Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Paul Vidich's "The Mercenary"

Paul Vidich’s fourth novel, The Mercenary, is now out from Pegasus Books. His debut novel, An Honorable Man, was selected by Publishers Weekly as a Top 10 Mystery and Thriller in 2016. It was followed the next year by The Good Assassin. His third novel, The Coldest Warrior, was widely praised in England and America, earning strong reviews from The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times.

Here Vidich dreamcasts an adaptation of The Mercenary:
The Mercenary was written with great attention to setting, place, and atmosphere. Of course those are appropriate for a spy novel set in Moscow in 1985 at the end of the Cold War. An American, Alex Garin, formerly of the CIA, is brought back to Moscow Station to help exfiltrate a senior KGB officer who wants to defect. It’s a dreary city, Americans are under constant surveillance, and danger is everywhere. When I wrote the novel, I saw my characters in visual settings and dialogue drives most scenes. In this sense, The Mercenary, feel cinematic. I have chosen to cast the movie with actors from the past or from earlier in their careers.

The Mercenary, the movie, ideally would be directed by Carol Reed, the English film director best known for Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948), and The Third Man (1949). I am a huge fan of The Third Man and the dark, atmospheric world of Post-War Vienna that Reed created in his classic film. Vienna in 1948 was controlled for the four major powers and it was a city where everyone had a racket, food was rationed, and many people were desperate for a new life. The movie captures the city’s numbing grimness, and my novel tries to capture the same pervasive grimness of Moscow thirty-five years later.

Natalya, the book’s female protagonist, is both a spy and the novel’s romantic interest. I see her being played by Alida Valli, an Italian actress who acted in over 100 films, including The Third Man, but also in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case. The sullen demeanor, vinegary spirit, and mysterious glamor, make her perfect for my spy-heroine. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2006.

Alex Garin, the novel’s protagonist, is an enigmatic figure. He was born in Russia in the 1940s, moved to America when his mother married a US Army captain stationed in Moscow during WWII, and joined the CIA in the 1960s. His mother happened to be an illegal working for Moscow, and Alex, her son, is a sort of Manchurian Candidate in the CIA, where he is a double agent working secretly for the KGB. However, he is turned and becomes a CIA mole within the KGB, while ostensibly working as a KGB mole in the CIA. He is an American Russian mongrel with divided loyalties. The actor who plays Garin needs to be clever, witty, and deceitful, who can effortlessly live his many lives. The actor should be in his mid-40s. The actors who come to mind are all English and older now, or passed away, but these men in their forties, would be perfect for the role: Colin Firth, Richard Burton, Christian Bale, and Gary Oldman.
Visit Paul Vidich's website.

Q&A with Paul Vidich.

--Marshal Zeringue