I did a little research into what it means to be named a Kentucky Colonel (as I was a few nights ago here in Owensboro). It's the highest honor awarded by the Commonwealth of Kentucky and is given by the Governor and Secretary of State to "those who make exceptional efforts to enrich
the lives of Kentuckians and the world at large."
I'm joining a distinguished (and eclectic) list that includes Pope John Paul II, Bob Barker, Bill Clinton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Bing Crosby, Barry Manilow, Ronald Reagan, Peter Graves, Norman Schwarzkopf, Winston Churchill, Wynonna Judd, Tiger Woods, and, of course, Harlan Sanders. To say I am flattered…and stunned…is an understatement.
Yesterday, Colonel Goldberg went to Nashville and did all the tourist stuff. And ate at Jack's BBQ…twice. It was the best BBQ of the trip so far. Today Gene Hackman and CSI creator/showrunner Anthony Zuiker join the Festival here in Owensboro. The Colonel is looking forward to meeting them both.
I typed a big, long post and then hit save…and my browser crashed. I HATE it when that happens. So I will try to reconstruct the post as best I can.
I began the day by doing a phone interview with a local morning radio show from the comfort of my bed, still half-asleep. I told the DJ that all the women in the offices at the RiverPark Performing Arts Center listen to him while they shower…and that I was doing his show so I could say women listen to me while lathering up, too. I think he liked that…but I don't think the women at the front office did.
I had a pleasant surprise at breakfast. I sat down at my power table at Denny's, opened up the Owensboro Messenger Inquirer, and saw that tonight's free, out-door screening of FAST TRACK and an interview with me was front page news. Either I am very hot stuff or there isn't much going on in town. I'll let you decide.
I stopped by the International Bluegrass Museum. I don't know much about that kind of music, so it was very interesting for me. After that, I spent the rest of the day being a geeky mystery fan, attending one mystery play after another. It was great. I talked to so many nice people…but I must share with you the story of one lady who meant well, but…
I was sitting with Bob Levinson and his wife at one play and, during the intermission, a woman came up to me and asked:
"Do you have something to do with this Festival?"
"Yes, I wrote one of the plays," I said. "And I am doing a few seminars about TV writing."
"Oh, you're that man who writes for Monk."
'Yes, that's me."
"I don't like the Monk show very much, and I haven't read your books and probably never will, but I think Tony Shalhoub is a good actor and you must be very talented. I wanted to tell you that."
I thanked her, shook her hand, and off she went. I know she didn't mean any offense.
Here's another example of how nice people in Owensboro are. During the performance of an Agatha Christie play, an old lady in the fifth row kept talking very loudly to the characters on stage…things like "You aren't fooling me, honey," "he's the killer," and "I don't like him." Nobody told her to hush, they just smiled and let it go. In California, she would have been dragged out onto the street and beaten to death. Kentuckians must be very polite people.
Tonight, I saw fireflies for the first time in my life. I was very startled. At first I thought they were big embers and the building was on fire. Once I realized they weren't embers, I chased them around and stared at them in amazement. People seemed to find this behavior very amusing. Some even took pictures ("Look, Eunice, I got me a picture of a lunatic from California." No one actually said that, but I'm sure that's what they were thinking).
The screening of FAST TRACK went well, despite some technical glitches and me running back and forth in front of the screen, chasing fireflies around.
I am looking forward to spending the day tomorrow in Nashville before returning to the Festival on Saturday.
After all those honors last night, my enormous ego got a bitch-slapping at the bookstore across the street from my hotel here in Owensboro, Kentucky. I dropped in after my power breakfast at Denny's to sign stock. I brought the ten or twelve copies of my books up to the front register, introduced myself as the author, and offered to sign them.
"You ain't doing nothing to those books until you buy'em," the woman said.
"You don't understand," I said. "I'm the author. I 'd like to sign them for you."
"Nobody is gonna buy a book that you've scribbled all over. They like'em new"
"I'm not going to scribble on it," I said. "I want to autograph it. People like that."
"Not here they don't," she said. "Your name is already on the cover of the book, you don't need to write it on there, too."
I was still trying to convince her that what I wanted to do added value to the books when a couple walked up and recognized me. They were at the festivities last night and their son has a part in Stuart Kaminsky's play. They asked the woman if she knew who I was.
"Yeah, some guy who wants to write in the books without buying them," she said, shaking her head like I was some crazy person who reeked of his own urine.
The couple bought all the books I was holding and had me autograph them for various members of their family, so it all worked out. I got to sign the books…but only after the couple agreed to buy them first.
I told author Bob Levinson the story (he's here, too) and he said he was going to stop in the store and ask the lady
if they had any signed books by Lee Goldberg "because they are worth a fortune." (That's a picture of Bob, me and Stuart Kaminsky. I have never seen a picture of Bob where he isn't standing to one side with his right hand in his pocket).
After that, I had a book-signing at the RiverPark Center. I only signed half a dozen books but I really enjoyed talking to the folks who stopped by. They were so nice, and a real pleasure to meet, that it was time well spent. I then grabbed a quick lunch at a nearby cafe that served BBQ Pork on Corn Pancakes. It was every bit as disgusting as it sounds.
I returned to the center to do an interview with the local newspaper and to teach a class on TV writing to two dozen people of all ages. I snuck out again for an early dinner at the Old Hickory BBQ, which was pretty darn tasty, but no comparison to the Moonlite BBQ, where I ravaged the buffet last night. Before heading back, I stopped by a used book store that sold books for half the cover price — I found two westerns, one was originally priced at $2 the other at 35 cents. The guy charged me $4.00. I said that seemed a little steep.
"We charge half the cover price," he said.
"So that should be $1.17," I said, pointing out the cover prices.
He glared at me, rung up the books again, and I gave him $1.25. I told him he could keep the change. I can be a pretty generous guy when I want to be.
I got back to the RiverPark Center just in time to see an early evening performance of my play, MAPES FOR HIRE by the legendary Firesign Theatre. It was quite a thrill for me. It's the first thing I've ever written that's been performed on a stage in front of an audience. I enjoyed it quite a bit (that's a picture of me with the cast and director David Ossman, who is in the front row on the left). It was a full house, so that was great, too. The play was performed as a "live radio" production with sound effects, music, etc. I wanted to close my eyes and "listen" to it, but I was afraid the cast would see me and think I was sleeping through my own show. I'm going to see it again on Sunday and close my eyes for a bit this time.
There are plans afoot to distribute the play to radio stations nationwide. If that happens, I'll let you know where and when you can hear it.
Tomorrow I have a live morning radio interview to do at 7 am — 5 am L.A. time — and then it's back to the
RiverPark Center to do another signing, attend some of the other plays, and then host a free, outdoor screening of my movie FAST TRACK: NO LIMITS on the riverfront patio under the stars, followed by a Q&A reception in the theatre. I am really looking forward to seeing how an audience reacts to the movie. (That's the out door screening space in daylight. The photo doesn't do the setting justice…at night it's wonderful, especially when it's full of people, sitting and standing).
I am having such a good time here. I just wish my family — currently jetting to France for a three week visit with the in-laws– was here to enjoy it with me.
The limo picked me up at 4:30 am this morning and whisked me off to LAX for a 6 am flight to Memphis. I was only in the Memphis terminal for 30 seconds before I saw my first obese Elvis impersonator. I saw two more before I found a stool at Interstate BBQ for a quick lunch. The ribs weren't bad. They certainly beat your usual airport slop. I then flew into Evansville and drove down to Owensboro, Kentucky, where I dropped off my stuff at the hotel and hurried over to the RiverPark Center to check things out at the International Mystery Writers Festival. It's a good thing that I did, because nobody had told me that I was supposed to be the guest of honor twenty minutes later at a special ceremony on stage preceding the world premiere of Stuart Kaminsky's new Sherlock Holmes play. It's a good thing I was already wearing a wrinkled, untucked shirt and faded jeans or I might have felt uncomfortable at such a formal event.
City Commissioner Cathy Armour, on behalf of herself and Thomas Watson, the Mayor of Owensboro, presented me with the Key to the City and an engraved gavel making me an Honorary Daviess County Judge Executive. Then Assistant Secretary of State J. Allen Eskridge III, on behalf of Governor Steven Beshear's office and the Secretary of State, presented me with a scroll officially commissioning me as a Kentucky Colonel. I'm not sure what that means, but I think I'm entitled to a discount at KFCs worldwide (the pictures at the ceremony didn't turn out, so I posed with the officials out in the lobby for another one). I was very flattered anyway.
I immediately rushed off to see if the key to the city would get me a free meal at the Moonlite BBQ Inn. It didn't, but I still gorged myself on their amazing $12.95 BBQ buffet, which
included Sliced Mutton, Chopped Mutton, Sliced Pork, Chopped Pork, Pork Spare Ribs, Chopped BBQ Beef, Sliced Ham, breaded shrimp, macaroni & cheese, and a ton of other stuff. The dessert buffet line-up included Buttermilk Pie, Apple Pie, Rhubarb Pie, Chocolate Cream Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, Cheese Cake, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Brownies, Strawberries and Cream, and more. All of it was fantastic. It's a good thing I don't live here…or I'd surely become a fat Elvis impersonator. I even managed to escape without a single stain on my white shirt.
After my feast, I hurried back to the RiverPark Center for an out-door "Writer's Reel" screening of clips from my work, which were projected on a big screen against the backdrop of the river and a huge bridge, and included a Q&A. It was great. I spent another hour-and-a-half afterwards signing books, having my picture taken with attendees, and talking to 40 high school and college students from across the state who are participating in the Young Adult Theatre Academy here.
I also met the producers and cast of MAPES FOR HIRE, the play based on my book THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, and learned there is already talk of the play being performed later this summer on the west coast.
All in all, I had a blast…though I am absolutely exhausted now. Tomorrow I am teaching a TV writing seminar, doing some radio interviews, and seeing a performance of MAPES.
As you read this, I'm on my way to Owensboro, Kentucky today to see "Mapes For Hire," the stage play version of my Shamus-nominated PI novel THE MAN WITH THE IRON ON BADGE, which is being performed this week at the International Mystery Writers Festival. I'll also be talking about writing TV mysteries in a seminar with CSI creator Anthony Zuiker, participating in some panels, and doing a number of book-signings with folks like Stuart Kaminsky, Mary Higgins Clark, and Gene Hackman. But what I am really, really looking forward to is eating lots of BBQ.
Yesterday I treated myself to Frederick Manfred's CONQUERING HORSE, a wonderful novel told entirely from the point-of-view of a young Sioux experiencing various rights-of-passage before leading his tribe of Yanktons. The book is beautifully written and remarkably detailed — either Manfred did an extraordinary amount of research or he had a particularly vivid imagination. I suspect that it's equal parts of both.
Manfred, who also wrote as Feike Feikema, is probably best known among western readers for LORD GRIZZLY and RIDERS OF JUDGEMENT, and writers like Larry McMurtry (who adapted RIDERS for a mini-series some years back) consider him influential in their work. Over the years, I've collected signed copies of all of Manfred's books — most of them first editions — and even have some signed & annotated volumes from his personal library (like the complete works of Edgar Alan Poe). Manfred died in 1994, so I ration myself to one or two of his books each year. (I know that's silly, but I do the same thing with John D. MacDonald and some other writers). It's a shame that most of his books have fallen out-of-print.
A lot of crime writing bloggers lately have been talking about some of their favorite forgotten, out-of-print, or overlooked mystery novels and thrillers. Here are a few of mine, off the top of my head…
THE EIGER SANCTION by Trevanian SHIBUMI by Trevanian UNDER COVER OF DAYLIGHT James W. Hall FLETCH by Gregory MacDonald THE DA DA CAPER by Ross H. Spencer DARK RIDE by Kent Harrington THE ROPE DANCER by Victor Marchetti THE ONES YOU DO by Daniel Woodrell UNDER THE BRIGHT LIGHTS by Daniel Woodrell HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN by Derek Raymond The WYATT novels by Garry Disher TEARS OF AUTUMN by Charles McGarry STILL AMONG THE LIVING by Zachary Klein THE INNOCENTS by Richard Barre The CARNEY WILDE books by Bart Spicer The SAINT novels by Leslie Charteris The SHELL SCOTT novels by Richard S. Prather The early MATT HELM books by Donald Hamilton TIDEWATER BLOOD by William Hoffman BUTCHER'S BOY by Thomas Perry THE FIRST DEADLY SIN by Lawrence Sanders THE NEW CENTURIONS by Joseph Wambaugh IN LA LA LAND WE TRUST by Robert Campbell (as well as his other Whistler novels) THE RED CORVETTE by Robert Sims Reid THE OWL by Bob Forward THE DETECTIVE by Roderick Thorp A WHITE MERC WITH FINS by James Hawes
I am sure that I've left out dozens and dozens of other books… and I've intentionally excluded Harry Whittington and Charles Willeford. If I went through the boxes of paperbacks in my garage, I'm sure I could add a lot of other titles/names to this list.
The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that my Uncle and Aunt, Stan & Alta Barer, have just made a generous donation to the University of Washington to establish The Barer Institute for Law & Global Human Services:
University of Washington Regent Stanley Barer and his wife, Alta,
have pledged $4 million to the UW's School of Law to establish an
institute to improve human services around the world.
The Barer Institute for Law and Global Human Services aims to use
binding legal agreements, such as compacts, treaties and foreign aid
agreements, to coordinate efforts to address social problems.
Lives saved will be the institute's measure of success, said Stanley Barer, an owner of Seattle's Saltchuk Resources Inc.,
a marine transportation company. The institute will focus primarily on
poor areas that lack education, health services and economic
opportunities, he said.
"I think it is now in our best interests to think about safety nets
globally," said Barer, who is also the chair of the UW's Board of
I think my Mom and my Uncle Burl may try to convince my Uncle Stan that a contribution to them would also enhance global safety. As for me, Saltchuk just snapped up the cargo operation of the now-defunct Aloha Airlines, so I think I'm going to ask Uncle Stan if we can send ourselves to Hawaii as freight this summer.
Joking aside, I think my late grandfather David Barer, who immigrated to this country as a child from a village in Russia and sold scrap metal in Walla Walla, would be so proud that his son was able to do this…I know I am.