Last night I got to see Lee Goldberg’s stinging and accomplished short film Remaindered, and I’m going to recommend it to you without reservation. Yes, I know Lee, and no, friendship has nothing to do with it.
The tale’s as well-turned as you’d expect from a pro, and it takes imaginative flight from a reality that’ll be recognised by anyone who’s ever faced the world over a stack of books at a signing table. OK, so not everyone’s done that. But it’s about those dying-inside times when your soul and your sense of self-worth are laid bare for strangers to pick at, and there’s no escaping them as they oblige.
It’s the mise-en-scene, to get fancy about it, that takes it to another level. The small-town Kentucky locale is perfectly textured for the story, and Lee’s choices are all spot-on. From the opening shots you’ve real sense of a place and its people. A special shout-out here for Todd Reynolds as Detective Bud Flanek, whose easy John Goodman-like screen charisma left me surprised to see that he doesn’t have a long resume of Hollywood character roles.
I have some time on my hands. Today I turned in the manuscript for my 12th Monk novel, MR MONK ON THE COUCH, which means that, for a few weeks anyway, I don't have any deadlines hanging over my head. I still have to come up with the plot of my next Monk book over the next couple of days (the book is due in June), but that's not worrying me too much.
So I'm sitting here trying to decide what project would be the best use of my time, creatively and financially, over the next four-to-six weeks (assuming some paying gig, like a job on a series or a freelance script, doesn't come along!).
1. THE HEIST MOVIE. I've got an incredibly detailed outline for a big heist movie, a project I developed a year or so back for a Big Name Movie Producer…but the project fell through. It's all mine, there are no strings attached to it, so I could write that up as a new spec feature script.
2. THE CRIME NOVEL. I have 20o pages and an outline that I wrote two years ago for a crime novel called KING CITY and then had to set aside for some paying gigs. I could finish that up and give it to my agent…or publish it directly on the Kindle. Or…
3. THE SPEC PILOT. I could go in a different direction and write KING CITY as a spec TV pilot script, since the idea originally began as a TV series pitch that a lot of folks liked, though not enough to actually buy it.
4. THE WALK SEQUEL. My wife thinks I should write a direct-to-Kindle sequel to THE WALK to take advantage of the book's success. The sequel would be set over the same three-day period as the book, but would focus on what was happening to the hero's wife while he was walking across Los Angeles. I have some notions, but I still need to plot the whole thing out.
I'm mulling them all and waiting to see which one inspires me the most over the next couple of days. In the mean time, I've got Men of Mystery to attend in Irvine tomorrow, I want to finish reading Justin Cronin's THE PASSAGE, and I've got lots of episodes of BOARDWALK EMPIRE, NIKITA, and some other shows to catch up on.
Media critic Bill Peschel had some great things to say about REMAINDERED on his blog today, singling out the performances of Sebrina Siegel and Todd Reynolds for praise.
“Remaindered” is a tight 20-minute tale of a writer, Kevin Dangler (played by Eric Altheide), whose first novel was the peak of his career and his second was, in the words of the book’s best review, “a 778-page suicide note for a once-promising writing career.” Dangler is reduced to traveling to backwater towns, flogging his third book with signings in grocery stores.
There, he meets Megan, the town librarian with a passion for first editions and those who write them. She’s played by Sebrina Siegel, who gets a lot of mileage out of a black bra and a line like “read to me.”
Needless to say, their meeting doesn’t end well, but I won’t say more. It’s a neat mystery short-story, complete with a twist ending that loops back to the beginning, and in-jokes mystery fans will appreciate, including a “Monk” reference.
My favorite performances were by Siegel, who played the librarian with the right mix of fannish admiration and seduction, and Todd Reynolds as the detective. He had a small role, but he made it memorable (it didn’t hurt that he was given some very sharp lines).
If someone ever decides to retool Alfred Hitchcock’s old TV show, “Remaindered” would fit in nicely. It reminded me of one of the mystery story’s great pleasures: of following a tightly plotted tale with unexpected plot twists and a satisfying conclusion. It’s difficult to pull off, but I’m happy to say that Lee succeeded.
J. Kingston Pierce at The Rap Sheet blog has some very nice things to say about REMAINDERED, the short film that I write and directed in Kentucky. He says, in part:
This may be the only time you’ll ever hear the dictate “Read to me” uttered quite so seductively. Telling more about Goldberg’s plot would spoil its many criminal and comic delights. And even though I immediately caught the mistake on which this story’s conclusion depends, I never lost interest in its unfolding. Remaindered may not be a mammoth Hollywood production, but Goldberg–whose TV-writing credits include Diagnosis: Murder, Monk, Spenser: For Hire, The Cosby Mysteries, and A Nero Wolfe Mystery–has invested no less attention in its crafting because of that.
Remaindered has evidently been entered in several film festivals, but I hope it also receives wider distribution. It’s a quirky, fun picture that members of the crime-fiction community are sure to enjoy.
Remaindered is a smooth piece of business – not only crisply directed and acted, but with a sense of humor that resists the temptation to go over the top offered by the film’s content.
We haven’t heard back yet from any of the film festivals that we’ve submitted to…but we have our fingers crossed. I hope they like the movie as much as Paul and the Rap Sheet did. Thanks for those great reviews!
The National Board of Mystery Writers of America voted unanimously on October 6, 2010 to remove Dorchester Publishing from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately, primarily because the company no longer meets two of our key criteria.
First, the initial print run by the publisher for a book-length work of fiction or nonfiction must be at least 500 copies and must be widely available in brick-and-mortar stores (not "special order" titles). In other words, print-on-demand publishers and Internet-only publishers do not qualify.
Second, the publisher must not wrongfully withhold or delay royalty payments to authors. We have been hearing an unusually high number of reports from our members of unpaid advances and withheld royalties on their Dorchester books.
Dorchester titles will no longer be eligible for Edgar® Award consideration nor will its authors be eligible for Active Status membership for any books published after October 6, 2010. The board made it clear to Dorchester that it is welcome to re-apply once these problems have been cleared up.
Paul Levine's iconic hero Jake Lassiter burst onto the mystery scene with TO SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, the first in a widely acclaimed series that has since gone out-of-print. Now Lassiter is making a triumphant return — with the out-of-print titles on the Kindle and with a brand new hardcover release entitled LASSITER coming this fall. So I thought I'd ask Paul what it's like being one of the few authors these days who is both still very active in print and yet diving head-long into the uncharted waters of the ebook biz.
LEE: You're a recent convert to the Kindle… and in the space of just a few months, you've released many of the Jake Lassiter backlist as ebooks, including MORTAL SIN. Have they been successful? What have you learned from the experience?
The success of the books has startled me. “To Speak for the Dead” and “Night Vision,” the first two Jake Lassiter novels, both hit number one on the Kindle “hardboiled” and “legal thriller” lists. So did “Reversal,” my stand-alone Supreme Court thriller. “False Dawn” and “Mortal Sin,” the next couple Lassiter books, hit number two.
These books were long out of print and originally appeared in hardcover in the early 1990’s. So, the point for all authors is this: books you thought were long dead have an afterlife. You can resuscitate your out-of-print and out-of-mind books by electronically publishing them. Also, and this is BIG: the books gather momentum and grow each month. This is the opposite of our experience with dead-tree books, which have the same life expectancy as yogurt in the fridge.
LEE: What are the chances that you'll write an original ebook some day soon?
I have three more Lassiters to put up on Kindle and Smashwords, which then distributes to B&N, Borders, Sony, and the rest. Then…and I haven’t said this publically before…I’m publishing “Ballistic.” It’s a loose nukes thriller I’ve adapted from a spec feature script I wrote some time ago. The script had some close calls, but never was made. After that, who knows?
LEE: Do you think releasing the out-of-print Lassiter books will give your traditional, hardcover release next Fall of LASSITER a sales spike? Or do you think it will work the other way around?
Both, I hope!
But let’s be realistic. I’m the publisher of the “old” Lassiters, so I can charge $2.99 on Kindle and Kobo etc. Will those buyers shell out $25 for a hardcover? Should they? Remember, too, that I have no control over what Bantam will charge for the e-book edition. I will plead for as low a price as possible, but we know that won’t be anywhere close to $2.99.
LEE:. Do you think it's wise for unpublished authors to self-publish? What about mid-list authors who have been dropped? Is this the future of publishing…or just an additional revenue stream for authors?
Some smart-alec at the Bouchercon e-books panel said that self-published authors were producing a “tsunami of swill.” Wait! That was you. It’s true, of course, but as you also pointed out, there is some very good fiction being written by otherwise unpublished authors. It’s so damn hard to break into mainstream publishing now that it’s inevitable that some good writing will be left at the door. The problem is that way too many writers lack the training or discipline or just plain talent to produce readable fiction. Separating the wheat from the chaff produces…a lot of chaff.
For mid-list authors who’ve been dropped, it’s a different story. They have the training, the experience, and some audience. The Internet can provide a new source of income…and satisfaction. We write because we have to….because it’s an illness, a fever…not just for the bucks. If you want to get rich, open a burger joint across the street from a community college.
As for the future of publishing, I’ll borrow William Goldman’s line about Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.”
When THE WALK came out in hardcover seven years ago, nobody noticed it. I figured that was the end…but 15 months ago, I re-released it as an ebook. It was an immediate success and has sold nearly 12,000 copies so far and is still going strong.
I want to introduce THE WALK to the next wave of new Kindle, iPad, and Nook owners this holiday season… and to do that, I’d like send you a FREE COPY of the novel in whatever eformat you prefer (epub, PDF, txt, html, etc). Here’s all that you have to do:
1. Send me an email at email@example.com with the subject FREE WALK BOOK and give me your name and the address of your website or blog (don’t have one? That’s okay. Read on).
2. Agree to post a review, positive or negative (but with no spoilers!) on your blog, website, Goodreads page, Facebook page, or the Amazon listing for THE WALK by Christmas Day. (You don't have to buy the book on Amazon to review it there, you only need to have an account).
3. Email me a copy of the review or a link to the post.
This offer is limited to the first 100 people who respond by November 30.
UPDATE 10-27-10, 5:14 pm: I've given away thirty books already…so if you're interested, you'd better hurry!
John Zipperer's Weimar World Service Blog has a long and interesting interview with my friend Carr D'Angelo about his days as an editor for STARLOG, a magazine I worked for a lot as a freelancer back in the early 1980s. Reading the article brought back a lot of memories. Here's an excerpt:
ZIPPERER: Tell me a bit about what it was like to work there. How much control did editor David McDonnell have over the magazine – i.e., did he have a lot of freedom to plan it the way he wanted, or were the publishers heavily involved? How much influence did you have?
D‘ANGELO: The magazine was definitely working according to Dave's plan at that point editorially. Generally, working with the possible movies and TV shows that were coming out that would fall under our domain, Dave would assign a writer to do an article or usually a series of articles on the upcoming project. In my opinion, I think we generated too much inventory on certain projects. Since we were always working months ahead, it would sometimes happen that a movie came out, flopped and we still had two or three articles coming out. That sometimes made the magazine feel behind the curve.
The magazine was designed to be a mix of the new and the old, and that was its strength and weakness.
I remember the overkill. On a typical movie, I'd write a "set visit" piece, then write individual articles about each star, the director, the screenwriter, and often the special effects supervisor or production designer (or both!) as well. It was great for freelancers like me… it meant that one day of interviews on a film set could lead to six or eight articles for STARLOG (at a mere $200 each). But that didn't count the additional income I could earn by reworking the same quotes into new articles for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, the San Francisco Chronicle, or other potential buyers.
It was hard, low-paid work, but I loved it and learned an enormous amount about the movie and TV industries. And I picked up some valuable work habits, and writing skills, that continue to serve me well to this day.