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Ava DuVernay Will Direct CBS Pilot Based on James Patterson’s Murder Mystery ‘The Thomas Berryman Number’

Ava DuVernay Will Direct CBS Pilot Based on James Patterson’s Murder Mystery 'The Thomas Berryman Number'

Adding to the “What Will Ava DuVernay Do Next?” file, which is now starting to thicken up a bit, the filmmaker of the moment has signed on to direct the pilot for CBS’ drama “For Justice,” which hails from “Law & Order” writer and showrunner Rene Balcer (he also created and was showrunner of its spin-off series “Law & Order: Criminal Intent”).

The project is based on author James Patterson’s very first novel – a Civil Rights era crime drama titled “The Thomas Berryman Number,” which follows the investigation and research of a Nashville reporter into the murder of Jimmie Lee Horn, Nashville’s first black mayors. The novel is set in the early 1970s, and, according to summaries and reviews of it I read before typing up this post, it’s a murder investigation that’s tightly wrapped up in racial tensions: “In Nashville, Tennessee, the whole city mourns as Jimmie Horne, the city’s first black mayor, is shot dead by a crazed hippie, a mourning broken by shock when the assassin is himself gunned-down by a professional hitman. Ochs Jones, a reporter for a Nashville paper, smells something fishy and begins to investigate, starting with a private mental hospital in upstate New York, where a patient has been raving about the assassination since almost a week before it happened. Partially told in the form of Jones’s letters and notes, the novel chronicles his investigation of the Horne slaying. Soon, he unearths the presence of a third shooter, a professional killer named Thomas Berryman who specializes in accidents and suicides. The novel also traces Berryman’s path, from New York to New Orleans to Nashville, and his preparations for the biggest murder since Martin Luther King, Jr. was slain.” 

In CBS’ adaptation, the story will follow a female FBI agent working in the Criminal Section of the Department of Civil Rights Division, who finds herself caught between her radical real family and her professional family. I assume it will be set in the present-day, and not in the 1970s, like the novel. It sounds like it could be quite a departure from the book. If you’ve read it, please do chime in.

DuVernay will direct from a script penned by Balcer, who will also executive produce the pilot.

Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions will also executive produce.

Intrigued? Pick up a copy of the Patterson’s novel for yourself, via Amazon.com here. It won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, as well as the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery..  

This is the second TV project DuVernay is attached to helm – the other being an original series for the OWN network, based on the novel “Queen Sugar.”

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