Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mike Doogan's "Lost Angel"

Mike Doogan has been a Teamster, a janitor, a baggage handler, a mailroom flunky, a writing teacher and a legislative aide, but worked for most of his adult life as a journalist and writer. For 14 years, he was a columnist for the Anchorage Daily News. He is the author of three books about Alaska, and editor of a collection of essays on life there. He is currently serving in the Alaska House of Representatives.

And he writes mystery novels. His mystery writing has won Mike the Robert L. Fish Award from the Mystery Writers of America and the Spotted Owl Award from the Friends of Mystery. His first novel, Lost Angel, has been nominated for a Shamus Award by the Private Eye Writers of America. His second, Capitol Offense, is due in August. Both feature Detective Nik Kane.

Here Doogan's explains which actor would have best captured Nik Kane on the big screen:
Maybe it’s that modern actors all seem too short. Or maybe they don’t have Nik Kane’s edge. Whatever. When I think about who should play the battered, violent, uncertain hero – if that’s the right word – of Lost Angel and Capitol Offense, the actor who comes to mind is Robert Mitchum.

Mitchum, who died in 1997 at the age of 79, was the right size – a shade over 6 feet – and lived in Nik Kane’s violent, shady world on screen as an actor in film noir from the early 1930s to the mid-1950s. His best-known roles were as villains – Max Cady in Cape Fear (based on a crackerjack book by the prolific John D. MacDonald) and Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter (adapted from the novel by Davis Grubb) – but he played his share of heroes, like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely and The Big Sleep. He would have been the right age about the time he made The Friends of Eddie Coyle, a great book (by George V. Higgins) that was made into one of the best crime movies ever.

Two things stand out for me when I think of Mitchum as an actor. One is the sense you had that bad things are about to happen around him. The other is that, no matter what happens, he’ll keep going. He might get battered and bloodied, but he’ll keep going. Those are really Nik Kane’s defining characteristics, too.

I also like Mitchum’s attitude toward his work.

"Listen,” he once said when asked about his acting talent, “I got three expressions: looking left, looking right and looking straight ahead."

He didn’t think of himself as a big star or an acting genius. What he did was show up and work, making more than 100 movies in a career that began in the 1940s and ended in the 1990s.

I think of Nik Kane that way, too. Not as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, but as an updated version of Dashiell Hammett’s nameless Continental Op. Nik has a personal life that the Op never had, but they are both straight ahead, let’s-try-this-and-see-what-happens types, not the witty, brainy, urbane people you never meet outside of books.

I see myself as a writer that way, too. Not as a genius, but as someone who shows up and works. The best advice I ever heard about writing came from Dorothy Parker: “The art of writing is the art of applying your ass to a chair.” It’s no wonder I like Mitchum’s style.

So give me Robert Mitchum, and you can keep the (surprisingly short) stars of today. When I think of Nik as I write, Mitchum is who I see in my head, and who I hope you see on the page.
Read more about Mike Doogan and his writing, including excerpts from Lost Angel and Capitol Offense, at his website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

David Fulmer's "Storyville" books

David Fulmer is the author of, among other works, the acclaimed Storyville mysteries featuring Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr. The first volume of the series, Chasing the Devil's Tail, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Mystery/Thriller Book Prize and the winner of the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel.

Here he speculates about which actors might best portray the characters in the Storyville novels:
Since there have been numerous nibbles and discussions about one or all of my Storyville books reaching the screen, I've spent some time thinking about the talent in the roles. It's an intriguing exercise, because it's such a unique setting: sex, drugs, and primitive jazz, all in turn of the century New Orleans. I can only take credit for some of the characters: others are real historical figures, and as good as I or anyone else could make up.

At one point, an agent asked me for suggestions, and because I'm so clueless about new talent, I in turn asked a group of mostly female friends to weigh in. The majority of the suggestions were sober, but then a misbehaving few turned it into "Who I'd Most Like to Jump." Nonetheless, I came up with a short list.

For my protagonist, Valentin St. Cyr: Johnny Depp, and not just because he's such a rare talent. He looks the part, and that's important. Remember, St. Cyr is Creole who passes for white. Benecio Del Toro and Hugh Jackman would be other equally-strong candidates.

Buddy Bolden, who appears in Chasing the Devil's Tail and returns in Lost River, would be a great part: a crazed genius. Physically and in terms of a vibe, I always thought Erik Dellums who played Luther Mahoney on Homicide: Life in the Street, would be a great choice. However, I suspect he's now too mature for the part. I saw a photograph of Andre Benjamin in a local (Atlanta) newspaper and I was stunned by how much he resembles Bolden.

As to Tom Anderson, "The King of Storyville," Robbie Coltrane has the girth, though I don't know about the height. That type, though. Another plum supporting role would be Picot, St. Cyr's nemesis. I think Brian Cox could do well with this.

It's more fun for me casting the women. The female lead is Justine Mancarre, the sporting girl who is also Valentin's paramour. I've got three choices: Thandie Newton, Zoe Saldana, and a gifted actress now working in Atlanta named Portia Cue. All have exactly the right look and could carry the part.

The only other recurring female role is the madam Lulu White, who was in fact the inspiration for Mae West's Belle of the Nineties. In looks and temperament, Oprah Winfrey would be perfect.

There's lots of room in these stories for a supporting cast. And I love supporting actors. I think they often make the movie. I confess that often when watch a scene, I keep an eye on the supporting actors. Everyone else is watching the lead and these folks know it and still work their smaller parts like pros. So I hope they will take heart that people like me notice their work.

Finally, since I already confessed by general ignorance of the acting crowd, I'd be pleased to receive casting suggestions from readers of my books. [There is contact info at Fulmer's website.]
Fulmer's other books include The Dying Crapshooter's Blues, to which he applied the Page 69 Test.

Visit David Fulmer's website. Read chapter one of Chasing the Devil's Tale.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Duane Swierczynski's "The Blonde"

At least one reviewer has suggested that the smart money in Hollywood should snap up Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde and adapt it for the big screen.

Here the author speculates about which actors might best portray the characters in his novel:
I didn't have any specific actors in mind when writing The Blonde -- in fact, I think that's a recipe for disaster. Instead of allowing your character to develop his/her own voice and personality, you risk having them all sound like Samuel L. Jackson. Because that's who I could cast in every single role of every single novel or story I've written: Samuel L. Jackson.

I don't even know what my characters look like. I know what makes them tick, but if I try to imagine them, they're kind of vague blurs. I don't like when novelists overdo with character detail; I'd rather imagine my own version.

That said ... if there ever is big-screen version of The Blonde, and Samuel L. Jackson isn't available, here's who I could see playing the three major roles:

"The Blonde": You'd need someone who's beautiful with the potential for being badass. Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) comes to mind, as does Melissa George, who played Lauren Reed in season three of Alias.

Jack Eisley: Here, you need an everyman who can get knocked around, make some mistakes, and still be likeable. Maybe John Krasinski from The Office, or John Cusack. Dark Horse candidate: Paddy Considine, who was incredibly menacing in Dead Man's Shoes, but looks like a fun-loving goof when he's out of character.

Kowalski: Okay, I lied. There is only one choice: Samuel L. Jackson.
Read more about The Blonde, including an excerpt, at the St. Martin's Minotaur website and at Duane Swierczynski's Secret Dead Blog.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Wendy French's "Full of It"

Wendy French's novels are sMothering, Going Coastal, After the Rice, and the recently-released Full of It.

Here she sketches the plot of the new novel, then explores the casting for a possible film adaptation:
The plot of Full of It is as follows:

Lauren Peterson has a brand new life, but no idea what to do with it.

After calling off her engagement, she's single for the first time in years and ready to take on the world. Instead, she discovers that starting over isn't all it's cracked up to be.

When a spinster aunt she barely remembers bequeaths her a house in Portland, Oregon, Lauren intends to fix it up and flip it for a tidy profit. However, her big mouth (which is always a step ahead of her brain) has other ideas, and before she knows it, she's moving in.

As Lauren takes on the task of making the house into home, she discovers plenty of surprises and colorful neighbors to shake things up. From faulty wiring and a new sinkhole in the living room, to the salty curmudgeon next door, Lauren's new life is heading in unexpected directions. Her friends and family think she's making a grave mistake, but for the first time ever, it might not be Lauren's mouth, but her heart that will finally come out ahead.

When writing, I see the characters and action taking place in my head, sometimes with a soundtrack, so the concept of a movie adaptation certainly has appeal. If I were to cast Full of It, I might do it a little like this:


This is my fourth novel and, strangely enough, if I imagine an actress playing any of my narrators, I always think of Eliza Dushku. She seems to be able to balance sarcasm and vulnerability very well, which would be a nice fit for Lauren. Other choices would be Julia Stiles, Rachel McAdams or Zooey Deschanel, all of whom can cover the sarcastic angle and can also play frazzled when necessary, which is important.

Patty Melt

As the kooky next door neighbor with a bit of an edge, I'd love to see someone like Kathy Bates (though she's too young) or Gena Rowlands. There's brassiness to the character, as well as tenderness, and I think Ms. Rowlands would be excellent.


The love interest/taxidermist is on the sensitive side and I picture someone like Henry Thomas (of E.T. fame), Ryan Gosling or an Orlando Bloom-esque fellow. A gentle guy who can come through in the crunch.


He's only five and I can't think of any actors in his age group, but he's a bit of a sweet smartypants, like Jonathan Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire. An unknown little guy would be nice.


I can see Lauren's beautiful best friend, who is a bit distant at times, being played by Claire Danes.

The transition to film may never happen, but it sure is entertaining to think about the possibilities....
Read more about Full of It at Wendy French's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tobias Buckell's "Ragamuffin"

Here is a synopsis of Tobias Buckell's new novel Ragamuffin:

The Benevolent Satrapy rule an empire of forty-eight worlds, linked by thousands of wormholes strung throughout the galaxy. Human beings, while technically “free,” mostly skulk around the fringes of the Satrapy, struggling to get by. The secretive alien Satraps tightly restrict the technological development of the species under their control. Entire worlds have been placed under interdiction, cut off from the rest of the universe.

Descended from the islanders of lost Earth, the Ragamuffins are pirates and smugglers, plying the lonely spaceways around a dead wormhole. For years, the Satraps have tolerated the Raga, but no longer. Now they have embarked on a campaign of extermination, determined to wipe out the unruly humans once and for all.

But one runaway woman may complicate their plans. Combat enabled, Nashara is more machine than flesh, and she carries inside her a doomsday weapon that could reduce the entire galaxy to chaos. A hunted fugitive, she just wants to get home before she’s forced to destroy civilization — and herself.

Who does the author see carrying his story in a possible film adaptation? Buckell's take:
Casting one's novel as if a movie, what author hasn't done this? One of the problems I face is that I'm writing science fiction adventure with Caribbean characters and background, and I don't know many big actors in the field who do the dialect well. That being said one of the first short stories I ever published featured Pepper, a character in both my first novel Crystal Rain and in this book, Ragamuffin. I had a strong image of Pepper in my head, so imagine my surprise when I got cable access and saw him on screen. It was on the show Andromeda, and the actor Keith Hamilton Cobb playing Tyr Anasazi was very, very close in both poise, look, and action to Pepper. A mixed race sci fi action hero with some very, very questionable morals. He could do that. In my dream career my books get picked up to be made into movies and Keith gets cast as Pepper in all his trenchcoat, dreadlocked, ass-kicking glory. If no Keith, then Vin Diesel with dreadlocks.

Ragamuffin is the story of Nashara, a woman more cyborg than human, who is hunted down by some pretty tough aliens as she tries to find a home. I think I would cast either Angela Basset (from her bodyguard role in Strange Days) or Jada Pinkett Smith. I think both of them have that tough confidence Nashara has throughout the book.

John deBrun always left me wondering who could do him justice, but I think I'd imagine Obba Babatunde managing this role. His character pieces always impress me. For John's son, Noah Gray-Cabe in a few years would be perfect for that role.

The crazy crew of the ship Queen Mohmbasa Nashara puts her lot in with as she is chased from world to world. Morgan Freeman for the captain Jamar Sinjin-Smith, Ziggy Marley or Gary Dourdan for Ijjy, and for Sean I'd go with Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) or Michael Clarke Duncan.
Read more about Ragamuffin and its predecessor, Crystal Rain, at Tobias Buckell's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ben Tanzer's "Lucky Man"

Ben Tanzer's debut novel Lucky Man hit bookstores in March.

Here's the author on who might tell his story on the big screen:
If they make my new book Lucky Man into a film, I'd like to think it will be reminiscent of those movies where a new group of young actors seems to emerge fully formed on the scene - like Diner or The Outsiders, and that Diane Lane will be so excited about the writing after she sees it, that she will finally return one of my calls.

That said, let's start with the actors, and it really is mostly actors, because the story follow four friends - Gabe, Jake, Louie, and Sammy - during their waning days of high school through their first few years out of college. They struggle with substance abuse, anger, sex, and adultery. They go on road trips and listen to the Grateful Dead. They don't or can't communicate with their fathers. And when not enjoying cocaine fueled bouts of deer strangulation, they make sense of the world by deconstructing The Greatest American Hero.

So, who then? Gabe is beautiful and confused, a young god, and I'm picturing Channing Tatum. You can skip She's the Man, though I do love Amanda Bynes and picture her as Sammy's girlfriend Tara, but go see A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and you'll know what I'm saying is true. Shia LaBeouf is super hot right now, but we need him as Sammy, funny and removed, insecure and always observing, he's our guy. Louie is the stoner, lover, Deadhead, and I'm thinking Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I know you agree, but if you have any doubt see Mysterious Skin. Brilliant. Jake is Gabe's best friend, and he's so angry, and drinks too much, but still kind of charming, and I'm liking Emile Hirsh in this role, he's got the right glint in his eye.

I would have one requirement for all the characters before filming - study River Phoenix in Running on Empty. There have been many great actors who portrayed teenagers in ways I loved - Sean Penn in Bad Boys for example, and that's the prison movie with Esai Morales, not the Will Smith/Martin Lawrence joint - but everything I want them to know about playing these characters is in his performance in this movie - sensitive, smart, funny, conflicted, and struggling, always struggling to make sense of what's going on inside his head.

There are a lot of directors I could see running with this, but it is important to find someone who could recognize the humor that's constantly fighting for air time with the bleakness permeating much of the story. I think Larry Clark or Gregg Araki would be great, and Sofia Coppola for sure, but my top three would be Gus Van Sant, if he could recapture the My Own Private Idaho vibe, Noah Baumbach, if you have seen The Squid and the Whale you know why, and Todd Field, because between In the Bedroom and Little Children whatever he's on to I want to be part of it.

Finally, and if it's okay, we need to talk music for a moment. The Grateful Dead for sure, but there's some period music that's just key - The Violent Femmes, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Ramones, Blondie, Pink Floyd, and Billy Joel, the original angry young man. Also, as doable some current bands that tell the kinds of stories that these characters know, or want to know - The Hold Steady, hands down, but Ike Reilly and The Assassination as well, and then Be Your Own Pet or Avail for when we need some noise, and with this movie we will definitely need some noise.
Visit Ben Tanzer's blog and MySpace page, and read more about Lucky Man at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Gregg Hurwitz's "The Crime Writer"

Gregg Hurwitz is the critically acclaimed, #1 L.A. Times bestselling author of The Tower, Minutes to Burn, Do No Harm, The Kill Clause, The Program, Troubleshooter, Last Shot, and, new this month, The Crime Writer.

From the book flap of The Crime Writer:
Drew Danner, a crime novelist with a house off L.A.’s storied Mulholland Drive, awakens in a hospital bed with a scar on his head and no memory of being found convulsing over his ex-fiancée’s body the previous night. He was discovered holding a knife, her blood beneath his nails. He himself doesn’t know whether he’s guilty or innocent. To reconstruct the story, the writer must now become the protagonist, searching the corridors of his life and the city he loves.

Soon Drew closes in on clues he may or may not have left for himself, and as another young woman is similarly murdered he has to ask difficult questions not of others but of himself.
So who does the author imagine playing Drew Danner in a film adaptation of The Crime Writer? Hurwitz:
I don’t write with actors in mind — ever. I’ve found when conversation turns to casting, whether hypothetical or actual, that I’m at the biggest disadvantage in the room. Because no one really fits the bill. The character is the character already, with his own look and sound. But what I’ve found, once ideas are tossed around and the list narrows, is that surprising candidates are often the best fits. The Crime Writer (my latest) features a protagonist who is, of course, a crime writer, and he’s pretty sharp, and a bit of a smart-ass. That leaves us a pretty good range. George Clooney? John Cusack? Matt Damon? Or do you play up the toughness, and seek out someone like a Colin Farrell? Rewrite him as black and choose Denzel Washington? Cast to type, or pick someone looking to cross genre, like Owen Wilson? The only two things I’m sure of are: The choices are endless. And you’d know as well as I.
Visit Gregg Hurwitz's website to learn more about The Crime Writer.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Simon Read's "In the Dark"

True-crime author Simon Read accepted the challenge of casting his latest book, In the Dark: The True Story of the Blackout Ripper, as a movie.

About the book:

While the Luftwaffe bombed London and its citizens fled underground, a killer emerged from the shadows to satisfy his inner darkness…

In February 1942, a woman was found strangled in a London air raid shelter. Chief Superintendent Frederick Cherrill, head of Scotland Yard's revolutionary fingerprint division, knew just how well the wartime blackout concealed crime. But this was a brutal, senseless killing with few clues, no apparent motive - and no sign of the terror to come.

He seemed so decent, cheerful and normal…

The nightly air raids had darkened London's neon dazzle but not its urge to live it up. With death a daily possibility, drinks and sex were everywhere. But one man had other urges. Over a five-day period, he murdered with a lightning-fast ferocity that stunned and baffled investigators. Dubbed "The Blackout Ripper," he left few clues in his bloody wake - until a slip-up revealed his true identity, and shocked a city that thought it had seen it all.

Here is author on the adaptation:
I must admit, I have long dreamed of seeing one of my books adapted for the Silver Screen. I’ve always thought In the Dark, the true story of Scotland Yard’s hunt for a Jack-the-Ripper-like serial killer in 1940s London, would make phenomenal movie fodder! While I was writing book, I did cast some actors in the role of the story’s various characters.

I first saw Daniel Craig in Layer Cake, long before he breathed new life into 007. There’s a subtle menace about him that I think would be ideal for the role of serial killer Frederick Cummins, who was unquestionably suave when it came to the ladies. Another top contender for the role would have to be Christian Bale, who is closer to Cummins in terms of both age and physical appearance. In the end, of course, I’d be happy if either one of these great actors tackled the role.

For Scotland Yard Chief Superintendent Fred Cherrill, I had Michael Caine in mind while writing the book. The man can do no wrong on screen. Whatever the role, he always delivers. Although Cherrill was born in a quaint English village, I picture him in my head as being Cockney in attitude — though I don’t know why. To that end, I think Caine would bring a personality that was both classy and street smart to the character. It’s for the same reason I think British television actor David Jason would also be great in the role. In the States, Jason is best known for his portrayal as Inspector Jack Frost in the A Touch of Frost series that ran on A&E. But if you’ve never seen him as the brilliant Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, you’re truly missing out.

For famed pathologist Bernard Spilsbury, I’d have to go with Anthony Hopkins for the simple reason I can’t think of anyone else I’d want to play him. Now, if I got to handpick a director, I’d go with Michael Mann. With the exception of last year’s pointless Miami Vice, I’ve loved everything Mann has done. He never rushes a film. He takes the time to build both the story and the characters, and he imbues his pictures with a gritty realism. I think In the Dark would prosper in his hands.

So, if anyone in Hollywood is reading this and agrees with my choices, please feel free to contact me, or my film agent. Cheers!
Visit Simon Read's website and his blog, and read an excerpt from In the Dark.

The Page 69 Test: In the Dark.

--Marshal Zeringue