SA author pulls US pro­ducer’s heart­strings

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE - WEEK­END AR­GUS RE­PORTER

TWO nov­els by South African author Gareth Crocker are set to be­come Hol­ly­wood movies.

Gil­lian Gor­fil, a pro­ducer of the Os­car-nom­i­nated block­buster Blood Di­a­mond star­ring Leonardo DiCaprio, has op­tioned Crocker’s 2011 de­but novel Find­ing Jack and his lat­est thriller, Never Let Go.

Never Let Go tells the story of a US author whose daugh­ter dies in a botched kid­nap­ping. He’s on the verge of tak­ing his own life when a stranger de­liv­ers an en­ve­lope to his home. In­side it is a sin­gle white card with six words that of­fer the im­pos­si­ble: “I can bring your daugh­ter back.”

Find­ing Jack tells the story of aban­doned US war dogs.

While vis­it­ing the Viet­nam Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial in Wash­ing­ton DC sev­eral years ago, Crocker saw a Viet­nam vet­eran in full mil­i­tary gear place a dog har­ness against the foot of the wall. When he asked the man about it, the vet­eran ex­plained he had been a dog han­dler in the war and his dog had saved his life – and the lives of all the men in his pla­toon – on three oc­ca­sions.

He said not a week went by with­out his think­ing of his loyal friend and won­der­ing what hap­pened to him. He ex­plained that af­ter the war, the govern­ment had left th­ese heroic dogs be­hind in Viet­nam, declar­ing them “sur­plus mil­i­tary equip­ment” and too ex­pen­sive to trans­port back to the US.

Said Crocker: “So, de­spite es­ti­mates that about 4 000 highly trained com­bat, tracker and scout dogs saved the lives of about 10 000 Amer­i­can soldiers, few made it home. Al­though a to­ken num­ber were handed over to the South Viet­namese, most were left to fates un­known.”

In­spired by the story of the Viet­nam War dogs, Crocker wrote Find­ing Jack as a trib­ute to those that did not make it home.

“To have some­one of Gil­lian’s cal­i­bre in­ter­ested in my work is flat­ter­ing and tremen­dously ex­cit­ing. Hav­ing now spent some time with her, it’s easy to un­der­stand why she’s such a suc­cess­ful pro­ducer,” said Crocker.

Gor­fil will be meet­ing stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives and agents in the com­ing weeks about Never Let Go and Find­ing Jack.

She said: “I am an avid an­i­mal lover, so when a friend sug­gested that I read Find­ing Jack and told me briefly what it was about, I down­loaded it on my Kin­dle right away. The next thing that I did was to can­cel my plans and switch off my phone.

“I read the book in one sit­ting and when I put it down, I e-mailed Gareth Crocker im­me­di­ately to en­quire about the film rights. Any­one who has ever owned a dog needs to read this book and see the movie when it’s made. It is a mov­ing and im­por­tant story about courage, sur­vival, loy­alty, friend­ship and heal­ing.”

Gor­fil flew to Joburg to meet Gareth to out­line her plans for de­vel­op­ing Find­ing Jack into a movie.

“When he told me why he had writ­ten the book, I was more de­ter­mined than ever to make this hap­pen. At the meet­ing, Gareth gave me a copy of his lat­est novel, Never Let Go. I started to read it on the plane and had a sim­i­lar reaction to my Find­ing Jack ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I read it in two days. Gareth is good at find­ing a sub­ject that tugs at the heart­strings, an es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent for any film. Any­one who has a child, or is plan­ning to have a child, will be pulled along with this story.”

WORD­SMITH: Gareth Crocker

MOVED: Pro­ducer Gil­lian Gor­fil

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