The Mail I Get – Convicted Conman James Strauss Edition

You’d be stunned how any people have reached out to me to share their horror stories of being swindled or harassed by convicted conman & fake TV writer James Strauss… everybody from aspiring screenwriters to stiffed shopkeepers, from enraged military veterans to swindled conference organizers, from stiffed restaurants to stiffed Hawaii vacation-home renters. There’s been a surge in those emails in the last couple of weeks. I guess he’s stirring things up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, perhaps the only place on earth that hasn’t learned that he’s a total fraud. Here’s an excerpt from one of the many emails that I’ve received:

I live in Lake Geneva Wisconsin and today The Geneva Shore Report, which this James Strauss owns, told bold face lies […] saying [my] church and former pastors were in cahoots with the fire department where people were to vote.  His bold face lies and hurtful newspaper needs to stop. Please don’t use my name. But can you help my community?! And please hurry.

James Strauss’ mugshot, taken before he was sentenced to federal prison for fraud.

It’s YOUR community. YOU do something about it. If you, as a resident, don’t have the guts to stand-up against him, under your own name, and reveal him for what he is, how can you expect people who don’t live there, who have no stake or interest in what is going on, to do anything about it? Here’s an excerpt from a very lengthy email I received:

I am asking you to please not publish my name. Frankly, we cannot afford to feel the wrath of Mr. Strauss’s mean-spirited writings and video “reporting”. I am a long-time resident in the Geneva Lakes Area in Wisconsin. Sadly our lovely resort community is home to The Geneva Shore Report, a mean-spirited rag of a “newspaper” for which James Strauss is the creator and editor. He promotes his rag as “The most feared newspaper in America”.

I am writing to you because Mr. Strauss is damaging good people in our community. Mr. Strauss has made accusations via innuendo and flat out lies about our now retired pastors of Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Chaplain on our Lake Geneva Fire Department, [and] slandered Karen Stein of KS Ministries who, out of her own pocketbook, invested a healthy half a million dollars in a clean and sober living house. What can I do to expose his con man lies? Please help!

I told him this: I’m sorry to hear that Strauss is continuing to ruin people’s lives…but there is nothing I can do about it. I’m not a journalist or a cop. The best advice I can give you is to spread the word that he is a convicted conman and fraud who spent years in a federal prison for swindling people. It’s information easily found on the Internet.

Outside of the Lake Geneva folks, I recently also got a desperate email from an aspiring filmmaker (he asked me not to quote his email on my blog) who was wary of doing free work for Strauss, who promised in return to use his contacts to help the kid break into Hollywood. This poor kid was shocked to learn that Strauss has zero legitimate Hollywood experience and asked me what he should do. My answer was simple: walk away. Strauss is a pathological liar and convicted felon who will screw you over.

It’s amazing to me that Strauss is still able to con people when the truth about him is so easily found in a google search. The way I look at it, anybody stupid enough to get into business with him deserves what they get.

The Mail I Get – Advice Edition

59_bigPeople are always writing me for advice about TV and publishing, not that I have any great wisdom to impart. But that doesn’t stop me from replying anyway.

Hello Mr. Goldberg:
I was referred to you by a friend of your friend XYZ…I am 64 years old and I have a screenplay that desperately needs a place to go, and your name was delivered as the unquestionable favorite.  Please let me know if you might be able to provide me any guidance or wisdom. Should you not be able or interested, (she tries to put away that big pouty lip), your suggestion of someone else would be greatly appreciated.

Unfortunately, I don’t have good news for you. In fact, I have very discouraging news for you. Everybody in L.A. has a screenplay they want to sell. You are one of thousands…and you’re competing with them all, inexperienced and experienced screenwriters alike. I’m neither an agent nor a studio exec, so there’s really nothing I can do for you. I don’t know of any agents who are taking on new clients (they are having a hard enough time selling the scripts written by the experienced clients they already have).
The best advice I can offer is for you to contact the Writers Guild of America to see if they can give you a list of signatory agents who are accepting unsolicited screenplays. The other thing you should be aware of is that ageism is rampant in Hollywood…and if you haven’t already established yourself in the business by 30, you are considered elderly and out-of-touch with popular taste 🙂 I’m 54 and feel ancient when I go into meetings…and despite my extensive credits, it’s still a hard sell for me. I’m just telling you this so you realise that you’re facing a very steep, uphill battle.

I am sure you get a lot of emails and maybe this may not reach you, but here’s hoping. I am an aspiring actress/model and went to a meeting with XYZ at Culver Studios last week. He claims to have been a director/producer for NBC/Universal but the IMDB just doesn’t seem legitimate. He also claims to be married to actress XYZ but there is hardly any information on her either.
He says he wants me to come and work for him and learn the business to become an assistant producer and star in his upcoming movies, but things just aren’t adding up. I called NBC Universal and asked them if his name was on the employee list and was not.  Due to all of the scams and human trafficking which he spoke a lot about, I want to be safe. Do you know how I can navigate safely through this industry and or have any advice for me on how I can obtain legitimate information and backgrounds on producers and directors?

Well, it sounds like you already checked this guy out and learned that something is very fishy. His picture on Imdb also seems amateurish to me… as if by standing beside the studio gate, which anybody can do, he’s trying to confer legitimacy on himself. I’d steer clear of him. Keep in mind, anybody can rent studio space. Just because their office is on a movie studio lot does not mean they are legitimate. In addition to imdb, you can check out producers with the PGA (Producers Guild of America) to see if they are members… or, if they are writer/producers, you can check with the WGA (Writers Guild of America) to see if they are members (or if their companies are guild signatories). You can find out if a director is legit by contacting the DGA (Directors Guild of America) and seeing if he or she is a member. If they are offering you acting jobs, check them out with SAG (Screen Actors Guild) to see if they are signatories or if there are any issues with their company that the union knows about. Lack of produced credits on imDb and non-membership in one of those guilds would raise a big red flag for me.

The Mail I Get – It’s About Time Edition

Direct-Mail1It’s been a looonnnggg time since I opened up the mailbag and shared it on the blog. But I’ve been saving some of the best for you (or is it the worst?). Here’s are two recent queries I received:

Would you ever consider working on a graphic novel?  I’m an illustrator that can work on spec.  I  have a couple ideas … Idea B: Anne Frank: Demon Hunter.  It turns out she and Kafka and Hitler all faked their death.  Kafka and Anne’s plans to make a golem and prevent the awakening of the King of Demons and a Norse giant were encoded into her journal, also mystical power boosts for telekinesis and martial arts.  So Hitler races them to the annex to fight over the journal and fights Kafka and Anne there, as the golem fights the norse giant and Demon King.

OMG. How unbelievably awful is that? But what’s really astonishing is that for some reason he thought I would be the right guy for that story. Did somebody steer him my way?

Anne Frank, Kafka and a golem in a kung-fu battle to the death with Hitler? Oh yeah, Lee Goldberg is the guy you want to talk to for that. It’s just his kind of thing.  But you might want to make the golem a talking dolphin instead. That’d really excite him.

I think my brother Tod must have put him up to it. Here’s another query I received.

Dear Professional Amazon Reviewer,

Amazon gave me your details so that I can provide my new book for review.I understand that you may wish to be on the Vine reviewer list. I want to help if you let me. I would welcome an honest review of my free ebook being published today on Amazon. I am aware that, once you are a Vine official reviewer, as Amazon CEO explained to me, you will have access to the top amazing hardware available around for free. I want to help you get there. I have 18 books for review on Amazon but only one every month. So there is plenty of opportunities to offer me a reasonably worded honest potentially powerful clear review on the material I write. This is the way Amazon judges a potential Vine reviewer. My books are non-fiction.

Let’s join forces. The book that I need a review for is based on EFT, tapping techniques, also called emotional freedom technic. In a generic mode, EFT uses acupuncture points also known as acupoints, to release stress, to reduce addiction, to eliminate phobias and in general terms, to rebalance the psychological health of a disturbed individual. If you can rewrite this essence, you are worth the Vine badge.

Pretty sleazy, huh? His books are ranked in the millions, meaning not even his mother ever bought a copy. I wrote back to this guy. Here’s what I said:

You should be ashamed of yourself for misleading people into thinking that writing a review of your books will prove to Amazon that  “they are worth the Vine badge” or will lead them to Vine membership. You clearly have no understanding of how the Vine program works…or you do and just want to mislead people. Writing and posting review of one of your obscure books will have negligible, if any, impact on the likelihood that a reviewer will be selected for the Vine program. But I can understand why you’ve engaged in such desperate measures, given how poorly ranked and badly reviewed your books are…if they are even reviewed at all, which is rare. I have passed your solicitation on to Amazon to alert them to your misleading campaign.

I never heard back from him, of course. I think Tod sent him to me, too.

The Mail I Get – This and That Edition

McGraveCover-HomeQuestions from this week’s mailbag…

Hi Lee. I’m sort of new to your work. I’ve read The Walk, Dead Space, My Gun Has Bullets and I just finished McGrave. I really like reading your books. They’re too funny to put down and I have definitely stayed up way past my usual bedtime just to finish reading one of your gems. Now that I’ve heaped on the flattery, I must say that you should do an entire series of novels featuring McGrave. […] I’m really hoping that you consider it. In any event, you’re my new flavor of the month author and I’m going to read everything that you’ve written. Now go back to work and write me something good to read.

I was all set to write a series of McGrave books… in fact, my plan was to do them in-between new King City books…but the Fox & O’Hare project with Janet Evanovich unexpectedly came along and it has changed everything. We are co-writing two books a year (the third, The Job, comes out in November) and it hasn’t left me much time for anything else, not that I am complaining. I love writing the Fox & O’Hare books. But I do intend to get back to both McGrave and Tom Wade one of these days. Speaking of McGrave, you might enjoy a new, a short video from my good friends at Firelight Entertainment Group about how the book came about.

Hi,

I have written a movie novel for the DreamWorks film ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ but haven’t published yet because I’m worried about copyright. I’m thinking about self-publishing on LuLu.com. How would I go about getting permission to do it?

Thank you,

Jack

Publishing the book yourself would definitely be copyright infringment. If you go ahead and do it, at best the studio will demand that you withdraw the book from sale. At worst, they will sue you. In order to publish the book, you would have to ask DreamWorks, the studio that made the movie, for permission and I think it’s highly, highly unlikely they will grant it. You would have more luck finding a dragon and training it.

I came across this article in the New York Times ‘I Was a Digital Best Seller’ a few weeks ago, and it made me think of you and your blog.  The article describes the experience of an established non-fiction author, and his experience with a digital publisher called Byliner, which (at least to me) looks and sounds like a legitimate publisher.  The article (and many of the comments on the article) gives me the impression that writers and musicians will still need to work with agents and publishing companies to get their work marketed in the digital world, even though it is at least theoretically possible for anyone to ‘self-publish’.  At the same time, it looks like the digital publishing industry itself is still evolving.

I read the article when it was published and I got a different message from it, and that is: Don’t be an idiot. I thought the article showed how incredibly stupid the author was and that he had no one to blame for his misfortune but himself.

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.

The Mail I Get – Bizarro Edition

King-JoffreyI got a follow-up today from one of the people I mentioned in yesterday’s post. To refresh your memory, here’s the email that he sent me and my reply:

Dear Lee Goldberg, I wish to send you two types of screen play to have you see my writing talent. Please request for script. Thank you, David.

I replied: Why would I request your scripts, David? I don’t hire screenwriters and I am not an agent. I have no interest in your writing talent. My interest is exploiting in my own 🙂

Now here’s the follow-up that I got from him today…

Dear Lee Goldberg,

I wish to Inform you that I am His Majesty King David Yomi-Alli. The King. I have a vast domain of which you might not be able to comprehend and as such would not bother you with the details. Nevertheless, I am acquainted with your work from which I have developed my writing skills. My mission Is to use this acquired skill mixed with faith and talent to meet America’s most troubling needs. Needs such as quenching the US Mountain of debt by bringing together the treasure In people and land…

I am sure you can understand what treasure In person Is, Say for Instance you are a very talented Tv Series writer. Yes, you have earn the big bucks. What of If you use that same talent to write about the British Industrial revolution and Inspire another Industrial revolution In the midst of an Economic catastrophe…

I have plenty Ideas, you can present any to some of your collys In the Industry In America. KING DAVID

This guy has got to be putting me on. He followed up that email with a list of titles of spec scripts that he has written, under the heading “HM King David Writing Services.” He then adds:

Family

I have chated to high profile ladys Including Barbara Bush, Chelsea Clinton, Princess Beatrice, the list Is endless nevertheless I have resorted to date, court and wed an American Physician who I think would be good on and to me and of benefit to the people.

I await your response.

HM KING DAVID THE KING

Your Majesty, I, too, have a vast domain that spans not only this universe, but several alternate dimensions, including one where the entire civilization is based on an episode of Baywatch that I wrote. I’m afraid I have no interest in your screenplays, or writing about the British industrial revolution, or learning about the “endless” list of prominent women you have chatted with. I do, however, congratulate you on your engagement to an American doctor. For your sake, I hope she is a psychiatrist. Yours truly, His Majesty King Lee Goldberg, Grand Poobah of the Realm, Master of the TriTip.