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.
There’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.
Master 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?
My new crime novel King City is out today from Thomas & Mercer in digital and paperback…and in audio from Brilliance Audio. I am so excited and more than a little bit anxious about it…because this is my first, standalone crime novel in many years, and a real departure from the books that I have written before. Here's what it's about…
Major Crimes Unit detective Tom Wade secretly worked with the Feds to nail seven of his fellow cops for corruption…turning him into a pariah in the police department. So he’s exiled to patrol a beat in King City’s deadliest neighborhood… with no back-up, no resources, and no hope of survival.
Now Wade fights to tame the lawless, poverty-stricken wasteland…while investigating a string of brutal murders of young women. It’s a case that takes him from the squalor of the inner-city to the manicured enclaves of the privileged, revealing the sordid and deadly ways the two worlds are intertwined…making his enemies even more determined to crush him.
But for Tom Wade, backing down is never an option…even if it will cost him his life.
Advance Praise for King City:
"Lee Goldberg's King City brings the sensibility of a western to the contemporary crime novel and the result is exhilarating, compelling, and a thrill to read. Tom Wade is an iconic hero with a strong, personal code trying bring order to a lawless frontier…which just happens to be smack in the middle of a dying, industrial American city. He's an unforgettable and deeply compelling character in the most original crime novel to come along in years," –Janet Evanovich, international bestselling author
“King City is a book that only Lee Goldberg could have written. He’s got the high-velocity prose of a best-seller, coupled with the highly visual elements that make his television writing so compelling. Factor in the terrific characters and some very cogent takes on human nature, and you’ve got a rollicking thriller. King City is a pleasure from start to finish." T. Jefferson Parker, New York Times bestselling author of The Jaguar and The Border Lords
"King City is Walking Tall, Die Hard, and Dirty Harry all rolled into one. Hard-driving action and all the satisfaction of a well-told story about a righteous man of courage facing seemingly insurmountable odds. You'll love it."-Jan Burke, bestselling author of Disturbance and Liar
"I could tell you that Lee Goldberg's King City is one of the best reads of the year or that Lee is one of my favorite writers for so many reasons–plotting, character, or his incredible sense of humor–but that might ruin the surprise of reading King City for yourself. Suffice to say that Goldberg is one infinitely readable master of crime fiction, and King City is Lee at his best." –Craig Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The Cold Dish and Hell is Empty
"King City like a 1969 Detroit muscle car. It's powerful, nasty, loud, and a heck of a lot of fun. Lee Goldberg is at his atmospheric best here, creating a world so authentic the sights, sounds and smells seem to explode from the pages. Detective Tom Wade is a fast, funny three-dimensional protagonist and following him through the cesspool of King City and its outrageous inhabitants is endlessly entertaining." Paul Guyot, writer/supervising producer of the TV series "Leverage"
"King City effortlessly blends the archetypal gunslinger of the Old West, riding into the lawless town to clean up the bad guys, with a modern tale of police corruption, urban decay and neglect….It’s a fast-paced exploration of the decline of the blue-collar industrial heartland of America, and the cop who will not stand by and let that happen on his watch. Fans of the late Robert B Parker will delight in King City, which has the same great dialogue and nicely judged wry humour….A sit-down, straight-through read. Superb." -Zoe Sharp, author of Hard Knocks
"With Lee Goldberg's King City you get suspense, romance, humor and shoot-em-up outlaw justice. Picture a mordern day High Noon with an incorruptible cop, Tom Wade, putting it all on the line in a town without pity." Joseph Wambaugh, bestselling author of The Blue Knight, The New Centurions, The Onion Field and Harbor Nocturne.
Sorry for the blog silence… I've been chained to my computer lately and writing furiously. I'm hell-bent on finishing my fifteenth and final MONK novel, MR. MONK GETS EVEN, to meet my June 1st deadline, when I will be starting work on an exciting new project that I can't talk about yet.
But I can tell you that Amazon is sending me to New York in June to attend BEA…and tout the release of my new crime novel KING CITY…which comes out next week…and that I will be jetting from the Big Apple to Owensboro, KY, to shoot a DEAD MAN music video of our theme song with the talented folks at Firelight Entertainment Group and attend the International Mystery Writers Festival, which will be screening my shorts REMAINDERED and BUMSICLE on June 16th.
Whew. I'm tired just writing about it all. Okay, back to MONK, enough procrastinating on this blog…
I've been back from Kentucky, where I shot the short film Bumsicle, for a few days now and I am still catching up on the work, emails, phone calls, and bills that accumulated while I was gone. I've got plenty of things to think about…and yet, even though directing the film is behind me, I find myself editing the footage in my mind while eagerly waiting to see the first editor's assembly. I'm sure I'll finally stop thinking about the movie once the final cut is locked and we're on to the fine-tuning of post-production sound, color correction, music etc.
The film is a sequel to Remaindered, a very well-received short film I did a year or so ago, and brings back actor Todd Reynolds as Det. Bud Flanek, a character writer/producer William Link kindly dubbed "the Kentucky Columbo." Like the earlier film, this one is also based on a short story of mine.
I had a fantastic time making the movie, in no small part thanks to the terrific cast (Todd Reynolds, Rick Montgomery Jr., Sadia Brimm, Marcus Porter, Patrick Litteken, and Jared Collins) and the professionalism, efficiency and enthusiasm of the hard-working crew, led by producers J. Laine Nunn and Roxi Witt, assistant director Rachael Nunn and Director of Photograph Marc Gurevitch. You can see a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos and production stills here.
As much as I enjoyed making Remaindered, and as proud as I am of it, this was a smoother experience all around (despite a tornado hitting town in middle of our shoot!) and the footage looks far more polished and professional. The big reason for that is that we took a enormous step up in equipment and resources. We had two RED cameras, a professional D.P., and a full lighting/grip package this time, all thanks to Firelight Entertainment Group.
But I believe the key to the success of the shoot was the thorough pre-production planning, from the smallest props to my shot list (I provided sketches weeks in advance of how I'd shoot/cover each scene and I stuck to'em)…and the tight organization that continued until the final shot.
We also pre-rigged some of the key locations the day before shooting, which significantly cut down on time spent lighting the sets and allowed us to move faster that we would have otherwise. And I spent a few hours before production rehearsing with the actors, so they knew the staging, and had their performances down, before they got in front of the cameras.
Because of all that, we were able to handle the inevitable, unexpected problems…like a tornado forcing us to seek shelter early on our first day and, in one scene, an error in the settings of our "B" camera that cost us some shots… and still stay on track without losing much time.
In fact, we managed to get all of our work done without going significantly over schedule until the final day, but that overtime had more to do with having to strike our sets, clean up, and pack up everything before moving to our next location, some distance away, for our last shot.
The shoot was tiring, but I think I can safely say it was incredibly fun for everybody involved. I loved directing and I am eager to do it again. So I hope Bumsicle is a success on the Festival circuit and that it gives us the opportunity to bring back Det. Bud Flanek for more adventures. My hope is that these shorts might do well enough to inspire a web series featuring Flanek that I could write & direct…but that's a longshot.
Then again, I thought The Dead Man was a long shot, too.
Here's the treasure trove of FREE Kindle books that Joe Konrath, Scott Nicholson, Blake Crouch, J. Carson Black and I are giving away Feb. 1-2 as part of our Free Kindle Boogie contest:
Ultimate Thriller Box Set - Konrath, Crouch, Black, Goldberg, Nicholson
MY GUN HAS BULLETS http://www.amazon.com/Gun-Bullets-Charlie-Willis-ebook/dp/B002HK35IU
The Desert Waits http://www.amazon.com/The-Desert-Waits-ebook/dp/B005JEDRE8/
The Bluelight Special http://www.amazon.com/The-BlueLight-Special-ebook/dp/B005L76RU4/
Dark Side of the Moon http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Side-Laura-Cardinal-ebook/dp/B003VIX140/
The Laura Cardinal Novels (omnibus) http://www.amazon.com/The-Laura-Cardinal-Novels-ebook/dp/B005PYI9TA/
Thicker Than Blood: http://www.amazon.com/Thicker-Than-Blood-Complete-ebook/dp/B0050VK5M2/
Perfect Little Town: http://www.amazon.com/PERFECT-LITTLE-TOWN-ebook/dp/B003CJU1B4/
Four Live Rounds: http://www.amazon.com/FOUR-LIVE-ROUNDS-ebook/dp/B003BEEAD0/
Serial Killers Uncut: http://www.amazon.com/SERIAL-KILLERS-UNCUT-Complete-ebook/dp/B004YDNNK8/
On the Good Red Road: http://www.amazon.com/GOOD-RED-ROAD-ebook/dp/B003UNLKIK/
Shining Rock: http://www.amazon.com/SHINING-ROCK-ebook/dp/B003UNLKM6/
Six in the Cylinder: http://www.amazon.com/SIX-IN-THE-CYLINDER-ebook/dp/B004I6D4TQ/
The Meteorologist: http://www.amazon.com/THE-METEOROLOGIST-ebook/dp/B004I1L62I/
The Pain of Others: http://www.amazon.com/THE-PAIN-OF-OTHERS-ebook/dp/B004I6D6FS/
Shot of Tequila – http://www.amazon.com/Shot-of-Tequila-ebook/dp/B00267T4H0
Horror Stories – http://www.amazon.com/Horror-Stories-ebook/dp/B003AOA6BG
Jack Daniels Stories – http://www.amazon.com/Jack-Daniels-Stories-ebook/dp/B003AKY6GG
Crime Stories – http://www.amazon.com/Crime-Stories-ebook/dp/B003AOA73I
Planter's Punch – http://www.amazon.com/Planters-Punch-ebook/dp/B00264GKWA
Shapeshifters Anonymous – http://www.amazon.com/Shapeshifters-Anonymous-ebook/dp/B004P1J2U4
Newbies Guide – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B003I6496Y
Truck Stop – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002G99RRK
The Screaming – http://www.amazon.com/The-Screaming-ebook/dp/B004P1J1UU
Wild Night is Calling http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Night-Is-Calling-ebook/dp/B004P8JMNY
Konrath German Book:
Truck Stop DE (German) – http://www.amazon.com/Truck-Stop-Rastplatz-Grauens-ebook/dp/B005MN2E86
Scott Nicholson Library Vol. 1 http://www.amazon.com/Scott-Nicholson-Library-Boxed-ebook/dp/B006889PVS
Scott Nicholson Library Vol. 2 http://www.amazon.com/Scott-Nicholson-Library-Boxed-ebook/dp/B0068NOD2O
Scott Nicholson Library Vol. 3 http://www.amazon.com/Scott-Nicholson-Library-Boxed-ebook/dp/B0069BFPL8
The Skull Ring (Bonus Edition) http://www.amazon.com/Skull-Ring-Bonus-Screenplay-ebook/dp/B004EEOO6E
Four Dark Spells (with J.R. Rain) http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Spells-Four-Books-ebook/dp/B0063ACDQU/
Creative Spirit (Bonus Edition) http://www.amazon.com/Creative-Spirit-Bonus-Screenplay-ebook/dp/B006AG3VOA
Burial to Follow http://www.amazon.com/Burial-To-Follow-ebook/dp/B0031RHNZY
If I Were Your Monster http://www.amazon.com/If-Were-Your-Monster-ebook/dp/B004G095PG
The Indie Journey http://www.amazon.com/Indie-Journey-Secrets-Writing-ebook/dp/B0050I5TXA
Solom (UK) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Solom/dp/B00408ANTG
Troubled (UK) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Troubled/dp/B003ZDO438
The Gorge (UK) http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Gorge/dp/B00472O79W
Disintegration (Feb. 1) http://www.amazon.com/Disintegration-ebook/dp/B0048EL5M6
Speed Dating (Feb. 2) http://www.amazon.com/Speed-Dating-Dead-ebook/dp/B003TZLWTG
The Dead Love Longer (Feb.2) http://www.amazon.com/Transparent-Lovers-ebook/dp/B004LROVS0
Over 75 free books, yours for the taking.
And ten free Kindle Fires…
And $500 for your favorite library.
What's the catch?
There is none. You can have as many of the books as you want…and you get a shot at one of the Kindles and money for your library.
Here's the deal: My friends J.A. Konrath, Blake Crouch, J. Carson Black, Scott Nicholson and I really appreciate your readership and support…and to show you how much, we want to give you 10 Kindle Fires and 75 free ebooks!
While the ebooks are only free Feb. 1 & 2, we want to start spreading the word today and allow you to enter the Kindle giveaway now.
There's no purchase necessary and the contest is international. And there are three easy, FREE ways to enter:
(1) Go to the event blog at http://bigkindleboogie.blogspot.com and enter using one of the "Rafflecopters" there
(2) email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Boogie entry" as subject line (Limit once per day)
(3) Tweet: 10 free Kindle Fires. 75 free ebooks. http://bit.ly/xWOoKN #bigkindleboogie RT to enter for a Fire! The tweets can be entered as often as you like, just don't annoy your friends–tweets are automatically picked up by a software gizmo we have and added to the drawing pool.
And if you're hunting for more ebook deals, be sure to visit our Big Kindle Boogie event partners: Ereader News Today,Kindle Nation Daily, Ereader Love, and Ireader Review, great places to find fantastic bargain and free Kindle books.
CONTEST RULES: All entries made through Rafflecopters and random selections will be pooled and the 10 Kindle Fire winners will be randomly selected by the Watauga County (NC) Public Library staff on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Winners will be announced on the Big Kindle Boogie blog and the Facebook event page. We will attempt to contact winners directly, but it is winner's responsibility to claim prize by Feb. 10 or alternate winners will be selected. Some Rafflecopters may be replaced during the contest due to technical limitations of entry counters and to update our free book links, but all entries made on all Rafflecopters will be stored and pooled for the prize drawings. Entries will also be randomly collected from Twitter searching the #bigkindleboogie hashtag and added to the prize pool for drawings. The first winner selected will have a $500 donation made to their local library or library support group. No purchase necessary, contest is international.
Sorry I haven't been blogging lately. It's not that I have a shortage of publishing scams, weird mail, gripes, and industry stuff to write about (my "For The Blog" folder is full)…but I've been busy writing (my last MONK book), writing some more (my February novella McGrave), writing even more (an in-development book project with another author), editing (The Dead Man series for Amazon), having meetings (on that western project I haven't told you much about yet), and prepping for my short film Bumsickle (which I am directing in Kentucky the first weekend in March).
But I'll be back.
Mark Evanier has unearthed a true television rarity — an unsold, animated pilot from Rankin/Bass called The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians featuring cartoon versions of famous comics doing their schticks. The animated comics include Jack Benny, George Burns, Phyllis Diller, Flip Wilson, The Smothers Brothers, Henny Youngman, and Groucho Marx…all of whom provided their own voices (though some of the material is from their records).