Liam Neeson isn’t at all the face I pictured when I read this novel awhile ago. For starters, I imagined someone younger actually – maybe early to mid-40s. Neeson will be 60 next month.
But what I really wanted to draw your attention to is the fact that there’s a supporting character in this – an African American teen – who actually plays a substantial, if pivotal role in the book (I’m not so sure whether the screenplay adaptation will be an exact copy of the book, but I’m assuming the character, named TJ, will remain).
To be clear, in the novel, TJ is as stereotypical a character as you can get in this kind of hard-boiled crime novel. He’s a young black man from the streets, so of course he’s street smart, and is depicted as you’d expect given that short description I just gave. He’s essentially our hero, Matt Scudder’s, sidekick, and connection to those areas Scudder himself would have a challenging time infiltrating. TJ is also well-connected.
BUT, if you’re willing to look past those *faults* of the narrative, you’ll appreciate TJ’s craftiness, smarts, passion, dedication, and edge, and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He’s the man with the answers and the plan, and turns out to be very necessary in Scudder’s investigation.
Again, I’m going solely on the novel here, which I read years ago; I’m actually a fan of the entire Matt Scudder series of novels, written by Lawrence Block. I’ve read 4 or 5 of them; they’re relatively fast, entertaining reads. Block pulls no punches with the material, and makes no apologies. It’s straightforward, unpretentious, hard-boiled, violent, bleak, gritty, New York-set crime fiction, so you’ll find a mix of characters of all skin colors and ethnicities, without any concern for PC depictions.
So you’re either with it or you’re not.
I haven’t read the script that’s been adapted from the novel, so I can’t say what’s been done with it. The project has been “in development” for a while now, and it looks like it’s finally heading into production.
It’s been announced today that production on A Walk Among The Tombstones will begin in February, 2013 in New York, with Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder.
Block’s Scudder character was previously played by Jeff Bridges in the 1986 Hal Ashby-directed 8 Million Ways To Die, from a script penned by Oliver Stone.
As for who’ll play TJ (assuming he’s been kept in the script as a streetsmart black teenager), no word on who they’re looking at yet. Given that they’ve aged Scudder a bit (note that when Jeff Bridges played the character in 1986, Bridges was 36 – a big difference compared to Neeson’s 60, and closer to the age I imagined when I read the novel), I won’t be surprised if they also age the TJ character from a teen to a 20-something, or who knows, even 30-something black man, and cast a black actor with a familiar face.