Mystery Novelists Writing for TV

The third season of THE WIRE is premiering tonight and some folks, like the New York Times, are making a big deal out of the fact that mystery novelists George Pelecanos, Richard Price and Dennis Lehane are writing episodes of the show as if it was something, well, novel. It’s not.

Lots of mystery novelists have written for television. Lorenzo Carcatera and Matt Witten wrote for LAW AND ORDER. Peter Lefcourt wrote for BEGGARS AND CHOOSERS and KAREN SISCO. Other novelists who have written episodes, pilots and TV movies include Eric Garcia, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, Robert Crais, Ian Rankin, Thomas Perry, James Crumley, Walter Mosley, Ross Thomas, Gar Anthony Haywood, Stephen King, Stuart Kaminsky, Dave Barry, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly, to name just a few.

And that doesn’t count all the novelists who started out as TV writers, among them Sue Grafton, Robert Crais, Lee Child, and Stephen J. Cannell.

Back when I was doing Diagnosis Murder, we hired Paul Bishop and John Sandford to write episodes. Paul wrote three or four for us… but John’s was never shot. He turned in his script shortly before I left the show and the new execs chose to shelve his teleplay.

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