Who would play Birdie Wilson?


If I were a screenplay writer, I would love to get my hands on The Baby River Angel. If I were a casting director, I would love to seek the perfect actor to play the role of Birdie Wilson—to say nothing of heroic Molly Hearst; the rock-solid deputy, Lynn Swafford; Johnny White, the silky-smooth mayor of Cambria; Granny Vogler, the town sorehead, and Ida Quattlebaum, the reclusive heir to the Quattlebaum Steamboat Company fortune.

And there are others: Father Jacob and Pastor Mike, Sam Gowdy, Sheriff Clarence Higgins, Pudge Gaither, all the memorable Cambria townspeople who take up Baby Angel’s cause. Make no mistake, The Baby River Angel would be pure delight to cast. (OK, I’m a bit prejudiced. They’re my characters and I love them all!)

But let me explain. In case you’re not up to speed on it all, this is the third installment of my discussion on which of my novels would make the best movie. I’ve already dealt with Circles in the Water and The Life and Death of Lizzie Morris.

The story line of The Baby River Angel is deceptively simple. When Birdie Wilson and his two boys find a baby floating in a basket on the Ohio River, they can’t begin to imagine the impact their discovery is to have on the little town of Cambria.

Accepting Birdie’s dictum that the child welfare people will name her “Baby Jane Doe” and lose her in their impersonal system, the townspeople, led by Mayor White, set out to keep the baby a secret from authorities and take care of her themselves until they find out who she is
Surprising things follow. Cambrians who’ve never agreed on anything come together. Father Jacob and Pastor Mike, always competitive, work in harmony. Granny Vogler and Ida Quattlebaum find common interests. Molly Hearst, who cares for and comes to love Baby Angel like her own, finds love with Lynn Swafford, a deputy sheriff searching for the baby after one of Birdie’s boys inadvertently reveals her existence. Deputy Swafford quickly comes to sympathize with the Cambrians, but he still has to answer to Sheriff Higgins, a lawman who sees his duty and never gives up. But does Sheriff Higgins, even, have a soft heart?

Overriding all the drama is a persistent question: Where did the baby come from?

There’s only one clue. “Magnolia,” barely visible, is stamped on the side of the basket in which Baby Angel was floating when Birdie found her. If only someone could figure out what it means!

But I’ve probably said enough. The Baby River Angel is a feel-good story that leaves readers smiling and obviously should have the same effect on movie-goers. If it were made into a movie, that is.

Would it be my choice? Not sure yet. Next time I’ll take up the cause of my fourth novel, Blood on the Roses. Talk about a different tone!

Please feel welcome to come back and see.


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