Jan Remembered

I am just catching up on all the comments, tributes and blog posts about my mother Jan Curran, who died last week.  Desert Sun reporter Bruce Fessier, who wrote my mother's obituary, also wrote this touching blog post:

Jan Curran, my dear friend and an enormously popular society editor for The Desert Sun and Palm Springs Life in the 1980s and ''90s, died Tuesday night at her “active senior living” home in Calabasas. Her four adult kids were at her bedside.

She survived Lupus for more than 35 years and was given so many terminal diagnoses for cancer, we stopped believing she was mortal.

Late last year, they ran out of chemotherapy drugs to give her. She had used everything they had to offer and grown immune to each and every one. But she not only survived with a smile on her face, she published a novel after she was supposed to have been dead.

It was based on her life after being forced to move from La Quinta to be closer to her daughters and eldest son. It was called “Active Senior Living.”

I have the unpleasant task of writing an obituary about this woman who made society writing an art form.

In many ways, I like this post even more than the obituary that he wrote for her.  My cousin Danny Barer shared some thoughts about my Mom on his blog. He wrote, in part:

I've been watching the Japanese animated series "Tegami Bachi," in which one of the underlying conceits is that a person's humanity, or "heart," is a quantifiable and finite energy, and that letters or other writings are like batteries that store within them the "heart" of the person who writes them — an energy into which the reader taps. Jan undoubtedly poured a lot of her heart into her writings. And her writings remain — on her blog, in her Facebook posts, in the two books she wrote, and in her children's writings. The ability to preserve the energy of humanity through writing is one that should never be taken lightly. It allows portions wonderful people like Jan to remain after they themselves have left us.

Mom's old friend Ann Erdman blogged about her as well. She remembered Mom's campaign to make sure chemotherapy patients had plenty to read as they underwent treatment:

Aside from the obvious, one of the things that annoyed Jan about chemotherapy treatments was the lack of enough current magazines and books to go around. So she began taking her own magazines to the hospital to share with fellow chemotherapy patients, and the Jan Curran Fan Club was born.

A few years ago I headed to the desert for the inaugural gathering of the Jan Curran Fan Club. I stayed at her house (she lived in La Quinta then) and we drove to the Palm Springs Tennis Club for a wonderful luncheon where 50 or 60 people gathered in an outdoor pavilion. Magazines and paperbacks were everybody's ticket in. It was a long but productive day, and Jan was exhausted by the time we got back to La Quinta. We had a fun yet low-key slumber party, just the two of us, and lingered over breakfast and a long visit the next morning.

Everyone who was there that day took a vow to donate magazines and paperbacks to chemotherapy units, and the word spread to as far away as England and Germany.

Recently Mike Barer established a Facebook page for the Jan Curran Fan Club. How about joining it in Jan's memory?

My Mom's cousin David Zarkin blogged about her, too. He said, in part:

More than a cousin, she was my friend. She was an amazing journalist and storyteller with a great sense of humor. She will be well remembered by many wonderful people in Palm Springs where she has supportive friends and was a reporter with the Sun for many years. Jan could count among her friends the late President Ford, Sonny Bono, Artie Shaw and the actor Mel Ferrer. The collection of photos in her home of fabulous people she knew in her Palm Springs life is fresh in my memory.

Some of the most touching and moving comments about my Mom came from complete strangers…people who got to know her through her book, "Active Senior Living." Here are the ones that I shared in my eulogy. K . Jacobson said:

After reading your mom's book, she and I exchanged several emails and I treasure them. She changed my life and my attitude towards senior living and the obstacles that I faced. I can only imagine what it would have been like to know her in person. Please share that my thoughts and prayers will be with the family and her friends.

Elaine Benizzi said:

Lee, your Mom's book "Active Senior Living", was read by me during a unsettling time in my life and gave me great hope for my husbands health. I was prompted to write her a note which she responded to so gracefully. I am truly sorry for your loss, she was a kind and wonderful woman.

Sheri Bell said:

Oh, Lee, I am heartbroken to hear this news. Your mother's book was the very first book I purchased and read on my Kindle. As others have mentioned, we feel almost as if we knew your mother through her writing… and as such, she (and her marvelous sense of humor) will be sorely missed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time of loss and sadness. May your mother's courage, sense of humor and enduring spirit live on through the writing — and the intimate part of her life — that she shared with us all.

Irene Shaw said:

I'm crying as I write this, because I felt as I know many people did, that I knew Jan. Her book was the first download on my new Kindle back in February. I so wish I could have met her. She fought the damn big C for so long, with such grace and humor. RIP, girl! And prayers for you and your family, Lee.

These are just a few of the hundreds of comments, emails and condolences that me, my brother Tod, and my sisters Linda and Karen have received over the last week. We have shared and read them all. On behalf of my family, I want to thank you for your kind words and good wishes. They have meant a lot to us.

Get Badged

GOLDBERG_Iron_On_Badge_FINAL Of all the books that I've written, my favorite is THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE. It was nominated for the Best Novel Shamus award by the Private Eye Writers of America, and won quite a lot of critical acclaim, before falling out-of-print. Here's a sampling:

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

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

I want to introduce THE MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE to the next wave of new Kindle, iPad, and Nook owners this holiday season… and to do that, I’d like send you a FREE COPY of the novel in whatever eformat you prefer (epub, PDF, txt, html, etc). Here’s all that you have to do:

1. Send me an email at lee@leegoldberg.com with the subject FREE BADGE BOOK and give me your name and the address of your website or blog (don’t have one? That’s okay. Read on).

2. Agree to post a review, positive or negative (but with no spoilers!) on your blog, website, Goodreads page, Facebook page, or the Amazon listing for MAN WITH THE IRON-ON BADGE by Christmas Day. (You don't have to buy the book on Amazon to review it there, you only need to have an account). 

3. Email me a copy of the review or a link to the post.

This offer is limited to the first 50 people who respond by November 30.

The book is 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. It finally happens when Cyril Parkus, one of the wealthy residents, asks Harvey to follow his beautiful wife Lauren. 

The lowly security guard jumps at the opportunity to fulfill his private eye fantasies and use everything he’s learned from Spenser, Magnum, and Mannix. But things don’t exactly go according to the books…or the reruns. As Harvey fumbles and stumbles through his first investigation, he discovers that the differences between fiction and reality can be deadly. 

With the help of his mortgage broker neighbor and occasional lover Carol, Harvey uncovers a blackmail plot that takes a sudden and unexpectedly tragic turn…plunging him into a world of violence, deception and murder… and forcing him to discover what it really takes to be a private eye. 

Here's a sampling of some more of the critical praise the book received from authors and critics…

“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"

I hope you will like it, too!

Walla Walla Octopus

PB060133 The big story gripping my mother's hometown of  Walla Walla Washington this past weekend was the controversy over a mural on the front of Inland Octopus, a toy store on Main Street. What amused me was a letter-to-the-editor from David Castleman of Dayton, WA slamming the mural's supporters. He wrote, in part:

"Those good folks who applaud the tawdriness adorning Inland Octopus are the folks who eat at McDonald's and ship at WalMart. They applaud the tawdry, the ill-conceived and the ill-produced. The painter's ostensible deity is Warhol, his priests the Simpsons, his bible the comic strips for domestic imbecility. His admirers pick their noses at stop signs and relieve the expiscations upon their skirts and trousers." 

I have to admit that I had to look up expiscation in the dictionary. 

Chandler’s Big Bender

51GG9p2iEZL._SS500_ I'm in Walla Walla, Washington for my mother's funeral…but while I am away, my friend Bill Peschel has kindly stepped in to keep my blog going with an excerpt from his terrific and very entertaining new book Writers Gone Wild. Here's a story about Raymond Chandler, John Houseman, three double martinis, a doctor,  a limo and a screenplay…

Some writers go to great lengths to finish a work. To finish a screenplay, Raymond Chandler got tanked.

At fifty-seven, the writer’s best work was behind him when he was hired by Paramount for a rush job. The studio’s leading actor, Alan Ladd, had been drafted into the army, and the executives wanted to keep his profile with the public alive by releasing a movie while he was away. A script wasn’t ready, but Chandler offered to write a new one based on his half-finished novel, “The Blue Dahlia.”

But with the date for Ladd’s induction set, shooting began with only part of the script written. Chandler workedfast, but as the filming caught up, the executives worried whether he could finish on time. With only two weeks left, a Paramount executive called Chandler and offered him a $5,000 bonus if he succeeded.

The next day, a shaken Chandler met with the producer, John Houseman. The offer, he said, implied they had no faith in him. It was an insult to his honor to take a bonus for a job he had agreed to do. Now, he didn’t think he could even finish the script except under one condition: He would have to get drunk.He always wrote faster that way.

Chandler had a list of his needs: two limousines with drivers available around the clock to fetch a doctor, deliver script pages to the studio, and drive the maid to market; secretaries to take dictation; and a direct phone line to Houseman.

Houseman considered the risks. Chandler hadbeen a heavy drinker most of his life before drying out. A relapse could kill him. Still, the movie had to be made, and he didn’t have any alternative. He agreed, and at a celebratory lunch, Chandler loaded up with three double martinis and three double stingers.

For eight days, Chandler drank, passed out, wrote, drank, and passed out again. Twice a day, the doctor shot him up with vitamins and fed him glucose intravenously. Chandler finished the job with days to spare but spent the next month recuperating in bed. The script’s last line was “Did somebody say something about a drink of bourbon?”

Jan Curran

My mother, Jan Curran, passed away on Monday night with her family at her side. Those of you who have read my blog for some time know she was an out-going, funny, and very talented woman and, like me and siblings, was a writer. She had been ill for some time and moved to Ventura to be closer to her family. She wrote about her new life in an active senior living home in a funny and touching self-published book entitled "Active Senior Living." The incredibly enthusiastic and warm response that she got from hundreds of readers all over the country gave her enormous comfort and joy over the last year. Bruce Fessier wrote a great obituary for my mother for the Palm Springs Desert Sun, the newspaper where she worked. Here it is.

Jan Curran, a popular society editor and features writer for The Desert Sun and Palm Springs Life, died Monday night at her assisted living home in Ventura — almost 35 years after being told she had six months to live.

Curran, 73, contracted lupus when she was a single mother of four kids working at the Contra Costa Times in the East Bay. Her youngest son, Tod Goldberg of La Quinta, said the family created a contingency plan for her death and “There was the very real sense that somebody would take us away.”

Curran had battled different types of cancer since 1995. But she also wrote two books and lived to see all of her children become published authors.

Her physician, Dr. Joel Hirschberg, said, “No matter what happened to her medically, she just had the most wonderful attitude.

“She had an illness that potentially could have been very severe and disabling, yet you would never know to look at her that she had any problems,” he said. “She would just smile and look at everybody else around her and just decide that her problems were very manageable compared to the rest of those out there.”

“I think she was the funniest, bravest person I ever knew,” added society journalist Gloria Greer. “Such great humor, and she was sick for so long.”

Curran, who covered society events for the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune in the 1970s, joined the Jones Agency as an advertising executive in 1985 and soon began covering events for Palm Springs Life magazine.

She was The Desert Sun's society editor from 1988 to 1996, following Allene Arthur. She was the newspaper's last full-time society editor, but covered the rapid growth of social activities in country clubs and fundraising events as the desert population grew east from Palm Springs.

“There was a time that Jan knew everybody,” said Hirschberg, who was active in the Arthritis Foundation's Coachella Valley chapter.

“There wasn't a social event that would actually go on without her being involved in it. And she always brought bright sunshine to the room.”

Current director of society coverage for The Desert Sun Betty Francis said Curran brought her own humor and glamour to the position.

“I thought Allene was the most fair and balanced and kind society (editor) we ever had,” she said. “Jan came along with a little more edge and glamour and was pretty enough and well dressed enough to compete with the various celebrities she was interviewing. Looking at the big picture of society, she brought more glamour.”

Funeral services in her native Walla Walla, Wash., are pending. Goldberg also said a memorial will probably be held in the Coachella Valley.

Besides Goldberg, she is survived by her brothers Stanley Barer of Seattle and Burl Barer of Stevenson Ranch; son Lee Goldberg of Calabasas; daughters Karen Dinino of Thousand Oaks and Linda Woods of Castaic; and three grandchildren.


Michelle Gagnon on KIDNAP AND RANSOM

Michelle_web-1 My friend Michelle Gagnon — the lovely, lethal, and talented author of the Special Agent Kelly Jones series — has a new thriller out entitled KIDNAP AND RANSOM that critics are already calling her best novel yet. So I thought this would be a good time to ask her about  her work, her craft, and her take on where the business is going. 

LEE: The old adage is "write what you know," but the heroine of your books is a kick-ass FBI Special Agent. You've been everything BUT that… a dancer, model, dog walker, personal trainer, bartender, etc. Is writing about Kelly Jones purely an escapist fantasy for you?

MICHELLE: So true, I’m clearly in way over my head. The smart thing would have been to set a book in a Russian supper club starring a modern dancer and call it a day. 

Here’s the thing: with THE TUNNELS, I initially set out to write a college coming of age story. But I kept stalling out after twenty or so pages. Each time I went back and tried a different approach, starting with a different scene or tweaking the characters…and each time, I got the same result. 

Then one night, I had two of my characters walking through this abandoned tunnel system under the university. And I almost inadvertently killed one of them off. I sat back, re-read what I’d written, and shrugged, figuring I might as well see how it played out. A few pages later FBI agent Kelly Jones walked on to the scene, and the story was off and running. I completed a rough draft within a month.

In retrospect, even though it was entirely unintentional, I feel lucky to have stumbled upon choosing an FBI agent as one of my main characters, because she has the capacity to go almost anywhere. It’s enabled me to have books set in the Berkshires, Arizona, and now Mexico City. And although I’m far from an expert, I’ve done a ton of research on FBI procedures, spent time at the FBI Citizens Academy and Quantico, and had an agent vet every one of my books for accuracy. Although that being said, my favorite quote was from a career FBI agent who said that if I really wrote about what she did all day, the book would only be useful as a sleep aid. I stay true to their procedures as much as possible, but take license when the story calls for it. Kidnap&Ransom

 LEE: This latest book, KIDNAP AND RANSOM, is already being hailed as your best work. Wasn't this one inspired by a true story?

MICHELLE: Absolutely it was. While researching border issues for THE GATEKEEPER, I stumbled across an article detailing the kidnapping of Felix Batista. Batista was a world-renowned hostage negotiator who had personally secured the release of over a hundred kidnap victims. While in Saltillo, Mexico for a security conference, he walked out of a restaurant one night, was pushed into the back of a van, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. The irony of the story grabbed me—the hero becoming the victim, an expert suddenly forced into the position he’d saved so many people from. Stranger still was the fact that his kidnapping wasn’t proceeding normally—there was no ransom demand, and no one claimed responsibility for seizing him. It was a true mystery, and I always find those irresistible. Mind you, in KIDNAP & RANSOM every other aspect of his abduction was fictionalized, and the character of Cesar Calderon is not meant to represent him in any way, shape, or form. Hopefully Mr. Batista will be reunited with his family soon.

LEE: Your books are all mass market, paperback originals. But the talk in publishing circles these days is that paperbacks may be an endangered species, soon to be replaced by ebooks. What's your take on that? 

MICHELLE: Oh no, I’m doomed! After your Bouchercon ebooks panel, we discussed the fact that you stopped buying paperbacks once you got an ereader. I was an early adopter myself: I received a first generation Sony Reader, Kindle, and iPad as presents over the past few years. Yet I’ve still been buying mass market books. I always bring a paperback on planes to carry me through the inevitable forty-five minutes between take-off and landing when electronic devices must be turned off, or to read at the beach, or in the bathtub. I’ve pretty much stopped buying trade paperbacks, and I usually only buy a hardcover novel if I’ve already read it electronically and loved it so much that I felt compelled to add it to my collection. 

So I’m not sure if the mass market format is truly going the way of the eight track. I’d love to see a future where books are bundled in a few different formats—for example, receiving an audio, ebook,  and mass market paperback editions of the same book for a certain price. While I love hardcovers, they’re bulky, unwieldy, and really only designed to be read at home- wouldn’t it be great if you could also have an electronic copy of the same novel when you’re traveling, and the ability to switch to the audio version for a long car drive? 

LEE:  You're an active presence on Facebook, you're a regularly blogger…how important is keeping yourself front-and-center on the web for an author's career these days?

MICHELLE: I think it’s critical, although it can also be exhausting. I’ve tried to be better about turning off my wireless access while I’m writing, and I don’t get on the computer at all after 5pm. Now I share my Thursday slot on THE KILL ZONE blog with the extremely talented Jordan Dane, because I  was becoming overwhelmed by the weekly posts (I don’t know how you do it, Lee!) 
For Facebook and Twitter, I’ll post articles or other stuff that I stumble across that strikes me as interesting.  Even though those networks serve as my virtual watercooler, I’m pretty sure that most of my friends and followers aren’t desperate to know what I ate for breakfast, or how much sleep I got, so I keep those types of posts to a minimum. I have an unfortunate tendency to be easily distracted. So I think that although authors need to capitalize on those resources, it’s necessary to strike a balance, too.