Thursday, June 2, 2011

Paris to Die For (2011)

I am a screenwriter with a love of obscure movies, hence this blog. In fact, the more obscure the movie, the more inclined I am to write about it. Stanley Donen’s Charade (1964) is a famous romantic thriller. How many know or remember such similar one-name romantic thrillers from the mid-sixties as Stanley Donen’s Arabesque (Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren), Philip Dunne’s Blindfold (Rock Hudson and Claudia Cardinale, and a clever plot device that was later recycled by another Universal motion picture, Sneakers), Ronald Neame’s Gambit (Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine) and Jack Smight’s Kaleidoscope (Warren Beatty and the incomparable Susannah York)? Gambit is currently being remade with Colin Firth in the Michael Caine role.

Several years ago, I came across a letter written by Jackie Kennedy, when she was Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, in which she wrote about the possibility of going to work for the CIA. This was in May, 1951 when she was a recent college graduate. Being a writer, my imagination was piqued and I immediately envisioned Jackie as the star of her own mid-sixties romantic thriller. I saw her as a neophyte CIA agent in Paris—her favorite city—getting in and out of trouble with the aid of a handsome young Frenchman, who was a company stringer. The story would take place in 1951 with Jackie and her Frenchman racing around the City of Light from the Opera House to the Gare de Lyon, the Windsor Estate, the House of Dior, the Jeu de Paume Museum and, finally, Notre Dame cathedral in search of a mysterious document left behind by a dead Russian defector. The whole idea coalesced in my head in less than fifteen minutes.

Then came the difficult part—taking my idea and transforming it into a fully fleshed-out story. For some reason, I never thought seriously about writing it as a screenplay. Instead, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel. The thing came out in a burst and in no time I had written the first six chapters (approximately 15,000 words) and a detailed thirteen-page outline of the whole story.

But as I read it over, there was something I found unsatisfying. Something was missing—a woman’s touch to help bring the main character fully to life. And so I approached several professional writers I knew with an eye toward a possible collaboration. When they all fell by the wayside, I decided to turn to craigslist. I thought to myself, after all, people place ads here to sell furniture or find love. Why not place an ad asking for a published female author to collaborate with me?

As you can expect, I received many responses. Most of them were from the usual craigslist crackpots. But several were from professional writers. Of them, I chose to work with a woman living in Florida, who was the author of one novel and several works of non-fiction. She liked what I had written and, to her credit, rolled up her sleeves and got right to work with me on the book.

Six months later, the book was finished. One month after that, our agent sold the manuscript. In fact, we were offered a two-book contract for this book and its sequel. And now, at long last, that first book, PARIS TO DIE FOR, is about to be published (under the pen name Maxine Kenneth). And with an idea that took flight based on my original homage to those obscure movies of the mid-sixties. The finished book hews very closely to those original six chapters and 13-page outline. I like to flatter myself by thinking that the late Peter Stone, screenwriter of Charade, would appreciate this project.


PK the Bookeemonster said...

My name is PK Madsen. I have a mystery newsletter called Premeditated - Crime Fiction Planned in Advance. Would it be possible to get a short excerpt of your upcoming book, PARIS TO DIE FOR, for the July issue? I am unable to find this through publicity materials or any other source.
Premeditated is a monthly publication listing new releases in crime fiction. For each book, there is a summary, excerpt, author's back list, and release info. Monthly, each author's book will be receiving a half-page for his/her new release (and back list) at no cost to them or the publisher. Most of the information is available from various publicity sources online, however, I'm having difficulty locating some authors' information. In essence, Premeditated is more publicity for the new books coming out.
I am committed to making this newsletter a reality because I am passionate about crime fiction and I think there is a need and a niche and frankly it is what I'm looking for in a mystery news mag/newsletter. I can email a PDF of the May issue to give you an idea of what this is. Maximum word count I would need would be about 200 to 300 as I'm limited in space and don't want to infringe on copyrights, just a flavor of the author's voice. If you could send it by June 26th that would be terrific.

Thank you very much for your time.
PK Madsen

James Nesten said...

Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a bizarre modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through Vanguard Cinema (, and is currently
debuting on Cable Video On Demand. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the glam/punk tunes "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst" and "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire", and a dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.


***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
before..." Film Threat
"A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
"Consistently stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
version of David Lynch. " IFC News
"Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
"Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque