Mr. Jet Set

I have been on two flights a day each day for the last four days…and it’s getting to me. I flew from Montreal to Prague, then Prague to Berlin, then Berlin to Munich (and back), and Berlin to Cologne (and back). I am SO jet-lagged. I look like the living dead. This weekend, though, I won’t be seeing the inside of a jet…which will be a nice break for me.  On the other hand, I probably won’t be seeing anything outside my Berlin hotel room, since I will have to hole myself up writing to make up for lost time on the latest MONK Novel. Sunday afternoon I am going to the composers studio to hear the score and on Monday I am spending  the day in ADR…followed by dinner with the cast. I’ll be jetting to London on Tuesday morning, then London-t0-Munich that same night, and then Munich-to-Dusseldorf-t0-LA on Friday. All of this travel, for the most part, is for work on the post-production and distribution of FAST TRACK. Speaking of which, I slipped my friend author Paul Levine a DVD of the rough cut and he liked it.

Oh Canada

Greetings from Montreal. My flight was fine…but it took us 90 minutes to get through customs, and that was before I ever got to the luggage carousel. Other than that, the trip went smoothly. We got to our hotel, the St. Sulpice in Old Town, at about 5:30 and after stowing our luggage in our rooms, we went out for a walk. My associate, the international sales guy for Action Concept,  wanted to visit Notre Dame…but it was closed. There was another Church he wanted to visit, but that was closed, too. I guess God keeps bankers hours in Canada. The weather was fantastic and it was nice to get some exercise.

We had dinner with Andrew Walker, one of the stars of FAST TRACK, and his girlfriend Cassandra, and then took another walk through Old Town. When I got back to the hotel, the episodic budgets and shooting schedule for FAST TRACK were waiting for me from Germany. I spent a few hours reading through them, making changes, and preparing for the next day’s meetings. By the time I was  done, it was 1:30 a.m. and I was practically asleep in my chair.

The next morning, Andrew picked us up in a restored 1973 Chevy Caprice convertible and took us on a tour around town. It was fun, and the way people stared at us, you would have thought we were in a Ferrari. We had lunch with him at Schwartz’s smoked meats. The place was packed, so we  where we shared a table with three guy who turned out to be the producers/stars of an Outdoor Network show who’d just come in from a week spent hunting caribou. After lunch, our tour continued…and then Andrew dropped us off for our meetings a distributor/broadcaster for FAST TRACK.  The meetings went very well, and I learned a lot about how the distribution and financing business works up here.

We went back to the hotel to make some calls to Germany, change our clothes, and then we went out for dinner with Andrew and the distribution folks who, as it turned out, have done several movies together. We had a great night, I learned even more about how the financing annd distribution side of the international TV business works, and I didn’t end up getting back to the hotel until well after midnight.

Now I’ve just packed up and am heading to a recording studio to do Andrew’s ADR for FAST TRACK and to have lunch with him and his parents. Then it’s off to Prague, where I will get a connecting flight to Berlin…and arrive tonight.

The only downside to this trip is I haven’t had a chance to write and it’s making me anxious. I will have to make up for it big time this weekend…wherever I am.

Another Rave for HOLLYWOOD & CRIME

51umlwe7gul__ss500__2Booklist has praised HOLLYWOOD AND CRIME, a new anthology coming out next month that includes my short story "Jack Webb’s Star":

As veteran crime writer Randisi notes in his introduction, when some people think of Hollywood, they think fame, glamour, and Disneyland. Others think of the Black Dahlia, O. J., and Fatty Arbuckle–the dark side of the Tinseltown dream. Among the authors represented in this collection of original short stories with a Hollywood theme are marquee names Michael Connelly, Max Allan Collins, Bill Pronzini, and Stuart Kaminsky. Among the best of the 14 selections are Collins’ "Murderlized," featuring Moe Howard of Three Stooges fame investigating the death of his mentor, and Connelly’s "Suicide Run," in which Harry Bosch extracts justice for a series of murdered starlets. Veteran television screenwriter Lee Goldberg has some fun with a small screen legend in "Jack Webb’s Star," and Dick Lochte brings back private investigator Leo Bloodworth–still listening to Dinah Shore but on an MP3 player–in a mystery that ends with a devilish poke at the quality of modern screenwriting. This consistently high-quality collection offers readers a nice mix of big names and lesser-knowns who deserve larger audiences.

This follows a rave review from Publisher’s Weekly, published a few months back before the book’s release date was changed:

The 14 stories in this entertaining anthology from Shamus Award–founder Randisi span Tinsel Town history from the 1930s to the present and intersect, literally, at Hollywood and Vine. Top billing should go to Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch story, "Suicide Run," and to Lee Goldberg’s "Jack Webb’s Star"—the former for the detection and the latter for biggest laughs. Other highlights include Max Allan Collins and Matthew V. Clemens’s reinvention of one of the Three Stooges, Moe Howard, as a detective in their clever "Murderlized," about the 1937 death of the Stooges’ mentor, vaudevillian Ted Healy. Robert S. Levinson delivers a wicked portrait of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper in "And the Winner Is…," which turns on her lackey’s efforts to stop a Nazi sharpshooter at the 1960 Academy Awards. From Harry Bosch’s visit to a photographer at Hollywood & Vine Studios to Moe’s meeting at a coffee shop at that intersection, all the tales pay homage to the storied Hollywood street corner.

Bochco Blues

Ygp682c If anyone needed proof that ageism rages in Hollywood, all you need to do is look at Steven Bochco.  According to a story in yesterday’s LA Times, he’s having a hard time getting shows on the air these days…or even getting his pilots shot.

By his own admission, he can be a difficult to work with…citing his clashes with ABC after they hired him to "save" COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF after creator/showrunner Rod Lurie was booted:

"Oh yeah, they wanted me out. They couldn’t stand me. It did a great deal of damage, probably, to my relationship with that network. It was not fun."

But there are lots of producers who are a pain-in-the-ass, clash with executives, and don’t have 1/10th of his talent or his accolades…and the networks still line up to business with them (we ALL know who they are).  The LA Times story suggests that its because Bochco has fallen out-of-step with what the networks are looking for these days:

Bochco is a reality-based drama producer in a business now crawling with "high-concept" fantasists who draw their inspiration from comic books. "You’re looking at 400-year-old cops and detectives who are vampires. . . . It’s fine. I don’t have any disdain for it. It’s just not what I do."

I don’t buy that. It’s not like his brand of story-telling has fallen out of favor. THE SHIELD, THE SOPRANOS, NIP/TUCK, THE WIRE and scores of other ‘gritty’ and ‘envellope-pushing’ shows owe an enormous debt to Bochco, who broke new ground with HILL STREET BLUES and NYPD BLUE (Bochco did try, disasterously, to jump on the high-concept bandwagon with BLIND JUSTICE, a show that started out as a joke in his novel DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD). I think the truth behind Bochco’s slump lies in this observation:

The network executives stay the same age and I keep getting older, and it creates a different kind of relationship. When I was doing my stuff at NBC with Brandon [Tartikoff] and ‘Hill Street,’ we were contemporaries. . . . When I sit down with [the current network bosses], they’re sitting in a room with someone who’s old enough to be their father. My kids are their age. That’s a different reality, and I’m not sure they want to sit in a room with their fathers."

I’ll have a chance to chat with Bochco about it. We’re both guests next month at the Cologne Conference.

(The photo above is from an MWA event…pictured are Bob Levinson, William Link, Bochco and yours truly)

Traveling Man

I am off to Montreal tomorrow to meet with Canadian broadcasters and to record the ADR for one of our FAST TRACK stars…and then I’m going to Berlin, Munich and Cologne for more post-production on FAST TRACK and some important meetings on other projects. I won’t be back until Sept 8…but I will try to post here from the road.

Spare Change

That’s exactly what this book feels like…Robert B. Parker’s spare change, the nearly worthless stuff in his pocket that gets tossed in a jar and forgotten.

Sunny Randall is usually Parker on aut0-pilot…and SPARE CHANGE is no exception, except that it may set a new low for him (something I thought the last Sunny book did). In this book, Sunny goes after a run-of-the-mill serial killer. Parker doesn’t have a fresh take on the subject, the investigation is dull and Sunny, and all the cops around her, behave like imbeciles. The climax is predictable, perfunctory, and makes Sunny unbelievably stupid. As if that wasn’t disappointing enough, Parker tacks on a totally unnecessary and laughably ridiculous "Irving-the-Explainer" at the end. Did he mean it to be funny? I don’t think so.

It’s a truly terrible book. It has none of Parker’s snappy dialogue…it reads more like someone trying to imitate Parker rather than something by Parker himself. If Parker’s name wasn’t on it, I doubt it would be the bestseller that it’s bound to be.

Actually, this feels like a half-assed Spenser, only without Spenser and Hawk. All of Spenser’s other regulars are on stage — Belson, Quirk, Healy, even the irritating Susan Silverman. Spenser isn’t around to moon over Susan, so Sunny does it for him. She even rambles on and on and on about her dog, the way Spenser does.

I’ve completely run out of patience with Parker’s fascination with his heroes and their relationship with their dogs. Spenser, Stone, and Sunny all have dogs that they treat like their children and spend endless amounts of time (and pages) thinking about and talking about.

Any time Parker starts talking about the dogs, I skip pages…something I rarely do when reading a book. But if you skip all the yammering about dogs, that only leaves about 20,000 words of story, so the book goes by pretty fast.

This makes the third or fourth Parker stinker in a row…so I’m asking myself why I keep bothering to buy, and read, Parker’s books. Is it my affection for his early work? For the impact he’s had on my writing and my career (my first two script sales were to SPENSER FOR HIRE). Usually when I get to this point, he surprises me by coming out with a great novel — an APPALOOSA or a DOUBLE PLAY or an early Stone — and wins me over anew.  Because when Parker is in top form, he’s terrific. I guess that’s what keeps me buying.

I hope the next Parker book is that great one… it’s long overdue.

UPDATE: It turns out I’m not the only disappointed Parker fan who decided to blog about SPARE CHANGE today…so did my buddy Bill Crider.

I can’t resist sharing a SPOILER after the jump:

Read moreSpare Change