My Final Monk

Lee Goldberg and Traylor Howard-2Mr. Monk Gets Even
, my 15th MONK novel, was published today. The series of books will continue, with my friend Hy Conrad picking up where I left off, but this is the end for me and my long, wonderful, association
with Adrian Monk.

It began when “Monk”
creator Andy Breckman hired me and my then-TV writing partner William Rabkin to
write an episode of the TV series entitled “Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico,” which
would end up being the first of three episodes we wrote for the show.

At the time, Bill
and I were about to begin writing & producing the Lifetime TV series
“Missing” and I was deep into writing the “Diagnosis Murder” novels, based on
the TV series of the same name that we’d also written & produced. When Andy
was approached about writing “Monk” novels, he passed on the opportunity and
recommended me for it instead.

I took the job,
which was an insane thing to do, since it would mean writing a new book every
ninety days, alternating between “Monk” and “Diagnosis Murder,” at night while
also running a TV series during the day. That’s how much I loved Monk. I kept
up that brutal pace for two years before ending the “Diagnosis Murder” book

Andy liked my first
“Monk” novel, Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, so much, that he hired Bill and
I to adapt it into an episode of the TV show. The episode, “Mr. Monk Can’t See
A Thing
,” may be the first time in American TV history that a tie-in novel of a
TV show has been adapted into an episode of the series….and by the author of
the book, no less (if it’s been done before, we haven’t found it. And if it
has, it’s obviously a rare occurrence!)

If it wasn’t for
Andy’s enthusiasm and support, I doubt I would have written so many “Monk”
novels or had so much fun doing them. He gave me his trust and the creative freedom
to make the book series my own, and for that I will always be grateful. 
Lee at mystery bookstore booth

I want to thank
Kerry Donovan, who has been my editor on this series from the very beginning,
my agent Gina Maccoby who put together the deal, and my go-to medical and
forensic expert, Dr D.P. Lyle.  I also
regularly leaned on my “cop buddies” Paul Bishop, Lee Lofland, and Robin
Burcell for their expertise on police matters and I hope I didn’t embarrass
them too much with the great liberties I took with the information they gave me.

It’s not easy
writing two books a year, particularly if you’re doing it part-time while
making your living in television. I can trace my life in these books, like Mr.
Monk in Outer Space
and Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, both of which I wrote
while writing, producing and shooting a movie in Berlin and Cologne. They kept
me sane, and out of trouble, while I was far away from home.  

For the most part,
though, the time I spent on these books was time I didn’t spend with my family,
particularly on this last one, which required more than a few all-nighters. So,
with deep appreciation, I want to thank my wife Valerie and my daughter Madison
for the sacrifices they made during the last seven years while I pretended to
be a woman assisting an obsessive-compulsive detective on his investigations.

And finally, I want
to thank all of you for being such devoted readers, and for the many emails,
letters, and kind words you’ve shared with over the years about these books. It
meant a lot to me.  

Jack Klugman, RIP

Sad to learn that Jack Klugman died today. I had the pleasure of working with him twice on episodes of DIAGNOSIS MURDER. I spent hours talking to him during the course of those shoots…and he was very candid about what a prick he was to the writers on QUINCY. He said: “Be glad you’re working with me now and not back then!” When we cast him, he was just glad to be working…since his problem with his voice had really cut down on the number of acting jobs coming his way. Here are the opening scenes of the DIAGNOSIS MURDER episode “Voices Carry,” which guest stars Jack Klugman. I think it was one of the best episodes of our show. 


A Ballsy Scam

I stumbled on this post from Writer Beware very late…but wow, what a ballsy and inept scam. A fake PR firm, the Albee Agency, advertised itself with fake endorsements from non-existent novelists and even a few real authors…and actually thought they could get away with it. Victoria Strauss caught'em. 

Now, these are all authors I'd never heard of before. Maybe their books never got published, or went out of print, or something. Maybe my Google-fu was just not up to par. But wait–here's an author I do know: Chuck Wendig (if you're not familiar with his blog, you should get to know it). Wow, Chuck really had a great experience with Albee, didn't he?

However, I have a suspicious mind. So I dropped Chuck a line, asking if he'd indeed hired The Albee Agency to do PR for him. His response:

WTF? Who is the Albee Agency? They have a testimonial from me on their main page that I never made. (@victoriastrauss)

[…]So….fake testimonials. Nonexistent authors; authors quoted without permission. There are no gray areas here: The Albee Agency is engaging in fraudulent behavior. This just emphasizes–as if y'all didn't already know–that writers need to watch out for scams.

The bigger point, though, is that even without the fake testimonials, there is plenty to beware of here. If Albee were absolutely, scrupulously honest about the authors it has worked with, it would still be offering services of dubious value for too much money, with no assurance of professional expertise.

And that, my friends, is a much bigger danger these days than an outright, bona-fide scam.

Transporter: The Series

Transporter-Ex-ElitesoldatFrankMartin-ChrisVance2I saw the first episode of the troubled TRANSPORTER tv series. And it's immediately obvious from the opening scenes why they've blown through two showrunners over just 11 episodes of what ened up being an aborted 22 episode order…and that the studios involved ended up putting their line producer and a director in charge. 

There's lots of European-shot 2nd unit car chases cut into a few scenes of Canadian-shot "drama." But beyond that, it's not a TV series as much as it is a TV adaptation of a co-production contract. Someone along the way forgot there's supposed to be characters and a story in a TV series. There's no creative vision whatsoever to the show, just deal points being honored, ticked off one by one without regard to whether any of it adds up to entertainment.

It doesn't.

 The only thing that's interesting about it, purely from a technical/editing standpoint, is studying how they matched their 2nd unit footage from Europe (which is 60% of the show) with the stuff they shot on streets and stages in Toronto. Sometimes it's very smooth, other times you can really see the rough edges. The actors (namely Chris Vance, stepping in for Jason Statham) clearly spent a lot of time acting with green screens. Watching the show reminded me of how Bill Rabkin and I built episodes of COBRA (syndicated 1993) around Steve Cannell's stock footage library to save money

The writing on the series is just atrocious and, since there is no human connection to the action, the stunts/chases lack any visceral impact. You just aren't invested in any of it. The martial arts sequences, though, are  cleverly done and well-staged.

But as Bill and I learned on MARTIAL LAW, that just isn't enough to sustain a series (at least Chris Vance speaks English and doesn't have to work with Arsenio Hall).

THE HEIST is coming

I've finally got a title and a pub date to share with you for the first book in the new series that I'm writing with superstar Janet Evanovich. It's called THE HEIST and comes out June 18th from Random House

We had so much fun writing THE HEIST, which is a rip-roaring, globe-trotting adventure that takes our heroes, a crack female FBI agent and an irresistably charming con man, all over the world. Here's how Headline Books, our UK publisher, describes it:

"Meet Kate Winslow – beautiful, street-wise and resourceful. A woman who is used to getting things done, and getting them done her way. After all, she's an ex-Navy seal. Now she's in the FBI where, like a guided missile, she always gets her target. Meet Danny Cole – irrevent, gorgeous and wealthy bad boy who loves his work…which is pulling off high-profile, high-risk cons all over the world. And never getting caught. Put the two together and it's an explosive mix. Kate has been trying to trap Danny for five years. And now she thinks she's got him…or has she? Blue skies, romance, crime and adventure all rolled into one fast-paced, heart-stopping thriller of a novel. Winslow and Cole : dynamic, diverse, dedicated, dangerous – and desirable."

I couldn't be more proud of the book, and we're jumping right into writing book #2 now, which is due in August.

In the meantime, I am also working on KING CITY 2  and a novel-version of my film 2008 movie  FAST TRACK. And I am itching to share some big movie news with you, but I can't yet (for one thing, it *still* may not happen, and for another, I have to wait for the studio to announce it first).

All of the above is why I haven't been nearly as active on this blog as I used to be…I just have too much going on. One of my resolutions in 2013 is to try to blog at least once a week.

The Mail I Get

I got an email the other day from Dan X. He wrote:

I'm trying to become a tv show writer and was wandering if you could help me out.

I replied:

I sure can — all my best advice is in my book SUCCESSFUL TELEVISION WRITING.

He replied:

I  was wandering if there was any other way, cause I'm good at creating tv shows but I just need someone like cbs to get ahold of



Macleans Magazine talked to me about retooling TV shows. I said, in part:

Lee Goldberg, a writer-producer for such heavily retooled shows asDiagnosis Murder (and creator of the novel series The Dead Man) says shows are revised for many reasons: “budget concerns, political issues, previous series commitments, lack of enthusiasm or support at the network.” But, he adds, the primary reason for a retool is summed up in two words: “pure desperation.”

[…]But most of the time, a retool changes a show nobody watches into another show nobody watches. “Perhaps the most startling case of retooling was a series called Klondike,” says Goldberg. “The network thought it was a chilly locale. The show went off the air for two weeks. When it came back it was Acapulco. Didn’t fare any better in a warmer climate.”

I also told the author, columnist Jaime Weinman, that often retooling is a desperate attempt to carry on a hit series after most of the cast has left (like MAYBERRY RFD, THE HOGAN FAMILY, GOLDEN PALACE, and SANFORD ARMS).

For other series, retooling was the norm. THE DORIS DAY SHOW was completely retooled every season for five years…on the drama front, OHARA, the show with Pat Morita as a detective, was retooled every season for three years.

Other examples of radical retooling include BURKE'S LAW, which became AMOS BURKE: SECRET AGENT its last year. THE NEW DICK VAN DYKE show entirely changed its cast and concept in year three. FRINGE has to be the most radical retooling ever (if you don't count the DALLAS season that was written off entirely as a dream).

Another, smaller retooling that usually spells the end of a series is when a series drops their opening theme music in favor of something entirely new to refresh the show — examples include BONANZA, EMERGENCY, KOJAK, SEAQUEST, LOST IN SPACE, CHICAGO HOPE, and 77 SUNSET STRIP. But there are exceptions, too — MONK, SIMON & SIMON, MAGNUM PI, and CHICAGO HOPE are big ones.

But I would say, by and large, that retooling usually fails. 

The Mail I Get

I get lots of emails from people who want me to help them sell their TV series ideas. Here are a couple of the most recent ones:

I have created the ultimate tv cop show detective series and I want YOU to write it.  You hardly have to do anything since I've come up with all the stories all ready. Write me at XYZ right away or I will go to someone else. YOU dont want to regret it later.

And another:

I have written the complete bible and full pilot script for a TV series and I need to get it to someone at a major network (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) who has the authority to greenlight. I don't live in Hollywood and I don't have an agent but I know what I am doing and this is a great show. If you could pass it up the ladder for me, you would be my first choice to be a writer on the show when it goes to series.

Others just want me to be their penpal. This one was about 1000 words, so I have edited it down some:

I see you have written on some shows I like. Namely Monk, wonderful show. I too am a budding producer/writer/researcher/technology developer/ and game designer… ok Im a bit scattered. I have lots of interests and I explore different forms of media from time to time as it suits me. I am developing a few show ideas..

[…] Im going to be doing a home and garden show. i like to garden and I want to learn about making tv shows. […] I think doing a garden show first is a good choice. Its popular, easy to keep fresh all year, with plenty to do in each week and not a lot of costs. Hard work, dirt, water and seeds. I dont need a big production crew or any talent. 

[…]I do have one or two 'hollywood' class shows Id like to do. I wont bog you down with details. One is a crime solving forensic science show with a nice story over several seasons I think will do well.

[…] Well, thanks for taking the time to read, if you don't mind, can I add you on linkedIn and corresponde with youfrom time to time about writing novels and creating tv shows and movies?

Evolution of a TV theme

I've been digitizing a bunch of my old audio cassettes this week and came across a dozen demos by the Canadian group Saga for the theme song to COBRA, the 1993 syndicated TV series starring Michael Dudikoff.  Ultimately, the producers scuttled the song and kept the instrumental.  Here are three of the demos, followed by the final main title sequence.