If you’re HBO, and Alan Ball comes to you and says “I want to adapt this series of books into a series,” you say yes. True Blood — Ball’s adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire Mysteries novels — has been an immense success for the pay network, even landing an Outstanding Drama Emmy nomination yesterday.
So naturally, HBO has ordered a pilot based on the 2009 Charlie Huston crime novel The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, which Ball will produce and direct. Huston scripted the adaptation himself, which centers on “an inveterate twenty-something slacker who stumbles into a career as a crime scene cleaner, only to find himself entangled with a murder mystery, a femme fatale, and the loose ends of his own past.” Hit the jump for Ball’s comments as to his approach.
Though the novel deals with very noirish themes, Ball will shy away from the traditional visual style of the genre:
“All Signs has a hard noir feel but it’s also ironic; it’s graphic and gritty but human and very moving at the same time — it is able to capture all those elements in a very distinctive tone… We’re going to try to go against the grain, away from the overlit, stylized noir for a more frantic, contemporary, naturalistic style.” [Deadline]
Such a statement inspires ambivalence: I really can’t get enough of the noir genre, but it sounds like Ball has a distinct and passionate take on the material. I have to get behind that. Plus, if Bored to Death is any indication, HBO projects too steeped in noir may just be obnoxious.
Ball picked up the book on a recommendation from muse Harris, and shortly after met with Huston. The pulp novelist informed Ball that he was mulling over pitching All Signs as a series, and asked for input. The rest, as they say, is history.
Here’s the synopsis via Amazon:
With his teaching career derailed by tragedy and his slacker days numbered, Webster Fillmore Goodhue makes an unlikely move and joins Clean Team, charged with tidying up L.A.’s grisly crime scenes. For Web, it’s a steady gig, and he soon finds himself sponging a Malibu suicide’s brains from a bathroom mirror and flirting with the man’s bereaved and beautiful daughter.
Then things get weird: The dead man’s daughter asks a favor. Every cell in Web’s brain tells him to turn her down, but something makes him hit the Harbor Freeway at midnight to help her however he can. Soon enough it’s Web who needs the help when gun-toting California cowboys start showing up on his doorstep. What’s the deal? Is it something to do with what he cleaned up in that motel room in Carson? Or is it all about the brewing war between rival trauma cleaners? Web doesn’t have a clue, but he’ll need to get one if he’s going to keep from getting his face kicked in. Again. And again. And again.