Block on Signings

Sarah Weinman clued me in to this terrific article by Lawrence Block on signing and touring…

The whole signed-books issue got accelerated with the 1992 publication of John Dunning’s Booked to Die, which noted that books simply signed by the author had more collector value than those inscribed to a specific reader. Almost immediately, I noticed an upsurge of buyers who murmured “Signature only, please.” It’s much quicker just signing one’s name, and not having to write “To Cathy, I’ll never forget that heavenly night in Sioux Falls.” And was that Cathy with a C or Kathy with a K, and does it end in Y or I?

“Thank you, John Dunning,” many of us said under our breath when another signature-only appeared. But there was a downside. If more folks were content with a simple signature, they were also intent on getting their entire collection signed.

Larry is being a bit disingenuous… as much as he questions the value of signed books and the desire readers have to get their books signed, he’s certainly taking advantage of the market more deftly and agressively than any author I know. Not only does he tour extensively to support his books (as he should), he also runs a small business through his website and his newsletter — and literally out of the trunk of his car — selling signed copies of his backlist and other editions. It’s rare to find an UNSIGNED Block book. So while he may question the whole signed-book-mania, he’s certainly profiting from it and, no doubt, hoping the craze doesn’t wane. Who can blame him? I admire his writing and his salesmanship. But given the way he’s embraced the signed book market, I found the tone of his entertaining piece a bit puzzling…

Book Fest

I had a wonderful time at the Los Angeles Festival of Books. In addition to meeting lots of terrific readers and fans, I also got to catch up with some of my favorite writers and friends like Paul Levine (who just finished writing a new novel), Denise Hamilton (favorably compared to Chandler in the LA Times this weekend), Steve Cannell (who told me he’s releasing all his old shows on DVD, including the late great COBRA, which I worked on for him), Victor Gischler (visiting LA for the first time and catching a prizefight while he was at it), Barbara Seranella (taking her wicked sense of humor out for a test drive), Roger Simon (playing with his new camera), Gayle & Dennis Lynds (Lit royalty from Santa Barbara), Dick Lochte (with whom I love talking shop), Kent Harrington (his DARK RIDE is a noir classic and he’s probably sick of me telling him that all the time), Richard Barre (a great writer and now editor at Capra Press), Gregg Hurwitz (a newlywed), GM Ford (also a newlywed), Scott Phillips (still high from the news his ICE HARVEST is now filming), Tom Nolan (his Ross McDonald biography is a must read), Eric Garcia (just back from the set of the new ANONYMOUS REX TV series), Terry Erdman (Mr. Star Trek), TJ Parker (sharing some of his adventures in television), Mary Yukuri Waters (a wonderful short story writer) Jerrylin Farmer (who always gives me great advice…though this time we shared broken bone horror stories), Nathan Walpow, Gary Phillips, Rhys Bowen, Aimee Bender, Leonard Maltin, Tom Taylor, SL Stebel, and John Morgan Wilson. I also got to meet and chat with Bruce Wagner, Raymond Benson (now writing the Bond books), Sean Doolittle, Leslie Silbert, Joanne Fluke (great cookies!), Rachel Resnick (author of “Go West Young Fucked Up Girl”), Diane Wagman, and John Connolly.

By far, though, the highlight of the weekend for me was the hour or so I spent after the book awards chatting with Donald Westlake (first with Dick Lochte, who introduced us, then later with my brother Tod and Denise Hamilton). We talked about writing styles and techniques, the book business, screenwriting, and the movie adaptations of his work. We also talked about some of our favorite authors and he shared some marvelous anecdotes about Rex Stout, Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Evan Hunter and my buddy Richard S. Prather. I was wowed. He’s a living legend and a hell of a nice guy, too.

For pictures from the Fest, check out Roger Simon’s blog or Aldo Calcagno’s site.

It’s a Mystery

I was reading the Publishers Weekly close-up on mysteries, which reminded me of a pitch meeting we had a few years ago at a basic cable network, before MONK burst on the scene. I pitched a mystery series, a blend of reality and scripted tv, to the new development exec. He interrupted me in middle of the pitch.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “You want to do a mystery every week?”

“Uh, yes,” I said.

“It can’t be done,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“I mean, you can’t tell a new mystery every week,” he said. “It’s just not possible.”

“Of course it is,” I replied. “I’ve done it. Diagnosis Murder was a mystery.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Yes, it was,” I argued.

“Nobody can do a mystery every week,” he said. “It’s ludicrous.”

“Murder She Wrote, Law and Order, CSI, those are all mysteries,” I said.

“No, they aren’t.”

“Okay,” I said. “What is your idea of a mystery?”

“Scooby-Doo,” he replied.

“That’s an animated Saturday morning cartoon,” I said.

“Exactly,” he said.

One Arm Free

I got the cast on my left arm off today — I feel like a new man. I got a new cast on my right arm and an x-ray peek at the new titanium elbow. It’s not a very elegant device — kind of barbaric looking with the long, pointed, screws and the "ball" imbedded in my bone. Buy hey, if it works, who cares what it looks like underneath the skin. On the surface, I have a hell of a scar. It will make me look rugged. The cast on my right arm comes off in 15 days and then the real fun begins, figuring out just how much motion/use I will get back. But at least I know I can type and sign my name.

Slash Fanfic

It’s as old as fanfic — slash fic. That’s when Kirk and Spock do The Nasty…and so do McCoy/Scotty, Josh/President Bartlett… you get the stomach churning picture. Gotta love fanfic. Anyway, there’s even Diagnosis Murder slash fic. Can you imagine? Why would you? Why would anyone? One particularly upset fan rails on a blog against a new DM slash story.

The Reality-Challenged

So I’m sitting here with my two broken arms, recovering from surgery, and someone emails me a posting from the Pax TV discussion board. There’s a Diagnosis Murder fan who apparently is upset by a link in a posting here to her fanfic website, the one hosting the story in which Steve (the character played by Barry Van Dyke) narrowly avoids anal rape while undercover in prison. She believes the link harms her reputation in some way. So she posted this thoughtful note:
I just went back to check out the status on
According to Valerie, Lee broke both his arms, I hope he gets well soon (and I mean that! I don’t kid about other folks’ misery.)
Given those facts I’m willing to give him a few days to remove the link.
I’m sure that he will find a way to show some fair action, that is AFTER he’s had surgery on the one arm. Fair is fair!
N.S.D.!!! – Nie pleuje!
Astonishing, isn’t it?
Naturally, since I heard about this, it’s become my top priority. Nothing matters more to me in life. Which is why I intend to do absolutely nothing about it.
If you were me, how would you deal with people like this?


A reminder — Because of my two broken arms, I’m still dictating these entries on my blog, so please forgive the typos and awkward sentences.

Turn Off Your Tv Week

I was unaware this was national turn off your TV week until Bob Sassone told me. They need a better publicist. Or maybe a good TV commercial. Anyway, the idea is you should stop watching TV and spend more time with your family and read more books. I’m all for those things naturally, but I think both are overrated. The last conversation I had with my wife and daughter involved my daughter musing about what colors the uniforms might be on her soccer team. And my daughter isn’t even on a soccer team yet. The last book I read was a mystery, that shall go nameless, and that was no better than an average TV show. So was I really better off having that conversation and reading that book than watching the latest episode of “law and order?” I don’t think it’s an either or question really. Turn off your TV week is just stupid. I’m not just saying that as someone who makes his living in TV and writes a lot of TV. The fact is television viewing is at an all-time low — at least among the major networks. I wonder if people are really watching as much TV is the anti-TV people think they are. And even if they are so what? Is TV worse for you than a bad book? Is TV worse for you than a video game, computer game, playing with your PDA, your blackberry, or your cell phone? There are a thousand things keeping us from wonderful wholesome family conversations and classic novels. Why single 0ut tv? I say let’s have a no Game Boy week, a no cell phone week, or no Internet week. Let’s see how that would fly!