Interview with Richard Prather

Linda Pendleton, widow of EXECUTIONER author Don Pendleton, has posted a lengthy interview with my friend Richard S. Prather on her website.  Here’s an excerpt about his  unpublished 1000-page Shell Scott manuscript THE DEATH GODS:

It’s packed in a box in my closet, and is the completed but still
somewhat messy original yellow-page manuscript that I started writing more than
a decade ago.  It turned out to be the longest Shell Scott mystery I’ve
ever written, which, if eventually published, would be #41 in the series.
And it hasn’t been published because it has never been submitted to any
publisher for publication.

Why not?  Well, for a lot of reasons that make sense to me, and
may—or may not—make sense to you, Linda.  We’ll see.

For one thing, the author’s creative work (the fun part) is
finished, but the boring stuff remains to be done.  Some of those
marked-up pages need to be fixed, some fussed with to smooth out rough spots,
before they’re all retyped or (these days) printed on 20-pound bond, or even
converted to computer-readable format on something like a Word for Windows
disk, whatever that is.  Mainly, the whole manuscript needs to be checked
and updated because it took me so lo-ong to get from page 1 to The End.   

After fairly speedily, and without significant interruption, writing 43
so-called “first drafts” (so-called because, as previously mentioned, I never wrote
a “second draft”), on this one–#44 overall and #41 in the Shell Scott
series—there were two long interruptions.  I twice, for reasons
there’s no need to go into here, had to stop work entirely on the manuscript
before it was finished…stopped the first time for nearly three years, and the
second time for longer than that.  Add it all together, including recent
years “on the shelf,” and that’s a lo-ong time.

During those years we’ve moved from the old Millennium into the new, and
the world has changed.  Not just automobile models and computers and new
same-old politicians and a “new” war or two, but us, you and me.  And I’ve
changed (as Damon Runyon used to say) more than somewhat.  Part of that
change is:  I no longer give a hoot whether The Death Gods is
published or not.   

I no longer need my name on another book to make me feel like
(harking back to childhood) “I’m gonna be a writer,”
I’ve been there/done that—43 times.

[…]The bottom line is, I’m content to let those
1000+ pages rest unmolested in their box in the closet, while I sit here in my
kitchen-library reading lots of books written by other people, and listening to
the tweeting of happy birds optimistically screeching outside, where I scattered
birdseed in payment for their songs.  And there’s no cut-off point for
them where there “ain’t no more,” not in this
house.  I’ve got lots of birdseed, and I can’t eat it all

(Thanks to Roddy Reta and Mystery*File for the heads-up)

What’s Worse? The Affliction or the Cure?

There was an advertisement in the newspaper today for Requip (ropinirole HCI), a drug designed to help people sleep who suffer from tingling legs at night.  The advertisement included this important safety information:

Prescription Requip is not for everyone. Requip tablets may cause you to fall asleep or feel very sleepy during normal activities such as driving; or to faint or feel dizzy, nauseated, or sweaty when you stand up. Tell your doctor if you or your family notices that you develop any unusual impulses or behaviors, such as pathological gambling or hypersexuality. Side effects include nausea,  drowsiness, vomitng and dizziness. Most patients were not bothered enough to stop taking Requip.

Of course not. They were enjoying the poker and hookers so much that they hardly minded the  vomiting and dizziness.

Get Off Your Lazy Ass and Write Ten Books This Year

Some people think Robert B. Parker is prolific. Well, he’s got nothing on James Reasoner, who today finished writing his 200th book:

When I started out in this business, I didn’t know how many books I’d be able to write, of course, let alone how many I
could sell. I thought fifty would be a lot. That goal got revised
upward to 100, then 150. Now I don’t really worry about things like
that anymore. I’m just going to write until I can’t anymore.
[…] I looked back in my records and discovered that it took me seventeen and
a half years to write my first hundred books. The second hundred took
ten and a half years. No wonder it seems like I’ve been busy lately.

And somehow he still found time amidst all that non-stop writing to see movies, eat meals, go to the bathroom, sleep at night, and be a judge for the International Assocation of Media Tie-In Writers‘ first annual Scribe Awards. I wonder what happens to him when he’s around Kryptonite.

I thought writing four books a year was hard (which is why I’m not doing that any more). I didn’t realize I had it easy. James can write that many books in his sleep. Literally.

Novel Twists

Variety reports that The Weinstein Company has drafted mystery novelists Terrill Lee Lankford and Michael Connelly to script the feature film version of the TV series THE EQUALIZER, to be directed by  Paul McGuigan.

Connelly acknowledged in a statement that "times have certainly changed
since the days of the television show" but said he and his co-scribe
"plan to build a character that is of these times but to also keep the
heart and soul of the show intact."

It’s highly unusual for studios to turn to novelists to adapt anything, especially something as tricky as turning a TV series into a feature film…so this is a big deal. Lee and Michael must have made a hell of a pitch and knowing them as I do, you can bet it’s going to be a great script.

Meanwhile, ABC has greenlit production on MARLOWE, a pilot that’s a "contemporary update" of Raymond Chandler’s classic LA private eye. Greg Pruss and Carol
Wolper are writing and producing (Anyone remember the last "update" of Marlowe starring Robert Mitchum…and set in London!?)

Dumb Questions

Not long ago at a signing, a reader asked me:

"How much of your books do you write?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I was wondering who writes the dialogue," she said.

"I do," I said.

"Really?" she said. "And who writes the rest?"

"I do," I said.

"Oh really," She looked at me skeptically. "Then why is Dick Van Dyke’s picture on the cover?"

I’m bringing this up because I had an eerily similar conversation when I spoke at a luncheon this week. A woman asked me:

"Who writes the dialogue in your scripts?"

"I do," I said.

"And who writes what happens?" she asked.

"I do," I said.

"So you’re telling me you write the dialogue, the mystery, the action, and everything else," she said.

"Yes, ma’am," I said.

"I thought the actors made up what they say."

"That’s certainly what the actors think," I said.

Literary Cannibalism

Here’s a new twist on the fanfic debate:   an article in the Daily Telegraph implies that  Thomas Harris stole from Hannibal Lector fanfic for his novel HANNIBAL RISING. The article quotes some fanfic passages and compares them to passages in Harris’ new novel.

Trawling through the Lecter fanfic, one comes on other tantalising parallelisms. Six years ago, for example, ‘Leeker17’, on
posted a narrative which uncannily forecasts the opening chapters of
Hannibal Rising in its detailed description of how the hero’s parents
and sister met their ends in 1944. So close is it that one might fancy
that Leeker17 had some privileged connection with Harris. Or that
Harris himself, under a nom-de-web, may be the ‘leaker’. Or, like
Blythebee, Leeker17 may just have struck lucky.

an author picks up and uses something from ‘his’ fanfic is he
plagiarising, collaborating, or merely playing games? One thing’s
certain. Harris won’t tell us.

(Thanks to Sarah Weinman for the heads-up!)

Charlie’s Angel’s Lawsuit

My cousin Danny tipped me off to the California State Appeals Court’s decision this week rejecting actor Robert Wagner’s claim against Columbia Pictures seeking a piece of the profits from the two CHARLIE’S ANGELS movies. Wagner and his late wife Natalie Wood won profit participation in the original CHARLIE’S ANGELS television show as part of a complicated negotiation for the two of them to star in an unrelated TV movie.  The written decision offers a fascinating peek behind-the-scenes into the business of television.

Mr. Monk and the Good News

I just got a double-header of good Monk news.

On January 14th, the USA Network is running a Monk Viewer’s Choice
marathon. Fifty thousand viewers cast their votes for their fourteen favorite episodes. Their viewers’ choice for the best-ever episode of MONK airs at 10
pm…and it’s MR. MONK GOES TO MEXICO written by yours truly & William

On top of that, I learned today that my book MR. MONK AND THE BLUE FLU was #18
on Barnes and Noble’s overall mass market bestseller list last week.


Monk Scraps

I’m in the midst of reading the copy-edited manuscript for MR. MONK AND THE TWO ASSISTANTS.  My editor has made some trims and I agree with all of her cuts. But I thought you might get a kick out of this deletion:

We passed the turn-off for Buttonwillow & McKittrick, a collection of fast-food restaurants and gas stations right off the freeway. I didn’t know anything about Buttonwillow, except that it probably wasn’t as charming a place as it sounded. But I’d written a report about McKittrick when I was in fifth grade and I was tempted to terrify Monk by telling him what I knew.

It was a pioneer town that was built to serve the people who mined the natural tar that seeped out of the earth. Because of the intense heat and the sticky gunk, the miners worked in the nude. They
wouldn’t bother cleaning up for lunch, they just gather naked and covered with tar, and sit on newspapers in the communal mess hall. At the end of the day, they’d have to scrape each other clean with knives.

That was an image that would have haunted Monk but I took mercy on him and kept the story to myself.

The passage may still end up in a future MONK book. I have a file of deleted bits and pieces that were either cut in the writing stage or later during the editorial process. I never throw anything out.