POLITICAL THRILLER TO BE PUBLISHED IN FRANCE MAY 16
Brian De Palma has taken an idea he had for a movie, and, with co-author Susan Lehman, written a novel-- a political thriller titled Are Snakes Necessary? The book, translated into French by Jean Esch, will be published in France by Rivages on May 16, 2018, with the title, Les serpents sont-ils nécessaires ? De Palma and Lehman will sign copies of the book at 7pm May 30th at Librairie Millepages in Vincennes, an eastern suburb of Paris.
The Google-assisted translation of the book's plot goes something like this:
Barton Brock is director of the campaign for a US Senator named Joe Crump. Unscrupulous, he judges that all shots are allowed, which is why he is recruiting a young waitress named Elizabeth de Carlo to compromise the opponent of Crump, a notorious Don Juan. But Elizabeth has more than one trick up her sleeve ...
While the novel is a thriller, both the title and the cover art suggest more than a tinge of playfulness-- and both evoke Preston Sturges' comedy The Lady Eve (1941). As David Bordwell points out in a post about movie in-jokes, near the beginning of The Lady Eve, the protagonist, played by Henry Fonda, is reading a book with the title, Are Snakes Necessary? "No such book exists, more’s the pity," Bordwell writes. "The title pays comic reference to James Thurber’s 1929 best-selling satire on marriage manuals, Is Sex Necessary? and confirms the snake-as-phallus imagery that isn’t exactly underplayed in the rest of the film. Sturges revisited the gag phrase when he proposed Is Marriage Necessary? as the title for a later picture. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t pass the censor, and instead we got a more anodyne title, The Palm Beach Story (1942)."
In recently published update of the book Brian De Palma : entretiens avec Samuel Blumenfeld et Laurent Vachaud, De Palma revealed a bit more of how the novel came together:
My partner Susan Lehman and I wrote a novel together you know? A political thriller, according to an idea I had for a scenario. I am very good at designing the plot and dialogues, it's the characters, and all the rest has been written together [with four hands]. It was sent to one of my agents at ICM who didn't know what to do with it. I think it's very commercial material. And as I am in France, I thought maybe I could edit it in your country. I sent the manuscript to a friend in Paris who recommended an editor in France, we'll see. As you get older, you always have ideas, but it's more difficult to be able to mount them when you reach an age like mine. So it's easier to make novels. Kazan knew that too.
What is the subject of your novel?
It's pretty close to Blow Out. I combined several ideas that I had. The main character is a senator who comes to the elections. There is also his campaign director, a malicious character, and a photographer who finds himself hired to take pictures on a film that is the French version of Vertigo! After all, you know that Vertigo is inspired by a French novel by Boileau and Narcejac. There's all this and I had a lot of fun. We did this last summer.
In 2008, De Palma had written an as-yet-unproduced screenplay called Tabloid. According to Screen Daily's Denis Seguin, Tabloid is "a political thriller inspired by political and personal imbroglios of Democratic presidential nominee John Edwards – with a serial killer thrown in." Seguin added that producer Jennifer Weiss "described the project as exploring De Palma’s core themes: politics, sex and murder."