Book Review: ‘The Headsman’s Daughter’ Is A First Novel By One Of My Favorite Film Directors

“If you like spy novels, read this book. If you like fantasy novels, read this book. If you like Brian Trenchard-Smith, read this book. Just read this book. It’s a great first novel that should be a film.”


 

Alice awakens in a psychiatric hospital believing she is the daughter of a 16th-century executioner. Is she insane, or has a portal opened to a past life where she and her outlaw lover are hunted by a corrupt noble and his henchmen?

I just finished reading Brian Trenchard-Smith’s novel ‘The Headsman’s Daughter,’ which is available on Amazon and Kindle in the United States and Europe. This is the first non-fiction novel by a first-time novelist I’ve finished in one sitting in a very long time.

But before I go into describing the novel, some back story.

For those of you who don’t know Brian Trenchard-Smith, you should. The man has directed some of the best Australian films of the last fifty years including “Dead-End Drive In,” “Turkey Shoot,” “Drive Hard,” “The Siege of Firebase Gloria,” “Stunt Rock,” and “The Man from Hong Kong.” Trenchard-Smith also directed “Leprechaun 3” and “Leprechaun 4: In Space.” It’s a known fact in the industry that Trenchard-Smith is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite directors.

I’ve been a devotee of Mr. Trenchard-Smith’s since 2003 when I rented a copy of “BMX Bandits” (with the first onscreen Nicole Kidman appearance) from Kim’s Underground in Greenwich village during my NYU days. Trenchard-Smith is one of the most redeemable film directors I’ve ever met, even with his less than perfect work there’s still always something to love. I had no idea that Trenchard-Smith had even written a novel. The project was optioned twice as a screenplay, hitting a snag in securing a young actress to play the lead role. This is a shame because I’d gladly watch “The Headsman’s Daughter.”

The novel reads like it was written by a director, though. The dialogue is tight and gets straight to the point. Each visual is small and compact but memorable. People often say that reading a novel can be similar to watching a movie, but ‘The Headsman’s Daughter’ is by far the closest I ever came.

‘The Headsman’s Daughter’ tells the tale of Alice, an 18-year-old girl who wakes up in a psychiatric hospital under the belief that she is the daughter of a 16th-century executioner. If Alice is mistaken, she’s likely insane. If Alice is right about her belief, she’s a time traveler.

Right when the reader is about to dismiss this novel as a time traveler caught in a modern conspiracy plot, the novel begins a frantic and high-pace ride that’s punctuated at times with strong fight scenes. Trenchard-Smith, a skilled fencer, knows how to write a good fight scene. Alice in the novel also becomes Jane when time traveling, which is a bit of a dream-like relationship in the novel that I never really understood but my lack of failing to understand the details about these mechanics did not impact my appreciation of the novel.

In addition to being a very taut thriller with bad guys in both time periods chasing after the book’s heroine, ‘The Headsman’s Daughter’ is also a love story between Alice and the doctor at the hospital who is really a CIA agent. Together, Alice and the doctor go through time and very dangerous circumstances to stop the bad guys.

Due to fear of ruining any particular elements about the book’s plot, I’ll stop at this juncture. If you like spy novels, read this book. If you like fantasy novels, read this book. If you like Brian Trenchard-Smith, read this book. Just read this book. It’s a great first novel that should be a film.

Now available in bookstores


 

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