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SCREEN iron man Dolph Lundgren is to star in the big screen version of a gritty Scots murder mystery.
But the Rocky IV star will not be attempting his best Taggart-style accent when he appears in the film version of Lothian author Frederic Lindsay's novel Jill Rips.

For the whole story has been relocated lock, stock and barrel to North America.

Lindsay's 1987 novel tells of a Scots police hunt for a female serial killer modelled on Jack the Ripper. The movie was filmed in Toronto in February and is due to be released in America later this year.

Lundgren's biggest roles to date were as Sylvester Stallone's Russian opponent in Rocky IV and as He-Man in Masters of the Universe.

He was also once employed by singer Grace Jones as a bodyguard and is a former heavyweight karate champion of Europe.

Lindsay, 65, a former college lecturer and SNP supporter who lives in Pencaitland, East Lothian, admitted he was surprised to hear that Lundgren had been cast as his creation, after selling the movie rights several years ago.

Tom Berenger, whose films include Platoon and Someone To Watch Over Me, was originally put forward to play hard-bitten detective Murray Wilson.

But the deal fell through over budget disagreements and Lundgren eventually stepped into the role instead.

Lindsay said: "Tom Berenger would have been just great, I'm not so sure about Dolph Lundgren.

"It may be a case of me just taking the money and saying thank you very much, goodbye, but I will be interested to see how they do it.

"I am very fond of the story. It is a cracking book. But, since I didn't have anything to do with the screenplay, I can't say how it will turn out. It could be very different indeed."

Jill Rips is currently out of print but could be reissued if the film is a hit.

Frederic Lindsay first found literary success with the political thriller Brond, set in his home city of Glasgow.

He later adapted it for a popular Channel 4 serial starring Stratford Johns and John Hannah, who is shortly to return to crime as the Edinburgh-based Inspector Rebus in a TV adaptation of Ian Rankin's novels.

Lindsay moved to Edinburgh in the early 80s and his two most recent books featuring grumpy middle-aged Detective Inspector Jim Meldrum are set in the Capital.

The latest, A Kind of Dying, follows Meldrum on the case of a missing businessman with links to a sinister neo-Nazi group.

The trail leads to Oslo, London and New England before the truth is eventually uncovered back in Edinburgh.

Lindsay said: "Edinburgh is a good location for a thriller because of the history here and also the cliched Jekyll and Hyde thing about the Edinburgh character having two sides to it.

"And now we have the dimension of having real parliamentary politics here too which gives a bigger context.

"The local aspect is very important to my books because it gives them their flavour.

"I hope that people from outside Scotland enjoy them, but I don't go out of my way to explain every reference because it holds up the story.

"It will be odd to see one of my books changed for an American audience."

Lindsay is set to publish a new Meldrum novel in August.

He said that the book had been optioned by another company for some time before Phoenician Films snapped it up.

British-born Anthony Hickox, who specialises in B movies like Hellraiser III and Prince Valiant, directed the film.

Mr Lindsay added: "The film company told me that Dolph Lundgren took the role because he had always wanted to make a dark, realistic movie.

"As soon as it comes out I am definitely going to rush to see it," he added.

LOAD-DATE: June 23, 1999