Jones in the bayou

“In the Electric Mist With the Confederate Dead,” a cult novel written by James Lee Burke, has been adapted into a screenplay and is now being directed by the great Bertrand Tavernier — his first English-language film since ‘Round Midnight — in Louisiana. The problem is that the movie is going to be called In The Electric Mist, which obviously doesn’t get it.

We all know that eight words don’t fit on a marquee but they should stick with the book title anyway because it sounds right. Chopping the title in half is a crude dumb-down procedure.

I’ve read the script, an atmospheric detective story about the hunt for a serial killer of women, and it’s very high quality. Tommy Lee Jones (who co-wrote the screenplay with Jerzy Kromolowski and Mary Olson-Kromolowski) is playing the lead role of Robicheaux, a small-town policeman and an ex-alcoholic Vietnam veteran doing the old Phillip Marlowe-Hercule Poirot routine. Peter Sarsgaard is playing an over-indulged Hollywood star who’s shooting a film in the area.

17 thoughts on “Jones in the bayou

  1. youchild on said:

    That was the first Dave Robicheaux novel I read. I’m really glad that Tommy Lee Jones finally got this one out of development hell — and that it’s better than Heaven’s Prisoners, the Robicheaux adaptation with Alec Baldwin. Baldwin was good, but Jones is a better fit.

  2. “Chopping the title in half is a crude dumb-down procedure.”

    Probably true, but “The Shawshank Redemption” is a better title than “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”.

  3. It sounds like somebody ought to be sitting down with Mr. Burke and see what his alternate titles for the book were because “In the Electric Mist” is god-awkward. And paring it down to “The Electric Mist” would be even worse.

    Put “The Electric Mist” on a poster and I’m lookin’ for the “As Seen on TV!” label in the upper right corner (Or maybe “guest starring Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader”).

  4. I remember a play that I liked — Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love — was made into an ok film called Love & Human Remains. Thought the condensing seemed silly….

  5. Wells to jeffmcm: “In the Electric Mist With the Confederate Dead” sounds like a sci-fi-movie to you? My, you certainly have a feeling for metaphor and poetic allusion!! Tell me, Jeffmcm…did “In The Garden of Good and Evil” sound to you like a movie about a middle-aged gardener who works a small patch of turf in which good and bad things happen?

  6. “The Electric Mist” sounds like a sci-fi movie. “In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead” sounds like a book, not a movie. “In the Electric Mist” is the middle ground I would recommend.

    Do you mean “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”? That one’s a good title because it gives us a time and a place with fairly generally understood connotations.

  7. In The Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead sounds like a 70s prog rock album title.

    Naturally, it would have a really badass album cover.

  8. Burke is a wonderful writer, but dragging in his hero’s personal life always slows things down too much–as it does in too much contemporary crime fiction. Phil Marlowe and Sam Spade had no personal lives, thank God. In Electric Dead, Robicheaux’s adopted daughter, an especially tiresome character, is kidnapped. The first thing Bertie T. should do is jettison this subplot altogether. An early, non-Robicheaux Burke is The Lost Get-Back Boogie, a lovely title.

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