What’s Next in Carrington?
Downton Abbey had a six-season run on PBS. It was acclaimed for its quippy dialogue, as the dapper Earl of Grantham and his extended family came into our homes each Sunday evening.
In stunning costumes – an unforgettable musical score and no shortage of grand houses – the series chronicles the fictional English aristocracy of the 1920s. There is little time leftover for too much historical chitchat. For Downton Abbey is loved for its 16 primary characters. And at the end of the final episode, we want more!
Well, I am no Julian Fellowes – Downton’s screenwriter. Nor have a won 3 Golden Globes or 15 Emmy awards. And in the grand scheme of the modern filmmaking, I have no direct access for pitching my ideas.
Some 50,000 screenplays are registered each year with the Writer’s Guild of America. To that end, an unproduced screenplay of SEVEN DAYS IN CARRINGTON has a .3% chance of becoming a feature film. Volume 4, An Ode to Joe in the CARRINGTON SERIES, is but one of 5,000 new books published each day!
If the screenwriting industry is rigged against outsiders, that’s not to say CARRINGTON stories, like a Masterpiece plot, are not logical and wanted in the marketplace of quality entertainment. There is an obvious lack of realistic supply in TV programming today. And I believe CARRINGTON would sell.
One criticism of my series is too many characters. At last count, there are at least three dozen colorful in-and-outs for you to love! They are woven in and out of the plot based on the problematic issues of the “Day,” deliberate in their placement within a contextual setting. It has to be just right because fact vs. fiction is the key to chronicling the historical record. Especially in fiction.
∞ ∞ ∞
“I can’t imagine what was involved in the research to make your stories historically accurate,” a reader confessed. How realistic is SEVEN DAYS IN CARRINGTON which spans 1929 – 2018?
As I write, an inevitable chronic stop-and-start shadows the narrative to make it historically correct. It takes some doing to get it right. A novel is not real, and yet it is supposed to seem like it. How to get characters in and out of the predicaments leads to: How does a telegram work? Was Greenburg from the TIGERS really 6’4”? How many immigrants arrived on steamships? What was intercontinental travel like before commercial airlines?
Always the questions: What is the highest rank in the Navy? Is there really a back entrance into the U.S. Air Force Academy? Who were the spies before the CIA? What year was the first Olympics televised in America? 1960.
The 5th All-Star Game was held at Griffith Stadium in 1937. It was the same day President Roosevelt threw out the first game ball. It was also the first time America saw the polio-inflicted President wearing braces. It was a moment America and baseball would never forget.
After such discoveries, I am humbled by certain cultural or political truths. Spurred by the notion that others also need to remember, I intentionally pepper the seasons of CARRINGTON with a pivotal reference on a real timeline:
1920 – Rockford, Illinois, when 500 suspected Communists were raided in the infamous Red Scare.
In 1929, Coca-Cola stock had increased by 150% in just four years.
That same year, there were no bridges to connect New Jersey to Manhattan–only the Holland Tunnel that delivered passengers to the R.M.S. Majestic steamship for the flagship transatlantic crossing.
Sometime in the ‘20s: The Rockefeller Scholars program intended to influence foreign policy by training scholars at prestigious universities.
What about Berlin in 1933? And who cares now?
March 23rd – the Enabling Act gave sole legislative power to Adolph Hitler, the Chancellor of The New Germany’s Socialist Party, who did not have to run in an election. Within weeks, all other political parties were banned.
Germany withdrew from the League of Nations, and the free press is censored.
The S.S. Police assume control of the postal service.
The French have no national defense, and Great Britain slashes its military budget.
Albert Einstein denounces his German citizenship and flees to Princeton, New Jersey.
Back home in CARRINGTON, our characters come and go in the seeming ‘ordinary’ with extraordinary consequences – as worthy as the crime dramas on TV today:
1961– A hometown team reaches the state basketball tournament, and their coach ends up on the floor after the victory, mobbed by hometowners.
That same decade race riots break out in segregated communities like Charlottesville, Virginia.
The early 1960s- the first discount store comes to Carrington, and within a decade, the Five & Dimes on Main Street will become history.
The U.S. Supreme Court upholds Tinker vs. Des Moines Board of Education, and a student’s right to free speech.
In Southeast Asia, the CIA creates a fake airline, AIR AMERICA, to fight the North Viet Cong. Only five influential Senators are privy to such information.
1989 – a DC10 jumbo jet crashes in a cornfield in Iowa. Identification of the victims is painstakingly slow in an age before DNA forensic testing.
And then, just like that, in the blink of an eye, it’s the Third Millennium:
“Stand Your Ground” sparks debate about racial profiling and defending private property.
The EB-5 Immigration Visa Program invites foreign investors to spur the U.S. Economy with an offer of citizenship in exchange. Meanwhile, millions of illegal immigrants cross over the U.S.-Mexican border in search of the American Dream.
A ruthless drug cartel is operating in Central Virginia – delivering a deadly potion of fentanyl-laced heroin to unsuspecting addicts in suburban America.
And then I stumbled onto this sobering fact: She was the only American woman convicted of high treason in Germany 1942. Mildred Fish-Harnack, an English professor from the University of Wisconsin – moved to Berlin to fight as a real-life member of The Red Orchestra. In her brave likeness I found another heroine for Volume 4.
“Are you serious about the screenplay?” My cousin wondered after reading Volume 1.
“I read your fabulous book in less than two days! I couldn’t put it down, and now that it is finished, I find myself wanting more!” Another reader asked. It is for these responses that I write: “After reading so many dystopian novels I have enjoyed something realistic.”
And this, from the real-life Wiggler: “The more I see your inspiring pictures and writing, the realization of a movie is not far away!”
It’s real, and yet it’s fiction. It’s America’s legitimate answer to Downton Abbey. As Carson, Downton’s butler would attest, “indeed.
For more inspirational ‘factual reading,’ please visit: http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/supreme-court-landmarks/tinker-v-des-moines-podcast