To celebrate the launch of The Almanack My Book, The Movie Blogspot invited me to 'dreamcast' an adaptation of my novel. It doesn't mean it's actually going to be filmed - I just get the chance to imagine it.
My heroine Tabitha was a courtesan in London, and is sharp-witted, light-fingered and bold, a shrewd handler of people, and charming when she wants to be. To play her I had in mind Crystal Laity’s performance as harlot Margaret Vosper in Poldark, a mix of intelligence and physical allure.
Tabitha’s love interest is rakeish poet Nat Starling, a Cambridge University drop-out, obsessed with time. His creativity mixes with bouts of stupidity and drunkenness. No apologies for casting Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark) as the intense, long-haired writer.
Joshua Saxton is Tabitha’s devoted old flame, now a widower and the dogged village constable. Rugged Alex O’Loughlin would be ideal (convict Will Bryant in mini-series Mary Bryant).
Joshua’s daughter Jennet represents the younger generation: still girlish at 15, her pursuit of romance and superstition leads her into danger. I’d love a young Christina Ricci, circa Sleepy Hollow to play her.
Youngest of all is Bess Hart, the infant left in the care of murdered Widow Hart. Precocious and beautiful at 3-years old, she walks in her sleep and some claim she has second sight. I picture her as Sally Jane Bruce, the child actor who played Pearl in the classic noir, The Night of the Hunter.
The Almanack is located in Cheshire and the county town of Chester, a 2,000 year old walled city in England famed for its distinctive black and white high-gabled buildings. Tabitha’s home village of Netherlea is scattered around a manor house, where country customs are celebrated, from a blood-stained harvest through autumn bonfires and a snowbound Christmas.
I would love to see a director capture the mix of fairy story and murder mystery, so someone with the talent of The Night of the Hunter’s Charles Laughton springs to mind as a dream come true. I’ll never forget the magical escape of the children along the benighted river with a soundtrack of Pearl’s eerily sung lullaby.
I’m sure Laughton (and his wizard of a cinematographer, Stanley Cortez) would do justice to the stars and moon reflected in watermeadows, the snowbound castle, and flickering candlelight as Tabitha and Nat study the almanack for the next riddle and revelation.
To celebrate the launch of A Taste for Nightshade I was invited by 'My Book the Movie' blogspot to 'dreamcast' an adaptation of my novel. It doesn't mean it's actually going to be filmed - I just get the chance to imagine it:
In my dream version I’d like to resurrect Alfred Hitchcock to direct my novel. I'm picturing the atmospheric sets he used for Rebecca and the way Hitch used food to drive his plots . I’ll never forget the illuminated glass of poisoned milk in Suspicion, or Marion Crane picking over her last sandwich in Psycho.
My flame-haired confidence trickster Mary is a talented cook, impersonator, and born survivor. I’d give her role to Myanna Buring, Edna in Downton Abbey and star of Banished and Ripper Street.
Mary’s timid mistress is Grace Moore, warm-hearted and vulnerable Anna Maxwell-Martin (Death Comes to Pemberley, Bleak House).
While writing I pictured Grace’s weak but handsome husband as a young James Fox. The other male lead is escaped convict Will, to be played by The Last Kingdom's Ragnar, Tobias Santelmann.
The main location, Delafosse Hall, is based on a house in North Wales with forgotten tunnels, decaying summerhouse, tales of hopeless love and ghostly hauntings. If it could have Hitchcock's brooding Manderley appearance I'd be very happy. My dark mystery also takes the reader to London’s Golden Square, the convict camps of Sydney, Australia, and Maori settlements of New Zealand.
The food needs to be highly crafted, from aphrodisiacs and poisons, to a tiny sugar four-poster bed for a wedding cake and a miniature baby and cradle. When writing the book I studied sugarwork with TV food historian Ivan Day, who created the food for Death Comes to Pemberley.
I’m sure Hitchcock would conjure the twisting staircases of Delafosse Hall, the snowbound winter rides, flickering candlelight and create edge-of-the-seat moments from the twists and revelations.
Image stills courtesy of Hitchcock's 'Rebecca' 1940.
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