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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Third And Fourth Alienist Novel Announced!

The Alienist 2006 EditionIn an exclusive with Entertainment Weekly, it was revealed this morning that Caleb Carr will be returning to the Alienist series. Mulholland Books have announced that they will be publishing two new Alienist novels that will act as ‘bookends’ for the two current novels in the series, The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness.

The first of the two new novels will be set 18 years after The Angel of Darkness, in New York City of 1915. Josh Kendall, VP, Executive Editor, and Editorial Director of Mulholland Books explained that this book, “set against a stage of rising nationalist violence and the early spy state,” is “centered on nativist violence and terrorism during America’s involvement in World War I.”

The second of the novels will take us back in time again, presumably to the late 1870s or early 1880s (assuming the events in the summary from the publisher’s press release matches the timeline already established in the series so far). In this novel, titled The Strange Case of Miss Sara X, “a youthful Kreizler, after finishing his psychology training at Harvard, falls under the spell of William James, has his first run-in with Roosevelt, and delves into the secret life of Sara Howard, heroine of the first books.”

For those of us who have wondered if there would ever be a third novel, official confirmation of two new Alienist novels is something to be excited about! However, the wait need not be arduous; we are also lucky enough to have Caleb Carr’s upcoming contemporary thriller Surrender, New York to look forward to! If you haven’t already done so, I recommend reading more about the novel and pre-order before its release on August 23.

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Surrender, New York – Cover Released

Surrender, New YorkEarlier this week, the finalised cover for Caleb Carr’s upcoming novel, Surrender, New York, was released by Random House — and I, for one, love it! To view the cover in full size, click the image to the right.

Atmospheric and reminiscent of The Alienist’s original cover, it seems like a perfect fit for a contemporary thriller whose protagonist, Dr. Trajan Jones, is described in the novel’s synposis as, “the world’s leading expert on the life and work of one Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, the hero of The Alienist, in whose brilliant but unconventional footsteps he follows.” On the novel’s page at Amazon, Caleb Carr also noted, “This book is essentially a modern application of the principles and theories of Dr. Laszlo Kreizler to criminal behavior, especially that directed at children.” To read the full synopsis, please visit the new Surrender, New York page in the ‘Other Books’ section of 17th Street.

This should be an exciting addition to Mr. Carr’s oeuvre for readers who enjoyed the Alienist books, and it is due for release by Random House on August 23, 2016. If you would like to pre-order, you can do so at Amazon or via one of the other retailers listed on the Penguin Random House website.

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Audition Recordings from The Alienist TV Series

Earlier this week, I reported that a troubling audition recording for the role of Marcus Isaacson in The Alienist TV series had surfaced publicly on Vimeo. The recording suggested that Marcus had taken a woman with a baby into his family’s house so that he could “fornicate” with her. As any Alienist reader would know, this is completely inconsistent with Marcus’ portrayal in the novel. Since posting this, I have been made aware that several more — equally troubling — audition recordings have surfaced, also publicly on Vimeo (see below).

I am making this public because it disturbs me significantly that the team working on this adaptation appear to be corrupting the characters from the novel. Please note that this concern does not relate to the actors whose recordings have surfaced; it relates exclusively to the script they are reading from. Although most of the recordings have now been pulled down, I strongly encourage Alienist readers to share your feelings about what is being done to your favourite characters and spread this news to any other fans of the novel that you know.

Sara Howard

One of the most offensive portrayals in the audition recordings relates to Sara Howard. In the worst scene, Sara is portrayed as silly and immature, giggling and unable to bring herself to say the word penis, before naively asking her maid about the size of one she saw earlier that day. (This from a character who, in the The Angel of Darkness, told John, “even through the sheets I could clip off both your testicles with one shot — so I advise you to unhand me.”)

In another scene that does not appear in the novel, she indicates that she could be enticed to steal coronial reports, betraying Theodore Roosevelt’s trust, if John would portray Roosevelt and herself in a more flattering light in The New York Times.

The recording has now been removed.

Transcription from the recording —
Sara: “Tessie, have you ever seen a…”
Tessie: “Yes, miss?”
Sara: “I’m trying to say the word but I’m failing…”
Tessie: “What is it, miss? Is it a man’s… manhood?”
(They both giggle.)
Tessie: “Oh dear, what sort of things have they been exposing you to downtown?”
Sara: “It has been mainly civilised, Tessie, I swear it. But I did see one today. And it occurred to me, I didn’t know whether it was a large one or a small one.”
(She tries to demonstrate size using her fingers.)
Tessie: “Was it rigid?”
Sara: “Dear God, Tessie, I didn’t touch it! Have you ever…? I’m sorry, I’m being impertinent, aren’t I?”
Tessie: “No, it’s fine, miss. I never thought I’d have this conversation with you of all people. Yes.”
Sara: “Yes! And…”
Tessie: “It felt… dangerous.”

Marcus Isaacson

As I explained above, Marcus is portrayed in the following recording as a man who would take a woman with a baby into his family’s house under the pretext of caring for his mother so that he can “fornicate” with her. He also chuckles inappropriately at the conclusion of a bastardised ‘prayer’ he sings over the mutilated bodies of the Zweig children that, according to another tape in which the prayer is read in English, translates to: “May the Lord bless us and keep us and our loved ones off the autopsy table.”

Although the recording has now been removed, much of the same dialogue can be found in a Lucius Isaacson audition that is still publicly available.

Transcription from the recording —
Marcus: “Doesn’t the Torah say desire is no more a sin than hunger or thirst?”
Lucius: “If you’d bothered to read the Torah, you’d know it says no such thing. It says there are impulses we have to control. That’s what makes men different from beasts.”
Marcus: “I guess I fall somewhere between the two, then.”

Dr. Laszlo Kreizler

No audition recording has surfaced as yet for Dr. Kreizler. However, hints about how his character has been changed can be found in lines that appear in auditions for other characters. For example, he appears uncharacteristically rude in the preceding Sara audition:

Transcription from the Sara Howard recording —
John: “Miss Sara Howard, this is Dr. Laszlo Kreizler. Dr. Kreizler, Roosevelt, and I were at Harvard together.”
(Sara holds out her hand to Dr. Kreizler.)
Sara: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, doctor. I believe I’ve read a great deal about you.”
(Kreizler does not return the handshake.)
Kreizler: “A pleasure to know you can read. We’re here to see the Commissioner.”

The Sara Howard audition also suggests that Theodore Roosevelt does not want to associate himself with Dr. Kreizler, in complete contrast to Kreizler and Roosevelt’s relationship in the novel.

John Schuyler Moore

As with Dr. Kreizler, no recording of John has surfaced as yet. However, the first scene from the Patrick Connor recording suggests that John is no longer a crime reporter in the adaptation, while the first scene from the Sara Howard recording suggests that he is a society reporter who has published a piece containing the following line: “Her [Sara’s] father was a childhood friend of Commissioner Roosevelt, although the intimacy of their working quarters calls decency into question.”

As anyone who has read the book would realise, this is the last thing John would ever write about either of his friends. In addition, Sara would have to be exceptionally young in order for Sara’s father and TR to have been childhood friends.

Patrick Connor

The recording that has appeared of Captain Connor indicates that he is being used in place of Sergeant Flynn when the body of Giorgio Santorelli has been discovered, and that he has multiple scenes in the adaptation long before he first appears in the novel. While the decision to blend Flynn and Connor may not appear problematic at first glance, I would like to remind readers that Connor’s role belongs exclusively behind the scenes for most of the novel. If he is introduced this early, what will be the big reveal two thirds of the way into the story at the meeting with J. P. Morgan?

The recording has now been removed.

Please share this news with any other Alienist readers who may be interested.

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