Intruders episode one preview

Category: Book club

Here at Killer Reads we were hugely excited to hear that BBC America was going to turn one of our favourite books, THE INTRUDERS, into an 8-part TV show. We waited on tenterhooks to hear what the plans for UK transmission would be. Whispers reached our ears that it was probably going to air on BBC2, which seemed like it might be too good to be true. In the meantime, the transmission date for the US premiere was set for 23rd August. But when would we get to see it in the UK? It seemed so unfair – after all, although the novel, and the TV show, are set in the US, the author is British!

Then I got a very exciting email inviting me to see the first episode on the same day as it aired in the US. Michael Marshall was going to be in Brighton on the 23rd August, but BBC America had been kind enough to send him a preview disc and grant him permission to share it with a small group of family and friends – and he in turn was kind enough to include me in that group.

It was a huge privilege to get an early look at the show and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. For those who have read the book, the opening scene might be somewhat confusing – the show begins in a completely different way from the novel. It’s less hard-hitting, but immediately intriguing and I thought a very clever way of drawing viewers in to the story.

Episode one as a whole is something of a slow burn as there are a lot of characters and ideas to introduce, but in my opinion it’s no bad thing for a show to take its time with the set-up and trust the viewer to have a bit of patience. BBC2 have probably made a wise decision in starting off with a double-bill of episodes one and two so that viewers will have a chance to really get to know the characters, become engaged in the story and sink into the compellingly creepy atmosphere.

It’s a particularly well-cast show, with John Simm, Mira Sorvino and James Frain all taking key roles and inhabiting them with ease. The standout performance, however, has to be that of ten-year-old Millie Brown. If you’re a fan of chilling performances by child actors, this is your kind of show.

But what did the author himself think of it all? On your behalf, I asked him, and he said this:

‘As an author what you most hope for is that an adaptation preserve the spirit and intention of the book – and this series does that in spades, developing the mystery slowly and ominously until it seeps into your bones. Add to that the array of people working at the top of their game – the great cast, of course, but also Glen Morgan’s show-running genius, Mark Freeborn’s production designs, Bear McCreary’s extraordinary score, quality directors like Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Stamm … Some of the most talented people in television have given this show their very best, and I’m delighted with the result. It’s striking and unusual, insidious and compelling. You may love it, you may hate it — but I guarantee you won’t say “Meh”.’

Tune in to BBC2 at 9pm on Monday 27th October to find out for yourselves.

The Intruders is the first book in the Killer Reads Book Club – want to discuss the book and / or the series? Come and join us here.

Production on THE INTRUDERS TV series

Category: Author Post

Soon THE INTRUDERS will be hitting our screens, with an incredible cast including John Simm and Mira Sorvino, with  writer and executive producer Glen Morgan (The X-Files) at the helm. All this month, we’ve been looking at Michael Marshall’s terrifying book, which we’ll be discussing next week in our Killer Reads book club. But what’s the process like of turning a book into a TV series? Michael Marshall shares his thoughts…

Jess Pope at the BBC in London optioned the book soon after publication, and invited me to be part of the development process — deciding how to adapt the book, and coming up with a bible for a series. I tackled this with vim, but soon came to realize that spending the foreseeable future tying my brain in knots as I cut out stuff I’d spent the previous nine months putting into the book would swiftly have me committed to a padded cell (a fate which may be coming down the line anyway, but let’s not hurry it along, eh?) Eventually a novel deadline hauled me off the project and I handed it with some relief to a series of writers who came up with at least three different script approaches that I’m aware of — all had merits, but none really landed.

Part of the problem was trying to re-site the story to the UK, which just didn’t work. Eventually, with regret (and after an astonishing amount of dedication and hard work), Jess let the project go — at which point it emerged that Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner had been waiting patiently in the wings. Jane picked the book up for BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles, we had initial phone conversations, there was exciting talk of Glen Morgan getting involved, and then it all went very, very quiet. I stoically accepted this as the standard story of potential interest fading like the morning dew, toward a future time where everyone would not only deny that they’d ever been interested, but claim that the novel had even existed in the first place. But then suddenly late one night there was an email from Julie, giving me the heads-up that the BBC would be greenlighting a series worth of scripts the next day. Things seemed to go pretty quickly after that…

A lot of people have asked me if I wrote the scripts, or wanted to. Hell no, is the answer. When someone like Glen Morgan is on deck you’d have to be insane to do anything other than stay out of his way. I’ve been consulted throughout, however, and he and the other writers (Darin Morgan and Kristin Cloke) done a superb job of porting the novel to the screen. Adapting a book to a visual medium requires a lot of changes, as I know from my own time in the script mines (including over a year spent adapting Clive Barker’s WEAVEWORLD as an eight-part series, way back in the mists of time. Why has someone still not screened that book, for crying out loud? I still have my scripts. They’re right here. I’m just saying.) While much of the series stays true to the novel, new material has been added and the timing of some of the reveals (as will already be evident from promo materials) has been pulled forward to work better for television. The scripts do a fantastic job of retaining everything I cared about in the book, maintaining both the slow unfolding of the narrative and the sense of ominousness.

The web site io9 reacted to the press screening of the first episode by saying it was “Bananas. Creepy bananas”. I’ll take that. I’ll do more than take it. I’ll put it on my business card.

Something I would never have expected is the sheer class of the cast who’ve become involved. Though American audiences (so far) mainly know him for a compelling stint as The Master on Dr. Who, John Simm is not only an incredibly accomplished and versatile actor, but a hallmark of quality. There’s simply no-one better at playing a complex everyman, drawn into a conspiracy and forced to fight for his — and other people’s — lives, while he uncovers the truth. Mira Sorvino’s ability to play the multiple sides of her complex character is spell-binding. James Frain nails his pivotal role as Shepherd with a chilly grace spiked with vulnerability, Tory Kittles is perfect as the grenade thrown into Whalen’s life from his past, and Daryl Shuttleworth should simply be given his own show. And as for Millie Brown… the trailers barely hint at how extraordinary this young actress is. When you write a novel with a big, difficult role for a nine year old girl you don’t even think about how impossible it might be to film the damned thing. Luckily, with Millie, it turned out to be perfectly possible. She’s something else.

Authors are understandably protective of their books: the only safe way of trying to ensure they turn out well is to have the luck to have them worked on by the best people available. Add these actors to Glen’s creative direction, the directing talents of Eduardo “Blair Witch” Sánchez and Daniel “The Last Exorcism” Stamm, the production designs of Mark “Breaking Bad” Freeborn, the producing vision and drive of Julie Gardner, Rose Lam and Jane Tranter, the music of Bear McCreary and all the other talents in camera, sound design, costume and everything else, and INTRUDERS turned out far better than I could have dreamed.

And no, I’m not just being nice for the good of the show. It was my book. If the adaptation sucked, I’d say so. Loudly. The series very much does not suck. You heard it here first.

I couldn’t be happier, too, with the ballsy way in which Glen, Jane and Julie have allowed the mystery to take its time. The thing that saved the television industry, and has raised it so far above movies in the quality and depth of its output, is this willingness to engage with viewers as adults, to expect an attention span and use it to tell a story in the way it’s meant to be told.

Stories are like people: if you can get to the bottom of them immediately, there’s not much bottom there. It’s the process of getting to know them (stories, and people), that journey of uncovering their wondrous depths and unexpected corners, that binds you. Approach slowly, carefully, and with a curious mind and an open heart, and they can become a part of you, forever.

Anyway. The show’s coming soon. I hope you enjoy it. Just remember this:

Everything in it is true.

Want to talk about THE INTRUDERS? Head over to Goodreads and join the book group!

This post originally appeared on Michael Marshall’s website

Autumn TV preview: Luke Delaney on why he loves Peaky Blinders

Category: News

Tonight is the first episode of series two of Peaky Blinders, and the Killer Reads team are pretty excited for it. Great characters, a bit of violence, a bit of hopeless love, a few explosions, a lot of shady operations – what’s not to like? But we’re not the only ones… Here’s Luke Delaney, author of The Toy Taker, on why he’s looking forward to tonight’s premiere…

Without doubt Peaky Blinders is one of the best shows that’s been on the TV for years. The cast is great (Cillian Murphy and Sam Neill were excellent in the first series), the production quality is first class and looks like a big budget Hollywood production, the music’s good, it’s mean, moody and whips along at a cracking pace with much intrigue and action – each episode developing the story nicely and never treading water.

And if that wasn’t enough it has the key elements to any good show, film or book – it’s a great story, based on a true criminal gang and their real-life exploits. True life is often so much more interesting than fiction and that’s certainly the case here. The other essential ingredient is of course the characters – all of whom are excellent in Blinders – layered and believable. You care about them!

Lastly, I love the fact it’s about Birmingham, albeit the Brum of the post WWI era – that gives it such a great look. I’ve always felt Birmingham was a much under-used location from a film/book p.o.v. It can be quite an intimidating city – huge and sprawling, with little of the large soft underbelly that somewhere like London has to gentrify it. Finally someone’s realized its potential as a film location and has reaped the benefits with the Blinders!

Will you be watching tonight?

Luke’s latest book, The Toy Taker, is out now