Gold Medal Memories

Ed Gorman pointed me to this excellent and informative overview & history of Gold Medal books and the impact they had on American popular culture:

What if you could trace the French New Wave, Sam Peckinpah, cyberpunk,
"Pulp Fiction," "Mulholland Drive," and "Sin City" back to one business
gamble taken by a third-tier publisher in 1949? In fact, you can, and
without being guilty of too much overstatement. A little, sure, but not
that much.

While the author of the essay justifiably praises Hard Case Crime, he notes:

Excellent as it is, Hard Case Crime bears the same relationship to Gold Medal that Chris Isaak does to Elvis Presley.

That’s a great line…and not far off the mark.

The Name is Radio, National Public Radio

Many thanks to The Rap Sheet for tipping me off to this NPR piece on James Bond theme songs. David Arnold’s soundtrack album is now up on iTunes, but it doesn’t include the Chris Cornell theme song. The score is another tribute to John Barry, with lots of cues reminiscent of his classic Bond scores. That said, it doesn’t have the sheer energy or inventiveness of TOMORROW NEVER DIES or DIE ANOTHER DAY, by far Arnold’s best Bond scores. This one feels  a tired and familiar, basically a a replay of his past scores, with Arnold resorting to old tricks and an over-reliance on the melody from Chris Cornell’s song. Arnold is the only composer besides John Barry to score more than one Bond film. But unlike Barry, who seemed to take a fresh approach with each film, Arnold is one-note. Compare John Barry’s GOLDFINGER with his score for, say, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. There’s a distinct character and sound to both films, even though they are both unmistakeably Barry scores. But now compare Arnold’s score for THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH with CASINO ROYALE. They might as well be the same film. I love how Arnold reinvigorated the Bond scores with TOMORROW NEVER DIES and evolved the Barry sound for a new generation…but perhaps it’s time to find a new composer. My vote goes to Michael Giacchino, composer of  THE INCREDIBLES (the best Bond score ever for a non-Bond film), who did for MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III what Arnold did for the Bond franchise.

UPDATE 11/17/06: Now that I’ve seen the film, I’m even less impressed with the music. The score disappoints even in context. If you’re going to do THE BOURNE IDENTITY, then go with that kind of edgier, less symphonic score. Arnold also makes the mistake of using "You Know My Name" as a substitute for the James Bond Theme throughout the movie — the conceit being that Bond doesn’t really become Bond until the end. It doesn’t work. I missed hearing a rousing version of the Bond theme during key moments in the film that seemed to cry out for it… and "You Know My Name" doesn’t come close.

As If You Don’t Get Enough Of Me Here Already…

There’s a two-part Q&A interview with me up on Chris Well’s Learning Curve blog. Here’s one of the questions…


always start with the characters and the obstacles they are facing. I
ask myself what situation can I put these characters in that will
really test who they are? The mystery almost always organically comes
out of that question. If the characters have nothing at stake in the
mystery, if it doesn’t put them in conflict with others and with
themselves, then who is going to care whodunit?

My Brother Is Too Damn Funny

My brother Tod’s Letters to Parade feature on his blog should be a book. But until that happens, you’ll just have to visit his blog every Monday for the latest hilarious installment. This week’s is one of my favorites. Here’s an excerpt:

In the case of G. Martinez of Jamaica, NY, the fetish is James Bond.
And G. has a very important question so that he or she can finally
complete their very special project:

As a James Bond fan, I’d like to know who was the tallest 007.

question has obviously been edited. What the crack editorial staff of
Parade snipped off when they created this stupid fucking question when
they realized they didn’t have anything on Bond in Personality Parade
on the weekend before the opening of the latest installment, was this:

is very important that I get the exact measurements of whichever Bond
this was  — I hope it was Lazenby! Oh, how I have longed for Lazenby!
— as I am building a cage in which the actor could live. Additionally,
I’m creating a suit made of skin I’ve stripped every day from my
thighs, the bottom of my feet and that space between my plumbing so
that Mr. Lazenby could wear me like a tuxedo, a very snug tuxedo,
covered with the aroma of my glands. Please, could you also tell me if
any of the actors who played Bond are claustrophobic? And it would be
very helpful if I could get the address and phone number of the
gentleman who played Jaws in the Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

Walter Scott probably never even saw this part of the question because, well, he doesn’t exist.


Ever since shows about a mob family (THE SOPRANOS) and corrupt cops (THE SHIELD) hit it big, we’ve been seeing a lot of attempts to do other series about anti-heroes. Most of them have been about bank robbers and thieves, and most of them have failed.

But now there’s a new breed of anti-heroes on TV. On WEEDS, we have a housewife who sells pot. On DEXTER, we have a detective who is a serial killer himself. And now comes word  from Variety that AMC is developing a series about a high school chemistry teacher who manufactures and distributes crystal meth.

Pilot script, which previously was set up at FX, concerns a
desperate man who discovers he is terminally ill and tracks what he’s
willing to do to ensure his family’s survival.

AMC execs say
they’re confident that "Breaking Bad," should it go to series, will
have the support of Madison Avenue — in spite of a protagonist who is
both a teacher and a drug maker.

"It will be much more about the
storytelling and the way we handle the material that will make it OK
for advertisers," net exec VP-general manager Charlie Collier said.
"The story is about a guy who turns to a life of crime because he’s
trying to change his life. … In the classic antihero sense, you’re
rooting for him to figure it out."

Rob Sorcher, AMC exec VP of
programming/production, said the network is willing to take more risks
because of its commitment to find "cinematic" series to pair with its
arsenal of theatricals.

Why is it when networks want to be "cinematic," they think it means going very dark? I find it especially odd considering that whenever you hear movie executives talking about dramas now, they’re saying they want projects that are as compelling as the shows on TV… where all the best drama is being done now (and why so much movie talent….writers, director and actors… are migrating to television).

The Double Life is Finally On Sale. You Can Breath Again.

In case I forgot to mention it, my seventh DIAGNOSIS MURDER book, THE DOUBLE LIFE, is now available in finer bookstores, truck stops, and places of worship nationwide.
I like to think of  THE DOUBLE LIFE as the second book in an unofficial trilogy that began with DIAGNOSIS MURDER #5 : THE PAST TENSE and that will conclude in May 2007 with the eighth and final DM novel, the appropriately titled THE

You can order your very own signed and/or personalized copy of THE DOUBLE LIFE from the friendly mystery babes at Mysteries To Die For, who will gladly send your order anywhere in the world…and to most State and Federal prisons.

Who Says Writing is Easy?

Sandra Scoppettone has written 18 novels. She must, on some level, love to write. But it seems like doing it for her is agony.

I feel like throwing the manuscript into the water and deleting all
copies on my computer and back ups.  I know I won’t.  But I wonder how
much of my discouragement is laced with my bookstore blues.

I’m on page 178 and I feel I don’t know what I’m doing, where I’m going
or who these people are.  My closest friend just told me she wishes she
had a tape to playback to me because I always say these things. 

But this time it’s real.

It’s always real. And she doesn’t need a tape playback —  all she has to do is look back at her blog, where she left virtually the same post about her last book. She’s been successful, critically and financially, as a writer. A couple of her books were even made into movies. So she’s had plenty of validation over the years that she’s really good at what she does. But it’s not enough. It never is.

But what this post proves is that no matter how long you do this, or how successful you are,  this job never gets any easier. I’m not sure what’s harder  — the writing itself or overcoming your insecurities about your writing.

I know how Sandra feels, though not quite to her angst-ridden extreme. I love to write, I need to write, and even when I am in creative hell (which is often), I am usually enjoying myself more than I am suffering… otherwise, why would I keep doing this?

UPDATE 11/10/2006:  Sandra elaborates on her feelings about writing.