Charles Willeford With A Dolphin

Alba-flipper-400a0515  There's a story behind the shame I share with Jessica Alba… 

My good friend Ernie Wallengren co-created the NEW ADVENTURES OF FLIPPER for Samuel Goldwyn Jr.. Ernie was brought in, if memory serves, to rewrite a previous script/format by another writer that didn't win over Goldwyn. So Ernie wrote the pilot, shot it in Florida, and wanted Bill Rabkin & I to come in as producers for the series. We'd just come off of THE COSBY MYSTERIES and were looking for a job…but we really didn't want to do the show. But we owed Ernie big time, so we went in with him to meet Goldwyn and talk about the show. Goldwyn told us that he wanted the  show to be  "like a Charles Willeford novel, but with a dolphin."  Ernie had no idea who Willeford was, but Bill & I did, so we played along, fighting laughter all the way. After the meeting, Goldwyn told Ernie we were perfect for the show…but by the time they were ready to make a deal with us, we got a gig on SEAQUEST and bowed out. Ernie didn't mind us going to another show, he knew it was better for our careers and our bank accounts, but he insisted we find him someone else to take our place…so we recommended our friend Terry Winter, who we'd worked with on COSBY and who was desperate for a gig. Ernie signed him up right away. 

Flash forward six or eight months. SEAQUEST had been cancelled and I was having a friendly lunch with Ernie, who was miserable. He was complaining about how hard it was to come up with stories for his show. I told him to stop whining, it was easy — I could come up with three stories for FLIPPER before dessert. So he said "Go ahead, smartass." So, just to be funny, I pitched "Cape Flipper," a dolphin take on Cape Fear.  A killer that Flipper put away comes back to settle the score. Ernie's face lit up. "You've got an assignment. I need it in four days." I laughed, because I was joking. Ernie laughed, because he wasn't. I tried to talk him out of it, but he was quick to remind me how much we owed him. (He'd hired us on staff on two series early in our careers).

I don't remember why Bill wasn't at the lunch, or what his reaction was when I told him we had an assignment to write "Cape Fear with a dolphin," but I do know he took the writing of the script in stride. I struggled with it. It was fun for Bill and hell for me. The only pleasure I got out of the show was that the bad guy is reading my book MY GUN HAS BULLETS in one of the scenes. 

We ended up writing a second episode of FLIPPER that was even worse (it was called "That's A Moray," which should tell you how awful it was), but I don't remember how that one came about.  All I remember is that Lois Chiles, the female lead from the 007 movie MOONRAKER, was the guest star. 

The only thing FLIPPER is memorable for is, of course, Jessica Alba. Ernie discovered her when she was twelve or thirteen and I have to give him credit — even then, he knew that she was going to be a big star. He must have said it a hundred times. It was hard for me to see her potential from a FLIPPER episode,  but he saw her future very clearly. 

The Shame I Share with Jessica Alba

Here is the second worst thing I have ever written: the "Cape Flipper" (later retitled "Past Tense") episode of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF FLIPPER, which starred a young Jessica Alba. But Jessica and I are not alone in our shame. Emmy Award-winning SOPRANO's exec producer Terry Winter also worked on this little-seen show, which was set in Florida but shot down in Australia.

Sexually Active Senior Living

Who knew that retirement homes were a great place to pick up chicks? My Mom reveals the sordid truth in this short excerpt from her sequel-in-progress to  Active Senior Living, her fictionalized memoir:

I was sitting in the lobby lounge with my buddy Larry, just passing the time of day before we went in to dinner when Dale came over and sat down on my other side and began talking to me.

"Do you like movies?" he asked.

" Yes, " I said.

Dale was all smiles. " You know, they show a movie here every night upstairs in the media room. I could come to your apartment and get you and we could go together. How about if we do that tonight?"

" No thank you," I said.

" It's an hour before dinner. Let's go to the park. I still drive and my car is out in front. Come on," he said , reaching for my arm.

I pulled my arm away and said, " No, thank you, I don't want to go to the park."

Dale leaned in closer, as if he had a secret to tell me.  " Do you have a DVD player?"

" Yes, why?"

" I have a lot of movies. I could bring one to your apartment tonight. It's more fun if you watch a DVD with someone else. What time should I come over?"

" I'm not interested in watching a DVD with you," I said, leaning away from him.

" Well, then," he said, all smiles again, " Let's just go to the park together. They have benches and we could sit together and just enjoy the sunshine."

" My answer is still no," I said , hoping my tone showed that I had enough of his asking me to do something with him.

"What's your apartment number?" he asked. " I'll just come over tonight and we can visit or watch t.v. together."

"I'm not giving you my apartment number," I said , " I don't want you to come over so get that idea out of your head."

Larry who had been sitting quietly and listening to all this began to laugh. Dale looked at him, as if noticing him for the first time.

" And who are you?" Dale asked.

" I'm Larry and I don't want to watch a DVD with you, or go to a movie, or sit together to watch t.v. and don't ask me to go to the park, either."

Well, I burst out laughing at Larry's response to Dale.  Dale, on the other hand, didn't find it funny and stood up, putting his hand on my shoulder. " If you change your mind and you want to get together after dinner just give me a call. I'm in apartment 104."

And with that parting request he left the lounge area.

" I think you made a conquest, " Larry said.

We were still laughing as we headed in to dinner.

2010 Scribe Award Finalists Announced

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers is pleased to announce the finalists for the fourth annual Scribe Awards, which honors excellence in the field of media tie-in writing for books published in 2009.  The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held at Comic-Con International July 22-25 in San Diego.



AS THE WORLD TURNS: THE MAN FROM OAKDALE by “Henry Coleman” & Alina Adams

CSI: BRASS IN POCKET by Jeff Mariotte







ENEMIES & ALLIES by Kevin J. Anderson



GI JOE: RISE OF THE COBRA by Max Allan Collins

THE TUDORS: THY WILL BE DONE by Elizabeth Massie


CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon

BANDSLAM: THE NOVEL by Aaron Rosenberg



Bizarre Question: The Sequel

The same woman who asked me yesterday if I knew any agents who specialized in "jewish psychic detectives" approached me again today as I was signing books after my screenwriting panel with April Smith, George Mastras, Donald Bain, and Derek Haas.

"Do you know of any agents or producers who are looking for screenplays about a university called Griffin University — but I have to change the name to a different university because there is a Griffin University — that lures in the most creative students only to kill them because they are on a secret mission to eradicate creativity in the year 2310?"

"Yes, I do," I said.  "Unfortunately, the agents and producers who specialize in scripts about universities with secret plans to eradicate creativity already have so many scripts about universities with secret plans to eradicate creativity that they just aren't taking any more."

"Are they set in 2310?"

"A lot of them are," I said. 

"Oh, that's a shame," she said and looked over at screenwriter Derek Haas, sitting a few seats down from me, signing books. He co-wrote WANTED (the movie with Angelina Jolie), 3:10 TO YUMA, and DECEIT.  I am very jealous of him.

"Do you think that he might know of producers who are still looking for screenplays about a university with a secret plan to eradicate creativity in 2310?" she asked.

"He definitely would," I said. "You should go ask him."

When I left the conference a few minutes later, she was talking to him and he looked as if he was in pain. I won't say that I ran out of the hotel, but I was moving very quickly.

Bizarre Question of the Day

I am at Left Coast Crime and a woman just asked me "do you know any agents who specialize in Jewish psychic detectives?"
"No," I said. "But I am curious why you asked me."
"You're Jewish and you write Monk."

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

The Man with the Iron-On Badge Kindle-fied

Badge2 “As dark and twisted as anything Hammett or Chandler ever dreamed up […] leaving Travis McGee in the dust.” Kirkus, Starred Review

 My favorite, and most acclaimed book, THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE, is now available in a Kindle edition. Up until now, this Shamus Award-nominated novel has only been available in a hard-to-find, out-of-print, hardcover edition.

It’s about Harvey Mapes, a 26-year-old security guard who spends his nights in a guard shack outside a gated community in Southern California, reading detective novels, watching reruns, and waiting for his life to finally start. He gets the chance to become a “private eye” when a homeowner asks Harvey to follow his wife. The only problem is, Harvey has learned everything he knows about detective work from mystery novels and “Magnum PI” reruns. Harvey quickly discovers that the difference between fiction and reality could be fatal.

Here’s just a sampling of the critical response:

“Approaching the level of Lawrence Block is no mean feat, but Goldberg succeeds with this engaging PI novel. Publishers Weekly 

“A wonderfully fresh voice in the mystery genre, Goldberg will delight fans of Janet Evanovich and Robert Crais,” – Rick Riordan, author of “Percy Jackson & the Olympians”

“Lee Goldberg bravely marches into territory already staked out by some fierce
competition–Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, the early Harlan Coben–and comes out virtually unscathed.” The Chicago Tribune

“Goldberg has a knack for combining just the right amount of humor and realism with his obvious love for the PI genre and his own smart ass sensibilities. THE MAN WITH THE IRON ON BADGE is a terrific read. Goldberg is the real deal and should be on everyone’s must read list.” Crimespree Magazine 

The Man With The Iron-On Badge is a quick, fun read with a satisfying and unexpected ending. Harvey Mapes is a hero I hope we see in a sequel.” — Phillip Margolin, author of “Gone But Not Forgotten”

You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire, Part 14

Three Ways to Die1  Joe Konrath recently changed the covers for some of his weaker-selling Kindle books and saw his sales shoot up overnight. He suggested that I do the same thing for some of my books and I am following his advice. I just changed the covers for my short story collection THREE WAYS TO DIE and DIE, MR. JURY, my compilation of the four .357 VIGILANTE novels. I'm very curious to see if he's right.

I've also updated THE WALK to include the first three chapters ofDie Mr Jury1l   Joe's novel THE LIST… and MY GUN HAS BULLETS to include a chapter of his book SUCKERS.  He's done the same for me. It will be interesting to see if this cross promotion boosts both of our sales. It could be a month or two, though, before we see a spike, if there is even going to be one, since lot of folks download books as impulse buys and then don't get around to reading them for quite a while.

I have to hand it to Joe, he has been the trailblazer when it comes to exploiting all the possible potential out of selling books on the Kindle. And he's been right more than he's been wrong…and has had the success to prove it. He's on track to earn more than $40K this year in Kindle royalties from stuff that was in a drawer. 

But he's also realistic. He offers some very sobering advice on his blog this week to aspiring authors who think they can follow in his footsteps and by-pass entirely the struggle to get an agent and have your book bought by publisher. Bottom line: you probably can't.