Corporate novel sold to Hollywood

By Rhonda Dredge

For those who’ve got addicted to Netflix during the pandemic, the news that a corporate novel set in the CBD is to be made into a TV series should keep them on their couches.

Maybe the Horse Will Talk is fast-paced, amusing, clever and relevant to those considering how to turn their jobs into something more meaningful.

Novelist Elliot Perlman used to work in the CBD as a lawyer and is well-known for being sensitive to workplace politics.

The novel, which was sold to Paramount Pictures late last year, begins with the premise that many are fighting to hold down jobs they hate. 

This is not a serious condemnation of the capitalist system nor a gripe about office work but the set up for a work that argues in favour of negotiating your own way towards a better deal.

Apparently, the Americans loved it. 

Much of the action in the novel takes place in fictional premises on Collins St and near King St. 

Elliot has signed the contract with Paramount to write and produce the mini-series but unfortunately it won’t be shot where the action was conceived.

“I would have loved it to be shot in Melbourne,” Elliot told CBD News, “but I didn’t have any Australian producers approach me.”

He said that Paramount contacted him directly after he sent them the novel.

The mini-series is likely to be set in Chicago instead, which has a different climate and ethnic mix but “both have rough-and-tumble corporate sectors,” Elliot said.

Maybe the Horse Will Talk tracks the fortunes of commercial lawyer Stephen Maserov as he seeks to save his job at a large legal firm by making a sexual harassment case go away for a construction company. 

Everything that happens in the novel has happened in real life, Elliot claimed. 

“In any kind of corporation, the judiciary, corporate solicitors, the Lord Mayor’s office, even the church, you could find financial corruption. It does happen. It’s reported on all the time.”

As a former commercial lawyer and barrister for several firms in Bourke and William streets, Elliot knows the culture first-hand.

In his first novel Three Dollars, released in 1998, he addressed the impact of economic rationalism on the workplace. It was a pioneer of the genre in Australia.

“The workplace is so important in our lives because it’s where we see a human being confronted by the distancing effect of money,” Elliot said, but it is rarely the topic of fiction in Australia.

He said the Americans liked the book because of its scathing exploration of the toxic workplace. The novel takes a strong moral stance, but it has been criticised for giving the best roles to men. Elliot denies this charge.

“If you’re interested in changing things, men are the problem,” Elliot said. “Men who don’t perpetrate sexual harassment need to be appalled so they become the allies of women.”

He said there are three strong female roles in the book. 

“The most heroic person in the book is Jessica. A lot of actresses will kill to play her.”

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