Welcome to 17th Street

Welcome to 17th Street, a website dedicated to Caleb Carr and the Alienist books. It features the latest Caleb Carr news, a full author biography and interview list, book summaries and timelines for The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness along with synopses Caleb Carr's other work, analyses of the characters from the Alienist books, and information on the real history behind the Alienist books. Navigation for this site is at the top, showing the different sections of the site. Relevant links within the section (if applicable) will show up in the left column.

Latest News

First Trailer for The Alienist TV Series

TNT released their first trailer for The Alienist TV series today. One thing that is absolutely clear from this trailer is that we’re in for very high production standards; it is undeniable the production will be atmospheric in the best possible sense. While I still maintain concern regarding characterisation and plot based on what we have heard about the script, it is up to fans of the novel to make their own minds up.

And so I ask readers to share their thoughts. How do you feel about the trailer? I would love for you to share your thoughts.

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Alienist Book News, Plus a Casting Change for The Alienist TV Series

The Alienist 2006 EditionMy apologies for the delay in news here on 17th Street, but life away from the internet has been incredibly busy with a big interstate move and illness taking me out of action for the past few weeks. That said, there have been a number of news items from the past couple of months that I have neglected to post here due to lack of time.

First, there was some excellent news for Alienist readers outside of the United States last month with Mulholland Books UK announcing that they will be publishing The Alienist, The Angel of Darkness, Surrender, New York, and Caleb Carr’s two upcoming Alienist novels in e-book form in the UK and Commonwealth countries. As an Australian who has not been able to access the Alienist books in e-book form due to rights restrictions, I would like to personally say hallelujah! This is excellent news for those of us outside the United States. The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness will be available in July 2017, while Surrender, New York will be available in 2018. This news also confirmed that the third book in the Alienist series, The Alienist at Armageddon, is due out in 2019; exciting news for those of us who have been waiting for a continuation in the series for so many years.

Second, Caleb Carr wrote an interesting review of Kevin Davis’ recently released nonfiction book, “The Brain Defense,” for The New York Times in early March. This is an interesting article for anyone who is interested in the type of arguments that were posited in Surrender, New York — and if you haven’t read Surrender yet, it may provide you with some incentive to do so.

Finally, although I am not posting all the latest news regarding The Alienist TV series at present (for my reasons, please see my previous blog post), one noteworthy piece of news surfaced today. Deadline has reported that Brian Geraghty (The Hurt Locker) will be replacing Sean Astin as Theodore Roosevelt in the upcoming adaptation. In a statement, TNT indicated that Astin will no longer play the role “because of scheduling difficulties.” In addition, Martin McCreadie has been cast as Sergeant Doyle, a character who does not appear in the books but has been listed on IMDb for 10 episodes of the series.

Once again, my apologies for the delay with these news items. Unfortunately things will continue to be slow here for at least one more month, but hopefully things will start to turn around after that. If there is anything you feel is noteworthy and should be reported on 17th Street that you don’t see here, please feel free to contact me through the comments on the blog or using the contact form. Thanks for your patience.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

The Alienist Pilot Reviewed at Script Shadow

A review of the pilot for The Alienist appeared on Script Shadow earlier today. Unfortunately, I do not have good news to report from this. It suggests the character changes for John that I reported on a few days ago have indeed made it into the adaptation. After reading the review, I suspect that whether one is going to enjoy this series ultimately comes down to a matter of taste. While the reviewer was enthusiastic about the script, I don’t get the impression they have read (at least recently) the source material, so inconsistencies clearly don’t bother them. However, from what they have described, this show will not be representative of The Alienist that I know and love. For example, it has been confirmed that John enjoys playing “games” with prostitutes that sound like they correspond to the “twisted role playing” that was mentioned in the press release for the character of Flora.

We meet John Moore with a prostitute and, as he’s having sex with her, he’s angry because she’s telling him that she’s in love with another man. At that moment, the madame bursts in and the girl “drops the act.” It was all a little game they were playing.

In addition, it appears that the character changes are not restricted to John. The review also makes mention that Kreizler keeps fetuses in his office. Where on Earth did this come from? Yes, the book mentions that he keeps brains in specimen jars, but that makes sense. He is a psychiatrist. More than this, the reviewer’s comment that Kreizler is “into some really dark disturbing shit” is enough to convince me that the script will not be loyal to the book. Kreizler is a workaholic who is passionate about saving children from abuse. In his free time, he enjoys relaxing at the opera, dining at fine restaurants, collecting antique furniture and fine art. When has Kreizler ever done anything that would suggest that he is “into some really dark disturbing shit”? I first became concerned about this when I read Daniel Bruhl’s recent comment “I’m playing a nice guy in The Alienist, too. More or less, I would say.” Why would he suggest that Kreizler is “more or less” a nice guy? Kreizler is a nice guy — there should be absolutely no debate about it.

Given this troubling turn of events, I feel that I should be open. I fully understand that we all have our own degree of changes from source material that we can accept in adaptations and there will undoubtedly be fans of the books who won’t be concerned about these changes. However, my loyalty lies with the books and the books alone. I started 17th Street as a resource for the books, and that is what the website is going to remain. Consequently, unless there is some drastic turnaround with what is being revealed through these script leaks, I won’t be watching. The are better things to watch, and I would rather keep my memory of the books and characters unspoiled.

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Lots of Alienist Adaptation News

Well, it’s certainly been busy in the lead up to shooting for TNT’s adaptation of The Alienist with lots of casting and production news coming out in recent weeks. As I mentioned in the previous update, it appears as though actors who have already been cast have been making their way to Budapest in preparation for filming, and the photo to the right shared on Luke Evans’ (playing John Moore) twitter feed on March 16 appears to indicate that shooting has now begun!

An additional photo has also appeared on twitter from Antonio Magro sharing his new look for his role as gangster Paul Kelly, with Falk Hentschel seen behind playing Biff Ellison. Meanwhile, Dakota Fanning commented recently in an interview with Collider on what prompted her to take the role of Sara Howard in the upcoming series:

The reason I wanted to do it was that, first of all, I loved the story. I love the other actors that I’m working with, and the character that I’m getting to play is a super strong woman, especially for the time in which she lives in. She’s the first woman to work at the New York City Police Department, and that’s really cool. And as for why I wanted to do TV, I think work is work, and telling stories is telling stories, no matter where they’re shown. I’m such a huge fan of television and what’s happening in television, right now. You are able to visit characters and visit a story, week to week, push things in a different way than you can in a film, and you are able to go deeper, simply because you have more time. I’m just excited to do that. It’s always good to do new things. It felt, for so many reasons, like the right time in my life and the right piece of material. I’m thrilled!

On the casting front, it was announced on March 9 that Sean Astin will be playing Theodore Roosevelt. Astin is perhaps best known for his role as Sam Gamgee in the Academy Award winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, but has also appeared in numerous TV and movie roles over the years ranging from The Goonies (1985), to Rudy (1993), to the TV series 24 (2006), and most recently Stranger Things (2017). TNT’s press release for Roosevelt describes the Police Commissioner as a “brilliant and ambitious yet principled … crusading reformist determined to clear up corruption in the police force he now heads. While usually inured to crime in New York, Roosevelt becomes outraged over the fact that children are being murdered in his city and develops a warlike zeal to find the perpetrator.” This is a fitting description of TR’s character, and Astin’s recent appearance in Bad Kids of Crestview Academy (2017) as pictured to the right certainly gives the impression that he will look the part of a younger TR at least.

Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends. Deadline reported on March 17 that a new character has been cast who is not in the novel. Emanuela Postacchini has been cast as Flora, “a beautiful young prostitute at the Frenchtown brothel who indulges in some twisted role playing and is a favorite of newspaper illustrator John Moore.” It should go without saying why this is a troubling piece of news. First, it is confirmation that John Moore’s profession has indeed been changed from crime reporter to newspaper illustrator, a change that — as I noted late last year — is concerning for several reasons, not least its connection to the disturbing audition recordings that surfaced in early 2016. Second, and more importantly, it suggests that John’s character has been changed. While we can all acknowledge that John has a weakness for a beautiful woman (or as Stevie puts it in The Angel of Darkness, “Mr. Moore’s always [been] an easy mark for a charming lady”), there is quite a far divide from that and engaging in “twisted role playing” at a Frenchtown brothel. Moreover, the wording of the character description appears to indicate that John is a frequent patron of this particular brothel. Given that, at its core, The Alienist is a story about the rescue of children from the sex industry — a cause that John is vocally passionate about at numerous points in the novel — the decision to change his character to someone who would engage in “twisted role playing” at a brothel undermines the entire message of the novel.

In addition to Flora, another character who doesn’t appear in the novel, Ernestine (played by Ezra Fieremans), has also now appeared on the cast list at IMDb. There is no word yet on what role this character will be playing in the adaptation. I suppose that only time will tell what direction the production team are taking this adaptation in. However, as Dakota herself suggested, the beauty of a television adaptation is that it allows us to get to know the characters in a deeper way than movies usually allow. Given this, my own question to the producers of this show is why not get to know the fascinating three-dimensional characters that long-time Alienist readers have come to know and love from the bestselling books themselves? After all, historical fiction can be wonderfully evocative and thrillers can be exciting, but the only reason to return to the same book time and again is because we find connection in the story through characters we come to know and love. That is the enduring legacy of these books — and that is what, one would hope, the production team should be aiming to capture on the screen.

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