Fake TV Writer James Strauss and his Advisors

Fake TV writer James Straus s
Fake TV writer James Strauss of Antares Research and Development

Just when you thought the story of fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss aka James R. Straus couldn’t get any stranger or sleazier…it does. My relentless and intrepid Facebook friends, including Barbara Early and a few who wish to remain anonymous, have uncovered more disturbing stuff about Strauss. Follow along. Strauss has a company called “Antares Research and Development” that is, according to its webpage, involved in:

“Silver Mining, Indian Jewelry, Fabrication & Sales, Computer Hardware Assembly, Documentary Film Production, Literary Works for Hollywood & New York, Consulting for the United States Government in the areas of Diplomacy, Finance, & Cultural Accommodation Abroad.”

Strauss has a board of “Advisory Directors” for his company. They are:

Advisory Directors

USA, EUROPE, ASIA, AMERICAS, & OTHER AREAS

1. James Strauss, Author

Antares Productions, Inc.

2. Frank Samuelson, Washington State

Antares Productions, Inc.

3. MR. X [Name Redacted]*, California

Ask, Seek, Knock, Inc.

4. Jeremy Rosetta, New Mexico

Raincloud Silver

5. MOVIE PRODUCER [Name Redacted] *, California

Movie Production Company [Name Redacted]*

6. Chuck Bartok, California

Focus Society Mastermind, Inc.

7. Barry Johnson, Texas

Colonel, United States Army

Here’s where it gets really interesting

MR. X [Name Redacted] was convicted in the late 90s for conspiracy, money laundering, and a host of other charges. On Mr. X’s resume on IMdB, he claims a close association with “Movie Producer’s Movie Production Company” [Name Redacted]. A Mr. X was imprisoned in the same Federal pen as Strauss at the same time. Coincidence? You be the judge.

Speaking of coincidences, let’s talk about Jeremy Rosetta, another one of Strauss’ top advisors. He’s based in New Mexico, where Strauss once lived and was arrested back in the 1990s for fraud. There’s a picture of him here. On his website, Rosetta says “I create my work in a jeweler’s shop on the Santo Domingo Indian Reservation.” Oddly enough, that’s also where convicted sex offender Jeremy James Rosetta lives. He was arrested for “Criminal Sexual Penetration” and “Aggravated Sexual Abuse.” You can see a picture of him here. Same guy? You tell me. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

So if you’re a world leader or an aspiring author who needs to negotiate an international trade agreement, or get a movie made, or have your printer set up, or you’d just like some really cool jewelry, you’ll want to go to Antares Research & Development and their crack team of convicted conmen and registered sex offenders will be glad to take care of you.*

(*hat-tip to Kelley Elder for letting me steal some of his lines)

*I’ve redacted the name of the movie producer and his production company at the producer’s request. He fears that associating his name with Strauss will damage his reputation and I certainly can’t argue with that.

*I’ve redacted the name of Mr. X, at the request of the movie producer mentioned above, who claims they’ve lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in financing as a result of being associated with Strauss, who included their names in his other scam business ventures without their knowledge or consent. Since Mr. X and the producer have cut all their ties with Strauss, I agreed to their request. 11/3/16

UPDATE JAN 28. 2015
Fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss is back…this time expressing on Facebook his happiness that his author page is finally creeping up to top of Google search results for his name as opposed to all the posts on the web about his swindles. What amuses me about this bizarre post is how he casts himself as a victim…as opposed to the many people that he deceived and defrauded.
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Is James Strauss a Fake Anthropology Professor, too?

James-R-Straus_mugshot.400x800The fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss aka James R. Straus claims in his biography that he’s also a professor of anthropology. So far, I haven’t been able to find any evidence to support that claim. However, I have found this interesting nugget, published on his blog… a chapter from his novel-in-progress, in which the hero pretends to be an anthropology professor but gains confidence from the fact that suckers have paid thousands of dollars to hear him speak. Perhaps James is following that old adage: write what you know.

The Lido deck was filled with passengers lounging. Most took note of me when I walked by, but no one said anything. I behaved as I imagined a real anthropology lecturer and guide would. I wandered casually over to the bar. My corner spot was open, so I took it. Wedged in, I waited. A few moments later, Marlys rounded the corner from the storeroom behind the bar, carrying some liquor bottles. As always, she was stunning. White blouse, tied above the top of her black trousers. Her midriff was bare. It was a wonderful midriff. I checked the mirror, and found her reflection. I was unaccountably relieved. She poured a cup of coffee, and then came over to the corner where I sat. The cup was not a cup. It was one of those tall glass things. The way I glanced at it caused her to comment.

“You don’t like it?” she said in her dusky mysterious voice. The tinge of Dutch (or was it Surinamese?) was not irritating. It was alluring. I didn’t answer her, not wanting to say something stupid.

We have others cups,” she volunteered, seeming to know that the tall, vaguely feminine glass bothered me. “What do you normally drink your coffee from?” I searched for something profound to say. Anything.

“Ah, I drink my coffee from thick ceramic bowls, usually, when I can find them. It’s an old Navy thing.” I blushed. I could not believe what had come out of my mouth. She stood square and straight, and then looked directly into my face.

“Were you in the Navy?’ she inquired, waiting.

“Ah, no,” I answered, truthfully…. and stupidly. She just continued standing there, looking at the biggest idiot aboard the ship.

“I want to talk to you,” she stated, after a moment of silent staring.

“Yes, I know,” I began, reaching into my pocket for the anklet.

“No,” she said, her voice nearly a soft hiss. She extended one hand out toward me. “I’ll come to you.”

“But your anklet,” I tried again. She stopped me.

“The anklet is to hold you,” she explained, offhandedly, like it was something I might be expected to hear anywhere or anytime from anyone. She moved back toward the storeroom, while I admired the departing curve of her backside, the material covering it not tight, just warmly snug. Such quality, I thought, as I was left to consider what she might have meant by her comment. Maybe it was a language thing, I guessed. I fingered the anklet inside my pocket. Marlys reappeared, briskly walked the length of the bar, and grabbed my coffee glass. She poured its contents into a cream colored ceramic bowl. She walked away with neither look nor word. I stared into my swirling coffee.

“Great,” I chastised myself. I was doomed to spend the remainder of my time aboard drinking coffee like “Cochon,” the Navy veteran from the Golden Nugget in Nome. I was a Marine. There was some kind of reverse violation of code there, but I was not going to invest any more time thinking about it.

Don joined me at the bar. His great bulk was a comfort to have next to me.

“What are you going to say to the passengers?” he asked, innocently. I shrugged. We hadn’t seen anybody that entire day. Outside of the Russian fishermen, that is. We never did catch sight of any Russian Commandos. We weren’t even dead certain they’d been there. What could I report on since no anthropology had occurred? Other staff crew members gathered near the bar. Benito soon appeared, set up the pedestal microphone, and then lined up a row of chairs in a semi-circle behind the device. She motioned for all of us staff, sitting around, to occupy the chairs.

I left my bowl of coffee on the bar. My place was at the end of the row, with Don beside me. I looked behind him. High up on the bulkhead I spotted something that hadn’t been there before. I peered at the small insignia with squinted eyes. My eyebrows shot up, as I recognized the small drawing. It was the head of Mickey Mouse. I prodded Don. I motioned toward the small effigy, but he would not turn to look. He just chortled quietly.

“Your Mouseketeers are here,” he whispered. My stomach felt strange, looking again at Mickey, high up on the wall. The mission was still way up ahead of me, but the whole world around me was spinning out of control. It wasn’t just loss of control, I realized. It was worse than that. I had also lost the ability to comprehend what was spinning.

Everyone took his or her turn at the microphone. I was last. Benito introduced me. I got up and walked to stand behind the raised instrument. Benito passed behind me. She flagrantly moved her hand across my butt as she passed. To my credit, I did not jump, but I did look behind me into Don’s eyes. His face was screwed up and contorted, but he hadn’t let out a sound. The crowd of almost a hundred people had all had paid over twenty thousand dollars each to spend ten days with us. Somehow that reassured me.

“I’m Professor…” I began, but that was it. They applauded. Then they rose up and clapped some more. I was dumbfounded. I just stood there, like a mummy, until the din eventually quieted. I turned to Don, beseeching him for help. He leaned forward.

“Just tell them, you know, the story of what happened on the island,” Don suggested. “After all, it’s the big adventure of their cruise,” he finished. I thought for a brief moment, inhaled deeply, and then began to lie.

 

Where Have All The Cool Heroes Gone?

You want to know why I love writing the Fox & O’Hare books with Janet Evanovich? This blog post, which I first ran here ten years ago, explains why. While some of the TV references in the post are dated, nothing has really changed in the television or even literary landscape in the years since I wrote this. Which may be why readers have embraced The Heist and The Chase so enthusiastically, making them both top New York Times bestsellers.
KoD11There’s nobody cool on television any more.

Not so long ago, the airwaves were cluttered with suave spies, slick private eyes, and debonair detectives. Television was an escapist medium, where you could forget your troubles and lose yourself in the exotic, sexy, exciting world inhabited by great looking, smooth-talking, extraordinarily self-confident crimesolvers.

You didn’t just watch them. You wanted to be them.

When I was a kid, I pretended I had a blow-torch in my shoe like James T. West. That I could pick a safe like Alexander Mundy, seduce a woman like Napoleon Solo, and run 60 miles an hour like Steve Austin. I wanted to have the style of Peter Gunn, the brawn of Joe Mannix, the charm of Simon Templar, and the wealth of Amos Burke, who arrived at crime scenes in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.

But around the time coaxial cable and satelite dishes made TV antennaes obsolete, television began to change. Suddenly, it wasn’t cool to be cool. It was cool to be troubled. Deeply troubled.

TV cops, crimesolvers, and secret agents were suddenly riddled with anxiety, self-doubt, and dark secrets. Or, as TV execs like to say, they became “fully developed” characters with “lots of levels.”

You can trace the change to the late 80s and early 90s, to the rise of “NYPD Blue,” “Twin Peaks,” “Miami Vice,” “Wiseguy,” and “The X Files” and the fall of “Magnum PI,” “Moonlighting,” “Simon & Simon,” “MacGyver,” and “Remington Steele.”

None of the cops or detectives on television take any pleasure in their work any more. They are all recovering alcoholics or ex-addicts or social outcasts struggling with divorces, estranged children, or tragic losses too numerous to catalog and too awful to endure.

FBI Agent Fox Mulder’s sister was abducted by aliens, his partner has some kind of brain cancer, and he’s being crushed by a conspiracy he can never defeat.

CSI Gil Grissum is a social outcast who works knee-deep in gore and bugs while struggling with a degenerative hearing disorder that could leave him deaf.

Det. Lennie Briscoe of “Law and Order” is an alcoholic whose daughter was murdered by drug dealers.
Det. Olivia Benson of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” is a product of a rape who now investigates the worst forms of sexual depravity and violence.

“Alias” spy Sydney Bristow’s loving boyfriend and caring roommate were brutally murdered because of her espionage work, she’s estranged from her parents, one of whom just might be a murderous traitor.
I’ve lost track of how many of Andy Sipowitz’s wives, children and partners have died on horrible deaths on “NYPD Blue,” but there have been lots.

screenshot_2_12516Master sleuth Adrian Monk solves murders while grappling with his obsessive-compulsive disorder and lingering grief over his wife’s unsolved murder. And Monk is a light-hearted comedy. When the funny detectives are this psychologically-troubled and emotionally-scarred, you can imagine how dark and haunted the serious detectives have to be not get laughs.

Today’s cops, detectives and crimesolvers work in a grim world full of sudden violence, betrayal, conspiracies and corruption. A world without banter, romance, style or fun…for either the characters or the viewer. Robert Goren, Bobby Donnell, Vic Mackey, Chief Jack Mannion… can you imagine any kids playing make-believe as one of those detective heroes? Who in their right mind would want to be those characters or live in their world?

And that, it seems, is what escapism on television is all about now: watching a TV show and realizing, with a sigh of relief, your life isn’t so bad after all.

I think I preferred losing myself in a Monte Carlo casino with Alexander Mundy or traveling in James T. West’s gadget-laden railroad car… it’s a lot more entertaining than feeling thankful I don’t have to be Det. Joel Stevens in “Boomtown” or live in the Baltimore depicted in “The Wire.”

At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon at my tender young age, I long for a return to escapist cop shows, to detectives you envied, who live in a world of great clothes, sleek cars, amazing apartments, beautiful women and clever quips. Detectives with lives that are blessedly free of angst and anxiety. Detectives who aren’t afraid to wear a tuxedo, sip fine champagne, confront danger with panache, and wear a watch that’s actually a missile-launcher. Detectives who are self-assured and enjoy solving crimes, who aren’t burdened with heartache and moral ambiquity.

Yeah, I know it’s not real. Yeah, I know it’s a fantasy. But isn’t that what television is supposed to be once in a while?

James Strauss, The Fake TV Writer, Revealed as Convicted Swindler

James-R-Straus_mugshot.400x800My public outing of fake TV writer James Strauss aka James R. Straus on my blog yesterday prompted several of my enterprising Facebook followers, especially John Hendricks, Barbara Early and Mary Batchellor, to dig into him… and discover his sleazy, criminal past as a conman who was sent to prison for his swindles in the late 90s.

Strauss plead guilty in 1998 to defrauding a teachers’ retirement fund out of $400,000 in an international swindle…but even before stepping into federal prison to serve his two year term for that crime, he was charged with another con, embezzeling $20,000 from a Santa Fe company.

You can see his mugshot and booking info here.

UPDATE JAN 28. 2015
Fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss is back…this time expressing on Facebook his happiness that his author page is finally creeping up to top of Google search results for his name as opposed to all the posts on the web about his swindles. What amuses me about this bizarre post is how he casts himself as a victim…as opposed to the many people that he deceived and defrauded.

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The Mail I Get – Mr. Monk Edition

MrMonkOnTheCouchI get lots of questions and complaints about my Monk novels. Here are just a few recent ones.

In Mr Monk On The Couch there’s an attack on the ACLU that reads like a personal aside.  I sure hope you really don’t feel that way. They are a wonderful group that does a lot of good works and deserve support and praise.  You’ll thank me later for this pointer.

It wasn’t a personal aside. The book is written from Natalie’s POV and her views don’t always reflect mine. Nor do Monk’s. Nor do Stottlemeyer’s. Nor do the murderer’s. I often write characters who have opinions and beliefs very different than my own. It would get pretty boring if all I wrote about were characters who were identical to me.

I really enjoyed your book Mr. Monk on Patrol. You named the officers in the book Officers Lindero, Woodlake, DeSoto, and Corbin which are strikingly similar to the roads in the Conejo and San Fernando Valleys corresponding to Lindero Canyon Rd, Woodlake Ave, DeSoto Ave, and Corbin Ave. Considering that based on your website you are from Calabasas, I can’t help but ask if the officers are named after the roads along the Ventura Freeway (US 101) as I, myself, am from the Conejo Valley. Thank you very much!

Yes, of course they are named after Ventura Freeway exits. If I could have snuck in Tampa, Topanga, and Winnetka, I would have.  What amazes me is that you are the first person who has noticed!

You are an amazing writer, but please could you tell me why Trudys daughter isn’t mentioned in the recent books? In the last TV episode, Mr Monk found out that Trudy had a daughter and he met her and was besotted with her, but there’s no mention of her since, I am intrigued to know why?

She appears in one of my books, Mr. Monk on the Road, but she was not a character I was interested in exploring any further…nor was I much interested in that relationship. I had plenty of established characters and richer relationships to explore. I just didnt see where I could go with her character that would be much fun…or tie into solving mysteries. You’ll have to ask Hy Conrad, who is writing the books now, why he hasn’t chosen to use her.

I want to read all of the Monk books, but I don’t which ones came first and which ones came later or how many there are. Help!

Help has arrived. Here are the 18 Monk books in order, mine and Hy Conrad’s, along with some trivia about them that you might find interesting.
Monk and the Dirty Cop

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse (2006) William Rabkin and I adapted this novel into the MONK episode “Mr. Monk Can’t See a Thing.”

Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii (2006) Yes, I know about the milk error in this book. A character in this novel also appears in my novel Diagnosis Murder: The Death Merchant.

Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu (2007) This book was loosely adapted into the MONK episode “Mr. Monk and the Badge.”

Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants (2007) This book is unrelated to the MONK episode that brought back Sharona, which came several years after this book was published.

Mr. Monk in Outer Space (2007) Some characters in this book might be familiar to readers of my novel Dead Space (aka Beyond the Beyond). Monk’s brother Ambrose also has a significant role in this novel.

Mr. Monk Goes to Germany (2008) Several of the “assistants” that Natalie meets with in this book were originally introduced in Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu. Monk’s adversary Dale the Whale makes an appearance in this novel.

Mr. Monk is Miserable (2008) This book is a direct sequel to Germany and picks up right where the previous book left off.

Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop (2009) – There is a call-back in this novel to the MONK episode “Mr. Monk Meets The Godfather,” which I wrote with William Rabkin. There are also some in-joke references to the TV series Mannix and Murder She Wrote.

Mr. Monk in Trouble (2009) There are many, many in-joke references in this book to western authors, television series, and movies, and even radio shows. An excerpt from the book was published as The Case of the Piss-Poor Gold in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, November 2009

Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out (2010) This book features a variation on the classic locked-room mystery.

Mr. Monk on the Road (2011) This is the first book set after the final episode of the TV series and features Monk’s brother Ambrose in a big way.. Excerpt: Mr. Monk and the Seventeen Steps, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2010.

MM_Gets_EVEN_mm

Mr. Monk on the Couch (2011) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk and the Sunday Paper in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, July 2011

Mr. Monk on Patrol (2012) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk and the Open House in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in December 2011. This book features the return of Sharona and Randy Disher.

Mr. Monk is a Mess (July 2012) An excerpt from the book was published as  Mr. Monk and the Talking Car, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine May 2012. There is another call-back to the TV episode “Mr. Monk Meets The Godfather” in this novel.

Mr. Monk Gets Even (January 2013) An excerpt from the book was published as Mr. Monk Sees the Light in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, December 2012. Dale the Whale and Monk’s brother Ambrose return in this book, which was my final novel in the series.

Mr. Monk Helps Himself   (2013) This is the first book in the series written by Hy Conrad and picks up where my books left off. It’s based on the first, unproduced draft of what ultimately became the episode “Mr. Monk Joins a Cult.”

Mr. Monk Gets On Board (2014) This is based on an unproduced episode written by Daniel Dratch. Monk creator Andy Breckman was always trying to get me to use it for one of my books, but I just didn’t feel comfortable basing one of my books on a script that I didn’t write. But Hy helped plot the story in the writers’ room with Dan, so that’s a bit different than me tackling it. Plus Hy makes some call-backs to Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico, an episode that Bill and I wrote.

Mr. Monk is Open For Business (Coming in June 2014) I don’t know anything about this book…except that it’s bound to be good, since Hy wrote it.

 

James Strauss and his Fake Writing Credits

A year ago, I published a blog post here titled “Easily Fooled” about being on a TV writing panel at a mystery conference with a guy whose writing credits were all fake.  I omitted his name to save him embarrassment. I was being too kind, because the guy is still hoodwinking conferences and the paying attendees with the same scam. So here’s the post again… with his name included this time.

James Strauss

James gets gigs teaching screenwriting courses based on his experience writing episodes on the TV shows HOUSE, DEADWOOD, SAVING GRACE and ENTOURAGE. The problem is, according to the Writers Guild of America and writer/producers on those shows, James Strauss never worked as a writer on any of those series. So beware. If you run across any conference or seminar programs where he’s fraudulently claiming those credits in his biography, please alert the organizers and have them contact Lesley McCambridge in the WGA West credits department. Okay, so here’s the April 2013 post that tells how I first encountered this fake, James Strauss:

James Srauss claims to have written episodes of HOUSE. He didn't.
James Strauss claims to have written episodes of HOUSE. He didn’t.

The First Clue: Strauss Didn’t Know What He Was Talking About

Recently, I was a guest at a Love is Murder Conference in Chicago and one of my fellow speakers/panelists was James Strauss, who claimed to have written for scores of acclaimed network TV shows, like House, Deadwood, and Entourage, and a big upcoming movie, The Equalizer. Based on his experience, he’d been invited to speak at writer’s conferences, seminars, and libraries from coast to coast, including some nice paid gigs in Hawaii and Mexico. I’d never heard of him…and the instant I met him, I knew something was off.

For one thing, I knew one of the writers of the big, upcoming movie he claimed to have worked on…and I knew writer/producers on most of the shows he said he wrote for…and when I mentioned their names to James, he was evasive or said he came on the various projects before or after my friends were there. I might have bought that, screenwriting is a pretty nomadic business, but everything he said on his panels and in his talks about writing scripts and working on episodic series wasn’t just wrong, it was inane. Even in our personal conversations, he said some pretty stupid stuff about the business.

The Second Clue: Strauss Had No Credits. Anywhere. For Anything.

So I looked James Strauss up on IMDb. No credits. I googled his name, with the titles of the series he said he worked on, to see what came up… and the results I got all came from his website and the conferences he’d spoken at. Now my B.S. meter was in the red zone.

So I contacted my friends on the shows that he said he worked on. Not one of them had ever heard of him.

So I called the Writers Guild of America’s credits department and asked for his credits. They told me he wasn’t a member and had no writing credits.

Clearly, James Strauss was fraud. And not a very sophisticated one either if a mere google search could unmask him.

Now that the Guild was alerted to the guy, they investigated the issue in more depth, and sent him a strong cease-and-desist letter.

James Strauss claims to have written episodes of DEADWOOD. He didn't.
James Strauss claims to have written episodes of DEADWOOD. He didn’t.

Conferences Should Check Credentials of So-Called “Experts”

What I don’t get is how so many conferences, libraries, and seminars could have invited this guy to speak, and paid his way to tropical locales, without doing even the most basic check of his credentials. In this day and age, if a guy says he wrote for some of the most acclaimed shows on TV, you should be able to easily confirm it with a simple Google search.  And if you can’t, that should be a big, fat, red freaking flag.

I alerted the conference organizers about this guy’s fraud, and they said they’d always suspected something was off about him, but he seemed very knowledgeable and was so likeable that they let it go. They won’t make that mistake again.

UPDATE 4-22-2014: They actually did! Love is Murder invited James Strauss back again this year to talk about TV writing …even after being alerted by me and the WGA that he was a fraud. But James wisely was a last-minute no-show. The WGA sent him another cease-and-desist letter, and copied the conference. There’s nothing wrong with him teaching screenwriting. What is wrong is claiming credits and experience that he doesn’t have.

IncrediblyJames Strauss is still at it, claiming credits he doesn’t have. Yesterday, I discovered another conference that he was scheduled to speak at in May as an expert in TV writing. His bio listed the usual falsehoods. So I alerted the organizers about his fake credits and put them in touch with the WGA. The conference immediately disinvited Strauss. It’s discovering his continued fraud that prompted me to rewrite and repost this blog today.

When he’s asked to validate his writing credits, he claims he can’t because he wrote his scripts “under the table” and “off the books” so David Shore, David Milch, and the other producers he worked for could avoid paying WGA rates for writers. Uh-huh. That tells you how little James Strauss knows about the TV biz…or about the people he claims to have worked with. HOUSE creator/EP David Shore is on the Board of the Writers Guild of America and chairs the New Members committee.

James Strauss is not a clever fake. The problem is that the conference organizers he meets are so well-meaning, gullible and desperate for impressive guest speakers.

Here’s what James Strauss is saying today on his Facebook page about me outing his fakery:

“Ah, this day closes. I am under attack. For being what I am not supposed to be. For saying what I am not supposed to say. For attempting to live through the mythology of our phenomenal existence with little or no respect into a reality of hard truth and unacceptable demonstration of how things are. Just another day. Not so. A tough day and one not necessarily supported by those living in comfort and removed from the harshness of cold real world delivery. And so I bid you all a good night. I hope your day was better than mine but mine, even such as it was, wasn’t so bad as others have it. For them….I wish them love and acceptance. I wish them belief and tolerance. I wish them everything….”

UPDATE 4-24-2014 – James Strauss is a convicted conman.

James-R-Straus_mugshot.400x800
UPDATE JAN 28. 2015
Fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss is back…this time expressing on Facebook his happiness that his author page is finally creeping up to top of Google search results for his name as opposed to all the posts on the web about his swindles. What amuses me about this bizarre post is how he casts himself as a victim…as opposed to the many people that he deceived and defrauded.
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Diagnosis Murder: 178 Epic Episodes of Crime Fiction Heaven

Diagnosis Murder Complete Box Set

Diagnosis Murder Complete Box SetHere’s a guest post from my friend Kate Goldstone, a big fan in the UK of crime shows, crime novels and everything noir, who has finally discovered Diagnosis Murder, the TV series that I wrote & produced…and the series of eight novels that I wrote based on the show. 

I don’t know about you, but TV-on-demand has changed my life. Whoa girl, that’s a bit evangelistic, isn’t it? Yup, but its true. Instead of flipping in increasing desperation through millions of channels looking for something cool to watch – a worldwide phenomenon, I should think – at our place we dive right in and immerse ourselves in entire TV series (which is also available now on DVD!). And Diagnosis Murder has been a telly experience of epic proportions, all 178 episodes of it.

Watching the Diagnosis Murder complete series

 Lee Goldberg - Diagnosis MurderLee was the  executive producer and principle writer of the Diagnosis Murder series, which made our adventure into medical crime drama even more exciting. We knew the writer/producer personally. We don’t usually have that kind of connection to the shows we watch. So what’s Diagnosis Murder about? As the plot summary on IMDb says:

“Dr. Mark Sloan is the chief of staff at Commmunity General Hospital. Even though his duties as a doctor keep him busy enough, he still finds time to help the police solve murders (Mark’s father was a Los Angeles police detective). He is assisted by young doctors Amanda Bently and Jesse Travis, as well as by his own son Steve, who took after Mark’s father. Together they solve some of Los Angeles’ toughest murders.”

Us Brits do it pretty damn well. The Scandanavians do it beautifully. But top quality US crime drama is something else altogether. You lot tell great stories. And watching a series back-to-back is a completely different experience from drip-feeding your thrill-starved imagination bit by bit, week on week. .

Watched in action consecutively, a series’ characters are more colourful, with more depth and subtlety. You don’t forget the plot, spending half the next episode puzzling over who did what, to whom, why, when and where, wondering “who on earth is that bloke?”. Freed from all that tedious brainwork, you can relax and enjoy the ride in its full glory. Fine detail assumes greater importance, backgrounds and landscapes have more meaning and relevance. It’s richer, deeper, broader, a million times more absorbing and lets you appreciate the programme makers’ skills to the full.

The only problem is, it’s like a good book – you can’t put it down. If I had a pound for every night we’ve crawled into bed far too long after bedtime, eyes gritty and stinging, with heads full of murder and mayhem, I’d be a rich lady by now. As it is, I’m just knackered. But boy, have I had fun.

Diagnosis Murder IMDb – Outstanding mystery medical crime drama

dm-boxsetWatch the first few Diagnosis Murder episodes in a row and you’ll be hooked. It’s so popular there’s even a roaring trade in Diagnosis Murder fanfiction, some of it uncomfortably X-rated. There are literally hundreds of guest stars listed on the show’s Wikipedia page. And the stars of the show, including Dick Van Dyke, Barry Van Dyke, Victoria Rowell and Scott Baio of Happy Days fame, are developed beautifully throughout the series. The plots are satisfyingly twisty and turny, the science bits are fascinating and the stories don’t date. All the hallmarks of top quality crime fiction entertainment, and great fun.

TV.com rates the show 8.6 out of ten, a great score for a vintage show. Here’s what one of their reviewers says about it:

Diagnosis Murder is an excellent medical drama without all the blood of those other medical shows. Dick Van Dyke is classic. Dr. Mark Sloan (Dick Van Dyke) is always interesting being the chief of internal medicine at Community General Hospital and still finding time to help his son, Detective Steve Sloan (Barry Van Dyke), solve homicides as an unofficial consulant to the LAPD. Every episode they manage to find themselves in the middle of a murder, and wittily solve it. It just never gets old. This is just purely a superb show. I’m am very glad that they decided to put Diagnosis Murder on DVD. Many more people need to discover the fascinating addictive show of Diagnosis Murder.”

But there’s more…there are Lee’s Diagnosis Murder books. Which means I am in heaven.

Diagnosis Murder novels

Lee wrote eight novels based on the Diagnosis Murder TV show. I’m currently working my way through them. And it’s another completely different experience. I was unable to get the TV actors out of my head as I read the first few chapters of the first book, The Silent Partner.  I suppose that’s kind of inevitable when you’ve just watched 178 episodes in a ridiculously short space of time. But then I got lost in the reading, which is exactly what should happen when you enter a jolly good book. I’m developing my own images of the characters now that I am half way through The Death Merchant, the second in Lee’s series.  They don’t look or sound like their TV counterparts. I’ve made them mine. That’s books for you.

Lee Goldberg - Monk Series

Oddly enough, the TV series also dovetails cleverly with Lee’s Monk books, with two of the characters he created for The Death Merchant turning up out of the blue in Mr Monk Goes to Hawaii and Mr Monk and the Two Assistants. I love it when that happens, when two fictional worlds collide. It makes their reality seem even more alive, populated with comings and goings that are hidden from the reader or viewer, in the imaginary background. Almost uncanny.

5 Diagnosis Murder TV movies for bereft DM obsessives

In case you didn’t know, there are also five Diagnosis Murder TV movies to watch. Good to know when the end of a particularly thrilling TV crime series leaves you feeling oddly bereaved, like you’ve lost a good friend.

  • Diagnosis of Murder, 1992
  • The House on Sycamore Street, 1992
  • A Twist of the Knife, 1993
  • A Town Without Pity, 2002
  • Diagnosis Murder: Without Warning, 2002

Movies, books, TV shows. If that lot doesn’t fuel your obsession with classic TV crime drama, I don’t know what will. Give Diagnosis Murder a whirl. Just don’t blame me if you lose sleep because you can’t leave the TV remote alone, can’t put the books down, can’t walk away from the movies. With a bit of luck it’ll keep you off the streets and out of trouble for a few months.

What keeps you up nights?

Breaking Bad, Dexter, Deadwood, The Wire, Justified. They’ve all kept millions of us awake long past bedtime. What’s your latest crime TV series obsession, and why?

Attention Fanfic Authors: The Characters Don’t Belong To You

I am always amused when fanfic authors get upset when the creators and copyright holders of the characters they are writing about dare to assert their legal, creative and moral rights. A great example comes from this recent Wall Street Journal article about Amazon’s Kindle Worlds, which allows fanfic authors a platform to write, publish and sell books about characters and fictional worlds they didn’t create and don’t own.

To avoid copyright infringement, Amazon struck deals with several authors and entertainment companies. Amazon gives them a cut of royalties and the rights to use the new characters and plot lines in the fan-fiction material in exchange for licensing their intellectual property. So far, Amazon has acquired licenses for 22 fictional properties, ranging from the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, to the comic series G.I. Joe, to Alloy Entertainment’s popular teen book and TV series “Gossip Girl,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Vampire Diaries.” […]The move to profit from fan fiction has alarmed some writers and copyright experts who see it as a naked attempt to rob amateur writers of their intellectual property, before they have a chance to build an audience.

What irks some of these fanfic authors are the clauses in the Amazon Kindle Worlds contract that reminds them that, hey, you’re welcome to play here, but you don’t own the underlying rights, the creators and copyright holders of the characters do.

The move to profit from fan fiction has alarmed some writers and copyright experts who see it as a naked attempt to rob amateur writers of their intellectual property, before they have a chance to build an audience.

tile_315x180._V381122512_These same “experts” aren’t concerned when amateur writers nakedly rob authors of their intellectual property by writing and disseminating unauthorized fanfic based on characters and worlds the fanficcers didn’t create and don’t own. They are only concerned when the creators and rights holders have the audicity to exert their moral, artistic, and legal rights to “profit for fan fiction”:

“It feels like a land grab,” said Francesca Coppa, an English professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn., who writes “Sherlock,” “True Blood” and other fan fiction on the side. “Big companies are trying to insert themselves explicitly to get people who don’t know any better to sign away rights to things that might be profitable.”

No one is stopping Ms. Coppa or these writers from going out and writing their own, wholly original, legally unencumbered stories. Instead, these writers choose to write Vampire Diaries or Silo Saga fanfic instead… to utilize characters that don’t belong to them and then whine when the creators want to share in any profits that arise from the sale of those works. If there’s a “land grab” here, it’s not the creators and copyright holders who are making it… it’s the fanfic authors who think they should be able to freely use, and profit from, other people’s creations. The fanfic writers should be delighted and thrilled to have the chance through Kindle Worlds to actually sell their fanfic…instead of complaining that they can’t own the stories set in the fictional worlds that they didn’t create.

“Under the Amazon agreement, writers are giving away more rights than they would for something that is quote unquote original,” Ms. Tandy said. “Writers should be very careful that they’re comfortable giving away those rights.”

tile_vampire-diaries_3._V381288068_I love how Ms. Tandy puts quotes around original as if its a lesser form of writing than stuff based on someone else’s work…and implies that it’s unfair for the creators of original work to want their legal, creative and moral rights protected…and that fanfic authors of quote unquote unoriginal work somehow deserve greater protections. She has it all ass-backwards. Fanfic writers aren’t “giving away” more rights in this scenario, they are being granted rights they didn’t already have… to use and profit from characters they didn’t create and don’t own.

(I should mention my own novel franchise, The Dead Man, is part of Kindle Worlds and that there are presently four licensed fanfiction books based on the series, which I co-created with William Rabkin. I also wrote, as a work-for-hire writer for Penguin/Putnam, eight books based on Diagnosis Murder and fifteen books based on Monk, two TV series that I didn’t create. So I know what it means to write novels that I don’t own and, on the other side, to own a franchise licensed to Kindle Worlds.)

 

Read the Contracts

It astonishes me that writers, who make their living from their words, don’t bother to read the contracts that they sign. If you want a good example of this, read the  Wall Street Journal interview with Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith.

Vampire Diaries Cast
Vampire Diaries Cast

She was hired by Alloy Entertainment to write a horror book series that they had in mind about a woman in love with two vampires. When she signed the deal, she failed to notice that it was a work-for-hire contract and that Alloy owned the underlying rights…. because she apparently didn’t bother to read her contract.

The books were an enormous success, and inspired a TV show, but she wanted to take the series in a different direction than Alloy did. So they fired her and hired another writer to continue the series.

 Ms. Smith was stunned.

“I knew that they were a book packager, but I didn’t realize that they could take the series away from me,” she says. “I was heartbroken.”

She should have read the contract before she signed it. She was dealing with a book packager, after all. What business did she think they were in? How did she think they made their money? Okay, so she made a dumb, rookie mistake. You’d think she would have learned an important lesson from that “heart-breaking” experience. You’d be wrong.

Now that Amazon is offering people the opportunity to write, publish and sell Vampire Diaries fanfiction through their Kindle World’s platform, LJ Smith has decided to write new Vampire Diaries novels and take the series in the creative direction she always wanted it to go. But she was stunned to learn that she doesn’t own the work that she’s publishing on Kindle Worlds:

Ms. Smith says that when she began publishing her Vampire Diaries fan fiction on Amazon this past January, she wasn’t aware that she was giving up the copyright to those stories, too. Nor did she realize she’d be giving Alloy a cut of earnings from the new stories. But had she known, it wouldn’t have deterred her, she says. “It wouldn’t have stopped me,” she says. “I didn’t do these books for money. They’re entirely a labor of love.”

If Smith had bothered to read her simple, and very clear, Kindle Worlds contract, none of that would have been a surprise. I hope she takes the time to read the next publishing contract that she signs or she could end up writing entirely for love.

 

 

One Reason Why I Write

Richard WheelerThere are lots of reasons why I write mystery novels and thrillers… To entertain myself. To make a living. To tell a story. But sometimes it’s not easy to put my butt in the chair and write. But then I come across a Goodreads blogpost like the one from author Richard Wheeler…and it’s a big motivator.

Each day I read to my wife a couple of chapters from one of Lee Goldberg’s Monk novels, based on the TV series about the obsessive-compulsive San Francisco detective Adrian Monk.

My wife, Sue Hart, is in an assisted living place three blocks from my home. She spent half a century as an English professor, specializing in Montana literature and other fields, before her short-term memory began to fade.

She loves the Monk novels. She had been unfamiliar with them until I started reading them to her in her room, and now she laughs and smiles right along with me, as I spin out the story for her.

There is a genius to the Monk novels. Mr. Monk is crazy and outrageous– but we don’t laugh at him, because there is the pathos about him, and what we feel is tenderness toward him, no matter how peculiar he seems.

These reading sessions, which light up my wife, have made me aware of how gifted Lee Goldberg is as a novelist and storyteller. There is something about reading a story out loud, and catching the response, that tells me more about the work than if I had read it silently to myself. And it is telling me that Lee Goldberg is a splendid storyteller with a great sense of the human condition.

I am touched, and very flattered, by Richard’s post. I’ve received quite a few letters from people who read my books while going through chemotherapy, or healing from an injury, and they tell me how much the laughter, or the mystery, or the adventure has helped them deal with, or forget, the pain. That’s just amazing to me. So now I think of those people whenever I sit down to write.