Goldberg vs Goldberg: The Interview

Author/editor Steph Cha​ had the brilliant idea of assigning my brother Tod Goldberg the task of interviewing me for Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB)​….the result is probably the most personal, and indepth interview I’ve ever done. I hope you like it. Here’s an excerpt:

Lee and his brother Tod express their delight at having books released simultaneously in June 2016

TOD: I often get asked what it’s like to have a family of writers and artists, and it’s hard to explain, exactly, because it’s the only way we’ve lived. Our sisters are both writers and artists, our mother, after her socialite period, became a newspaper columnist covering socialites, our father not that I ever lived with him as a sentient human as you noted, was a TV news journalist, and then there’re all the uncles and cousins and whatnot, too. But you were the first one, really, to make it on a national stage, which I know gave me the confidence to aim big, and which I suspect made it easier for our sisters, too. Did seeing mom’s and dad’s success and, in many ways, eventual failure both of them had these sort of big-league dreams but ended up never quite getting there, which ended up driving them both a bit mad provide some motivation for you?

LEE: There’s no question that dad being on television and mom being a writer shaped me in profound ways. There is a lot of both of them in me … though more of mom than dad. They were both comfortable in front of an audience, whether it was on camera or standing on front of people. Mom had a big, outgoing personality and great sense of humor. She was a deft schmoozer and a big ego. She was a profound exaggerator in her storytelling, for both comic and dramatic effect. She went after what she wanted, personally and professionally. She was a fighter. I have a lot of those same attributes, though I hope with less of the destructive flip side. For example, I know when I am exaggerating a story and, I like to believe, so does my audience. We’re in on the joke together. It’s like when an audience buys into the franchise of a TV series … no matter how ludicrous it might be (she’s a nun — and she can fly! A detective with OCD! A drug-addicted doctor who hates his patients!) … because they want to enjoy the ride. Unlike mom, I don’t believe my exaggerations are the truth and then exaggerate them the next time I tell the story, and then exaggerate that, until I am heading into something approaching clinical delusion. I know where the truth ends and the embellishment, for comedic or dramatic effect, begins. I’m deeply afraid the day will come, though, when I lose that self-awareness.

I haven’t talked much about dad because he wasn’t really in my life after I was 10 years old (though he was in my life more than you or our sisters). Dad grew up wanting to be a TV anchorman … despite coming from a small logging town and having zero contacts … and yet he achieved that dream. He eventually became an anchorman on KPIX, the CBS affiliate in San Francisco … a major station in a major market … and it should have been a stepping-stone to the national stage. Getting there had to take talent, drive, and confidence … but somewhere along the line he lost his mojo … or, more likely, his backbone. I was too young at the time to know why or how it happened, or if mom was somehow to blame. But he became a weak, wishy-washy, superficial man. He let people, he let life, walk all over him. He stood up for nothing and nobody and lost everything. He showed me it was possible to achieve your dream, but through his failure, he also showed me you had to be strong to keep it. That’s not all I learned from him. Seeing him on TV every night also made television — the industry and the medium — something approachable to me. He made the TV part of my family. He made it small and human. My father was a TV screen, and I knew that I was stronger than he was. So yeah, I could break into TV. No problem. And I did.

You can read the full  interview here. 

Happy Birthday, Dad. I Don’t Miss You.

My wife Valerie, my daughter Maddie, and me
My wife Valerie, my daughter Maddie, and me

Today would have been my Dad’s 70-something birthday. He died too young, sitting on a couch, eating pizza. He was in the midst of his third marriage and he was broke, or close to it, yet again. He was estranged from his four children and didn’t know his grandkids, as well as his stepchildren and a child he’d adopted and hadn’t seen in years. This was his own doing, something achieved after decades of irresponsibility, spinelessness and shameful parenting. As the oldest of his four children, I was the only one in any contact with him (I was also the only one of his kids or stepchildren to attend his funeral, which should tell you something right there). Perhaps that’s because I was the child who’d had him in his life the longest as a parent. But each time I saw him in my adulthood, it wasn’t anger and frustration that I felt but crushing sadness, for him and, I guess, to some degree, for myself. My promise to myself after each depressing encounter was that I wouldn’t be anything like him… not personally, not professionally, and especially not as a father. So each fourth of July, I find myself looking inward and wondering if I’ve fullfilled that promise. I think it must be fate that my daughter was born on July 3rd, because it gives me a chance the day before to see in her a progress report of sorts. Yesterday was my daughter’s 21st birthday and we spent it together, as a family, as we always have. I felt so much love and pride for her that I can wake up this morning, look in the mirror, and say to myself with certainty, and no small measure of relief: “I’m not you, Dad.” I hope I can do the same next year.

The Pursuit & Cosmic Coincidences

Yesterday several dreams came true all at once.

Pursuit is number oneFirst off, you can now call me a #1 New York Times bestselling author. THE PURSUITmy fifth Fox & O’Hare book co-authored with Janet Evanovich, debuted at #1 on the ebook bestseller list (and #8 on hardcover, and #3 on print & ebook combined). Hitting #1 is a dream come true… but it got even better thanks to some cosmic coincidences.

As some of you may know, my brother Tod is also an author. His latest book is THE HOUSE OF SECRETS , co-authored with my friend Brad Meltzer, came out in early June …the same day as the paperback edition of THE SCAM, my fourth Fox & O’Hare book with Janet Evanovich, was released. It’s a total coincidence, since we have different publishers. HOUSE OF SECRETS debuted at #6 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list and last week THE SCAM was #5 on the New York Times mass market paperback list.

Screenshot 2016-06-29 14.43.50But this week we are on the same bestseller list together — THE PURSUIT is #8 and THE HOUSE OF SECRETS is #16 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list.


We’ve both fantasized about this happening and now it actually has. We both have a hard time believing it. We owe a big thank you to Janet Evanovich and Brad Meltzer for their big roles in making this dream come true…and especially to all of YOU for buying our books.

PS – The great coincidences don’t end there.  Audiobooks superstar Scott Brick reads the audio version of THE PURSUIT and he also reads the audio version of THE HOUSE OF SECRETS. How cool is that?

The Secret is out on THE HOUSE OF SECRETS

51NfhdrmHBL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_My brother Tod Goldberg and my friend Brad Meltzer will be signing their new adventure novel THE HOUSE OF SECRETS at Barnes & Noble at the Grove in Los Angeles on June 16 and at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego on June 17. I’ll be at the Grove event…I can’t wait…and I’ve already read the book. It’s a fun, fast, exhilirating thrill ride of an adventure novel filled with fresh, unique, colorful, fully-dimensional characters. The heroine is flat-out terrific …a female Jason Bourne with a vibrator. But perhaps what I like the most is the consistent, pleasantly ironic narrative voice …one that’s as funny as it is sharply observant. I would have loved this book even if wasn’t written by my brother and one of my friends. It’s a fantastic and, if you can’t make the signing, you should pre-order the book right this second.

The World in Color

I’m red/green color blind. So is my brother Tod.

My sister Linda sent us both an article about these new glasses by Enchroma, which supposedly correct for red/green colorblindness.

Naturally, I had to try it.

Yes, they worked…but not instantly. It was gradual…at least for me. (as you can see for yourself in the video). You can only wear these glasses outside and it takes an hour or so before it starts to really kick in (they have different glasses for indoor use). The first night I had the glasses, in the hour or two  before it got dark, I sat at an outdoor cafe and pointed out people to my wife Valerie and tried to identify the colors of their clothes. It seemed like everyone was dressed like clowns…by that I mean, very bright and garish. 

The effect has been much stronger as the days go by. The whole world just looks brighter and much more vivid…especially trees and bushes. I had no idea green was colorful (if that makes any sense). It’s like certain colors are under a spotlight or have been highlighted or spiked with neon. The reds, greens, pinks and purples… or at least what I think are those colors… leap out at me as if illuminated. Purple and hot pink are just stunningly bright to me. I can see a green traffic light and a red light at an intersection now. I can see gradations between greens. I can see that the serial numbers and the seal on the dollar bill are bright green. I never knew that. Hell, for the first time, a dollar bill looks green (or what I see as green anyway). Same for freeway signs. I had no idea they had a color. But there are times the glasses can give you wrong cues.

There was a color on a sign at the Ventura County Fair that I was sure was green, and that Valerie kept telling me  was light blue… well, I can see blue, and that sure as hell wasn’t blue to me. Later, I took the glasses off and went back to see that sign…what I saw as green now looked gray to me. Valerie put on the glasses and the blue looked green to her. So there must be something in that shade of blue that the glasses pick up and amplifies to create green. Color aside, everything seems sharper and more in focus with these glasses on.

When I take the glasses off, the world seems washed out and drab to me… especially trees and bushes, which seem to merge together into blandness. With the glasses, I see distinctions between the greens, which I suppose is what gives me that illusion of the world coming into sharper focus.

What’s even stranger, though, and it may be my imagination, is that there seems to be a residual effect even when I am not wearing the glasses…perhaps becuase I know what some things are supposed to look like now and my brain is correcting for that.

My brother Tod tried on the glasses…and the effect was instant for him, as you can see in this video:

He went back and looked at that same tree I did…and had the same reaction. He’d never seen those colors before, either.

Where You Lived

WhereYouLivedFLAT3 My brother Tod's latest collection of short stories, Where You Lived, is now available on the Kindle and the Nook, with a cover by my sister Linda Woods. The collection includes "the stories behind the stories," a peek at how his provocative,unusual, and ingenious tales were written. It's a steal at $2.99.

Please buy it so he doesn't have to pimp his wife on the mean streets of Indio in order to pay his staggering air conditioning bills.

Tod Gives Burn Notice the Burn Notice

10082679 After writing five BURN NOTICE  books, my brother Tod has called it quits, turning down a contract for more. Remarkably, the publisher has decided to retire the series as a result. Now that THE BAD BEAT,   his final book in the series is coming out, Tod reflects on his blog today on what he's learned from the experience. Here's an excerpt:

…writing Michael Westen taught me how to write series fiction and, beyond that, how to pace commercial crime fiction. See, previously, the crime fiction I wrote was decidedly not series and decidedly not commercial, really. (And I would argue that I never really set out to write crime, specifically, even if Living Dead Girl and Fake Liar Cheat and a bunch of my short stories are, you know, stories about crimes.) At any rate, writing the books required a completely different skill set — the deadlines alone required that they be almost completely plot and voice driven, which is somewhat different than my other work which tends to be character and setting driven. Writing Burn Notice has changed the way I approach crime fiction, which is good since the novel I'm writing now — more on that in a moment — is a pretty straight crime novel. 

[…] because the deadlines were so close, I also had to learn to not be an obsessive rewriter, which meant I had to keep a pretty tight plot, which meant I did more outlining than usual…and by that I mean I outlined anything at all, which I typically don't do. I also ended up trusting myself more. Usually when I'm working on something new, I show drafts to my wife or to my agent or trusted friends to get some feedback, but I just didn't have the time to do that with these books and the result is that I ended up needing to be honest with myself. Not an easy thing for any writer.

Now I don't feel so guilty about getting him the gig.

Michael Silverblatt Has Become David Caruso

..and by that I mean he has become a outrageous spoof of himself, as my brother Tod so deftly illustrates on his blog with an excerpt from this week's Bookworm on NPR.

Silverblatt: I am speaking with Geoff Dyer, who I consider to be possibly the best writer of…I won't say of novels and I won't say of essays, but of the strange inter-ground between them and because he, in a sense, unbuttons and allows the informality of the dissatisfied self to take the place of that vastly seniorial literary critic type who could only recite his dissatisfaction because this or that strayed from the tradition. With you it's very different.

Dyer:…yeah…I think this is one of those classic Silverblatt questions in that I'm not sure I have a response to it, other than to say thank you and yes, I agree. That is…there is…that is…there is…that's what's going on.

You've got to hand it to Dyer…he's one of the few authors who has actually responded to one of Silverblatt's bloated, nonsensical ramblings by basically saying: "I have no idea what the fuck you just said, you pompous windbag." 

Tod does a hilarious, pitch-perfect imitation of Silverblatt (and, in fact, once regaled his friends with it in the green room at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books without realizing the windbag was sitting behind him). Here's an example:

Silverblatt: Today I'm pleased to welcome Mark Danielewski author of Only Revolutions, a novel which reminds me of another book, another word, another river of time that winds through a cloud of violence, which, like time, reminds me of Bonnie & Clyde and, more specifically, Badlands, and by "remind" I mean, within my own mind, and by mind, I mean the long rush of space where man is an incarnation of disconnection, and in disconnection, as e.e. cummings once said, and which I paraphrase here, as a highway paraphrases a road, or a road paraphrases a worm hole through space, if space is narrative and e.e. cummings is symbol that really means Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face, which, truly, Mark, this novel feels like…a punch in the face of time, and by time, I mean violence, and by violence, I mean fisting, and by fisting I mean, and here I'd like your thoughts, the way your book can be read backwards like the Torah, or upside down like a man wearing moon boots, or side to side like a roller derby fight. Yes?

Danielewski: Yes, yes, absolutely. Whatever. Can someone get my publicist on the phone? Her name is Kim Dower. Someone get me Kim fucking Dower!


We Are Family

Famcroppedb My brother Tod wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal today about what it's like being part of a family of writers…and the dymanics that have shaped us into the authors were are today. He  says, in part:

the truth is that I didn’t really grow up surrounded by writers as much as all the people I grew up with – my older brother, Lee Goldberg, and my two older sisters, Karen Dinino and Linda Woods, who often collaborate – all became authors. We are separated by nine years, oldest to youngest, yet we managed to end up in the same place, at least metaphorically speaking.

My brother was first. His debut novel, .357 Vigilante, a slim men’s action adventure written under the absurd pen-name Ian Ludlow, was released in 1985 after he got a book deal through his writing teacher at UCLA. I would follow fifteen years later with my first novel and then my sisters, writing as a team, published their first book in 2006. Combined, we’ve published 50 books, hundreds of short stories, essays and features and, in my brother Lee’s case, written or produced 26 different television shows.

[…]We had a difficult childhood, all of us: our mother was dying for most of our lives, the victim of both lupus and cancer, though she’d actually live for 73 years, but that specter hung over us, along with her propensity towards madness. And our father was simply gone, long before he was actually gone. We each escaped into words from an early age. That’s the sad truth that lives under the happy result. The “how” is easily revealed: we enjoyed the escape so much that it became our physical world.

For more, check out the article. You'll know more about us afterwards than you'd ever want to.

 (Pictured: l-r Linda Woods, Lee Goldberg, Maddie Goldberg, Valerie Goldberg, Tod Goldberg, Wendy Goldberg, Karen Dinino, and Jan Curran)