Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Zealand thriller to become TV mini-series

I apologise on being a little late in sharing this news with you, but just prior to the Xmas break it was announced that Alix Bosco's debut novel, CUT & RUN, is to be turned into a two-part TV mini-series.

In a press release from the book's publisher, Penguin Group (NZ), it was said that an option on the film and television rights to the thriller, which was only released in August 2009, had been secured by Auckland production company ScreenWorks. Screenworks is pretty well-regarded in the local industry, and has produced several award-winning and good-quality TV dramas - several of which have a legal, police, or political/thriller theme. I used to enjoy Street Legal back in the day, and Orange Roughies and Doves of War were also both pretty good TV shows.

In CUT & RUN, middle-aged legal researcher Anna Markunas, who has been getting back on her feet after dealing with a number of workplaces stresses (she is a former social worker) and family tragedies/challenges (her husband committed suicide and her son is a methamphetamine addict), finds there may be far more to the murder of a celebrated athlete in the arms of a celebrity socialite than the drugs-deal-gone-wrong killing most assume it was. As she investigates, she puts herself in the firing line of some very, very bad people. Although Markunas is a legal researcher, and several of the characters are tied to the legal system, this isn't a courtroom thriller - rather an out-and-out secret and sinister bad guys thriller.

I really enjoyed CUT & RUN last year. You can read the first chapter of here.

According to the press release, CUT & RUN will be turned into a mini-series (two 75mins episodes) with the support of TV3 (one of the two major television networks in New Zealand) and NZ On Air (the funding body for local content in New Zealand).

So there has been (very, very quickly) a lot of support from major players to create a screen version of this pseudonym-written debut novel, which received good reviews, a decent amount of publicity (especially for a NZ crime novel), was well-stocked in most bookstores (unlike a lot of other Kiwi crime fiction), but didn't make much of a dent in the bestseller list, very surprisingly.

CUT & RUN did hit #5 on the NZ Adult Fiction bestseller list for two weeks in August, but it would have been nice to see it do even better, especially given the good reviews and better-than-usual bookseller and media support for a Kiwi crime novel. However, Penguin do call CUT & RUN "this year's biggest New Zealand crime fiction debut" in the press release, so perhaps it did sell really well overall, despite not hitting #1 on the bestseller list like another local debut thriller, BOLD BLOOD by Lindy Kelly (which stayed in the top 5 for several weeks), did earlier in the year.

You can read acclaimed crime writer and columnist Paul Thomas's Weekend Herald review of CUT & RUN here, Kerre Woodham (Paper Plus celebrity reviewer's) review here, Jo Taylor (Latitude magazine Editor's) review here, and my Nelson Mail review here.

The other major part of the announcement was that award-winning local actress Robyn Malcolm will play the lead role of legal researcher Anna Markunas in the mini-series. Malcolm is best-known lately for playing the matriarch of a West Auckland crime family, trying (somewhat) to go (relatively) straight, in the hugely popular TV series Outrageous Fortune.

For me, Malcolm would seem a perfect fit for the role of the middle-aged, initially somewhat beaten-down legal researcher. As an interesting aside, her involvement (following the fact that CUT & RUN had a quote from her on the cover on its release, rather than from reviewers or crime writers), and the rapid interest of the local TV/film community in terms of adapting the book, lends a little more fuel to my personal theory on the identity of Alix Bosco - a "writer well known in other media".

When the announcement was made, Chris Hampson, CEO of ScreenWorks, said: "CUT & RUN is a terrific international thriller - but I was attracted to its clear sense of place, its strong local identity and, best, the clarity of its strong central characters." I think that is a pretty fair assessment of the debut novel. Penguin Group (NZ) Publishing Director Geoff Walker said CUT & RUN will make a great mini-series. "The novel features a strong, engaging female character, colourful Auckland and Coromandel settings and a cutting edge plot."

I think it's great to see such support for New Zealand crime fiction, both in book form and in terms of adapting our locally-written stories for TV or film. There are several other local crime novels, such as those by Paul Cleave and Vanda Symon, which I also think would lend themselves well to screen adaptation, given their strong visual style.

In other good news from the announcement, a second Anna Markunas novel by Alix Bosco, SLAUGHTER FALLS, will be published by Penguin Group (NZ) in late 2010. So it looks like it could be another good year for the growing canon of New Zealand crime fiction.


  1. So, Alix Bosco is a certain screenwriter, or two (m and f), of a certain local hit TV series? The clues are there, and it would explain the velocity of the production deal.

  2. When the initial announcement re: CUT & RUN (the book) being released last August included all the pseudonym-related stuff, the easy assumption was that it was a newspaper/magazine writer, however I always assumed it was someone in the TV writing industry, given the Robyn Malcolm quote, and the way the "succcessful writer in other media" was worded, made me think that it wouldn't actually be other print media (otherwise it would have been worded a touch differently).

    I had a couple of 'suspects', and this announcement about the rapid interest/involvedment of key players in the local TV industry does nothing to diminish that suspicion, shall we say.