The Baltimore Gun Club
I am writing a story featuring the Baltimore Gun Club.
In case you missed them, these were the gentlemen that had the bright idea of building a cannon in Florida (near Tampa, to be precise) and shoot a bullet to the Moon, in Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and its sequel, Around the Moon.
While everybody knows Melies silent movie based on Verne’s novels (and a lot fewer people remember the 1950s movie featuring Joseph Cotten), the books themselves are probably less known than, say 20.000 Leagues Under the Sea or Around the World in 80 Days.
And yet, while less popular than captain Nemo or Phineas Fogg, the members of the Baltimore Gun Club are an interesting bunch.There’s the president, Impey BarbicaneThere’s the token Frenchman, Michel ArdanThere’s the reckless experimenter, J. T. MastonThere’s Captain Nicholl, Barbicane’s eternal adversary
These characters make an excellent team for a steampunk-ish adventure – after all, they appear in novels in which they tackle various problems via different engineering feats, usually involving big explosions.
In building my story, on one hand I had to find a suitably big engineering project worth of the Club, and on the other I had to define the characters as economically as possible.
I see Barbicane as a typical Yankee entrepreneur as seen through the eyes of a Frenchman: loud, somewhat boorish at times, incapable of taking No for an answer. In a tall top hat and a full beard, he’s a sort of exuberant Uncle sam, as portrayed by, say, John Goodman.
On the other hand, Ardan is the artist and the imaginative force of the team. In a movie he’d probably be interpreted by Kevin Kline, in a moustache and with a mock-French accent.
Maston, with his missing hand and other scars, and his total lack of common sense, is almost a comedy relief – and I usually see him as the character portrayed by Kenneth Mars in Young Frankenstein.
And finally Captain Nicholl, the man specialized in creating armor (as opposed to Barbicane’s cannons), could be the kind of character that Peter Cushing used to play – fierce and ruthless if needed, but at his core a good man.
And yes, that would be a wild movie to shoot – but thankfully, this is the great thing about writing compared with making movies – we can mix and match actors from different eras, and find the best possible fit.
I have about 60 days to write this baby – and everything will begin in Baltimore, one fine autumn morning, as a lady asks to be admitted into the hallowed halls of the Baltimore Gun Club…