The Windy City Likes The Goldbergs

I don’t know what it is about Chicago, but the Windy City sure is kind to us Goldbergs. First, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times gave my book DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE PAST TENSE great reviews. Now TimeOut Chicago is raving about my brother Tod Goldberg’s short story collection SIMPLIFY:

[Tod] Goldberg’s work is an eclectic collection of realist and surrealist storytelling, from a brother’s difficult return from the first Gulf War to a kid who turns invisible after witnessing his father’s infidelity. The overheated suburbs of southern California and the crazed, sun-scorched roads through the outlying deserts are the perfect settings for Goldberg’s characters. In a story that exemplifies his skill for blending the unreal with the everyday, a dyslexic kid creates his own language as a way to deal with life’s stresses. As he witnesses a brutal act of violence against a fellow student and his careerist father becomes more and more aloof after a move to L.A., the kid fills binders and binders with his personal alphabet, a secret distress code. It’s a startling and shuddersome story, with the kind of atmospheric tension we’ve come to expect from the new wave of Japanese horror movies.

Now let’s see if my sisters Linda Woods and Karen Dinino get a rave from Chicago when their book, VISUAL CHRONICLES, comes out in February.

Explaining Yourself

There’s some good screenwriting advice over at The Blank Page:

Okay, this is more of a pet peeve of mine, but I see it in scripts all the time. It comes from writers who think they have made a clever pun or (even worse) double entendre, and then, not trusting that the reader is getting the joke, they have to explain it in the next line of action-description. For example, you might see this:

  Hey, Jim, can you pass me the corn?

   Of course I’ll lend you my ears.

Jim laughs at his little Shakespeare joke.

This reminded me of an experience we had years ago when Roger Corman hired us to write and produce a TV series version of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Roger sold the pitch to the then-fledgling USA Network. When we wrote the pilot script, the inept USA exec asked us to underline the jokes and italicize any clever  social commentary. This really pissed Roger off  (us, too, but he was the lion in the room). Roger told her that if we had to explain what the jokes were then it would kill the jokes. But the executive argued that she really wanted to be sure she caught the jokes and might miss them if they weren’t clearly marked. After this horrible experience, Roger ran screaming from TV for the next decade…

Publishers Weekly Gives BADGE a Rave

I’m pleased to report that, on the heels of the starred review from Kirkus,
THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE got a rave today from Publisher’s Weekly.
Approaching the level of Lawrence Block is no mean feat,
but Goldberg (the Diagnosis Murder series) succeeds with this engaging PI novel,
the first of a new series. Harvey Mapes, an overeducated security guard for a
Southern California gated community, is pulled out of his rut when a wealthy
resident hires him to tail his wife. Genre readers won’t be surprised that this
simple assignment turns more complicated, but those who like their mean streets
settings to be coupled with a twisty solution will enjoy the surprise ending.
While Mapes’s rampant sexual appetite may not be for everyone’s taste, readers
who devoured Block’s brilliant Chip Harrison mystery picaresques (which doubled
as affectionate pastiches of Nero Wolfe) will find Mapes a worthy (if slightly
more mature) successor to Harrison and clamor for more. Agent, Gina Maccoby.

Bookstore Humiliation

TessblogDropping in at one of the big chain bookstores to sign stock is often a humbling and humiliating experience, even for bestselling authors like Tess Gerritsen.

"Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re already a NYT bestselling
writer, any delusions of grandeur you may harbor will quickly be
squashed by a few sobering bookstore visits…"

Her wonderful blog post today about her experiences signing stock in Honolulu is funny, horrifying and all-too-familiar.

Doing the Konrath III

Author Joe Konrath, the champion of stock signing, has inspired me to drop in on bookstores wherever I go and sign the stock of DIAGNOSIS MURDER novels. This weekend, I was up in Seattle. The tally:  Eight stores visited, 53 books signed.

Can I Sue?

I got this email the other day:

If you’ve got
any time in your hectic sked to offer me advice I’d be grateful. As far as I know, you’re not a lawyer, but as a seasoned pro you may know!
Anyone that writes anything knows that ideas float around the ether waiting to be written.
Who hasn’t at least once, had that great , only to find out a week later  has just nailed a deal for the
same premise. That’s just the way it goes.

However… six years ago I wrote my first screenplay. It’s called XYZ, and it’s about an ex-astronaut who owns a farm/ranch in Montana. He builds his own rocket in a grain silo to launch himself into space.
Today I read that Billy Bob Thornton is to star in a movie called THE ASTRONAUT FARMER about… well you guessed it!There are no other plot points for me to see and compare yet.

I registered the screenplay electronically with ProtectRite in 1999. In the past few years I’ve entered the screenplay into a few competitions including Tribeca Films – for which I got a commendation, didn’t win of course.

So my question is this… let’s say this in-production screenplay bears a remarkable or even "uncanny" similarity to my finished work in structure and story. Do I have any recourse,  or is it just tough shit as I’m a still un-produced nobody without an agent?

Like you said, I’m not a lawyer. My guess is that
you’d have to prove that the screenwriter and producers had access to your screenplay and read it.
But I will say this, it’s not the world’s most original idea. There was even an
Andy Griffith TV movie with roughly the same concept and that later spawned a
short-lived TV series called SALVAGE ONE.

I think you sort of answered the question yourself in the first paragraph of your email… sometimes, people just get the same idea at the same time.

Many years ago, Bill and I thought we had a great idea for a spec script… a Russian cop who comes to the U.S. to find a bad guy and gets paired up with an LAPD detective. We called it RED HEAT. We were in the midst of writing it when we heard about…you guessed it… a movie going into production called RED HEAT starring Arnold as a Russian cop. This has happened to us many times during our career.

For a couple years now, Bill and I have been pitching a procedural series around town  about a special, multi-agency law enforcement team that goes after the most-wanted fugitives. This summer, TNT premiered WANTED, a series with the same basic notion. Do we think we were ripped off? No. There were probably a dozen guys out there pitching a variation of the same idea at the same time we were. That’s the entertainment business.


Room 222

Bill Rabkin and I are teaching another four-week, online course of  "Beginning Television Writing" for Writers University. For more information on the session, which begins Sept. 5, click here. I don’t know how the students feel about it, but we’ve been really enjoying the experience. This is our third or fourth time doing it and I’ve discovered that helping others learn how we do what we do has sharpened my own writing. In fact, I applied some advice we gave a student the other day (she was having trouble structuring her story)  to one of our own pitches and it made a big difference.

Harvey Weinstein has PANIC attack

Variety reports that The Weinstein Company has optioned author Jeff Abbott’s thriller PANIC, which just hit the shelves today.

Book, published by Dutton, follows young docu
filmmaker Evan Casher as he goes on the run from a dangerous spy ring after the
murder of his mother. He learns that most aspects of his life have been total

Abbott has written eight mystery and suspense novels, most recently 2003’s
"Cut and Run," the third volume in his Whit Mosley series.

Battle of the Network Stars

Variety reports that Paramount is launching a big-screen version of the cheesy 70s reality show "Battle of the Network Stars."

is writing the script, and Jimmy
will produce through Mosaic. Barry Frank, who created
the show in 1978, will be exec producer.

Pic will revolve around a disgraced network exec who must claw his way back
to respectability by winning the contest. Concept was hatched by Cohen.

Original show bowed in the late ’70s, with teams of series stars from ABC,
NBC and CBS squaring off against one another in athletic events. Howard Cosell
presided over the proceedings as soberly as if he were hosting the Olympics.

New Editor at LA Times Book Review

Publisher’s Weekly reports that the LA Times has picked David L. Ulin to be the new editor of the Book Review.

Reached for comment, associate features editor Tim Rutten said the Times
had conducted a "very long and very exhaustive" search with about 25 serious
candidates. Rutten said the Times thought Ulin "had the right mix of
credentials" as a freelance book critic whose work has appeared in the book
review he will now edit along with NYTBR and The Atlantic Monthly.
He was also books editor at the weekly LA Reader.

"He has the kind of stature to take the book review to the next level," said

Let’s hope Ulin boots Eugen Weber and finds someone more qualified (and more readable!)  to review mysteries and crime novels.