Mr. Monk and The Big Thrill

The Big Thrill, the magazine of the International Thriller Writers, features an interview with me this month about my new book MR. MONK ON THE COUCH. Here's an excerpt:

For the first time in twelve original novels inspired by the hit TV series, Natalie Teeger  steps from Adrian Monk’s formidable shadow.  She’s usually consigned to handing her boss anti-bacterial wipes, smoothing his awkward interactions with others, and playing second-fiddle to his savant-like brilliance in the detective world.   But Teeger’s been paying dues of her own and in Mr. Monk On The Couch she’ll finally have an opportunity to withdraw a little personal capital she’s built up as his sidekick.  In fact for this novel, she’s first violin, the cello and the entire string section.  In this book, Natalie moves, ever so gently from behind Mr. Monk to find her own self in the world of murder investigations.  She does so despite Monk, who usually spins disorder in his quest for order.  Life is messy.  Monk cleans it up.  Or so he believes.  He actually creates more messes than he cleans up.  It’s really Natalie who does the cleaning and she’s sees her opportunity to do her own mop-up, hopefully without offending the un-affable Mr. Monk.

“She loves him like a brother,” Lee says, who also penned numerous episodes of the popular television series, “plus they have something in common.  They both lost a spouse to violence.  Natalie knows what that can do to you.  They are survivors.  Yes, he irritates the crap out of her.  Yes, he’s selfish.  But she knows what he has accomplished despite his psychological handicaps.  She knows he’s brilliant.  And she knows the price he has paid for that brilliance.”

For her first stint as a quasi-solo, sort-of detective, Teeger must first elude Monk’s razor sharp sense of observation.  Not so easy when this guy’s eyes are like a computer scanner that slices and dices details easier than most dispatch an onion.  

The book comes out June 7 in bookstores everywhere…and online, of course.

Buy THE WALK for 99 cents this week…and get THE DEAD MAN for free!

The_Walk_FINAL (2) It was two years ago this week that, at Joe Konrath's urging, I began my "Kindle Experiment" by making my out-of-print book THE WALK available as an ebook. I've sold close to 20,000 copies of THE WALK since then…and to celebrate, I am pricing the book at just 99 cents until June 7th.   

For the most part, the book has consistently ranked in top 2000 Amazon. I would be absolutely thrilled if this limited-time offer could propel the book into the Amazon top 100 for the first time.

As an incentive to help me reach that goal, if you email me proof of purchase of THE WALK at lee AT, I will email you, in return, a free copy of my new book THE DEAD MAN #1: FACE OF EVIL

That's two books for just 99 cents. You can't beat that!

Eisler Makes News…Again

There' s been a lot of talk lately about my friend Barry Eisler's decision this week, a month after rejecting a $500,00o offer from St. Martin's in favor of self-publishing his work, to bring out his new RAIN novel through Amazon's just-announced publishing imprint Thomas & Mercer.  

Some have said  that this means that he's returned to the "legacy publishing" world, simply opting for a different publisher than the one he had before.  Some have even said his talk about self-publishing his work was just a negotiating ploy and a bid for media attention. 

Of course, most of the people who've made those idiotic comments are so called "indie" authors who know little, if anything, about the nature of "legacy publishing" deals, and who see self-pubishing more as a cause,a religion, or a movement than a business. Take this comment from an "indie" for example:

"guys like Eisler already made their names the traditional route, then came into indie publishing not because they believed in the format, but to position themselves for future leverage.  They go on and on about how much better they have it self-publishing and get everyone drinking the Kool Aid, and then leverage their indie cred for a publishing contract.  […] They were trad authors who already had established followings and had the marketing savvy to use that to build credibility they didn't deserve as indies.  Because they were never indie in the true sense."

So Barry explained his thinking on their home turf:  a posting on the Kindleboards today. He said, in part:

I've said many times is that "publishing is a business for me, not an ideology" (Google it, you'll see) and that the right deal could certainly lure me back to the legacy world.  That remains true.  What's more important, though, is the nature of what could conceivably lure me back.  And what could lure me back is precisely what I've never been able to get from any legacy publisher — not the two who have published me; none that I've negotiated with, either.  Specifically:

1)  A *much* more equitable digital royalty split. 
2)  Full creative control (packaging, pricing, timing).
3)  Immediate digital release, followed by paper release when the paper is ready (no more slaving the digital release to the paper release).

As it happens, all these terms are available to a self-published author, so I decided to self-publish.  What some people might be missing in that simple statement, though, is that it's the *terms* that are important to me, not the means by which I achieve them.  If these terms are a destination, self-publishing is undeniably an excellent vehicle for getting there.  But it isn't the only vehicle.  And if another vehicle comes along that offers all these terms, plus a substantial advance, plus a retail wing that can reach millions of customers in my demographic… then, as a non-ideological businessman, I'm going to change rides.

[…]For a single title that doesn't incumber my ability to self-publish or otherwise publish anything I want, Amazon offered me all three of the items I list above (except for pricing, but regardless of what the contract says, we agree that digital books should be priced far lower than legacy prices), plus a massive, uniquely Amazon marketing push to its retail operation and otherwise, plus an advance comparable to what SMP had offered me (note, though, that the Amazon deal is for one book; the SMP advance was predicated on two books. When I say "comparable," I mean on a per-book basis, and sorry if I wasn't clear about that in my announcement at BEA). In exchange, I've given up certain digital retail channels because the Amazon deal is exclusive to Kindle platform devices. And Amazon will sell paper versions through its retail stores and through wholesale channels to other retailers. If any of this sounds like a legacy deal to anyone here, you've been talking to legacy publishers I've never heard of.

Although Amazon will be publishing his RAIN book, and more sooner and under much more favorable royalty terms for him than St. Martins Press offered, he still intends to self-publish his other work.

What his deal illustrates, as does the mulitple platform Joe Konrath publishes on ("legacy publishing," self-publishing, Amazon Encore, Thomas & Mercer), is that authors have more options now than we've ever had before…and that self-publishing is now, for the first time, actually a viable and realistic choice.

"And it's a great one," Barry says, adding "but as new possibilities emerge, I'll consider them, try them, and perhaps integrate them into my overall strategy. Why would anyone do anything else?"

That doesn't make him a hypocrite or a liar, as some inexplicably outraged "indie" authors have suggested, but rather a shrewd businessman trying to do what's best for his career.

Cheesy Gold

GOLD is a terrible movie, but I absolutely love this cheesy Elmer Bernstein theme song. It's a true guilty pleasure. It's one of my favorite soundtracks.


Edgar’s Checkered Past

Edgar_MP_GIE I was asked – okay, more like begged — to chronicle the hilarious history of the Edgar for the Edgar Awards banquet program. Unfortunately, you’ll find more laughs reading the tax code. I hate to say it, but the history of the Edgar Awards is almost as boring as an Edgar banquet.

Perhaps that’s why they didn’t run the article (something I only found out about today when my copy of the program arrived in the mail). But since I hate to waste anything that I’ve written, I’ve reproduced some of it here:

The Edgar Awards were launched shortly after the Mystery Writers of America was created in 1945. None of the organizers wanted, at first, to give an award for Best Novel because they were afraid that any writer who didn’t get the award would quit the MWA. So they only honored a Best First Novel. It wasn’t until 1953 that they decided to take the risk. But if you see a bunch of authors walking out en masse tonight when the Best Novel award is announced, now you know why.

The ceramic Edgar Allan Poe statuette, made by Peter Williams, was first given in the third year of the awards. A couple of years later, Peter received an Edgar for his contribution. I’m sure he was thrilled to have another one of those Edgars around the house. (It’s sort of like honoring Sue Grafton by giving her a signed copy of one of her own books, but I guess it’s the thought that counts).

What’s really great about ceramic Edgars is that if yours breaks, any pre-schooler can fix it for you in class. It’s a shame there wasn’t a pre-schooler around when, a few years back, Joel Goldman and Sandra Brown awarded Alex Berensen his Edgar in pieces.

They should probably give out honorary Edgars to anyone who has attended more than one Edgar Awards banquet. Want to get an Al-Queda member to talk? Forget waterboarding. Make him sit through a couple of comedy routines by guys who spend their days in dark rooms writing about decomposing corpses. There’s a reason why Henny Youngman never wrote a serial killer novel and why you’ve never seen a mystery writer do a set at the Comedy Store. But it could be worse. They could sing instead.

Lawrence Block says that for years the Edgars were hosted by lawyer-turned-writer Harold Q.Masur, who worked summers in the Catskills during his teens, and told the same jokes year after year after year.  One of them was about a letter to MWA that asked “Can you provide the number of mystery writers in America, broken down by sex.” And Harold’s answer?

“Well,  the drink got a lot of them, and gambling has taken its toll, but. . .”

A lot of the same authors get nominated in the same categories year after year at the Edgars, so if you’ve had a few drinks, and hear John Hart, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly or T. Jefferson Parker being called up to the dias yet again, don’t panic if you’re not certain whether you’re conscious, or out cold with your face in your breaded chicken breast having a flashback to last year’s event. Or the one before. Or the one before that.

However, the Edgars are a great opportunity to see your favorite authors in a new light. For instance, I’ve seen Harlan Coben naked. Before an Edgar banquet back in the 90s, when he was still in the midlist, he asked if he could change into his tuxedo in my room. I hear he’s much bigger now.

Which leads me to my next point… the Edgars can also be a humbling experience.

At one of the banquets, author Bill Crider left his table to go the restroom and when he came back, he discovered that his wife Judy had given his seat to Stephen King. She wanted to talk to a famous writer instead of, well, her husband. I think Bill got stuck sitting with Jeremiah Healy and hearing about his prostate.

One author I know, who was nominated for Best Paperback Original, ran into one of the judges on that awards committee before the banquet and introduced himself to her. She’d never heard of him or his book. He took that as a subtle hint that he wouldn’t be leaving with an Edgar that night and left early. He was right.

 Sitting at your publisher’s table is always a thrill. While you’re chatting with the marketing people and publicists who have never heard of you or your book, you can also worry about whether that expensive bottle of wine that your tipsy editor just bought is going to be charged against your royalties. It probably will be.

After the ceremony, free books are given away in the lobby and hundreds of writers, publishers, and editors, who get free books all the time, rush out to get them, stuffing novels and galleys into shopping bags, cardboard boxes, suitcases and their cleavage. One year, they had MWA bouncers stationed at the doors so people couldn’t sneak out of the banquet early to snag the swag. It’s a miracle no one has been trampled to death yet.

But the real surprise is how authors react when its their own books that are being given away. They just can’t resist taking some books to augment the three contractual copies that their publisher graciously sent them. In fact, I know of one author who was so busy hording free copies of his own book that he forgot all about his Edgar and left it behind.

I’m not sure what that anecdote demonstrates about the value placed on earning the admiration of one’s peers, as symbolized by a ceramic head, as opposed to answering the demands of one’s own ego, as symbolized by grabbing as many free copies of your own book as you can carry, but I’m sure it’s very profound.

You can think about that tonight as Thomas Harris and Patricia Cornwell are singing their duet or Dennis Lehane is telling jokes. 


Review: 101 Best TV Crime Series

9781842433508 I'm  a sucker for books about TV, so I couldn't resist nabbing Mark Timlin's 101 BEST TV CRIME SERIES.  Let me state at the outset than I am a fan of Timlin's books, so if I had a bias going in, it was a favorable one. That didn't last long. 

The pluses are that Timlin, a top-notch mystery author himself, is a real fan of the genre and he writes in a casual, easy-going style. As a whole, the book provides a nice overview of a bunch of UK series that are probably obscure and unfamiliar to most U.S. viewers. 

The cons, however, far, far outnumber the pluses. Apparently, Timlin's actual knowledge of the shows he's talking about isn't as strong as his admiration for them…and nobody bothered to fact-check the book, so it is filled with cringe-inducing errors and unfortunate omissions. 

For example: 

1) he refers to the lead of THE FUGITIVE as Dr. David Kimble when, of course, everyone knows it's Dr. RICHARD Kimble. 
2) He says the iconic IRONSIDE theme was composed by Oliver Nelson when it's actually among Quincy Jones' most famous pieces of music (Nelson supplied some of the episodic scores, but didn't compose the theme). 
3) He says that the Quinn Martin shows had a voice over that went "This has been a Quinn Martin Production" when, in fact, each show opened with the narrator announcing the name of the series, followed by the words "A Quinn Martin Production." 
4) He says the UK LIFE ON MARS began with DCI Sam Tyler walking down a Manchester street, listening to David Bowie on his iPod, when he's hit by a car. That is, in fact, totally incorrect, making this reader wonder if Timlin actually saw the show he was writing about. 
5) When discussing HARRY O, he says the hero was an ex-LA cop. He was actually an ex-San Diego cop. 

I could go on and on. Beyond the numerous errors, there's also a lack of detail. For instance, when referring to KOJAK, he mentions the 2005 remake with Ving Rhames but either completely overlooked, or was totally unaware of, the six KOJAK TV movies Savalas did on CBS, and later ABC, a decade after the original series was cancelled. In fact, almost all the entries suffer from a paucity of useful information in favor of irrelevant, personal asides by the author ("Oddly enough, it was 'Hill Street Blues' that got me my first video recorder; back when it started, I was offered a job driving a loser heavy metal band called 720. The show had just started and I took the job o the condition that the manager paid for the hire of a VCR. He agreed. Blimey the thing was the size of a suitcase…") Maybe Timlin is a celebrity in the UK, and the readers there are more interested in his asides than information about TV cop shows, but it doesn't play on this side of the pond. 

One other beef…I found Timlin including his own series, SHARMAN, among the best TV Crime Series to be more than a little self-indulgent (although he didn't write the entry, he had someone else do it, which only makes the inclusion feel even more self-serving). If only he'd given all the other series mentioned in the book the same loving attention as he did his own (he gives THE SOPRANOS three tiny paragraphs, but the short-lived SHARMAN gets four pages!). 

Overall, unless you can get this book at a major discount, I'd skip it.