The Church isn’t Above the Law

The Los Angeles Times reports today that the LAPD has arrested a school official who covered up reports that a teacher was sexually molesting students.

The dean of students at a South Los Angeles school was arrested
Thursday for allegedly concealing evidence that one of his colleagues,
former Assistant Principal Steve Thomas Rooney, had a sexual
relationship with a student.

Alan Hubbard, 49, was charged with two felony counts of being an
accessory after the fact to a crime and dissuading a witness, according
to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. After
surrendering to Los Angeles police, he was being held in lieu of
$120,000 bail late Thursday and was scheduled to be arraigned today.

What infuriates me is that the police don't arrest Church officials who cover up sexual abuse by priests. The law applies to Church officials as much as it does to educators. What the Church did by protecting child molesters is every bit as reprehensible…and illegal.

Loving REBUS

I've been enjoying a REBUS marathon over the last few days — not the Ian Rankin books, but the terrific TV movie adaptations starring Ken Stott as D.I. John Rebus, taking the role from the woefully miss-cast John Hannah. They are simply terrific…and in some cases, even better than the novels they are based on (in that respect they are akin to the JESSE STONE movies based on the Robert B. Parker novels). Stott is pitch-perfect as Rebus, and the writing is tight, sharp, and  true to the spirit, if not every plot move, of the books. Some of the movies, in fact, could serve as a lesson in adaptation for aspiring screenwriters — the writers get to the heart of what makes each novel work, cutting away the fat, focusing the plot, and amping up the character conflicts. REBUS is the best new traditional British detective series since the late, great INSPECTOR MORSE (though I've got a couple seasons worth of LEWIS, the sequel series with Morse's sidekick, to watch so I may have to revise that opinion). I've got two more movies to watch and then it's over…apparently for good, since Stott doesn't want to do any more of them and, without him, neither does the network. I hope they can lure him back to do an adaption of "Exit Music," the final Rebus novel.

International TV Drama Summit

The MediaXchange, the folks responsible for all of my European TV adventures, is hosting a "TV Drama Summit" June 25-27 in Los Angeles with some of the biggest names in the industry. They will be offering an invaluable, global over-view of where scripted drama is at today…and where it needs to go creatively and financially in the future.

Fox TV Studios, CBS, the Hollywood Reporter, and NATPE are just a few of the major sponsors of the event, which includes speakers like CBS Paramount Network Television president David Stapf, USA Network topper Jeff Wachtel, Scott Free productions president David Zucker, CLOSER showrunner James Duff, HEROES showrunner Tim Kring, Tandem Communications topper Rola Bauer, and my buddy Daniel Hetzer, VP of programming and co-productions at Fox TV Studios, to name just a few.

If you want to compete in the ever-changing, scripted drama industry, here or abroad, you'll want to go to this summit. I'll be there. For more information, visit the MediaXchange site.

Read the Movie

Duane Swierczynski's SEVERANCE PACKAGE reads
like a novelization of a screenplay based on a video game. A group of people are called into the office on a Saturday…and then told by their boss that the company they work for is shutting down, that they are locked in the building (which is boobytrapped with sarin gas, bombs, etc), and that they are all going to be executed…unless they choose to drink a poison cocktail instead.

It's a high
concept idea that ultimately has no substance beyond that. It never
really pays off in terms of character or plot…instead, what we get is
one violent fight sequence after another which would play
much better on screen than it does on the page. On paper, it's monotonous rather than thrilling.
All the fights tend to blend into one another after a while, even though
Duane keeps dialing up the gore in an effort to keep our attention. Overall, the book reads like a
martial arts/espionage twist on the familiar FRIDAY THE 13th/HALLOWEEN
slasher movie formula…with a bunch of victims up against an
unstoppable, almost superhuman, killer.

It's obvious that that Duane
is a wonderfully imaginative, highly skilled writer…but, in my
opinion, he's skating on flash here…he's taking the easy way and not
using his considerable talent to its full potential. He could be
writing great books…noir classics…but instead he's going for
gimmicks, in-jokes, and fights. It's as if in every scene he's trying
to impress his friends ("hey, look at this guys,
it's gonna be cool!") instead of trying to create interesting, believable characters and tell a
compelling story. It's a shame that he's devoting his efforts to superficial splatter-fests when he's clearly capable of writing
something with real substance and staying power.

SEVERANCE PACKAGE would have worked much
better as a comicbook…which it, essentially, is (the cover and the
artwork that's interspersed throughout the book make that comparison
inevitable) or a screenplay, which it probably will become (if it hasn't already). And yet, as hip and edgy as the book wants to be, there's
actually a really dated feel to it all…like you're reading the novelization of the fifth
sequel to BALLISTIC: ECKS VS. SEVER. Haven't we seen the super sexy, invincible, gun-toting martial arts babe a thousand times now?

As I said when he wrote the far superior THE WHEELMAN…he's got a great book in him, but this isn't it. SEVERANCE PACKAGE reflects all the weaknesses of THE WHEELMAN and few
of its many strengths.

Better Late Than Never

A reader alerted me to this review of my book .357 VIGILANTE from Johnny La Rue's Crane Shot blog:

"It's straightforward and clean without
subtext, symbolism or suspense. Some of the dialogue could easily come
out of David Hasselhoff's mouth, it's puerile enough. The book's also a
bit long at 214 pages. But it's a good, brisk read with plenty of
action and pop culture references to make it a slicked-up, dumbed-down
PG-13 version of the Executioner"

I'm always amazed when people discover the .357 VIGILANTE books, since they were obscure even when they were published nearly 25 years ago…

Mr. Monk and the Second Bite at the Apple

Now that MR. MONK IN OUTER SPACE is out in paperback, new reviews are showing up in the blogosphere, including these two.

Greg Morrow at Frothing At the Mouth thinks the book is a pleasant diversion.

The Monk series is perfect popcorn mystery, fun and easy to read.
Goldberg's use of Natalie as narrator means that we spend the most time
in the presence and thoughts of simply the most pleasant character on
the show, making the read even easier.

Winthrop Quiggy at And Then I Read thinks "it's by far the best one I've read in this series," even if he believes I'm not as good an author as I am a screenwriter. I'll take the back-handed compliment! Thanks for the positive reviews, guys.

Big Names in Kentucky

The roster of writers participating in the second  annual International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro Kentucky just keeps getting more and more impressive. LAW AND ORDER showrunner Rene Balcer has been added to an impressive list of speakers that includes CSI creator/showrunner Anthony Zuiker, author Mary Higgins Clark, and actor/author Gene Hackman. The Festival, which features the world premiere of half-a-dozen mystery themed plays, starts June 12 and runs through the 23rd.

Harvesting New Suckers

As I warned back in December, it appears that the Jones Harvest vanity press is following the loathsome example set by Airleaf, the notorious publishing scam, and is targeting the elderly with false promises of bestseller success and instant celebrity. The Airleaf Victims blog reports:

In the past six months, I personally have received nine different
horror stories about Jones Harvest Publishing primarily from senior
citizens who invested thousands of dollars into an Airleaf-type dream
and in all but one case, after they invested and lost thousands of
dollars at Airleaf.

[…]When the
first set of victims came to me in November, I told them to request
their money back as I did all of the future ones who wrote to me. Some
of these new victims had their money returned after they wrote Jones
Harvest a letter threatening to report the company to the FBI and
Attorney General. However, there are other victims whom I have recently
learned about who have not had their money returned.

[…]Another note of interest: Part of the hook is promising reviews to customers. In a standard letter, it stated:
enclosed is a review we've received after sending it to a professional
reviewer… "

People pay Jones Harvest to get their books
reviewed. I read the review. It was signed by Tim, Brien's former phone
receptionist and college nephew. His title under his name was "Media
Researcher and Educator, T&R Reviews." The T&R stands for Tim
and Rosa, Tim's wife. That's really a credible "professional" source to
pay money for, isn't it?

It's no surprise that Jones Harvest is running the same, old scams.  Jones Harvest was founded by former Airleaf exec Brien Jones. I love this part of his pitch, which he has the gall to make to the Airleaf victims:

We will not be satisfied until we place [Your book] in bookstores
everywhere and [You] is a celebrity. This program has a one-time fee
of $7500. There are no further charges of any kind.


Brien Jones, President

In your case, the price is $5,000. That is my way of apologizing for
the past misfortunes AND showing you what we can accomplish at cost.
Please keep this offer confidential. All but a very few authors must
pay full price.

The solicitation is straight out of the Bookman Publishing/Airleaf book of scams and, if the Airleaf Victims report is accurate, is just as dishonest (That said, I have a hard time feeling sympathy for any Airleaf sucker who falls for this scam, too. Those people are beyond stupid…they must be brain dead).

It seems that Jones is intent on meeting the same fate as his mentor Carl Lau, the Bookman/Airleaf conman who lost his vanity press business and is finally being prosecuted by the Indiana Attorney General for his scams. I just hope the Attorney General's office doesn't take as long to investigate Jones Harvest as they did to look into Airleaf.

Devil May Care

…but the reader won't. DEVIL MAY CARE is billed as a new 007 novel by Sebastian Faulks "writing as Ian Fleming." But he's not. He's writing as Richard Maibaum, the Bond screenwriter, only not as well. This feels like a limp effort to rip-off GOLDFINGER…the movie, not the book…and it fails on just about every level. This isn't a bad book, it's not just a very good one. It's literary cool whip and, as an adventure-thriller, not nearly as satisfying as even the weakest book by Barry Eisler (the RAIN series) or Lee Child (the REACHER series). It feels as if Faulks, the brilliant author of the amazing BIRDSONG, dashed this off in a weekend, making it up as he went along. Here's an example of the prose:

Bond lit a cigarette. It was pointless to argue with M
when he had one of these bees in his bonnet. "Is there anything else I
need to know about Dr. Gorner?"

Bees in his bonnet? Not
only is that a cliche, it's not something I would I would expect Bond
to say…Miss Marple maybe, but 007?

DEVIL MAY CARE is filled with references — direct, indirect, figurative, and pastiche — to previous Bond novels and films, characters and situations. Most of all, he tries to evoke FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and GOLDFINGER, practically lifting scenes and characters from those tales and rewriting them in new locales. It doesn't work and only makes you realize how much better those books — and movies — were than this thin and unimaginative novel.

Faulks' own creations are familiar and, at the same time, preposterous. The mwa-ha-ha bad guy is a pale imitation of DR. NO…with a simian hand. Yeah, you read right, one of his hands is exactly like an ape's. And he has a sidekick that's yet another variation of Oddjob and, dare I say it, Jaws.

The biggest problem with the book — beyond the thin writing and familiar scenario — is the depiction of Bond himself, who comes across slow-witted and strangely chaste…and not the least bit dangerous. He may have "cruel eyes," but that's all that's nasty about him. He knocks out bad guys instead of killing them (when doing so puts his own life in jeopardy) and refuses to bed women who offer themselves to him. Ho-hum. Even worse, he makes one dumb move after another… and the reader will be way, way ahead of Bond when it comes to the "twists" in the book, which are so loudly telegraphed that they might as well be emblazoned across the cover.

All in all, DEVIL MAY CARE is a weak tie-in and a poor continuation of the literary franchise. I expected much, much more from an author of Faulks' talents.

UPDATE: I just read an interview with Faulks where he says he purposely wrote the book in six weeks to mirror Fleming's own work-pace. It reads like he wrote it faster than that. By comparison, I wrote most of my DIAGNOSIS MURDER and MONK books in eight week to 12 weeks, often while also writing and producing a TV show or movie, to meet rigid publisher deadlines. My brother Tod wrote his BURN NOTICE tie-in in eight weeks and, though I am obviously biased, it is a hell of a lot better than DEVIL MAY CARE.