Monday, January 30, 2023

Sarah Rayne's "Chalice of Darkness"

Sarah Rayne is the author of many novels of psychological and supernatural suspense, including the Nell West & Michael Flint series. She lives in Staffordshire.

Here Rayne dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Chalice of Darkness, Book One of the Theatre of Thieves series:
It’s an intriguing idea to speculate on actors for a film of your latest book, and the term ‘dream- casting’ opened up a whole world of possibilities for me – most of all that of importing one or two players from the past.

And since Chalice of Darkness is set in the late 19th /early 20th century, and has at its heart a theatre family who also happen to be society thieves, the past offered itself as very rich hunting ground.

However, for the central player, the irrepressible Jack Fitzglen, I’m inclined to favour David Tennant – famous, of course, for his Dr Who years, but also for a great many other roles. I do think he could successfully portray the slightly raffish Jack, master-mind of the family’s various filches, and that he could charm a few ladies along the way.

As for Jack’s dresser and loyal, if sometimes reluctant, assistant – Augustus (Gus) Pocket – I came up with a couple of candidates:

The first is Bernard Cribbins, sadly recently died, but familiar to generations of TV, theatre and film-goers. He always conveyed, brilliantly, a sharp, often slightly-Cockney intelligence, combining it with shrewd suspicion of weak spots in a plan. As well as his many comedy roles, he was also an accomplished Shakespearean actor – there’s a marvellous story that, asked how he felt about undertaking the Bard, Cribbins, straight-faced, said, ‘Well, I’d have to see the script.’

And if there’s to be a time lord in the mix, there seems no reason not to go back a few centuries – specifically to one Will Kempe, a clown-actor from the late 1500s/early1600s, believed by many to have been the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Falstaff. Kempe is mostly remembered for having embarked on an astonishing marathon, in which he danced from London to Norfolk in nine days – a feat which one legend says he undertook for a bet. He seemed to me a very likely candidate for the role of Gus – even across five hundred years there’s the impression of energy, glee, and again, an inbuilt shrewdness.

As for the ladies of the plot, one in particular stands out. This is Daphnis Fitzglen, the majestic actress, admired by Edward VII in her youth and his, and who, even in her later years, can sweep onto a stage with a swish of brocade skirts and inspect the front row of the stalls through a lorgnette with a stare that silences even the most chattersome audience.

I think there’s only one lady of the theatre who could portray her. The redoubtable Dame Edith Evans.

The mixture of a Time Lord, an Elizabethan comedy-player, a well-known UK actor, and a formidable English dame, could make for an explosive result on the screen.
Visit Sarah Rayne's website.

Q&A with Sarah Rayne.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Allison Brennan's "Don't Open the Door"

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five children and writes three books a year. Reviewers have called her “a master of suspense” and RT Book Reviews said her books are “mesmerizing” and “complex.” She’s been nominated for multiple awards, including the Thriller, RWA’s Best Romantic Suspense (five times), and twice won the Daphne du Maurier award. She lives in Arizona with her family and assorted pets.

Here Brennan dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Don't Open the Door:
Regan Merritt is a former US Marshal who left her job after the murder of her only child and her subsequent divorce from her attorney husband. Regan is in her mid-thirties, close to her father, a retired Sheriff living in Flagstaff, Arizona. She moved back home after her son’s death and is putting together the pieces, but when her best friend and former boss, US Marshal Tommy Granger, is shot and killed as he’s leaving his house — after he leaves a cryptic message on her voice mail that he may reopen her son’s murder investigation — she returns to Virginia to find out what he learned that got him killed. In the process, she has to confront her grief, her ex-husband, and seek the truth about her son’s murder, a truth she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

I rarely envision actors when I’m writing, though sometimes when I’m done with a book I’ll see an actor who would be perfect as one of my characters. For me, I have an image in my head and run with that, rarely based on a real person. With Don’t Open the Door, I immediately pictured Lauren Cohan (Maggie from The Walking Dead) playing former US Marshal Regan Merritt.

First, physical looks — Regan looks almost exactly like Lauren Cohan. The same brown hair, the same green eyes, the same athletic build, the same smile.

But I have been a Walking Dead fan for years. Maybe even more than the physical similarities, it’s the way Regan and Lauren’s character Maggie move, communicate, think before they speak, protect those they love. Regan isn’t quite as hardened as Maggie, but she grieves like Maggie. They are both strong, confident women who loved greatly and lost what they loved the most.
Visit Allison Brennan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 12, 2023

J. H. Markert's "The Nightmare Man"

J. H. Markert is a producer, screenwriter, husband, and father of two from Louisville, Kentucky, where he was also a tennis pro for 25 years, before hanging up the racquets for good in 2020. He graduated with a degree in History from the University of Louisville in 1997 and has been writing ever since.

Here Markert dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Nightmare Man:
This is a fun one for me, because, even before writing the novel, I’d first envisioned The Nightmare Man as a TV series, so I had actors in mind as I worked my way through the story.

Ben Bookman, a best-selling horror author whose latest novel starts playing itself out in real life, is one of the main characters, and for him I’d imagined Ryan Gosling.

For Ben’s wife Amanda, who is a TV news anchor in the story, I would get Emma Watson.

The main detective in the book is a rugged, older man named Winchester Mills, who, to his friends, goes by Winny, and for him I’d always pictured Kevin Bacon in that role.

Detective Mills’ daughter, Samantha, is a rookie detective on the case with him, and for her, as a fellow Louisvillian, I’d always imagined Jennifer Lawrence.

For the scenes with Dr. Robert Bookman, Ben’s grandfather who for decades ran the Blackwood Estate and neighboring Asylum, I’d have to go with Clint Eastwood!

As a screenwriter as well as a novelist, I couldn’t go into this without also thinking of who’d I’d get as a dream director, and that would be David Fincher, who directed the movie Seven, which is not only one of my favorite movies but also, because of the atmosphere and tone, one of the inspirations for The Nightmare Man. We’ve already had some movie reps reach out about The Nightmare Man, so I’m eager to see what happens next! But just for fun, I’ve already written the 45- minute pilot episode for the TV show, but I’ll be more than happy to hand it over should someone want to make it!
Visit J.H. Markert's website.

Q&A with J. H. Markert.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Mark Stevens's "The Fireballer"

The son of two librarians, Mark Stevens was raised in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and has worked as a reporter, as a national television news producer, and in public relations. Antler Dust was a Denver Post bestseller in 2007 and 2009. Buried by the Roan, Trapline, and Lake of Fire were all finalists for the Colorado Book Award (2012, 2015, and 2016, respectively), and Trapline won. Trapline also won the Colorado Authors League award for best genre fiction. Stevens has had short stories published by Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, by Mystery Tribune, and in Denver Noir (Akashic Books). In September 2016, Stevens was named Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year. Stevens hosts a regular podcast for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and has served as president of the Rocky Mountain chapter for Mystery Writers of America.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The Fireballer:
I know full well that very few books get made into movies. Precious few.

But my editor at Lake Union told me she bought The Fireballer because she’s a big fan of baseball movies. Not the sport, but movies about the sport. And she could see The Fireballer on film.

Me, too.

It didn’t hurt that New York Times best-selling author William Kent Krueger offered a blurb that included this comparison: “The characters are beautifully etched, and pitcher Frank Ryder may be the most likeable hero since Gary Cooper gave life to Lou Gehrig on the big screen.”

That movie was The Pride of the Yankees.

Krueger called Ryder “likeable” and I certainly hope he is. Likeable, but not perfect by any means. He’s been carrying a heavy heart since the age of 12. But he’s also getting to do what he loves to do (pitching in the major leagues, for the Baltimore Orioles) and he’s got far more money than he knows what to do with. He’s also inscrutable on the mound when he pitches.

I think Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) would be perfect for Frank. Hedges has got gravity and an earnest look. Whoever plays Frank needs a good pitchers’ stare on the mound and I think Hedges has got it.

Hedges is known for immersing himself in his roles and I think, as an actor, he would appreciate how much Frank Ryder drove himself to do one thing and do it better than anyone else has ever done it.

Plus, Hedges is about the right age. Hedges is 26 years old and Frank is 22. Critics noted that Gary Cooper was a bit too old (at age 41, when Pride of the Yankees was filmed) to play young Gehrig.

For Frank’s girlfriend Maggie, Zendaya would be no-nonsense and down to earth and for Frank’s potential love interest Oliva, Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones) would be perfect, though she’d have to lose the English accent.

For Gail Johnson, the mother of Deon Johnson? I pictured Viola Davis when I wrote that key scene and it’s still true today.

Director? Either Bennett Miller, who brought a genuine sense of the corporate action and on-the-field athleticism to the movie Moneyball, or Stephen Soderbergh, who had his own visions for that movie before he was dropped from the project. Soderbergh’s talents with action movies (like Ocean’s Eleven) and big-picture issues (The Laundromat) would be a perfect combination.

Any way that The Fireballer reaches the screen, I know I would be, as Lou Gehrig once said, “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
Visit Mark Stevens's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Fireballer.

Q&A with Mark Stevens.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Peter Blauner's "Picture in the Sand"

Peter Blauner is an Edgar-winning, New York Times bestselling author of several other novels, including Slow Motion Riot, The Intruder, and Sunrise Highway. His books have been translated into twenty languages.

Blauner's new novel, Picture in the Sand, is the culmination of two decades of writing and research that took him from Brooklyn to Cairo a half-dozen times.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Picture in the Sand:
Picture in the Sand is a book about a movie within a book about relationship about a grandfather and his grandson. Don't worry - it's not that confusing when you read it. The premise is that a young man shocks his parents by abandoning their plans to see him off to an Ivy League college and instead goes overseas to fight in a "holy war." The only one who can reach him is his aged grandfather, Ali, who reveals a secret past. When he was a young man, in 1954, he went on a similar journey. After getting a job working for the legendary Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille, he was drawn into a world of dangerous radicalism and paid a steep price. And so the book within the book is Ali sharing this cautionary tale to try to save his grandson's life - and soul.

Movies are very much part of the DNA of this story. So I have thought about casting from time to time. Unlike the era of the DeMille film, we actually live at a time when there are well-known, even bankable Egyptian-American stars for the international market. Rami Malek is a wonderful actor and could easily play Ali as a young man. I'm also a big fan of Ramy Youssef, the prodigiously talented comedian and writer, who created the most excellent television show Ramy. In fact, that show by itself could provide actors for a number of the key roles in the book's scenario.

The Westernized characters are big ones as well. Maybe the most interesting to cast would be Cecil B. DeMille. He had a larger-than-life persona that belongs to another era. For some reason, I think more of British actors like Anthony Hopkins or Patrick Stewart who can summon that grandiosity without losing the audience. But Bryan Cranston has done pretty damn well playing characters with big proportions, so I could see him killing it. Then there's Raymond, the rakish and somewhat enigmatic documentary filmmaker, who trails DeMille around, commenting on his pomposity with wry skepticism while tormenting Ali as a romantic rival for the woman they both long for. In another era, he might have been played by Humphrey Bogart or Jean Gabin. In our time, Adam Driver could fill those shoes. Or, if the producers wanted to live dangerously, they might consider Sasha Baron Cohen, who did very well playing a dramatic role with some striking parallels in a little-seen Israeli-American show called The Spy.

And finally, there is Mona, the French-Egyptian woman, who turns out to be much more than an object of desire. When I thought of her, I pictured a combination of the Italian-Egyptian actress Anna Magnani and a beloved Egyptian singer of that era who was known as Dalida (who was actually of European extraction). Anyway, it would be great to find a young actress of a similar background who could convey that combination of earthiness and mystery. So I'm all ears for suggestions.

As far as directors go, Steven Spielberg is the obvious inheritor of the DeMille legacy. But the second half of the novel has a definite Martin Scorsese vibe as well. So if this was a limited TV series, I'd love to see both these guys do an episode and have the Egyptian-American director Jehane Noujaim do one as well. As they said in that other old movie (The Maltese Falcon), that's the stuff dreams are made of.
Visit Peter Blauner's website.

Writers Read: Peter Blauner.

The Page 69 Test: Picture in the Sand.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Priyanka Taslim's "The Love Match"

Priyanka Taslim is a Bangladeshi American writer, teacher, and lifelong New Jersey resident. Having grown up in a bustling Bangladeshi diaspora community, surrounded by her mother’s entire clan and many aunties of no relation, her writing often features families, communities, and all the drama therein. Currently, Taslim teaches English by day and tells all kinds of stories about Bangladeshi characters by night. Her writing usually stars spunky Bangladeshi heroines finding their place in the world—and a little swoony romance, too.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Love Match:
The Love Match begins with a prologue explaining tropes in Bengali natoks—the Bangla-language equivalent of Bollywood. Like a Bollywood movie or natok, this young adult romantic comedy is meant to feel cinematic, full of tropes, twists, turns—and even a musical number or two. The Love Match stars Zahra Khan, a Bangladeshi American teen who schemes to fake date the boy she’s set up with to keep both of their families happy, even as they sabotage the relationship from within. However, her real, growing feelings for a new coworker at the neighborhood tea shop where she waitresses might ruin all her plans.

Because I wrote The Love Match to feel like an American natok, I’ve pondered a potential cast to play the characters often. In an ideal world, there would not just be a large pool of South Asian diaspora actors to choose from, but specifically Bangladeshi actors, especially actors who can play teens, but since that’s not the case, I think Zahra would best be played by someone like Charithra Chandran, who became known after the second season of Bridgerton. Charithra has a Bambi-eyed, almost Disney-princess-ish disposition, but she seems spitfire beneath the surface as well, which is perfect for Zahra.

Nayim is the easiest answer for me because I always took inspiration from a particular actor/character when creating him—Avan Jogia, specifically in the role of Beck from the teen series Victorious. Although it’s not explicitly stated that he’s South Asian in the show, Avan’s character was the first time I ever saw a cool brown love interest. Nayim is also a musician and very charismatic, but in a different way. Whereas Beck was moody and edgy, I think Nayim is a heartthrob in a sweet way. His name even means happy!

Harun, on the other hand, is the toughest to cast. I’ve always thought a younger, teenage Sendhil Ramamurthy would play him well, because he has the broad jaw, the dark curls, and Harun’s complexion. It’s unfortunate that Sendhil never got to play a hero in a romcom because he’s very handsome.

I hope books like The Love Match and the more diverse media we’ve been getting in general slowly help to create more opportunities for South Asian actors. I do, at least, have a perfect director in mind if The Love Match ever gets an adaptation: Gurinder Chadha. I adore the work Gurinder did on films such as Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice, and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging. I think she could perfectly capture the vibrancy of Paterson, the Auntie Network always gossiping about the events of the story, and the fluttery feelings of teenage first love that suffuse The Love Match.
Visit Priyanka Taslim's website.

--Marshal Zeringue