Howard Blum's American Lightning Book Being Adapted

October 20, 2008

American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century

Wind Dancer Films has picked up the rights to and is developing an adaptation of Howard Blum's book "American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century." The book follows the true story of the 1910 terrorist bombings of the Los Angeles Times and the subsequent investigation and trials that followed. Matt Williams and David McFadzean, who created "Home Improvement" and produced What Women Want, as well as Judd Payne, are producing this adaptation. You may not know much about this, or even really care, without any other major names attached yet, but I suggest you dig a little deeper into this story - you may find something quite interesting.

American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the CenturyTo give you a better idea of what "American Lightning" is all about, let's take a closer look at the story. On October 1st, 1910, the Los Angeles Times building was dynamited in a purposeful bombing that left 21 people dead and many more wounded. The bombing was part of a botched assault on some 100 American cities. In 1911, Iron Workers Union leaders James and Joseph McNamara plea-bargained in exchange for prison sentences instead of death, but their defense attorney was accused of bribing the jury. William J. Burns, a legendary former Secret Service agent and top detective, investigated the McNamaras alongside of silent film director D.W. Griffith in order to uncover the violent truth behind the bombings.

"American Lightning" is compared to Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood": "Blum paints his characters in all their grandeur and tragedy, making them—and their era—come alive." If that's not enough praise, add this little tidbit into the mix as well. "Blum's prose is tight, his speculations unfailingly sound and his research extensive—all adding up to an absorbing and masterful true crime narrative." This sounds like a very intriguing story, that I hadn't ever heard of until now, and I'd love to see what Hollywood does with it. It even sounds like a perfect fit alongside of Brad Bird's 1906. We'll be sure to keep everyone update on any progress this makes, including when they announce a writer and a director.

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Im on board...this sounds like it could be a winner if they stay tight to the facts.

TBone on Oct 20, 2008


Sounds like a very interesting story.

tzarinna on Oct 20, 2008


Sounds like Oscar to me.

Ryan on Oct 20, 2008


It's a great story, just wish it was mine. Two years ago this Friday I completed my first screenplay, titled Dynamite. It's on the Times bombing and the investigation and trial that followed. I sent out a batch of query letters seeking representation, to no avail. Still, I hope they make it, because the characters are great, and the story deserves to be told.

Mark Mandel on Oct 26, 2008

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