Cannell Cops Award

On Sunday, the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America honored Steve Cannell with the Marlowe Award, celebrating lifetime achievement in the mystery field. Past winners have included William Link, Dennis Lynds, Sue Grafton and Blake Edwards.

It was great fun…and I got a chance to catch up with authors  Nathan Walpow, Bob Levinson, Harley Jane Kozak, Terrill Lee Lankford, and Michael Mallory (to name a few) and to talk shop with fellow TV scribes Tom Sawyer and Paul Levine (who has a new book out and who, incidenally, was instrumental in getting Steve’s first book sold).

Steve  was, as usual, charming and funny and self-deprecating.  It’s amazing to me that a man as successful as he is can come across as such a regular guy. I’ve known him for years (and worked with him on COBRA and HUNTER and hired him as an actor on DIAGNOSIS MURDER) but he has that remarkable ability to make even someone who has just met him feel like his oldest friend.  He’s also quick to share the credit for his success with the writers he’s worked with… and he did it again today…singling out people like Patrick Hasburgh,  Frank Lupo and David Chase.

He told the story today of how he sold his first book, explaining why it was a surprising and humbling experience for him after his unparalleled hot-streak in TV.  After Steve spoke, Harley interviewed him and managed to get him to tell some anecdotes I haven’t heard before (and I thought I’d heard them all!).

Although a lot of nice things were said about Steve and his career during the ceremony, I think Paul Guyot’s letter (which was read by James Lincoln Warren at the podium) summed things up the best:

21 JUMP STREET.  THE COMMISH. And the creations that were ten and twenty years
ahead of the curve – like THE HAT SQUAD and UNSUB… anyone who thinks we’re not
paying tribute today to a genius knows nothing about

But I’m sure enough’s being said
about Stephen J. Cannell the writer. I want to take a minute and let you know
about Steve Cannell – the man.

Last year, I had the pleasure,
and more so – the honor – of working side by side with the man for eight months.
He was the 800 pound gorilla in a black turtleneck; I was the not-so-young
upstart he’d entrusted with his first return to series television in nearly a
decade. It was a big deal. His name was on the line, not mine. And he had every
opportunity to cut me out of the loop, hang me out to dry, bury me, blame me,
screw me, or any of the other typical Hollywood verbs.

But he

Steve Cannell the man was secure
e nough, confident enough, and just plain decent enough to have me work WITH him,
not for him. He was inclusive, encouraging, enjoyable, honest, and probably the
smartest guy I’ve met since my father.
I am proud to call Steve Cannell
my friend, and prouder still that I imagine he calls me the same. Or at least he
did until the turtleneck crack.

Steve, thank you for rolling the dice on
me. We didn’t come up seven, but we didn’t crap out. You taught me more than I
ever expected to learn about writing, producing, editing, and selling… but
most of all you taught me about being a man, and the importance of treating your
fellow man with honesty and respect regardless of the situation or

Congratulations on this well
deserved honor, and I wish you and your family more and more years of success –
in every way.
Keep movin’ the heavy,
And, of course, the first thing Steve said after that was read
was:  "It was Paul’s fault the pilot didn’t sell."  It got a big laugh.

3 thoughts on “Cannell Cops Award”

  1. Steve Cannell has brought so much to television. There was a time in the eighties/early nineties where it seemed like his name was on every show. I love his sense of humor. It comes through in everything he writes. It’s nice to know what you see is what you get. He deserves every award he receives and then some.

  2. I’ve always had a crush on Stephen J. from his writing at the typewriter at the end of his shows, he seemed so fun and intent, and of course outrageously handsome. I’m happy he is as cool as he seemed.


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