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The Blonde


If Duane Swierczynki’s new book The Blonde hasn’t been optioned by a movie producer yet, Hollywood’s paid novel readers aren’t doing their jobs. And once they do “discover” this book, I hope they’ll hire me to write the adapted screenplay. Why? Because the story will make a cracking good movie and the screenplay almost writes itself.

The Blonde starts with a classic high

“The Blonde”

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concept hook. A guy walks into a bar. And is poisoned. By a blonde…whose head will literally explode if the guy doesn’t stay within ten feet of her. And if she dies, the secret antidote to his poison goes with her and the guy dies, too.

Other novels would take a chapter setting up the situation, explaining how the blonde got in this predicament, and who this newly poisoned guy is and why – or why not – he deserves his plight. All the adapting screenwriter has to sort all that out and get us to the central life-or-death conflict within twenty pages or less. Swierczynski saves that labor. He sets it up on page one, on line one: “I poisoned your drink.” Now, that’s not a line one hears everyday from a stranger in a Philadelphia airport bar.

Of course the guy, Jack Eisley, doesn’t believe the blonde really poisoned him. Yet he can’t figure out if she’s just kidding, if that’s her way of shaking off guys who flirt with her at airport bars, if she’s running a con, or if – maybe just maybe – she really is some kind of psychopathic killer. Jack is a pretty rational guy and figures she can’t be serious, so he decides to head to his hotel and get some sleep before his important breakfast meeting. The blonde tells him he’s in for some pretty unpleasant gastrointestinal distress and, if he doesn’t get the antidote, a trip to the morgue in ten hours.

That’s one pretty good dramatic conflict established in the first five minutes, all presented in snappy boy-meets-girl dialogue that the screenwriter simply has to copy from the novel. Less dramatic conflicts have carried movies before. What will happen to Jack? Is he really poisoned? Why? Will he get the antidote or will he die?

The Blonde quickly throws another mystery into the mix. Across town Mike Kowalski is about to squeeze the trigger on his sniper rifle and wax a mobster sitting down to a slice of pizza across the street. When Mike’s phone vibrates, he puts the hit on hold and takes the call. The familiar voice on the other end want him to fly to Houston and collect the head of someone who has recently died. Also, he’s to track down one Kelly White, last known to be drinking at a bar in the airport.

We’re ten minutes into the movie, er the book, and we’ve got a blonde who may have killed a seemingly innocent guy and an assassin who may be on his way to kill the blonde. And Jack? He’s starting to experience some very nasty cramps and power vomiting.

Deciding to take the blonde more seriously, he heads back to the airport to find her. Which he does, although she’s in the company of another man at the time. She dumps the other guy – leaving him with a big wet kiss – and climbs in the cab to accompany Jack back to his hotel. Kowalski sees the whole thing and phones in for instructions. Follow the guy the blonde dumped, he’s told, and note the license number of the cab that takes Jack and the blonde away.

Back at the hotel, we – and Jack – learn about another major conflict that will move our story along: the blonde, AKA Kelly White, is infected with “nanomachines,” extremely tiny machines that course through her circulatory system. She worked in a lab that developed the technology and, as often happens in these top secret labs funded by governments looking for an edge, the whole thing has gone to hell. The twist on Kelly’s nanomachines? If she is not within ten feet of another human being for more than a few seconds, the nanomachines race to her head and it explodes. At least that’s her story….

So there are three basic conflicts powering the story, along with a number of secondary suspense threads. Who does Kowalski work for? Who did Kelly work for? Is her story about the nanomachines – more plausible than a lot of set-ups we see in movies – accurate? Is Jack living his last day? How difficult is it to make sure you always have someone within ten feet of your person?

It all works for the thrilling novel and would entertain even more on the screen. In addition to this compelling plot, Swierczynski has created three main characters who, just as we think we’ve figured them out, do something that causes us to reevaluate them. These intersecting character arcs spin the story a little bit smarter than the simple high concept plot line.

So, Mr. Movie Producer, please option The Blonde, then give me a call. I love the story so much that I’ll adapt it for scale…plus a few points. And do it quick – as if your head will explode if you dawdle too long.

Share  Posted by mzeringue at 10:50 AM | Permalink

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