It was one of the strangest stories to play out in the New York press in recent years. Indie director-producer Galt Niederhoffer (The Romantics) accused her high-profile ex-boyfriend of poisoning her with arsenic. Now, Niederhoffer’s thinly veiled novel about the relationship, Poison, has been optioned for a scripted TV series by Ben Silverman’s Propagate Content.
The book, which will be published by St Martin’s Press on Tuesday, is a psychological thriller set in a seemingly perfect marriage that unravels when Cass Connor begins to suspect her husband is trying to kill her. The tale, which harkens back to such films as Gaslight, is a polemic for the current cultural climate that questions female witnesses, doubling as a high-stakes cat-and-mouse caper and a fable about the fate of the woman witness.
Poison is set in an affluent exurb of Portland, Maine, an Eden of Victorian fixer-uppers, professional moms, devoted dads, artisanal groceries and parenting. The story unfolds against a trust-no-one tableau, in which even neighbors, friends and family are suspect. A too-good-to-be-true nanny and a seemingly straitlaced neighborhood dad add to the constantly shifting ground. In Poison, everything has the capacity to turn from tonic to toxin, be it marriage, sex, food, prescription meds or illicit drugs.
As Cass’ cries for help are met with disbelief, she finds herself in a rabbit hole: a reporter of a crime, ostensibly on trial for a new charge — insanity. This predicament forces Cass into a set of life-and-death decisions that require her to lead her own investigation and take back her husband to prove his crime and to protect — and keep — her kids.
“Galt is a gifted creative voice and we are excited to collaborate on bringing her novel to video,” Silverman said in a statement. “The story couldn’t be more timely as humanity tries to thrive in this toxic age.“
In 2016, Niederhoffer accused ex-boyfriend Jonathan Gordon, a former in-house counsel at Barry Diller’s IAC and father of one of her children, of poisoning her in a $180 million lawsuit that was ultimately settled. Actress Michelle Williams attested to Niederhoffer’s sanity, which was being questioned in his defense against claims that he poisoned her.
Ahead of its publication, Poison has received rave reviews, with many critics commenting on the book’s eerie resemblance to the author’s own life.
“I wanted to write a book where the suspense is fueled both by the peril of the protagonist and by the judgment of the community,” Niederhoffer said. “It’s a story about a whistleblower, and the ways a community can discount, dismiss and demonize — shoot the messenger — when she reports violence before believing a woman’s word.”
Niederhoffer is the author of four novels, including Taxonomy of Barnacles and The Romantics, which she adapted and directed for the screen with Katie Holmes and Anna Paquin starring. She has produced more than 20 films, including Infinitely Polar Bear, Robot and Frank and the Oscar-nominated The Kids Are All Right.
Silverman, former co-chairman of NBC Entertainment from 2007-2009 and Universal Media Studios, is an Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning show creator and executive producer of The Office, Jane the Virgin, Ugly Betty and The Tudors. Silverman’s Propagate Content is currently in production on a number of series including The CW’s Charmed and Apple’s first TV show, Planet of the Apps.
The Poison deal was negotiated by Joy Harris and WME.