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Film Adaptation of Walter Mosley’s ‘Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel’ in the Works

Film Adaptation of Walter Mosley's 'Killing Johnny Fry: A Sexistential Novel' in the Works

Maybe the item I published 2 weeks (“At Least 8 Walter Mosley TV & Film Projects Announced, But No Follow-Through. What’s the Deal?“) somehow gave this project the boost it needed to get going… 

Obviously I’m just joking. Although it’s yet another Walter Mosley literary work that’s been optioned by a film producer to add to the growing list of at least 8 previousproject  announcements.

This time around, producer Denise Grayson and writer/director Paul Chart have teamed up to adapt Mosley’s “Killing Johnny Fry” as a feature film, which Mosley will produce through his production company BOB Filmhouse together with Denise Grayson Productions, it was announced yesterday. 

Published in 2007, the novel’s synopsis reads: “When Cordell Carmel catches his longtime girlfriend with another man, the act that he witnesses seems to dissolve all the boundaries he knows. He wants revenge, but also something more. ‘Killing Johnny Fry’ is the story of Cordell’s dark, funny, soulful, and outrageously explicit sexual odyssey in search of a new way of life. It marks new territory for the bestselling author of Devil in a Blue Dress and countless other books; it will surprise, provoke, inspire, and make you blush. Above all, it is about a man questioning the rules we take for granted – and the powerful and sometimes disturbing connections that occur between people when these rules are removed.”

“Having Paul Chart as a writer makes the translation of ideas into script easy, true to the purpose, and all kinds of fun,” Mosley said.

No ETA yet.

But add it to the list of recently-announced Mosley-related projects that have yet to become realities.

Read my “At Least 8 Walter Mosley TV & Film Projects Announced, But No Follow-Through. What’s the Deal?” piece immediately below to catch up.

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“Finally, one of a handful of Walter Mosley novel adaptations we’ve been following for years is heading to the screen.” ~ I’ve written those words on this blog several times since this blog was created in 2009, and, thus far, each announcement has led to absolutely nothing. 

And so we continue to wait.

I was reminded of this as I started binge-watching the second season of the crime-drama series “Bosch” on Amazon, which the streaming platform released (all 10 episodes) early this morning. And then I thought of all the other novels that have recently become TV series on similar streaming platforms (television’s new age) like Netflix and Hulu, as well as on cable TV channels like SundanceTV – I’m thinking of “Hap and Leonard” in this case, a period crime/drama series which premiered last week on SundanceTV, that I’ve been watching and, two episodes in, I’m continuing to stick with.

Mosley’s library of work is chock-full of period crime dramas that, in a time when “diversity” is seemingly all the rage, and anything *black* is a ratings smash (in some cases, history-making ratings, like WGN’s “Underground” series, which premiered 2 nights ago to record-setting viewership for the network), are begging to be adapted for the screen. And the author is very interested, so now is as good a time as any for one of the existing streaming platforms specifically (since they seem to be more willing to take chances) to franchise one (or more) of Mosley’s detective series. A 6-episode starter season would make for a good test for whether there’s an appetite for it. The well from which to dig is quite deep.

For example, Mosley screen adaptations that have been announced in recent years that haven’t materialized (and may never) include: 

1 – A TV series based on private investigator Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, which was in the works for the NBC network, and which NBC would eventually pull out of.
2 – His Leonid McGill series – the New York City private investigator – starting with the first book in the series titled, “The Long Fall” – was to be adapted by HBO, but nothing happened there. Mosley would say that he’d pretty much outlined the entire first season for HBO, which was to be based on “The Long Fall,” and that he was to meet with HBO execs a couple of months after that, during which I assume he handed over what he’d worked on, and they further discussed the project. That was at least 3 years ago.
3 – There was also Samuel L. Jackson’s optioning of “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” to adapt for the big screen.
4 – There was the TNT network’s ordering of a pilot for Mosley’s “Fearless Jones” series of novels, with plans for an eventual TV series.
5 – Two years ago, plans were announced to develop of a feature film based on Mosley’s psychological thriller “Man In My Basement,” with Anthony Mackie in talks to star, and Mosley co-writing the screenplay with Cheo Hodari Coker (“Southland”).
6 – In 2013, Laurence Fishburne was to revive Socrates Fortlow for HBO, as a TV series centered around the Mosley character, featured in his novel, “Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned.”
7 – There was also news of Mosley’s 3-year-old B.O.B. Filmhouse production company being in “active talks” to develop a project with Don Cheadle’s Crescendo Productions. But we never did learn what that project was, and haven’t heard anything about it since then.
8 – And just last summer, Spike TV announced a new slate of “big and bold original” scripted series, which the network said it was putting into development for upcoming seasons. One of those “big and bold” series hailed from Mosley, titled “Mr. In Between,” based on a short story by the acclaimed novelist that follows the adventures of a high-stakes courier who traffics sensitive information between people for whom privacy is a matter of life and death. Mosley along with business partner Diane Houslin, were set to serve as producers. We should maybe wait to see how this one plays out before assuming its fate. After all, it was announced just last summer, and could very be in development as I type this.

And there might be others I am simply not aware of, or that were never made public by the parties involved, and would eventually wither.

But clearly, I think we can all agree, based on the above listings, that there’s definitely interest in Mosley’s work; but, for some reason, it’s apparently been a struggle getting each project from page to the screen, and we unfortunately never find out what the reasons are for each breakdown. Although some of them might still be in the works, and we’ll know more in time. But I’m skeptical. At least 8 project announcements in the last 4-5 years, and not a single one of them has been realized. Talk about bad luck!

Let’s hope the most recently announced Spike TV project doesn’t get stuck in Limbo like all the others.

But I’d love to see Netflix or Amazon, or even Hulu, take one of these novels on (HBO has certainly had its shots with Mosley’s work as potential TV series, but hasn’t done anything with them – as of today – and the network has been pulling out of a few of its recently-announced projects, as it faces some sort of a mid-life crisis, in part due to competition from original programming *upstarts* like Netflix and Amazon). Now is as good a time as any, as networks look to fill their rosters with programming that, at least, checks off the “diversity” box. Option one of his novel franchises, hire a talented team of writers and directors who know and love the material, and let them run with it, carte blanche. If it fails, then, well, it fails. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a new series hasn’t lived up to expectations. It happens every year, and often enough). But I don’t think this will, especially if done right. There’s a significant enough audience of Mosley fans who’ve been longing for more Mosley on screen since Carl Franklin’s “Devil in a Blue Dress” over 20 years ago. Give the people what they want! There will likely also be those who aren’t familiar with his work, but who would love a solidly filmed period detective yarn – especially one with a lead who isn’t white and male.

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