Monday, August 30, 2021

Andrew Welsh-Huggins's "An Empty Grave"

A son of the Finger Lakes in western New York State, Andrew Welsh-Huggins now calls himself a “proud native adopted Ohioan.” By day, he is a reporter for the Associated Press in Columbus. By earlier in the day, he is the author of seven books in the Andy Hayes private eye series, featuring a former Ohio State and Cleveland Browns quarterback turned investigator.

Here Welsh-Huggins dreamcasts an adaptation of the latest novel in the series, An Empty Grave:
I get this question a lot, and the answer is easy: the best person to play Andy Hayes, my disgraced former Ohio State University quarterback, is actor Keanu Reeves. Why? He’s done it twice on screen already.

The first time, in 1991’s Point Break, he teamed with Patrick Swayze in a crime fiction tale involving the FBI’s investigation of a violent California bank robbery gang whose members investigators believe are surfers. Reeves plays Johnny Utah, a former Ohio State quarterback who quit the sport after blowing out his knee, and later becomes an FBI agent. The second time, in the 2000 sports comedy The Replacements, Reeves plays Shane Falco, a former Ohio State quarterback who saw his star dim after a blow-out loss in the Sugar Bowl. In the movie, he’s hired during an NFL players strike to join the fictional Washington Sentinels, coached by Gene Hackman. To my mind, Reeves' brooding skepticism, moodiness, and perpetual sense of hauling around baggage fit Andy perfectly. At fifty-six, Reeves is probably a little older than I imagine Andy at the moment—Andy’s in or around his early forties—but Reeves is still my sentimental favorite.
Visit Andrew Welsh-Huggins's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Jo Perry's "Pure"

Jo Perry earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television, and has published articles, book reviews, and poetry.

She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, novelist Thomas Perry.

They have two adult children. Their three cats and two dogs are rescues.

About Perry's new novel, Pure:
Caught in a pincer movement between the sudden death of Evelyn (her favourite aunt) and the Corona virus, Ascher Lieb finds herself unexpectedly locked down in her aunt's retirement community with only Evelyn's grief-stricken dog Freddie for company.

As the world tumbles down into a pandemic shaped rabbit-hole Ascher is wracked with guilt that her aunt was buried without the Jewish burial rights of purification.
Here the author dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of Pure:
Ascher requires a character-actor, not a movie star––someone really funny and real to bring her to life. A young Sarah Silverman would be perfect. I wish Ascher and Silverman were the same age, but Ascher is much younger. I’m pretty sure Silverman could play a character younger than she is now, but if she couldn’t, the comedian Ester Steinberg (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) would be perfect, too.
Visit Jo Perry's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Jo Perry & Lola and Lucy.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Better.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Best.

My Book, The Movie: Dead Is Good.

My Book, The Movie: Dead is Beautiful.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Amy Mason Doan's "Lady Sunshine"

Amy Mason Doan is the bestselling author of Lady Sunshine, The Summer List, and Summer Hours.

Doan grew up in Danville, California and now lives in Portland, Oregon with her family. Before turning to fiction, she worked as a reporter & editor for The Oregonian, San Francisco Chronicle, Wired, Forbes, and other publications. Doan has an M.A. in Journalism from Stanford University and a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Lady Sunshine.
Jackie – Florence Pugh
Willa – Elle Fanning
Shane – Luke Kirby
Bree – Queen Latifah
Graham – Jeff Tweedy

Lady Sunshine is a surprise inheritance story that, in my totally unbiased opinion, would make a fantastic movie. We follow main character Jackie Pierce in two time periods – 1979 and 1999. In ’79, Jackie is a restless, fiery, unhappy teen sent to live with her musical, bohemian relatives for the summer at The Sandcastle. It’s a gorgeous place cut off from the rest of the world -- a wild, sprawling estate in far northern coastal California. She forms an intense bond with her hippie cousin Willa, although the two couldn’t be more different, and she has the best summer of her life with the many free spirited visitors who flock there.

But at the end of the summer, Jackie flees for mysterious reasons. Twenty years later, Jackie, now a staid music teacher in Boston, inherits The Sandcastle and returns “just to pack up and sell it.”

Of course it’s not that simple…

Jackie in ’99 is keeping a lot of secrets, and she’s buried her teenage boldness for reasons we don’t understand until the end of the book, but we can still see a flicker of that fire. The musicians who come to The Sandcastle to record a tribute album to Jackie’s uncle in the present thread of the story help her rediscover that old self – and the passions she’s been stuffing deep down for many years.

Florence Pugh would capture both Jackie’s fierce and tender sides, and would make us feel her joy and vulnerability as she opens up to love with album producer Shane. (Plus, I’ve seen Pugh’s incredible performance in The Little Drummer Girl so I know she can rock 70s fashion…)

Willa, Jackie’s cousin, is ethereal and dreamy. She loves the outdoors, surfing, Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading. She spends weeks by herself alone in nature, but she sees a lot in those woods. Elle Fanning, who was brilliant in the 70s-set family drama 20th Century Women, would be amazing.

Shane, the love interest and general pot- (and plot-) stirrer in 1999, is obsessed with the music Jackie’s late uncle made, and he convinces her to let him and his entourage stay at The Sandcastle to record a tribute album. Jackie’s immediately drawn to him, though she doubts his motives.

Luke Kirby would embody Shane’s mysterious and playful sides. I love him as Lenny Bruce in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and I’m obsessed with his performance in Sarah Polley’s haunting film Take this Waltz.

Bree Lang is a famous singer who takes part in the 1999 tribute-album project for personal reasons. She and Jackie become unlikely friends. She’s one of the few characters in the book who manages to handle her fame with grace, and she can slip seamlessly between private and public worlds. Bree is authentic one-on-one and on-stage.

I’ve always visualized Queen Latifah in this role. Her performance as a mesmerizing singer and Holly Hunter’s friend in Living Out Loud is one of my favorites among her many roles. She’d be a dream.

Graham Kingston is Jackie’s uncle & Willa’s father. In 1979, he’s a faded folk singer who presides over The Sandcastle like a king. He relishes that role since his star has dimmed...we learn that record producers “see only his numbers, not his words.” Jackie idolizes him and his songwriting talent, but she realizes that he’s a deeply flawed human. I think I based Graham on David Crosby with dashes of Jackson Browne and James Taylor. Graham is leonine in appearance-- hulking and heavyset, with a mane of blond hair. I’d love to see Jeff Tweedy of Wilco explore a darker side of his artistic personality for this role.

Since I got the idea for Lady Sunshine’s central plot (the tribute album) from the Wilco/Billy Bragg album Mermaid Avenue, it’d be fitting.
Visit Amy Mason Doan's website.

The Page 69 Test: Summer Hours.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, August 20, 2021

Kira Jane Buxton's "Feral Creatures"

Kira Jane Buxton's writing has appeared in The New York Times,, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Huffington Post, and more. Her debut novel Hollow Kingdom was an Indie Next pick, a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor, the Audie Awards, and the Washington State Book Awards, and was named a best book of 2019 by Good Housekeeping, NPR, and Book Riot. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, five Steller's jays, two dark-eyed juncos, two squirrels, and a husband.

Here Buxton dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Feral Creatures:
It’s tremendous fun to imagine the dream cast for Feral Creatures. The novel, a sequel to Hollow Kingdom that can also be read as a standalone, is narrated by a foul-mouthed crow named S.T. There are interstitial chapters narrated by other animals to give a glimpse into what is happening around the world in this post-apocalyptic funny fable. As a result, there are a great many characters, many of whom are lively and humorous. Someone recently wrote to me to ask when Patton Oswalt would be voicing S.T. on the big screen, and I think Patton would perfectly actualize a snarky American crow with a huge heart and a penchant for puns, poetry and Cheetos!

I am a very big fan of Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement, and could imagine them voicing the roles of Ghubari the intellectual African Grey and Tom Hanks, a theatrical cockatoo whose erstwhile owner was in the performing arts.

The character of Oomingmak, the lovable but gassy musk ox who would lay down his life for his beloved Dee, requires an actor with a deep voice. I imagine Vin Diesel or Sam Elliott would be spectacular.

There are three capricious tiger characters and I suspect they would be beautifully voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Since I get to muse and choose for this fantasy dream casting, I would love to see a young, up-and-coming actress in the role of Dee, the last child on earth. Dee has been predominantly raised by a crow and a parliament of owls, has a deep and abiding connection to nature, and is one of the titular “feral creatures” of the novel. I’m an eternal optimist who loves to see a dream fulfilled, so I would be thrilled to see the role of Dee go to someone relatively unknown in the industry and be the first break of their acting career.
Visit Kira Jane Buxton's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Kira Jane Buxton & Ewok.

My Book, The Movie: Hollow Kingdom.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Nev March's "Murder in Old Bombay"

Nev March is the recent winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America Award for Best First Crime Fiction.

After a long career in business analysis, in 2015 she returned to her passion, writing fiction and now teaches creative writing at Rutgers-Osher Institute. A Parsee Zoroastrian herself, she lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Murder in Old Bombay is her debut novel.

Here March dreamcasts an adaptation of Murder in Old Bombay:
With five nominations for national book awards, Murder in Old Bombay has attracted interest for its screen rights.

Murder in Old Bombay is a cinematographer’s delight, because it’s set amid the vast vistas of Colonial India, from posh Bombay mansions and royal durbar halls to old fortresses and mountain villages on Himalayan slopes by way of army cantonments, boxing gymkhanas and seedy dockyards. In the vein of a Merchant-Ivory production, I’d love to see it produced by Deepa Mehta (Bride and Prejudice) or Gurinder Chadha (Beecham House) or Michael Engler (Downton Abbey)!

In 1892, Captain James Agnihotri, a recuperating officer in British ruled India reads a despairing letter from a widower, Adi Framji and is intrigued. Seeking redemption for his own missteps, he decides to help Adi solve the mystery behind the puzzling deaths of his wife and sister, who plunged to their deaths from a university clocktower in broad daylight. Captain Jim’s investigations lead him through dangerous adventures to reach the ultimate prize—a sense of belonging.

Captain Jim is of mixed race. While this poses a significant social impediment in his personal life, it allows him to investigate both upper class society folk as well as the dark underbelly of Indian society. Through his investigation, he will encounter young Diana Framji’s “diamond sparkle,” a team of lost urchins, as well as the man accused of the crime, who’d “stood trial, suffered censure and public vitriol, all to protect the memory of two friends.” And he will fall in love with his client’s family, including Mrs. Framji who feeds him sumptuous meals at every opportunity and Burjor, the broad-chested open-hearted patriarch. Diana is his client’s sister, educated in England, polished at a finishing school, dynamic and assertive, she chafes against her Victorian limitations and restricted lifestyle. And she has secrets.

Among his allies he will find Editor Tom Byram:
Smooth. The man was so composed I disliked and admired him at the same time,
Police Superintendent McIntyre:
“Evening,” he said Abruptly. Not disposed to think well of me, then.
And unexpected, heroic aid from one fragile, sweet child.
Chutki had the sort of pluck no one expects, the courage to endure the unspeakable in Jalandhar, to walk on bloodied feet, to protect a babe and save little scraps to feed it when she had nothing for herself…
Above all he will encounter India.
“When I rose, dusk was creeping up the mountain. Birds trilled and crickets called to each other, friendly sounds, yet they reminded me of my solitary state.”
The male lead, Captain Jim, could be played well by British actor Blake Ritson, or Indian actor Hrithik Roshan because they both have a certain angularity to their features, good physique and are great character actors. The actor would need to don a number of disguises and completely disappear into them, the way Captain Jim does in imitating Sherlock Holmes!

The female lead could be Bangladeshi actress Bidya Sinha or Annet Mahendru, born in Afghanistan to a Russian mother and an Indian father, from the FX show The Americans.

With a panoply of memorable characters and Bombay, queen of imperial cities as backdrop, I can just see this emotional story filling the big screen and the hearts of movie-goers. See more locations, characters, and casting choices.
Visit Nev March's website.

Q&A with Nev March.

The Page 69 Test: Murder in Old Bombay.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Joanna Schaffhausen's "Gone for Good"

Joanna Schaffhausen wields a mean scalpel, skills she developed in her years studying neuroscience. She has a doctorate in psychology, which reflects her long-standing interest in the brain―how it develops and the many ways it can go wrong. Previously, she worked as a scientific editor in the field of drug development. Prior to that, she was an editorial producer for ABC News, writing for programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and 20/20. She lives in the Boston area with her husband, daughter, and an obstreperous basset hound named Winston.

Schaffhausen's new novel is Gone for Good.

Here the author, with a little help from her friends, dreamcasts an adaptation of the new novel:
Okay, confession time: I am terrible at remembering names of actors so I do not cast my books while I’m writing them. I put this casting question for Gone for Good to my beta group, which is full of people way hipper than I am. The first suggestion came from my husband, who said, “Steve Buscemi should play every role.” I confess I would 100% watch this. It doesn’t seem realistic, though, so here are some other ideas from our group brainstorming session.

We like Daniela Ruah from NCIS: Los Angeles to play the lead role of Detective Annalisa Vega. Ruah would bring immediate crime-fighting gravitas. Also, she’s the right age and shares Vega’s Portuguese background. Vega’s required to do a wide range of emotions in the book, juggling a tough case, a complicated family life, and two potential romantic interests. Ruah has the nuance to handle them all.

For Vega’s ex-husband and current police partner, Nick Carelli, we like Joe Mangeniello. Nick is a charming, good-looking Italian guy who would prefer to talk his way out of trouble than fire his gun, and Mangeniello has the magnetism to pull off the role.

The other major voice in the book is Grace Harper, whom we learn about from her journal entries as she tracks the mysterious Lovelorn Killer. A grocery store manager by day, in her off-hours Grace is a member of the “Grave Diggers” amateur sleuthing group. Grace decided to take on the Lovelorn case, about a serial killer who went dormant twenty years earlier. She ends up dead in the same fashion as his victims, leading Vega and Carelli to wonder if she had indeed found the killer. We like Allison Tolman for Grace, as she as the wit and smarts, as well as the “everywoman” vibe, needed to carry off wise-cracking, shrewd Grace.

Annalisa and Nick are backed up on the case by Lynn Zimmer, a female Black captain who is near retirement. Zimmer’s nickname is “The Hammer” and she has to bring it down on Annalisa a couple of times during the investigation. We like Aisha Tyler for the role of Zimmer, who is tough-minded but fair. Tyler has the presence to command authority.

Rounding out the group are Grace Harper’s fellow amateur sleuths in the “Grave Diggers” group. For Grace’s female BFF, Molly Lipinski, we like Elle King for her spunk. For Chris Colburn, the hipster IT guy, we pick Liam Hemsworth. For Jared Barnes, the former military policeman who is now in a wheelchair, we nominate Jason Segel. Finally, for the retired school teacher and history expert, Oliver Benton, we would love to see Laurence Fishburne, who has an air of both intelligence and kindness.
Visit Joanna Schaffhausen's website.

Q&A with Joanna Schaffhausen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Sarah Warburton's "You Can Never Tell"

Sarah D. Warburton lives in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. For ten years she was the lead writer for the monthly magazine UpClose. She has studied writing with Pam Houston at the Taos Writers Workshop and with Justin Cronin in Houston. Her work has appeared in the Southern Arts Journal, Women on Writing, Embark Literary Magazine, and Oyster River Pages.

Warburton's first novel, Once Two Sisters, was a Publishers Weekly pick of the week, a Crimereads recommended debut, and a PopSugar featured title.

[My Book, The Movie: Once Two SistersQ&A with Sarah WarburtonThe Page 69 Test: Once Two Sisters]

Here Warburton dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, You Can Never Tell:
In You Can Never Tell, Kacy Tremaine moves to a charming Texas suburb to escape her past, framed for embezzlement by her former best friend. As she navigates the unexpectedly cutthroat social scene of her new town, Kacy quickly makes new friends—preppy, inscrutable Elizabeth, chatty yet evasive Rahmia, and red-headed, unapologetic Lena. But good friends aren't always what they seem. Episodes of a fictional podcast alert us that Kacy’s living through a true crime story, before she even realizes it. This really is a suburban serial-killer story about friendship.

Kacy, my protagonist, comes to Texas doubting her own judgement. She longs for connection, but is still suffering from the betrayal of the last friend she trusted. But she’s compassionate, artistic, and fierce when she feels that someone she loves is threatened. I first saw Saoirse Ronan in Atonement and was blown away by the tension and power she brought to each scene. Through Lady Bird, Brooklyn, and Little Women (as the creative and heroic Jo March!), Saoirse Ronan combines inner strength with a subtlety that’s perfect for Kacy.

Elizabeth is a tightly-wound Canadian expat. The perfect hostess, super-organized and definitely hiding something. Kacy’s always second-guessing whether Elizabeth really likes her or is just being polite. I was absolutely picturing Blake Lively as Elizabeth.

Rahmia is funny and chatty, except when she absolutely shuts down. Kacy instinctively likes her and trusts her. In fact, defending Rahmia earns Kacy some new enemies in her new home. Comedian Sabrina Jalees would be a lot of fun in this role, offering support and humor as the story gets darker and darker.

Lena is Kacy’s next-door-neighbor. She’s brash, exuberant, and always up for an adventure. Lena makes Kacy feel fearless. Hanging out by the pool with margaritas, they promise each other that they’ll never become “Stepford Wives.” From drama to comedy, Emma Stone has the charismatic range and larger-than-life presence that makes Lena such a blast. And for her good ol’ boy husband Brady, I’d cast Josh Duhamel. He’s handsome, but with an edge.

Alondra Reyes is supremely self-assured and at the top of her profession. She drops into social events just long enough to interrogate Kacy about her past. Kacy’s terrified that Alondra will uncover all her secrets, but before long she’ll be grateful that Alondra’s a criminal defense attorney. I know Stephanie Beatriz is another actress best known for her role on a comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but her hard-edged, yet nuanced portrayal of Detective Rosa Diaz is perfect for Alondra.

And since this is a story about friendship, the fictional true-crime podcast that runs throughout the novel features two hosts in the style of My Favorite Murder or True Crime Garage. I’d love to hear Kristen Bell and Anna Kendrick for the sometimes snarky, sometimes sensitive banter of Julia and Helen, hosts of Crime to Chat.
Visit Sarah Warburton's website.

Writers Read: Sarah Warburton.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Ellen Byron's "Cajun Kiss of Death"

Ellen Byron is the Agatha Award-winning author of the Cajun Country Mysteries. The USA Today bestselling series has also won multiple Best Humorous Mystery Lefty awards from the Left Coast Crime conference. She also writes The Catering Hall Mysteries (under the pen name Maria DiRico), and will launch the Vintage Cookbook Mysteries (as Ellen) in June 2022.

Byron’s TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and Fairly OddParents. She’s written over 200 national magazine articles, and her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. She also worked as a cater-waiter for the legendary Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing.

A native New Yorker who attended Tulane University, Byron lives in Los Angeles with her husband, daughter, and rescue chi mix, Pogo. She still misses her hometown - and still drives like a New York cabbie.

Here Byron dreamcasts an adaptation of her new Cajun Country Mystery, Cajun Kiss of Death:
It’s so much fun to cast a movie in your mind! Here are my choices for five characters from Cajun Kiss of Death.

Maggie Crozat – I’ve always seen Anne Hathaway in the role of Maggie. She has this wonderful way of combining moxie with a hint of insecurity, plus she knows how to play comedy. Not every actress can. In the 1990s, casting calls often went out for “pretty funny.” This was a call for male and female performers who were hot but also funny. It sounds incredibly sexist these days, doesn’t it? But finding this combination wasn’t easy. I’ll leave it to readers to analyze why.

Detective Bo Durand – I struggled with dream casting Bo for a long time. Someone once suggested Josh Harnett, and he was a possibility. Then my husband and I began watching Schitt’s Creek – we were early fans – and an actor popped into my personal zeitgeist as the perfect casting. His name is Tim Rozon. He played Alexis’s boyfriend Mutt during the show’s first seasons, and he’s got the perfect look and demeanor for Bo. And here’s another advantage to Mr. Rozon. You know all those Hallmark mystery movies? A lot of them are shot in Canada using the country’s tax credits. But to take advantage of the credits, you need to follow “Can Con” – Canadian Content – rules, meaning a large percentage of cast and crew must be Canadian. So, if my dream movie version of Cajun Kiss of Death was shot in Canada, Mr. Rozon would be a boon from both an artistic and business perspective.

Grand-mere, Maggie’s grandmother – This is the one casting choice that’s been a no-brainer since I wrote the series: Blythe Danner. In her youth, Ms. Danner starred in several Tennessee Williams plays, so she’s got the Southern thing down. Plus, not only does she exude an elegance and grace that’s perfect for Gran, there’s a twinkle in her eye and a talent for comedy. I absolutely envision her when I write this character. And you know what? That daughter of hers – What’s her name? Gwyneth something? – would also make a great Maggie!

Police chief Rufus Durand – Sam Rockwell is one of the most versatile actors working today. There’s nothing he can’t do and be charming while doing it, even if playing a villain. He’s got a bit of the imp to him, which would work for Ru, who goes from being an enemy to frenemy through the course of the Cajun Country Mystery series. Ru is unapologetic about his sometimes-sketchy choices, so you need an actor who’s innately likeable to play him. When it comes to casting Rufus Durand, Sam’s the man.

Vanessa Fleer-MacIlhoney – this casting choice might blow you away, but you know who would be great in this role? Stormy Daniels. Yup, you read that right. Stormy’s got Vanessa’s look down, plus the woman has a great sense of humor. And she’s one smart cookie, which Vanessa is as well. Some actresses might lean toward playing Vanessa as a bimbo. She’s not. She’s self-involved and clueless a lot of the time, but often offers a surprisingly canny take on a situation. You want to cast a performer who can hit all those notes, and I think Ms. Daniels can.

As to a director, no one specific comes to mind. All I know is I want her to be a woman!
Visit Ellen Byron's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ellen Byron & Wiley and Pogo.

Q&A with Ellen Byron.

Writers Read: Ellen Byron.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Edward M. Lerner's "Déjà Doomed"

A physicist and computer scientist, Edward M. Lerner toiled in the vineyards of high tech for thirty years, as everything from engineer to senior vice president. Then he began writing full time.

His novels run the gamut from near-future technothrillers, like Small Miracles and Energized, to traditional SF, like the InterstellarNet series and Dark Secret. Collaborating with New York Times bestselling author Larry Niven, Lerner also wrote the Fleet of Worlds series of Ringworld companion novels. Much of Lerner's short fiction has been collected in Creative Destruction and Countdown to Armageddon / A Stranger in Paradise. His nonfiction articles on science and technology centerpiece Frontiers of Space, Time, and Thought: Essays and Stories on The Big Questions.

Lerner's 2015 novel, InterstellarNet: Enigma, won the inaugural Canopus Award for interstellar-themed fiction. His writing has also been nominated for Hugo, Locus, and Prometheus awards.

Here Lerner dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Déjà Doomed:
If they make my book into a film, here’s who I'd like to play the lead role(s).

Let’s start with the book: a near-future adventure set mostly on the Moon. Our intrepid explorers find artifacts left behind by ancient alien visitors – and you just know nothing good can come of their poking around. Even if the novel’s title weren’t Déjà Doomed.

But I don’t mean to imply this is a horror story – setting aside the almost certain likelihood of an existentially horrible outcome. Déjà Doomed is most definitely science fiction, with the majority of the action – of which there’s plenty – happening on, and in, the Moon. As for any clarification of the doom part of the title, readers here will thank me for not being too specific today.

In the interest of cinematic interest, I might mention there are also – coming into the story in ways you might never anticipate – aliens, and space battles, and even a cameo by … dinosaurs.

Before getting to the cast, I’d best introduce a few lead characters. First is Marcus Judson, a NASA engineer. He’s leading the construction of a radio observatory on the lunar far side, sheltered from Earth’s radio cacophony – until the CIA drafts him to investigate possible alien artifacts half the Moon away. Second is Yevgeny Rudin, “bush” pilot supporting all manner of Russian activities on the Moon. His real job is undercover FSB agent. Yevgeny, of course, comes to suspect that the CIA, in the person of Marcus, is up to something – and goes looking. Finally, there’s Marcus’s earthbound astronomer wife, Valerie Clayburn. Val, like Yevgeny, doesn’t take the cover story of Marcus’s sudden expedition at face value and, if only remotely, finds ways to insert herself.

For Marcus, our clean-cut, American engineering hero in space, there can be only one choice. That’s Matt Damon, aka the unstoppable Mark Watney, star of The Martian. For Yevgeny, Marcus’s suspicious Russian foil, I see Sergey Puskepalis, aka the engineer Zaytsev in the submarine/caper movie Black Sea. And for Valerie, I’d propose Amy Adams, brilliant exo-linguist in the SF movie Arrival.

I’d certainly pay good money to see that cast do this story.
Learn more about the author and his work at his website.

My Book, The Movie: InterstellarNet: Origins.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Gwen Florio's "The Truth of It All"

Gwen Florio grew up in a farmhouse filled with books and a ban on television. After studying English at the University of Delaware, she began a thirty-plus year career in journalism that has taken her around the country and to more than a dozen countries, including several conflict zones.

Her first novel in the Lola Wick mystery series, Montana won the Pinckley Prize for Crime Fiction and the High Plains Book Award, and was a finalist for the Shamus Award, an International Thriller Award and a Silver Falchion Award. She has since released four other books in the Lola Wick series.

Recent novels include the standalone Silent Hearts, and Best Laid Plans, the first installment of a new mystery series.

Here Florio dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Truth of It All:
The Truth of It All, about a young public defender trying her first big case, has a wealth of strong female characters – not just the protagonist, Julia Geary, but her partner in the public defender’s office, Claudette Greene, and her mother-in-law, Beverly Sullivan. In addition, the high school girl who’s the target of the sexual assault case around which the book revolves goes from being a cardboard character in many people’s minds -- i.e, The Victim – to finding her own strength in a very notable way.

For that reason, I’d love to see a female director. Chloe Zhao immediately comes to mind, not only for her Oscar-winning work on Nomadland, but for an earlier film, The Rider, that deftly the nuances of ethnicity and class in the West – two issues central to this book. I also liked Kelly Reichardt’s film, Certain Women, that examined similar issues and that was shot in Montana. And, given the case involved in the book, Emerald Fennell immediately comes to mind because of Promising Young Woman. Such a wealth of directors!

As for actors, Kristen Stewart (of Reichardt’s Certain Women in addition to the Twilight movies) has a wonderfully wary quality that’s perfect for Julia, who’s negotiating the difficult terrain of being a new widow and suddenly single mother as a result, with a challenging case that brings the wrath of the community upon her.

All hail Regina King as Claudette, Julia’s take-no-shit partner in the public defender’s office. As a black woman in a largely white community, the unwelcome responsibility of explaining racial realities to privileged white people is thrust upon Claudette – who embraces the fact that sometimes her very presence makes people uncomfortable. King shines in every role and she’d kick ass as Claudette.

Julia’s exceedingly difficult mother-in-law, Beverly, became one of my favorite characters as I was writing the book. Jean Smart is so engagingly sly; I’d love to see the smiling undertone she’d bring to Beverly’s strait-laced demeanor.

Marlo Kelly’s performance in the television adaptation of Megan Abbott’s Dare Me blew me away – she'd be perfect as Ana.

For Julia’s client Sami Mohammed, Mena Massoud (Aladdin) has the wide-eyed quality that I think would let him believably play a high school student (somewhat older because of his refugee status) that also would play into the uncertainty that comes with trying to navigate a new culture and language.

Finally, Karl Schmidt as a local white supremacist plays a small but key part in the book. Ed Harris would bring just the right blend of menace and surprising humanity to that role.
Visit Gwen Florio's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Gwen Florio & Nell.

My Book, the Movie: Silent Hearts.

My Book, The Movie: Best Laid Plans.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 2, 2021

Catriona McPherson's "A Gingerbread House"

National-bestselling and multi-award-winning author Catriona McPherson was born in Scotland and lived there until immigrating to the US in 2010, where she lives on Patwin ancestral lands.

She writes historical detective stories set in the old country in the 1930s, featuring gently-born lady sleuth, Dandy Gilver. After eight years in the new country, McPherson kicked off the comic Last Ditch Motel series, which takes a wry but affectionate look at California life from the POV of a displaced Scot. She also writes a strand of contemporary psychological thrillers. The latest of these is A Gingerbread House, which Kirkus called “a disturbing tale of madness and fortitude.”

Here McPherson dreamcasts an adaptation of A Gingerbread House:
I don’t want a movie. I want a telly series a la Broadchurch. Okay?

A Gingerbread House is the story of three women chasing a dream, who all walk into a nightmare. The best friend Ivy never had, the parent Martine never knew, the happy-ever-after Laura pines for ... these are the breadcrumbs strewn on the path.

Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Tash Dodd is on a quest of her own to right a wrong.

So far, so Disney. But the setting is a grey town in the post-industrial central belt of modern Scotland and there are no princesses here. Ivy is a book-keeper, Martine is a grant-writer, Laura has a phone-accessory retail business too close to Etsy for her liking, and Tash drives a delivery van.

With all that in mind, here in order of appearance is my dream casting of the main four, plus some supporting characters that I did actually cast while I wrote the story.

Tash: Fern Brady. She’s perfect. She’s the right age. She’s got the right accent. (She’d have to coach the others.) The only glitch is she’s a stand-up comedian, not an actor.

Ivy: Brenda Blethyn. Looking like Vera Stanhope, but with a completely different personality. Ivy is shy and self-effacing, silently judging most of the time. There would be a lot of face-acting and Brenda Blethyn is the mistress of that.

Martine: Nina Sosanya. You might remember her from Last Tango in Halifax. She’s fifty-two and Martine is thirty-ish. But you’d never know she was fifty-two so I’m sticking with it. Martine is brisk on the surface, a bit broken underneath. I think she’d be a treat to play.

Laura: Jodie Whittaker. She’s stepping down from playing the Doctor in Dr Who; she’ll have the time. And she’s mostly played absolute poppets, hasn’t she? So this will give her a shot of being thoroughly unlikable, at first anyway.

Adim the newsagent across the road: Nick Mohammed. I love him! He is hysterical as his stand-up character Mr Swallow and adorable paired with David Schwimmer in Intelligence. He’s the only reason I care that I haven’t got AppleTV and can’t see Ted Lasso.

The Hollywood sisters at the nail salon: Scarlett and Ava Moffatt. They are break-out stars from a reality programme called GoggleBox. It sounds daft – we watch people watching the highlights of the week’s telly – but it is hilarious and joyful stuff, as well as an excellent way to out pseuds and snobs, in my (correct) opinion.

So, we’ve got A Gingerbread House starring – I’m doing the credits in the order I think their agents could get – Fern Brady, Jodie Whittaker, Nick Mohammed, Nina Sosanya, with the Moffat Sisters, and Brenda Blethyn.

You’d watch that, wouldn’t you?
Visit Catriona McPherson's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Turning Tide.

--Marshal Zeringue