Flanek: The Kentucky Columbo

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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!

The 8 Diagnosis Murder Books in Order

I get asked all the time what the correct order of my eight DIAGNOSIS MURDER books is… so here you go, in chronological order:

TheSilentPartnerThe Silent Partner  – Dr. Mark Sloan is assigned to LAPD’s “unsolved homicide” files. As he reopens one case on the murder of a woman whose killer currently sits on Death Row, Sloan learns that the wrong man was charged. And that the real killer is still at large..

The Death Merchant – A dream vacation in Hawaii turns into a nightmare for Dr. Mark Sloan and his son, Steve, when a man they’ve befriended falls victim to a shark attack. But when Mark discovers evidence indicating the victim was murdered prior to becoming shark food, he and Steve comb the beaches to find a different kind of predator…

The Shooting Script – Dr. Mark Sloan is drawn to the sounds of gunfire at his neighbor’s Malibu beach house. There, he discovers the bullet-riddled bodies of an aspiring actress a Hollywood producer. An obvious suspect is the producer’s wife-who has gunpowder residue all over her clothing, but also has a perfect alibi. However, Mark thinks that the crime scene resembles a hit more than a crime of passion. When he and his son start investigating a local mob kingpin’s involvement, Mark soon finds himself unpopular with the police-and, of course, with the murderer.

The Waking Nightmare – Dr. Mark Sloan saves a would-be suicide victim, but her jump from a building ledge has left her in a coma. Obsessed with learning why she attempted suicide, Sloan stumbles into a manhunt for a cop-killer-who may turn his attention to nosy physicians next.

The Past Tense – Dr. Mark Sloan is startled to discover a dead woman—dressed as a mermaid—washed up on the beach outside his home. Even more bizarre, the autopsy reveals a digital memory card within a capsule inside the body’s stomach. The card contains the report of a forty-three-year-old murder in Los Angeles—the first homicide case Mark ever solved, when he was a struggling intern and newlywed father. When a second body is discovered—a woman who was apparently the victim of an impromptu autopsy in her own kitchen—the good doctor realizes that he must find the connection between the two murders. And perhaps more urgently, the connection to his own past

The Dead Letter – A blackmailer, a dead detective, and a mysterious letter that make an unusual request of Dr. Sloan: avenge a murder.

lastwordbetterThe Double Life – When Dr. Mark Sloan wakes up in his own hospital’s I.C.U., he doesn’t remember how he got there-or anything from the last two years of his life, including a wife he doesn’t recognize, and grandkids he never knew existed. He learns that he was run down in the street while investigating a series of mysterious deaths, all of whom were patients recently recovered from life-threatening illnesses and accidents. Mark resumes his investigation, only to realize that his “accident” was no accident, and that there is little time left to prevent another murder-his own.

The Last Word – The final book in the Diagnosis Murder series. When a young woman falls down a flight of stairs and is left brain dead, her family agrees to donate her organs. Dr. Jesse Travis oversees the grim task, saving several other seriously ill patients. But one of the organ recipients returns to the hospital with a complication no one could have seen coming-West Nile Virus. Soon, other patients who received organs at Community General begin dying of West Nile-related illnesses, and Jesse is suspected of being at fault. Dr. Mark Sloan knows his friend isn’t to blame-and he soon uncovers a conspiracy of greed and personal revenge that may mean the end of his career.