Saturday, November 30, 2013

P.S. Duffy's "The Cartographer of No Man’s Land"

P.S. Duffy is the author of The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, a debut novel that takes place during the First World War in Nova Scotia and the Western Front in France. She lives in Rochester, MN, had a long career in neurologic communication disorders, and now splits her time between writing fiction, reading history, fiction, and essays, and writing in the neurosciences for Mayo Clinic. She says that at her age she is happy to have the word “debut” applied to anything she does.

Here Duffy dreamcasts an adaptation of The Cartographer of No Man’s Land:
The novel takes place on the Western Front in the First World War where Angus MacGrath, a reluctant lieutenant, searches for his brother-in-law Ebbin and for his own purpose, and in Nova Scotia where his son Simon Peter is coming of age and like all the characters in the book, struggles to navigate war’s uncertainties and lasting effects. People consistently comment on how visually evocative the book is and who should be in the movie and who should direct. I smile indulgently—a movie, ha ha—but okay, yes, of course. Absolutely!!

Director: Ron Howard

Angus MacGrath, the main character: a younger (and maybe taller) Gabriel Byrne could portray Angus’s loneliness and strength, his poetic soul, his yearning, and his empathy-- without a trace of sentimentality. He’s sensuous, cerebral, and intense.

Simon Peter, Angus’s son: my oldest grandson, Aidan who at 11 years of age has Simon Peter’s sensitivity and openness of expression.

Hettie Ellen, Angus’s wife: Beautiful with a childlike face, Carey Mulligan could convey Hettie’s vulnerability, her secretive existence, and her later transformation, which, as Angus rightly suspects, has about it a false note: “Who was he to disturb such reinvention, to soil such brave efforts?” he thinks upon coming home to her shorn locks and her determination to run his father’s affairs. If there’s a sequel, Hettie will play a major role, I suspect.

Ebbin, Angus’s brother-in-law and friend: Ebbin is cocky, cheerful, breezy and a bit crazy. Maybe Joseph Gordon-Levitt could pull this role off.

Duncan MacGrath: Philip Seymour Hoffman could do a great job with Duncan, the grandfather who clings to moral absolutes to manage life’s losses. Once a captain of a fishing schooner off the Grand Banks, he is now the “owner of ships and the timber to build them.” He’s gruff, demanding, bitterly anti-Empire, and an aggressive pacifist. He is also vulnerable.

Mr. Heist: Paul Giamatti. With a trace of a German accent, he’d be perfect as the gentle Mr. Heist, the teacher, scholar and naturalist who refuses believe in the town’s growing need for a scapegoat.

Lady Bromley: Maggie Smith. Think Downton Abbey. Except Lady Bromley was not “to the manor born.” Her affections for Duncan rebuffed, she went to England as plain Hespera Church and returned married to Lord Edward Andrew Thurston Bromley, “a man of title, of many promises, older than she and thin as a rail.” He didn’t live up to his title, but Lady B. “assumed title enough for them both. And a bit of his British accent to boot.”

George Mather: Russell Crowe, younger and with silky hair down his back, could play George, the broken veteran, angry, unstable, and lost. Unable to communicate his truth, he is the voice of the war. Crowe would convey his anger and his humanity.

Publicover: Giovanni Ribisi as he looked in Saving Private Ryan. Publicover, a 19- year-old lieutenant, has been in the war for three years, which only increased his enthusiasm for a fight. But his brash, sometimes immature exterior belies the ice that runs in his veins when in the thick of it.

Captain Conlon: Colin Firth has the broad face and physique of Conlon and could capture his soft voice, his fatalistic musings, his leadership and kindness.

Juliette: I’m unfamiliar with French actresses, but Vera Farmiga, not your classic beauty, has the right look for Juliette and the dignity to pull off this somber, war-weary French widow who has no illusions but retains her capacity for love.
Learn more about the book and author at P. S. Duffy's website.

Writers Read: P. S. Duffy.

The Page 69 Test: The Cartographer of No Man's Land.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tea Krulos's "Heroes in the Night"

Tea Krulos is a freelance writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Heroes in the Night: Inside the Real Life Superhero Movement:
Heroes in the Night is non-fiction, one of those stories that proves truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. The book chronicles average, everyday people that belong to a secretive sub-culture, a movement of people calling themselves Real Life Superheroes (or RLSH.) They invent their own superhero identities and do charity events, activism, even patrol the streets looking for crime.

The two RLSH I spent the most time with were my own hometown Milwaukee heroes, the Watchman and Blackbird. I think we should have Val Kilmer and Edward Norton, respectively, for their roles. Seasoned actors, both with superhero experience (Batman Forever and The Incredible Hulk.)

Minnesota RLSH also were met several times. Geist (of Rochester, MN), the “Emerald Cowboy” could easily be played by comic book aficionado Nicolas Cage. Mr. Cage not only played Ghost Rider and Big Daddy (in Kick-Ass) but his name is derived from comic hero Luke Cage. He named his son, Kal-El, after Superman’s birth name. Razorhawk (of Minneapolis) is a RLSH and former wrestler with a signature wedge shaped mohawk. I say give the role to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

While in Vancouver, BC, I met a RLSH elder (in his mid 60s) named Thanatos and wrote a chapter about him titled “The Man in the Green Skull Mask.” I think we could get quite a striking performance from Keith Carradine.

Phoenix Jones is a controversial superhero from Seattle that finds himself in the media spotlight often. In fact, he’s been criticized as being a one man media circus, drawing them in with his personality. As such, I think it would be best for Phoenix Jones to play himself.

Female RLSH appear throughout the book. One mentioned is Terrifica, who used to appear at Manhattan bars to help inebriated women get home safely. I think Kristen Wiig would be perfect for the role. Former Batgirl Alicia Silverstone would be great as Rock N Roll, who helps lead a team called the California initiative. The Initiative is actually a franchise and has teams in several states. I met the New York Initiative and I feel the three I wrote the most about -- Zero, Zimmer, and Dark Guardian -- would be well cast as Henry Rollins, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Karl Urban.

Knight Owl lives in Oregon and I met him four different times in four different cities. Patrick Wilson portrayed a similarly named Nite Owl in Watchmen, and why not add another owl to the resume here?

I found out that Real Life Supervillains also exist, although they are Internet based critic personalities. There is a field day of casting here, but I’ll mention that I think Paul Giamatti could bring a certain gravitas as Lord Malignance.

I really tried to not make the book be about me, but as the narrator, I do show up in the story a few times. And the person who should play me on the big screen is without a doubt Bruce Campbell.
Visit the Heroes in the Night blog and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

E. J. Copperman's "The Thrill of the Haunt"

E.J. Copperman is a mysterious figure, or has a mysterious figure, or writes figuratively in mysteries. In any event, a New Jersey native, Copperman has written for such publications as the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, American Baby and USA Weekend. Night of the Living Deed is the first E.J. Copperman novel. It was followed by An Uninvited Ghost, Old Haunts, A Wild Ghost Chase, Chance of a Ghost, and the newly released The Thrill of the Haunt.

Here Copperman shares some insights on a big screen adaptation of the Haunted Guesthouse mysteries:
I have absolutely no idea who should play any of the leads in any of my books. The Haunted Guesthouse series assiduously avoids detailed descriptions of the main characters, mostly because I’m not completely sure exactly what they look like, myself. So I can’t offer any suggestions, although any readers with ideas are free to indulge themselves. That’s sort of the deal with me: Think it’s anybody you like, and you’ll be right. The one character for whom I have an actor in mind, however—and I have no idea where this thought came from—is Detective Lieutenant Anita McElone, the local cop Alison Kerby sometimes goes to for advice or information. When I’m writing McElone, I’m always picturing—no, that’s not right; I’m actually hearing the voice of—Queen Latifah. So take from that what you may. No idea who should direct such a movie, but I do have a number of suggestions as to who might be best to write the screenplay. I don’t think I’d be my first choice, but I could certainly do the job. I’ve written a screenplay or two. Or twenty-three. Something like that.
Visit E. J. Copperman's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Richard Toye's "Churchill's Empire"

Richard Toye studied at the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge, and is currently Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. His books include Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness, Churchill's Empire: The World that Made Him and the World He Made, and Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction. His new book is The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches.

Here Toye explains how he would turn Churchill's Empire into a movie:
I would have Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) play Bella and Philip Seymour Hoffman play Churchill.

Churchill's Empire

His greatest triumph was also his greatest tragedy.

Winston Churchill – a man of greatness who outlived his era. He vowed that he had ‘not become the King’s First Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire’. But it was on his watch that the imperial house of cards began its collapse. This film focuses on three crucial years, from the humiliation of the fall of Singapore in 1942, to Churchill’s dismissal by the British voters in 1945. It shows how a great power was humbled even as it achieved military victory over the forces of the Axis. And it shows the personal torment of an imperial hero as his beloved Empire crumbled to the ground. After the adulation of the crowds on VE Day cruelly followed by a crushing election defeat, he is caught by the ‘black dog’ of depression as he realises that his personal triumph is hollow. ‘I have achieved everything only to achieve nothing’, he confesses. ‘The Empire I believed in has gone.’

The story is told mainly through the eyes of the twenty year old Bella Hislop (a fictional amalgam of real people). Called to serve as a new secretary to Prime Minister Churchill on the very day of the British surrender at Singapore, her first experiences are enough to make her want to quit. Churchill’s moods, rages reduce her to tears – until she learns to answer back. From then on, he begins to trust her and she learns to love him wholeheartedly – whilst at the same time she experiences the agony of a tragic wartime romance. But she soon begins to experience conflicts of loyalty. The man she is in love with, Ranald Macrae, is a liberal-minded colonial office civil servant, who tries to persuade her that Churchill’s racial attitudes are out of date. And as Churchill stubbornly resists moves for colonial freedom, Bella begins to suspect that his antiquated diehard approach is threatening to destroy the very Empire he loves. Yet we also come to understand why Churchill sees things the way he does. We see earlier episodes of his life through flashback: his early, brutal experiences of imperial warfare in India, Sudan and South Africa form the dramatic counterpoint to his modern day political dilemmas. This is a grittily realistic Churchill for the Twenty-First Century.
The Page 99 Test: Churchill's Empire.

Writers Read: Richard Toye.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 22, 2013

Keith Raffel's "A Fine And Dangerous Season"

An avid reader of crime fiction since picking up his first Hardy Boys mystery, Keith Raffel became a published author in 2006. Bookreporter called his Dot Dead “the most impressive mystery debut of the year.” Its 2009 sequel, Smasher, was a national bestseller and has been optioned for film. Raffel’s next two novels, Drop By Drop and A Fine and Dangerous Season, were top 10 bestsellers on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s ebook lists. Raffel also has a life outside the literary world. He has founded an award-winning Silicon Valley company, served as counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee, taught writing to college freshmen, run for Congress, worked at a DNA sequencing company, and supported himself gambling at the racetrack.

Here Raffel dreamcasts an adaptation of A Fine and Dangerous Season:
Well, it’s not hard to get us writers spinning off into the realm of unreality – spending time in Fantasy Land is what we do for a living. Since Thomas & Mercer published A Fine And Dangerous Season this month, it must be about time to start casting the movie, right?

How about a little reminder of the plot of Fine and Dangerous? Twenty-three-year-old John F. Kennedy is spending the fall quarter of 1940 at Stanford as a special student. (That’s true in the real world, too.) He meets law student Nate Michaels who is in some respects JFK’s mirror image: secular Jew rather than observant Catholic; San Franciscan rather than Bostonian; son of a crusading left-wing union official rather than of a buccaneering capitalist. Opposites attract and the two become best friends until an irrevocable falling out. Twenty-two years later, in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis, now-President Kennedy needs Michaels’ help to avert nuclear war.

So (drumroll)…. Here’s what I came up with in my daydream of playing movie producer.

Casting JFK is the key to the movie. My wife was watching TV the other night and I saw Dr. McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy. Patrick Dempsey is charismatic, outgoing, attractive to women, and even close to the right age. (JFK was just about 46 at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.) On top of that Dempsey has even had practice in the role. He played the lead in JFK: Reckless Youth back in 1993. (Here's a clip.)

So now who is going to be Nate Michaels? Intense. Introverted. Intellectual. How about Robert Downey Jr.? Right age, too.

Back in 1962, Jackie Kennedy was 30 years old. So we need someone dark and glamorous and young. How about Anne Hathaway? I really do think there's a resemblance there, don't you?

At Stanford in 1940, Nate has a girlfriend he has no right to have. She’s Miriam Coblentz, 19 years old and blonde. Dianna Agron plays someone around that age on Glee even though she’s 27. She's Jewish and from the Bay Area, just like Miriam. Let’s go with her.

What about JFK’s right hand man, brother Bobby? He’s 37, shorter than JFK and toothier too. I haven’t seen Tobey Maguire around lately. Do you think he’s available?

Whoever plays the cigar-chomping General Curtis LeMay, head of the Air Force, should have the inside track for a supporting actor Oscar. It’s a plum of a part. He’s done with 30 Rock, so let’s give it to Alec Baldwin. (Do you think he's willing to color his hair?)

Nate’s back channel to Moscow runs through Maxim Volkov, head of the KGB in Washington. There’s no dancing, but I’d still like to make an offer to Mikhail Baryshnikov.

At the end of the book, Nate finds himself leaping across the roofs of Washington with Russian femme fatale Natalya Leontieva while two agents of Soviet military intelligence give chase. I’ve heard her Russian accent on Castle. Sounded good to me. Come on down, Stana Katic.

Don’t like any of my choices? Fine. Am open to any bankable actors you might suggest. And if there are any producers out there with a few tens of millions to spend? Get in touch.

In the meantime, you could always try (gasp!) reading the book.
Learn more about the book and author at Keith Raffel's website, blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Renée Rosen's "Dollface"

As clichéd as it sounds, Renée Rosen is a former advertising copywriter who always had a novel in her desk drawer. When she saw the chance to make the leap from writing ad copy to fiction, she jumped at it. A confirmed history and book nerd, the author loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written.

Rosen is the author of Every Crooked Pot and Dollface, A Novel of the Roaring Twenties.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of Dollface:
Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve played “Central Casting” with Dollface. When I started working on this book about ten years ago, I had it all mapped out, only now I fear some of my picks are too old for the roles! But back in the day, Natalie Portman was a dead ringer for Vera, Adrien Brody was Shep Green, Sean Penn was the perfect Hymie Weiss, Scarlett Johansson was Dora and Bradley Cooper with dark hair could be Tony Liolli. For Vera’s mother I could see Susan Sarandon (it’d be good to get her and Natalie Portman together again!) And I’m not sure where Robert Downey Jr. fits in, but if he wants to jump on board, I’ll take him.

As far as directors go, I would love to see what Martin Scorsese (the master of gangster films) could do with this material since it’s told from the woman’s POV. I also love Robert De Niro’s directing in A Bronx Tale. Aside from those two, I wouldn’t be opposed to Robert Redford or Ron Howard or Penny Marshall or, as long as we’re dreaming here, how about Alfred Hitchcock?
Learn more about the book and author at Renée Rosen's website, blog, and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: Every Crooked Pot.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 18, 2013

Leslie Morgan Steiner's "The Baby Chase"

Leslie Morgan Steiner lives in Washington, DC with her husband and three young children. Her 2009 memoir about surviving domestic violence, Crazy Love, was a New York Times bestseller, People Pick, Book of the Week for The Week magazine, and subject of the first TED Talk by a domestic violence survivor.

Here Steiner dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, The Baby Chase: How Surrogacy Is Transforming the American Family:
If The Baby Chase, which explores surrogacy and a young couple's journey to India to have babies, were made into a movie, Scarlett Johansson would play Rhonda Wile, the beautiful blond Arizona nurse who always wanted children, only to discover at age 35 that she couldn't bear her own because of a rare condition where a woman has two vaginas and two uteruses. Her husband, the tall, handsome firefighter Gerry Wile whose right calf and shoulder are covered with tattoos representing Indian gods, would be played by the tall, handsome Channing Tatum.

I would want beautiful Bollywood actresses to play the four Indian surrogates Rhonda and Gerry Wile worked with through the Mumbai clinic, Surrogacy India. The Indian doctors who co-founded Surrogacy India would be played by the beautiful Freida Pinto from Slumdog Millionaire, and Kal Penn from Harold & Kumar.

And the three beautiful kids the Wiles came home with?

I would want Blaze, Dylan and Jett Wile to play themselves.
Read more about The Baby Chase at Leslie Morgan Steiner's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Trish J. MacGregor's "Apparition"

Trish J. MacGregor is the author of 36 novels and as TJ MacGregor won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for original paperback in 2003. Apparition is the third book in the Hungry Ghost trilogy, and takes place in the mystical city of Esperanza, Ecuador, high in the Andes.

Here MacGregor dreamcasts an adaptation of Apparition:
For both Esperanza and Apparition, my male protagonist, Ian Ritter, is George Clooney. He is described as a Clooney lookalike. Tacky, perhaps, but unless you live under a rock, you know exactly what the character looks like.

Tess Livingston: Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s about the same age as Tess, is blonde like Tess, and I enjoy watching her on screen.

Ricardo, the brujo: Graham Greene, who played Arles Bitterbuck in The Green Mile. He is one face of Ricardo. But in the course of the book, Ricardo has several human hosts. Johnny Depp could play one of those hosts, doing one of his oddball roles, and Denzel Washington would be perfect for Ricardo’s final host as a brujo who finds redemption.

Wayra, the shape shifter. He’s one of my favorite characters in this trilogy. In Quechua, his name means wind and he is certainly as ephemeral as wind, but also as powerful as wind can be (think cat 5 hurricane). In the 14th century, when he was the young son of a shepherd, he was turned by a shifter. That meant he would outlive everyone he knew and loved, that his blood could heal others, and that his alternate shape was that of a black lab.

Johnny Depp could play this role to the hilt and it would be weirder than his role in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Maddie, Tess’s redheaded niece. Maddie is a continuing thread in the trilogy. At the end of Esperanza, when everyone believes that Dominica and her tribe have been annihilated, Dominica seizes and possesses Maddie and forces her to flee to the U.S. Ghost Key is Maddie’s story and Deborah Ann Woll from True Blood is perfect for the role.

Here’s an interesting synchronicity about this movie category. Since I last wrote a post for Ghost Key here on My Book, The Movie, a screenwriter friend and I have completed a script for Ghost Key, a new venue for me. My co-author added a new character, the plot took a new and really intriguing turn, and I learned that what works with the written word doesn’t necessarily work visually. In a script, as in an outline, every piece must fit. I also learned that you must look forward, be flexible but not wimpy, and above all you must know what you want from your story and your characters. If you don’t know, no one else will, either!
Learn more about the book and author at Trish J. MacGregor's website.

The Page 69 Test: Esperanza.

My Book, The Movie: Esperanza.

The Page 69 Test: Ghost Key.

Writers Read: Trish MacGregor (September 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tamar Ossowski's "Left"

Tamar Ossowski resides in Needham, Massachusetts. She is married and has three children, one of whom was born with special needs and could spell before he learned to speak. She wrote the novel Left to explore the possibility that you can only become the person you are supposed to be once you truly embrace the person you already are.

Here Ossowski dreamcasts an adaptation of Left:
There are four main characters in Left. From the very beginning, I envisioned the actors who could play the parts of the two adult women but the girl’s parts were more difficult. I knew one was dark and curly haired and the other blonde. I could hear their voices in my head but no one I have ever seen on television or film comes close to being the children that live inside my head.

On the other hand, the two adult female roles have always been extremely clear in my mind.

Therese, the mother who abandons her special needs child would be played either by Natalie Portman or Ashley Judd who both possess a powerful sexy sultriness that is perfect for the roll.

Leah, the character with whom the child is left, would be played by Nicole Kidman. But I have to admit I can also imagine Amanda Seyfried or Scarlett Johansson playing her as well since both possess an ethereal quality mixed with a hint of broken heart that makes them ideal for the part.
Learn more about the book and author at Tamar Ossowski's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rachel Bach's "Fortune's Pawn"

Rachel Bach is the author of Fortune's Pawn, a fast paced, romantic adventure starring Devi Morris, a powered armor mercenary who signs on with the galaxy’s most trouble-prone space freighter in an attempt to jumpstart her career. But while Devi expected the firefights and aliens, this ship holds secrets she never could have imagined, and the greatest danger for this ship guard might just be the very people she was hired to protect.

Here the author dreamcasts an adaptation of Fortune's Pawn:
I'm sure all authors dream of seeing their books as movies, but I've been thinking about the casting for my new Science Fiction novel, Fortune's Pawn, since word one. So in case you were wondering, or you're a Hollywood type who thinks "man, that space opera would make a bad ass movie!" (Joss Whedon, call me!), here's how I would cast the film version.

For Devi Morris, our main character, powered armor mercenary, and all around awesomely violent lady, I can think of no one better than Gina Carano. As a former MMA fighter, she'd have Devi's animal aggression down pat, and as a bonus, I think she'd totally dig the role. She even looks like I imagined Devi! Clearly, a match made in heaven.

As for Rupert Charkov, Devi's love interest and unkillable man of mystery, I'm completely stumped. He's a subtle character with a lot to hide, so you'd need a good actor with a pretty face who also pull off some pretty intense combat scenes and who's at least 6'2" (or can be made to look 6'2" via movie magic). So yeah, I've got nothing, but I'm very open to suggestions!

Finally, I'd say the next most important character we meet in book 1 is the Glorious Fool's captain, Brian Caldswell. This might seem like a crazy suggestion, but I always thought that Nathan Fillion could do really well in the role. He looks the part, and it would be a great switch up for him since Brian Caldswell is a pretty dark roll. I bet he could pull if off amazingly, though. Nathan Fillion can do anything!

And one last note, for my darling space hippie Novascape Starchild, I think Jennifer Lawrence would knock it out of the park. It's really much too small a role for her, but she's amazing and I think she'd have a super great time acting like a total space case. Also, any chance of me getting to meet Jennifer Lawrence will always get my vote.

So there you have it! I hope you enjoy my casting choices, and if you don't (or if you have a cast of your own to suggest) let me know! I'd love to hear what you all think the characters look like!
Fortune’s Pawn is the first in the Paradox Trilogy from Orbit Books. Other books by Bach include The Legend of Eli Monpress fantasy series under the name Rachel Aaron. Learn more about the books and author at Rachel Bach's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Susan D. Carle's "Defining the Struggle"

Susan Carle teaches legal ethics, anti-discrimination law, labor and employment law, and torts at American University Washington College of Law. She writes primarily about the history of social change lawyering, anti-discrimination law, and topics at the intersections between civil rights, employment, and labor law. In the past she has been a community organizer, civil rights lawyer, and union-side labor lawyer.

Here Carle dreamcasts an adaptation of her new book, Defining the Struggle: National Organizing for Racial Justice, 1880-1915:
Defining the Struggle is a nonfiction book, but it would make a terrific and important movie. It tells a story only the most well-informed historical buffs already know: that of the founding, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century in the United States, of the first national civil rights organizations intended to have long-term status. These organizations’ varied experiments with social change strategies would sow the seeds for later major national civil rights efforts that would eventually give birth to the U.S. civil rights movement. The setting is a time of brutal racial oppression imposed by social, economic, and legal institutions during the so-called nadir period, in which American race relations were at their all-time low following the end of slavery -- a time of rising segregation, Jim Crow laws, brutal lynchings and other race violence, and a largely indifferent public reaction. In one respect this is a story about African American history -- a story of courageous work by and for African Americans. But it is also a general American history story about the early struggle for racial equality, which, as W.E.B. Du Bois famously described, presented the country with the greatest problem of the Twentieth Century. These early efforts have been largely overlooked by mainstream historians. What better way to turn this around than to make a movie that brings the relevant historical figures and their work to life? Here are my suggestions as to a “dream team” cast of leading characters:

W.E.B. Du Bois, founder of the Niagara Movement – Jeffrey Wright (relatively young but already full of gravitas)

Alexander Walters, head of the National Afro American Council – Idris Elba (powerful and pragmatic)

Frederick McGhee, lawyer for the Afro American Council and the Niagara Movement – Denzel Washington (charismatic and devastatingly handsome)

T. Thomas Fortune – Spike Lee (brilliant, high strung, somewhat erratic and very thin)

Mary Church Terrell, founder and three-term president of the National Association of Colored Women – Alicia Keys (regal, beautiful, socially committed)

Ida Wells Barnett – Naomie Harris (intensity packed into a smallish stature)

Booker T. Washington – Terrence Howard (focused, charismatic, and shrewd)

Jesse Lawson, dynamic legislative director of the Afro American Council - Don Cheadle (sincere, visionary, willing to attempt the impossible)

Lugenia Hope Burns, founder of the Atlanta Neighborhood Union – Kerry Washington (can-do energy for every challenge)

Carrie Clifford, founding leader of the Ohio Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, key activist in the Niagara Movement, close friend of Du Bois, and dynamo organizer for the Washington, D.C., branch of the NAACP – Carmen Ejogo (wouldn’t it be nice to see this leading couple -- i.e., Wright/Ejogo, married in real life -- play roles in the same movie?)

Mary White Ovington, white social worker who helped found the NAACP – Elisabeth Moss (serious, well meaning, willing to portray a character with some race privilege flaws)

Harry Smith, wise older editor of the Cleveland GazetteClarke Peters (still deeply committed to the racial justice movement, but a bit jaded with a tendency to caustic remarks)

Oswald Garrison Villard, founding chair of the NAACP -- Jeremy Piven (energetic, somewhat self-important)
Learn more about Defining the Struggle at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, November 8, 2013

Whitney Strub's "Obscenity Rules"

Whitney Strub is an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University, Newark. His first book, Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right, recently arrived in paperback, alongside his new book, Obscenity Rules: Roth v. United States and the Long Struggle over Sexual Expression, which combines a legal history of obscenity doctrine with a cultural history of the poet, publisher, and pornographer Samuel Roth, whose 1957 Supreme Court established the obscenity doctrine that still fundamentally governs American sexual expression today.

Strub lives in Philadelphia and took a decidedly overwrought approach to the film adaptation of Obscenity Rules:
When my first book came out, I actually did receive a call from a producer. I didn’t really pursue it, and I still occasionally wonder what glorious imaginary futures I thus missed out on; could that be me on Drunk History? Damn.

That said, I’ve been watching a lot of Godard’s aggressively self-deconstructing films from his 1970s Maoist phase, and perhaps it’s warped my mind, but nonetheless, the last thing I would ever want to be responsible for is a stately historical biopic about middle-aged white guys discussing The Big Social Questions of Our Times or whatnot; next thing you know, we’ll have another deathly dull 150-minute snoozefest and I’ll have to pretend I loved The King’s Speech at cocktail parties, because the people who made it will be there. I’d gladly take the Hollywood money, but I’d feel bad for unleashing something like that onto the world.

So since this is my fantasy anyway, I’d dispense wholly with casting to type and just plug in a bunch of my favorite performers; if that means the entire Supreme Court of the 1950s is played by cast members from The Wire, well, damn right. Idris Elba has been pretty sadly (if surely lucratively) underutilized ever since anyway. Beyond that, Elliott Gould could play any part he wanted—though my preference might be Chief Justice Earl Warren. Give him the old neo-Philip Marlowe spin, I’m liking this.

Samuel Roth, an avant-garde poet turned smutmonger, could be the perfect role for one of those midcareer lightweight actors looking to show some gravitas; maybe Matthew Perry? Though the immortal Fred “The Hammer” Williamson has apparently languished in third-tier schlock this whole century, so he could be another contender; he knows how to chew the scenery, but who knows how he handles pathos? In the scene where Roth’s 5-year prison sentence is affirmed, we’ll find out.

Much of the roles would be lawyers and judges; for the sleaziest one, I’d see if James Carville were up for a cameo. Maybe Bill Clinton, too, since he exudes the right kind of smarm. Roth’s long-suffering wife Pauline is probably a fairly thankless role, but Jennifer Jason Leigh is the greatest actress of her generation, so if anyone could breathe some fire into it, it’s her.

Now the perfect filmmaker for this absurdist madness would be Fassbinder. Among the living, Paul Schrader’s sweaty sex obsession could work, as long as he kept Bret Easton Ellis away from the screenplay. But my nod goes to Lynne Ramsay, whose sustained delirium in the recent but overlooked We Need to Talk about Kevin was a real cinematic feat (I love her earlier work, too). Courtroom movies are almost always boring, so her fever-dream approach would help.

To be sure, this will be a terrible career move for all involved, but if it winds up as viewer-friendly as Godard’s Numéro deux, I will be filled with delight. And will never work again in that town.
Learn more about the book and author at Whitney Strub’s blog.

Writers Read: Whitney Strub (January 2011).

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Max Gladstone's "Two Serpents Rise"

Max Gladstone has been thrown from a horse in Mongolia and nominated for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award. Two Serpents Rise, his second novel, is about water rights, human sacrifice, dead gods, and poker.

Here Gladstone dreamcasts adaptations of the Craft Sequence novels, Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise:
The question of who would play whom in movies of my books is tough, since many of my central characters aren't white. Due to a combination of the relative pastiness of many Hollywood headliners and my own failure to dig beyond headline movies as often as I should (I read more than I watch), I don't know as many actors who'd fit for these parts, which is both an institutional problem and a personal one.

Most characters in Two Serpents Rise would read as various extractions of Central American Indian to a modern observer. There's no shortage of actors of that extraction, but not a ton of top-billing names. I could see Q'orianka Kilcher in one of the central female roles, maybe as Mal—she was great in The New World, and by the time this movie gets made she'll be almost old enough for the character. My first step in casting this project would be to secure a casting director who has a good relationship with Native American actors and a history of respectful casting—someone like Rene Haynes, who worked on The New World, Into the West, Dances with Wolves, and the Twilight movies. And then to trust her judgment.

Casting my first book, Three Parts Dead, is a bit easier since many of the secondary characters read as European of some form in our world, but Tara, my lead, is black—not as difficult as casting for Two Serpents Rise, but still harder than it should be due to overall Hollywood whiteness. Meagan Good might fit; she got the intensity right in Brick. If I had a time machine, a young Penny Johnson Jerald would be awesome. I haven't seen Precious yet (I know, I know, I know) but Chyna Layne might also work great.

By comparison, it's embarrassing how breezy it feels to cast whiter roles. Just off the top of my head, from Three Parts Dead:

Ms. Kevarian: Helen Mirren. Obviously.

Professor Denovo: Harder, but the keys here are the beard, and the ability to play both bastard and kind country lawyer: Jack Nicholson might work, or maybe Evil Robin Williams, or Paul Giamatti.

Cat: Possibly  Katee Sackhoff? The role needs acting chops, action physicality, and physical attractiveness. Tricia Helfer might also work well. Jennifer Lawrence is a bit young but also might work?

Abelard: I'd love to see what Joseph Gordon-Levitt would do with the role. Matt Smith might also work, though he's a bit tall. Ooh! Can I have Daniel Radcliffe?

Cardinal Gustave: James Cromwell, Rene Auberjonois.

Sundry zombies, skeletons, and gargoyles: WETA workshop or the Jim Henson Company.

And from Two Serpents Rise:

Sam: Tricky! Maybe Kristin Bell? (It's a minor part, sadly, so we probably couldn't get her.)

The King in Red: Since this guy's a giant animated skeleton I feel almost comfortable wanting James Earl Jones or Benedict Cumberbatch or Evil Martin Sheen for the voice. But I'm sure there's a racially appropriate actor out there with an equally awesome voice.

Casting white and PoC roles shouldn't feel this different. I shouldn't be able to rattle off the names of white actors and actresses and stretch for anything else. But that's where we are, and it sucks—I should work harder to see more movies outside my comfort zone, and we as a society should work collectively to close that gap.
Learn more about the book and author at Max Gladstone's website and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Two Serpents Rise.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jason Vanhee's "Engines of the Broken World"

Jason Vanhee lives in Seattle, Washington.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Engines of the Broken World, his first novel:
This is probably a topic I’ve spent too much time thinking about: not in the particulars really, just in the imagining what it would look like. Engines of the Broken World has a very small scope. There’s just a few locations, just a few characters, a very short time span, and a reasonably well defined sense of place. So I can picture the book as a movie in my head already, and I do. But who’s in that movie? Well, that’s one of the odd things, mostly the characters when I picture them are just blanks, snatches of clothes, and hints of faces. That may have something to do with my tendency to be light on description, or it may just be that I don’t want to fit anyone into my characters.

But if we’re talking casting, I do have one notion that I adore. The two main characters are Merciful, who’s 12, and her brother Gospel, who’s not quite 15. And at least at this moment, there’s a pair of acting siblings who match up with those ages and that gap very well. I’m thinking of Willow and Jaden Smith, neither of whom has really done a lot of acting, but who I’d love to see in the roles. Not that the characters in the book are African-American; they’re white, in so far as they’re described as anything. But the first time someone asked me who I’d like to see in the movie, that was what flew into my mind immediately. I think that the dynamic of real siblings playing the siblings in the book would work very well. I can’t imagine it could ever happen, but the idea alone intrigues me incredibly.

As far as directors, I’m not nearly so informed. The mysteries of direction always elude me. But if I were to pick someone, it might be Debra Granik, who directed the grim, horrifying, small scale, rural Winter’s Bone, which strikes me as surprisingly analogous to what I’d want my book’s movie to end up feeling like. It’s a dark movie she made, with a great performance from a young actress, and I think that would matter a lot.
Learn more about the book and author at Jason Vanhee's blog, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

The Page 69 Test: Engines of the Broken World.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Diane Hammond's "Friday's Harbor"

Diane Hammond is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Seeing Stars, Hannah's Dream, Going to Bend, and Homesick Creek. She served as a spokesperson for the Free Willy Keiko Foundation and the Oregon Coast Aquarium and currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her husband and their corgis.

Here Hammond dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Friday's Harbor:
I love playing this game! Truman Levy, the business manager-turned-director of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo, was Jason Bateman from the time moment he appeared in my imagination. The actor has that sweet, boyish, clear-eyed face that, for me, characterizes Truman—not a showy look, but one you could look at fondly for a lifetime. My agents are sick of hearing about what a great Truman he’d make. They put it down to a crush. So be it.

Ivy Levy would definitely be played Kathy Bates—a woman with a strong presence. Not a pleaser; a person of very strong opinions, who doesn’t mind sharing them with the people around her, even those who don’t necessarily want to hear them.

I find it odd that I don’t have an actor in mind to play Libertine or Gabriel, though both are key characters in Friday’s Harbor. It’s not that I can’t see both characters very clearly; it’s just that I haven’t met the actors who might embody them. I find this especially odd, since Gabriel is partly based on my husband; yet, he doesn’t look anything like my husband. He reminds me of a Chilean friend with whom I shared a house decades ago. Libertine is mousey-headed, as I described her in Friday’s Harbor, pale and grey-haired and pink-nosed and self deprecating.

And then there’s Friday himself, the killer whale at the heart of Friday’s Harbor. In almost every way, he is Keiko, the star of the movie Free Willy.

As for other characters: Sam Brown is and always has been Morgan Freeman; Neva used to be a younger Julianne Moore but now she’s Amy Adams; Winslow is a younger Angus T. Jones.

See? Fun!
Learn more about the book and author at Diane Hammond's website and follow her on Facebook.

The Page 69 TestHannah’s Dream.

The Page 69 Test: Seeing Stars.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Diane Hammond & Petey and Haagen.

The Page 69 Test: Friday's Harbor.

--Marshal Zeringue