher question. With his wide handsome Midwestern face and well-tended dark mustache, Dewey could have been mistaken for a young Ernest Hemingway, though he had none of the author’s brash charisma. He was, in fact, stiff to the point of paralysis, even with family and friends. An aide remembered him as “cold, cold as a February icicle.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, said Dewey was as rigid as the “little man on a wedding cake.” The same qualities that made Dewey unpopular— a prim rectitude and bloodless efficiency — also made him a lethal prosecutor. What actor can convey Dewey’s combination of ambition and awkwardness? Let’s pitch it to Jake Gyllenhaal and see what he can do.
Learn more about the book and author at Michael T. Cannell's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Limit.

My Book, The Movie: Incendiary.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 5, 2020

David Heska Wanbli Weiden's "Winter Counts"

David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, is author of the novel Winter Counts. Winter Counts is a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and has been selected as an Amazon Best Book of August, Best of the Month by Apple Books, a September main selection of the Book of the Month Club, and was an Indie Next Great Reads pick for September.

Here Weiden dreamcasts an adaptation of Winter Counts:
My novel, Winter Counts, would be great fun to cast for film or television, and there’s a chance this might happen in the future, although I would have no say in the casting process, of course. Winter Counts is the story of a Native American hired vigilante, Virgil Wounded Horse, who lives on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Because of an outdated law, Native nations cannot prosecute felony crimes that occur on their own lands, but must instead refer those cases to federal authorities. However, the feds are refusing to prosecute about thirty percent of all cases, which means that the offender is released and can commit more crimes. When this happens, victims’ families often turn to these hired enforcers to get their own justice. My hero Virgil charges one hundred dollars for each bone he breaks and each tooth he knocks out.

Obviously, the role of Virgil would require an actor with a tough persona and presence. One choice would be Jason Momoa, who’s obviously a physically imposing person. But another Native actor that I like quite a bit is Zahn McClarnon, who’s acted in Fargo, Longmire, and Westworld. He has an intensity that I think would suit the role well. Yet another possibility would be the fantastic First Nations actor, Darrell Dennis, who narrated the novel for the audiobook of Winter Counts. His reading of the book demonstrated his acting chops, and I’d love for him to have a role in any production of Winter Counts. If not Virgil, Darrell Dennis would be great for the role of Chef Lack Strongbow, who comes to the reservation and tries to sell his concept of indigenous food, which he calls Indigi-Cultural Decolo-Native cuisine. As for the female lead, Marie Short Bear, there’s a Canadian First Nations actor named Shannon Baker who would be a wonderful fit for that role. I’ve seen a few clips of her work and she is great.

Overall, thinking about actors and directors is great fun, and with any luck, viewers may be able to see Winter Counts on the screen sometime in the future.
Visit David Heska Wanbli Weiden's website.

The Page 69 Test: Winter Counts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 2, 2020

Robert Dugoni's "The Last Agent"

Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and #1 Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite police series set in Seattle, which has sold more than 6 million books worldwide. He is also the author of The Charles Jenkins espionage series, and the David Sloane legal thriller series. He is also the author of several stand-alone novels including The 7th Canon, Damage Control, and the literary novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell; as well as the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Several of his novels have been optioned for movies and television series.

Here Dugoni dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Last Agent:
This may be closer to a reality as I sold the rights to The Eighth Sister and The Last Agent to Roadside Productions.

I’m optimistic that the story is perfect for this day and age with an African American lead actor. I always thought Denzel Washington would make a perfect Charles Jenkins, but more recently I’ve felt that Idris Elba would also be ideal.

I also thought of Matt Damon as I wrote the role of Matt Lemore. I’m a big fan of his acting and always have been.

For Alex Jenkins, Salma Hayek is a dead ringer.

The really fun casting would be the Russian agents. For Victor Federov, someone like Liev Schreiber would be perfect and Niklolay Valuev would be an ideal Arkady Volkov.

That would be an all-star cast.
Visit Robert Dugoni's website and Facebook page.

My Book, The Movie: Bodily Harm.

My Book, The Movie: Murder One.

My Book, The Movie: The Eighth Sister.

The Page 69 Test: The Eighth Sister.

My Book, The Movie: A Cold Trail.

The Page 69 Test: The Last Agent.

--Marshal Zeringue