Books That Should Be Movies: Ratcatcher

Ratcatcher by James McGee (Harper Collins)

Okay, so I have recently heard the best reasoning for Hollywood making movies based on books: the “Playing to an established market theory of not losing your pants on an epic blockbusterial fail.” Fine. But in this rationale they are missing some absolute gems of books that never sat on the top of the New York Times best sellers lists for years and yet, with even a mediocre director, would make a heck of a lot more sense as a movie than a self-help diatribe like Eat, Pray, Love. So here is the first installment of Chris’ Books That Should Be Movies…

Ratcatcher by James McGee (2006)

The first of an evocative series of historical detective novels based around Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood. As a runner, an investigative officer attached to the Bow Street Jurisdictional courts, Hawkwood is essentially a cross between an undercover cop, a thug and a spy. From the dingiest corners of Regency era London amidst a seemingly neverending war against Napoleon to the salons and halls of the elite, Hawkwood pursues a strange case of a naval courier executed at the hands of highwaymen. It is only in when he discovers the contents of the case sawed off of the courier’s hand that Hawkwood realizes the actual import of this mystery. Napoleonic spies abound throughout the halls and courts of England and the Emperor has himself a fiendish plan, a capable American ally and, should Hawkwood fail in his task, the English fleet scuttled at the bottom of the seas.

As a book, Ratcatcher is one of those awesome summer reads that make you not want to leave the hammock. McGee does period history with the flair of an enlightened master… Hawkwood’s world weary eyes, battle scarred and twisted backstory and his penchant for finding himself in life threatening situations make the book an absolute delight to read. Only when you finish it do you realize that you’ve actually learned quite a bit from the story as well.

So why do I think this would make an awesome movie? Hawkwood himself is a character that would be fun to watch. He’s sometimes bitter, sometimes foolish and always impressive in a fight. The supporting cast would be impeccable, his one time war ally and now criminal mastermind Nathaniel Iago (and his little empire), the toadish Bow Street secretary Ezra Twigg, Sir James Read, some poffs, some dandies, a very hot imperilled femme fatale and the scariest, most dangerous den mother since The Goonies. Aside from having a plot that would actually evoke interest and keep an audience wondering right through to the very end, you have countless sword fights, gun fights, highway robberies, a hand being sawn off, a royal family in immediate peril and a final confrontation that takes place aboard the world’s very first submarine.

So, until Hollywood comes to it’s senses and hits the “Less then a hundred weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List” pile of “Original Movie Ideas,” I recommend finding a copy of Ratcatcher. It is more than well worth the read.

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