Bouchercon 3

This was my last day at Bouchercon… I started the day working on MONK #4, then headed over to the convention hotel for lunch with Steve Hamilton. On the way, I stopped at the street faire to buy some Madison-goodies for my daughter Madison, visited the amazing Capitol building, and chatted with Laura Lippman, Jeff Abbott, Heidi Mack, Lee Child, and John Himes in the hotel lobby. After lunch, I spent some time with Theresa Schwegel, Twist Phelan, Jerrilyn Farmer, and Elaine Viets, among others, before heading back to my hotel to get ready for the dinner party my publisher threw for their authors.  The dinner party was great, I got to meet Jonathan King for the first time (and hear his hilarious story about the pedophile with his name in the UK) and eavesdrop on a conversation between an editor and an author about the "hot cowboy sex" in an upcoming novel. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Bouchercon Report 2

I didn’t spend a lot of time at the convention today. My morning was eaten up with phone calls on some TV work I’m doing (more on that another day) and work on MONK #4. I met with my publishers Kristen Weber & Ellen Edwards of Penguin/Putnam, author Donald Bain, and his lovely wife Renee for a long lunch, then spent two hours at convention, chatting with Max Allan Collins, J.A. Konrath, Bill Crider (official Bouchercon videographer with his $125 Point-and-Shoot), Thomas Cook, Margaret Maron, Sean Doolittle, Rochelle Krich, Cynthia Chow (voted the hottest librarian in the U.S.), Lita Weissman (the SoCal Borders CRM extraordinaire) Mark Billingham (who professed his undying love of DIAGNOSIS MURDER), Jon Jordan (CRIMESPREE editor and natty dresser), and a bunch of other folks. I bought the anthology THESE GUNS FOR HIRE, signed by many of the contributors, and then it was time to head back  to the glamorous Doubletree to make some calls and get dressed up for the Shamus Awards. I sat at what turned out to be the loser table…where fellow nominees PJ Parrish (Kris Montee), Joel Goldman, Harry Hunsicker and I all lost in our respective Shamus categories (I got whipped, as expected, by Michael Connelly’s excellent THE LINCOLN LAWYER). The ceremony included a  funny, but far-too-lengthy roast of Private Eye Writers of America founder Robert Randisi (who has written over 300 GUNSMITH novels, among many other books).  The comments by Dominick Abel and Jon Lutz were, by far, the highlights of the roast and of the evening’s festivities.  Now I am back in my room, working  on MONK #4, while the couple in the room next door have loud, moaning, headboard-pounding sex. They must be a very religious couple, since  they keep calling out to God.

Bouchercon Report

Greetings from Madison, WI. My trip here was interesting. On the flight from  LA  to Chicago, the woman next to me fell asleep, put her head on my shoulder, and snuggled my arm for an hour. I was afraid to move for fear she’d wake up and be mortified. She eventually moved aside and rested against the window.  I’m sure she had no idea what she’d done. But still, it was  weird.

I had a great time on my panel today with Steve Cannell, Robert Ward, Raymond Benson and Donald Bain. The panelists provided lots of laughs, some good anecdotes, and even some sage writing advice.  I spent time chatting with Ken Bruen, Reed Coleman, Jim Winter, Jim Born, Robin Burcell, Lee Lofland, Declan Hughes, Lee Child, Allan Guthrie, Gary Phillips, Bob Levinson, Zoe Sharp, Stephen Booth, Patricia Smiley, Parnell Hall, Duane S (can’t spell his name so why try?), and many, many others before retiring to my hotel room to work on MONK #4, which is due so soon I am getting stomach cramps just thinking about it.

Tomorrow, I have lunch with my publisher and then it’s the Shamus Awards dinner.

TV Writers Aren’t Saving the World

I’ve watched the first two episodes of  STUDIO 60 and I don’t like it. Here’s why.

1.  The fonts for the title cards and scene headings are the same ones they used on THE WEST WING.  That, combined with some of the same actors they used on THE WEST WING and the self-important characters and pompous speeches, makes it appear as if Aaron Sorkin thinks that running a TV show is as important as running the country. It’s not, though many showrunners I know thing it is. (UPDATE: Here’s a lively discussion on whether  the fonts matter or I have my head up my ass).
2. The series takes its inspiration from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, which hasn’t been relevant or buzzworthy in 25 years.  STUDIO 60 might as well behind-the-scenes series about THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW  or YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. It feels incredibly dated and out-of-step. If they wanted to be cutting edge, it would have been about a show more akin to THE DAILY SHOW.  Heck, Garry Shandling’s THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW has been off-the-air for years and it’s still more relevant, biting, and funny than STUDIO 60.
3. Aaron Sorkin seems to think we’re all fascinated by his drug arrest during the making of THE WEST WING and his professional partnership with director Thomas Schlamme. We’re not. Watching Aaron Sorkin write about himself and Schlamme isn’t like Carl Reiner writing about himself  as Rob Petrie or even Larry David writing about himself as, um, Larry David because….because it just not as funny, fresh or entertaining as DICK VAN DYKE SHOW or CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM.  It feels self-indulgent.
4. We keep hearing about  how funny and amazingly talented the lady is who leads STUDIO 60’s fictional cast…but so far  we haven’t actually seen her do anything funny (Ken Levine had the same observation)  In fact, there’s something downright creepy about her.
5. Ripping off the movie NETWORK in a scene, and then having all the characters refer to the scene as "like something from the movie NETWORK," doesn’t get you a pass for, well, ripping of the movie NETWORK.
6.  All that said, I do love the way he writes…I just wish he was writing a different show.

Killer Year Authors Are Adopted

The International Thriller Writers, of which I am a proud member, have adopted the Killer Year, a group of  15 first-time authors with new mysteries & thrillers coming out in 2007.  What does this mean? A lot:

We’re also getting one of our stars to review each of the debuts and we’ll be
publishing them in the ITW Thriller Reader’s Newsletter.  And an ITW author has
volunteered to mentor each of the fifteen members of the Class of 2007 through
their baptism by fire into the publishing world.

Lee Child, Jeff
Deaver, Tess Gerritsen, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Jim Rollins, Anne Frasier,
Douglas Clegg, Duane Swierczynski, Cornelia Read, Harley Jane Kozak, Allison
Brennan, Ken Bruen
and Joe R. Lansdale have all signed on. (Each
Killer Year author requested their mentors, that’s why we didn’t put out a
general call.)

In addition, ITW will sponsor a Killer Year breakfast at
ThrillerFest ’07 where each of the debut novelists will be presented by his or
her mentor to readers, reviewers and the press.

Isn’t that terrific? I hope the ITW can find deserving authors every year for similar "star" treatment. The ITW is doing some amazingly creative and beneficial stuff for their members  — this is just one of many examples. 

Off to Madison

Tomorrow I’m heading off to Madison, WI and Bouchercon 2006, the world mystery convention, where I will be moderating a panel with Stephen J. Cannell, Robert Ward, Donald Bain and Raymond Benson. That’s also where I’ll find out if I’ve won the Shamus  for THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE… though I think there’s little chance of that up against the likes of Connelly, Crais and Mosley. I’ll be gone until Monday, but I’ll try to send in a few reports from the convention floor.

The Comedy Pitch

Today Ken Levine, the Emmy-award winning writer/producer and all-around nice guy, gives you the inside scoop on what happens when you go in to pitch a sitcom pilot. Of course, he shares some great anecdotes, too.

Our PA on CHEERS who used to get us lunch became the VP of comedy at a
major network. We had to pitch our PA. (No sale. But we were offered

The comedy VP (who later became the president of that
network) once asked us “What is the opening episode of the seventh
season?” Huh??? How the fuck do you answer that? We said “the clip
show, featuring all the highlights of the many Emmy winning episodes.”
(No sale)