Amberlough: A Dreamcast

Lara Elena Donnelly has written a spy thriller set in an alternate world, and I absolutely devoured it. I’ve been trying to come up with my elevator pitch for Amberlough, and get stuck somewhere around “It’s like if The Great Gatsby and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy went through a wormhole and then had a baby.” Alternately, the publisher is pitching it as Cabaret meets Le Carre, which has a pleasing assonance! Regardless, I think Baz Luhrmann would definitely be tempted to adapt this, and I’ve got the perfect actors in mind.

Will you just look at Aristide and Cordelia on that cover?!

The One State Party (a.k.a. Ospies) is trying to consolidate power to unite Gedda’s four provinces (of which Amberlough is the most progressive, enjoying its own version of the Roaring 20s) under one highly conservative rule. Amberlough follows the adventures of a spy, a smuggler/cabaret emcee, and a dancer as they are drawn into this shifting political landscape, with dire consequences.


Let me set the scene for you.

Ewan McGregor dreamcast as Cyril DePaulCyril De Paul: Ewan McGregor

Meet our spy, Cyril DePaul. No longer on active duty thanks to a mission gone wrong, he spends his days coordinating information and wrangling active operatives, and his nights with Aristide Makricosta. He knows perfectly well what Aristide’s real business is (it’s smuggling), Aristide knows perfectly well what Cyril’s business is, but they pretend not to know and get along quite swimmingly. Their perfect arrangement is threatened when Cyril is sent back out into the field and falls under the power of the Ospies, and is forced to end their relationship.

MacGregor is the ultimate DePaul. He’s past his youthful prime but still handsome, can play disaffected and louche as well as sharp and canny, and once I thought of this I literally cannot imagine anyone else playing Cyril as well.

Nelsan Ellis dreamcast as Aristide MakricostaAristide Makricosta: Nelsan Ellis

Aristide has worked hard to get where he is. He’s got adoring fans, wealth, a smuggling network, contacts high and low, and a very torrid and very satisfying affair with Cyril. But when Cyril breaks things off, Makricosta reads the changes coming and starts making his own plans.

I’ve watched Ellis play Lafayette (True Blood) and Shinwell Johnson (Elementary), and I believe he has the range necessary to tackle this character. He’s got to pull off glamour queen of the highest order, mastermind of the underworld, and survivor extraordinaire — but if you’ve seen Ellis act, you’ll agree that it’s just another day’s work for him.

Emily Bett Rickards dreamcast as Cordelia LehaneCordelia Lehane: Emily Bett Rickards

Cordelia just wants enough to get by. And since dancing at the Bumble Bee Cabaret doesn’t pay enough, that means running drugs on the side. She’s never been able to stand Aristide, but when he suddenly offers her a lucrative deal as a runner for him she can’t pass it up. Running for Aristide means “dating” Cyril, for whatever reason, and she’s happy to play along — until she starts to realize exactly what Cyril is involved in.

This was perhaps the most difficult casting choice, as Hollywood is a font of sprightly ingenues with musical theatre experience. But I wanted someone who could also capture Cordelia’s sharpness and striving. She’s worked to leave behind the streets (and the accent) she was born to, and she’s not afraid to fight to keep what she’s got. Cordelia also has arguably the best character arc of all the characters in Amberlough, so this is a choice I did not take lightly. And for my money, Rickards is our gal. She’s got the look, she’s got the background, and her turn as Arrow’s Felicity Smoak has demonstrated her ability to take an initially whimsical character and develop her into someone complex and nuanced.

What say you, folks? If you’ve read Amberlough, who are your top picks for Cyril, Cordelia, and Aristide? Not to mention the rest of the cast! If you haven’t read it yet, go forth! I’ll be here waiting when you get back.

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