Why Isn't This A Film - Black Water Transit by Carsten Stroud

What have we got here then?

Black Water Transit is a 2002 novel from Thriller writer Carsten Stroud.

OK fine. What’s it about?

Earl Pike, general do-badder hard case is attempting to ship his family's illegal collection of weapons to a buyer in Mexico. Pike employs Jack Vermillion and his titular shipping company to carry his cargo but Vermillion has a son in jail and sees an opportunity to negotiate for his release. With the two's mafia connections, can both get away from a dirty deal, clean?

Interesting. Is there something more?

On the right side of the law Casey and Nicky are two cops chasing a brutal double murderer. The suspect? One Earl Pike. Meanwhile, Greco, heading up the ATF task force against Vermillion and Pike, tries to manoeuvre the story so she can make her big money move to Washington.

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

Black Water Transit is one of the better hard-boiled Thrillers I've ever read. The characters are grubby and get grubbier, the violence is brutal and unforgiving and the plot is as tightly wound as a piece of pulp with taste. It's a clever, satisfying read, which isn't afraid to make you feel something towards murderers, crooks and villains.


It is, in the end, a pulpy Crime Thriller, and if you can't stand that sort of thing then this won't change your mind. The writing is high quality but the plotting is pure Friday Night Film. The finale tries to tie up a few too many loose ends and the huge raft of characters could do with a trim.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

Black Water Transit was shot in 2007/2008 on location in New Orleans by Tony Kaye. It was slated to release in 2009 but is currently still to see the light of day.

But who'd star in it?

Pike is Karl Urban, Casey is Aisha Tyler, Jack is Laurence Fishburne, Nicky is Stephen Dorff. Greco seems to have been cut from the script altogether, although Brittany Snow is highly mentioned in almost every piece on the film, playing an apparently new character called Sardoonah.

Will it be any good?

The changes are risky. Stroud's novel is very definitely a piece of New York Noir. Kaye's film seems to be searching for something to say in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The characters did need slimming down but getting rid of Greco is risky (she's fundamental at the end) and, although Urban is a great actor, he mainly now plays 'goodies', which Pike is definitely not. There's also little-to-no mention of the Mafioso who populate the novel in many places and who, again, have a lot to do with the later action. On the plus side, Kaye seems back interested in film-making and Detachment was good.

So... Why isn't it a film?

Speaking in April 2011 Kaye said that he still hoped that Black Water Transit would see the light of day and revealed the reason for its shelving was due to Capitol Films running out of money. With no news on the film since, it might be a long shot that this even makes it to DVD.

Anything else I should know?

David O Russell's Nailed is another victim of Capitol's collapse and, as always, IMDb is a good place to start if you want to learn about that particular project. In a spot of very bad news for Black Water Transit Russell has said that he doesn't foresee his own project ever getting a release.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.


  1. I heard this actually was show at a film festival last year, so it might come out on DVD.

    1. Yeah, there are a couple of threads on IMDb of people who have seen it at a festival or a preview screening. There is hope but the legal problems around it do seem rather difficult.