I don’t know any author who doesn’t fantasize about their book becoming a movie. The more delusional among us dream of being asked to write the script - “Only you can bring it to life onscreen!” - having a director’s chair with our name on it, gossiping in our trailer with makeup and wardrobe. And of course, we’ll have final word on casting and become best friends with the star.
I’ve cast every mystery I’ve written, and The Wharton Plot is no exception. John Lithgow for Henry James was obvious. For Edith Wharton, I dithered over Olivia Colman vs. Laura Linney. But there is only one actor I feel is crucial to the success of the film.
Like other megastars - Cher, Prince, Diana - Derek goes by a single name. Also, he is a dog. Better known to the world as Tricki Woo, the pampered Pekingese on All Creatures Great and Small.
In 1911, Edith Wharton was considering a number of changes in her life. Among them: what kind of dog she favored. For many years, she was a devout Chihuahua lover. But around this time, she made a radical shift to pekes. I have been wanting to write a Pekingese for ages, and when I heard that she had one named Choumai, he immediately went into The Wharton Plot. I like to think she named him for the Japanese dumpling. (Full disclosure: she was not traveling with Choumai on this trip, but…no matter. Choumai! Dumplings!)
Choumai plays no role in solving the crime, but he is essential to Edith nonetheless, and getting the casting right is essential. When I write of Choumai “stomping across the New York Times,” I envision Derek, who waddles with such charisma. Only Derek could capture Choumai’s “curious little gaze,” his similarity to a footstool, and his stalwart devotion to his mistress, especially when she feeds him egg and toast.
Derek owes his career in part to animal trainer Jill Clark, who found him in a rescue shelter when his owner died. As you can see from his magnificently plummy bum, he spends a lot of time in hair, but also make up as they put a little foundation around his eyes so they really pop. Co-star Samuel West who plays Siegfried Farnon calls Derek “a grand scene larcenist” adding, “Derek’s such a diva that he would arrive on a cushion with his handlers.” Clark agrees, “He likes his own space, and he likes to do what he wants to do.”
Derek is represented by 1st Choice Animals. (“We can provide any animals to hire from an Ant to an Elephant!”) Derek is not in their current gallery; no doubt he is fully booked filming All Creatures Great and Small. But the film rights to The Wharton Plot have not yet been sold. Hopefully, when they are, Derek will be ready for his next close-up. And he and I will become best friends.
Mariah Fredericks' mesmerizing novel, The Wharton Plot, follows renowned novelist Edith Wharton in the twilight years of the Gilded Age in New York as she tracks a killer.
New York City, 1911. Edith Wharton, almost equally famed for her novels and her sharp tongue, is bone-tired of Manhattan. Finding herself at a crossroads with both her marriage and her writing, she makes the decision to leave America, her publisher, and her loveless marriage.
And then, dashing novelist David Graham Phillips—a writer with often notorious ideas about society and women’s place in it—is shot to death outside the Princeton Club. Edith herself met the man only once, when the two formed a mutual distaste over tea in the Palm Court of the Belmont hotel. When Phillips is killed, Edith's life takes another turn. His sister is convinced Graham was killed by someone determined to stop the publication of his next book, which promised to uncover secrets that powerful people would rather stayed hidden. Though unconvinced, Edith is curious. What kind of book could push someone to kill?
Inspired by a true story, The Wharton Plot follows Edith Wharton through the fading years of the Gilded Age in a city she once loved so well, telling a taut tale of fame, love, and murder, as she becomes obsessed with solving a crime.
Mystery Woman Sleuth [Minotaur Books, On Sale: January 23, 2024, Hardcover / e-Book, ISBN: 9781250827425 / eISBN: 9781250827432]
Mariah Fredericks was born, raised, and still lives in New York City. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in history. She is the author of the Jane Prescott mystery series, which has twice been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award, as The Lindbergh Nanny, which was nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and Sue Feder Memorial Award. Her most recent novel, The Wharton Plot, was published in January.
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