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The book (i.e. the first novel in my series of Moss Reid mysteries, Another Case in Cowtown) strolls up, sits down, lights up a fag (hey! When did he start smoking?) and says he’s a bit concerned about the movie rights.

Cahiers du Cinéma cover of the Quiet Man“It’s all very well and good when I was still just a book,” he says, “because to a significant extent it was you, me and the readers who got to decide how the characters look and sound and smell and waddle around.

“OK, we might give the readers a brief description of characters or scenes or the weather that day, but more often than not we leave it to the reader to take care of the interiors and exteriors, the exact colour schemes, the smells and sounds, the accents and soundtracks and even most of the characters’ attire and hairstyles.

“Sometimes we might suggest or give a hint about a zoom here, a close-up there, through this relatively minimalist script, letting the reader flesh out all the other bits, from whether Moss Reid shaved properly this morning to one particular reader’s perverse decision to use Dolly Parton’s cover version of Bowie’s ‘Berlin period’ for the soundtrack to the final fight scene, if you know what I mean.”

“Er yuuuuuueeeaaaahhh, you could say all that,” I say.

“But once it becomes a movie, it can become a bit awkward,” my book continues. “It’s a bit like meeting your favourite singer or movie actor in the flesh.” No sooner has my novel stubbed out one cigarette than he’s lighting up another. I’m really going to have to have a word about that. “Like…” he searches for an example I can relate to, “like you bump into George Clooney at Farranfore Airport or Grace Kelly doing the weekly shop in Tesco’s on Prussia Street and it’s never quite how you’d thought it would be,” he continues.

“What are you on about now?”

“You meet your idol in person, in the airport or the aisle for probiotic yoghurt, and you’re always a tad disappointed, aren’t you? They’re always shorter or fatter or less graceful than they were in your own imagination.”

“Not Danny De Vito. He’s always graceful,” I say.

“Yeah, maybe, I’ll give you that. But once you sell the movie rights, it’s like the thin end of the wedge. All of us get shoved out of the picture – the author, the reader and the novel, the whole lot of us. Someone else is the boss, sitting in the fancy director’s chair. And whoever they manage to get, this fancy director that we’ve probably never heard of, well his or her choices won’t necessarily match mine or yours or the readers’, will they? The movie version could turn out to be a pale anaemic imitation of the version playing in your head when you were reading the book version and ‘directing’ everything, as it were.”

“All the same, I wouldn’t mind Danny De Vito in charge,” I say. “He’s a funny guy.”

“Sure, but I was thinking more of Kathryn Bigelow. Or Jean-Luc Godard.”

Jaysus wept. Another Case in Cowtown is hardly out the door and I haven’t even sold the movie rights yet, yet he’s wittering on about getting into the Cahiers du Cinéma.

  • Seriously though… for all queries about obtaining the movie/TV rights to my books, contact me via the usual channels and we must do lunch.

Cahiers du Cinéma

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