Show Clothes

Writer/Producer Ken Levine has a very funny post on his blog about show jackets — the typical Christmas gift from a production company to the staff of a series. My closet is full of show-wear. I’ve got jackets, hats, fleeces, visors, vests, sweatshirts and t-shirts representing just about every show I’ve ever worked on.

I used to wear my show clothes a lot when I was first starting out — it was pride and it made me feel like a member of a special club. I could dress from head to toe in stuff that had a show logo on it.  I don’t wear any of it very often now (except my MISSING, MARTIAL LAW, DIAGNOSIS MURDER and COBRA fleeces, which are all super-warm on chily days). 

I never wear the BAYWATCH jacket because I’m afraid someone will ask me to give them mouth-to-mouth. I don’t wear my SEAQUEST jacket because it makes me look like the ultimate sf fanboy  geek. If I wear the other stuff, I run the very real risk of my waiter or waitress handing me their headshot or the guy at 7-11 slipping me his spec script along with my Big Gulp.

But you don’t always  get show clothing. You also get binders, book-bags, paperweights, belt buckles, pens, flashlights, key-chains, even candles. Ken has received some weird stuff, too:

One year on CHEERS we received lovely dart boards. At the time everyone
had young children. I don’t think anyone even took them out of the box.
(I’m sure there’s still one or two floating around ebay). On MASH one
year the cast gave us all engraved watches. It was a beautiful gift,
one I still have. The next season the new writer on the staff was
counting the days until the big gift. It turned out to be a custom 33
rpm album of all the scenes in which the cast sang on the show. He was
livid. “You guys get watches and I get a fucking album of Loretta Swit
singing?!” (I don’t even think ebay has that one).

A few years ago an actor on a show I was producing gave me a large
heavy rock with the word “remember” carved into it. I put it on the
front porch and am still looking for a companion rock that says “Pearl
Harbor” or “the Alamo” or “to wipe your feet”. I’d tell you who the
actor was but can’t seem to recall…

…Oh well, I still have my memories. And my IT’S ALL RELATIVE fleece, BIG
fleece, CONRAD BLOOM bowling shirt, ASK HARRIETT t-shirt, and GEORGE
& LEO beltbuckle…which I would all gladly trade for one FAMILY GUY

When you’re a producer on a series, the studio and network also send you gifts. From wine and wallets to alarm clocks and dishwear.  I got a bathrobe from Les Moonves once. I have it hermetically sealed in case he calls me to a meeting in a sauna some day.

Just One More Thing

The folks over at InnerTube noted the uncanny similarity between the real-life conflict between attorney-turned-pseudonovelist Robert Tanenbaum and his ghostwriter cousin Michael Gruber and a classic episode of COLUMBO.

Had this been a plot for a Television show, Tanenbaum would have shot and killed
Gruber before he had the chance to reveal the secret to a reporter from The
Romantic Times. (Okay, so maybe it wouldn’t have been much fun for the

familiar? It’s the plotline for the first episode of ‘Columbo’ as a series
(third ‘Columbo’ outing overall if you count the two pilots). "Murder By The
Book" starred Jack Cassidy, who would have been the Tanenbaum-type character,
and Martin Milner as the Gruber stand-in.

Not that he ever had murder in
his heart, but Tanenbaum sounds like he would have made for the perfect
antagonist to Lt. Columbo. He was not only a lawyer and (alleged) author, but
also a teacher and a mayor! It sounds as if his social standing would have been
quite a formidable challenge to the attempts by the shabby, fumbling little
detective trying to investigate him.

Greetings from the Cell Block

Now I’m getting mail from convicts and I don’t even have hooters. This particular convict is looking for an agent for his autobiography. I’m a writer, not an agent, so I’m not sure why he picked me for his two, lengthy email. Here’s an excerpt:

The Last Hardrock is an insightful
chronicle of one man’s journeys from the streets of East New
York, Brooklyn to behind the walls of New
York State Correctional Facilities with a candid and compelling look at prison
life in the form of letters from one convict to another. It takes you on a trip into the minds of our
street warriors while simplifying the brutal truths about prison life with
stories filled with personal struggles, gossip, love and rage…

I have for the past 10 years served
a sentence for a felony conviction…
my experiences include a tour in Germany, with the US Army where I served as a combat medic, New York City Golden Gloves Boxer,
connoisseur of the Hip-Hop culture and student of life…

My manuscript will only be available
to one agent at a time, so if you are interested, please contact me

If you’re interested, the line forms to the left.


No Brainer

Paramount has signed CSI Creator Anthony Zuiker to another eight-figure, three-year deal. Is this a surprise to anyone? The only morsel of news in this is the acknowledgement from CBS chief Les Moonves that they aren’t planning to do a fourth version of CSI.

Moonves said he doubts Zuiker will create another edition of "CSI," and instead
will likely focus on creating a new series. "I don’t think we should push the
envelope" with a fourth "CSI," exec said.

That’s a shame, because I was really looking forward to CSI: SPOKANE.

Chips and Dip

The movie version of CHiPS is speeding along. Variety reports that Wilmer Valderrama  has been cast as Ponch, the role immortalized by Erik Estrada, the Brando of the 80s.  So far, no one has been cast as Baker, the role played by Larry Wilcox. Paul Kaplan and Mark Torgove are writing the script, which the studio says will be closer to the STARSKY AND HUTCH spoof than TRAFFIC. 

Michael Gruber is Robert Tanenbaum, the Sequel

Jules Older writes in San Francisco Magazine this month that he was a huge fan of lawyer-turned-novelist Robert Tanenbaum’s thrillers, often re-reading favorite passages again and again. But Older was more than a little shocked to discover the author he admired wasn’t Tanenbaum at all…but his cousin and ghostwriter Michael Gruber (a story I’ve talked about here before). Tanenbaum didn’t write his own books.

Gruber says that though the arrangement was financially rewarding — they split the earnings fifty-fifty — it felt increasingly wrong. Says Gruber, "We started getting very gnarly around 1998 with the 11th book, ACT OF REVENGE." Was it envy that led to the breakup? "No, I wasn’t envious; I was kind of sorry for him. He took total credit for books he did not write."

Gruber says felt his teeth grinding when he heard his cousin telling a radio interviewer how terribly difficult it was to be a hugely successful lawyer, a teacher, a mayor, and a brilliant writers all at the same time. "Especially since he wasn’t."
…Which one is the scoundrel? Tanenbaum for pretending to be the only writers? Or Gruber for spilling the beans?

I think it’s Gruber, who knew going into the deal what being a ghostwriter means. All ghost writers grind their teeth when they hear the person they are ghosting for take all the credit. But that’s the deal and he knew it. Gruber claims in the article that he’s not the one who revealed the secret, that one of those intrepid, hard-driving investigator reporters from Romantic Times broke the story:

"[She said] I understand you are the author of Robert Tanenbaum’s novels’ and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s true.’"

He could have said no, or no comment. Instead, he chose to reveal the truth. But all of this means little to Older, who is more concerned about the quality of their books in the wake of the scandal. Older says the Tanenbaum books now are amateurishly written and bland. Gruber’s solo books are, Older says,   hot, wild, smart, sexy and intriguing, but tinged with the supernatural.

Tanenbaum really doesn’t have the chops for first-rate fiction and Gruber’s enchantment with the supernatural isn’t my idea of an asset…if I ran the world, the Beatles would have reunited. Simon and Garfunkel would have reunited. And Gruber and Tanenbaum would still reunite. Lost that clunky dialogue! Cast out those convenient demons!

Gross Points

It pays to be the co-author of a James Patterson novel. Publishers Weekly reports that frequent Patterson collaborator Andrew Gross has signed a lucrative three-book deal with William Morrow.

The first book in the trio, and Gross’s single
credit debut, The Blue Zone is planned for a 2007 release. The three
titles, which were acquired in a world rights deal from Simon Lipskar of Writers
House, are hoped to be the beginning of a new franchise headlined (instead of
sub-headlined) by Gross or, as William Morrow senior v-p and publisher Lisa
Gallagher put it, "the beginning of a long and prosperous partnership." Morrow
isn’t certain how or if Patterson’s name will appear on the cover of Gross’s
first solo effort.

They can put Patterson’s name on the cover of my next book if they want.

Agent Pleads Guilty

The Albany Times Union reports that agent Martha Ivery, who also ran a sham self-publishing company, has admitted to defrauding scores of aspiring authors out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Ivery admitted guilt to 15 counts of mail fraud in connection with taking money
from would-be authors. She also pleaded guilty to one count of credit card fraud
and one count of bankruptcy fraud, all felonies, in U.S. District Court in

Ivery, 57, has not been offered a plea bargain. She faces up to 20 years in
prison on the mail fraud charges, 10 years on the credit card charge, and five
years on the bankruptcy charge. Ivery also could be fined as much as $250,000.

"There would be no defense on this case and it would be prudent on her part
to change her plea," said Ivery’s attorney, Richard Mott of Albany. "She
realizes the proof would be overwhelming … she wishes to demonstrate to the
court she has full contrition."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Capezza said he also was looking for restitution.
Prosecutors say she took as much as $700,000 from 200 writers.

Ivery defrauded prospective authors from 1997 to 2002, prosecutors said. She
presented two different identities: publisher of Press-TIGE Publishing Co., and
Kelly O’Donnell Literary Agency Inc.

After hooking authors by advertising in Writer’s Digest magazine and on the
Internet, the O’Donnell agency represented the authors and led them to the
publishing company. Fee requests kept coming, but books were rarely published.

Ivery’s company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation in 2002, but she
then created another business, New Millennium Publishing House Inc. She is
scheduled for sentencing April 28.

A.C. Crispin, a science fiction writer who works with the scam-busting site, said the organization started watching Ivery six years

"This case, unlike the other ones we followed, really got personal," said
Crispin, a Maryland author. "She made death threats to us, and stalked us
online. I plan to go to the sentencing."

Author AC Crispin and all the others at WritersBeware should be congratulated for the wonderful work they do on behalf of writers everywhere. It takes guts to be as unrelentingly vigilant as they are ferreting out publishing scams  — and without the recognition and appreciation they deserve for their volunteer efforts.

Let’s hope this case serves as a warning to the publishing scammers who seem to be all over the Internet these days, taking advantage of the deseperation and gullibility of aspiring authors.

Here’s are three  simple ways to avoid being suckered by a publishing scam:

Never pay to be published.
Never pay an agent (they make their money by taking a commission from your sales).
Never pay a reading fee.

Brilliance for the Price of a Big Mac and Fries

Maverick_log_3It’s the best deal on DVD — for $5.99, including shipping, you can get set of three classic episodes of MAVERICK from DeepDiscountDVD. My copy just arrived today. The set includes "Shady Deal at Sunny Acres" (as fresh today as it was 50 years ago), "Pappy," and "Gunshy," the hilarious spoof of GUNSMOKE. MAVERICK was a ground-breaking show in its day and paved the way for  the likes of MOONLIGHTING, THE NIGHT STALKER,  and THE ROCKFORD FILES.

MAVERICK also holds the distinction of being the only show revived three times in three years on three networks. For more about that, there’s an excerpt from my book  TELEVISION SERIES REVIVALS on the jump:

Read more

Self-Pubbed Cop Gets Press

The LA Times profiled Dean Fulcher, a Santa Ana homicide detective who has self-published a novel for teens, a book without vulgarity or sex that he describes as "The Hardy Boys meets Nancy Drew." He took the book to Tate Publishing, which charged him $4000 to publish and market his book. But if he sells 5,000 copies, which even he agrees is unlikely, they claim they will reimburse him.

The article doesn’t explore whether he tried to sell the book to a publisher, why he opted to go to a vanity press, or how he is going about marketing his novel…but rather veers into a much more interesting topic: why cops write:

Marilyn Olson, president of the Public Safety Writers Assn., which has more than
50 members across the country, said law enforcement was a field that lent itself
to writing because of its many different elements: technology, crime and

"They have a wealth of material," she said. "In many cases,
it’s bottled up and they want to do something with the stories they

Many retired police officers, Olson said, write as a way of
staying connected with their old jobs.

Others, like Fulcher, do it for
therapeutic reasons.

"It’s kind of hard to stop thinking about the job,
even on the weekends," he said, adding that he would constantly second-guess
himself about whether he missed key evidence in an unsolved case. "When I get
into this, I don’t even think about work. It’s a good way to escape reality for
a while and get into the story."

Joseph Wambaugh, the most famous police
writer, said he started because he simply had stories he needed to get

Wambaugh, who joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1960,
worked as a cop for 10 years before his first novel, "The New Centurions," was

It was on the New York Times bestseller list for 36 weeks.
Since then, he has written 15 more books.

"I was kind of an anomaly, a
freak," the 68-year-old Wambaugh said of his success. "I love to see cops write.
I wish there were more."

Although Fulcher encounters a wealth of material
in his job, he doesn’t think it would be right to use it.

"Dealing with
murders, I get really close to the families," he said. "It’s almost like I feel
I’m being disloyal to them if I use something that happened to them in my