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Primal Fear
St. Simons author William Diehl sees another of his books become a movie
Marty Suiter
Savannah News-Press

Here are the top movies from last weekend, as compiled by Exhibitor Relations Company, Inc,

3- "Broken Arrow,"
20th Century Fox, $13.5 million 2. "Muppet Treasure Island/' Disney, $10.1 million (tie) "Happy GMmore," Universal, $10.1 million 4. "City Hall," . Columbia, $8 million 5. "Mr. Holland's Opus," Disney, $7.5 million 6. "Mr. Wrong," Disney, $5.9 million 7. "Black Sheep/Paramount, $4.8 million 8. "Leaving Las Vegas." MGM, $3.62 million 9. "Sense and Sensibility, Columbia, $3.61 million 10. "Dead Man Walking,' Gramercy, $3.4 million

tion. His white teeth sparkled in the florescent lights as he greeted each person by name, shook hands, slapped shoulders and planted kisses. The flock exclaimed, "Fantastic," "Wonderful," "Great," and gave Diehl the thumbs up. They were not talking about a sermon, although what they just saw did include crucifixes and a few altar boys. And Diehl is no preacher. The 71-year-old St. Simons Island resident has authored seven best-selling thrillers and has another under contract. Four years ago, Paramount Pictures bought the option to turn "Primal Fear," Diehl's sixth book, into a movie. Although the film wont open officially until April 3, Paramount held a special screening Monday night at Brunswick's Glynn Place Mall for the author and his invited guests. Two hundred fortyseven acquaintances, friends and associates showed up. "Primal Fear" is the first .book in a trilogy about attorney Martin Vail. Richard Gere plays the slick and arrogant Vail, who is defending Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), a 19-year-old stuttering altar boy accused of butchering the Archbishop of Chicago. Across the courtroom, Vail faces prosecuting attorney Janet Venerable (Laura Linney). Vail was her lover and her mentor, she can hardly wait to prosecute what she thinks is an openand-shut case. Nothing, though, goes as expected in the


BRUNSWICK illiam Diehl stood at the double doors at the back of the theater like a preacher dismissing his congrega-

Stampler trial. In the end, even Vail loses control over the chain of events "It's a terrific movie," said Diehl. "The casting was perfect. I couldn't be more pleased withit." Although he sat in a quiet corner of a mall restaurant after the screening, Diehl was interrupted several;times by well-wishers. Even the waiter knew who he was, chastising him for stealing Virginia Gunn from Atlanta, " Gunn, Diehl's wife, was the former Atlanta television personality who hosted Atlanta's PM Magazine. They moved Co St Simons in the early Ws, six months after his first book, "Sharkey's Machine/' was made into a movie directed by and starring Burt Reynolds "It truly annoyed me that you took Virginia Guno away from TV," said the waiter with an apologetic smile. "She was the only real per sonality on TV for a long time." Diehl seemed quite pleased and gave the waiter a 100 percent tip at, the end of the evening. . " Qiehl worked as a crime and investigative importer at the Atlanta Constitution under the lefendary editor Ralph McGill- In his late vingin Itorld Wr tt he flew» ^ ^ raids as • ball turret gunner He also was •founding editor for Atlanta Ifaguine. In the early Itffe, he worked for two yean as

Magazine and for 11 years shot football for Sports Illustrated. His book-writing career didn't start until he turned 50. "All my life I wanted to write a novel," he said. The turning point was his birthday, when his wife gave him a ice-cream cake shaped like a typewriter. No one touched it and he watched it slowly melt into a lumpy mess — a metaphor for the career that he had never started. "The next morning I got up, sold all my cameras and wrote 'Sharkey's Machine,' " he said. The manuscript sold based on its first 100 pages. All of Diehl's books are spine-tingling thrillers. They require a great deal of research, which the author does from his home. "I've never been to places I've written about," he said. "I hate to travel. And I live on the beach. Why should I want to go anywhere else?" Union Instead, he uses a AUTHOR WILLIAM Diehl at his home on St. Simons Island, combination of CDwhere he awaits the opening of "Primal Fear" on April 3. ROM discs, National Geographic magazines and television specials, and a host of books, papers and documents. Along the way, he has well-acquainted with espionage, Thailand, Hitler, Roosevelt, Vietnam veterans, the Mafia, and more. "I learned some really strange stuff," he said. "I can walk into a drugstore, buy three items and make a weapon that can kill you in 30 minutes." "Primal Fear" started with the idea of multiple personality disorders. Between the first Martin Vail chronicle and its sequel, "Show of Evil," he spent eight months investigating mental disorders. He watched patients change from one personality to another, interAARON STAMPUR (Edwar^Norton, viewed Dr. Everett Kugler, one of the psychiaright), a naive altai* boy,is accused of trists for the "Three Faces of Eve" case; and murder in a case tt«t rocks Chicago in viewed hours of tapes and read thrpugh court "Primal fear; Martin Vail (Rteban* Gere, transcripts dealing with multiple personality; left) is his brilliant and arrogant defense defendants.


a photographer for Martin Luther King Jr. For years afterward, he Worked at* freelance photographer. He has worked for Ufo

Diehl also wanted to write about "a lawyer so clever he out-foxes himself/' he said. "He believed his client He never did that before and that is why he out-foxed himself." Diehl's latest project is the third book in the Martin Vail trilogy.
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