Zoë Sharp

We British as a whole are very bad at the practice of blowing our own trumpet.

As a general rule, we’d rather apologise for being bad at something – take your pick of any sporting activity, from cricket to football (soccer) – than we would boast of our successes. Maybe we’ve had so few successes as a nation recently that we’re out of the habit. (See, there I go again…)

So, I’ve found this post very difficult to write.

You see, while I was at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival a couple of weeks ago, I found out that the news is official.

The Charlie Fox series has been optioned by Twentieth Century Fox TV.

I heard the news in the bar (of course – this was a crime writing convention, where else would I be?) I was just introducing fellow author Russel D McLean to his American publisher, who I happened to know and he’d never met, when the publisher paused, looked at me and said, “Didn’t I just get an email about you – something about a movie deal?”

(Oh, and isn’t this a great picture of Russel, by the way? It was taken by the incredibly talented Mary Reagan, and really should be his official author photo.)

Of all the ways to find out the proverbial cat was out of the bag, that has to be one of the most unexpected. When fellow crime writerist and famous beardy person, Stuart MacBride, heard the news, he was dancing about with a huge grin on his face, while I admit I was just looking a bit nonplused.

Of course, since then I’ve had a bit of time to think about it, for the implications to settle in and, frankly, I’m still thinking… Wow.

Of course, apart from wandering round with an occasional big stupid cheesy grin on my face, I don’t quite know what to make of it. I’ve had emails from people – including all the ‘Rati crew, of course – wishing me congrats, but the Brit in me feels compelled to point out that it’s only half an inch up towards the first rung on the ladder. There’s a hell of a long way to go from page to screen, as I’m sure many a previously optioned author will testify. (You see? I just can’t help myself.)

But for the moment, I can allow myself the odd little daydream, the most immediate of which (apart from wondering what it was they saw in my series that made them option it in the first place, and what elements might make it through to the final phase) is who would play the characters. I know, I know, it’s sad, but what author hasn’t done it?

The dream, of course, is to have a relative unknown, like Noomi Rapace who played Lisabeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium trilogy. But who will take the role in next year’s remake, considering Daniel Craig has already been cast as Mikael Blomkvist? If it’s a big name, they’ll bring a big slice of their own personality to the part. Does the character gain or lose from that?

The problem for me is, that because Charlie Fox is a first-person character, I never get a good look at her. She’s not the kind of girl who spends a long time staring into mirrors, and the only time she’s looking at reflections in shop windows is doing counter-surveillance routines.

Now, Sean I have a much clearer picture of. Probably something like the Sam Worthington character in ‘Terminator Salvation’.

Charlie’s fallen-from-grace slightly cold orthopedic surgeon father? Well, how about somebody like Michael Kitchen, although minus the hat.

And Charlie’s boss, Parker Armstrong? In my world, Mark Harmon would be a distinct possibility.

And yes, I know there isn’t a cat in hell’s chance of any of this fantasy cast becoming a reality, but I can dream, can’t I?

My problem is that Charlie is very close to me, which is a problem when it comes to me picturing her as somebody else – or somebody else as her. Fellow crime author Meg Gardiner once described one of her lead protagonists as “me with the brakes off” and that probably about sums it up. Only, to that I’d add “me with the brakes off, fighting mad and heading for timber” as well.

So, I’m open to suggestions. Help! How do you see her? Or any of the characters? Or any characters in your own or your favourite books, that have or haven’t made it to screen yet? Did the actor playing the part fit your idea, or ruin it for you?

This week’s Phrase of the Week is letting the cat out of the bag, meaning to reveal a secret. It stems from medieval markets where an unsuspecting buyer was often shown a suckling piglet, but while negotiations were taking place on the price, and the piglet was being bagged up for the journey home, an accomplice would often substitute it for a cat instead. The duped buyer would only discover this when he got home and, quite literally, let the cat out of the bag.

50 thoughts on “Harbinger

  1. Louise Ure

    I’m with Kaye and JD. I only picture you when Ii read a Charlie book. Now where’s Miss Cornelia with her famous Separated At Birth skill? She can find an actress who can play you.

  2. toni mcgee causey

    Wonderful news and I’m with Stuart, dancing the happy dance for you! (er, hobbling the happy dance!)

    And I, too, see you as Charlie, which I honestly hadn’t realized until I saw the other comments.

  3. Tom

    Zoe, if not you, then Beth Riesgraf (Parker in ‘Leverage’) or Hannah Spearritt of BBC’s ‘Primeval.’ And congrats, we’ll all be praying for a green light on beyond a pilot.

  4. Lance C.

    Congratulations! First Tess, now you. The Murderati will soon have prime time filled with crime series.

    I’ve always read that "let the cat out of the bag" is a nautical term, referring to the bag in which the bos’un’s mate kept the cat o’nine tails. When the "cat" came out of the bag, someone was due a whipping.

  5. pari noskin taichert

    I’m so happy for you. And it’s unanimous, we all want YOU to play Charlie.

    You asked about other characters in film or TV and I immediately thought of Kathleen Turner as VI Warshawski (sp?). Too elegant, too classy for gritty VI. I didn’t believe it from the moment she opened her mouth and had that gorgeous voice.

    And the movie was a dud anyway: a waste of good talent and a waste of Paretsky’s excellent original concept/writing.

  6. R.J. Mangahas

    Wow, congratulations Char—er, Zoé. See? Everyone thinks you should play the part. Seriously, that’s great news that it’s been optioned. Good luck to it happening. I for one would look forward to seeing it.

  7. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Tom

    I looked up both Beth Riesgraf and Hannah Spearritt – not actors I’d come across before. They both look great – very cool – but mabye too skinny? I have to say I’d always pictured Charlie as being more, well, normal sized? She can’t be a little waif of a thing and still chuck people about in her line of work.

  8. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Lance

    I’m keeping my fingers, eyes and legs crossed, but as I keep saying, at the moment it’s only an option. Who knows how much further it will go…

    Interesting alternative for ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ – yours sounds just as plausible, if not more so ;-] Our language is peppered with nautical/navel phrases. There’s a joint medieval fayre/nautical explanation for ‘not enough room to swing a cat’ but I won’t repeat it here for fear of upsetting cat lovers everywhere!

  9. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Pari

    Hey, I even mucked up my lines in the school play (yet another reason for leaving early).

    I remember that movie. Kathleen Turner also played VI in the BBC radio play version, for which I understand she was paid standard BBC radio rates – a pittance for a star of her ilk!

    I think Val Kilmer was possibly less suited to being The Saint. I loved the books, even managed to stomach the Roger Moore/Ian Ogilvy TV shows, but I turned off the movie halfway through and never went back to it. Not something I do very often.

  10. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Gar

    Loved the YouTube clip – you rock! If it was up to me, you’d definitely be in, but I fear I’ll be a long way down the pecking order when it comes to casting <sigh>

  11. Robert Gregory Browne

    Hey, Zoe, enjoy the ride! It’s certainly a fun one.

    Noomi Rapace would be wonderful casting. Love her.

    When they were getting ready to cast Kiss Her Goodbye, I could NOT, for the life of me, think of an actor to play the lead . My mind just seemed to go blank. Then they cast Dylan Walsh and I thought, duh. Nip/Tuck was one of my favorite shows..

    Enjoy these next few months. And I’ll keep my fingers crossed that, like Tess, you go the distance with this one.

  12. lil Gluckstern

    Wow, and congratulations, and good luck and all. I have a warm space in my heart for Charlie. It must be your writing, but I treasure those books. Whoever they cast, I hope they keep the star close to tough, smart, and soft like Charlie!
    When can I set my DVR?

  13. Jake Nantz

    Zoe that’s great!! Congratulations! I second the Sam Worthington suggestion to play Sean. Perfect quiet badass.

    As for Charlie, I always kind of pictured her with a brunette Lauren Holly, who is a little on the skinny side, but there’s a scene in Any Given Sunday where she slaps her husband (Quaid) and flexes while she’s giving him what-for, and she looks like she could kick his ass in her sleep.

    Also, the "enough room to swing a cat" line? Is that where the Python boys got the old woman beating a cat against the wall in The Search for the Holy Grail?

  14. Dudley Forster

    Congrats Zoe! To Charlie, the best American salute I can think of is Oo-Rah!!!!

    As for casting, seeing that picture of you sitting on your bike, I have to agree you are Charlie. If not you I think of Cote de Pablo would do nicely. I also have to jump on the Mark Harmon train.

  15. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Rob

    I’m going to have to pick your brains about what happens next in all this. I’m still a bit goggle-eyed with the whole thing.

    Hmm, hadn’t thought of Noomi Rapace for Charlie. But I’m told she did learn to ride a motorcycle and take up kick-boxing to play Lisabeth Santander…

    Dylan Walsh was in ‘Blood Work’ as well, wasn’t he?

  16. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Lil

    "Whoever they cast, I hope they keep the star close to tough, smart, and soft like Charlie!"

    I second that, absolutely. There’s no guarantee, of course, that they’ll even keep her as a Brit, but I hope they do. It’s all part of her outsider status.

    And don’t worry, if it gets to screen stage, I’ll be telling everyone ;-]

  17. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Jake – I loved Lauren Holly in NCIS. Haven’t seen Any Given Sunday, but will have to check it out.

    Enough room to swing a cat? You really want to know? OK, there are two possible derivations. It’s often thought that the phrase, a reference to small confined spaces, comes from 17thC sailors needing space in which to swing a cat o’ nine tails, but there’s evidence going back a couple of centuries earlier. In the 15thC, it was practice at country fayres and festivals to throw a cat by swinging it by its tail, to give archers a moving target (well, I did apologise to cat lovers before about this). If the event was busy and therefore crowded, there was no room to swing a cat…

  18. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Dudley

    I borrowed the Triumph Street Triple, but there will be one in my garage soon.

    Or possibly in my hallway – the way modern motorcycles are built, they’re pretty much art anyway.

    Cote de Pablo would be another great suggestion – again, BIG fan of NCIS.

  19. Toby Neal

    I love this post. My mystery’s not even published yet and I want to see it as a TV show or movie! I often fantasize about who would play my characters. What a blast to have it actually happening and you can believe I’ll be following everything about Charlie. Congratulations and tune up that horn for more tooting!

  20. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Toby, but whoa, there! But at the moment it’s just an option, so when you say "actually happening" that may be a slight exaggeration at the moment. Now I’m getting all embarrassed and feel I should be apologising again – wow, I am British, aren’t I ;-]

  21. Toby Neal

    Oh poo. *flips hand* Just a matter of time, m’dear! Did I mention tuning up your horn? Believe I did.
    People know a good thing when they see (and read) it.

  22. becky hutchison

    How exciting for you, Zoe! I can’t think of anyone but you for Charlie Fox. I agree with your picks of Michael Kitchen for Charlie’s dad and Mark Harmon for the boss. They would be perfect. I hope the option continues through to action and that we can all see Charlie on TV soon.

    (Great picture on the bike.)

  23. Cornelia Read

    Zoe, this news makes me so so so happy, and I can’t think of anyone to play Charlie but you. Perfect casting… and I’m a huge Michael Kitchen fan, as well.


  24. KDJames / BCB

    I’ve been forcing myself to stay off the internet (mostly) and concentrate on finishing the final draft, but this is so very awesome, Zoë. I just have to break my silence to say: Congratulations! I hope they run with it and make a production worthy of the original work.

    I haven’t even read your Charlie Fox novels yet (there are four of them stacked up right in front of me on my coffee table, as incentive to finish writing so I can read again) but every time I hear you talk about Charlie, I see that pic you posted a while back where you’re wearing all brown and standing in the road holding a silver gun and your arm is straight down at your side, head turned toward the camera — there is so much presence and attitude in that shot. To me, THAT is what Charlie looks like. Kinda feeling sorry for the casting people on this one. If they can’t convince you to do it, it’s going to be hard to measure up to that image. 😉

    Keep us posted!

  25. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Becky – I can dream, can’t I But whoever they get – if it gets that far – I’m sure they’ll do a great job. I still remember Jeff Lindsay saying he was amazed by the casting of Michael C Hall for Dexter, but when he saw him, he fitted just perfectly.

    (I’m lusting after that bike…)

  26. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, Cornelia

    I once saw Michael Kitchen play the murderer in something, rather than the good-guy detective, and he was suitably chilling. Charlie’s father has that same edge…

  27. Zoë Sharp

    Thanks, KD/BCB

    That pic is one of my favourites, too, I must admit. Pictures are supposed to tell stories, and that one kinda points you in the right direction as far as my writing goes ;-]

    Best of luck with your final draft – you keep us posted on progress, too!


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