Mary Louise Kelly, NPR guest host and former intelligence correspondent, sent this report from ThrillerFest, a gathering of thriller writers in New York City.
"I have two words for you: Tom Cruise."
No, friends, this is not another installment in the Holmes/Cruise divorce saga. That was the opening shot Friday at ThrillerFest – the world's biggest gathering of thriller writers – in a Q&A session with Lee Child.
You may know that Lee Child writes the best-selling Jack Reacher series, about a tough guy ex-cop. You may also know that Jack Reacher fans are not happy about Tom Cruise (believed to be ... something less than 6'5") being cast as their 6'5", 250-pound hero. (Typical reaction to the trailer, out this week: "Tom Cruise could play Reacher's 'mini-me.'")
Lee Child hemmed and hawed a bit when asked to comment – "Honestly, I'm incredibly thrilled and grateful that anyone has an opinion at all" – but then he cut to the chase.
"Okay, he doesn't look exactly right," Child finally admitted. "But he sure does act like Reacher." He went on to say that demand is only one side of the equation. There's also supply to consider. "People are acting as if we marched past vast legions of 6'5", 250-pound actors," he says. "Nobody looks like that in Hollywood."
Fair point. And it got everyone here at ThrillerFest buzzing about who should play Reacher. Thoughts? I'm leaning towards Russell Crowe.
Meanwhile, speaking of ThrillerFest buzzing, you should know that this conference is a total scene. Giants of the genre like Child and Catherine Coulter and Steve Berry are prowling the halls of the Grand Hyatt like rock stars. Agents and publishers are working deals on their cell phones. Harper Collins bought everyone coffee this morning; Random House is springing for the evening cocktails.
And of course, all the authors and wanna-be authors (full disclosure/shameless plug: I'm here because I just wrote my first thriller – The Scoop – out next year from Gallery/Simon & Schuster) are scurrying around to sessions with names like "How to Knock Off Your Characters: Unique Ways to Kill."
My favorite so far: a one-hour break-out session asking, "Does Sex Really Sell?"
That would explain why every writer in this room is planning to call their next book Fifty Shades Of Mauve.