DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. -- If there hadn't been a bingo drum deciding people's housing fates for a Yonkers lottery drawing 15 years ago, author Lisa Belkin, says she might never have written "Show Me A Hero," the book that HBO eventually optioned into a soon-to-be-released miniseries.
The TV show, premiering Aug. 16 at 9 p.m and produced by David Simon (of "The Wire" and "Treme") is shot in Yonkers, using both area landmarks (hello City Hall!) and a host of extras who lived through the actual events.
Belkin, a longtime New York Times writer, had just moved to Westchester -- she's a Dobbs Ferry resident -- and was looking for a magazine piece to write when she stumbled across a small item in The Herald Statesman about how there was going to be a lottery to pick tenants for newly built townhouses in Yonkers.
"The image of changing people’s lives with a bingo drum was so compelling to me," she said. "That I quickly realized this was going to be much more than a magazine piece."
The story, which occurred in the late 1980s, took her seven years to complete. The book came out in 1999 and in 2002 was optioned by HBO.
She says the whole experience -- this is her first book being made into a miniseries though she's written three books and edited two anthologies -- is surreal. "I have been saying for l3 years that I will believe it's happening when I’m watching it eating popcorn."
Mostly, though, she said she feels like she won the lottery herself. "My whole goal was simply to tell a story," she said.
She said the story is far more relevant today than it was when she first started writing it, back in 1992.
"All of it this -- the miniseries about race and two Americas and people not really understanding the people who live right near them but not with them – all of that is the national conversation right now," she said.
Up next for Belkin: a book about the murder of a Stamford police officer in 1960 based on events told to her by her stepfather who lived in Norwalk at the time.
Also newish: the rerelease in paperback of "Show Me a Hero," with a forward by Simon and a new afterwards by Belkin.
Though Belkin acted as a consultant on set and was there for much of the filming, she has not yet seen the finished product. That will happen at the show's premiere, set for early August at The Alamo in Yonkers where, Belkin, is happy to report, there will be popcorn.
View the trailer here.
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