Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Martine Bailey’s "The Prophet"

The Prophet, Martine Bailey’s fourth novel, is a historical crime novel in which Tabitha Hart investigates a cold-blooded murder and a utopian sect in an ancient forest.

The novel follows on from events in The Almanack and also reads as a standalone mystery.

Cheshire. May Day, 1753. Tabitha De Vallory's perfect life is shaken when a girl is slaughtered beneath the Mondrem Oak on her family's forest estate. Nearby, enigmatic Baptist Gunn is convinced that a second messiah will be born, amid blood and strife, close to the oak on Midsummer's Day. Could the murder be linked to Gunn's cryptic prophecy?

As Midsummer's Day draws closer, Tabitha soon learns the destiny that threatens her and those she holds most dear...

Bailey lives in a village near Chester, England and her first novel, An Appetite for Violets, was a Booklist Top Ten Crime Debut.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of The Prophet:
My heroine Tabitha is a former London courtesan who reluctantly returned to her home village. Recently married and expecting her first child, she is a clever risk-taker. To play her I had in mind Crystal Laity’s performance as harlot Margaret Vosper in Poldark, a mix of sharp wits, charm and physical allure.

Tabitha is married to Nat De Vallory, a former hack writer and the unexpected heir to Bold Hall. Hiding his connection to the victim, he struggles with his new position. Fascinated by the local prophet he makes an ill-judged test of Gunn’s powers to foresee the future. No apologies for casting Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark) again.

Baptist Gunn is a travelling preacher – or maybe something less wholesome. Camping out in the forest, he prophecies the birth of a new messiah to take to America. Charismatic and slippery, I picture Sam Riley (Control, Maleficent) in the spellbinding role.

Tabitha’s naïve friend Jennet Saxton leads the younger generation. Only sixteen, her search for romance and fascination with Baptist Gunn lead her into danger. I’d love a young Christina Ricci, circa Sleepy Hollow to play her.

Sukey Adams is Tabitha’s wet nurse, also expecting a child. Straight-laced and brimming with superstitious advice, she offers solace to her mistress. Kerrie Hayes is my choice, after playing another servant in creepy folklore series, The Living and the Dead.

The location is Chester, a 2,000 year old walled city in England with distinctive black and white high-gabled buildings. Tabitha’s home village of Netherlea is a rural idyll around a manor house, where country customs mark the year, from the woodland revels of May-time to the candlelit revelations of All Hallows Eve.

Prophecies were once widely read and discussed – as indeed the appeal of astrologers and psychics has apparently returned in our own tumultuous times. Baptist Gunn is not based on a single person, though the 18th century witnessed many religious groups who practised spirit possession and visions. Most famously the Shakers eventually left their native England to take their ‘ecstatic’ beliefs (and minimalist furniture) to America in 1774,

In my dreamcast I’d love Ang Lee to direct. I’m thinking of the way the changing English landscape was backdrop to the emotional turmoil of Sense and Sensibility. And I’m sure the creator of The Life of Pi would do justice to the firelit sleeping prophecies, the mystical stones and barrows of the forest, and the phantom apparition that appears in Bold Hall’s ancient chapel.
Visit Martine Bailey's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

My Book, The Movie: An Appetite for Violets.

My Book, The Movie: A Taste for Nightshade.

My Book, The Movie: The Almanack.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, May 2, 2021

James L. Cambias's "The Godel Operation"

James Cambias has been nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Godel Operation:
The Godel Operation is a tricky book to cast, in part because at least two of the main characters are faceless machines or cyborgs, and thus would rely heavily on voice actors. Still, recent superhero spectaculars have shown that there's almost no limit left to what can be filmed. So here are my thoughts on casting The Godel Operation.

Zee Sadaran is my "leading man" character: young, athletic, very good-natured, and smarter than most people who meet him realize. He's on a journey across the Solar System to find his lost love, which is an almost hopeless quest since there are literally a billion worlds circling the Sun at the end of the Tenth Millennium. If we stick to contemporary actors, Channing Tatum or Adam Beach would be good candidates. If I can pluck anyone from time and space I think I'd cast the late Brandon Lee.

Daslakh, the narrator, is a spider-shaped machine controlled by a smart aleck digital intelligence. It is helping Zee on his quest but has a secret agenda of its own. It constantly describes itself as "old and cunning" so I'd choose a voice actor with a good deadpan comedy delivery. Alan Tudyk is the obvious choice, with Robert Downey Jr. as a good second.

Kusti Sendoa, Zee's "imaginary girlfriend" who draws him into the search for the legendary superweapon called the Godel Trigger, has to be an actress who can convey to the audience that she is a chameleon, always playing a role herself. Florence Pugh would be good for the part, or Charlize Theron a couple of decades ago.

Adya Elso is Kusti's rival for Zee's affection and the Godel Trigger. She's a shy but brilliant young woman from a wealthy family, and is a literal chameleon with skin that changes color to fit her mood. Anya Taylor-Joy with an animated skin seems like the best casting, or perhaps pluck Audrey Hepburn out of 1953 for the role.

Pelagia is a spaceship with the brain of a killer whale uplifted to human-level intelligence. She should have a voice which can be both comic and threatening — possibly Scarlett Johansson or Kathleen Turner.

Summanus is an artificial intelligence thousands of times smarter than a human, who rules a huge space station in the shadow of Jupiter and is more than a little bit paranoid. It's not quite a villain but it's certainly an antagonist for Daslakh. Tom Baker would be a wonderful voice for Summanus, or Christopher Lee in his prime. Or go farther back in time and cast Orson Welles. He's played a planet before, so it should be no stretch.

Muro, one of the villains, is a fat orange cat with human-level intelligence and some illegal high-tech gear. She should probably be voiced by someone like Judi Dench. (I understand she's got some experience in feline roles.) Or go back in time and hire the incomparable June Foray.

Ketto and Chi are a murderous duo also after the Godel Trigger. They need to be both funny and scary. Tom Holland could be Chi, and Tom Hiddleston could be Ketto.

Varas Lupur is the self-proclaimed Greatest Thief in History. I'd cast Gary Oldman and disable all his safety features.
Visit James L. Cambias's website.

My Book, The Movie: A Darkling Sea.

My Book, The Movie: Arkad's World.

--Marshal Zeringue