Friday, December 29, 2017

Karen L. Cox's "Goat Castle"

Karen L. Cox's books include Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture and Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture.

Here Cox dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, Goat Castle: A True Story of Murder, Race, and the Gothic South:
There really haven’t been any dramatic interpretations of this story, but it begs for one. From the time I learned about Goat Castle and the real-life characters that inhabited it, I could see it as a film. Every person I’ve ever talked to about this book has said, without fail, “This needs to be a movie.” The principals make for very rich characters and the setting—Goat Castle—is both shocking and surreal. There’s also the terribly sad saga of Emily Burns, caught in an unfortunate situation, who is dealt a terrible injustice because of her race and sent to one of the South’s most notorious prisons—Parchman.

So who would I want to play the principals? Most of them are in their 60s, so it’s a great opportunity for older actors, although Emily Burns was just 37 when she was convicted. The sheriff is also just 41. So, here is my dream cast:

I’d choose Sally Field to play Jennie Merrill, the woman who was murdered. Jennie was petite, but feisty. Tommy Lee Jones would be good in the role of Duncan Minor, Jennie’s cousin who finds her and has loved her his whole life.

Octavia Dockery, the “Goat Woman,” was a cunning individual and I’d love to see her played by Jessica Lange. Lange’s role in Grey Gardens, not to mention American Horror Story, suggests she’s got a knack for Southern Gothic.

Dick Dana, the “Wild Man,” was tall and lanky and not in his right mind. And while I know we haven’t heard from John Malkovich in awhile, I think he’d be perfect.

George Pearls a.k.a. Lawrence “Pink” Williams, the likely trigger man who killed Merrill in a botched robbery could be played by either Don Cheadle or Denzel Washington. Williams took off for Chicago as a young man, so by the time he returned to Natchez he was a street savvy guy.

I’ve always seen Octavia Spencer as the person to play Emily Burns, the woman sent to prison for this crime. They are about the same height and build, and I think she could really bring Emily to life and draw us into the story of racial injustice.

Sheriff Clarence “Book” Roberts is also an important figure in this case, though I’m not sure who should portray him. Tom Hanks might be a good fit.

There are lots of bit parts here, so it would really depend on which characters the filmmakers want to highlight.

Fingers crossed that Goat Castle will one-day come with the tagline “coming to a theater near you!”
Visit Karen L. Cox's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Helen Dickson's "Carrying the Gentleman's Secret"

Helen Dickson lives in South Yorkshire with her retired farm manager husband. On leaving school she entered the nursing profession, which she left to bring up a young family. Having moved out of the chaotic farmhouse, she has more time to indulge in her favorite pastimes. She enjoys being outdoors, traveling, reading and music. An incurable romantic, she writes for pleasure. It was a love of history that drove her to writing historical romantic fiction.

Here Dickson dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Carrying the Gentleman's Secret:
Carrying the Gentleman’s Secret is about a working woman in early Victorian London, who takes control of her own life before the emancipation of women – although calls for change were gathering pace in the last decade of the nineteenth century.

Whenever anyone asks me if I would like any of my books made into a movie, I always say what a wonderful idea. And of course it is, but one has to carry on writing and see what happens. I have a terrible memory for names and found it difficult casting the perfect actors for my characters.

The characters I have created out of my imagination have faces that I am familiar with, so who on earth could take on those roles? Who would I cast to play my heroes and heroines – if it happened and I had any say in the matter, which I doubt for I imagine that would be left to the casting directors and I would have to hope they would get it right. Actors have the ability to take on the characters, but to take on a physical resemblance is not so easy because I cannot say I’ve seen any actors who look like them. But I will have a go.

For Alex Golding I would choose Rufus Sewell or Colin Firth for the role – unfortunately they are now too old for the part. I can see Richard Madden of Game of Thrones – Robb Stark - and Lady Chatterley’s Lover – Oliver Mellors -fame playing Alex. His physique is lean and athletic. He’s not quite as tall as Alex but it’s often difficult to judge the height of actors on screen – take Daniel Craig and Sean Bean for instance. They both come across as being of reasonable height but they’re quite short. James Norton would be perfect. He has the height and the looks and he’s a wonderful actor – he was brilliant as Andrei Bolkonsky in the television adaptation of War and Peace playing opposite Lily James as Natasha Rostova.

For Lydia Brook, who is an ambitious, hardworking, practical type, which is no surprise given that she’s poor, I think Lily James, who played Lady Rose Clare in Downton Abbey and Natasha in War and Peace would do nicely. I can also see Holliday Grainger – of Lady Chatterley fame, as Lydia. In fact what a pairing that would be if she were to play Lydia and Richard Madden as Alex. On second thoughts, perhaps not.
Visit Helen Dickson's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 22, 2017

Casey Doran's "The Art of Murder"

Casey Doran's second Jericho Sands book is The Art of Murder. Here the author shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of the novel:
When I first conceptualized the character of Jericho Sands, I didn’t begin with any set image in mind as a model. I knew some of his basic traits and background but he mostly developed through dialogue. I quickly realized that Jericho’s defining characteristic is that he’s an unapologetic smartass who tends to let his mouth get him in trouble. This meant removing a lot of filters that I usually set up for myself while I write. Which was a lot of fun. I was on my latest round of trying to quit smoking at the time, so naturally I made Jericho a dedicated chain smoker. Having my antagonist constantly lighting up turned out to be a great way to vicariously enjoy the habit I was trying to kick. When I write, I still don’t see any one particular person. Since it would have to be someone capable of delivering a sarcastic quip every thirty seconds, the obvious choice would be someone like Ryan Reynolds. But I think it would be really cool to see someone less prolific and well known take the role.

Morena Baccarin would be a great Alyssa Jagger and Jon Huertas from Castle would be perfect for Eddie Torrez.

As for Katrina Masters, I’d love to see Lzzy Hale from Halestorm.
Learn more about The Art of Murder.

Follow Casey Doran on Twitter.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

David Moody's "One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning" Moody first self-published Hater in 2006, and without an agent, succeeded in selling the film rights for the novel to Mark Johnson (producer, Breaking Bad) and Guillermo Del Toro (director, The Shape of Water, Pan’s Labyrinth). His seminal zombie novel Autumn was made into an (admittedly terrible) movie starring Dexter Fletcher and David Carradine. Moody has a unhealthy fascination with the end of the world and likes to write books about ordinary folks going through absolute hell.

Here Moody shares some ideas for casting an adaptation of his new novel, One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning:
It’s interesting - this is the first novel I’ve written where I wasn't thinking about a potential movie adaptation as I was writing. I think there are two reasons for this. First, this is an offshoot of my Hater series, and a film adaptation of the original novel should soon be entering production (it’s been on/ off for the last decade, frustratingly), so I’m still focused on a screen adaptation of book one. Second, the cast of characters in this book are people I work with. Or, at least, are inspired by people I work with. For that reason, it’s hard to visualise actors playing their roles. However, a reviewer got in touch yesterday and suggested that One of Us Will Be Dead by Morning would make a great stage play. Now that would be something else! Similar to Hater, it’s a fundamental part of the plot of One of Us… that the lead characters are very ordinary folks, like the people you might work with or your neighbours, or the folks with whom you share your daily commute. I would fight tooth and nail not to have recognisable stars in the main roles. So while I could reel off a load of currently popular British screen actors who might excel - Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, James Nesbitt etc. - I’d rather have people you might not have seen on the big screen before. If the movie was getting a worldwide release, I’d be inclined to hire actors better known for their small screen roles here in the UK. Maybe Matt Smith, Hayley Attwell… folks like that. There’s such a fine line between comedy and horror, though, that if I was given free reign, I’d actually cast comedians in the main roles. Reece Shearsmith, Alice Lowe, Jim Moir, Johnny Vegas, Steve Pemberton. They’d be perfect!
Visit David Moody's website.

The Page 69 Test: Hater.

The Page 69 Test: Dog Blood.

My Book, The Movie: Dog Blood.

The Page 69 Test: Autumn: Disintegration.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 18, 2017

C. Courtney Joyner's "Nemo Rising"

C. Courtney Joyner is an award-winning writer of fiction, comics, and screenplays. He has more than 25 movies to his credit, including the cult films Prison, starring Viggo Mortensen; From a Whisper to a Scream, starring Vincent Price; and Class of 1999, directed by Mark Lester. A graduate of USC, Joyner's first produced screenplay was The Offspring, which also starred Vincent Price. Joyner's other scripts have included TV movies for CBS, USA, and Showtime.

He is the author of The Shotgun western series and a new novel, Nemo Rising.

Here Joyner dreamcasts the lead in an adaptation of Nemo Rising:
Nemo Rising actually started as a screenplay, and has a long history as a script behind it. At one point, Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey was to play Nemo, with Hailey Atwill as the female lead, but the film didn’t come together, and I ultimately used my script as the outline for the book. There’s actually a chapter in the book that details a bit of this saga, along with some pages of the screenplay. It’s on the development trail yet again, and I’m hoping the novel will push a TV version – always my focus – into production. My Nemo now? Sean Bean.
Learn more about Nemo Rising.

Visit C. Courtney Joyner's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Mandy Mikulencak's "The Last Suppers"

Mandy Mikulencak is the author of The Last Suppers, which recently received a starred review from Library Journal and was named to Barnes & Nobles’ list of Best New Fiction of December 2017. Set in 1950s Louisiana, the novel follows a young, female prison cook who feels compelled to prepare meaningful last meals for death row inmates. When she uncovers troubling truths about her father’s murder and the man executed for the crime, her ideas on what constitutes truth, justice and mercy are irrevocably changed. Mikulencak also authored the young adult novel, Burn Girl, which received a 2016 Westchester Fiction Award.

Here Mikulencak dreamcasts an adaptation of The Last Suppers:
When I start to envision the characters in my books, it can feel like a subconscious rather than conscious exercise. Our brains house so much information on popular culture – TV, movies, books, magazines. I think authors instinctively draw from that virtual storehouse of attributes to form a picture in their minds of what their own characters look or talk like, and what mannerisms they possess. Sometimes it’s a perfect fit. For my current novel, The Last Suppers, I believe that Josh Brolin would be ideal for the role of Roscoe Simms, the warden. A secondary character – Dot, who works in the kitchen with the main character, Ginny – is absolutely Octavia Spencer (although my husband insists that Oprah Winfrey would make a perfect Dot). Ginny’s father, Joe – whose character is only told in flashback – is tougher to describe. Actors Ben Mendelsohn or Chris Cooper come very close, but they’d have to be 22 years old and much taller.

I have had an extremely difficult time casting the main female characters in both The Last Suppers and Burn Girl. It’s a peculiar phenomenon. I visualize certain attributes very clearly. In The Last Suppers, Ginny describes herself as having the body of a 13-year-old boy. The warden, her lover, describes her this way: Roscoe couldn’t get over how much she looked like her father had at twenty-one. Hair like a squirrel’s nest, a strong chin, eyes a little too large for her face. She didn’t get Joe’s height, though, or Miriam’s curves for that matter.

I’ve wasted far too much time searching IMDB trying to find the perfect young actress (about 29 or 30 years old). Yet, I can’t form a full picture of Ginny. It’s almost like she’s in soft focus and I’m struggling to make out her facial features. I’m very curious how readers envision her.

As for the director of The Last Suppers? Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men), Taylor Sheridan (Wind River) or David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water).
Visit Mandy Mikulencak's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 11, 2017

Steven Cooper's "Desert Remains"

Steven Cooper is a former investigative reporter. His work has earned him multiple Emmy Awards and nominations, as well as a national Edward R. Murrow award, and numerous honors from the Associated Press. He taught for five years in the English department at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Cooper has lived a bit like a nomad, working TV gigs in New England, Arizona and Florida, and following stories around the globe.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of Desert Remains, his fourth novel:
I never cast my characters while writing a book. They come to me organically, appearing as strangers I’ve never seen before. They’re not unlike the new, unfamiliar faces that pop up in dreams. After a while, once the book is out, once I’m not so close to these people, I might then see an actor or actress who appears very close to the characters I imagined. Recently I watched a series on Hulu called Casual and it occurred to me that the male lead, Tommy Dewey, would make a convincing Gus Parker. The role must be authentic surfer dude, not a spoof or a caricature. When Gus makes me laugh, I laugh with him not at him. I think Dewey could bring just the right nuance to the role. I might send him the book.

As for Alex Mills, I can see Colin Farrell, Liev Schreiber, Aaron Eckhart, or Terry Crews (though Crews and Schreiber might be too tall) playing that character. Those actors represent quite a range, but I think I would leave it up to the expertise of a casting director to make the right call.

Megan Mullally, Kathy Bates or Carol Kane would make a lovely Beatrice Vossenheimer.
Visit Steven Cooper's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 8, 2017

Catherine Reef's "Victoria: Portrait of a Queen"

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 40 nonfiction books, including Noah Webster: Man of Many Words, Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life, Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse, and other highly acclaimed biographies for young people. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Here Reef dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest young adult biography, Victoria: Portrait of a Queen:
It is autumn 1861, and Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, is a student at Cambridge. Away from his parents and palace life, the future king, then called Bertie, is happy. He has been enjoying love—or at least sex—with an actress named Nellie Clifden. Suddenly he is confronted by his father, Prince Albert. It seems word of Bertie’s romance has reached Buckingham Palace, and the prince consort has come to admonish. The two take a long walk in the rain, and Albert informs Bertie that the affair must end, and that he must marry a suitable woman. This is Albert’s decision as well as the queen’s. So the film begins.

Bertie resists, and Prince Albert—well, Albert gets sick. As happened often in nineteenth-century literature and lore, exposure to wet weather has given him a cold. Albert, however, was already ill with an unknown ailment, and on December 13, Bertie is summoned to his father’s bedside. Prince Albert, father of nine and beloved of the queen, dies the next day.

Now viewers encounter Queen Victoria in her imposing, unreasonable majesty. Needing someone to blame for Albert’s untimely death at forty-two, she singles out the heir to the throne. She rejects Bertie’s offers of comfort, asserting that if he had not caused his father distress by pursuing a loose woman, Prince Albert would still be alive. Such cruel, unfair blame is a heavy burden for a grieving youth to bear.

Unlike my book, which tells Queen Victoria’s life story from beginning to end, my movie is in the tradition of Mrs. Brown and Victoria & Abdul, and focuses on the queen’s relationship with one person, in this instance her oldest son. From his childhood she had resented Bertie’s averageness and tried to mold him into the brilliant, morally stellar young man she wished he could be. There are flashbacks to his early years, when Bertie is forced to study six days a week and forbidden to see other children. Subsequent scenes delve into the difficult relationship of mother and son after Albert’s death: the audience sees, for example, Victoria sending Bertie on an extended trip to the Middle East so she can avoid sight of him; her insistence, upon his engagement, that his future mother-in-law be told about Nellie Clifden; her clear preference for Arthur, her seventh child.

Then comes the dramatic climax of the film, the revealing scene in which viewers see a different side of Queen Victoria. In November 1871, Bertie falls ill with typhoid fever. As the Prince of Wales lies near death, blame and faultfinding are forgotten as the queen rushes to his side. She becomes a loving mother wanting only for her son to get well (which he does). Realizing she has been wrong but unwilling to admit it, Victoria will say only that Bertie has changed, that illness has left him gentler and kinder—and she stumbles toward acceptance.

Who have I cast in the leading roles? Kate Winslet plays Queen Victoria. She lacks the real queen’s short stature, but she brings a forceful personality to the part. Paul Dano, who did such a fine job portraying the young Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy, is my choice for the youthful Bertie, whom he resembles. For the older Bertie, who else but Leonardo DiCaprio?  With a beard he could look the part, and he and Winslet have acted well and famously together.

DiCaprio gets the final scene—and perhaps the final word. The film ends in 1901, with the new king, Edward VII, purging Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace of his late mother’s personal effects. He savors a cigar, because she had forbidden him to smoke in her presence. He is asserting his power in a small way, just as Victoria did in 1837, when as the new queen she dined alone, without her own mother, the Duchess of Kent.

There were those who said Victoria resented her son because she saw too much of herself in him, and possibly they were right. People are complicated, and so are their emotions.
Visit Catherine Reef's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Catherine Reef & Nandi.

The Page 69 Test: Frida & Diego.

My Book, The Movie: Noah Webster.

The Page 99 Test: Florence Nightingale.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

David Clary's "Gangsters to Governors"

David Clary is a news editor at The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Here he dreamcasts an adaptation of his new book, Gangsters to Governors: The New Bosses of Gambling in America:
My nonfiction book, Gangsters to Governors: The New Bosses of Gambling in America, explores how and why states have encouraged and promoted the expansion of legalized gambling in America. The book, published by Rutgers University Press, touches on the evolution and expansion of lotteries, tribal gaming, commercial casinos, sports gambling, daily fantasy, racetrack betting, and much more.

My six years of research and writing led me to a rogue’s gallery of colorful characters, from John “Old Smoke” Morrissey, the Irish-born gangster who built Saratoga into a gambling haven in the nineteenth century, to Bugsy Siegel, the gangster who completed the Flamingo hotel-casino in Las Vegas only to be assassinated months later. Daniel Day-Lewis would be outstanding as Morrissey because he portrayed his arch-rival Bill the Butcher Poole in the film Gangs of New York. For Siegel, Tom Hiddleston would be able pull off the lean athleticism and charm leavened with the necessary streak of menace.

Other key roles and the actors who would fill them:

Howard Hughes: Leonardo DiCaprio, who captured his paranoia in The Aviator

Benny Binion: Woody Harrelson, who would convey the Texan's good-ole-boy roughness

Steve Wynn: Michael Douglas, who has that appealing bad-boy charisma

Donald Trump: Well, who else but Alec Baldwin?
Visit David Clary's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dennis Glover's "The Last Man in Europe"

Dennis Glover is an Australian writer and novelist. The son of factory workers, Glover grew up in the working class Melbourne suburb of Doveton before studying at Monash University and King’s College Cambridge where he was awarded a PhD in history. He has worked for two decades as an academic, newspaper columnist, policy adviser and speechwriter to Australia’s most senior political, business and community leaders. An often outspoken political commentator, his books include An Economy is not a Society, The Art of Great Speeches and Orwell’s Australia.

Here Glover dreamcasts an adaptation of his debut novel, The Last Man in Europe, which tells the dramatic story of how George Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four:
While writing The Last Man in Europe, I knew exactly who I wanted to play George Orwell as he struggled to give the world Nineteen Eighty-Four: Benedict Cumberbatch. In The Imitation Game, which is about Alan Turing, inventor of the modern computer, Cumberbatch showed his ability to play socially awkward and intellectually complex characters from the period. Turing and Orwell were near contemporaries, and Cumberbatch and Orwell even look alike: tall, gaunt, dark featured.

For the role of Eileen O’Shaughnessy – Orwell’s brave, witty and tragic wife – who else but Claire Foy, Britain’s greatest living period actress? To me, Claire Foy is the 1940s – the most stylish as well as dramatic decade of them all.
Visit Dennis Glover's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, December 1, 2017

Jessica Brockmole's "Woman Enters Left"

Jessica Brockmole is the author of At the Edge of Summer, the internationally bestselling Letters from Skye, which was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly, and Something Worth Landing For, a novella featured in Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War.

Here Brockmole dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest novel, Woman Enters Left:
Woman Enters Left takes place in the 1920s and the 1950s over two cross-country road trips—one with an aspiring screenwriter driving a Model T towards hopeful fame in Hollywood, the other with a jaded actress driving across Route 66 to escape that same Hollywood. In each storyline, I tried to evoke films from that era—1950s Louise narrates a story in widescreen Technicolor and, in the 1920s, Ethel and Florrie tell theirs like a silent movie, through written words (in their case, diaries instead of intertitles) and close-ups of expressive faces. As I wrote the book, I watched a lot of movies from both eras and called it “research,” so when asked to mentally cast the film version of Woman Enters Left, I can’t help but do it with actors from those eras. So if you will indulge me….

Florrie, the screenwriter with the Model T and a big secret, is all quiet emotion. On the screen, she’d be the one with big, expressive eyes, emoting for all she’s worth to the close-up shots. With delicate features and what her best friend Ethel describes as hair “like Botticelli’s Venus,” I see her as played by an actress like Maud Fealy or Bessie Love.

I picture Ethel, petite and dark-haired, as played by someone like Clara Bow or Madge Bellamy, someone expressive, lively, and who, as, Florrie put it, “lights up the street like a Roman candle.” My character doesn’t quite match the reputed wildness of those actresses, but Ethel reclaims this vitality on the drive across the United States.

Louise, on a solitary road trip in 1952, is also looking to reclaim the fierceness she brought to Hollywood fifteen years ago. She narrates her journey wryly, showing flashes of stubbornness and humor during her adventure. It’s perhaps too easy to give this role to a heavyweight like Lauren Bacall, but I really can’t picture anyone else poised with such silky grace behind the wheel of her convertible or speaking her lines with such exquisite dryness. As you read Woman Enters Left, I dare you to not picture Bacall on the pages.
Learn more about the book and author at Jessica Brockmole's website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The Page 69 Test: Letters from Skye.

My Book, The Movie: Letters from Skye.

--Marshal Zeringue