Sound and fury of “Blood on the Roses”


“Blood on the Roses” was my fourth novel, and following my scheme of considering each one separately as a candidate for moviedom it is last in the queue. But here’s the more immediate question: Is it some sort of omen that an Audible Audio edition has just been released by my publisher, Vanilla Heart?

Gary Gerard’s narration is well nuanced and captures the spirit of the story and the characters very well. As I listen, I can virtually see in my mind’s eye the parallel action on a movie screen. But I’m determined not to be biased by this.

 “Blood on the Roses” is plot-driven, and an early reader labeled it the perfect book for a made-for-TV movie. Heck, why limit it to TV? I think it would play great in all the new digital-projection theatres. You know, big screen, stunning visuals and all that.

Like books, movies can be either plot-driven or character-driven or, as often happens, both. The “Blood” story line—missing person, crafty and sensitive woman reporter, FBI agents, mystery that endures to the end, and deeper issues like racism and other prejudices—certainly would sustain a plot-driven production. Throw in the beautiful east Tennessee scenery and you’ve got a strong candidate.

Don’t rule out the strength of the characters, though. Both the “good guys” and the “villains” are worthy of fine actors. Rachel Feigen, the young Jewish reporter; her editor, Bill Skyles; Agents Anton Schuler and Charlie Monroe, each has a strong role. But wouldn’t a good male actor just as soon play Bishop Collins, Barney Vidone or Harlan MacElroy, the three local racists who imperil Feigen as she struggles to find some thread of evidence about what happened to Guy Saillot, the missing young man from Baltimore?

And then there are the two young black men taken prisoner and held in Barney’s Tennessee Bend Motel, Sgt. Willie Jamison, U.S. Army, and Quint Loman, the Urban League lawyer from Philadelphia. In the end, these two are the real heroes—except perhaps for George, the deaf-mute Tennessee Bend caretaker who knows more than anyone else realizes. But I don’t want to give away too much.

I’ve been a journalist most of my adult life and I always wanted to write a novel with a reporter as hero. OK, not a new idea, but heroic reporters make me proud.

Then, during my last semester of teaching at the University of Illinois, I discovered that today’s younger generation knows little about the sordid history of race relations in the United States. Any mention of my own experiences as a young white soldier sent to the fully segregated South in the mid-50s was met with great interest and lots of good questions.

These 20-year-old students, among the best and brightest at a world-class university, were fascinated by the history they had never been taught. They were grateful for the time spent on this in a writing class and thanked me for bringing it into our discussions. I vowed then to do what little I could to help inform those who don’t know what it was like in the South—which I love, and where I feel much at home—for earlier generations.

Come to think of it, having “Blood on the Roses” made into a movie might help accomplish this, as well. Many more people would see the movie than ever will read the book. Just sayin’.   

Come back next week. I’ll give you my decision on which of the four novels I’d rather see made into a movie first. Meanwhile, feel free to speculate.                




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