Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ray Banks' "The Big Blind"

Ray Banks is the author of The Big Blind (his debut), Saturday's Child, and Donkey Punch.

Should The Big Blind be adapted for the big screen, here are the author's suggestions for the principal cast and director:
The Big Blind, the movie?

Okay, let's say I had it all my own way: The Big Blind would keep its northern British roots, that big Manchester rain and the grey concrete bleakness of modern trading estate Britain. If it ever made it to the screen, the visuals should make people think of wet dog - that's the best olfactory summary I can come up with. Maybe wet dog with the hint of stale lager.

For Alan Slater, our humble narrator and perpetually harassed double-glazing salesman, there's really no other choice than the De Niro of the Midlands, Paddy Considine. He's possibly a little old for the part, but he'd still nail it. Few other actors have that complete non-ego in their roles as Paddy, or as much variety - take a pinch of Dead Man's Shoes and mix it in with the terror of his slow fade in Coldplay's "God Put A Smile" video, glaze that over with the man's uncanny knack for realism, and Bob's your auntie's live-in lover.

Now for his hopelessly drunk and casually racist only friend, Les Beale. Here's a man I'd use in everything if I could, because he's not only the perfect Beale, but I could see him easily wearing DS Donkin's shoes, too. John Henshaw's name might not mean much to people, but Brits will know him from The Cops and Early Doors, and possibly the Post Office ad he's doing at the moment. He's a Manc, which helps, and he's got that nice mixture of benevolence and potential violence which'll be great for the part.

As for the rest. I don't know enough young British actresses to cast Lucy, really. Perhaps, given two or three years, a good post-Potter role for Emma Watson? Anyone snotty and young would be fine - they don't even have to be particularly good-looking. Ahmad, the Bollywood king and target of most of Beale's bigotry, would be Sanjay Dutt, a controversial Bollywood actor who specialises mostly in the tough-guy, and who's old and haggard enough to carry off those diamonds Beale covets so much. And finally, Stevie the unfortunate Scottish croupier - I can't think of anyone I'd rather see try to lick their way out of a bin bag than James McAvoy. After The Last King Of Scotland, it's obvious the lad can do pain, and I'm sure the budget will stretch to a ginger wig. Everyone else, make 'em non-actors - keep some verisimilitude.

Director: Well, my first choice for everything now is Simon Hynd, who just finished up a startling adaptation of a startling novel (Senseless) and who I'm sure would make this just as startling. Failing that, I think if we're using the De Niro of the Midlands, we could do a lot worse than use his Scorsese, Shane Meadows (Dead Man's Shoes, This Is England). Failing that, bring back Alan Clarke (The Firm, Scum) from the dead and make him work on my movie. I'm sure he'll work cheap in exchange for a new life.
Catch up with Ray Banks at his website and at Crimespace and MySpace.

The Page 69 Test: The Big Blind.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 25, 2007

David Wellington's "13 Bullets" & "99 Coffins"

David Wellington is the author of the Monster Island trilogy, 13 Bullets, and 99 Coffins.

Here he shares some ideas about the casting for film adaptations of the vampire novels:
My novels, 13 Bullets and the upcoming 99 Coffins, are set in a world where vampires have long been a historical fact, having always lived beside, and preying on, the human population. They’re bigger than us, much faster, and almost impossible to kill even before they start drinking blood. Afterwards they’re virtually bulletproof. They can only be brought down by destroying their hearts — all other wounds heal instantly. They are hairless, pigment-free freaks with rows of wicked teeth and they don’t read poetry and date cute vampire hunters, and they don’t daintily sip blood from a pair of hickeys on your neck. They’d rather tear off your head and suck the blood from your spurting stump.

Needless to say humanity tries to fight back — and though we’re severely outmatched, the numbers are on our side. Over the centuries we’ve managed to turn the tide, ferreting out vampire lairs during the light of day and exterminating these predators wherever we find them. By the 1980s vampires are believed by most people to be extinct. Then, in the twenty-first century, evidence comes to light that this was nothing more than a fond hope. A cadre of vampires are back and slaughtering the good people of Pennsylvania. It falls on a pair of law enforcement agents to put them back in their coffins for good. One is an aging U.S. Marshal, the only living American who has fought a vampire before and lived. The other is a young State Trooper, a member of the Highway Patrol who has never discharged her weapon outside of a firing range.

The Fed is Jameson Arkeley, who has spent the last twenty years researching vampires and watching for them to come back — after what he saw in 1983 he alone knew they’d never really gone away. He’s described this way: “The man behind her wore a tan trench coat over a black suit. His hair was the color of steel wool, cut short and close to his head. He looked to be in pretty good shape but had to be at least sixty. Maybe seventy. In the flickering light of four in the morning, the creases on his face could have been wrinkles or they could have been scars. His eyes were hooded by deep, pouchy lids and his mouth was nothing more than a narrow slot in the bottom half of his face. ‘Good evening,’ he said, his voice thick and a little hoarse. His face folded up like a gas station road map. He was smiling, the kind of smile you give a child you don’t particularly like.”

I had a lot of different actors in mind when I wrote that description: Lee Marvin, Tommy Lee Jones, definitely Robert Mitchum. In a perfect world, one, that is, where time machines worked and were cheaply available, I would go back in time, kidnap John Hurt, make him beef up and learn how to do a perfect American accent.

Arkeley’s partner is Laura Caxton, a twenty-five year old lesbian State Trooper who rescues Greyhounds and turns out to be far more than she seems. There was never any doubt in my mind about what actress she looked like: Laura Linney, in a role similar to the one she played in The Mothman Prophecies.
Read more about 13 Bullets and 99 Coffins, and visit David Wellington's website.

The Page 69 Test: Monster Nation.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Alex Scarrow's "A Thousand Suns"

Alex Scarrow is the author of the thrillers A Thousand Suns and Last Light.

About A Thousand Suns:
Off the coast of New England, a trawler tangles its nets on wreckage from sixty years ago - a B17 'flying fortress' , perfectly preserved and containing the final and most terrifying secret of WWII. When freelance photographer, Chris Roland, enters the sunken plane , what he discovers in the dark, tomb-like interior changes everything he knows about the end of the war and how desperately close it came to being the end of everything.

A Thousand Suns is a tale that cuts breathlessly between the present, as a long dormant and sinister agency stirs once more, readying to preserve the secret at any cost - and the past, as a young crew of German airmen, the very last of Hitler's Luftwaffe, fight impossible odds to save their country. As both plots race towards a conclusion, this most horrifying wartime revelation hangs in the balance.
Scarrow shares some casting ideas for a potential film adaptation:
The book started out as a screenplay anyway, so writing it as a novel, it already had the movie pace, and chapters that were effectively scenes. As I wrote the book, from page one I already had the cast in my head - something screenwriters do, more than novel writers I think. Anyway then, let's get on with casting...

Chris Roland, a wildlife photographer who explores the submerged ruins of a B-17 bomber off the coast of America. That role was always going to be played by Paul Bettany (Wimbledon, Da Vinci Code, Master and Commander). He's very English and self-effacing.

Max Kleinman, pilot and leader of a Luftwaffe crew, tasked with flying a captured B-17 bomber to America to drop the Nazis' one and only atom bomb on New York in the last few days of the war. I saw this character being played by a Kiefer Sutherland ten years younger. But obviously since we can't rewind the clock, I'd look at someone like Clive Owen.

Major Rall, a major in the Luftwaffe who puts together the audacious mission plan. Well now, I kept seeing Robert Duvall in The Eagle Has Landed. He'd be too old to play this similar role, so in his place I'd look at someone like Gary Oldman.

Hauser, an anti-semitic scientist who develops the Nazi bomb. A nasty, slimey, self-serving piece of work, this chap. I could only think of one bloke to play him, Doug Hutchison (the really nasty little prison guard in The Green Mile).

Wallace, an old man in the present who's spent a life working for the SOE, the CIA, comes out of the woodwork to reveal to Chris Roland the events that happened in the dying days of WWII. Obviously someone in their 80's, to be plausible. However, I think Anthony Hopkins could be aged ten years to look frail enough for the role.

As it happens, there are a couple film 'suits' sniffing around the movie rights, so it's always a possibility. Maybe one day. Whilst I'm still alive would be nice.
Visit the Scarrow Brothers' website, Alex Scarrow's blog, and read reviews of A Thousand Suns.

The Page 69 Test: A Thousand Suns.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jack Getze's "Big Numbers"

Jack Getze, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and the Los Angeles Times, covered financial and economic issues for more than 15 years; then he switched professions and later sold stocks and bonds for a regional securities firm on the New Jersey Shore.

Big Numbers, his first published novel, is based on his experiences as a retail broker, sales manager, and financial executive.

Here Getze shares some ideas about the casting for a film adaptation of Big Numbers:
I can't remember who I had in mind as Austin Carr twenty years ago when I started Big Numbers. But I rewrote Austin's first-person account two years ago with several pictures of Vince Vaughn pinned above my computer. I even have a shot of Vince posted on my Austin Carr's Crime Diary blog. The headline -- Only a Rumor Vince Wants the Part.

In fact, since Big Numbers is the first in a series, and I'm working on number three right now, the pictures of Vince Vaughn are still up. He's obviously my choice to play Austin in any movie. Vince's ability to crack wise with a straight face, the natural way he wears a business suit, and his ability to charm the ladies make him perfect for the part.

For the part of Kelly Burns, the pretty redhead who lures Austin astray, I've always had in mind Molly Ringwald. Molly starred in the John Hughes movies Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, but the thing a lot of people remember about her is that she turned down the leading role of Julia Roberts' part in the 1990 smash Pretty Woman, and also Demi Moore's leading role in the film Ghost.

Molly's aged very well and now sports a mature sexiness that was missing in those teenage roles. I think she'd make a perfect seductress for the screen.

Austin's sidekick, bartender Luis Guererro, is tough to cast. He was based on a real bartender I knew twenty-five years ago in Red Bank, New Jersey, so I have a picture in my mind that's impossible to duplicate. But twenty years ago, Edward James Olmos came awfully darn close. Tough and intimidating with just a look, but soft-spoken and wise, I thought Olmos would -- like Luis -- would make Austin feel safe sitting at Luis's bar. Olmos is too old now, I suppose, but it's still his picture I have pinned on the board next to Vince Vaughn's.

As for Psycho Sam Attica, the former professional wrestler enraged by Austin's disastrous investment advice, I saw him on television last night as I was channel surfing. It's Hulk Hogan, who now has his own reality show.
Learn more about Jack Getze, Big Numbers, and Big Money -- the second Austin Carr Mystery due out in February 2008 -- at Getze's website and The Crimes of Austin Carr blog.

The Page 69 Test: Big Numbers.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Billie Livingston's "Cease to Blush"

Billie Livingston is a fiction writer, poet, and sometime essayist. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, she grew up in Toronto and Vancouver, and has since lived in Tokyo, Hamburg, Munich and London, England. Her first employment was filling the dairy coolers in a Macs Milk. She went on to work varying lengths of time as a file clerk, receptionist, cocktail waitress, model, actor, chocolate sampler, and booth host at a plumber's convention. She lives in Vancouver.

Livingston is the author of two novels and a book of poetry. She has been shortlisted for the Journey Prize for fiction and the Pat Lowther Award for best book of poetry by a Canadian woman.

I asked who she would like to see cast in a film adaptation of her latest novel, Cease to Blush. Her reply:
When I’m in the middle of a book, I use my crow brain a lot. I take pictures of things and places so I can load them onto my laptop and refer to them as I write; I scribble down strangers’ conversations and stick their words in my characters’ mouths. Actors are easy to swipe because they’re always hanging around on my TV so I often make them act out what’s in my head to see if it will work or not.

When I was writing Cease to Blush, Angelina Jolie’s public and film personas often came to mind for the book’s narrator, Vivian. Especially a few years ago, Jolie seemed to be a bit of a train wreck, a flamboyantly rebellious and self-destructive woman yet one who had an obvious native intelligence and a scared, swollen heart. Every move she made struck me as a big F.U. to the world. That’s Vivian all over.

Vivian’s guy Frank is a little tougher to cast. Book reviewers often referred to Frank as the “sleazy” or “creepy” boyfriend but I would say Frank is just your average jerk. He’s is a bit of a gluttonous good-time Charlie who wants whatever he can get away with, but deep down he’s a lover not monster. Jack Nicholson in about 1972 would have made a really good Frank. Vince Vaughn might work. But he would have to play it straight, not goofy. Maybe Mark Ruffalo.

Cease to Blush deals with Vivian’s discovery that her recently deceased mother, Josie, was a burlesque dancer in the 1960s who went by the name Celia Dare and was rumored to have had affairs with Bobby Kennedy and Johnny Rosselli (the mobster who once ran Vegas and Los Angeles). For Bobby Kennedy, I would love to haul William Devane out of 1976 and drop him into it. Johnny Rosselli was known in his circle as “Don Juan” and “The Silver Fox” in the 50s and 60s. George Clooney perhaps? Ol’ George would be pleasantly weird casting since Josie/Celia Dare burlesques Rosemary Clooney, crooning “Come On a My House” whilst stripping in a San Francisco coffee house. Ol’ Clooney is probably a little young though and not the right temperament. Ray Liotta would likely be more in the right direction.

For the Josie/Celia Dare part, I’d need a twenty-something woman who could sing and dance — someone charismatic with the capacity to play from 16 years old to about 28. Emily Blunt might be up to the task. She can act and she’s been singing with Michael Bublé lately. But can she dance?

And last but perhaps most crucial, Annie West, the ballsy burlesque stripper from California would have to be Shirley MacLaine. If I could splice time, I would love for 1960s MacLaine to play Annie as a young stripper and contemporary MacLaine to play old but still ferocious Annie.
Read more about the author and her books at the official Billie Livingston website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 9, 2007

Tom Lewis's "Hitler's Judas"

Hitler's Judas is the latest novel from Tom Lewis.

The main storyline:

Martin Bormann, possibly the closest man to Adolf Hitler, knows Hitler’s insane decision to invade Russia will destroy The Fatherland. Already in a position of enormous power, Bormann forms an intricate plan of escape. But Bormann has no intentions of escaping as a pauper.

When the right moment comes, Bormann leaves the doomed Third Reich forever, taking with him $50 million in stolen Nazi gold. His surprising destination is Pea Island, a lonely strip of sand north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Will his plan succeed?

The author shares some ideas about actors and directors for a film adaptation:

I am certain that most fiction novelists write their books believing they would make good screenplays/movies. I know I do. In the case of my trilogy, Pea Island Gold, I definitely had in mind at least a successful mini-series for television. As well, I firmly believe that each stand-alone novel would be quite adaptable to dramatic film.

As for Hitler's Judas, casting for such a movie should not be a problem. There are many actors who could play the roles of the major characters. If I were choosing, I would love to see Anthony Hopkins play Martin Bormann. Hopkins is a consummate artist, and has a similar body build as Bormann. Gene Hackman could also effectively show Bormann’s devious, cruel, yet brilliant nature.

For the strong hero in the novel (Horst von Hellenbach) I can see a couple of actors who could fill that role admirably: Jude Law, and Viggo Mortensen. Both have the sensitivity required, and both have the looks of an intelligent, aristocratic German officer.

Any number of blond female actors could play Elisabeth Kroll, but I think Anne Heche could do a great job of playing that selfish, ambitious character.

Finally, choosing someone for the important part of Sunday Everette would be far more difficult. Those female African American actors who are currently very popular are probably not tall enough. Perhaps that role might best be played by someone relatively unknown. Nonetheless, it would be a lot of fun to try to find her!

Two directors come to mind for this story: German born Michael Haneke, and Quentin Tarantino. Either could bring this book to an exciting film.

Read more about the Pea Island Gold trilogy -- Sunday's Child is the first volume -- at Tom Lewis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 5, 2007

Steve Hockensmith's "Holmes on the Range"

Steve Hockensmith is the author of three novels featuring Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer: Holmes on the Range (2006), On the Wrong Track (2007), and the forthcoming The Black Dove (2008).

In March 2007 he applied the Page 69 Test to On the Wrong Track; here he explores possible casting choices for a film adaptation of the novels:
When people ask me who I’d like to play Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer, the cowboy heroes of my Holmes on the Range mysteries, my answer’s always the same: I don’t care if it’s the Wayans brothers, so long as the check clears.

I’ll admit it, though -- I’m just covering my emotional butt there. (And my butt does get rather verklempt, at times.) You see, I know as the writer I have no power over the casting whatsoever. Heck, I don’t have any power over anything, except maybe what I’ll have for lunch ... and even then it
has to be something in the fridge already.

So though it doesn’t make sense to care about something I have no control over (and which probably won’t ever happen anyway), care I would. And I’m sorry, Shawn and Marlon -- I don’t care how good the makeup was in White Chicks. I just can’t see you playing red-haired German-American cowboy-detectives.

Two actor-brothers I could see in the roles are Luke and Owen Wilson. After all, they’re from Texas, they’ve got great onscreen chemistry (as demonstrated by the charming caper-comedy Bottle Rocket) and they don’t look like total dorks when wearing Stetsons. (Owen cowboyed up in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights, while Luke had a small supporting role in 3:10 to Yuma.) The tough part would be deciding who’d be who. Both could probably play the affable (if occasionally irritating) Big Red -- Luke could no doubt capture the character’s put-upon affection for his eccentric brother, while Owen could channel Big Red’s goofy jocularity in his sleep. But could either of them pull off Old Red, the cranky, brooding, brilliant-though-illiterate elder brother? I’m not so sure.

If I cast the casting net a little wider, though, I can come up with the perfect Old Red: Sam “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” Rockwell, who can do accents and ride horses and create compelling, intelligent oddballs at the drop of a 10-gallon hat. I think he’d even look O.K. with a carrot top and a handlebar mustache.

So pair Rockwell with one of the Wilson boys -- I’ll say Owen because, let’s face it, the poor guy could really use a fun, high-concept comeback vehicle right about now -- and bingo. Box-office gold. Or (to judge by the grosses for 3:10 to Yuma) silver, anyway. Bronze, at the very least.

So come on, Tinseltown -- go for the gold (or silver or bronze)! Call my dawg Rich over at CAA and make an offer!

Even if you represent the Wayans brothers.

Cuz, yeah, I admit it. I care who plays Big Red and Old Red ... but I care even more about paying off my mortgage....
Read Big Red's blog to learn more about Steve Hockensmith and his writing.

The Page 69 Test: On the Wrong Track.

--Marshal Zeringue