The Cruciverbalist by James Shearer | Script Revolution

The Cruciverbalist

A teenage deserter from the Foreign Legion becomes the captive, feminized maid of a deranged woman. By learning his captors hobby, compiling crosswords clues, he sends a coded plea to the outside world.



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The Triple Echo meets Misery:

American doctor Sindy Duverne, a widow in her 50’s, lives in an elegant château in southwest France, surrounded by the vineyards of her rustic winery. In her spare time, Sindy compiles a weekly crossword for Europe Today, an English-language newspaper based in Paris. The idyllic portrait conceals the fact that the old estate is on the brink of insolvency.

More than three decades have passed since Sindy nearly lost her life in the violent uprising in Kolwezi, Zaire, when armed separatist rebels - the Katangan Tigers - indiscriminately massacred scores of European inhabitants, prompting a daring rescue by French Foreign Legion paratroopers. Müller, Sindy’s rescuer, was injured and rendered mute in the rescue operation. In gratitude, Sindy has employed Müller as a trusted aide for over thirty years.

Sindy’s world changes the morning she stumbles across injured 18-year-old Englishman Harry West. Harry has crashed his car while deserting the French Foreign Legion masquerading as a woman - an audacious plan arranged by his older sister, Sarah.

Sindy allows Harry to secretly recuperate at her château, and soon develops a protective fondness for him.

Local police investigating the crash let slip that the driver is not only a deserter, but is wanted by U.K. police for murder in connection with a drug transaction in London.

Sindy’s dark side is revealed during the strong tactics she uses when questioning Harry as to his involvement in the crime. Harry reveals that he took off with the money during a drug deal between the I.R.A. and a supposed Israeli drug gang. Three people had died during the deal, but not at Harry’s hand; he was only the getaway driver. He joined the French Foreign Legion, knowing that after five years’ service, he could be discharged under a new identity. His plan went awry when he learned his twin sister, Sophie, was battling cancer and needed money for medical treatment. He went AWOL and was on his way to the U.K. to help Sophie when he crashed his car on Sindy’s estate. Harry refuses to reveal the whereabouts of the money.

In the meantime, Harry’s fingerprints come to the attention of Interpol, and they are hot on his trail. Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, also join the quest to learn Harry’s whereabouts, having lost three of their agents in the botched drug deal.

Harry’s assets also come to the attention of corrupt Scotland Yard detectives, keen to benefit from Harry's windfall. Alerted as to Harry’s approximate whereabouts, they utilize a former S.A.S. soldier, the charismatic Richard Grey, to track down Harry and recover the cash. But true to life, nothing goes as planned. Sindy’s Northern Irish housemaid, Niamh Ryan, sleeps with Grey before discovering he was the officer leading the Special Force team responsible for the death of her brother, an I.R.A. commander. Niamh is especially disgusted that she slept with a hated Brit “Sass-man”.

During a confrontation at the château, Grey kills Müller, and then is himself wounded by Niamh and taken prisoner.

Aware of the adverse attention Harry’s presence has attracted (and might yet further draw from undesirable organizations), and of the danger she might be in, Sindy decides to relieve Harry of his illicit money – a sum more than sufficient for her to start life elsewhere.

The ensnared Grey is castrated by the women in front of Harry, a means to intimidate him divulge the whereabouts of the funds. Their ploy works. Grey is then executed by a vengeful Niamh, who departs with her share of hush-money. Sindy, however, has second thoughts and decides to remain at her winery.

Sindy returns to her tranquil life – albeit with a healthy bank balance. Lacking a housemaid and recognizing Harry needs a disguise, Sindy insists that Harry henceforth dress and act as her maid. Reluctant at first, “Harriet” settles into the role, somewhat enjoying the security of only having to follow orders.

The need to help Sophie never leaves Harry’s thoughts. He realises a key to escape might lie in the crossword puzzles Sindy sends to Europe Today. Harriet meddles with the clues to spell out a hidden rescue plea to his sister Sarah, also a crossword enthusiast. The plan works, and Sarah sets out to rescue Harry. Unfortunately, Sarah is eliminated by her lover, a Mossad agent whom she has unwittingly led to Sindy’s estate.

Acting in concert, Sindy and Harriet outsmart the Israeli operative, and he is eliminated. Soon after, Sindy releases Harriet so that he can return to England and help Sophie – Sindy has left a good share of the drug money in Harry/Harriet’s account.

Upon his return to the U.K., Harry discovers he is too late Sophie died weeks earlier.

Harry is alone in the world, and still being pursued by Interpol, Mossad, and U.K. authorities. Harry flees to the subcontinent, where he takes time to ponder his situation. The realization finally strikes home that he was happiest when serving as Harriet.

Harry returns to the South of France, keen to resume his previous lifestyle with the woman who appreciated his service, and who in the interim period, has received an unexpected visit from a crooked Scotland Yard cop . . .

Submitted: July 12, 2020
Last Updated: January 17, 2021

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The Writer: James Shearer

Hello all Thank you for visiting my profile. I am a published author - one book having reached No. 7 in the WHSmith best selling list. Another, I am reliably told by a former guest of one of Her Majesty's establishments, was the most read book in HMP Ford. However, my literary agent does not represent screenwriters, so here I am, etc. A couple of years ago, McCoy Films, a Hollywood production company, attempted to option The Cruciverbalist . Alas, I was given bad advice at my end and foolishly rejected their offer. Such is life. I am now in the process of turning the story into a novel. The screenplay Skydiver was co written with a guy with whom I once worked. He is both ex UK special... Go to bio

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