Showing posts with label Victor Gischler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Victor Gischler. Show all posts

15 March 2024

From Gun Monkeys to Fast Charlie

Gun Monkeys - original cover

When I started out, back when cell phones were actual phones and texting required learning a new set of runes to type into your keypad, I made the acquaintance of one Victor Gischler. Back then, he and pal Anthony Neil Smith ran the now-missed Plots With Guns webzine. I have a special fondness for PWG as they gave me my first publishing credit in their second issue, a short story called "A Walk in the Rain."

At the time, Gisch was putting the finishing touches on his first novel, a nasty slice of noir called Gun Monkeys, which had already been taken by a rather well-regarded small press. Gun Monkeys debuted in 2003 to much acclaim, and off Mr. Gischler went. The Big Five (There were five back then. Good times!) snapped him up and published Suicide Squeeze and Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse. The latter should have been optioned for SyFy back before it got glommed by Peacock. Marvel tapped him to write for Wolverine, Deadpool, and the X-Men.

Then, in the midst of the pandemic, producers approached him about adapting Gun Monkeys. Hollywood being Hollywood, they moved the action from Florida to Gischler's native Gulf Coast region near New Orleans and southern Mississippi. Pierce Brosnan took on the role of "Fast Charlie" Swift with Morena Baccarin as Marcie and James Cann (in his last film role) as a doddering Stan. There were other changes, but the heart of the story remained. It's been twenty years, after all. In the original, Stan was still trying to cling to power. In the movie, Charlie is trying to protect a father figure whose mind is literally fading to nothing scene by scene. And, of course, they gave the movie the title Fast Charlie

I watched Fast Charlie when it came out late last year. Other than Brosnan's cringe-inducing accent (An Irishman trying to sound Cajun is a dicey prospect.), it was very well done. Many of the changes had to do with the changes in society over two decades and the fact a movie director has only ninety minutes to two-and-a-half hours to tell a story. Plus script writers gotta script. Hand me, SA Cosby, or Nathan Singer The Maltese Falcon, and you'll get three different movies, none of which look like Bogie's version.All in all, I'd say director Phillip Noyce and screenwriter Richard Wenk did a good job invoking the original. Helps that Gun Monkeys was a short book.

Fast Charlie, the retitled version of Gun Monkeys from Hardcase Crime

Still, I asked for (and got) the original, retitled Fast Charlie, from Hardcase Crime. Honestly, Hardcase Crime is probably a better home for the book than it's original publisher. But it didn't exist in 2003, and Uglytown's short existence gave the book some heft in its original run. However, when I originally read it, I had vastly different pictures of Charlie and Stan. Baccarin as Marcie, though, solidified my original image of the character. On reread, I couldn't help seeing Brosnan as Charlie and Caan as Stan.

It's pretty rare when an adaptation invokes the original so well. Look at how many times Dune has been done. David Lynch's mind-bending version wasn't even the first attempt. A French movie in the seventies would have probably required a visit from the Merry Pranksters, with their psychedelic Kool-Aid, to watch. The Syfy version lacked heart but at least could be followed. But Dune is a long, complicated book. Still, even the simplest novels can morph into something other than what the author intended. See The Long Goodbye.