Mr. Monk and the Latest News

The cover of MR. MONK GOES TO HAWAII has been redesigned. The new, final version is there on your left. It’s not a very Hawaiian cover, but I’ve always liked that shot of Monk, it says so much about his character. If you liked finding the hidden objects in Highlights For Children when you were a kid, you’ll enjoy trying to find my name on the cover.

My latest Natalie Blog is now up on the USA Network site…it’s actually an "out-take" from the book MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE that was cut during the editorial process. I missed it in the book, I think it gave you a little more insight into
who Natalie is. On the other hand, it slowed the pace of the story down
and had to go. 

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m probably going to be scarce around here for the next week or so…

Tomorrow, my writing partner Bill Rabkin and I are meeting in the morning with representatives of a European TV network  and then I’m doing an afternoon panel discussion and signing at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks.

On Sunday morning, Bill and I are heading head off to New York to spend a week  in the writing offices of MONK, where we’ll be working on our next script for the show. I’ll also be meeting with my publishers and my agent and, if time allows, visiting a few local bookstores.

My absense may also mean that I may be slow to post your comments — but I hope that won’t discourage you from actively participating in the "back blog" discussions while I am away.

Fiddler on the Roof

I watched the first half of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF with my ten-year-old daughter tonight. It’s a magnificent movie —  tragic, exuberant, funny, heart-warming, provocative and ultimately life-affirming. It’s probably the 100th time I’ve seen the movie (not counting the times I’ve seen the play staged) and it never loses its power — and not just as a entertainment. I admire FIDDLER ON THE ROOF for the lessons it allows us to convey to our children, how it gets them thinking about things. Few movies today have that kind of impact.

I had to stop the movie several times to answer my daughter’s serious questions. We talked about what traditions are, why they are important, and why they change. We talked about our family history, about how her great-grandparents immigrated here from Russia…and why they had to. And we talked about racism and hatred and what freedom means.

She wanted to know why there are wars. Why people hate others for their beliefs or their skin color. And why we invaded Iraq. I wish I could say I had wise answers to all her questions. I didn’t. All I could do was tell her what I believed, and what I knew, and that she would have to come to her own conclusions. Tomorrow, we’ll watch the rest of the movie and she’ll ask me lots of questions. I’m looking forward to it.

How Long Until This Story Shows Up On One of the Three CSIs?

A  dominatrix is being prosecuted for dismembering a client and disposing of his body — rather than report to police that he’d died of a heart attack while tied to the medieval rack in her suburban condo.  The only problem is, the police don’t have a body or any DNA evidence to prove their case. 

…in her opening statement, the woman’s lawyer said the man never visited
Barbara Asher’s makeshift dungeon and that police made up the story and bullied
Asher into confessing.

"No body, no blood, no DNA evidence," defense attorney Stephanie Page said.
"Barbara Asher is here because of a theory."

Asher, who went by the name Mistress Lauren M, has pleaded innocent to
charges of manslaughter and dismemberment in the death of Michael Lord, a
retired telephone company worker from North Hampton, N.H

(Thanks to Patrick Hynes for the heads-up)

What Happens When the Mystery is a Mystery to the People Writing the Mystery

The Fox show REUNION was supposed to be murder mystery that spanned decades in a single season.  But the show was cancelled in November, leaving the show’s handful of fans wondering whodunit. The problem is, the writers of the show didn’t know whodunit either. Zap2it reports:

When FOX lowered the boom on
"Reunion" in late November, the show’s creator says there was no way to
resolve the show short of a full season because of how "intricately
plotted" it was.  It was so intricately plotted, in fact, that the question of who committed the murder at the show’s center was still up in the air.

That, at least, is the word from FOX Entertainment president Peter Ligouri, who on Tuesday (Jan. 17) addressed the show’s early demise with reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour.

"’Reunion’ was particularly cumbersome in terms of trying to provide an ending for
the audience," Ligouri says of the show, in which each episode represented a year in the life of six friends, one of whom ends up dead. "How [creator Jon Harmon Feldman] was laying out the show to gap those additional 14, 15, 16 years was an incredibly complex path. There were a number of options, and he didn’t make a definitive! decision on which option he was going to go with as to who the killer was, and there was just no way to accelerate that time."

Feldman himself hinted at that in a statement following the show’s cancellation, saying that solving
the mystery of who killed Samantha (Alexa Davalos) was "partially reliant on characters we haven’t yet met — and events we haven’t seen."

Ligouri says the network and the show’s team talked about several ways to go with the killer’s identity, but "the best guess was at that particular time that it was going to be Sam’s daughter," whom she gave up for adoption early in the series. The why of the murder remains a mystery.

Especially to the show’s writers, which may be why the series didn’t work. If the show’s writers didn’t even know whodunit or why, then what were they writing about? If the clues led nowhere, how did they expect the story to actually payoff in the end? Is it any surprise viewers didn’t get hooked by the mystery since it, um, actually didn’t exist?

(Thanks to Bill Rabkin for the heads-up!)

Ten Pages a Day or Die

Author Nancy Martin talks about the importance of making deadlines in the book biz.

Sure, I had excuses when I was late. Death in the family. Moving
twice in twelve months. Sick kids. Husband’s midlife crisis. The dog
didn’t eat my homework, she died in a slow, messy, heart-breaking way.
And did I mention I broke a tooth, had a lump in my breast and
developed shingles all in the same month last year?!?

But publishing waits for no woman’s mammogram.

I know how she feels. Even with two broken arms and a TV series to write/produce, I worried about delivering my book on time  — but some how met my deadline.  The problem is, I’ve made it  impossible for myself to ever miss a deadline. What excuse could possibily top two broken arms?

They’ve Lost Their Tongues

The critics on the web who called for editor Steve Wasserman to step down at the LA Times Book Review have been strangely quiet since David Ulin took over in October. So far, the review is every bit as dull, forgetable and irrelevant as it was under Wasserman (though, thankfully, Eugen Weber has yet to reappear on the pages). But you’d never know it reading the blogs that were the most critical of Wasserman, particularly  The Elegant Variation, which used to run a weekly, detailed critique of the book review section.  The critique has been missing ever since Wasserman stepped down.

Are the former critics of the LATBR just giving Ulin time to find his footing? Or do their personal relationships with him prevent them from being critical? Or have they just stopped caring?  Or was it really all about Wasserman?

I wonder if Ulin is still burning off articles/reviews commissioned before he took over — because I have yet to see any significant changes at the LATBR besides the section getting thinner and thinner. If there is an overhaul coming, I hope it happens soon. It would be nice to have a lively, provocative, and interesting book review section.

Mr. Monk and the Nice Reviews II

Two more flattering reviews have come in for MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE. One of the reviews is from the Monk Fun Page, the biggest and best Monk fan site on the web, and the other is from novelist Ed Gorman,   founder of Mystery Scene magazine. I want to thank them for all the nice things they said. It made me feel great, particularly since today is one of those dreary days where the words are coming slowly and I’m convinced that all those fanficcers are right — I am a talentless hack.