Book Review: TV Noir – The Twentieth Century

9781453696002 I bought TV NOIR: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Ray Starman based on a rave review by my friends over at Bookgasm… and because I'm a sucker for TV books. But TV NOIR was a huge disappointment on just about every level, from the actual printing itself to the thin, badly edited, content. 

Even by self-published/print-on-demand standards, the print quality is awful. The photographs look like reproductions of xeroxes. The copyediting and proofreading are atrocious (missing and inconsistent punctuation, show titles with and without quotation marks, etc). It does not look or read like a professionally published work. 

But all of that would be tolerable if the content was worthwhile. Sadly, it's not. There are some compelling ideas here, but you have to slog through some truly awkward, rambling sentences to get to them. Sentences like these: 

Stack was able to overcome his 'tennis anyone' roles and an academy award nomination for the melodramatic "Written on the Wind" ('57) to perfect his underplayed and superior to the later Clint Eastwood's monotone style to gain status as a subtle and ironic characterization that was unique.'

Huh? That's crisp, lean, clear prose compared to this sentence:

Add to the list the controversial but I think brilliant 'Blade Runner' ('82) complete with Harrison Ford's tough guy voice-over reminiscent of Bogart in anything and William Holden's commentary in the noir-ish 'Sunset Boulevard' ('50) and you have future noir served on a platter existing in a dark futuristic society where Harrison Ford, as a 21st century ex-cop is recruited to find alien androids settling among humans.

Painful stuff. This is a writer in desperate need of an editor and a few lessons on how to use a comma. The book is about noir, but he uses the word so much, that I often wondered if his goal was to stick it in as many times in as many sentences as he possibly could. For instance:

Although science fiction is not a particularly strong genre for noir analysis, certain key noir elements may still apply it for noir status.


'City of Angels' is another noir curiosity that only ran from February to August 1976 but deserves inclusion because of its private eye genre, it's noir-ish photography and general 1930-1940s style that lent itself to noir iconograpy.

It's a shame he couldn't have stuck the word noir in there one or two more times. He also spends way too much time sharing with us his own, internal debates about whether shows deserved to be included in his book or not. For instance, in the midst of discussing "Harry O," he starts rambling…

Much lighter in tone than the very dark 'The Fugitive', it still did not reach the humorous heights of James Garner's 'Rockford Files' or even Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul's inspired comic renderings of 'Starsky and Hutch'. Two worthy programs I have not included in my analysis because their humor prevented them from noir status. A tough decision, but Garner's often-folksy humor and Glaser and Soul's comedy team antics were just too light for noir justifications.

As if we cared. But more importantly, what the heck does any of that have to do with "Harry O?" Nothing. 

I love books about TV, particularly those that focus on cop shows. But this book is a mess. And way, way over-priced at $15.95. Skip it. 

MWA Opens Active Membership to Ebook and POD Authors

The MWA membership committee, of which I am chair, has crafted a major overhaul of the criteria for Active Membership to embrace the new technologies that are changing our industry. These new guidelines, approved unanimously today by the MWA Board, opens the door to scores of authors whose books are published solely as ebooks or via print-on-demand, but they still exclude self-published works. An  email blast with all the changes went out to all MWA members moments ago. Here's the intro…

The publishing business is experiencing massive changes and if MWA is to remain relevant, we have to change, too.  That’s why we’ve revised our Approved Publisher criteria to make books published solely in e-book format or using print-on-demand eligible under certain conditions for MWA membership (and, perhaps later, for Edgar eligibility as well).  Self-published books, whether they are published in print or as e-books, still do not qualify for MWA active membership. [Note: The italics added by me for clarity in this post, they are not italicized in the actual guidelines]

In crafting the criteria below, we had to strike a balance between including books published using those new technologies while also  maintaining our high professional standards and our commitment to protecting our members (and writers in general) from the less-than-reputable publishers who seek to take advantage of them.

We hope you’ll agree that we accomplished our goal. 

There are a lot of tweaks to our existing rules, but here's the ground-breaking portion…the new section on Approved Publisher criteria for ebook publishers. If your ebook publisher meets these criteria, then your book qualifies you for Active Membership in MWA.

E-Book Publisher Guidelines:

Publishers interested in being on MWA's Approved E-Book Publishers List must fill out the affidavit and submit a sample contract. If all of the following criteria are met, contact the national office to begin the vetting process (the affidavit will be supplied if these requirements are met). The publisher must also meet all of the following criteria (the term "book" refers to all e-formats, "Publishing" refers to print, web, and other e-formats):

1. During the preceding year, the publisher must have paid a minimum of $500 in advances and/or royalties to at least five authors with no financial or ownership interest in the company.
a) The publisher must have paid a minimum royalty of least 25% of net revenue to authors.
b) The royalties must have been paid at least quarterly, with a detailed statement, breaking out books sold through affiliate sites, through the publisher's own site, as well as print books if applicable.
c) Payment must be in monies, not in barter for advertising or copies or any other considerations.
d) Payment must be actual – not, for example, a donation of writing deemed worth a given amount.
e) Payment must have been made and not merely promised.
f) A contract alone is not payment. Proof of payment may be requested by the committee.

2. The publisher must have been in business for at least two years since publication of the first e-book by a person with no financial or ownership interest in the company.

3. The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services. If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity. To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising on the publisher's website for any for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication.

4. The publisher must publish at least five authors per year, other than those with a financial or ownership interest in the company, such as an owner, business partner, employee, or close relative of such person. Those persons should be listed on the application.

5. The publisher is not a "self-publishing" or "subsidy publishing" firm in which the author has paid all or part of the cost of publication, marketing, distribution of the work, or any other fees pursuant to an agreement between the author and publisher, cooperative publisher or book packager. Among (but not all of) the situations defined as "self-published or cooperatively published" are:

a. Those works for which the author has paid all or part of the cost of publication, marketing, distribution of the work, or any other fees pursuant to an agreement between the author and publisher, cooperative publisher, website owner or book packager;

b. e-books published by a privately-held publisher or in collaboration with a book packager wherein the author has a familial relationship with the publisher, editor, or any managerial employee, officer, director or owner of the publisher or book packager;

c. Those works published by companies, websites or imprints that do not publish other authors;

d. Those works published by a publisher or website or in collaboration with a book packager in which the author has a direct or indirect financial interest;

e. Those works published in an anthology in which the author is also an editor, except an anthology for which the author is a guest editor;

f. Those works published in an anthology or magazine wherein the author has a familial relationship with the editor or publisher

6. The publisher pays for editing, copyediting, design, cover art, production, advertising, marketing, distribution, web design, graphics, and all other aspects of publication. They do not require authors to pay for any of the above.

7. Books must be available through major online retailers, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore, and not just through the publisher's website.

8. The publisher must not be engaged in the practice of wrongfully withholding or delaying the payment of acceptance fees to authors.

As the industry changes, you can expect the MWA's criteria regarding Approved Publishers will evolve as well.

In the meantime, now that the Board has passed these new rules, the issue moves to the Edgar committee (which I also serve on) to determine how these new criteria will impact Edgar Award eligibility, award categories, etc. for the 2013 Awards (for books published in 2012).


The Mail I Get

I have a huge backlog of ridiculous emails to share with you, I just haven't had a chance to go through them. But here's one that just came in moments ago…

Hi, I have read the first four books in your Diagnosis Murder series and loved the story and characters.  I attempt to only have family friendly books in my home and these books met this criteria with the exception of two of the books containing the word God followed by d***.  Can you tell me if any of the last four books in the seriers contain this word?  If not, I cannot wait to order them.

I replied that I've written eight DIAGNOSIS MURDER books and can't honestly recall if or when the word God followed by d*** shows up in them. I don't keep track of individual words or phrases from among the 75,000 words in each book. But if you're so easily offended by the coupling of those two words under any circumstances by any character that you find an entire novel unacceptable as a result, I would play it safe and avoid the rest of the books in the series. Come to think of it, and with no offense intended, you might want to avoid books by Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville, J.D. Salinger, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, Harper Lee, Joseph Heller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bram Stoker, John Steinbeck,. A.B. Guthrie, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Larry McMurtry, perhaps even Mark Twain…heck, if I were you, I'd stay away from just about every book that ever won the National Book Award or the Pulitzer Prize or is considered a classic of literature (not that I am in their league, of course). There's a very high probability that the word God, followed by d*** appears in the majority of them.

THE DEAD MAN #4: THE DEAD WOMAN is out today

Dead Woman Final Cover David McAfee's THE DEAD WOMAN, the fourth book in the DEAD MAN series, is out today as an ebook on the Kindle, the Nook , and on Smashwords, as well  as in a trade paperback edition. 

The widely acclaimed DEAD MAN series is about Matthew Cahill, an ordinary man leading a simple life…until a shocking accident changes everything. Now he can see a nightmarish netherworld of unspeakable evil and horrific violence that nobody else does…

For Cahill, each day is a journey into a dark world he knows nothing about…a quest for the answers to who he is and what he has become…and a fight to save us, and his soul, from the clutches of pure evil.

He thought he was alone with his torment, but in a small town in Tennessee, terrorized by a vicious serial killer, Matt meets a woman sees what he does…and together they must confront a horrific and immortal terror that thrives on death.

David McAfee is the author of the Kindle bestseller 33 A.D., a bloody thrill-ride through biblical Jerusalem that pits Jesus Christ against vampire assassins. So naturally I thought he'd be perfect fit for THE DEAD MAN series.

THE DEAD MAN books have been getting some fantastic reviews…here's just a sampling:

The story races by at a brisk rate of knots, each twist and turn, and shift in time providing another revelation […] I was enjoying it so much, I didn't want it to end. –Permission to Kill Blog 

THE DEAD MAN FACE of EVIL reminds me of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.[…]a fascinating horror story that leaves you wanting more, more, more –Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine 

Hell in Heaven is a direct spiritual descendant of the sorts of awesome pulp action adventure tales that the greats like Robert E. Howard loved to write –Post-Modern Pulps

I've not seen a writing tandem like this since the glory days of Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy –Bookgasm

Hell in Heaven is the best so far in an already splendid series and is super rush of a read with plenty of sharp twists and turns and some truly smashing lines. –Paul D. Brazill

This series has kept me rapt from the first page […]these authors are the Jamaican sprint team doing the 4x100m relay, each stage just gets better and better. –Right What You No

Isn't it time you started reading THE DEAD MAN series?