A QUESTION OF MURDER
Like the characters in Waiting for Godot, three people – two men and a woman – find themselves waiting in limbo-land for something but are not quite sure what. There is obviously something that connects them but at first they are unaware of what that might be. One of the two men becomes increasingly sinister and threatening towards the woman as the play develops into a plot drawn more from The Twilight Zone and Stephen King as the horrifying truth emerges. Cast of three and a black box setting.
-“A Question of Murder is very disturbing. Very dark and Twilight Zone. It was seriously disturbing, but intriguing. No matter how uncomfortable I got I had to keep reading to find out what happened. Great writing.” You can see a shorted version of the play as performed at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Manhattan in August, 2017, on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRJtpSbfui4&feature=youtu.be
GENRE: Psychological thriller/detective
LOGLINE: Robert Stanton hates to leave anyone sad or disappointed. He’d sooner kill them. Having survived death himself, he knows how beautiful it can be. But he is up against homicide detective Terrell Newman, who is equally obsessive in his mission to stop further “mercy killings”. SYNOPSIS: The movie opens with Robert Stanton executing a “mercy killing” on a San Antonio woman he has met on the internet.
Terrell Newman, a homicide detective is called in by the new police captain, Erick Merino. Newman expects to be offered early retirement by Merino as part of a general cleanout of the “old guard”. Instead, Newman is promoted to head the homicide division.
Newman is called in to investigate the death of a young woman who is found laid out neatly in her bed as if she had been prepared for burial by a funeral home.
As he begins to piece together the evidence, Newman realizes that he is dealing with involuntary euthanasia and that the killer is from another state.
He also suspects that this is not the first killing and this is confirmed when he discovers that the body of another woman had been found in similar circumstances a year earlier in Illinois.
With the help of eccentric FBI forensic psychologist Walter Selig, Newman builds up a profile of a man who is projecting his fear of abandonment onto his victims and is killing women he meets through the internet out of fear of disappointing them.
Selig predicts that the killer will start widening the range of his targets and will kill with increasing frequency.
The screenplay explores the mind of the killer as he seeks out his next victims. As Selig predicts, this includes a radical departures from his previous pattern of killings.
Newman tracks Stanton to a luxury apartment in Columbus, Ohio, but by that time the killer is already on his way to Washington to meet his next victim.
A frantic race ensues as the police attempt to track down the woman before he can kill her. There are subplots about the ambitious patrol officer who first calls Newman when her suspicions are aroused by the unusual circumstances in which the she discovers the body, and Newman’s relationship with Lieutenant Rosita Ferreira, head of San Antonio’s Sex Crimes division.
THE DECONSTRUCTION OF DOCTOR GERALD ACKERMAN
LOGLINE: The son of a former sex supplier to the rich and famous makes it his mission to deconstruct and expose corrupt influential figures.
SYNOPSIS: A famous televangelist is found catatonic and naked in a public park, two weeks after going missing. As he begins to emerge from his traumatic stupor, he manifests an aversion to anything white. He refuses to see his wife or answer questions about what happened to him while he was missing, saying that he will explain everything just once – in a television broadcast. Watched by millions nationwide, he confesses that his life has been an empty sham, with all his pastoral work designed purely for self-glorification and enrichment. He ends by shooting himself in the head, leaving everyone in the dark about what actually happened to him during his disappearance.
Not long afterwards, the drug-addicted daughter of a prominent psychiatrist disappears during a sadomasochistic orgy. Her father seems unconcerned, telling police that she is probably on a drug binge with friends and will turn up when she runs out of money. Four weeks after her disappearance, her father also disappears following revelations that his daughter believes him to have sexually abused her as a child.
Investigators find themselves drawn repeatedly to a psychology clinic in a house formerly owned by the late Ruth Lamarr, a notorious madam said to have had many famous and powerful people – including people close to a former president – as her clients. It was pressure from these clients, it is believed, that led to investigations into her activities being abandoned before anything could be proved against her. The head of the present-day clinic is a Princeton-educated female psychologist, whom detectives suspect may be carrying on where Ruth Lamarr left off, offering a smorgasbord of exotic sexual services to her rich clients.
But behind the scenes, there is a very different scenario, with the son of Ruth Lamarr putting the psychiatrist through a harrowing mental ordeal in an attempt to deconstruct his soul.
GENRE: Psychological thriller/detective
LOGLINE: Michael Vickers never lets bad behavior go unpunished. He stores it all in his Retribution Files and waits for the right time. Now he is ready to kill a Congressman and close the very first file, opened twenty years ago. It will be his first execution. But it won’t be his last – unless Terrell Newman gets to him first.
SYNOPSIS: A newly elected Texas Congressman is found dead in his hotel room in bizarre circumstances immediately after being given a civic reception in his former hometown outside San Antonio. At first he is thought to have accidentally killed himself while indulging in autoerotic asphyxiation. But Lieutenant Newman begins to suspect that he has been murdered. His suspicions eventually lead him to a reclusive software designer who has been nursing a grudge against the Congressman for nearly twenty years and who obsessively keeps records of everyone who has offended him since his school days. While following the progress of the investigation, the book also follows the progress of the killer, Michael Vickers, as he plans revenge against others who have crossed his path and as he reluctantly begins to fall in love with a woman he has met at a bridge club. As he begins to suspect Vickers, Newman finds himself impressed by the honesty and integrity of this strange man and begins to feel a spiritual bond with him. The title is derived from the fact that the killer puts his rage on ice, showing infinite patience in waiting for the right time and circumstances to deliver what he considers to be retribution against those who have made him their enemy. Unlike the two following books in the series – in which the true situation is not discovered until the end – the killer is identified early in the narrative and the suspense is built up around the investigation as Newman begins to close in on him, paralleled by the killer’s plans for further “acts of retribution” and the developing relationship between the killer and the woman he grows to love.
GENRE: Psychological thriller/horror/detective based on true story
LOGLINE: Hell has no fury like a woman abused, as homicide detective Terrell Newman discovers when a psychologist is murdered after telling police that one of his patients might be a serial killer under the influence of a “demon personality”. The investigation uncovers a town’s dark secret and more murders going back two decades. Based on real events.
SYNOPSIS: This story is loosely based on events, circumstances and pathology as described to me by a clinical psychologist specializing in Multiple Personality Disorders (also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder). A number of her clients came from the same area and had similar memories – of being forced to partake in rituals where men in white robes were present and animals were slaughtered as a prelude to debauchery. One of her woman clients from this area confessed to having killed two children and a vagrant. The psychologist went to see police about this confession, but no evidence was immediately found to support the claim and the investigation did not proceed. The story begins with a distinguished and educated man telling his illegitimate daughter that he is going to teach her how to “love in the face of fear” and how to wield power in a world ruled by the forces of Satan. The narrative jumps forward 18 years, with a clinical psychologist specializing in multiple personality disorders being told by a woman patient that both their lives are in danger from a woman who has killed before. The psychologist assumes that the “woman” she is referring to is the “demon personality” she carries within herself. He goes to the police to check out if her claims about the killings – which include an account of a man being burned alive in the backwater Texas town of Fallen Oak – have any evidence to support them, or whether they took place only in her imagination. At the same time he tells his police contacts – Rosita Ferreira, head of San Antonio’s Sex Crime Unit, and Terrell Newman, head of the Homicide Division – that he believes there was a period of at least eight years when a group of adults inflicted systematic and sustained sadistic acts on children in and around Fallen Oak. Newman and Ferreira promise to look into it. A week later the psychologist is found murdered – with a ballpoint pen hammered through his heart before he was doused in gasoline and set alight. His office is destroyed by the fire, along with patient records. In the early hours of the morning after the murder, a car is found torched close to the psychologist’s office. The car is traced to a nightclub lap dancer who turns out to be the patient the murdered psychologist suspected of being a serial killer. The patient cannot be found and at first she is suspected of having fled the area. Two days later her burned body is found in the unkempt and overgrown garden of a former mansion destroyed by fire 18 years earlier. When forensic investigators arrive to examine the scene, they find the buried remains of other murder victims – three men and three young girls. It turns out that one of the three men found buried there is Alistair Brodie, a former major contributor to Klan activities around Fallen Oak – and that Klan members killed him after finding out about him using his Klan membership as a means of facilitating his sadistic activities. Newman’s investigations lead him to another former patient of the dead psychologist – a woman once rumored to be the illegitimate daughter of Alistair Brodie. Newman realizes that she was the dead psychologist’s first MPD patient and that she had later become romantically involved with him. Newman also discovers she is the same woman who – as a ten year old child – inflicted the sadistic treatment that resulted in the mental disorders of the woman patient found burned to death. The narrative then jumps back to the opening scene, which ends with Brodie’s illegitimate daughter watching from an upstairs window as Brodie is burned to death on a cross. It ends with her arrest and incarceration – when, in a cell on her own, she sees herself surrounded by other women who tease and torment her. As she struggles with her imaginary tormentors, she sees Brodie appear at the back of her cell. He kisses her on the cheek and welcomes her to hell.
SECRET OF THE CAVES
GENRE: Horror/murder mystery/detective
LOGLINE: The discovery by a young boy of a cave, long hidden but which once served as the headquarters of an evil Indian shaman who practiced human sacrifices, leads to a series of disappearances of young girls – each one a year older than the previous one.
SYNOPSIS: After a teenage girl disappears, detective Terrell Newman discovers a link with other missing girls.
Newman discovers that every year, for the past six years, a young girl has disappeared around the same time of the year. Each of them has striking similarities and each one is almost exactly a year older than the one previously kidnapped.
Suspicion gradually falls on someone who could make life very difficult for the investigators.
The story of the investigation is interwoven with the history of a boy who is traumatized when he discovers a cave and finds himself experiencing a vision of horror.
GENRE: historical murder mystery/detective
LOGLINE: When a plane explodes in mid-air killing a senator and his father, the unravels a murder mystery going back more than half a century.
SYNOPSIS: A senator and his prominent father are killed when their private plane blows up in mid air on its way from San Antonio to Dallas.
At first the FBI suspect terrorism, but Newman is called in to assist in investigating the theory that it might have been simply a homicide disguised to look like the work of terrorists.
Noting the number of strange deaths and other tragedies within the senator’s family over the years – going back to the grandfather, who was found hanging from an oilrig in an apparent suicide – Newman begins to wonder if there is any connection between these other events and the latest tragedy.
The screenplay intersperses scenes about the family’s history – beginning with the arrival of the grandfather in Texas in the 1930s – with the progress of the investigation by Newman and the FBI.
Newman finally unravels a complex tapestry of tragedy that has been haunting this Texas oil dynasty for many years – involving murders, madness and an intricate web of extraordinary passions than span four generations.
GHOSTS IN THE AFTERNOON
GENRE: Black comedy, mystery/romance
LOGLINE: Strange things happen when an introverted Englishman is forced to let out a room in the New York apartment he shares with the ghosts of his past and his future.
SYNOPSIS: Ross Everett, an introverted and burned-out writer, ends a hollow relationship with a married woman at the same time he rents a room in his New York apartment to Rachel, an extravert Texan woman.
He is torn between his attraction to her, his self-consciousness and his fear of involvement.
Complicating the situation is the fact that he is haunted by the ghost of his youth and the specter of a diminished old age.
But when the immovable objectivity of his introvert nature is challenged by the irresistible force of the outgoing Texan, something’s got to give.
RUNNING IN THE DARK
LOGLINE: An architect going through divorce crashes his car and witnesses a murder through someone else’s eyes while unconscious. His search for meaning leads him to a psychologist who once had a schoolgirl crush on him. A personal connection with the murder becomes apparent after his daughter is kidnapped – when his near-death experience gives him the key to saving her.
SYNOPSIS: An architect going through divorce proceedings and a premature midlife crisis crashes his car on a remote country road in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia. He staggers to an isolated house to ask for help and witnesses a murder. He runs back to the crashed car with the killer chasing after him and sees his own body being stretchered into an ambulance.
He wakes up in hospital and discovers he has had a near death experience.
When he gets out of hospital he goes back to the place where he crashed his car but cannot find the house where he saw the murder. He later realizes that he has witnessed the murder through someone else’s eyes and that the murder has not yet taken place.
He tries to find this person and eventually locates him in a different state. But instinct tells him not to pursue the matter further.
A personal connection with the impending murder becomes clear after his daughter is kidnapped.
He realizes that the only way he can prevent his daughter being killed is to follow the man through whose eyes he saw the murder, without letting him know. The narrative also traces the origins of his divorce and his romance with a psychologist he goes to see about his experience on the night of his car crash – a woman who turns out to have had a crush on him since they were at school together.
MAKE ME A MUSICAL
GENRE: Musical comedy
LOGLINE: A comedy lampoon of classic movie musicals (and show business) wrapped up in a modern version of the Faust story, with uncool songwriter Robert Ponsonby selling his soul to the evil agent Cedric E. De Ville in exchange for some street credibility and songwriting success.
SYNOPSIS: Make Me a Musical is loosely based on the Faust story and is set in the context of a “backstage musical” which embraces many of the cliches of the genre – and turns them on their head. It could almost be described as a something of a parody musical, with some elements of pastiche and with its tongue firmly in its cheek.
It was created to be a high-energy show, with more than its share of high kicking chorus numbers, but the score also includes some tender ballads and some funky, jazz numbers which reflect the story’s New York setting,
The story revolves around the rehearsals of a new Broadway show – also called “Success!” It begins with the auditions for the show – and if anyone is reminded of the opening scenes of “A Chorus Line”, this is entirely calculated. “A Chorus Line” is just one of the classic musicals at which “Success!” takes an affectionate dig.
Robert Ponsonby, the show’s rehearsal pianist, dreams of being a Broadway songwriter, but feels he will never make it because he lacks “street cred”, being a white Anglo-Saxon male with no minority status and no suffering to speak of (apart from the frustration of not being taken seriously as a composer). During rehearsals, he becomes friendly with one of the chorus girls, Angela Goodall He is thrilled when she enthuses about some songs he has written, and they begin to fall in love.
Robert is suddenly approached by Cedric E. de Ville – a powerful New York agent who is also the manager of the show’s leading lady, Stella Hudson. De Ville offers to be Robert’s agent and manager and promises to make him the most successful song writer in America – provided Robert agrees to do everything De Ville asks him to, which includes having to pay De Ville 80 per cent of everything he earns (as de Ville points out: “20 per cent of a fortune is bet ter than 100 per cent of nothing!’) Robert agrees – in effect selling his soul to the devil (or in this case, to the De Ville).
De Ville tells Robert he will never make it as a songwriter if he continues writing the kind of romantic music that he has been doing. “Nobody buys that dipsy doodle love crap anymore,’ he tells Robert. “What you need is a formula, kid, and I can give It to you.” What’s most Important, he says, is the packaging – not the product. “With the right type of hype you can do very weIl.”
Robert succumbs to the blandishments of De Ville, while Angela becomes increasingly dismayed by this turn of events, believing that Robert should continue writing the kind of songs he produced before De Ville came onto the scene. She is even more dismayed by the changes she begins to see in Robert him self, as he turns from the innocent and unassuming (albeit rather naive) person she first knew into an egocentric monster.
This personality change is engineered by De Ville in scenes that are the flip side of Eliza Doolittle being changed from a flower girl into a lady by Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”
“No one will take you seriously if you’re too nice,” De Ville tells him. “It don’t really matter if you’re a genius if you don’t know how to act the part. If you expect to get some respect you gotta kick a little bit of ass.”
De Ville engineers a plot to remove Robert from the influence of Angela and send him into the arms of Stella Hudson, who is completely under de Ville’s control. Robert is left with the impression that Angela has been cheating on him and becomes easy prey to the machinations of the evil duo.
Will Robert discover the truth? Will he and Angela be re-united? Will he return to writing the kind of music that Angela had so admired? No prizes for guessing the answers to these questions. This is, after all, a pastiche.
GENRE: A Hitchcock-type psycho thriller
LOGLINE: Is there an “evil virus” in the coal bin of the old home that Janine and Eddie have bought for renovation? Or is Janine going mad?
SYNOPSIS: Janine and Eddie Garner take on an old house for renovation – complete with moldy books and furniture left behind by the former owner.
They are puzzled by a coal bin in the basement that is locked from the inside and bricked up on the outside. When they open it up, they find an old rag doll and a moldy pillow inside. Janine finds this disturbing as well as odd.
Shortly after they move in, Janine starts to experience strange encounters of the eerie kind. These begin with a child’s voice interrupting a radio program, pleading for mercy from its mother. She also feels the house is being watched.
One day she watches a television chat show featuring a guest author who has written a book about “psychic residue” (the contaminant effects that evil deeds leave in their wake). The program is suddenly interrupted by static, and the program is replaced by black and white scenes of a woman locking a young girl in the coal bin.
Janine starts having nightmares and her personality takes on temporary changes that leave both her and her husband puzzled and disturbed – particularly after Janine attacks her husband with a kitchen knife one night.
A psychologist asks Janine whether she was subjected to sadistic treatment as a child. Janine says no. The psychologist explains that the kind of personality disorder these episodes suggest are almost invariably caused by being subjected to deliberate and regular sadistic treatment as a child.
Janine begins to believe she is being contaminated by “psychic residue” left behind by the previous family. She learns that the daughter of the previous owner killed her mother and lover on the property .
Then people begin turning up dead.
SETTING: The screenplay is set mainly in and around a semi-rural old house.
GODDESS OF DARKNESS
GENRE: Horror comedy/psychological thriller
LOGLINE: The daughter of sadomasochistic parents recruits slaves over the internet to kill her family and to kidnap a former boyfriend so she can torture and brainwash him.
SYNOPSIS: A man is found dead from an apparent drug overdose. The dead man turns out to be the estranged son of the widow of a lawyer who sacrificed his manhood for his mistress.
It is then discovered that the dead man’s drugs were spiked, and investigators suspect murder.
When the dead man’s mother and the family lawyer are murdered shortly afterwards, suspicion falls on the “Goddess of Darkness”, a highly intelligent but emotionally infantile young woman who has recruits “slaves” through the internet and commands them through visual internet links.
This suspicion is strengthened by the disappearance of the daughter’s former lover, a songwriter/singer named Alex Jago, who abandoned her a few years earlier when he tired of her demands that he treat her like a goddess.
Homicide detectives Terrell Newman and Jack Brown suspect she is getting her slaves to carry out the killings for her.
Jack Brown tries to pass himself off as a prospective slave, hoping to gain her confidence, and is put through a humiliating ordeal before his mission ends in abject failure.
They then enlist the help of Edward Harrison, who runs a “slave farm”, and Walter Selig, an eccentric FBI profiler.
Harrison has mixed feelings about helping, since he feels partly responsible for her father’s death.
Harrison’s attitude becomes less ambiguous when she sends a slave to infiltrate his own slave community and kill him.
The attempted killing of Harrison is thwarted, but hopes of getting evidence against The Goddess of Darkness through this incident are dashed when the would-be assassin self-destructs
The screenplay intersperses episodes of the investigation with scenes showing the communications between The Goddess of Darkness and her slaves, and the ordeal that Alex Jago is put through before he manages to escape.
The screenplay ends with the arrest of the “goddess”, but with one of her principal slaves – the kidnapper of Alex Jago – still free.
TIM IN THE REALM OF GREED
GENRE: Family fantasy (Harry Potter meets Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz.)
LOGLINE: After his father loses his job, Tim meets a time traveler who gives him the key to the spirit worlds, in each of which he faces seven challenges on his way to preventing the world from being totally overrun by bad spirits. This is the first in a projected series entitled “The Seven Chambers”.
ALTERNATIVE LOGLINE: Harry Potter meets Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince and The Wizard of Oz in this story of a boy who is given a key to different time zones and parallel worlds.
SYNOPSIS: Soon after his father has been laid off from work and the future is looking very bleak, 12-year-old Tim Wilkins meets a time traveler named Carrots who reminds him of Bugs Bunny.
Carrots tells Tim that bad spirits have been gathering strength for the past 2000 years and are poised to take over the world and turn everything to darkness and despair.
The only way to stop them is for Tim to visit the Seven Chambers, which lead to different realms that exist as parallel worlds. In each of these realms Tim must face seven challenges. If he succeeds, the bad spirits will be defeated.
Carrots gives Tim an Einstein Bracelet as the key to these realms, which can only be entered one at a time at each equinox.
The first is the Realm of Greed, where Tim finds a lot of familiar faces and a plot to program everyone to make them more compliant customers and employees.