The Mail I Get – Grab Bag Edition

From the grab bag…here’s a bunch of recent mail that I’ve received and my replies:

I’d like you to adapt my unpublished novel XYZ for the screen or perhaps a TV series. It could also be multiple movies. It’s about XYZ. In the alternative, I hope you will refer me to a producer who might be interested.

I replied: I’m not interested in adapting your book and I can’t think of any screenwriter or producer who would be. Studios don’t buy ideas. They buy the execution of ideas (i.e. who is writing it, who is directing it, who is producing it etc). And they don’t buy books that aren’t huge bestsellers. Since you aren’t a brand-name author, or a first-time author with a bestselling book, there’s almost no chance in hell of anybody reading it or buying it. I don’t say that to be mean, but to give you a realistic view of your chances. Your best bet is to get the book published and hope it does well enough critically or commercially to attract Hollywood interest.

Here’s a question I got about MONK:

 I’m a teenager who has become a HUGE fan of Monk just 8 years too late!!  I grew up watching the show with my Dad. Not so long ago, I discovered that there was a BOOK SERIES. My heart quite literally jumped out of my chest!!  THE CHARACTERS WEREN’T DONE!! Over the next 2 days I went to the library and checked out 10 Monk books, and I can’t stop reading them!!  THEY ARE SO GOOD!! About 2-3 times every book I get teary-eyed because the characters you’ve described in the books are so heart-wrenching.  Why did you write the series from Natalie’s perspective?

If my “detecting skills” tell me anything, you probably chose to write the series from her perspective because the television series is already told form Monk’s perspective.  We get the chance to understand him thoroughly, so it only makes sense to write from the perspective of the closest person to him… literally of course.  

I replied: I wrote them from Natalie’s perspective because I think it humanizes Monk. It gives us a necessary distance and, at the same time, a perspective to frame what we’re seeing. In a way, Natalie’s eyes become the replacement for the TV screen that was between us and Adrian Monk. Also, a little Monk goes a long way. You can overdo the joke and all the obsessive/compulsive stuff. By telling the stories from Natalie’s point of view, we aren’t with him all the time. We get some space, a breather from his shtick, and I think that’s important. It’s also a conscious homage to Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, who were seen as well through the eyes of their assistants.

And, finally, here’s a question I got about screenwriting:

I stumbled across your post Diagnosis Murder & How to Plot a Mystery, while looking for information on adapting a low-budget, niche, middle grade, mystery book series into a TV script of what seems to be 22-25 pages for a 30 minute show? I found a good article on sitcoms, but not a good breakdown for a kids’ mystery series. Is there any chance you can direct me to a script/page-timing outline? Or any information on this specifically?

I replied: No offense intended, but if you are asking about script page/timing, that suggests to me you still have a lot to learn about the principles of screenwriting. There is far more involved than knowing whether a page of script translates to a minute or five minutes of action (it depends whether its a one camera or three camera show and what is on the page — how many locations/sets there are, what action is involved, and how fast characters speak. Page count is not the issue you should be concerned with. There are “hour long” shows with 45 page scripts and 69 page scripts — every series is different). I recommend Richard Walter’s ESSENTIALS OF SCREENWRITING, Pamela Douglas WRITING THE TV DRAMA SERIES, William Rabkin’s  terrific WRITING THE PILOT, Alex Epstein’s CRAFTY TV WRITING, and SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION WRITING by William Rabkin and yours truly.

She wrote back:

Thank you very much for your quick response. I know very little about television scripts. But will get the books you mentioned.

The Mail I Get – Long Overdue Monk Edition

I’ve been getting lots of questions about my MONK series. Here are just a few of them.

Hi Lee, quick question about the Monk books. I know they’re stand-alones, but did you intend for the characters to have gradual progressions from book 1 to book 15, which wouldn’t necessarily require the reader to read them in order, but that the reader would get more out of the overall storyline arc if they *did* read them in order?

Yes, particularly after MR. MONK IS CLEANED OUT and onwards through my last book, MR. MONK GETS EVEN. Also, early in the series, the books MR. MONK GOES TO GERMANY and MR. MONK IS MISERABLE (aka Mr. Monk Goes to France) take place basically within hours of each other, so those are best read in order.

Love the Mr Monk book series. I’m in need of a jacket cover for a hardcover book “Mr Monk on the COUCH”. Any idea where I might be able to go and get just the cover?

I don’t have a stack of dust jackets in my closet. You’ll have to buy a used book. There are plenty on Amazon and ABEbooks.

I just finished reading your last book on Monk and something bothers me. Where was the daughter of Trudy – Molly? How is it possible that she was not at the wedding Ambrose and Yuki? After all, she is part of the family. Why she was not invited to the wedding? Was there any reason why you did not mention Molly Evans in your book? Please reply.

If memory serves , I had Molly appear in “Mr Monk on The Road” and I felt that was enough attention paid to her. The character appeared briefly in the last episode of Monk, so she barely registered as a character . She wasn’t monk’s daughter, so she wasn’t related to him or Ambrose. Her character barely existed in the tv show. I saw no reason to spend any more time with a character that viewers and readers didn’t really know or care about. That approach has proven correct since you are only the second person, out of the tens of thousands of readers who bought the book, to bring her up to me in the years since the novel was published. 🙂

Thanks for writing the Monk series. I love them. I love the way you have developed the characters, especially…all of them. I am just very disappointed that you are not going to write any more of them. If you change your mind I shall rejoice.

Thank you, but to quote a cliche, the ship has sailed on the MONK books. I won’t be doing any more. I think writing fifteen books and three Monk episodes is more than enough Monk for me!

I was wondering if you still talk to the maker of monk because if you do I was wonder if you could ask him to make a monk movie! I would love that and I know a lot of fans would love it too!

Andy Breckman wrote a MONK reunion movie several years ago for USA Network. But, from what I understand, it ended up being too expensive to produce.

I’m a HUGE fan of the Mr. Monk book series and the TV series! I’m having a very hard time finding your first book, “Mr. Monk Goes To The Firehouse” so, I was wondering if you could send me a copy at your earliest convenience. Here is my address. Please sign it, too.

I’m so glad that you enjoy the MONK books. I don’t know why you’re having troubles finding MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE. It is widely available from hundreds of booksellers, in some cases for as little as one penny plus postage! That said, I’m not a bookseller nor do I send out free copies of my books to anybody who asks.

I am a huge fan, I have seen the Monk tv show and read all of the Monk books.  How do I go about obtaining a copy of the short story Mr. Monk and the Seventeen steps?

The short story is actually a chapter from one of the MONK books… MR. MONK ON THE ROAD. All the short stories that were published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine were excerpts from the books that just worked as standalone stories

The Mail I Get – Monk Edition

MrMonkOnTheCouchI still get lots of questions and comments each day about my Monk books… here’s a sampling:

Dear Lee, It was with mixed feelings that I read Mr. Monk’s last adventure.  Happiness at reading more enjoyable Monk escapades, and sadness that there will be no more of them. I did appreciate that one of the lipo-suction patients was Frank Cannon.  ha ha   What a ride.  Barb

Thank you, Barb. The other lipo patient was McCabe, the character William Conrad played on JAKE AND THE FATMAN…but so far, nobody has caught that reference.

It’s a rare to find an author who understands that a unique quirky character is really one of the most important parts of a good book. Love your character and I think the books are really wonderful. So often they are just plot oriented by vanilla unmemorable characters. So congratulations of writing truly fantastic books. Allan

Thank you, Allan. But I can’t take credit for creating that brilliant character. The credit belongs to Andy Breckman. He just let me borrow Monk for the books.

Hello Lee, You end your chapters in a manner that makes it difficult to not keep reading. Please stop doing that. You will thank me later. It might tempt some people into stopping in the middle of a chapter, and that violates the natural order of the universe.

Now that the above is out of the way, let me pass along my delight for both the Monk series and the Fox and O’Hare series – mysteries and absolutely hilarious! After thirteen years of retirement at age 70 it is getting harder to head for the treadmill daily, books the only way to get through it. My wife and I had read all the Janet Evanovich books (also all the Agatha Christie’s and a whole lot in between), so glad to have found The Heist, The Chase, and will read The Job (a Christmas book to each other) after Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants. We have also seen all of the Monk TV episodes, and reading the books and remembering the appearance of the characters is extra fun. Thanks for these two series, and will explore your other books! Leonard

Thank you for your very kind words about my MONK and FOX & O’HARE books… though they are meant to be serious drama. It troubles me that you find them funny.

I just want to let you know that I really enjoy the books you contributed to the Monk series. As someone who has been diagnosed with OCD (whether rightly or wrongly), I have to say that you seem to have done a good job portraying what really goes on in the brain of an OC person (here I should add the caveat that I haven’t actually gotten far in any of your books – they’re too thought provoking to finish in a timely fashion). If in the past I would firmly deny that I had OCD (“My unusual behavior is not symptomatic of any illogical thought processes, thank you very much. It is a combination of *ultra*-logical thinking, and natural responses to my excess anxiety”), now I am not so sure. I find it very easy to identify with your version of Mr. Monk. [..]Without changing the way I view myself and my rationality, I now find it easier to accept the label of OCD.[..]In the future, I intend to use your books as “textbooks” to help other people better understand the true nature of OCD. Sammy

Now that is frightening. You do know I make it all up, right? I have no special understanding of OCD… I just have a rich fantasy life.

The Mail I Get – Question & Answer Edition

I get lots of questions about my books…and occasionally I even have a few answers.

I have read every Monk book that my library owns. They are wonderful! Will you be writing any more ?

Judy

Nope, I’ve been done with Monk for a while now. My last Monk book was Mr. Monk Gets Even. I’ve moved on to other projects and am co-writing a new series with Janet Evanovich. Speaking of which…

I’m love the Kate O’Hare and Nicolas Fox books you write along with Janet Evanovich. I seriously read all the books within days as I’m totally hooked by them. This is a surprise as I am one who will only read books if I am forced too.I would like to know of there is another book to the serioes that is being made or will be released soon etc. Thanks again.
Joanna

I’m so glad that you are enjoying the series. We are in the midst of writing book #4…it should be out this summer or in the fall.THE JOB by Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich

I have just finished King City, wow! Your characters in the Kate O’Hare and Nick Fox books with Janet Evanovitch were some of the best I had come across. Tom Wade is even better. Your blurb following the ending says you were hard at work on more Tom Wade books, but that was 2011. I was so disappointed to find none listed. And I guess I’m writing to encourage you to go back to that story and keep going. I liked the book so much in fact that I thought, well maybe I’ll have to write a sequel just to have more to read! A silly idea of course, but it will convince you how much I felt involved with your characters. I will now try The Man with the Iron-On Badge, and then maybe another series. Thank you, Elizabeth

Thank you for your kind words about KING CITY and the Fox & O’Hare series. I intended to jump on the KING CITY sequel right after I finished the book…but the Evanovich project came along and I haven’t had a chance to get back to it. My hope is to write it this year. BTW, “Man with the Iron On Badge” was re-released as WATCH ME DIE a few years ago in both ebook and trade paperback editions.

Dear Mr Goldberg,
Hello, how are you? Don’t want to take up much of your time…I’m a huge fan of the wonderful books you have written for the Monk series! I have a few of them and I was wondering if  you would sign the ones I have and send me the ones I don’t have yet with your autograph. Thanks for keeping Mr Monk and company going!
               -Meg : )

I genuinely appreciate your kind words about my Monk books, and your desire to have my autograph but no, Meg, I won’t sign the books you already have and send you all of the books in the series that you don’t have yet. I don’t give away my books. That’s not how I make my living. I also don’t sell books (not that you asked to buy any) because I am not a bookstore, either.

Lee: I wrote a full length script on semi vampire of genre fiction and fantasy recently and I want to sell it. Are you interested?

Why would I be interested? I’m a screenwriter. I don’t buy scripts, I write them. Besides, what the hell is a “semi vampire of genre fiction and fantasy?”

Hello Lee, I love your work and have read most of your books — Where can I see a list of new books coming out? I like to pre order so I don’t miss the  new ones. Thanks for the many hours of great reading — I can just loose myself in your books. Julie

Thank you so much, Julie! The best place to keep up with my releases is right here on my website. Or join my mailing list, using the form on the right. My latest novel, THE JOB, also co-written with Janet Evanovich, came out in November.

The Mail I Get – Mondo Monk Edition

MM_Gets_EVEN_mmHere are a bunch of questions I’ve received lately about Monk. There may be spoilers ahead.

I just saw an episode of Monk that revealed Trudy’s killer as a college professor she had an affair with and had his baby. In your books you keep saying the murder hasn’t been solved. Can you explain? I still have several of your Monk books to read so the answer may be in the unread books. Thanks on advance for your feedback. Darla

That’s not the case. My books came out while the show was still on the air. The first book of mine that acknowledges the solving of Trudy’s murder is Mr. Monk on Road. I wrote four more MONK novels after that…all of which acknowledge that Trudy’s murder has been solved.

Hello Lee

First of all let me begin by telling you what a big fan I am of the Monk TV series AND your books. I was so upset when the TV series ended but your books allowed me to go on ‘watching’ it. One thing that I’m curious about though: why did you have to make Randy Disher leave for New Jersey? He was one of my top favorite characters in the series (I actually love all the characters and especially Sharona too). Anyway, just wanted to know why you had to replace Randy with Amy – you can tell I don’t like change much! 😛

Thanks!
Nyain from South Africa.

Disher left San Francisco for New Jersey in the final episode of the MONK television series, so I was just picking up where they left off.

I JUST READ “MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS” . I HAD NO IDEA THIS SERIES EXISTED. I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE THE TV SERIES GO ON FOR ANOTHER 10 YEARS OR SO. THIS IS THE NEXT BEST THING. I CAN ACTUALLY VISULIZE THE CHARACTERS AS I READ THE BOOK. I LAUGH OUT LOUD. I INTEND TO READ ALL OF YOUR “MR MONK” BOOKS.
I HAVE READ ALL OF PARKER’S BOOKS. HIS BOOK COVERS ALWAYS SHOWED HIM IN A LEATHER JACKET AND BOSTON BALL CAP. I REMEMBERED THAT WHEN READING ABOUT “LUDLOW’S” BOOK COVERS.
I ENJOY YOUR WORK. TRAVIS

Thank you so much, Travis! I hope you continue to enjoy the MONK books. Your note reminded me that I need to change my author photo and put on a leather jacket.

how about you write a book with Mrs. Monk still living, perpetrating the neurosis later found in her kids? I would read it..!

Sorry, I am not writing the books anymore…and if I was, I wouldn’t write that.

I recently read the new novel Mr. Monk Helps Himself  by Hy Conrad. It really sucked. […] Please, please reconsider coming back and writing another Monk book or at the very least talk to Hy Conrad and tell him where he’s gone wrong. I will have to content myself with rereading all your Monk novels. I miss the old Monk.

Boucheron 2013: MONK Authors Lee Goldberg and Hy Conrad
Lee Goldberg & Hy Conrad

Thank you, I appreciate your kind words but I am done with Monk… It’s Hy’s series now and I wouldn’t presume to tell him how to write it. That said, I have to disagree with you. I think he’s doing a great job.

I am trying to find someplace that I can purchase the entire series of the Monk books, and keep hitting dead ends. Just wondering if you might know somewhere that this may exist. […] They are too expensive to purchase individually, and I’m hoping to get a better deal by finding the complete set.

You didn’t look very hard. You can find complete sets on ebay…or partial sets that you can buy to create a complete set…or you can find them from used book dealers on the Internet for as little as 1 cent each. I think you just wanted me to send you 15 books. Sorry, I don’t do that.

through reading janet evanovich’s books, i discovered you and the monk books. is the book, mr. monk on the couch, the last book of the series?

No, the last of the 15 Monk books that I wrote is Mr. Monk Gets Even. That said, Hy Conrad has continued the series and has written several more great books.

I find Monk irritating and wish you would write a book where he’s normal.

Well, then it wouldn’t be Monk book, would it? I think people read the Monk books because they like the Monk character. If you remove what makes him Monk, then he isn’t Monk any more.

2014 Scribe Awards Announced

Mr Monk Helps HimselfThe International Association of Media Tie-In Writers gave out the 2014 Scribe Awards, honoring excellence in media tie-in writing, at Comic Con San Diego this past weekend.

There was a tie in the Best Original Novel category between Monk: Mr. Monk Helps Himself  by Hy Conrad and Leverage: The Bestseller Job by Greg Cox.

Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller won the Best Origial Novel in the Speculative fiction catergory while Pacific Rim by Alex Irvine won Best Adaptation. The Best Audio Award went to  Blake’s 7 The Armageddon Storm – by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright and Mike Hammer: “So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane won for Best Short Story. The Archie Comics tie-in Kevin by Paul Kupperberg won the Best Young Adult Scribe.

Author Diane Duane was selected as the 2014 Grandmaster, the highest honor awarded by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writing, recognizing her achievements writing novels based on movie and television shows.

 The annual award, also known as the Faust, recognizes Ms. Duane’s huge body of work and amazing versatility. A true master of multiple media, Ms. Duane has written for television and comics, and authored short stories and novels.  She has written Star Trek and X-MenSpiderman and Seaquest DSV.  Her original series include Young WizardsFeline WizardsThe Middle Kingdom.  Her tv credits include both animated (Disney’s Duck Tales) and live action (Star Trek the Next Generation) and Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King.
Congratulations to the winners! Here’s the full list of nominees :
 
Audio
Blake’s 7: The Armageddon Storm – by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright
Dark Shadows – 33: The Phantom Bride – by Mark Thomas Passmore
Dark Shadows – 37: The Flip Side –  by Cody Quijano-Schell
Short Story
Mike Hammer: “So Long, Chief” by Max Allan Collins and Mickey Spillane
Star Trek Online: “Mirror Image” by Christine Thompson
After Earth:  “Savior” by Michael Jan Friedman
After Earth: “Redemption” by Robert Greenberger
Warhammer:  “The Dark Hollows of Memory” by David Annandale
Shadowrun:  “Locks and Keys” by Jennifer Brozek
Star Wars KenobiOriginal Novel General
Monk: Mr. Monk Helps Himself  by Hy Conrad
The Executioner:  Sleeping Dragons by Michael A. Black
Leverage: The Bestseller Job by Greg Cox
Leverage: The Zoo Job by Keith R. A. DeCandido
Murder She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by Donald Bain
Original Novel Speculative
Supernatural: The Roads Not Taken by Tim Waggoner
Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust
Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller
Supernatural: Fresh Meat by Alice Henderson
Star Trek: From History’s Shadow by Dayton Ward
Young Adult
Archie comics: Kevin by Paul Kupperberg.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 byStacia Deutsch
The Croods by Tracey West
Adapted Novel, General And Speculative
Pacific Rim by Alex Irvine
47 Ronin by Joan D. Vinge
Man of Steel by Greg Cox

Flanek: The Kentucky Columbo

FlanekAd-5n3-2 smaller

Bud Flanek is a rumpled, amiable, deceptively low-key homicide detective on the Owensboro, Kentucky police force, the hero of three short, funny mystery movies that now have their own YouTube channel.

Nobody set out do a series of movies about the character… it was a happy accident. It began when Zev Buffman invited my friend David Breckman, the outrageously talented MONK writer-producer-director, to be a guest at the International Mystery Writers Festival at Riverpark Center in Owensboro a few years back.

David came up with the brilliant, insane idea of writing, producing, and directing a short film using primarily local talent … all during the course of the festival… which was, if memory serves, ran just four days. Amazingly, he pulled it off. The result was Murder in Kentucky, a twenty minute short starring Todd Reynolds as an unnamed homicide detective who solves a murder that happens during the rehearsal for a live-radio theater show. I loved it. But for reasons too complicated to go into, mostly technical, the movie only screened once and wasn’t seen again for several years (but don’t worry, there’s a happy ending to the tale).

20x30_Remaindered_Novel_Way_FestivalsNot long after that, Zev invited me to write & direct a short film in Owensboro. I decided to adapt my short story Remaindered, which had been published to some acclaim in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and was about a once-famous author on a miserable, last-ditch book tour that leads to murder. I cast Todd to play Bud Flanek, a homicide detective who appears late in the story. Although Flanek wasn’t intended to be the same character as the one Todd played in Murder in Kentucky, that’s what he became, main because he was the same actor playing a cop in the same town in the same wardrobe. And it helped that my cop had pretty much the same personality and attitude as David’s unnamed lawman.

Remaindered became a hit on the national film festival circuit, winning awards and rave reviews, including praise from writer-producer William Link, co-creator of Columbo, who loved Todd’s performance and christened Flanek “The Kentucky Columbo.” Wow.

So when Riverpark asked me to do another film, I knew I had to bring Todd back as Flanek. I adapted another short story of mine, Bumsicle, and recrafted it with Todd Reynolds in mind. Unlike Murder in Kentucky and Remaindered, though, Flanek was very much the center of this story, which was darker than the other two, but still had a few laughs.

Bumsicle also became a hit on the festival circuit and garnered lots of praise. After a year on the road, we brought the film back to Owensboro and screened it outdoors in a triple bill with Murder in Kentucky and Remaindered, drawing a crowd of over 500 people.

After that, we knew we had something special and decided to create a channel devoted to Flanek on YouTube. But first we had to tweak Murder in Kentucky a bit, which had poor sound (due to cheap equipment) and temp music lifted from Bonnie Raitt (due to the very hurried production schedule… did I mention it was written, produced, and shot in just four days?). So Firelight Entertainment Group in Hawesville Kentucky, with whom I shot Bumsicle and the Dead Man music videos, remastered the sound on Murder in Kentucky, and replaced the music. To tie the short into the series, I asked singer-songwriter Matt Branham, who did the score for my two films, to write & perform a new end theme song expressly about Flanek…”Nothing Fun About Murder”

..he even manages to mention Monk!

Now the Flanek channel is live with all three movies. Our hope is to whip up enough enthusiasm for the films to merit the funding of more short Flanek mysteries, perhaps even a webseries of 20 minute episodes. It’s in your hands.

So if you like the movies, please please PLEASE leave comments on our FLANEK channel, “like” our Flanek Facebook Page, and spread the word to all your friends!

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?

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.

 

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.)