Sunday, December 26, 2021

William Boyle's "Shoot the Moonlight Out"

William Boyle is from Brooklyn, New York. He’s the author of five novels: Gravesend, which was nominated for the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France and shortlisted for the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger in the UK; The Lonely Witness, which was nominated for the Hammett Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière; A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, an Amazon Best Book in 2019 and winner of the Prix Transfuge du meilleur polar étranger in France; City of Margins, a Washington Post Best Thriller and Mystery Book of 2020; and, most recently, Shoot the Moonlight Out. All are available from Pegasus Crime. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Here Boyle dreamcasts an adaptation of Shoot the Moonlight Out:
My new novel, Shoot the Moonlight Out, is an ensemble crime drama set in southern Brooklyn in the summer of 2001 (with a prologue set five years before that). The book revolves around five main characters: Jack Cornacchia, a widower doling out vigilante justice in the neighborhood, who becomes a shell of a man after losing his daughter in a tragic accident; Lily Murphy, who returns to the neighborhood after four years at college, a writer who feels lost and out of place and is searching for connection, which she finds teaching a community writing class in the basement of her childhood church; Francesca Clarke, who just graduated high school and dreams of being a filmmaker, and whose life changes when she meets Bobby Santovasco, an aimless, self-sabotaging neighborhood slacker with ghosts in his closet; and Charlie French, a low-level mob wannabe who crosses paths with all of these characters in unexpected ways. If they make the book into a film, here's who I'd like to play the lead roles:

Jack Cornacchia: Joe Manganiello

Lily Murphy: Sophia Lillis

Francesca Clarke: Amandla Stenberg

Bobby Santovasco: Michael Gandolfini

Charlie French: Jon Bernthal

Directors I have in mind: Alan Rudolph's one of my heroes, and I think this book is indebted to his influence; his underseen, underrated film Ray Meets Helen had an impact on the hopeful and romantic heart of the book. Lorene Scafaria is a director I really admire, and I'd love to see what she would do with something like this. Abel Ferrara is another one of my artistic heroes, and his influence is stamped all over the book--he hasn't made a New York movie in a while, but it'd be pretty damn cool. The coolest long shot of all would be Hong Sang-soo, whose work inspires me so much.
Visit William Boyle's website.

Q&A with William Boyle.

The Page 69 Test: Shoot the Moonlight Out.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 17, 2021

Eliza Nellums's "The Bone Cay"

Raised in the Detroit suburbs, Eliza Nellums now lives with her cat in Washington DC.

Her debut novel is All That's Bright and Gone.

Here Nellums dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Bone Cay:
It's funny, I don't always imagine my characters as actors but for some reason I did have a lot of thoughts about the cast of The Bone Cay. There actually was a movie set in a hurricane a few years back, Crawl, that I actually watched as I was working on revisions to make sure I didn't re-use any important plot points. Crawl is about killer alligators so we managed to avoid much duplication, as it turns out.

There are four main characters in my book: Magda Trudell is our main character, who chooses not to evacuate from a deadly hurricane. She's the 40-year-old caretaker of a historic estate in Key West. For Magda I picture someone like Andie MacDowell or Sela Ward, although they are both older than Magda (on film I assume a middle aged woman would have to be played by someone 50-60 to get the effect!); I think they could both display a resolute character with a lot of passion. The next character is Magda's ex-fiance Bryce Delgado, a Keys native who tries to discourage her from staying. For Bryce, I'd pick Daniel Gonzalo Pino, who I first saw on Cold Case - he frequently plays a detective on cop shows, but maybe he'd like a more romantic part? I don't know, let's ask him. Finally, Hank McGrath and his daughter Emily, both show up later in the storm and become important characters in the second half. For Hank maybe I'd pick Leonardo DiCaprio the way he looks today - not shining young Leo, but older Leo who has seen a few things. Hank is a handyman and charter boat operator and often clashes with Magda on the best way to proceed in the storm. For Emily, who is 15-16, I'd pick Kathryn Love Newton, who I first saw in Supernatural and then in the horror film Freaky. She's great with nuance and it's an important character to get right. C'mon Hollywood, call me babe - I've got lots of ideas!
Visit Eliza Nellums's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Bone Cay.

Q&A with Eliza Nellums.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 13, 2021

Meghan Holloway's "Hiding Place"

Meghan Holloway found her first Nancy Drew mystery in a sun-dappled attic at the age of eight and subsequently fell in love with the grip and tautness of a well-told mystery. She flew an airplane before she learned how to drive a car, did her undergrad work in Creative Writing in the sweltering south, and finished a Masters of Library and Information Science in the blustery north. She spent a summer and fall in Maine picking peaches and apples, traveled the world for a few years, and did a stint fighting crime in the records section of a police department.

Here Holloway dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest thriller, Hiding Place:
I never have a model or actor in mind for a character as I am writing. The characters reveal themselves to me as fully evolved, entirely unique individuals, not based on any specific person. It is not simply a matter of looks that captures a character. The strength of the actor, the range of emotions they are able to portray, the actors’ presence on the screen balancing the parallel of the character on the page… I gave the subject of starring roles for Hiding Place some consideration before I came up with my answer.

I wrote Hector more in the vein of an antihero than a hero. He lived a hard life from the time he was a boy, and he is a cold, driven man. The only gentling influences in his life are Frank, his dog, and Maggie, his wife’s closest friend. He is obsessed with uncovering the truth of what happened to his wife and daughter fifteen years ago. The man he believed responsible for their disappearance is dead, and the trail has once again grown cold. Until he finds a long-hidden message from the past. Although he is a bit younger than the character, I think Josh Brolin could pull off the stern, weathered, distant character of Hector.

Faye is such a damaged character. She comes from a background of privilege and extreme wealth, but she has never quite fit in anywhere. She is an observer by nature, someone who stands back and watches and cannot quite grasp the art of human interaction. Whenever I am watching Léa Seydoux in a film, the word that comes to mind most often when I study her expression is “lost.” She has such a haunting quality to her. That amalgamation of vulnerability, melancholy, and hidden ferocity would make her a perfect Faye.

Sam, much like Faye, comes into the story with these terrible internal wounds you discover as their story unfolds. Although he is a nonverbal character, he plays a pivotal role. The child actor Bentley Storteboom would portray Sam well.

Grant is a layered antagonist who does not quite fit into the labels “good” or “bad.” His ranch sprawls over four hundred fifty thousand acres, and he is known the world over for his horses, both the ones he breeds and trains and the wild herds that roam his back-country after he rescues them from the Bureau of Land Management’s slaughter pens. He’s a man of great wealth, influence, and secrets. And he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep those secrets buried. I would love to see Brad Pitt play this morally gray character.

If you’ve read Hiding Place, tell me what you think of my choices for these leading roles. Who would you cast to portray Hector, Faye, Sam, and Grant?
Visit Meghan Holloway's website, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Page 69 Test: Hiding Place.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Lucy Burdette's "Unsafe Haven"

Lucy Burdette is the author of the popular Key West Food Critic mystery series. Her alter-ego, clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib, has also published eight mysteries including the golf lover’s mystery series and the advice column mysteries.

Here Burdette dreamcasts an adaptation of her first novel of suspense, Unsafe Haven:
I am super excited about the launch of Unsafe Haven, my first thriller after 19 cozy-ish mysteries. This was a bonus book that I had about given up on when my agent sold it to Severn House. The publisher designed a wonderful cover, and the book tells a great story (she said modestly.) Here’s what accomplished thriller writer Hank Phillippi Ryan (USA Today bestselling author of Her Perfect Life) had to say about it:
Devastating, heartbreaking and completely immersive. This riveting story of fear and redemption, motherhood and second chances, and our responsibility to strangers is a powerful thriller proving one split-second decision can change our lives forever. Unsafe Haven has Hollywood written all over it!
And that started me thinking: What if it really was made into a TV show or a movie? Of all the books I've written, Unsafe Haven is probably the story most suited for that. I know that producers are looking for either the next squid games or something suitable for the Hallmark Channel. On the other hand, the popular and well-reviewed Mare of Eastown was a fabulous short series with troubled characters in a blue-collar setting who are full of heart. Ditto for the recent mini-series Maid. That’s the lane I can imagine Unsafe Haven traveling in as well.

Here’s a logline for the book: After giving birth in a subway bathroom and thrusting her newborn into a newly jilted bride’s arms, a teenage runaway teams up with that stranger to save herself and her baby from the ruthless sex trafficker in pursuit.

Addy is a teenager, small and fragile-looking and dark-haired. Elizabeth is a bit more solid, in her twenties, with blonde curls and blue eyes. Detective Jack Meigs (originally from the advice column mysteries) is in his fifties, with reddish curls tinged with gray. He’s gruff and intimidating on the outside, but tender underneath, reeling from his own kind of pain as a recent widower trying to handle his bereaved stepdaughter. Here’s who I might cast:

Angourie Rice from Mare as Addy. She turned in an amazing performance as Mare’s daughter and I know she’d be brilliant in Unsafe Haven.

Nicole Kidman must appear as Georgia—she’d be the perfect combination of welcoming on the outside and evil within.

Michael Kitchen from Foyle's War—he’s a bit older than Detective Meigs in the books, but is otherwise perfect—all those amazing facial grimaces. And he knows how to play a character dealing with loss.

Maybe Lily Collins of Emily in Paris fame for Elizabeth?

Molly Smith Metzler, Brad Inglesby, Stacy Sher—this mini-series is waiting for you to develop and direct!
Visit Lucy Burdette's website, Twitter perch, and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 3, 2021

Melissa Payne's "The Night of Many Endings"

Melissa Payne is the bestselling, award-winning author of The Secrets of Lost Stones and Memories in the Drift. For as long as she can remember, Payne has been telling stories in one form or another—from high school newspaper articles to a graduate thesis to blogging about marriage and motherhood. But she first learned the real importance of storytelling when she worked for a residential and day treatment center for abused and neglected children. There she wrote speeches and letters to raise funds for the children. The truth in those stories was piercing and painful and written to invoke a call to action in the reader: to give, to help, to make a difference. Payne’s love of writing and sharing stories in all forms has endured. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with her husband and three children, a friendly mutt, a very loud cat, and the occasional bear.

Here Payne dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Night of Many Endings:
The Night of Many Endings is told from the perspectives of three characters. There’s Nora, the librarian, who is consumed by her brother’s addiction. Her life revolves around his ups and downs, his successes and failures. Marlene, an elderly woman who makes assumptions about people she doesn’t know and uses her sharp words to push people away. And Lewis, a man experiencing homelessness and addiction, who believes that everyone he loves is better off without him. I loved the challenge of writing all three of these characters, even if at times I struggled to relate to a decision they made or how they treated one another. But it reminded me of what their journeys were all about. We can’t truly understand another person until we learn their story first. The storm, the dark, and being stranded forces each of them to listen and learn from each other. But when the storm ends, will their lives have changed?

Sometimes when I write, I automatically have a picture in my head of who would play a character. After all, while I’m writing, my characters are as real to me as my family and friends. This book was no different and it was fun to pair a famous face with the characters. So here goes. For Nora, I’d cast America Ferrera. I adored her in Ugly Betty and think she would bring the right balance of fierce devotion, internal grief, and loving care for others. For Marlene, I think Jean Smart would be perfect. She’s got just the right sardonic wit and underlying kindness that makes Marlene both unlikeable and loveable. Finally, I’d cast Jeff Bridges as Lewis because he has the perfect grit and the kind of gruff exterior that I envisioned when I wrote him.
Visit Melissa Payne's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Melissa Payne & Max.

Q&A with Melissa Payne.

The Page 69 Test: The Night of Many Endings.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Joy Castro’s "Flight Risk"

Joy Castro is the award-winning author of the post-Katrina New Orleans literary thrillers Hell or High Water, which received the Nebraska Book Award, and Nearer Home, and the story collection How Winter Began, as well as the memoir The Truth Book and the essay collection Island of Bones, which received the International Latino Book Award. She is also editor of the anthology Family Trouble and served as the guest judge of CRAFT‘s first Creative Nonfiction Award. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Salon, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Brevity, Afro-Hispanic Review, and elsewhere. A former Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University, she is currently the Willa Cather Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Here Castro dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Flight Risk:
I love imagining who could direct and star in a film version of Flight Risk, because I write film criticism, too, and I love watching films and imagining how various books could be brought to the screen. Flight Risk is the story of Isabel Morales, a sculptor in her late 30s who's married to a wealthy doctor and living a picture-perfect life in Chicago. But all is not as it seems, and when her mother dies in prison back in West Virginia (where I'm from), she returns home to reckon with her past.

If he were available and interested, Todd Haynes, the director of Far from Heaven and Carol, would do an impeccable job with Flight Risk. He has a gift for lush melodramas that never feel melodramatic--they feels subtle and keenly observant--and he captures the delicacy of individual women so well onscreen--their internal struggles, dreams, and despair--so I think he would do a luminous job of rendering Isabel sympathetically. He knows how to illuminate the dynamics of families and couples, which are very much at play in Flight Risk, and he understands how difficult it is to traverse the divides of class, culture, race, and sexuality.

Another director whose take on Flight Risk I'd love to see would be Kelly Reichardt. She's excellent at exploring women's loneliness, yearning, moral struggles, and endurance, as in Wendy and Lucy and Certain Women, and she renders women's sudden turning points so brilliantly: those moments of ethical challenge when they suddenly grip and wield their strength, as in Meek's Cutoff. Reichardt also just finished a film, Showing Up, about a woman who's a professional artist, as Isabel is. Reichardt's style is very different from Haynes's: she emphasizes a certain ruggedness, an uncompromising stubbornness in the face of a brutal world, and those are elements of Isabel's character, too, in addition to her delicacy. A Reichardt Flight Risk would be very different from a Haynes production, but just as interesting, or perhaps even more so.

In terms of casting, Isabel’s character was sparked when I watched Morena Baccarin in the first season of Homeland. Baccarin plays the wife of Brody, the soldier who returns home unexpectedly after being presumed dead, and she's so trapped, so beautiful and haunted, torn between her desire and her responsibilities. It's easy to imagine Baccarin playing Isabel, who has so many secrets and vulnerabilities and is struggling to do her best. Regarding Jon Turner, Isabel's old-money Chicago husband, a book club that recently read Flight Risk insisted that Eric Bana would be perfect. They were quite enthusiastic about it. He's very handsome and certainly fits the description in the book: chestnut curls and so on.

Amanda Seyfried would be outstanding as Anna, the legal secretary, because she can seem deceptively ditzy, which is exactly what Anna is. My dream to play the artist Sondra would be Lupita Nyong'o, due to her quiet intensity and moral rigor. Margo Martindale could wipe the floor with the character of Aunt Della, but she might be almost too perfectly typecast; I think of her in the TV series Justified, for example: pure evil. I'd love to see a ragged, strung-out Brad Pitt play Billy, but he'd need to have bloodshot eyes and a bit of a hangdog stoop, because Billy's a wreck of his former self--but his former self was quite something, and an actor would need to convey that. As for Nic Folio--well, I'm not sure the perfect blend of temptation and danger has yet been sufficiently incarnated in human form, but that's what the role deserves.
Visit Joy Castro’s website and Twitter perch.

Q&A with Joy Castro.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Lisa Gray's "Lonely Hearts"

Lisa Gray is an Amazon #1, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She previously worked as the Chief Scottish Football Writer at the Press Association and books columnist at the Daily Record Saturday Magazine. Her novels include: Thin Air, a Washington Post and Wall Street Journal bestseller and’s third-bestselling Kindle eBook of 2019; Bad Memory, a Wall Street Journal bestseller and longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize; and Dark Highway.

Here Gray dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Lonely Hearts:
I often receive emails from readers—or see reviews on Amazon—saying they think the Jessica Shaw series would be perfect for the big screen or as a TV series. And, when Bad Memory was longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, one of the judges described it as the one most likely to be adapted by Netflix. I couldn’t agree more!

Jessica Shaw is a private investigator who specializes in finding missing people. In Lonely Hearts, she’s hired by Christine Ryan to find her one-time best friend, Veronica Lowe. Veronica was a member of the Lonely Hearts Club, a pen pal service for women who want to write to men in prison. She vanished years earlier after having a child with Death Row inmate and notorious serial killer, Travis Dean Ford. Ford’s widow, Jordana—who was also a member of the Lonely Hearts Club—has been found murdered in the same way as his victims. Christine fears Veronica and her daughter could be next, leading to a race against time for Jessica to find them before the killer does.

Jessica Shaw: I've always had one actress in mind who I think would be perfect as my private eye main character—Kristen Stewart. I don’t mean the brunette high school student of the Twilight movies; I mean Kristen as she is now. With her short, peroxide blonde hair and cool, punky style, she’s exactly how I imagine Jessica would look. I think Kristen would capture Jessica’s personality pretty well too. Her performances in the likes of Twilight and Spencer show that she’s great at portraying that mixture of toughness and vulnerability that would be required for the role of Jessica.

Jason Pryce: Pryce is a veteran LAPD detective, friend of Jessica’s, and series regular. In Lonely Hearts, he heads up the investigation into Jordana Ford’s murder. He’s a devoted family man and a dedicated cop. He looks after himself and he likes his designer labels. So…someone who’d be convincing as a detective and who also has bags of style? Two words: Jamie Foxx.

Matt Connor: Another recurring series character, Connor is Jessica’s boss at the private detective agency and they also have a will-they-won’t-they, on-off thing going on. A bit like the ‘80s TV show Moonlighting. Connor is in his forties, attractive, charming and a big hit with the ladies. Bradley Cooper has the looks and charisma to make a great Matt Connor.

Veronica Lowe: Veronica attracted the attention of Travis Dean Ford because she was exactly like his victims—a slim, pretty redhead. Her flashback chapters show her as a young woman in her twenties who’s just beginning a relationship with her prison pen pal. What/If actress Jane Levy has the right look for sure, and she could also pull off Veronica’s girl next door persona.
Visit Lisa Gray's website.

The Page 69 Test: Lonely Hearts.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Cat Rambo's "You Sexy Thing"

Cat Rambo (they/them) is an American fantasy and science fiction writer whose work has appeared in, among others, Asimov's, Weird Tales, Chiaroscuro, Talebones, and Strange Horizons. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, where they studied with John Barth and Steve Dixon, they also attended the Clarion West Writers' Workshop. Their most recent works include And The Last Trump Shall Sound (co-written with James Morrow and Harry Turtledove), the fantasy novel Exiles of Tabat, and the space opera You Sexy Thing. They live, write, and teach somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. “Cat Rambo” is their real name.

Here Rambo dreamcasts an adaptation of You Sexy Thing:
If they were making a movie of my book the most important casting wouldn’t be a face, but a voice.

That’s because the title character, You Sexy Thing, is an intelligent bio-ship. It’s just learning about self-awareness, and these weird things called emotions, and all sorts of things. That’s a result of its interactions with the crew of mercenaries-turned-restaurateurs that have stolen it, and that’s something else that the ship feels the need to sort out, because it’s not really sure it wants to be stolen.

So I want a voice full of charm and unwarranted bravado, the cocky kid who knows it all -- but will cheerfully admit it when they don’t. To me, that’s Ryan Reynolds, though maybe a little higher pitched to show how comparatively young the ship is.

It’s an ensemble cast, so plenty of other actors will be needed. Most of the other characters are aliens so again faces may not be as important as the voices. Dabry needs a deep solemnity about himself that also doesn’t take things too seriously. Maybe Andre Braugher for him, if he’s up to the challenge of playing a purple-skinned, four-armed sergeant-turned-chef.

Skidoo is a Tlellan, a composite alien made of brightly colored tentacles and a strong libido. For her, I’d like Nicola Mary Coughlan from Derry Girls and Bridgerton, who I think could tackle the charm and enthusiasm that marks that character.

Donald Glover for both Thorn and Talon, because I loved him so much in Community, and he could absolutely pull off being a pair of twin were-lions.

Lassite is a Sessile, a snake-like alien, and I had to spend a good bit of time thinking about him. I’d actually like Benedict Cumberbatch because who wouldn’t want Benedict Cumberbatch in their movie?

Kaniehtiio Horn, who I most recently saw in the series Reservation Dogs, for Milly, a white-feathered pastry chef who happens to be very good with knives. She makes a great pragmatic smart-ass, and that’s Milly.

Gio doesn’t talk but signs. For him, I’d go with Roddy McDowell, because who better to play a sous-chef chimpanzee?

Captain Niko is human, and Aisha Tyler would totally be my pick there for both look and voice. Our other human, Atlanta, would be Auli'i Crovalho, who played Moana and again has both the right look plus the right voice.

As you see - quite a crew! And I do think they’d make an awesome movie.
Visit Cat Rambo's website.

Q&A with Cat Rambo.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 12, 2021

Aaron Philip Clark's "Under Color of Law"

Aaron Philip Clark is a native of Los Angeles. He is a novelist and screenwriter. A self-described "son of the city," Clark takes pleasure in exploring the many facets of Los Angeles and enjoys hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains.

His most recent novel, Under Color of Law, is inspired by his experiences in the LAPD.

Here Clark dreamcasts an adaptation of the new novel:
Under Color of Law centers on rookie LAPD detective Trevor “Finn” Finnegan, who’s tasked to investigate the murder of Black LAPD recruit Brandon Soledad. As pressure mounts to solve the crime and avoid a PR nightmare, Finn scours the underbelly of a volatile city where power, violence, and race intersect. But it’s Finn’s past as a beat cop that may hold the key to solving Brandon’s murder. The price? The end of Finn’s career…or his life.

As the 2021 Book Pipeline Adaptation contest winner, I’ve given more thought to casting over the last few days. In addition to a cash prize, I’ll be working with a production company to develop Under Color of Law for the big or small screen. Here’s my ideal casting and director for the soon-to-be adaptation.

Trevor “Finn” Finnegan: Kendrick Sampson (Insecure, 2016-2021). Trevor is analytical and highly reflective. The first-person POV allows access to Trevor’s interior in the novel; however, that wouldn’t translate well for a film or TV series. Therefore, the actor would need to convey intelligence, strength, and vulnerability while also being menacing when necessary. Sampson not only embodies these traits but exudes command presence which is necessary when playing a believable cop.

Sarada Rao: Taylour Paige (Zola, 2021). Sarada is Trevor’s long-time friend, who he cares very deeply for. They are forever bonded by a traumatic event in their young lives which drives Trevor to become a police officer. After watching Zola, Paige struck me as an actress with the ability to convey sophistication, class, and even rage, all in a single glance. Like Sarada, Paige is an LA native, which brings another level of authenticity to the story.

Shaun “Pop” Finnegan: Roger Guenveur Smith (He Got Game, 1998 and Dope, 2015). Pop is Trevor’s father. He’s a retired LAPD sergeant who feels guilty for his actions while wearing the badge for over twenty years. Much to Trevor’s chagrin, Pop has dedicated his time to protesting police abuses and demanding reform. Smith has always had a powerful on-screen presence and would bring an endearment to Pop, matched with the inner turmoil that drives Pop to drink and lash out at Trevor.

Joey Garcia: Michael Trevino (Vampire Diaries, 2009-2017). Joey is Trevor’s former training officer who’s moved to the police academy’s Physical Training division after many citizen complaints. Not only does Trevino exemplify the physicality of Joey Garcia, but the toxic masculinity he exhibited as Tyler Lockwood in Vampire Diaries would be well suited in the role of Joey.

Amanda “Boston” Walsh: Laura Linney (Ozark, 2017-2022 and The Big C, 2010-2013). Amanda Walsh is a detective sergeant in the Scientific Investigation Division. However, her checkered past is bound to catch up with her, and like Trevor, her dark secrets may destroy her career. Walsh is an antagonist, but Linney could humanize her while keeping her propensity for violence just below the surface.

Captain Mitch Beckett: William H. Macy (Shameless, 2011-2021). Captain Beckett is Trevor’s commanding officer while he’s on loan to Pacific Division. As Trevor states, “they’re friendly but not friends.” What makes Macy perfect for the character of Captain Beckett is his ability to capture Beckett’s duality. While Macy’s performance in Edmond (2005) deviated from his previous roles, it showed his range in channeling villainy with charisma, and it’s this duality that endangers Trevor’s life and the Brandon Soledad investigation.

Antoine Fuqua, Director: Fuqua’s work is gritty, character-driven, and fearless. While his Equalizer films (2014 and 2018) are wildly entertaining, he doesn’t allow the plot to overtake character development. As seen in his neo-noir film, Training Day (2001), Fuqua infuses the action-driven narrative with poignant and heartfelt moments that reveal truths about the characters. Fuqua could not only bring Trevor’s story to life, but capture the Los Angeles he inhabits in all its beauty and squalor.
Visit Aaron Philip Clark's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Tessa Harris's "Beneath A Starless Sky"

Tessa Harris is the award-winning author of the Dr. Thomas Silkstone series and the Constance Piper Mystery series.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Beneath a Starless Sky:
With an original title like The Woman Who Danced with Fred Astaire of course I always hoped – and still do - that my novel will make it to the big screen.

It’s a sweeping tale, that blends fact with fiction, and which stretches from Germany in 1930 to Portugal in 1940, taking in America, France and England in between. Chapters are set in Hollywood, on the Cote d’Azur, London and in English country houses, so, it’s certainly got lots of scope for glamorous locations.

The story centers around Lilli Sternberg, a Jewish dancer, who wants to escape her increasingly oppressive life in Munich and become a Hollywood film star. When her romance with a dashing young Army officer, Marco Zeiller, is brought to an abrupt end, she leaves her family and heads to America to seek fame and fortune. Achieving her dream of dancing with Fred Astaire, she is introduced to high society and befriends Prince Edward and his mistress, Wallis Simpson. But a cruel twist of fate puts an end to Lilli’s career and the prince and Mrs Simpson, both Nazi sympathisers, have other plans for her. The book was inspired by true events and culminates in a real plot to kidnap the former king of England and make him Germany’s puppet ruler.

In writing the book I owe a debt of gratitude to a real-life Hollywood legend, Leslie Caron. I’d already started to write the story when, as a journalist, I was fortunate enough to interview Ms Caron when she came to England on a book tour. She actually partnered Fred Astaire in the classic films Daddy Long Legs and Something’s Gotta Give. Her own story – a poor ballet student in Paris who becomes a Hollywood star - contained uncanny echoes of the one I was already writing. It gave me fresh impetus.

As for my cast list, Lilli Sternberg would be played by Lily Collins. She’s a dark and exotic beauty who has the delicate physique of a dancer. In the book, Lilli dyes her dark hair blonde to hide her Jewishness after she leaves Germany, but Lily would look equally alluring whatever shade her hair. I saw her play Tolkien’s wife in the bio-pic and thought she brought great pathos to the role.

The character of Army officer Marco Zeiller is half Italian, with dark brown hair and brown eyes. He’s a true romantic and I think Lorenzo Richelmy, who became famous with the Netflix TV series Marco Polo, would be a good choice.

I’d give the role of the real villain of the piece, Captain von Stockmar, to Alexander Ludwig, who won awards for his part in the blockbuster, The Hunger Games (2012).

As for Fred Astaire, my first choice would have to be Ryan Gosling who amazed everyone with his fancy footwork in La La Land. Astaire was a real Anglophile and, in my novel, introduced Lilli into high society, including British royalty.

I thought Lia Williams made a good Wallis Simpson on the Netflix drama The Crown, while Alex Jennings was an excellent Duke of Windsor, although I can imagine Bond actor Daniel Craig would also be interesting in the part.

Finally, I’d cast Freddie Fox, recently seen in the BBC’s The Pursuit of Love, as the English aristocrat James Marchington. He wins Lilli’s heart, but there are dire consequences for them both. There are also cameo roles for several real-life characters, including the writer Somerset Maughan, the British Fascist leader Oswald Mosley, and Goebbels and Hitler – so plenty of meaty parts for seasoned character actors to get their teeth into!
Visit Tessa Harris's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Devil's Breath.

My Book, The Movie: The Sixth Victim.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 1, 2021

Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry's "The Family Tree"

Steph Mullin is a creative director and Nicole Mabry works in the photography department for a television network. They met as co-workers in New York City in 2012, discovering a shared passion for writing and true crime. After Mullin relocated to Charlotte, NC in 2018, they continued to collaborate. Separated by five states, they spend hours scheming via FaceTime and editing in real time on Google Docs. The Family Tree is the duo’s first crime novel.

Here the authors dreamcast an adaptation of the new novel:
The Family Tree centers around Liz Catalano who finds out from a 23andMe kit that she’s adopted. But during her journey to find her biological family, the FBI get a familial hit on her DNA to the notorious Tri-State Killer, who’s been abducting and murdering pairs of women for over 40 years. When the FBI show up on Liz’s doorstep and inform her she’s related to a serial killer, she must now decide if it’s safe to continue getting to know the few biological relatives she’s already tracked down or if she’s walking into the den of a killer. Nicole works in television and both Steph and Nicole come from visual backgrounds, so when we were writing The Family Tree, we both saw it as a movie in our heads. The idea of casting our novel was exciting for us. Because of how complex the story is, we have several lead characters beyond Liz. Andie, who is Liz’s cousin and roommate, Cris and Rosie, who are Liz’s biological great Aunt and Uncle who she was able to track down, and Mickey, the bartender at the bar next to Liz and Andie’s apartment in Greenpoint Brooklyn, who becomes Liz’s sounding board during her struggles in re-discovering her self-identity. For these characters, here is who we’d see playing the roles.

Liz Catalano: Selena Gomez. Liz finds out from her test that she’s not Italian, like the rest of her adoptive family, but is actually mostly Mexican. Selena would play a fantastic Liz, hunting down the serial killer lurking in her family tree and trying to find out who she really is.

Andie Catalano: Leighton Meister. For some reason, Nicole had Leighton playing Andie in her head the entire time she wrote. Andie is quick-witted, full of energy with a sarcastic, fun personality which plays off nicely with Liz’s more reserved demeanor. And Leighton would be excellent at providing the much-needed levity she gives in the book.

Cristian Domino: Joe Mantegna. Nicole was bingeing Criminal Minds while writing The Family Tree, so David Rossi really inspired parts of Cris’ personality and looks. Cris is a very quiet man, deliberate with his words, but also has an awkwardness about him. Joe Mantegna could give some great depth to Cris on the screen.

Rosie Dominio: Rita Moreno. Rosie is such a nurturing, comforting mother figure in the novel. She shows her love through making delicious meals for her husband and Liz. Rita would not only give an authentic Latina performance but would also undoubtedly capture Rosie’s personality perfectly.

Mickey: Nico Tortorella. While writing we could not put our finger on who would play Mickey. He’s a sexy, tattooed bartender who bonds with Liz over devastating family secrets they both had to endure. But after bingeing the last season of Younger, it was clear that Nico was a great choice. Not only do his looks perfectly capture Mickey, but we feel confident he could really bring out the sensitive and understanding nature Mickey offers to Liz.
Visit the authors' website.

The Page 69 Test: The Family Tree.

--Marshal Zeringue

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

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Georgie Blalock's "The Last Debutantes"

Georgie Blalock is a history and movie buff who loves combining her different passions through historical fiction, and a healthy dose of period piece films. When not writing, she can be found prowling the non-fiction history section of the library or the British film listings on Netflix or in the dojo training for her next karate black belt rank. Blalock also writes historical romance under the name Georgie Lee.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Last Debutantes:
If they made a movie of The Last Debutantes, a heavily British cast would be brilliant for bringing the characters and story to life. I would first cast Lily James as Valerie de Vere Cole. I believe she has the range to play a young woman who must overcome her impoverished upbringing to survive the rigors of the 1939 debutante Season while navigating the politics of No. 10 Downing St. Lillie James, through her various roles in Downton Abbey, Darkest Hour and the current The Pursuit of Love miniseries, has shown that she can simultaneously portray strength and vulnerability, a very necessary trait for anyone playing Valerie.

I think Emily Blunt would make an excellent Vivien Mosley, Valerie’s foil and nemesis during the 1939 season. Emily Blunt can be wonderfully elegant and wicked as seen in The Devil Wears Prada. That mix is something that Vivien has in spades.

For the rest of the debutantes, I would choose Saoirse Ronan as Dinah Bridge, Lady Astor’s niece and Valerie’s best friend who helps welcome Valerie into society. Her role in Mary Queen of Scots showed that she has the refinement to play a young woman raised in society but who is vulnerable and a touch naïve at the same time. I would cast Emma Watson as Christian Grant because she has that sense of innocence and grit that the real life Christian possessed. I would cast Gemma Arteron as Eunice Kennedy because she has a slight physical resemblance to Eunice.

As for Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain, I think James Cromwell would make a great Neville Chamberlain. He is an excellent actor who has the tall, thin look and regal bearing of Neville Chamberlain. Helen Mirren would make an excellent Anne Chamberlain. She has the refinement mixed with a no-nonsense seriousness to portray Valerie’s caring aunt who understands the social world and politics and helps Valerie to navigate both.
Visit Georgie Blalock's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Other Windsor Girl.

The Page 69 Test: The Other Windsor Girl.

--Marshal Zeringue

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