The New, Unimproved Monk

MMHH Cover

It wasn’t easy for me to walk away from writing the Monk books. After 15 novels over seven years, I’d become very attached to the characters. Monk, Natalie and the rest of the gang were always on my mind because I was always writing the books. But I decided it was time for a change (little did I know I’d soon be writing THE HEIST with Janet Evanovich!) And when I let my publisher know I was leaving, they told me they’d like to continue the series without me. They asked if I could recommend someone to pick up where I left off. I strongly recommended my friend Hy Conrad, a writer-producer on MONK and a terrific mystery plotter. He already knew the characters inside-and-out and had written some of the most beloved episodes of the TV series.  I knew the characters would be in very good hands with him, no matter what direction he decided to take the books. And that, of course, was the first, fundamental issue he had to deal with, as he explains in this guest post…

When it was announced I was taking over these novels, Monk fans started contacting me in droves, all asking the same question. Was I going to reboot the series, like a Batman or Spider-Man franchise, or just pick up where Lee Goldberg left off?

 To be honest, I never thought of rebooting. To me, the Monk characters are real. On the show, the other writers and I took Monk and Natalie to a certain place in their lives. Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Lee continued to expand them, smoothing out little bumps and creating new ones.  I didn’t want to mess with that reality.

 In the new books, some things will naturally be different, because Lee and I are naturally different. For example, his Natalie knows a lot about architecture. Mine, not so much. His Monk is more obsessed with numbers and symmetry. Mine is a little more phobic.  I tried to insert some pop references into Natalie’s voice.  But the show never did many pop references and it doesn’t come naturally to me.

 In many ways, Lee strengthened the Monk franchise. For one thing, he knows San Francisco and the wonderful character of the town. We wrote the show in Summit, New Jersey, and, while we did have a San Francisco map, it was pinned on the far wall and no one wandered over there very often. I’ll try to do improve on our atmospheric quality, I promise.

 The same goes for forensics accuracy. Lee had called on a cadre of experts to make sure his details were right. Despite our own police consultant, the Monk writers tried not to burden ourselves with too many facts. At one point, the production team called to tell us our formula for bomb making was ridiculous. We replied, “Do you really want us broadcasting how to make a bomb?” That shut them up.

The good news is that we were sticklers for logic. We may not have known bomb making, but we insisted that the logic of every story always worked.  For example, when Monk was in a life-threatening predicament in Act Four, which he usually was, we knew we had to send Stottlemeyer in there to save the day.   In a lot of TV shows, the writers never ask, “Well, how did Stottlemeyer know Monk was in trouble?”  We did.  And sometimes it would take us a full day to answer the question.

 The other good news is that I was with the show from beginning to end, for all eight years. I was the mystery guy, while everyone else had come from the world of comedy. Along the way, I think I had some influence on the way Monk talked and interacted. In other words, he wound up a little bit like me, which makes writing for him a pleasure.

When I first told Monk creator/executive producer Andy Breckman that I was doing this, his response was, “Great. You can use some of the Monk stories we never got to do.”

Mr. Monk Helps Himself is one of those stories. I brought it into the writers’ room during season six. We played around with the idea until it morphed into something totally different—Mr. Monk Joins a Cult, guest-starring Howie Mandel. That’s how it happens in a roomful of writers. There are dozens of great plots, half thought through, buzzing around in our collective memory.

 I have to admit it’s nice to finally have the last word in what mysteries Monk solves and how he reacts.  I’ll try not to abuse the power.

I’m Flattered

MM_Gets_EVEN_mmI've been fortunate that every one of my 15 MONK novels has earned a great review from author Bill Crider and, I am pleased to report that MR. MONK GETS EVEN, my final book in the series, has kept that record intact. He says, in part:

Goldberg managed to do a great job of giving the books clever mysteries and good characters, but he did something even more difficult.  He gave them humor and heart.  Not only that, but he took the characters beyond the television series and gave them lives of their own.  They changed and developed over the course of the series in ways that were believable and intriguing.

[…] It's a fine conclusion to Goldberg's work with Monk and his friends and family.  The title of the book, given Monk's proclivities and given the way that the story concludes, is perfect.

I've mentioned before that I'm not a big fan of books that mingle first- and third-person narration.  Goldberg does it so skilfully here that I have no complaints.  I've never seen it done better.  Heck, I've never seen it done as well.  Congratulations to Goldberg on leaving the game as a big winner.

Thank you so much, Bill. I'm flattered! 

The Mail I Get – Mr. Monk Edition

MM_Gets_EVEN_mmI have been flooded with emails from readers of MR. MONK GETS EVEN, my 15th and final MONK book. The reaction has been so heartfelt, and so positive, that it almost makes me feel guilty for walking away from the series…though I know it's in very good hands now with my friend Hy Conrad picking up where I left off.

Here's just a sampling of some of the many, many emails I've received and the very nice things readers have been saying:

I’m about to start reading your last Monk novel, and I’m going to read very slowly because I don’t want it to be over. Thank you for giving me so much reading enjoyment, including many laugh-out-loud moments.– Jan Roan

Why do all good things have to come to an end? Your Monk series is absolutely delightful. I got excited every time a new book came out. Thank you for what you've given to die hard Monk fans. It really meant alot.  – Classiceman

ANOTHER BRILLIANT book!!!! And was so sad and shocked to read that this is your last Monk book. It was like a Monk Major Life event when I read that news. Anyway, thank-you for the many many years of great enjoyable reading. –Steve H. Karsten

As I read the last few MONK books, I realized you might be finishing the series.  I am so disappointed!   The enjoyment of visiting all the MONK characters is a treat, your style is easy to read, and a perfect way to relax.  The humor is amazing, and I suppose I will now be reduced to re-reading these novels again and again. — Amy Tomlin

Thanks for all of the Monk books.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Mr. Monk when the show ended!  Loved the way you wrapped it all up. –Joelle Peterson

Thank you for 15 great Monk novels and innumerable hours of enjoyment. I am sorry to read number fifteen will be your last. Other than having great characters and a great mystery, the books were an outlet for me in my struggle against depression. Seriously. Whether I couldn't concentrate long enough or hold interest in other writers, I never missed a Monk book. Humor, mystery, and clean, I will miss them. Time to start the rereads, I guess. God's blessings to you, Mr. Goldberg. Not meaning to be maudlin, but you provided some light, enjoyable moments for me during dark times. Thank you–Jeff 

I started Mr. Monk Gets Even yesterday and finished reading it today. Well done. It feels as if at the age of '56' I am laying down a down a good friend who I am going to miss. I periodically will continue to go back and read "Monk" and listen to all the audiobooks I have of each one, probably as long as I live. I fully understand your reasoning and 'why', but I just wanted to tell you that your writings will be GREATLY missed. I would be remiss if I had failed to let you know. . Thank you again for your contributions not only to the writing field, but also for the hours of enjoyment you have brought to this life. — Greg Souder

Hey Lee, just finished your final book sharing Monk's and Natalie's adventures. Thanks for an amazing ride – you'll definitely be missed!— Debbie Laskey

Just finished Mr. Monk Gets Even – an awesome ending to a fantastic series! Sad it's over but couldn't put it down. – J. Wilson

Thank you for writing the Monk books! I had never before gotten into a series of books that were based on a tv show. Once I picked up the first one though, I was hooked! I enjoy the books every bit as much as the show, if not more! — Celest Elmer

I really enjoyed your books and one of the things I liked best about your writing is that you've given Natalie a snarkiness that was just somewhat implied in the TV show. I like snarky Natalie […] I read that you are 'retiring' from the novel series but I thought I'd just write and express my appreciation for the fine work you've done with the Mr Monk novels. 

–Danny Chen

There are fun benefits to having seen all the Monk episodes and reading all the Monk books. I just read Mr. Monk Gets Even and really enjoyed the references to past works and shows. And the nod to Diagnosis Murder! Thanks, Lee, for the great journey with you and Mr. Monk!!

Ruth Fisher Stoddard

Haven't been this excited since Deathly Hallows. Thanks for an awesome run Lee. I sure do love this series. — Kelly Choma

I finished Mr. Monk Gets Even today… it was absolutely lovely!! I've thoroughly enjoyed each one in your series – and this one absolutely glows! I appreciate how the characters have continued to grow throughout the series, including Mr. Monk – whether he likes it or not. You've taken such incredibly good care of each one of them. And though I wouldn't have believed I would, I even enjoy the new regular characters. It all just works beautifully! Honestly, before this, I've always scoffed at the idea of book series based on TV shows, but Mr. Monk's absence from TV drove me to give them a chance. Well – you've completely won me over! I've become as big a fan of the Mr. Monk books, as I am the show. Thanks for such a wonderful series – and for keeping Mr. Monk going strong!! – Heather Sikora James


Mr. Monk and the New Author

Here's the scoop, MONK fans, on Hy Conrad 's upcoming book MR. MONK HELPS HIMSELF. 

Monk and Natalie are settling back in San Francisco, with one big change. Monk has agreed to make Natalie a full partner. That means Natalie has to pass the California P.I. exam and Monk has to start treating her as an equal.

MMHH-Cover-229x357The trouble starts when Miranda Bigley, a self-help guru, jumps to her death in full view of a hundred people. It’s obviously suicide. But Natalie was a fan of Miranda’s life-affirming teachings, and she thinks there must be something more. Maybe even murder.
Monk has handled dozen of impossible cases. But this one is really impossible, he says. If Natalie wants to look into it, she’s on her own.

Instead, Monk turns his attention to a clown, killed by poisoned money. It’s a case that could become one of the most important of his career. The only drawback? Monk is afraid of clowns (phobia #99), and Natalie refuses to help him if he doesn’t help her.

And so, they’re off on their own, with Natalie infiltrating the guru’s cliffside retreat, Monk trying to stay as far away from clowns as possible, and both of them trying to stay alive.

If there’s one case that can teach them the importance of an equal partnership, this is it.

The Mail I Get – Made My Day Edition

I was very touched and flattered by this email, so I had to share it with you:

I say Thank You for my discovery of reading. That might sound strange coming from a 51 year male whose wife has thousands of books in our house. But I have never read a book since I was forced to in high school, even then I'm not sure I actually did.

While my wife was looking at books at a tag sale my daughter was looking at Mr. Monk is Miserable, she put it down, after my wife purchased several books we were leaving when the man gave my daughter the book. It was very nice of him, but what happened next has changed my life.

My daughter read the book. And when she was done she said, Dad, I know you don't read, but please try reading this book. My wife reads hundreds of books a year and had never gotten me to pick up a book, but when my little girl asked me to, I did. I could not put the book down. It was so easy to read, problem was it was the 7th book. I have a lot of catching up to do. So for my birthday I got book #1, Christmas, books 2, 3, and 4. So reading the acknowledgments I saw your website, and got your email address, and just wanted to say thank you.

You know I'll be getting the rest of the series to read, and after that I'm sure reading is in my future.

Isn't that amazing? I am going to keep this email on my wall so that when the writing gets tough, I'll be reminded of readers like him, stop my whining, and press on.


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.  

Mr. Monk and the New Author

MM_Gets_EVEN_mmGood news: My friend Hy Conrad, a writer/producer on MONK from day 1, is the new author of the MONK books! He will be picking up the story right where I left off with my last book, MR. MONK GETS EVEN, which comes out in December. Hy is a terrific writer, a great mystery-plotter, and has written many beloved episodes of show. Fans of the MONK books can rest easy — the series couldn't be in better hands!

Mr. Monk is Appreciated

MR. MONK IS A MESS came out eight weeks ago and has been getting some great reviews. Here's a sampling. Debra Hamel at Book-Blog says, in part:

The book picks up where Mr. Monk on Patrol left off, with Monk and his assistant Natalie Teeger temporarily employed as police offers in Summit, New Jersey. They eventually return to San Francisco with big plans in mind, but Natalie's homecoming is less than idyllic: suffice it to say that her house is soon cordoned off with police tape, and things don't look good for her and Monk. While they're trying to get the FBI off their backs, Natalie and Monk are also tasked with helping Monk's agoraphobic brother Ambrose, a storyline that leads to a very moving, very satisfying conclusion. There is less humor in this book than in previous installments, but plenty of heart. The novel ends with  our crime-fighting duo on the verge of huge changes in their lives. I'm eager to see how Goldberg will wrap things up, but also very sad to see his involvement with the series coming to an end.

And Lorie Ham at Kings River Life says, among other thngs:

This plot has a little bit of everything including mobsters, the FBI, love, marriage and changing friendships. It’s been fun to see how Natalie and Monk have both grown and changed throughout this series on TV and the books. In this one not only do we have Monk’s quirky brilliance, but Natalie continues to grow as a detective. Is it possible Monk could now survive without Natalie? Or maybe more important, can Natalie survive without Monk?

As always Lee does a great job of bringing these familiar characters to life and providing the reader with a fun mystery filled with twists and turns. I have to admit I didn’t see the ending coming and I can’t wait for the next and final Monk book coming in January.

And Bill Crider remarks that:

I've mentioned time and again how much I've enjoyed these books, and this one's no exception. It's very funny, and it marks another step in the changes that have been occurring as the series progresses[…]The ending is entirely satisfactory, as you'd expect from Goldberg, and it looks as if the next novel will be taking a somewhat new direction. Don't wait for that one, though. Get this one. You'll thank me later. It has laughs, heart, mysteries, and deft plotting, all the things that have made reading the series such a pleasure.

Mark Baker at epinions says this may be the best "Monk" book yet:

While I do still miss watching Monk's antics on TV, the novels based on the series have been a nice way to revisit these great characters. But as the novels have continued post TV series finale, the characters have grown even stronger. The journey they've been on continues in Mr. Monk is a Mess, which I think is my favorite to date. […]But the real star here is the characters. In the books since the series ended, author Lee Goldberg has been letting them grow in some interesting new ways that still feel very true to the characters established in the series. That continues here for all of them, and it is a great thing to watch. Since they are the main characters, Natalie and Monk get the most development, but the supporting characters from the TV series still get their moments. It will please any fan of the show, especially someone who's been reading the books all along.
The show certainly had many comedic moments, and I found plenty more to laugh about here. In fact, it amazes me that after so many TV episodes and novels (this is the fourteenth novel), Monk continues to surprise and amuse me, but he does.
Those who have avoided the novels have done so at their own detriment. They are so much fun and continue the series in a great way. Mr. Monk is a Mess could be enjoyed on its own, but to really get it, you need to read the rest of the book series first.

I appreciate all the great review Debra, Lorie, Bill and Mark, as well as all the five-star reviews from readers on Amazon.  

Mr. Monk is a Mess

Mr. Monk is a MessMy 14th and second-to-last Monk novel, MR. MONK IS A MESS, comes out today. It's a direct sequel to my earlier book, MR. MONK ON PATROL and it resolves, to some degree, the cliffhanger ending of that book. Here's the story…

No one likes to come home to a mess–least of all Monk and Natalie. But when they return briefly to San Francisco from an extended stay working as cops in New Jersey, Natalie discovers somebody has been sleeping in her bed. But this Goldilocks is not asleep. She's dead.

If that's not bad enough, investigators find marked money from a Federal sting operation stuffed under Natalie's mattress. Now her life is a real mess and she needs Monk's help to clean it up.

But Monk has problems of his own. His brother Ambrose is desperate to find Yuki, his missing lover, but his agoraphobia prevents him from leaving the house. Ambrose needs a man on the outside–and that man is Monk, who is torn, because he's glad to see her go.

As the two investigations begin, and the body count rises, it quickly becomes clear to Monk that Yuki has a dangerous past…and that they are pursuing a ruthless, cold-blooded killer that nobody would ever want to mess with…

It was a lot of fun to write, because the relationships between all of the characters were very much in flux, and it meant that Monk had to approach the world, and his cases, in an entirely new way.  It also made things more challenging, surprising and interesting for me, setting the stage for the final book in the series (well, at least the last one that I've written)  

I'll be signing the book on June 6th at the Barnes & Noble in Evansville, IN and June 14-17 at the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro KY, and June 23 at Mysteries to Die For bookstore in Thousand Oaks, CA. I hope if you're near one of those places when I am signing that you'll stop by. 

Mr. Monk and the Happy Ending

Mr. Monk is a MessMy seven year, three episode, fifteen book relationship with Adrian Monk has ended. I've just finished writing my last book in the series, Mr. Monk Gets Even, and I will be sending it to my editor next week after taking one last pass through it (don't despair — the book series may continue with another writer). 

My relationship with Monk has been long and wonderful. It began when  “Monk” creator Andy Breckman hired me and 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, which were based on the TV series of the same name that we’d also written & executive-produced.

When Andy was approached by NAL about writing Monk novels, he declined the opportunity and recommended that I write them instead.  I took the assignment, which was an insane thing to do, since it would mean writing a new book by night every ninety days, alternating between Monk and Diagnosis Murder, while also running a TV series during the day.

That’s how much I loved Adrian Monk.

I kept up that brutal pace for two years before finally ending the Diagnosis Murder book series after eight novels.

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, entitled “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 ever been done before, we haven’t found it. And if it has been done, 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 entirely my own, and for that I will always be grateful.

Mr. Monk Gets Even comes out in January…but Mr. Monk is a Mess, the second to last of my Monk novels, comes out in two weeks.

(Below is a trailer I did for a Monk book excerpt that appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine)