Monday, October 23, 2017

S. Shankar's "Ghost in the Tamarind"

S. Shankar is a novelist, cultural critic and translator. Most recently, he was honored by a Fulbright-Nehru Award (2017-2018) and was appointed the 2016 Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown. Among other honors, he is the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i, where he is Professor of English.

Here Shankar dreamcasts an adaptation of his newest novel, Ghost in the Tamarind:
Ghost in the Tamarind is a novel about India—its world is Indian and so are (mostly) the characters, including the two main ones, Ramu and Ponni.

Might, then, a Bombay actor with an international reputation be best as Ramu? The young Amitabh Bachchan (how far the great have fallen) is one of my all time favorites. He was a stupendous actor, with tremendous screen presence, and though in his younger days was known mostly for dark and brooding roles, he was capable of great nuance. Surely, he would have been able to express that combination of anger, guilt and naivety (or is it innocence?) that is Ramu. However, I digress—that Amitabh Bachchan is thirty years in the past.

How about a contemporary American actor of Indian descent? Perhaps Aziz Ansari, who coincidentally is Tamil and even has parents from that part of India (Thirunelveli) that Ramu is from and in which so much of the novel is set! Ansari has perfected a fidgety and annoying comic public persona very different from Ramu; but Ramu’s earnestness might be an opportunity for him to stretch himself in new directions. A more obvious choice is British actor Dev Patel, who has taken on roles like Ramu. He would be very fine in that role.

For Ponni, an even more intense—more conflicted, more angry, more restless—character than Ramu, British-Indian actor Ayesha Dharker would be perfect. She played a similar role to great effect in Santosh Sivan’s little gem of a movie Terrorist (I highly recommend it). Another actor who could do Ponni to great effect: Seema Biswas, amazing in Shekar Kapur’s Bandit Queen as well as Deepa Mehta’s Water. Dharker and Biswas both are capable of a brooding and uncommon beauty that would work well in giving Ponni flesh on the screen.

Of course, the recommendations above for Ramu and Ponni would be best for when they are older. Ghost in the Tamarind takes its main characters from childhood to when they are around forty years of age. Different actors might be needed for the different parts of the story.

Director? Someone with an Indie spirit might work best. There’s (to my mind at least) a contrariness to Ghost in the Tamarind that any film version would have to preserve in casting as well as directorial vision. Santosh Sivan, who has deep experience in the Tamil film industry, would know how to plumb the Indian, and more specifically Tamil, world of the novel. Indo-Canadian Deepa Mehta too would be great, because of her novelistic imagination. And then there are a few others I can think of, including a couple not well known yet.
Visit S. Shankar's website.

The Page 69 Test: Ghost in the Tamarind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 20, 2017

S.F. Henson's "Devils Within"

S.F. Henson was born and raised in the deep south. She graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Animal Science, which she put to great use by attending law school. Her law degree has gotten some mileage, though, giving her the experience to write about criminals and other dark, nefarious subjects. She lives beside a missile test range in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband, dog, two oddly named cats, and, of course, the missiles that frequently shake her house.

Her Henson dreamcasts an adaptation of her debut novel, Devils Within:
My writing brain works in a strange way. Sometimes the characters appear fully formed. I can see their faces and hear their voices and know exactly who would play them in a move version of the book. And sometimes it takes a little work for me to learn the characters and figure out who they are. The writing process for Devils Within ended up being a mix of these two methods. It took a while to see some of the characters while others popped into my head complete.

The main character, Nate Fuller, is one I had to work to uncover, which pretty much sums him up as a character. Throughout the book, he's figuring out who he is and learning things about himself. If I were able to cast someone to play movie Nate, I would be pretty open to finding the right actor for the role, but I do think that Tyler Young would be a good Nate.

Then there's Nate's friend, Brandon Kingsley. He pushes Nate, but he has his own problems too. I've always pictured Michael B. Jordan as Brandon. In reality, he's a little too old to play sixteen-year-old Brandon, but this is my dream cast so I'm keeping him! (Although, I could also see him as Brandon's older brother, Henry).

Brandon's mother, Iria Kingsley, has been Debbie Allen from day one. From the moment the character popped in my head, it was Debbie Allen's voice, movements, and facial expressions. She's also older than Brandon's mother would actually be, but again, my dream cast!

Nate's uncle and guardian, Dell Clemons, was also fully formed upon creation. He has always been Norman Reedus. Norman has the ability to pull off the balance of withdrawn but resentfully caring that sums up Dell.

For Brandon's father, Dr. James Kingsley, I would cast Taye Diggs. I've always heard Dr. Kingsley's voice very clearly. He's firm but patient, quiet but commanding. Like Nate, I could see a number of actors playing Dr. Kingsley, but I would love to see Taye in the role.

Dell's girlfriend, Bev Liu, was always clear as to her mannerisms, but I couldn't picture her face. Not until I saw a Vogue cover with Liu Wen on it. I knew the instant I saw her that she was Bev. Liu Wen is a model, not an actress, but maybe she could be convinced to cross over.

Finally, there's Kelsey Sawyer, Nate's best friend growing up. His "what if?" girl. I would cast Katherine Langford play her. Kelsey is tough and determined. Like Nate, she's had a hard life and has had to do things that haunt her. I think Katherine could show those layers really well.

For director, absolutely David Fincher, His aesthetic would be perfect for the dark feel of the book. Add in Trent Reznor for the score and I would be over the moon!
Visit S.F. Henson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, October 19, 2017

David Biespiel's "The Education of a Young Poet"

David Biespiel was born in 1964 and grew up in Houston, Texas.  He is a poet, literary critic, columnist, and contributing writer at The Rumpus, American Poetry ReviewPolitico, New RepublicPartisan, Slate, Poetry, and The New York Times, among other publications.

He is the author of ten books, most recently The Education of a Young PoetA Long High Whistle, which received the 2016 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction, and The Book of Men and Women, which was chosen one of the Best Books of the Year by the Poetry Foundation and received the 2011 Oregon Book Award for Poetry.

Here Biespiel shares his idea for casting an adaptation of The Education of a Young Poet:
The cast is going to have to be an ensemble of unknowns. Something like the cast of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused  meets the cast of John Sayles’ Return of the Seacaucus 7.
Visit David Biespiel's website.

Writers Read: David Biespiel.

The Page 99 Test: The Education of A Young Poet.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Meryl Gordon's "Bunny Mellon"

Meryl Gordon is the author of the New York Times bestselling Mrs. Astor Regrets and Phantom of Fifth Avenue, a Wall Street Journal bestseller. She is an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Vanity Fair. She is on the graduate journalism faculty at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is considered an expert on “elder abuse” and has appeared on NPR, CNN and other outlets whenever there is a high-profile case.

Gordon's new book is Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of the biography:
Years ago I profiled Nicole Kidman, who was delightful in person, and while she is too pretty to play Bunny, she would be perfect to show the regal and vulnerable range of the character.
Visit Meryl Gordon's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Phantom of Fifth Avenue.

Writers Read: Meryl Gordon.

The Page 99 Test: Bunny Mellon.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 16, 2017

Paul Halpern's "The Quantum Labyrinth"

Paul Halpern is a professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the author of fifteen popular science books, including Einstein’s Dice and Schrödinger’s Cat. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, and an Athenaeum Literary Award. Halpern has appeared on numerous radio and television shows including Future Quest, Radio Times, several shows on the History Channel, and The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special. He has contributed opinion pieces for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs frequently on Medium, and was a regular contributor to NOVA’s “The Nature of Reality” physics blog.

Here Halpern dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Quantum Labyrinth: How Richard Feynman and John Wheeler Revolutionized Time and Reality:
I can envision a 1950s film of Richard Feynman and John Wheeler, with Jack Lemmon playing Feynman and Jimmy Stewart in the role of Wheeler.  I think Lemmon’s experience with the jazzy scenes, music, humor, flirtatiousness, and silly antics in Some Like It Hot would have made him perfect for the role.  Wheeler was very quiet, but had a great dry sense of humor, which is why Jimmy Stewart comes to mind.

That said, there is an actual film Infinity with Matthew Broderick as Feynman and James LeGros as Wheeler (which I haven’t yet seen), but there is only minimal overlap with what I wrote in my book.
Visit The Quantum Labyrinth website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 13, 2017

Matthew Kraig Kelly's "The Crime of Nationalism"

Matthew Kraig Kelly is a historian of the modern Middle East. He has served as a visiting professor at Occidental College and the University of California, Los Angeles, and his work has been published in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Middle East Critique, and other academic journals.

Here Kelly dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Crime of Nationalism: Britain, Palestine, and Nation-Building on the Fringe of Empire:
My book concerns the Palestinian Great Revolt of 1936-39, which was an Arab uprising against British policy in Palestine. By 1936, the British had been facilitating open ended Jewish immigration into Palestine for about two decades, with the stated intent of establishing a “Jewish National Home.” The Arabs had resisted this plan to no avail. This led to frustration, and finally to rebellion.

My telling of this story does not feature a protagonist or "lead" per se. For the film, we might therefore toggle between three different perspectives -- British, Palestinian, and Zionist -- attempting to render each as sympathetically as possible. And we might select three personalities as the anchors for each of these perspectives.

For the British, a good character would be Arthur Wauchope, the high commissioner for Palestine in 1936. Wauchope had been appointed high commissioner in 1931, at the age of 57. An enthusiastic civilian administrator, he had spent most of his adult life in the military, where he had proven himself a physically courageous man. His experience in the Middle East dated back to the First World War, when he commanded a British brigade in Iraq and was wounded in battle. There is little doubt that he regarded the British presence and mission in Palestine as appropriate, and yet he struggled to find the appropriate strategy for dealing with the Arab rebellion. He resorted to violent repression, but did so ambivalently, aware that doing so risked alienating Palestine's Arabs and thus exacerbating the rebellion. I believe that Ewan McGregor would do an excellent job of bringing Wauchope's inner struggle to the screen.

For the Palestinians, a good character would be `Abd al-Rahim al-Hajj Muhammad, who would become the most respected rebel commander in the course of the revolt. Abu Kamal, as he was also known, was a grain merchant from Tulkarm. He fought in the Turkish army in the First World War, and took up arms against the British in 1936. As my book demonstrates, the British authorities tended to regard the rebels as mere thugs, but they made an exception for Abu Kamal, whom they knew to be a man of unimpeachable character. Abu Kamal was a compelling figure: fearless, intelligent, and morally scrupulous. In this sense, he was an exemplar of the national quality of the Arab rebellion, which both the British and the Zionists were determined to deny. When the British tracked him down and killed him in March 1939, at Sanur (in Samaria), it dealt a mortal blow to the rebellion. Adding to the drama of this event, Abu Kamal had just received formal recognition as leader of the rebellion from the Central War Committee in Damascus, which had previously withheld such recognition on account of his unwillingness to follow instructions he regarded as foolish or immoral. I believe Saleh Bakri would be an excellent choice for this role.

For the Zionists, a good – and perhaps obvious -- character would be David Ben Gurion. Ben Gurion was the chair of the executives of both the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, and a towering figure in the Zionist milieu. He would eventually become the first prime minister of Israel. As a character, he would be a good choice because of his sophistication. Ben Gurion was politically shrewd and an excellent strategist. He also had a good deal of sympathy for his Palestinian opponents, including many of the rebels. By the time this movie is actually made, Joaquin Phoenix won’t be that far from the age Ben Gurion was in 1936 (50), so I’d like to cast him in the role.
Learn more about The Crime of Nationalism at the University of California Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tracey Neithercott's "Gray Wolf Island"

Tracey Neithercott’s first book was written by hand and illustrated with some really fancy colored pencils. It was highly acclaimed by her mother. Now she spends her days as a magazine editor and her nights writing stories about friendship, love, murder, and magic. (None of which she illustrates—you’re welcome.) She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, who suggests improving her novels by adding lightsabers.

Here Neithercott dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Gray Wolf Island:
Whenever I begin a new book, I go in search of character inspiration. But I usually end up pulling photos of models who fit the images in my mind. Casting with actual actors is a bit harder—especially when trying to find people who could pull off a convincing 17 years old and still have the acting chops to make for an enjoyable film.

Here’s who I’m fake casting for Gray Wolf Island:

RUBY: I think Elle Fanning would do a great job portraying main character Ruby. She has the talent to show Ruby’s guilt, grief, and antisocial nature subtly on screen. Admittedly, she looks nothing like Ruby, but if my book were made into a movie, that would be less important to me than her acting ability. I mean, hair dye exists.

ANNE: This is a tough one. Anne is Native American, and there’s a serious lack of Native American teen actors in Hollywood. I’m going to go with Devery Jacobs—but about five years ago so she wouldn’t look quite so adult.

Elliot: I’ve always pictured Elliot as model Ash Stymest. But I think both Cole Sprouse and Matthew Daddario could pull off his mix of wannabe bad boy and total nerd. Bonus: Each is really great at small facial expressions that show their annoyance, and that’s all I could want for in an Elliot actor.

Gabe: The trick with Gabe is that for most of the book he’s a lie. I think Miles Heizer would do a great job portraying a character who’s portraying a character, in a way. He was amazing in 13 Reasons Why, so I know he has the skills as an actor.

Charlie: I’ve only ever imagined Charlie as Ki Hong Lee. I’ve seen him tackle serious roles, so he’d be able to slowly reveal a Charlie grappling with the fact that he’s seen his own death. But at the same time, Ki Hong Lee seems really spirited and fun, and that’s exactly Charlie’s personality.
Visit Tracey Neithercott's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sarah Bailey's "The Dark Lake"

Sarah Bailey lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Here Bailey dreamcasts an adaptation of The Dark Lake, her first novel:
When I was writing The Dark Lake, I found it really helpful to develop a fantasy cast to ensure I had consistent descriptions of each character. I created a little mood board on my bedroom wall by cutting out pictures of actors that I felt would be able to bring each of my characters to life. Of course, I never imagined that it might one day be turned into a TV series or film, and the fact that this is now a possibility is truly mind-blowing!

As I embarked on my private casting adventure, finding an actor that could step into the role of DS Gemma Woodstock was critical. She is such a layered person, with a lot of light and shade. In my head Gemma is quite a slight person physically but very strong emotionally with the potential of being quite fierce and frustrating at times. Ellen Page was my top pick to play Gemma. I love her petite but tough vibe.

Felix is another important character as he needs to be charming but aloof and slightly mysterious. I had either a Christian Bale or Ben Affleck type in mind for him. In contrast the character of Scott Harper, Gemma’s partner is very trustworthy, stable and solid and for that reason, I thought Joshua Jackson would work well in this role.

Several of the other characters I based on Australian actors. The murdered woman, Rosalind Ryan would be perfect for Isabel Lucas. Beautiful and mysterious, she has a distinctive other-wordly vibe. Miranda Tapsell would make a great Candy Fyfe, being so fun and feisty.

Jonsey, Gemma’s much-loved boss needs to be a gruff character with a heart of gold. J.K.Simmons would definitely be able to pull this off and the fact that he played Juno’s dad alongside Ellen Page in that iconic movie would be a cute build on their past onscreen relationship.

For the two younger Ryan brothers, I needed to find actors that were attractive but again somewhat distant. I thought that Zac Efron and James Marsden would provide the right look and tone for Timothy and Bryce. Their older brother Marcus is more passive and needs a bit more softness to him. Someone like Josh Brolin would work well. In terms of their father, the wealthy patriarch George Ryan, either James Brolin or Richard Gere would be perfect.

For the naïve but kind-hearted Rodney Mason, Freddie Highmore sprung to mind as did the lead actor from 13 Reasons Why, Dylan Minnette.

I’m not sure whether it a normal practice to develop a cast list when you write a book but it is certainly something that I found really helpful. I’m already doing it again for the sequel!
Visit Sarah Bailey's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Dark Lake.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sarah Shoemaker's "Mr. Rochester"

Sarah Shoemaker is a former university librarian and currently lives in northern Michigan.

Her new novel Mr. Rochester recounts the story of Jane Eyre from Rochester's point of view.

Here Shoemaker dreamcasts an adaptation of the novel:
As I was writing Mr. Rochester, although I tended to see it visually, I did not actually think much about it being made into a movie. But as people started reading it, they quite often asked me who I would like to see play the main parts (Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre). After some thought, I’ve settled on Aidan Turner, best known to me as Ross Poldark in the TV series Poldark, to play Edward Rochester because, just as Rochester does, he has black hair that seems to fall over his forehead all the time and dark eyes, and even somewhat dark skin; and he is not overly handsome, nor is he overly tall. So, physically, he is a good match. And he exudes a kind of dynamic force that I see Rochester as having.

As for Jane, I have not yet thought of someone who would fit that part well—maybe an actress who is not yet well-known.
Visit Sarah Shoemaker's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Jonathan Eig's "Ali: A Life"

Ken Burns calls Jonathan Eig a "master storyteller." Eig is the author of five books, two of them New York Times best sellers.

Here the author shares some thoughts about a movie adapted from his new biography, Ali: A Life:
I never pictured anyone but Muhammad Ali as Muhammad Ali. He was bigger than any Hollywood actor…and he told us so. In fact, he portrayed himself in the first movie based on his life.

“Movie star!” he screamed on the set one day. “I’m a mooooooo-veeeeeee starrrr!”

Ali had big plans for his career in film.

“This face is worth billions,” he said. “My roles have always got to be Number One. I can’t be the boy in the kitchen. Some big football star plays the waiter in the movie while some homosexual gets the lead role. I got to be the hero. Like Charlton Heston, he’s got a serious image. Moses. In ‘Airport’ he was the captain, a real man. Always distinguished, always high class.” And there would be no sex scenes. “Kissinger wouldn’t do that,” he said, referring to the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, “and I’m bigger than Kissinger.”

Little known fact: Warner Brothers offered Ali $250,000 plus a percentage of revenues to star in Heaven Can Wait, the remake of a 1941 film called Here Comes Mr. Jordan, about a boxer who is removed from his body prematurely by an overanxious angel and who returns to life in the body of a recently murdered millionaire. When Ali turned down the part, director Warren Beatty cast himself in the lead role and changed the character from a boxer to a football player.

Well, since Ali can no longer play himself, and since Will Smith already had his turn, I think it’s time for a younger, less famous actor to take a shot at it. But it’s got to be someone as gorgeous and magnetic as Ali. Can anyone contend?
Learn more about the book and author at Jonathan Eig's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, October 2, 2017

John O’Brien's "Keeping It Halal"

John O’Brien is assistant professor of sociology at New York University Abu Dhabi.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Keeping It Halal: The Everyday Lives of Muslim American Teenage Boys:
I love this question, because I have actually thought that my book would make for a great film. At the heart of the book are five young men – ranging in age from fourteen to nineteen – who are dynamic, funny, and very close friends. The book uses over three and half years of ethnographic observation with these kids – who I call the Legendz after the name of their hip hop group – to tell the story of their growing up together as young Muslim Americans in post-9/11 urban America.

Rather than being centered on politics, though, their everyday lives – and therefore the book, and therefore the movie (!) – is focused on the trials and tribulations of urban American teenage life, intertwined with concerns of Islamic propriety. While spending their teen years together, the Legendz were also working to manage complex cultural dilemmas in their daily lives: how to listen to profane hip hop music while being a good Muslim, how to date in a way that doesn’t clash with expectations of Islamic behavior, how to meet Islamic religious obligations while still feeling and seeming to others like independent American teenagers, and how to respond to frustrating anti-Muslim harassment while not playing into the very stereotypes they hoped to escape.

I think a coming-of-age movie about these young men would be great – think an early-oughts Stand By Me meets a Muslim Smoke Signals. And the boys’ interest in hip hop would provide an excuse for a great soundtrack. In terms of casting, I think a movie like this might work best with some fresh-faced, relatively unknown actors, for whom this could be their break out roles (assuming that the movie is a big hit, of course!), but I do have a few ideas of well-known actors who could play the Legendz.

I think the part of Muhammad, one of the older boys in the group, could be played well by Michael B Jordan, of The Wire, Fruitvale Station, and Creed fame. I think Jordan has the same easy smile and sweet-faced yet intense presence that also characterized Muhammad. I texted the real Muhammad to ask him who he thought should play him, and he suggested Barkhad Abdi, the Somali-American actor-director who played the Somali pirate captain in the Tom Hanks movie Captain Phillips (Muhammad’s family is originally from East Africa), noting that ““he looks like he’s from the right country and I think he needs the work hahaha.” Welcome to the bantering dynamic of my book-turned-movie’s main characters. Next Yusef, the other older member of the Legendz jumped in – did I mention this was a group Whats App text? – and offered, “I see Will Smith playing you, Muhammad.” Muhammad responded, “If we can get Will Smith, I’m down with that.”

As for Yusef, the Jordanian-born and most religiously pious and personally sincere “older brother” of the Legendz, when I asked him who he thought should play him in the movie of Keeping It Halal, he texted back without hesitation, “I think I’m going to say Joey Tribbiani from Friends (Matt LeBlanc). I think we have a lot of similar things going on.” When I asked him what he meant, his comment was in keeping with his role as consistently Islamically appropriate and slightly nerdy: “It isn’t the sleeping around part, but it’s because he’s a cornball and I like his style. I’m a big corn ball.” The other Legendz would agree.

During this text conversation, I tried to make clear to Muhammad and Yusef that this was just an abstract exercise, and that there was no plan to actually make a movie based on the book. While I think they understood that, I think they also, like me, got a little swept up in the idea of what they saw as an interesting slice of youthful Muslim American life making its way onto the silver screen. It’s a great idea - maybe I’ll make that my next project.
Learn more about Keeping It Halal at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Zack McDermott's "Gorilla and the Bird"

Zack McDermott has worked as a public defender for The Legal Aid Society of New York. His work has appeared on This American Life, Morning Edition, Gawker, and Deadspin, among others.

McDermott's new book is Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and a Mother's Love.

Here the author shares his pick to direct an adaptation of the book:
To direct: I love Jean-Marc Vallée. I loved Big Little Lies and it excites me to imagine what he could do with Gorilla and the Bird. His projects are so beautiful and he’s great shooting jarring and surreal footage. It makes me salivate to imagine him directing the character Zack in the throes of a psychotic break. You read this, JMV?
Visit Zack McDermott's website.

The Page 99 Test: Gorilla and the Bird.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 29, 2017

Brad Abraham's "Magicians Impossible"

Brad Abraham is the author of Magicians Impossible, creator of the Mixtape comic book series, screenwriter of the films Fresh Meat and Stonehenge Apocalypse, writer on the television series The Canada Crew, Now You Know, I Love Mummy, and RoboCop Prime Directives, and a journalist whose work has appeared in Rue Morgue, Dreamwatch, Starburst, and Fangoria.

Here Abraham dreamcasts an adaptation of Magicians Impossible:
I’m a screenwriter by trade; or at least that’s what people knew me and my work from (pre-Magicians Impossible anyway). When writing a screenplay it helps to have a “type” in mind for each character, as it helps give them each a distinctive voice. You may not get George Clooney or Anne Hathaway, but you want to aim for a type, if only to keep the voices separate. Naturally, when drafting Magicians I employed the same tricks of the trade. Magicians has a large cast of characters but these are the ones you’ll really want to watch closely.

I went back and forth on protagonist Jason Bishop in the early drafts, trying to figure out who he was. Then I saw Ryan Gosling in The Nice Guys and went “that’s the guy.” His Holland March is much more comedic than Jason, but there’s a quiet desperation beneath everything he does. Gosling is a real chameleon of an actor; useful skills for a magically-gifted spy.

For Jason’s father, the enigmatic Damon King, I pretty much had John Hamm in mind from the start. Suave and sophisticated one moment, explosive the next, Damon would be the next step in evolution from the man of mystery Hamm became known for; a certain Madison Ave ad exec.

The menacing Red Queen is the enigma that runs through Magicians Impossible, and like Damon, I had someone in mind from the beginning too. I’ve loved Julianne Moore’s work ever since Todd Haynes’ Safe and every word the Red Queen spoke had Julianne’s voice.

Spymaster Carter Block went through several iterations, until I finally realized I’d been writing him in Idris Elba’s voice all along. He’s such a multifaceted actor; I went through several seasons of The Wire before learning he was, in fact, British. In Magicians Carter speaks with Idris’ real-life accent, so keep that in mind when reading.

Allegra Sand, the powerful Diabolist, was more difficult to cast, because she was so fully-formed in my mind. It took a while for me to get to Jim Jarmusch’s film Paterson, but Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani captured Allegra’s essence while playing a completely different character.

In the wake of Star Wars, few need an introduction to John Boyega, but War Seer Teo Stone is based more on Moses, the character he played in the amazing sci-fi horror Attack the Block. Same attitude, same empathy, same voice. He rapidly became my favorite character to write in Magicians.

The mysterious enchanter Katja Eis was an enigma, but it wasn’t until I watched the Swedish-Danish TV series Bron/Broen (a.k.a. The Bridge) and saw Sofia Helin that I finally found her. Helin’s take on the mysterious enchanter would be something else.

For Oracle, Vasilisa Volkov, I had Irish actress Saoirse Ronan in mind from day one. She’d do a fantastic job too because she’s pretty much fantastic in everything.

As far as who directs this hypothetical movie, there’s so many directors I can think of who’d each put their personal stamp on a film based on this book – Guillermo del Toro comes to mine. But if I had to pick, I’d have to go with none other than Steven Spielberg. Not for the spectacle, but rather for the book’s central relationship between Damon and Jason; between father and son. The father-son relationship is in the DNA of so much of Spielberg’s work, I can’t think of a director better suited to material than him. And he knows spectacle.
Visit Brad Abraham's website.

The Page 69 Test: Magicians Impossible.

Writers Read: Brad Abraham.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Terrence McCauley's "A Conspiracy of Ravens"

Terrence P. McCauley is an award-winning writer of crime fiction and thrillers.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of the third novel in his University Series, A Conspiracy of Ravens:
I get asked this question quite a bit and I always enjoy answering it. I'm a big fan of movies both new and classic, so I've been known to borrow inspiration from actors throughout the history of cinema in my writing. The University/James Hicks series has some interesting characters. For my main character, James Hicks, I'd love to see Jeremy Renner in the role. He's versatile enough to play the many facets of the character convincingly. While we're dreaming, I'd love to see Robert Downey, Jr. play Roger Cobb.

Some people envision these characters a little older, so if that was the case, Bryan Cranston as Hicks and Stanley Tucci as Cobb.

As far as directors go, people might laugh at my suggestion, but I'd love to see Ben Affleck do it. I think he could become one of our great directors if he dedicated himself to it full time. I like him as an actor, but the work he did in Argo was incredible. That easily could have been an incredibly boring movie, but he turned it into a nail-biter. I think he could work the same magic with my work.
Visit Terrence McCauley's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 25, 2017

Alys Clare's "The Devil's Cup"

Alys Clare lives in the English countryside, where her novels are set. She went to school in Tonbridge and later studied archaeology at the University of Kent.

Here Clare dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, The Devil's Cup:
When I started the Hawkenlye Series seventeen books ago, I had a clear image of Josse d’Acquin in mind, and he looked very like the actor Robert Lindsay. As, like all of us, he’s matured and life’s experiences and trials show in his face, he goes on looking just as I imagine the older Josse, and I still think he’d be just right. For Helewise, who we first meet when she’s Abbess of Hawkenlye, I would cast the luminous Juliet Stevenson. I used to think that the severity of the medieval nun’s habit would become her very well, although by the time of The Devil’s Cup she is, of course, no longer a nun, so we wouldn’t get the chance to decide. I’d love to see Bill Nighy as Yves, Josse’s brother, having loved him as an actor ever since hearing him play the part of Sam Gamgee in the BBC Radio 4 production of The Lord of the Rings in 1981 (which I have on my iPod and still listen to regularly; there are scenes between Bill Nighy’s Sam and Ian Holmes’s Frodo that still move me to tears, even though I know them well enough to say the words with them). Robert Lindsay and Bill Nighy as my two d’Acquin brothers would do such a fine job of demonstrating the humour, the closeness and the love between the pair and would undoubtedly also move their audience to tears.

Oh, and to play King John, I’d like Ray Winstone.

I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable to comment on who I would select as director, but I do listen to an awful lot of film (and TV) soundtrack, since I find it’s the perfect accompaniment to writing; somehow it makes the pictures I’m seeing in my mind as I work more vivid and real; more tangible, even. It’s hard to pick a favourite. Sometimes a composer seems to gel perfectly with one film whilst the marriage doesn’t work as well elsewhere (for example, Howard Shore was sublime with the Lord of the Rings trilogy but, in my view anyway, didn’t get it right with The Hobbit, although, given what was done to what was originally a beautiful and quite short children's story, it’s hard to see how anyone could). Ramin Djawadi has some brilliant moments with Game of Thrones; Hans Zimmer’s music and the mind-blowing Gladiator is a match made in heaven. Patrick Doyle gives the impression that he possesses singular insight into the scripts to which he is writing the music, and he has such a variety of moods, from Brave to Henry V via Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Sense and Sensibility. He, I think, would be my choice to write the music score for The Devil’s Cup.
Learn more about The Devil's Cup at the publisher's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Devil's Cup.

Writers Read: Alys Clare.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 22, 2017

Ismée Williams's "Water in May"

Ismée Williams is the author of Water in May, a pediatric cardiologist who trained and practiced for 15 years at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, the daughter of a Cuban immigrant partially raised by her abuelos, and the mother of three daughters, all of which have helped her to understand the many Maris she has met along the way.

Here Williams dreamcasts an adaptation of Water in May:
I’ve fantasized about Water in May becoming a movie since I started writing it! In fact, I pictured Reese Witherspoon as Helen, the woman Mari shares a hospital experience with, from the very beginning. She would do an amazing job playing the mother of a baby in distress. And I always hoped she would like the book since I once saw her say that if she couldn’t be an actor she would be a pediatric cardiologist (look up Reese Witherspoon, Vogue’s 73 questions video).

For Dr. Love, my vote would be Scott Eastwood. He’s the right age (early 30s) and has that dreamy look to him (along with the blue eyes), yet he is serious enough to make you respect him as a physician.

My main character’s boyfriend, Bertie, is somewhat of a jokester and has a carefree way about him, yet he is also tragically wounded by the circumstances of the novel. I’m envisioning someone like a young Merlin Santana, the late Dominican-American actor who played Rudy Huxtable’s boyfriend on The Cosby Show, among other roles in his short lifetime. He’d have been perfect.

And now for Mari’s girl crew: The role of loud and flamboyant best friend, Yaz, would have to go to a teen version of Dania Ramirez, known for her work in The Sopranos, Entourage, and Devious Maids. Julissa Bermudez, from Empire Girls, would play Teri well, with her innocent schoolgirl looks, but again she would have to be younger. For the role of Heavenly, the statuesque beauty who always has boys panting after her, Zoe Saldana would be my choice.

Mari’s abuela could be played by Iris Peynado, who is Dominican, or even Rosie Perez, who is actually Puerto Rican, though it would have had to have been when they were in their mid-40’s.

My main character, Mari, would be the tough one to cast. Sharlene Taule could play Mari because her skin is light enough to pass for white in certain situations, as Mari’s skin is. But honestly, for all of these younger roles my dream would be for scouts to go to Washington Heights or Santo Domingo and find up and coming talent. It would be incredible to have an unknown play Mari and have this be her breakout role.
Visit Ismée Williams's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Ismée Amiel Williams & Rowan.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Jacob Stone's "Crazed"

Jacob Stone is the byline chosen by award-winning author Dave Zeltserman for his new Morris Brick series of serial-killer thrillers. His crime, mystery and horror fiction has won top praise and has been translated into six languages. His novels Small Crimes and Pariah were both named by the Washington Post as best books of the year. Small Crimes topped National Public Radio's list of best crime and mystery novels of 2008 and is being made into a feature film.

Here Zeltserman dreamcasts an adaptation of Crazed, the second Morris Black thriller:
I get to cheat a bit with this since Crazed is the second book of my Morris Brick crime thriller series, and I already provided my dream cast for the first book, Deranged.

Major characters who appear in both Crazed and Deranged:

Morris Brick, my ex-LAPD homicide detective and serial killer hunter, is tough, smart, and relentless, and Jason Isaacs showed from the Showtime series Brotherhood showed that he could play all that brilliantly, plus he physically looks like my Morris.

Evangeline Lilly would be a good choice to play Natalie Brick, Morris’s beautiful and charming wife.

Sheila Proops, the wheelchair-bound serial killer who escaped prosecution from Deranged and is back in Crazed. Elizabeth Banks would be a good choice, although she'd need a lot of makeup and prosthetics to play my twisted (both physically and emotionally) Sheila.

Philip Stonehedge, a method actor who forces himself into the investigation, and for most of the book acts as Morris’s sidekick, is the easiest role to cast—Ryan Gosling. In the third Morris Brick thriller, Malicious, there’s a running joke where the killer is described by witnesses as either the actor Philip Stonehedge or Ryan Gosling.

Scarlett Johansson would be a good fit for Annie Walsh, the tough, no-nonsense, and very attractive LAPD Detective who works with Morris and his team.

Morris’s team is made up of three former LAPD homicide detectives: Dennis Polk, a wiseass, Fred Lemmon, who takes it as part of his job to keep Polk in line, and Charlie Bogle, Morris’ right-hand man. Michael Rapaport would be perfect as Polk, Matthew Rhys as Lemmon, and Jon Hamm (who has a bigger role in future books, as well as showing some inner demons) as Bogle.

Finally, to complete the cast, we need to find a lovable and clownish bull terrier to play Morris’s dog, Parker.

Now for the two starring characters unique to Crazed:

Chris Evans would be playing against type to be cast as the serial killer Griffin Bolling, but I think he'd be a fun choice for the role, even though Bolling is quite a piece of work.

Josh Gad would make a perfect Perlmutter--a desperate wannabe filmmaker who catches on to what Sheila and Griffin are up to, and tries to deal himself into the action.

Simon Helberg would be pitch perfect to play Perlmutter's nemesis Bloom.

We'd also need the right fat, orange tabby to play Perlmutter's cat, Orson.
Visit Dave Zeltserman's website.

My Book, The Movie: Deranged.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cora Harrison's "Beyond Absolution"

Cora Harrison published twenty-six children's books before turning to adult novels with the "Mara" series of Celtic historical mysteries set in 16th century Ireland.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Beyond Absolution, the third book in the Reverend Mother Mystery Series:
I had no hesitation here. I have immediately chosen Angela Lansbury to star in the movie of my book.

The main character in Beyond Absolution is an elderly Reverend Mother, superior of an order of nuns whose main task is to provide an education for the children of the poor. Cork city in the south of Ireland was, at that time, a place where terrible poverty and dreadful slums co-existed with wealth and splendid houses, built by the merchant princes on the hills well outside the filth and fog that envelope the city and its slums.

The Reverend Mother is by birth and upbringing one of the merchant princes’ class, but all her sympathies and her life’s work lie among the poor of Cork. She is no saint, though and possesses a sharp sarcastic tongue and a shrewd judgement of people and their weaknesses, whether they are among the privileged or the destitute of Cork.

I’ve had fun writing this character – somehow I never hesitate. Her opinions flow from my finger tips to the screen, her occasional sarcasm, her compassion, her interest in her pupils, her overwhelming desire to help the children, her boredom with excessive piety, her impatience with the bishop and his opinions. I can just see and hear Angela Lansbury in the part. And I hope that the long summers she has spent in southern Ireland would give her an interest in bringing the character of a Cork nun to the screen.
Visit Cora Harrison's website.

My Book, The Movie: Cross of Vengeance.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 15, 2017

Michael Gregorio's "Lone Wolf"

Michael Gregorio is the pen name of Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio. Best known for their Hanno Stiffeniis series, featuring a Prussian magistrate in a country invaded by Napoleon and the French, they have more recently launched a contemporary series set in Italy, where they live. The Seb Cangio novels follow the exploits of a forest ranger as he combats Mafia infiltration of the unspoilt national park in Umbria where he works.

Here the authors share the transcript from their (dream) pitch meeting with United Artists about adapting their latest novel, the third in the series, Lone Wolf, for the big screen:
Imagine: United Artists and us.

UA: These stories haven’t been adapted for the big screen?

US: Unbelievable, isn’t it? A mystery on every page, a dead body in every chapter, a climax that will blast the viewer out of his seat…

UA: His seat? Don’t tell me this is a guy film.

US: No, no, it’s got everything. Violence, sure, but love, devotion to duty, animals…

UA: No dogs die, do they? No horses? Nothing like that?

US: Only the thugs die. Quite a lot of them, actually. But it’s all good fun, plenty of action with a capital A and a serious investment in top quality tomato sauce.

UA: Now that is a good sponsor angle. Yeah, show the can… the can of sauce, I mean, in all the kitchen scenes.

US: We use Mutti Polpa at home and recommend it highly. Five stars, big lumps, great splatter…

UA: Mutti, Parma… you don’t say? (He’s making a note of the name). I’ll check it out. Now, tell me this. How do you see this movie playing out? Gimme a sketch.

US: Well, there’ll be trees, lots of trees, ’cause the hero is a park ranger. Oh yeah, and mountains, too, ’cause it’s set in Umbria…

UA: What’s Umbria?

US: It’s a place in Italy. It’s full of mountains, forests, full of wolves. That’s what the park ranger does, he protects the wolves…

UA: The wolves don’t die, do they? We have this thing with Animal Protection.

US: No, no, the wolves don’t die. The wolves are just an allegory…

UA: Allegheny? I thought you said Italy?

US: The wolves are a symbol. They’re cruel, but, well, that’s Nature, isn’t it? It’s the two-legged wolves we’re interested in…

UA: Wolves with two legs? You mean like walking wolves? Werewolves?

US: We mean criminals, people who behave like wolves, worse than wolves…

UA: Okay, so we got wolves and criminals, a dumb park ranger. What else?

US: There’s London, too, the seamy Soho underworld…

UA: We can film those scenes right here in New York, cut back on costs.

US: And there’s the ’Ndrangheta…

UA: The what?

US: The mafia from Calabria, the most dangerous criminal organisation in the world.

UA: Winslow’s already worked that angle. Slaughter on every page.

US: Our slaughter starts on page three…

UA: And the first two pages?

US: Magic, witchcraft, a pinch of historical backstory.

UA: What about a director? You got any thoughts on that?

US: Well, our vote goes to Mel. He’s been through this kind of thing before – oceans of blood, nastiness unchained, and a wild natural setting with eclipses of the sun and sudden downpours – we’ve seen Apocalypto twenty or thirty times, it’s one of our favourite movies.

UA: We’re talking big money here. So, what about the stars?

US: Well, there are two lead women…

UA: Two? That’s throwing money away. Could we cut it back to one? We got Scarlett, Cameron, Ashley, take your pick. Male leads are two a penny, so let’s play safe with Leonardo. Di Caprio. Italian-sounding, right? He should know how to handle this ’Ndrangheta angle… Okay, time’s up. I’ll get back to you on this. Have a great day!

As you may have realised, films and filmstars are not our thing. So, we’ll just have to wait for a producer with his cheque book and chosen camera buff to come along and finally do what Justice demands: make Lone Wolf into the blockbuster movie it deserves to be!
Visit Michael Gregorio's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Lone Wolf.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Lisa Berne's "The Laird Takes a Bride"

Lisa Berne read her first Georgette Heyer book at fourteen, and was instantly captivated. Later, she was a graduate student, a teacher, and a grant writer — and is now an author of historical romance.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, The Laird Takes a Bride:
I’m really bad at this sort of question, so really, the best I can do is to mention a film — and the actors — that influenced my thinking in The Laird Takes a Bride: the charming and deeply felt Leap Year. (Although, tangentially, in the interest of validating my taste, I feel obliged to add that I loathe the scene toward the end in which the protagonists carry on an extremely personal conversation in front of an interested crowd; such pointless contrivances are almost as annoying as the ones that take place in the rain. Case in point: Four Weddings and a Funeral.)

What drew me creatively to Leap Year is how the characters, winsomely portrayed by Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, are initially so shut off to each other — how enmeshed they are in their own damaged pasts. Both of my protagonists in The Laird Takes a Bride suffer from the same snare; their trajectories in this way mirror the other’s. They struggle to free themselves — to learn how to freely love — even as they resist their deepening connection.

So. Yeah. Matthew Goode and Amy Adams. With fetching Scottish accents. Could totally work.
Visit Lisa Berne's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 11, 2017

Peter J. Marina's "Down and Out in New Orleans"

Peter Marina is a New Orleans native and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

Here he tags the actor who should play him in an adaptation of his new book, Down and Out in New Orleans: Transgressive Living in the Informal Economy--and sketches a scenario of the imaginary film:
If the book were made into a movie, Aidan Turner would play my role as lead actor. People sometimes confuse me for him in public, and he plays transgressive characters that lead debacherous, downright mischievous lives. The main character of Down and Out in New Orleans had to become transgressive to conduct the research into similarly transgressive lives. For a director, Paul Thomas Anderson, excels with large ensemble casts and uses lots of wide angle shots which would really show off NOLA and make the city itself a character in the film.

Peter Marina lives down and out in New Orleans reproducing, as closely as possible, the conditions Orwell faced in Down and Out in Paris and London in late 1920s Paris. Marina’s film tells the story of post-Katrina New Orleans and its culture of creative degenerates, vagabonds, artists, hustlers, transients, grifters, intellectuals, musicians, druggies, skells, gutter punks, goths, occultists, and existentialists who exist beneath the radar in the city of New Orleans.

Marina does not merely study the city’s fringes. He lives on them. He doesn’t merely interview the city’s new bohemians. He lives among them, lives as one of them. He doesn’t settle for examining the city’s modern underbelly. He creeps and crawls through it – sometimes on his hands and knees, working menial jobs, scrounging for enough to eat, living among the urban tribes – indeed, becoming part of them – and hoping to survive.

He walks on glass as “Cuban Pete the Clown” pantomimes on the streets outside the Superdome before Saints games, busks poetry on Frenchmen Street, bartends on Bourbon Street, cleans Air B&B apartments in Faubourg Marigny, trips with occultists in Barataria swamps, breaks into New Orleans’ aboveground cemeteries for underground Satanic rituals, attends informal burlesque shows, helps perform a marriage ceremony for homeless travelers, sleeps in down-and-out homeless shelters and squats in the many abandoned buildings of hurricane Katrina, shares life with gutter punks and down-and-out urban dwellers, dances in the streets of second-line parades, shares New Orleans culture with the black Mardi Gras Indians, and even sells pot for a few extra dollars.

The movie centers on the cast of characters Marina encounters on his various adventures throughout New Orleans traversing social life with many of the city’s urban tribes and subcultures. He finds Tim the Gold Man searching for relief at the end of a beer while somehow achieving semi-celebrity status. Marina discovers a colorful cast of characters such as Cubs the Poet writing for tourists, Eric Odditorium swallowing swords, and Stumps the Clown swinging a bowling ball through hooks in his ears, all attempting to stake their claim in the world. Marina penetrates into the three dimensions of Shannon’s life as she moves from peacefully writing poetry of French orgasms to frantically whipping tourists on the streets to hopping freight trains in a quest to reach the summit of life’s experiences. He shares adventures with occultists as they enter swamps and hop cemeteries to engage in supernatural rituals that empower and make meaning to their world. Marina encounters the world of buskers as they perform on the streets of New Orleans as well as gutter punks and homeless politically motivated youths who squat in the city’s many abandoned houses.

Marina travels with brass-band musicians blowing their trumpets making money from tourists while also keeping the culture of the city defiantly alive. He marches with the Mardi Gras Indians in their second-lines as they sing about spy boys while chanting Iko unday Jockomo feeno and dances with brass bands screaming “Fuck the po-po” with their middle fingers raised, speaking truth to power about police brutality. Marina witnesses community resident Vance Vaucresson getting the okey dokey from urban planners and city elites – like Pres Kabacoff, or the Robert Moses of New Orleans – hell-bent on transforming the culture of New Orleans into a personal means of profit.

In this pursuit of discovery, Marina unlocks a world where urban residents show their human agency and engage in new forms of transgression to find creative cultural solutions to collectively experienced structural contradictions posed in our late stage of modernity.
Visit Peter Marina's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Temple Mathews's "Bad Girl Gone"

Temple Mathews, a graduate of the University of Washington and a producer at the American Film Institute, has written dozens of half-hour animation TV episodes and several animated and live action features and direct-to-DVD and video films. His credits include the Walt Disney animated feature films Return to Neverland and The Little Mermaid 2 and the MGM feature film Picture This!

Here Mathews shares some thoughts on casting an adaptation of his new novel, Bad Girl Gone:
The movie of my book would feature a young actress, Jennifer Lawrence would have been perfect a few years back, same with Natalie Portman.

As with the cast of Twilight, when we make the movie (Iggy Azalea is producing and optioned the book) we will have the joy of bringing new faces to the screen.
Visit Temple Mathews's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bad Girl Gone.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 8, 2017

Robin Merrow MacCready's "A Lie For A Lie"

Robin Merrow MacCready is the author of Buried, recipient of the Edgar Award for Best YA novel. She teaches reading and writing to middle school students, and lives in Maine with her family.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest YA novel, A Lie for a Lie:
I see my books in vivid scenes, like a film, and they serve as my guides while I write, so this was a fun exercise. Also, music sets the mood, so think Led Zeppelin for the island scenes since it plays a part in the book.

First off, the setting for A Lie For A Lie is an important character and the Maine Coast is the star; think rocky coves and points jutting into the ocean, sandy beaches, and squawking seagulls. The island that inspired this story was a real location when I was a teen, but it's barely there now, due to the storms and high tides that have eroded it down to a rocky strip barely walkable at low tide.

Kendra, the main character in A Lie For A Lie, is a teen that survived a scary boat accident. She’s close to breaking out of her protective shell, so an actress that can play both lows and highs is important. I like Hailee Steinfeld for Kendra. She’s smart and sensitive and I loved her in The Edge of Seventeen.

Bo is one of Kendra’s childhood friends. I saw Bo as Douglas Smith before I knew who he was and it took a lot of googling before I remembered what I saw him in. He's is known for playing the son in Big Love, but he’s older now. Back then he was a bit geeky and now he’s playing Marcus Isaacson on the upcoming series, The Alienist. Like those two different roles, Bo has grown out of his role as Kendra’s BFF’s brother and hopes to be her boyfriend.

Jenn is Bo’s sister and Kendra’s best friend. She's short and intense. I’ve always seen her as a young Rashida Jones, or maybe Tara Lynne Barr from Casual.

Bad boy Will is played by Jack DePew, who is Jasper Landry in The Fosters. From the beginning of the story, Will had a bad boy sneer and messy blond hair. Ryan Hansen was a look alike that I kept in my head mind when I was writing him. He played Dick Casablancas in Veronica Mars.

Dad is Patrick Wilson or Scott Foley. He’s a great dad, but overly tuned in to his flirty and charming side. He uses it in social situations and lawyering.

Mom is damaged, both physically (though she hides her scars) and emotionally. I see Mom as Vera Farmiga or Peggy Lipton in her Twin Peaks era.

This exercise has gotten me thinking of my work in progress, which is set in the mid-19th century and is filled with mysterious characters. Off to cast that one!
Visit Robin Merrow MacCready's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Eric Brown's "Murder Take Three"

Eric Brown began writing when he was fifteen and sold his first short story to Interzone in 1986. He has won the British Science Fiction Award twice for his short stories, and his novel Helix Wars was shortlisted for the 2012 Philip K. Dick award. He has published sixty books, and his latest include the crime novel Murder Take Three, and the short story collection Microcosms, with Tony Ballantyne. His novel Binary System is due out in Autumn. He has also written a dozen books for children and over a hundred and forty short stories. He writes a regular science fiction review column for the Guardian newspaper and lives in Cockburnspath, Scotland.

Here Brown dreamcasts an adaptation of Murder Take Three:
In my recently released crime mystery, Murder Take Three – the fourth book in the Langham and Dupré series, set in the mid-fifties, Donald Langham has just started work at Ralph Ryland’s detective agency, and his first client is the American movie star Suzie Reynard. Reynard and company are shooting a murder mystery film at Marling Hall, a four hundred year old Elizabethan manor house in the depths of the Norfolk countryside. She wants Langham to investigate threats made to the film’s director, Douglas Dennison, and she invites him up for the weekend to investigate. Langham thinks her worries rather nebulous, but relishes a weekend with his fiancée Maria Dupré in an old country house.

However, the break proves rather less relaxing than anticipated. He meets the cast, the director, and the owners of Marling Hall, the crippled war hero Edward Marling and his long-suffering wife Cynthia – along with his old friend the scriptwriter Terrence Ambler. Langham soon discovers that the cast and associates are seething with hatred and jealousy, and a weekend in the country soon turns into a longer stay as Suzie Reynard is found shot dead in the trailer of the director Douglas Rennison.

What follows is a murder mystery replete with intrigue, red herrings, false leads – as well as further murders – as Langham, ably assisted by his fiancée Maria Dupré and the detective Ralph Ryland, work through the convoluted clues to track down the merciless killer.

As to who might play the lead roles in the film of my book… That’s a fascinating question, and one I’ve never really considered until now.

Donald Langham is a mild-mannered, droll, pipe-smoking thriller-writer when he isn’t working part-time as a private detective. He’s tall, dark, and handsome (well, his fiancée Maria thinks so), and I can easily see Simon Mangan (who starred in the UK-US TV series Episodes), taking this part.

Maria Dupré, his dark, sultry soon-to-be-wife, who assist Langham in solving this crime and others with her intelligence and human insight, is in her early thirties and French. She is also his literary agent. The British actor Gemma Arterton (who starred in the film Tamara Drewe, among many others) would be ideal for the part, or perhaps even Catherine Zeta-Jones.

There’s only one actor on earth who could play Langham’s weaselly sidekick Ralph Ryland, and that’s the American actor Steve Buscemi – if he could do a Cockney accent, that is.

The actress Suzie Reynard, under-confident and rather neurotic, and very much in love with father-figure Douglas Dennsion, is thirty, small, pretty and blonde – I see someone like a young Goldie Hawn taking the role.

The tough-cynical movie director Doug Dennsion, late fifties and a overweight: how about the Scottish actor James Cosmo who plays Jeor Mormont in Game of Thrones?
Visit Eric Brown's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, September 4, 2017

Josh Dean's "The Taking of K-129"

Josh Dean is a magazine journalist and author based in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History:
When you do narrative journalism, it’s pretty common for people to say, in reaction to a story, “Hey, that should be a movie.” But I’ve never experienced that to the degree that I have with this project. It is the very definition of truth is stranger the fiction — the true story of how the CIA used Howard Hughes to provide cover for the attempted theft of a nuclear missile submarine, by creating the illusion that the world’s most eccentric mogul was going to mine the ocean floor for rare earth minerals. I’d conservatively estimate that 100% of people who’ve talked to me about it have suggested it be a movie, and I’ve taken to describing it, in Hollywood short-hand, as “James Cameron’s Argo.”

Anyway, the good news is that Hughes doesn’t ever appear on screen, so I don’t really have to cast him. He can be some deep breathing on a phone. The bad news is that it’s a sprawling, epic story that covers 6 years and includes the participation of hundreds of people. Maybe it should be a TV series? But that’s not the challenge here. The book really focuses most on four characters: Curtis Crooke, John Graham, John Paragosky, and Walt Lloyd. The first two are engineers, the second two are spies.

Let’s start with Crooke. I think of him as the 1960s version of a Silicon Valley hotshot. He was a clever engineer with a brash personality who worked for a big company but didn’t really care to abide by traditions. He drove a Ferrari, put his feet up on the desk during meetings and had absolutely no qualms about taking a nap during the workday, with the door open. That sounds like so many actors, but the one who stands out (and is age appropriate) is Robert Downey Jr. He plays smart and funny. He’s very likable. And he’s dashing, which I like to think Curtis was at the time.

John Graham was a brilliant naval engineer. A reformed alcoholic who nearly lost his family in middle-age then went sober, redeemed himself, and helped imagine some of the most spectacular ships ever designed — including the mind-blowing Hughes Glomar Explorer. Graham was a tough boss, but fair. He was highly educated (via MIT) but also an autodidact who did some of his best designing on napkins. He was a loyal husband but loved to flirt with waitresses. And every man who worked for him had tremendous respect. Put some glasses on any number of leading men and it would work, but the guy needs to be slightly intimidating, so I’m going with Ed Harris here. He can command room, but also disarm one when necessary.

Walt Lloyd ran the cover operation. Lloyd was a career CIA man who helped create the model for covert operations in his long-time role within the Agency’s security apparatus. He is sharp, straight-laced, and utterly unflappable, with a fondness for the efficacy of profanity when a point needs to be made. He recruited people to pretend to be mining the ocean without telling them that they were pretending. He commands respect, but not via fear. I met him in his 80s, so it’s hard for me to picture what Walt was like in middle-age, but I think Hollywood would probably cast someone like Tom Hanks here. Hanks feels a little soft to me. I picture a younger Robert Redford. Who is that today? In a pinch, Josh Brolin could probably pull it off.

That leaves John Parangosky, Azorian’s mastermind. This CIA science and technology lifer was a cypher to many people on the program. Most knew him only as JP or Mr P, if they knew him at all. He was a lifelong bachelor with a love for finer things, especially opera and French food, which he ate often, typically alone at one of a couple of Washington DC fine dining restaurants. He wore a uniform - dark suit, dark shoes, white shirt - and slicked back hair. He was thick, but not fat. Man, Philip Seymour Hoffman would have been perfect. I imagine JP to have a slight undercurrent of menace, mostly as a posture, and PSH could project that in spades. Since that’s not an option, I’m really struggling here. Can we put some weight on Leonardo DiCaprio? I guess we can. Okay, it’s Leo!

If you’re wondering (fairly), where are the women? Well, there weren’t any. This was the 60s and 70s, when things like engineering and espionage were almost entirely male dominated. The only women in the book are wives and daughters, plus one (very influential) secretary. I wish that weren’t the case, but I can’t rewrite history either.
Visit Josh Dean's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, September 1, 2017

Gerald Elias's "Spring Break"

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, Playing With Fire, and the newly released Spring Break.

Here Elias shares some insights for casting the lead in an adaptation of his books:
Over the years I've imagined a variety of actors who would do a great job as the blind, curmudgeonly violin teacher/amateur sleuth Daniel Jacobus. Right now I'd have to say that I picture Donald Sutherland in the role. Not what I might have said before, but at the moment I'm thinking he'd do a bang up job. But if he doesn't get back to me this week I'm just going to have to move on to Geoffrey Rush, Michael Kitchen, Mandy Patinkin, or Anthony Hopkins, who are all waiting in line.

Regardless of who plays Jacobus, I'm sure Spielberg can't wait to direct it.
Learn more about the book and author at Gerald Elias's website.

My Book, The Movie: Devil's Trill and Danse Macabre.

My Book, The Movie: Playing With Fire.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Allan Woodrow's "Unschooled"

Allan Woodrow is the author of Unschooled, Class Dismissed, The Pet War and numerous other books for middle grade readers, some under secret names.

Woodrow’s latest book, Unschooled, is set in the same world as Class Dismissed.

Unschooled is narrated by two rotating 5th grade characters, George and his best friend Lilly. They are excited to compete together during their school’s Spirit Week competition, until they are named captains for the two opposing teams. The principal announces the winning team gets a special mystery prize. Soon, cheating, sliming and sabotaging threaten to ruin the week, and George and Lilly’s long-time friendship is threatened.

Here Woodrow dreamcasts an adaptation of Unschooled:
When thinking about creating a ‘dream cast’ I had a significant obstacle—all the main characters are in 5th grade. It’s no fun to limit your cast to 10-year olds—there just aren’t many famous ones to choose from. So I’m going to assume that my actors are so awesome, and our make-up specialist is going to be so talented, that I can pick any actor or actress, regardless of age, and the audience will completely buy they are in elementary school.

Sure, that’s a leap, but this is my imaginary casting list, so I can do whatever I want.

The two main characters are George and Lilly. George is buttoned-up, great at organizing and a little neurotic. I need a great comedic actor, who can play neurotic. I’m going with Steve Carell here, mostly because I’m a big fan, but also because he excels in that sort of nerdy-but-likeable role. Opposite him, is Lilly. She’s everything George is not – carefree, disorganized. I’m going with Cameron Diaz. Yes, nailed it! Now, where’s that make up specialist? Steve and Cameron, Trailer 1, pronto!

There are a number of secondary players, most notably Sarah and Grace, the terrible twosome that are the source of many of the worst pranks. Mean girls. Evil in a ponytail, times two.

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Is there anyone who is more evil than Cersei Lannister? Lena Headey, the actress who plays her, step on up. She could win an Oscar. For evil plotter number two, I’ll go with the almost equally as horrifying Helena Bonham Carter, who is a genius at playing evil, such as in her role as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series. Another benefit: since my book is a middle grade novel, Harry Potter fans will recognize her.

Come to think of it, Harry Potter movies did pretty well. I should find a role for Daniel Radcliffe, too. It will help our marketing campaign. Hmmm. He can play George’s second best friend Luke. It’s not a major part, but we’ll add a few scenes and give him a few more lines. And for the role of Principal Klein, our only real meaty adult character, we’ll add Michael Gambon, who of course played Dumbledore in the same movie series (after Richard Harris passed away). Perfect.

So we have talented actors, box office appeal, and ideal casting. Now we just need to find that magical make up artist.
Visit Allan Woodrow's website.

The Page 69 Test: Class Dismissed.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, August 28, 2017

Ronlyn Domingue's "The Plague Diaries"

Ronlyn Domingue is the internationally published author of The Mercy of Thin Air and the Keeper of Tales Trilogy—The Mapmaker’s War, The Chronicle of Secret Riven, and The Plague Diaries. Her essays and short stories have appeared in New England Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and Shambhala Sun as well as on mindful.org, The Nervous Breakdown, and Salon.com.

Here Domingue shares some suggestions for casting a big screen adaptation of her fourth novel—The Plague Diaries, the last book of the Keeper of Tales Trilogy, which can be read in any order.
In The Plague Diaries, Secret Riven’s fate is to release a plague to end an ancient pestilence. Her mythic call involves an arcane manuscript, a strange symbol, and a 1,000-year-old family legacy. The trilogy’s last book is a whopper, and I can’t imagine anyone trying to adapt for a movie. For a series, oh most definitely.

Secret Riven—Our heroine with black hair, tawny skin, and eyes the colors of night and day. She’s smart, introverted, curious—and strong in ways she doesn’t realize. Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, could handle Secret’s complexity.

Fewmany, the magnate—The villain you love to hate and hate to love. For me, only Alan Rickman possessed the gravitas, and the voice, to embody this character. Rest in peace, good sir. But a friend suggested Timothy Omundson, known for his parts in Galavant and several other series, would be a compelling choice. From the photos I’ve seen of Omundson and some of his work I’ve watched, yes, I agree.

Nikolas, the prince of Ailliath—A young man of integrity and compassion who leads with a balance of mind and heart. For this role, I’d pick Dylan Minnette because of his portrayal of Clay in the series 13 Reasons Why.

Bren Riven, Secret’s father—Bren is calculating and manipulative, but also vulnerable and endearing. Whoever portrays him needs to have serious range. I’ve been a longtime fan of Kenneth Branagh, and he’d be terrific in this part.

Harmyn—A magical child with a voice that brings people to tears. There’s a great deal of mystery about Harmyn, and who might step into this character continues to elude me. As it probably should. Readers who finish Book 3 will understand why.

Margana, a seamstress—A minor character with major significance. She has a small shop where she makes inventive costumes and clothing. Christina Ricci would wear this role well.

The Misses Acutt, Secret’s neighbors—Three spinster sisters who live together in an apartment with their fluffy gray cat. They’re a little comic and a little tragic. What about Blythe Danner, Betty White, and Helen Mirren?

Naughton, Fewmany’s manservant—An unassuming, quiet man who keeps a secret about himself. Ewan McGregor, please.

William “Quire” Remarque, a book dealer—Remarque and Fewmany have been friends for ages. Secret endures his boisterous, lewd, and hard-drinking company at several dinners. I adore this character, and if Peter Dinklage played him, I might fall into a dead faint from excitement.
Learn more about the book and author at Ronlyn Domingue's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: The Mapmaker's War.

My Book, The Movie: The Mapmaker's War.

The Page 69 Test: The Chronicle of Secret Riven.

--Marshal Zeringue