Remainder Convention

Bookseller Robert Gray reports on his blog from the convention floor at C.I.R.O.B.E…. the Chicago International Remainder and Overstock Book Exposition, which is being held this weekend. This is where booksellers go to buy bargain books (aka remaindered books, aka all the stuff that didn’t sell when it was released) by the pallet.

Unlike BookExpo in the spring, this show makes no pretense about what it is. CIROBE is about moving product. It’s not quite so garish as “garbage in, garbage out,” but it’s close.

In an industry where profit margins are, to be polite, slender, bargain books offer booksellers the opportunity to make a little extra money while still giving their customers excellent value. Everybody’s happy except the authors, who do not really profit from this exchange; who, in fact, can only view the prospect of their books being offered for sale at a fraction of their original retail price as a slap in the face.

It’s a fascinating and entertaining report, well worth checking out if you’re interested in the inner-workings of the book biz…and don’t subscribe to Publishers Weekly.

Parker’s Pooch Passion

By now, readers don’t give a second thought to Sunny Randall’s creepy relationship with her dog. She kisses the mutt 10 times a day, eats meals at the same table and worries herself into a depression that the doggie may love Sunny’s ex-husband’s new wife more deeply than she adores Sunny. But nobody among us readers wastes a second thought on such odd behavior. That’s just Sunny.

That’s also Spenser.

The quote is from Toronto Star reviewer Jack Batten’s take on MELANCHOLY BABY, Robert B. Parker’s fourth “Sunny Randall” PI novel. Sunny is a virtual carbon copy of Spenser, only far less appealing. And, as Batten notes,

Both of them spend almost as much time in making up to their pooches as in tracking down the killers.

All of this is told in crisp Parker style, with the usual compliment of wisecracks and psychological insights of the Dr. Phil sort, ending on the last page in a scene which finds Sunny in bed with the dog.

They not only obsess about their pets, they both have a loyal sociopathic sidekicks named like dogs (Sunny’s “Spike” to Spenser’s “Hawk”). All of which got me thinking…

Perhaps Parker should write his next book from the point of view of Sunny & Spenser’s crime solving dogs!

Think of the possibilities.

Pixar could buy the movie rights, turn it into one of their family-friendly CGI tales, add a few songs and, woof… before you know it, Parker is sitting on a new entertainment franchise worth BILLIONS.

You read it here first, friends.

Gischler Joins the Web

Author Victor Gischler informs me that he’s finally launched his own website

“Because we need more feeble websites thrown together by people who don’t know how to use a computer…”

So I clicked over there immediately. I enjoyed learning the blood-soaked backstory behind the writing of his novel THE PISTOL POETS.

I wrote it while I was on ludes and cheap gin. That was when I was living in Mexico with a band of Marxist outlaws. They didn’t pay any taxes at all and had really neat hats. I miss my friend Pepe, but I still have the scar. Oh, yes. Pepe Liked to play with knives. But I fixed his little red wagon

You can also click to his blog and learn how to deal with book critics.

10-30-2004 Shot another lemur. It came thru a hole in the screen door.

This is Why Producers Like Shooting TV Shows in Canada

The Drake Hotel in Toronto will start offering sex toys on the room service menu, according to USA Today. Vibrators, massage oils, condoms, velvet restraints and how-to videos can be sent up the guests. The “pleasure kits” start at $35.

The 19 room Drake is a boutique hotel that attracts artists and actors. The aim is service that complements the hotel’s artsy image.

“We see ourselves as a bit of a trailblazer,” owner Jeff Stober says. The racy room service menu, which arrives next month, is “in keeping with the theme of sex that has always played a role in artistic works. We are embracing that artistic spirit.”

Actual embraces will cost extra.

They aren’t the only Toronto hotel that’s added sex-centives. The Grand Hotel, where our MISSING directors like to stay, provides two channels of free, 24-hour porn, for their guests (for the record, I stay at the Cambridge Suites, which offers no such goodies).

If Governor Arnold wants to keep movie production in California, he can forget about tax incentives and renegotiating with unions. Free vibrators for every member of the film crew! Sexual surrogates sent to the door of every screenwriter faced with a production rewrite!

World’s Best Michael Silverblatt Impersonation

A little known fact: my brother Tod does an incredible impersonation of Michael Silverblatt, host of NPR’s “Bookworm.” It’s better in person, but he recently replicated it on the blog Elegant Variations in a mock interview with himself on Bookworm:

Michael: Tod, in your transcendent novel “Living Dead Girl,” you stretch the boundaries of fiction in such a way that the world seems to lack…order…and love, like that poem by Rilke, becomes something like an infection of the soul, a commentary on the socio-economic role we all play in that God and money and danger and the all-encompassing nature of what I like to call “the bukakke” becomes almost a parable from the Bible; or a tone poem; or perhaps it’s like a song you hear on the day your dog dies and that song become synonymous with the death of your dog, until dog, becomes…God. Is that what you were trying to do?

Tod: Uh. Yes.


I’m going to be in Palm Springs for the next couple of days… perhaps longer… giving my brother Tod a much-deserved break and taking care of my Mom during her next chemo treatment. I’ll also be working hard to finish “Diagnosis Murder #5: The Past Tense” before I go in for surgery on my right arm… and so I can meet the book’s delivery deadline of Nov. 30th. So don’t be surprised if I don’t post as much, or as frequently, on my blog for a little while…

“Lost” Rumors

The rumor around the TV biz today is that there’s been a big shake-up behind-the-scenes on ABC’s LOST… and that “Nash Bridges” creator/showrunner Carlton Cuse has been brought in to run the writing staff under exec-producer JJ Abrams.

Keep in mind, it’s just a rumor at this point…but if it’s true, it raises lots of questions about the surprise hit of the new season. What were the problems at LOST? Was Abrams unhappy with the creative direction of the show… or was it the network? What will the new creative direction be? And why bring pick Cuse, whose background is primarily cop shows?

I’m Glad This Isn’t MY Agent…

I got an email today from an agent who is having trouble selling his client’s crime thriller screenplay. Every development exec he submits the script to says they aren’t interested in the project unless there is “some talent attached.” The agent wanted to know “if you have any suggestions how to get around this” and also if I was interested in reading the script… and if I wasn’t, if I knew of any producers who were looking for great new material.

I was astounded. What kind of agent needs to ask another screenwriter the best way to get his client’s material to buyers? Here’s the advice I gave him:

By “talent,” they usually mean an actor, director, or major producer. But it’s just an excuse. No offense intented, but what they are really saying is they think the script is terrible, or it sounds terrible, or they aren’t interested in your client at all. The only way I know of to get around this is to have a kick-ass idea, a great script, a powerful agent, or as the development people have told you, a big name involved with the project. The bottom line is, whoever you’re talking to simply isn’t interested in what you have to sell. Russell Crowe would have to walk in the door with the script under his arm for them to give a damn.

What I didn’t say was if this agent was any good at his job, he’d have relationships with the right development people. He’d know what they were looking for and who the right people would be to send the script to. The development people would respect the agent, know the kind of writers the agent represented, and would decide whether or not to read the script based on that. The email I received tells me this is an agent who doesn’t have relationships, doesn’t have much experience, and shouldn’t be trying to sell anybody’s screenplay. But if that didn’t tell me, his next two questions did.

Are you interested in “a terrific feature screenplay?”

Only the ones that I write. I’m in the same position as your client. I don’t buy scripts, I try to sell my own! So that kind of answers your next question, too…

Maybe if you are not looking but know someone who is you can point us in that direction?

If I knew such a person, I would be sending them my script!

I wouldn’t want this guy representing me. The screenwriter would almost be better off with no agent at all, sending his script out on his own…

What do you think?

Don’t Save Our Show

That is is a first. Instead of a campaign to save their favorite show… fans of THE WEST WING are rallying NBC to cancel it. Who knows… twenty- five years from now, they might even take out full-page ads in Variety urging studios not to make a movie version with the original cast.

We’d Be Fools Not To

Sarah Weinman pointed me to this fascinating interview with Robert B. Parker. I have a lot of emotional attachment to the Spenser novels… I loved reading the early ones and my first job in television was writing an episode of “Spenser: For Hire.” (by the way, that’s a picture of me with Parker at the Edgars a few years back). Leeparkerop

The comment in the interview that sticks with me the most, and apparently Sarah as well, is:

Parker: I write 10 pages a day. When I’m done with it that day, it’s what you see on the printed page. Maybe the spelling is improved or the punctuation changed, but essentially you’re looking at my first draft. I don’t do a second draft.

That’s no surprise to anybody who has been reading him lately. I listened to four of his unabridged books-on-tape over a relatively short period… BAD BUSINESS, STONE COLD, GUNMAN’S RHAPSODY, and DOUBLE PLAY…and was struck by how much he repeats the same dialogue, observations, and situations over and over, particularly ending chapters with the hero, or his girl, saying “We’d be fools not to.” That said, I loved listening to all four books. His lean, snappy, dialogue-heavy writing style is perfectly suited to the audiobook medium…and his regular performers, Joe Mantegna (the Spensers) and Robert Forster (the Jesse Stones) in particular, are terrific.

I suspect if I’d read the latest Parker books, I wouldn’t have enjoyed them as much and the repeated dialogue and situations would have grated on me more. Somehow, you’re a lot more forgiving to an author when you’re a captive audience stuck in gridlocked traffic.