Harvey Mapes Isn’t Forgotten

I was stunned today to stumble on Ed Gorman's unexpected tribute to my novel THE MAN WITH THE IRON ON BADGE. He says, in part:

Iron-On is a book that will keep you laughing and smiling all the way through. If you have any affection for the private eye novel, this book should be required reading because in addition to gently spoofing the form it is a story so rich in character and story twists it's truly masterful.[…]But more than the comedy, the beautifully designed plot and the snapshots of La La Land–more than any other element in the book, it's Harvey's voice you'll remember. There's a workaday universality to it that gives the novel its wit and insight and truth.

Thank you, Ed. I'm truly flattered. It is my favorite book of all the ones that I've written. I hope that it's published in trade paperback someday…and does well enough to justify a sequel.


Sorry I have been more or less absent here. I've been working on my second draft of GRACE UNDER FIRE,  a German/Chinese co-production that's tentatively scheduled to be shot in English in early 2010  in Berlin and Shanghai. I got that draft out in the wee hours of the morning today and will probably notes on the polish at the end of the week. 

I've also been working on a couple of TV series pitches with some well-known actors and writing MR. MONK IS CLEANED OUT, my 10th Monk novel, which is due to my publisher very soon.  I'm having a great time with it. 

Outside of my writing life, I've had work to do as membership committee chair for Mystery Writers of America and president of my home owners association. So I couldn't justify spending three hours watching the Emmys last night. It's on my Tivo, but I doubt I'll ever get to it, even to scroll through. I've got two new MONK episodes and the premiere of BORED TO DEATH to catch up on. But today, with the script done (for now), I'm going to concentrate on the Monk book and see if I can make some significant progress this week before other projects demand attention… 

Mr. Monk and the Piss Poor Review

Steven Torres, who reviews short stories at the Nasty, Brutish and Short blog, has given my story "The Case of the Piss Poor Gold" a rave. He says, in part:

This story, however, is not about ADRIAN Monk. It's about a distant relative, Artemis Monk who solves crimes (in his spare time) in a California gold rush town that's still in its unclean infancy.[…] this story is more than just a good puzzle (or two, Monk also quickly wraps up a murder – his powers are prodigous). It is also a good portrait of a mining town and its inhabitants, paying particular attention to the dirt. More importantly for me, the story had me laugh out loud a couple of times, and that is a terribly difficult thing to do on paper. Most funny lines die once written down, but not in Goldberg's hands. That's magic. Well worth the price of the latest Ellery Queen.

Thanks, Steve! 

Stephen King’s Rough Draft

Stephen King's upcoming novel UNDER THE DOME is a reworking of a manuscript called THE CANNIBALS that he wrote and abandoned in 1989 which, itself, was a rethink of a novel he abandoned in the late 1970s. King is sharing the first sixty, original, typed pages...with his handwritten changes…of that 1989 manuscript on his website and it's a fascinating peek into how he works.

(Thanks to Duane Swierczynski for the link)

My Job is to Write

Writer-producer Diane Ademu-John pointed me to this excellent blog post by author John Scalzi on dealing with strangers who want screenwriters and novelists to read their  work, listen to their pitches, etc. He says, in part:

Dear currently unpublished/newbie writers who spend their time bitching about how published/established writers are mean because they won’t read your work/introduce you to their agent/give your manuscript to their editor/get you a job on their television show/whatever other thing it is you want them to do for you:
A few things you should know.

1. The job of a writer is to write. So, I’m looking at one of my book contracts. It says that I need to write a certain type of book (science fiction) of a certain length (100,000 words) by a certain time (er… Hmmm). In return, I get paid a certain amount of money. So that’s the gig.

Here’s what’s not in the contract:

1. That I critique the novels of other people; 

2. That I offer any advice to people on how to get published; 

3. That I arrange introductions to my agent, editor or publisher; 

4. That I do any damn thing, in fact, other than write the book I’ve agreed to write.

The job of a writer is to write.

To which you may say, “Yes, but –” To which I say, you’ve gone one word too far in that sentence.

The rest of the piece is just as brilliant. He's basically saying the same things that Josh Olsen did, only without the anger and profanity that turned off a lot of people.

Farscaping with Carleton

Eastlake-03 There's a great interview with my buddy Carleton Eastlake over at The Write Blog, talking about his experiences writing & producing shows like BURNING ZONE, SEAQUEST, FARSCAPE, and OUTER LIMITS. He says, in part:

I think good science fiction and fantasy, because they break some or many of the rules of the real world, require that the rules of the imagined world be interesting and consistently applied. So much more attention needs to be paid to the mythology.
At the same time, there’s more room, if done in a credible way, to keep things fresh by evolving those rules, making new discoveries…here come The Borg with all sorts of new moral and psychological issues – and very different spacecraft!

On the other hand, it’s a little harder to keep the dramatic, psychological side of a science-fiction show compelling. It’s easier to ignore those concerns or be distracted from them. But if the show is consistent about its rules, then the character side of the show can absolutely work. Crichton and Aeryn on Farscape were very much in love and very much troubled by the moral conflict between running away and having a life, or staying and fighting to save their societies.

It’s also important in a science fiction show that the plot issue of the day be motivated by the implications of the world the show is set in. Attempts to do actual medical or criminal or legal procedural shows in a science fiction setting are very, very hard to pull off – the science fiction side undermines the credibility of the procedural issue, and the procedural issue rarely delivers on the magic and wonder of the setting.


I finally read Charles Willeford's unpublished novel GRIMHAVEN…and its fascinating. It bears a lot of similarity to some of his earlier books and is every bit as compelling, disturbing, and darkly funny. In some ways, its among his best books. But what is most striking about it is what it represents.

The book centers around Hoke Moseley, the unforgettable detective in Willeford's classic, break-through novel MIAMI BLUES. But that novel, and success, came late in Willeford's life. When he was asked to write a sequel to capitalize on his newfound fame, he did the unexpected. 

He wrote a book in which Hoke leaves the force, moves into a drab apartment, and works in his father's hardware store. Hoke attempts to live a life of extreme austerity, cutting his wardrobe down to just two jumpsuits (and no underwear) and eating a hard-boiled egg each day for lunch, among other things. Into this carefully constructed, cold life, come his two teenage daughters, abandoned by his ex-wife, who has run off to L.A. to live with a baseball player. They complicate his life and stretch his thin budget. So Hoke solves this problem by strangling his daughters and leaving their bodies on ice in his shower (which he continues to use to wash up each day). He eventually dumps the bodies in his father's empty home and drives to Los Angeles to murder his ex-wife. The only reason he wants to kill her is so he can be imprisoned in California, where he'd face death in the gas chamber for her murder as opposed to the electric chair in Florida for killing his daughters. Either way, Hoke figures he can enjoy ten good, solitary years in prison, enjoying the austere "simple life" he'd wanted,  before his inevitable execution.  

I enjoyed the book immensely on several levels. But its real literary value is what it tells us about Willeford the writer. It's like a 2oo page statement on Willeford's fear of success…and his resentment at the demands and challenges writing commercial fiction would place on him. Or so I assume, I didn't know the man and I'm not a shrink. But what other way is there to read it? 

Taken on its own, GRIMHAVEN is a masterful piece of work and pure, unadulterated Willeford. As a MIAMI BLUES sequel, it's a calculated fuck you to the character, the publisher,  the readers and his career. It would be like following up the pilot of MONK by having Adrian rape and murder Sharona, then dispose of her body with acid in his bathtub.

Naturally, Willeford's agent took one look at the GRIMHAVEN manuscript and said there was no way in hell he could send it to the publisher…it would be career suicide and would squander a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Willeford wisely took his agent's advice and shelved the book…but not entirely. He ended up cannibalizing its best parts, and making them even better, in the three fantastic Hoke Moseley books that followed. 

GRIMHAVEN is only legally available to be read at the Willeford Archive at the Broward County Library. I was fortunate to be sent the manuscript a few years ago from Willeford's widow (as a result of refusing to read a bootleg copy that was offered to me). I don't know why I waited so long to finally read it…but it was worth the wait. It's a fascinating piece of work…and a revealing glimpse into Charles Willeford creative life. 

New Tricks Becoming Old Tricks

Broadcast magazine reports that the UK mystery series NEW TRICKS, about a bunch of retired cops solving crimes, has been picked up for two more seasons, guaranteeing the show at least an eight season run. That said, their idea of a "season" is eight 60-minute episodes. So, after eight years, they will have made as many episodes as a typical American network series does in three. 

The UK Loves Its Crime Writers

Broadcast reports that ITV3, a UK TV network, has struck a deal with the Crimes Writers Association to air their awards and run documentaries on their nominees.

ITV3 has secured the Crime Thriller Awards for another three years, after signing a deal with Specsavers, Cactus TV and the Crime Writers Association.ITV3 will broadcast a six-week season of crime and drama programming each year and Cactus will produce 6x 60-minute docs profiling nominated authors ahead of the awards’ broadcast.

Can you imagine an American network striking a deal like that with the Mystery Writers of America?

I Will Not Read Your F–king Script, Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about how Josh Olson wrote a great piece explaining why he won't reading your script…and that, on the same day that I read his article, I had an experience that proved him right. Here's what happened. A stranger wrote me:

I have a great idea for a TV series…oops, you've heard that a million times. But really I do. Can I send you the Treatment I have written and get some help pitching it?

I replied:

Nope. (And you are the 27th person to ask me that today. No kidding. And the day isn't over yet).

…and I sent him a link to Olson's piece. And within minutes, he was twittering things like this:

Sick of arrogant TV writers who write crap that we have to watch on TV.

And this:

I am talking about Lee Goldberg…what a f'n snob…and he sucks.

Today, he sent me this note:

I joined Facebook in part, my arrogant friend, to sell my book and to network. That is what Facebook is for in part, as well as reconnecting with family and old friends. Therefore, I reached out to you to network. But like the arrogant prick you are, instead of simply saying no thanks, or ignoring my request, you slap me around as if I was a moron. I had a bad day yesterday, involving one of my children, and didn't need your snotty lecture. So go away. I get your drift. You got lucky and think you are somebody now. But know this, my arrogant friend, what you dish out to the world comes back to you.

And the replies from his friends to his twitters reflected a similar point-of-view:

fuck Lee Goldberg and his arrogance. He lives in a phony world of recycling idiot ideas. Perhaps I'm missing something, but has any Hollywood writer *lately* managed to write a good work of fiction? I dunno, perhaps Lee Goldberg has some sort of defense for that episode of "She Spies" that he helped write in committee.

And this from the guy who initially wrote me:

What does Lee Goldberg write – that Monk nonsense? That's why I spend the evening (when not writing or reading) flipping through the numbing crap on TV that is written by the arrogant "professionals" full of themselves that they can't mentor a struggling author along.

Of course, he thought well enough of me to hit me up to read his stuff…I became an arrogant asshole and author of mind-numbing crap after I said no.

I am stunned by the arrogance of these people, telling me that my professional success isn't the result of talent or hard work, but rather it is some kind of entitlement. And that by not reading their work, or listening to their ideas, or coaching them on pitching, I am an asshole. My time is their time to do with as they please. They also assume that I am not interested in helping anyone else achieve what I have.

These jerks know nothing about me, or the time and effort I devote to sharing my experience with others. They don't know about the many days I spend each year teaching TV writing, giving seminars, or speaking about writing at high schools, universities, conferences, and libraries locally, nationwide and around the world, mostly for free. 

In the last six weeks, for example, I spent seven days at the International Mystery Writers Festivalin Owensboro, Kentucky teaching, speaking, and moderating seminars on tv and mystery writing to the public. At no charge. I taught a three-hour course on TV writing to students at Cal State Northridge. At no charge. And I spent a day giving a seminar on TV writing to a delegation from China Central Television.

But what I didn't do is drop everything in my life to read some stranger's treatment, listen to his idea for a TV series, and coach him on how to pitch. 

So obviously I am an arrogant, talentless, asshole.

I have committed the unforgiveable sin of deciding how to use my time and how best to give back to others. And not letting some stranger decide for me. 

So, when it comes to this guy and all those outraged, wanna-be writers who they think own me and my time, I think Josh Olson really nailed it when he said:

I will not read your fucking script.

UPDATE 9-11-09: The pissed off stranger who wanted me to read his treatment has responded. What follows is his email to me, verbatim, minus the title and link to his self-published "manifesto" on new belief system that will revolutionize society.

Blah, blah, blah. Whippy shit. Whining ahole. If you spent all the time trashing me trying to help me instead, we might both have a better feeling about you. Doth protest too much, my friend. You have a guilty conscience as you should. Hard work, my ass, you got lucky, friend, pure and simple. Given the chance, I would write you off the page.

And look who's talking about people skills. All you had to do numbnut, was ignore me, or give me a website where to send my treatment, an address, something. Instead, you bastard, you give me a snide, insensitive stupid article. And a bunch of messages that are just pure mean-spirited. I might be dying of cancer or have a kid dying of cancer, but you don't care.

Who says I want to succeed in Hollywood anyway – if it's populated by untalented, arrogant mean-spirited likes of you, I don't need it. It will be TV's loss not to have my treatment.

Read my book, XYZ

Know what it says, you strunes – death is the only reality. I will certainly see you at some point there, in some afterlife. And maybe I'll buy you a beer, and then again, maybe I won't.