The Press-Enterprise reports that 11-year-old Nicholas Barry of Riverside, California has read 1,282,442 words so far since August, quite an achievement…and a nice, even number that Adrian Monk would appreciate. So I guess it’s no surprise that Nicholas counts the Monk books among his favorites:
Nicholas, a Riverside resident, said he reads so much because he enjoys it.
"I love the challenge. I don’t do it for the prizes," he said.
Some of Nicholas’s favorite books are the "Star Wars" series by
Timothy Zahn and the "Monk" series by Lee Goldberg. The Accelerated
Reader program lets students take quizzes on the books they enjoy and
allows them to read an assortment of books which benefits the students,
"It inspires kids to read. They get to read what they want," he said.
I love mysteries, but I’m burned out on all the cliches. I won’t read about one more drunken, divorced cop with a tragic past. I wish more authors had the same attitude as author Laura Wilson. She writes in RED HERRINGS, the UK Crimes Writers Association newsletter (and in Shots Magazine), that she consciously avoided the cliches when she started her new series:
I decided, at the outset, that I did not want DI Stratton to be a conventionally flawed crime protagonist. He is neither a drunk, a compulsive gambler, nor an adulterer, and his psyche isn’t scarred by past personal tragedy — but nor is he a hero of lonely integrity walking the mean streets or a Dixon of Dock Green-like, salt-of-the-earth embodiment of law and order. He is an ordinary man with a realistic background […] lower middle class and father of two, he lives with his family and works in the West End. He is an intelligent, humorous man, but with rudimentary education; cynical, but kind and humane; happily married, but with a wandering eye. Above all, he is pragmatic.
I have a theory that when an author becomes really, really big, the editors don’t read the manuscripts very closely, if at all. That’s especially true with Robert B. Parker. His books are usually laced with errors (for instance, in his latest Jesse Stone novel, STRANGER IN PARADISE, the spelling of the name of a big estate keeps changing). What brings this to my mind today is a sentence on page 169 of Sue Grafton’s S IS FOR SILENCE that really boggles me. Her heroine Kinsey Milhone is in a sleazy motel room and makes this observation:
My bedspread smelled musty, and I was happy I didn’t see the article about dust mites until the following week.
How could she have been happy about something that hadn’t happened yet?!
The Archive of American Television has begun posting on YouTube some of their 500 incredible interviews with the pioneers of television. Interviewees include Fred Silverman, Alan Alda, Sherwood Schwartz, James Arness, Dick Van Dyke, Roy Huggins, Sid Caesar, Quincy Jones, Carroll O’Connor, Bob Carroll & Madelyn Pugh Davis, Andy Griffith, Leslie Moonves, Hershel Burke Gilbert, Everett Greenbaum , Bob Mackie, Leonard Stern, Milton Berle, William Shatner, Carl Reiner and many, many more. The interviews are in-depth — typically three to six hours long — and are a master class in television. It’s truly a remarkable resource. I won’t admit how many hours I’ve spent today watching the interviews when I should have been working…
I’ve got some good news to share…my original screenplay "Mapes For Hire," based on my novel THE
MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, has been nominated for an Angie Award at the second annual International Mystery Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky …even better, the script will be performed on stage like an old-time radio show during the festival at the Riverpark Center. Other nominees in this category include scripts by Ray Bradbury, Rupert Holmes, and my friend Robert S. Levinson, so I am in very good company.The winner gets a statuette, a couple of grand in cash, and maybe even a bucket of Colonel Sanders fried chicken. All of that would be nice, but I can’t wait to "hear" my script performed, which is prize enough for me.
My brother Tod writes today about the fun he’s having writing the BURN NOTICE books…and what he’s learning about himself as a writer
along the way:
I must say that writing this sort of comic noir is pretty damn fun to
do. I’ve got two more to write after this one, each with a
substantially longer deadline, thank god, and I’ve really had to teach
myself that I don’t need to have an unreliable narrator facing some
sort of mortal pain in every line, like many of my stories and novels
previously have had, and that it’s okay to just have fun, line by line,
day by day, writing for the entertainment of it all. I’ve been asked by
a lot of people why I decided to do these books and my answer has been
the same each time: It seemed like it would be pretty cool. It seemed
like I’d reach about 50,000 more readers than I usually do. It seemed
like a great way to learn, again, how to write something completely out
of my comfort zone, to challenge myself in new and interesting ways.
I knew he’d like it. It will be interesting to see how he feels a year from now after he’s written two of these books and is well into his third.
Tod asked me the other day how I kept up the pace. That’s when I realized that I’ve written 17 novels since 2003, 15 of which have been published, one that’s coming in July, and one that I’m in the midst of now.
I didn’t really have answer for him. I like to write, for one thing. And I live in fear…writing is how I pay the bills and if I am not writing, I start worrying about ending up boiling hamburgers at McDonalds while my wife sells her body on Sunset.
That’s not to say I don’t feel the pressure, but lately it has eased up a bit. Since I dropped the DIAGNOSIS MURDER books, I’m not writing a new book every 90 days any more…and, at the moment, I’m not running a TV series or jetting back and forth to Europe every two weeks either. So writing this latest book hasn’t been quite the same kind of juggling act, though I am certainly feeling my deadline approaching in eight weeks.
And I am eager to write something which, as Tod says, takes me outside of my comfort zone.
"The Past Tense" novel in the DIAGNOSIS MURDER series was like that — I set the book in the 1960s (I’d never written anything that was "present day") and wrote Mark Sloan from first-person instead of third person. It was scary and tough and I was certain I would fail. But it turned out to be the best-reviewed book in the series and one of the few times a paperback original TV tie-in got noticed in the mainstream press. I’m very proud of it. I also tried a little narrative-trick in the DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel "The Double Life" that was scary, and I like to think that I pulled it off. Whether I did or not, it gave me a thrill just trying it and powered me through whatever exhaustion I was feeling at the time.
The first MONK was also a challenge for me — writing in first person from a woman’s point-of-view. It worked, too. But now I have done that for seven books and am comfortable with it. I need to shake myself up again. I don’t know what that new writing challenge will be, but hopefully 2008 will be the year I take it on.
Mr. Monk in Outer Space is another typically well-crafted effort
from Lee Goldberg. The scenes flow seamlessly and quickly, the dialogue
is always fun, and while some of the situations frankly stretch the
limits of believability, there is some indefinable quality to
Goldberg’s writing that makes us believe it anyway. There may be some
readers who will say that writing novels based on a television series
is easier than conventional fiction, because the readers will already
have a sense of the characters from having watched the program. But
this reviewer is not a watcher of television, and has never seen a Monk
program. Yet the characters still leap off the page as clearly defined
people, some of them from real life, but more often than not clever
The MWA anthology BLUE RELIGION, edited by Michael Connelly, scored a rave review from Publisher’s Weekly:
The Mystery Writers of America presents a high-quality anthology of 19 original stories that explore a wide range of police experiences, from newcomer Polly Nelson’s superb tale set in 1864 Kansas, "Burying Mr. Henry," to editor Connelly’s powerful and grim Harry Bosch investigation into a young disabled boy’s death, "Father’s Day." The sordid mean streets, depicted in Persia Walker’s "Such a Lucky, Pretty Girl," are nicely balanced with the lighter touches of Jon Breen’s "Serial Killer," a darkly comic tale in which two police detectives recount one of their cases to a community college writing class. TV writer Paul Guyot contributes one of the volume’s strongest selections, "What a Wonderful World," about a cop’s obsessive search for the killer of a hot dog vendor. This is one of those rare themed anthologies that can be enjoyed at one sitting.
I was chairperson of the MWA committee that selected half of the stories for the book, so I’m very happy about the review. And I am doubly pleased to see my friend Paul Guyot’s story singled out for praise.