Thursday, January 20, 2022

Marty Wingate's "The Librarian Always Rings Twice"

USA Today best-selling author Marty Wingate writes The First Edition Library series (Berkley) set in Bath, England, about the curator of a collection of books from the Golden Age of Mystery. Book one, The Bodies in the Library, concerns murder among an Agatha Christie fan-fiction writing group, and in book two, Murder Is a Must (October 2020), an exhibition manager is found dead at the bottom of a spiral staircase.

Here Wingate dreamcasts an adaptation of the third novel in the series, The Librarian Always Rings Twice:
Dream casting is a lively subject among authors. Who would I want to play Hayley Burke, curator of the First Edition library in The Librarian Always Rings Twice? I’ll pick Jo Joyner. Currently, Joyner plays Lu Shakespeare in the comedy-mystery television series Shakespeare and Hathaway (set in Stratford-upon-Avon). Joyner has not only the look, but also that sense of dedication to the job. Shakespeare is a former hairdresser now amateur sleuth along with her partner Frank Hathaway (Mark Benton).

It’s just occurred to me that Benton might be the perfect Charles Henry Dill, Hayley’s nemesis in my book. Dill is the lout of a nephew of the late Lady Fowling. It is her collection of books from the Golden Age of Mystery that form the First Edition library and in whose home, Middlebank House, it resides. Although Joyner’s Shakespeare has elements of Hayley, Benton’s Hathaway is a good guy quite unlike Dill, who finds himself embroiled in the murder.

The question “Who would direct The Librarian Always Rings Twice?” had never occurred to me, but now I’m more focused on that than actors. My answer came to me in an instant—Richard Curtis, a British screenwriter and director whose credits include Love Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Yesterday. Obviously, I would want him to write the screenplay, too.

Why a writer/director who specializes in romantic comedy? Because his films are character-driven, ensemble cast pieces and that’s how I see the characters in a mystery. Hayley Burke, her boyfriend Val Moffatt, First Edition Society secretary Mrs. Woolgar, Mr. Rennie the solicitor, and Detective Sergeant Hopgood and Detective Constable Kenny Pye, plus members of the Society’s board are the ensemble cast and, along with a few new characters in each title in the series, they must work out their own problems as well as solve the murder. Plus, there’s humor and a bit of romance.

Curtis has a connection to mystery. It’s tangential, but it’s a connection near and dear to my heart. Curtis has said he modeled his sprawling multi-character structure of Love Actually on Robert Altman’s Nashville. I love Altman’s films. He directed one of my all-time favorites, Gosford Park—a classic British whodunit with Altman’s usual quirky touches.

If Curtis isn’t available for directing, I would name Mike Newell—director of Four Weddings and another lovely ensemble film, Enchanted April. And if not either of them, I’d choose Mackenzie Crook, who wrote and directed the delightful series, Detectorists, set in Suffolk. Another ensemble cast with quirky characters, humor, and a mystery. Of sorts.
Visit Marty Wingate's website.

--Marshal Zeringue