Tuesday, October 26, 2021

James Kestrel's "Five Decembers"

Formerly a bar owner, a criminal defense investigator, and an English teacher, James Kestrel is now an attorney practicing throughout the Pacific. His writing has won advance praise from Stephen King, James Patterson, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Meg Gardiner, James Fallows, Pico Iyer, and numerous other authors. A sailor and world traveler, Kestrel has lived in Taiwan, New Orleans, and a West Texas ghost town. He lives in Volcano, Hawaii.

Here Kestrel dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, Five Decembers:
When I set out to write Five Decembers, I wanted to write a murder mystery set in Honolulu during World War II, but early on my vision for the book grew to something on a much larger scale. Yes, it’s a murder mystery, but it stretches across the entire war and its aftermath, and there is a turn of events about midway through that may place it in another genre altogether. It’s a big book, and couldn’t be shot on the cheap, so if I had my choice of any director it would have to be Steven Spielberg. He’s tackled the period from many angles, but much of Five Decembers would be new to him, so perhaps he’d have some fun with it.

But, in thinking about the book, perhaps there is an opportunity to do something fairly novel in filming it. The most significant elements take place in either Honolulu or Tokyo. A hefty portion of the Tokyo scenes would need to be shot in Japanese. The producers of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! (about the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbor) faced the same problem of a film split evenly between Japan and Hawaii, and they had a great solution: the Hawaii scenes were directed by Richard Fleischer, and the Japanese scenes were directed by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku. (Originally, the Japanese side was to be directed by Akira Kurosawa, which would have been fantastic). I would love to see that approach to Five Decembers.

As for casting—the main character, Joe McGrady, is a Honolulu Police Department detective, but is an outsider to Hawaii, having stayed in the Territory after his stint in the Army. We meet him a few weeks before the war breaks out, while Honolulu is simmering with tensions. He’s cool headed and logical, is tender to his friends, but can be vicious when it’s called for. So I think Tom Hardy would be ideal for the role. He’s an actor who can carry an entire film without ever speaking more than a handful of words (think Mad Max: Fury Road, and Dunkirk). He’d be a great Joe McGrady, so he should start studying Japanese now.

Ken Watanabe, who acted so well in Letters from Iwo Jima, would be great as Kansei Takahashi, a high official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who plays a key role in saving McGrady’s life and helping his investigation. Mr. Takahashi’s daughter, Sachi, also plays a pivotal role in McGrady’s life. She would need to be played by an actress who was thoroughly fluent in both Japanese and English. That is well outside my area of expertise, but Sally Amaki comes to mind, and she certainly looks the part.

And finally, as there appears to be an unwritten law that any successful WWII film must have Tom Hanks connected to it in some way, he’d be ideal in the role of Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who was the commander of Pearl Harbor when the bombs began to fall.
Follow James Kestrel on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Bethany Ball's "The Pessimists"

Bethany Ball was born in Detroit and lives in New York with her family.

She is the author of What To Do About The Solomons.

Here Ball dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Pessimists:
My first choice for Virginia Powers, my main protagonist, is Uma Thurman. I wanted to explore an idea of fading American middle-aged beauty. I’m a little ashamed of the fact that this beauty is very cisgender, blonde, and white. I know it’s changing. But I’ve experienced having a close friend who was blonde and tall and walking down the street with them and feeling utterly invisible. I always wondered what it would feel like to have all eyes on you, to be a “ten” and then to watch as that sort of beauty faded or was actually, as in Virginia’s case, taken away to some extent. My mother would never buy me a Barbie doll because, as she said, she was quite certain I wouldn’t look anything like one. The American or maybe even world obsession with the tall beautiful white blonde is a strong one and my character Virginia has been sort of drifting along on the power of that myth.

Rachel is a transplant from New York City to the suburbs and she was in part inspired, at least physically, by a woman I went to high school with who I see from time to time in New York City. Miriam Shor. She is famous for playing the uber trendy managing editor Diana Trout on the TV show Younger. There’s a line in the first chapter of the book: “She was tiny and dark and cool in a black sheath and heels, like the city was still in her pocket.” That’s how I think of Miriam. She shares Rachel’s down to earthness and just sort of oozes cool. And like Rachel she is open and real.

Richard is a big American jock. He wants an orderly house, some women to ogle (or maybe a little more than ogling), and sports. At the same time, he has a tender side, he likes to read and he likes poetry. He isn’t ashamed of it, there’s just no room for it in his suburban day to day life. I can see a Liev Schreiber kind of actor playing him. I used to see Liev around Miami when I lived there and he has this big man way about him but there’s something vulnerable in his face too.

Tripp is another big American jock type, but much darker and more tortured than his pal Richard. He is a hard, cold guy. Maybe Christopher Walken in his soul but a little Bradley Cooper on the outside. He’s beautiful, like Virginia. I never think it’s a good idea for two truly beautiful people to hook up. One has to be beautiful and the other has to be on the plain side, for balance. That’s part of Virginia and Tripp’s problem, maybe.
Visit Bethany Ball's website.

The Page 69 Test: What To Do About The Solomons.

Q&A with Bethany Ball.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

David R. Slayton's "Trailer Park Trickster"

David R. Slayton grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where finding fantasy novels was pretty challenging and finding fantasy novels with diverse characters was downright impossible. Now he lives in Denver, Colorado and writes the books he always wanted to read. His debut, White Trash Warlock, was published in October 2020 by Blackstone Publishing.

Here Slayton dreamcasts an adaptation of Trailer Park Trickster, the sequel to White Trash Warlock:
In White Trash Warlock we meet Adam Binder, a working class witch living in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The complex and shifting relationships between the characters is the core of the book in my opinion, so it would take talented actors to coax that onto the screen.

Setting-wise, the books shift back and forth between the normal world and the Spirit Realm, so it would need a director or a showrunner like Noah Hawley, who made Legion to capture that sometimes subtle, sometimes jarring, differences.

The main character, Adam, has a lot of innocence and a dash of cockiness that hides his insecurities, which mostly come from his rural background. He knows he doesn’t have a lot of magic and that makes him cautious when dealing with the beings and threats he sometimes has to. I’d love to see somebody play him who could show those sides, someone like Ross Lynch (The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) or Sean Grandillio (Youth or Consequences, MTV’s Scream series).

Vic Martinez is a rookie cop whose whole world gets turned upside down when Adam saves him from a Grim Reaper, an intervention with major consequences for both men. Vic is a fan favorite. He’s a genuine person who knows who he is and does his best to roll with the changes. I think Danny Ramirez (Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Top Gun: Maverick) would be awesome as Vic.

Silver is Adam’s ex. The elven Knight of Swords, he’s all grace and classic looks with a bit of a mobster vibe. I knew Ludi Lin (Mortal Kombat, Power Rangers) would be perfect once I saw a pic of him in a pinstripe suit. Like most of the elves he has a lot of faces and events force him to assume a new mantle and appearance in Trailer Park Trickster. Lewis Tan (Mortal Kombat, Into the Badlands) would make a great choice for the role Silver plays by the end of Trickster.

Argent, the Queen of Swords, is Silver’s Twin. She’s infinitely powerful with a penchant for stealing cars. She first shows up in a dress that makes Adam think of classic Hollywood, so when I saw Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars, Raya and the Last Dragon) in a dress for the Rise of Skywalker premiere, I’m like yep, that’s Argent. She’s also a playful character and I think Tran would rock those contrasts.

Sara is bubbly and gregarious but don’t mess with her. She’s the easiest dreamcast for me. I knew right away that Nicole Byer (Nailed It, Wipe Out) had just the right energy for the enigmatic information broker who knows way more than she’s letting on.

Brian J. Smith (Sense8, Treadstone) would make a great Robert Binder. Give him a bit of a beard and he’d look the part of Adam’s older brother, the doctor who got away from Oklahoma only to have the supernatural side of his backwoods past catch up to him in Denver.

Finally, Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager, Orange is the New Black) is my dreamcast for Adam’s Great Aunt Sue. She’s been Adam’s caretaker since he became estranged from his mother and brother. Her Sight is powerful and she’s the one who sets Adam on his path to Denver. She loves Adam, but has her own secrets, all of which spill out in Trailer Park Trickster.
Visit David R. Slayton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 1, 2021

Jane Casey's "The Killing Kind"

Jane Casey has written eleven crime novels for adults and three for teenagers. A former editor, she is married to a criminal barrister who ensures her writing is realistic and as accurate as possible. This authenticity has made her novels international bestsellers and critical successes. The Maeve Kerrigan series has been nominated for many awards: in 2015 Casey won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for The Stranger You Know and Irish Crime Novel of the Year for After the Fire. In 2019, Cruel Acts was chosen as Irish Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. It was a Sunday Times bestseller.

Born in Dublin, Casey now lives in southwest London with her husband and two children.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Killing Kind:
In my standalone thriller The Killing Kind, Ingrid Lewis is a young lawyer who becomes convinced someone is trying to kill her. There’s an obvious suspect: John Webster, the man who stalked her after she represented him on a harassment charge. Because of him she lost her fiancé, her home and very nearly her life. But he denies any involvement. In fact, he offers to help her find out who is targeting her – at a price.

The Killing Kind is set in the London legal world, which is at the heart of London. It begins at the main criminal court, the Old Bailey, with St Paul’s Cathedral overlooking a gruesome murder – if you know anything at all about London, you will be able to imagine the scene! It’s a glamorous yet gritty world, very historical, and completely unique.

Ingrid is half-Danish and appears to be something of an ice queen. She keeps up a confident façade but she’s actually very vulnerable and sweet-natured. I think my ideal Ingrid would be Saoirse Ronan. She could be a believable lawyer, standing up to argue a case with devastating, incisive intelligence, but she would also let you see the impact that Ingrid’s fear has on her. As the plot progresses Ingrid allows herself to show her true feelings more and more. I think Saoirse would do a brilliant job of letting us see this process. I’m a huge fan of hers since her first appearances in Atonement and Hanna, and as an Irish writer I’d love to see an Irish actor take centre stage!

I’m also turning to Ireland for the part of John Webster, a charming man full of soft, terrifying menace. He operates outside the law and he’s capable of anything. Ingrid doesn’t trust him but she does have to decide whether or not to put her faith in him. Any actor who played him would have to make you like him in spite of yourself – I want you to root for the bad guy! – and for me the obvious choice is Andrew Scott. He can charm the birds from the trees but he has a genuinely chilling quality when he’s being scary. When I was writing the book I heard his voice in my head whenever Webster was speaking.

Webster’s main opposition in the book is Adam Nash, a police officer who tried to get him convicted once and failed. He’s driven and determined and Ingrid finds herself drawn to him. I’d love to see Regé-Jean Page from Bridgerton in this part (I love to see Regé-Jean Page in any part – he lights up the screen).

Ingrid’s best friend Adele is really a key role – she has a significant part in the plot and she’s one of my favourite characters. She’s funny, strong-willed and assertive and a very good friend to Ingrid. I think Maisie Williams would do such a great job of playing her. Since her breakthrough in Game of Thrones she has excelled in everything she’s done, and I think she has the most fascinating face – I never get tired of looking at her.

Finally, there’s Ingrid’s ex-fiancé Mark who is really significant in the plot, since what happened before the threat to Ingrid’s life is just as important as what comes after. He’s sort of an ideal man – wealthy, talented and thoughtful – but is he too good to be true? John Webster thinks so, but is that just jealousy or does he see something in Mark that Ingrid refuses to acknowledge? Mark has a bad temper and Ingrid’s life was far from perfect before the relationship ended. Tom Hiddleston would be superb as Mark. I’ve always loved him as Loki but I’ve also seen him on stage playing a difficult husband in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal and he was electrifying. He brings out the dark side of a character so brilliantly.

The Killing Kind has been optioned for TV and is in development at the moment, which is so exciting for me. They haven’t got as far as casting any of these award-winning A-list actors yet – but an author can dream!
Follow Jane Casey on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue