Bad Sex

The Guardian posts the short-list for the worst literary sex scenes of the year. Here’s an excerpt from FAN-TAN by Marlon Brando and Donald Cammell:

In a moment Annie was
on his side, Madame Lai was like a plant growing over him, and her
little fist (holding the biggest black pearl) was up his asshole
planting the pearl in the most appreciated place.
"Oh, Lord," he cried out. "I’m a-comin’!"

She could not answer. It is the one drawback of fellatio as conscientious
as hers that it eliminates the chance for small talk and poetry alike.
But nothing is exactly perfect in this life, and for Annie Doultry the
delicate but firm pressure on his rear parts was in perfect harmony
with the eruption of his cock. He came and he came – we are dealing
with a hero here. At one point his lover backed away to inspect the
unaltered gush of it, like a plumber saying to a customer, "Don’t blame
me. This water supply will stop when the dam’s empty."

Here’s an excerpt from BLINDING LIGHT by Paul Theroux:

She pushed him backward
onto the seat and pressed her face down, lapping his cock into her
mouth, curling her tongue around it, and the suddenness of it, the
snaking of her tongue, the pressure of her lips, the hot grip of her
mouth, triggered his orgasm, which was not juice at all but a demon eel
thrashing in his loins and swimming swiftly up his cock, one whole
creature of live slime fighting the stiffness as it rose and bulged at
the tip and darted into her mouth.

Here’s an excerpt from VILLAGES by John Updike:

A flock of crows, six or
eight, raucously rasping at one another, thrashed into the top of an
oak on the edge of the square of sky. The heavenly invasion made his
heart race; he looked down at his prick, silently begging it not to be
distracted; his mind fought skidding into crows and woods, babies and
Phyllis, and his prick stared back at him with its one eye clouded by a
single drop of pure seminal yearning. He felt suspended at the top of
an arc. Faye leaned back on the blanket, arranging her legs in an M of
receptivity, and he knelt between them like the most abject and craven
supplicant who ever exposed his bare ass to the eagle eyes of a bunch
of crows.


I’ve been a television writer for about 20 years now.  In that time, I haven’t written many scripts on spec.  Bill Rabkin and I wrote a spec episode of  "Spenser: For Hire" as a writing sample to get our first TV job (on "Spenser For Hire," oddly enough).  Since then, we’ve written a spec pilot and a couple of spec features, all of which went nowhere… so we never had much incentive to do more non-paying work.

But a few years back, I wrote a spec script on my own based on my then-unpublished novel THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE. I did it more out of frustration with the book biz than anything else. The script didn’t sell (at least not yet) but it led to a very lucrative gig writing the so-far-unproduced Dame Edna movie, so it paid off for me. Even so, the big payday didn’t motivate me to spec something else. I’ve stayed away from writing spec scripts, using whatever free time I have to write my books…maybe because it’s paying contract work as opposed to speculation.

But lately I’ve begun to rethink that strategy, especially since scripts are potentially a lot more lucrative than books (so is working at Burger King, but that’s another topic). Bill and I have a spec pilot we’re going to start writing after the holidays and I’ve begun re-reading some of my novels  with an eye towards reworking them as spec features.

I recently adapted my book  MY GUN HAS BULLETS into a script. I had a lot of fun doing it and was surprised how easily it lent itself to the screenplay format.  Of course I had to change a lot of things and streamline the plot, but I think it worked. Well, at least I hope it did. I’ve e-mailed the script to a couple of trusted friends in the biz who haven’t read the book to get their opinions.  Meanwhile,  I’ve started adapting THE WALK into a screenplay.  This one isn’t going as smoothly as MY GUN HAS BULLETS did, but I figure the exercise can’t hurt.

I don’t know why I’ve always been more comfortable writing books on spec than scripts. I guess I feel like scripts are something somebody should be paying me to write (as opposed to books, which you hardly get paid for even when you sell them). That makes no sense, of course.  I blame that twisted thinking on all my years working in episodic television, where you get paid for every script you write and there’s very little spec work that ever sells. But the attitude towards specs in TV is changing now in the wake of the success Marc Cherry had with his spec DESEPERATE HOUSEWIVES pilot.  NBC recently went public asking for spec pilots, though I don’t know if they actually picked up any of them.

I guess I just need to get into the spec frame of mind. I’m not quite there yet, because I’m sort of  cheating by adapting my books instead of coming up with original film ideas.  But I suppose baby steps still count as steps…

Dragging my Feet

I like to think I’m reasonably productive, but all I have to do is read novelist James Reasoner’s blog to be reminded that I’m a lazy-ass:

By the way, I finished my 185th novel today.

Can you believe that? 185 novels? And he can fix appliances, too. I have a hard time just changing the battery on my daughter’s tape recorder. His 18oth (or 183rd, who can keep track?) book, TALES FROM DEADWOOD, comes out in May under his nom-de-western "Mike Jameson."

Ugly Covers

Covers of POD books are notoriously awful. Like Pod-dy Mouth, I can usually tell if a book is POD with one glance at the lousy, unprofessional cover.  But now there’s proof that not all POD covers have to look like total crap…and Pod-dy Mouth found it. The cover of this book, WRITERS FOR RELIEF, is every bit as good as anything coming out of the NY publishing houses. I never would have known it was POD just by looking at it.

When Did You Know?

When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Joe Konrath poses that question on his blog today. I’ve known almost all my life what I wanted to be.  Not too long ago, my Mom found a paper I wrote in fourth grade where I said I loved writing stories and that I wanted to be a writer.  I posted one of those early stories here on my blog…along with one of my daughter’s  written at the same age.

When I was ten or eleven, I was already pecking novels out on my Mom’s old typewriters. The first one was a futuristic tale about a cop born in an underwater sperm bank. I don’t know why the bank was underwater, or how deposits were made, but I thought it was very cool. I followed that up with a series of books about  gentleman thief Brian Lockwood,  aka "The Perfect Sinner,’ a thinly disguised rip-off of Simon Templar, aka "The Saint." I sold these stories for a dime to my friends and even managed to make a dollar or two. In fact, I think my royalties per book were better then than they are now.

I continued writing novels all through my teenage years.  Some of my other unpublished masterpieces featured hapless detective named Kevin Dangler. I remember my Uncle Burl being quite amused by that one. He even wrote a story about Kevin Dangler one summer when we were fishing at Loon Lake. Only Dangler wasn’t a detective in his tale. He was the lead singer of a rock group called Kevin Dangler & The Scrotums. Being a packrat, I still have most of those novels today in boxes in my garage (some were destroyed in flooding a few years back).

By the time I was 17, I was writing articles for The Contra Costa Times and other Bay Area newspapers and applying to colleges.  I didn’t get a book published, but my detective stories got me into UCLA’s School of Communications. My grades weren’t wonderful, so I knew I had to kick ass on my application essay. I wrote it first person as a hard-boiled detective story in Kevin Dangler’s voice. The committee, at first, had doubts that I actually wrote it myself — until they reviewed articles I’d written for the Times, including one that used the same device as my essay.

I sold my first non-fiction book, UNSOLD TELEVISION PILOTS, while I was a freshman in college and my first novel, .357 VIGILANTE, shortly thereafter (thanks to Lew Perdue).  And so here I am, at 43, doing exactly what I was doing when I was seven or eight. I haven’t really changed. It’s cool…and kind of weird, too.

Bottoms Up

The Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy novels report that anal sex is creeping into romance novels.

I think the first anal sex scene I read in a romance was in something by Robin Schone. Was it The Lady’s Tutor
or something else? Anyway, anal sex is currently in the realm of what I
think of as “vanilla kink.” It’s not exactly standard sexual practice
in Romancelandia yet, so there’s definitely a sort of charge to
including it in a mainstream novel, like you’re breaching a
taboo–something that’s definitely not present in, say, oral sex scenes
in romances. On the other hand, it’s not too terribly exotic, like,
say, furry fetishes or whatever.

In erotic romances–the relatively few I’ve read, anyway–anal sex
seems to be de rigueur, and I’m wondering how long before it’s going to
leak into most, if nor all mainstream romances. Anal sex: it’s the new

That observation prompted someone to comment:

Anal in romance and erotica by straight women (as opposed to gay men)
is either vague or comical.  Either the writers sum things up a la Zane
– “[Reader], I took it up the ass” or they go all hazy and mystical
with the heroine having some sort of assgasm the the instant her
b’hymen is breached with only a dairy-based food product as lubricant.

Assgasm. That’s a new word for me. I can’t wait to start using it in casual conversation.

The Sentinel

TVShowsOnDVD reports that the first season of THE SENTINEL is coming to DVD (that’s the show about the cop with psychic powers) and that the third season boxed set of MURDER SHE WROTE (that’s the show about the elderly mystery author with hundreds of relatives, all of whom get murdered) will include the cross-over episode with MAGNUM PI (that’s the show about the private eye in Hawaii who lives on an estate owned by a reclusive mystery author).

Shell Scott

Ed Gorman posted a nice piece about my friend Richard S. Prather’s Shell Scott books on his blog today.

I loved Prather because he was always fun. I was naive about his right-wing
politics so they never got in my way, I just liked the hilarious situations
chicks always led the willing Shell into. One of my all-time favorite scenes is
Shell in a hot air balloon flying above the nudist camp he’s just escaped from.
His attire consists of his holster and gun.

The Shell Scott books are dated but still as laugh-out-loud funny as they were forty years ago. In his heyday, Richard was one of the best selling authors in the world, with tens of millions of copies of his book in print.

I spoke to Richard a couple of days ago — he’d just signed a contract with Hard Case Crime to reprint one of his early, not-Scott books.  So pretty soon a whole new generation will discover just how good a writer Richard Prather is.

How to Order a Signed Copy of MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIRE HOUSE

Here’s how you can order your own, signed copy of MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIRE HOUSE.

  1. Email Mysteries to Die For with the following information:



Phone number

Method of payment (check, money order or credit card)

Info about how you want the book inscribed (signed only, inscribed to ‘name’, etc.)

  1. Mail your check or money order made payable to Mysteries to Die For ($10.50 if you live in California; $10.00 for all other states except Alaska and Hawaii – if you live outside the contiguous 48 states, we’ll email you with pricing information) to this address: Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd, Thousand Oaks CA, 91362.
  2. If
    you want to use a credit card, we will call you to get the necessary
    information so please be sure to include your phone number.
  3. If you want more than one copy of the book, we’ll email you specifics as to cost.

There is a possibility I will be signing with MONK co-star Traylor Howard. Please indicate on your order how you would like her to sign the book as well…assuming she is able to attend.

Blog Suicide

Writers Digest is looking for folks who’ve committed Blog Suicide:

Senior Editor Maria Schneider is writing an article on bloggers who were burned by something they posted online. Have you ever posted something on your blog that cost you a job, a relationship or  a writing gig? We may want to feature your story in a future article  for "Writer’s Digest." Tell us about it in the "WD" Forum  or send an e-mail to with "Blogged and Burned" in the subject line.

It seems to me that anybody who has committed Blog Suicide, and then responds to this article, would only be compounding the original mistake. Why draw even more attention to your career-killing, job-costing, dumb move? Not all publicity is good publicity.