James Strauss and his Fake Writing Credits

A year ago, I published a blog post here titled “Easily Fooled” about being on a TV writing panel at a mystery conference with a guy whose writing credits were all fake.  I omitted his name to save him embarrassment. I was being too kind, because the guy is still hoodwinking conferences and the paying attendees with the same scam. So here’s the post again… with his name included this time.

James Strauss

James gets gigs teaching screenwriting courses based on his experience writing episodes on the TV shows HOUSE, DEADWOOD, SAVING GRACE and ENTOURAGE. The problem is, according to the Writers Guild of America and writer/producers on those shows, James Strauss never worked as a writer on any of those series. So beware. If you run across any conference or seminar programs where he’s fraudulently claiming those credits in his biography, please alert the organizers and have them contact Lesley McCambridge in the WGA West credits department. Okay, so here’s the April 2013 post that tells how I first encountered this fake, James Strauss:

James Srauss claims to have written episodes of HOUSE. He didn't.
James Strauss claims to have written episodes of HOUSE. He didn’t.

The First Clue: Strauss Didn’t Know What He Was Talking About

Recently, I was a guest at a Love is Murder Conference in Chicago and one of my fellow speakers/panelists was James Strauss, who claimed to have written for scores of acclaimed network TV shows, like House, Deadwood, and Entourage, and a big upcoming movie, The Equalizer. Based on his experience, he’d been invited to speak at writer’s conferences, seminars, and libraries from coast to coast, including some nice paid gigs in Hawaii and Mexico. I’d never heard of him…and the instant I met him, I knew something was off.

For one thing, I knew one of the writers of the big, upcoming movie he claimed to have worked on…and I knew writer/producers on most of the shows he said he wrote for…and when I mentioned their names to James, he was evasive or said he came on the various projects before or after my friends were there. I might have bought that, screenwriting is a pretty nomadic business, but everything he said on his panels and in his talks about writing scripts and working on episodic series wasn’t just wrong, it was inane. Even in our personal conversations, he said some pretty stupid stuff about the business.

The Second Clue: Strauss Had No Credits. Anywhere. For Anything.

So I looked James Strauss up on IMDb. No credits. I googled his name, with the titles of the series he said he worked on, to see what came up… and the results I got all came from his website and the conferences he’d spoken at. Now my B.S. meter was in the red zone.

So I contacted my friends on the shows that he said he worked on. Not one of them had ever heard of him.

So I called the Writers Guild of America’s credits department and asked for his credits. They told me he wasn’t a member and had no writing credits.

Clearly, James Strauss was fraud. And not a very sophisticated one either if a mere google search could unmask him.

Now that the Guild was alerted to the guy, they investigated the issue in more depth, and sent him a strong cease-and-desist letter.

James Strauss claims to have written episodes of DEADWOOD. He didn't.
James Strauss claims to have written episodes of DEADWOOD. He didn’t.

Conferences Should Check Credentials of So-Called “Experts”

What I don’t get is how so many conferences, libraries, and seminars could have invited this guy to speak, and paid his way to tropical locales, without doing even the most basic check of his credentials. In this day and age, if a guy says he wrote for some of the most acclaimed shows on TV, you should be able to easily confirm it with a simple Google search.  And if you can’t, that should be a big, fat, red freaking flag.

I alerted the conference organizers about this guy’s fraud, and they said they’d always suspected something was off about him, but he seemed very knowledgeable and was so likeable that they let it go. They won’t make that mistake again.

UPDATE 4-22-2014: They actually did! Love is Murder invited James Strauss back again this year to talk about TV writing …even after being alerted by me and the WGA that he was a fraud. But James wisely was a last-minute no-show. The WGA sent him another cease-and-desist letter, and copied the conference. There’s nothing wrong with him teaching screenwriting. What is wrong is claiming credits and experience that he doesn’t have.

IncrediblyJames Strauss is still at it, claiming credits he doesn’t have. Yesterday, I discovered another conference that he was scheduled to speak at in May as an expert in TV writing. His bio listed the usual falsehoods. So I alerted the organizers about his fake credits and put them in touch with the WGA. The conference immediately disinvited Strauss. It’s discovering his continued fraud that prompted me to rewrite and repost this blog today.

When he’s asked to validate his writing credits, he claims he can’t because he wrote his scripts “under the table” and “off the books” so David Shore, David Milch, and the other producers he worked for could avoid paying WGA rates for writers. Uh-huh. That tells you how little James Strauss knows about the TV biz…or about the people he claims to have worked with. HOUSE creator/EP David Shore is on the Board of the Writers Guild of America and chairs the New Members committee.

James Strauss is not a clever fake. The problem is that the conference organizers he meets are so well-meaning, gullible and desperate for impressive guest speakers.

Here’s what James Strauss is saying today on his Facebook page about me outing his fakery:

“Ah, this day closes. I am under attack. For being what I am not supposed to be. For saying what I am not supposed to say. For attempting to live through the mythology of our phenomenal existence with little or no respect into a reality of hard truth and unacceptable demonstration of how things are. Just another day. Not so. A tough day and one not necessarily supported by those living in comfort and removed from the harshness of cold real world delivery. And so I bid you all a good night. I hope your day was better than mine but mine, even such as it was, wasn’t so bad as others have it. For them….I wish them love and acceptance. I wish them belief and tolerance. I wish them everything….”

UPDATE 4-24-2014 – James Strauss is a convicted conman.

UPDATE JAN 28. 2015
Fake TV writer and convicted conman James Strauss is back…this time expressing on Facebook his happiness that his author page is finally creeping up to top of Google search results for his name as opposed to all the posts on the web about his swindles. What amuses me about this bizarre post is how he casts himself as a victim…as opposed to the many people that he deceived and defrauded.

The Mail I Get – Big Fat Liar Edition

Reverse-mortgage-fraud-scamIf you’re fattening up your credits with fakery, I’m probably one of the last people you want to contact. This tale of lame fraud began as a typical, badly-written solicitation for a blurb with the usual flattery at the beginning (I’ve taken out anything that might identify the author). The miss-spellings, awkward sentence structure, etc. are all his:

Let me start by saying I absolutely hero-worship you!  I own every one of you Monk DVDs and I have one of my servers named after him. (The other one is Columbo.  Needless to say not a single hacker of a virus gets past onto Monk and Columbo.)  I have read 7 of your Monk books and the new one, The Heist, that you have written with Janet Evanovich.

I love, love, love your sense of humour and the way you weave your homour in so effortlessly.

I was delighted to find your email address and am writing to ask if you would, by some off chance, be kind enough to review my book, XYZ, is due out with publisher  XYZ, on the 6th of November.

It is literary suspense fiction, a psychological and legal thriller around an aching love story set in London and on the beautiful Scottish and South English coasts. I have injected some humour into it and would love your feedback.


We should ask you to do the review it as a note to yourself in the first instance please since the book is being released only on the 6th of November. We can contact you when the book is published so that you could cut-and-paste your review on to Amazon.com.  I shall be happy to provide my publisher’s email address if you wish to provide the review to her.

I live in hope that I might hear back from you due some good karma.

I’m sure he’s regretting that hope now. Here’s what I wrote back:

Thanks for thinking of me, and for your kind words about my books, but I’m afraid I don’t have time to blurb your novel. However, I did look at your web page, where you advertise XYZ as an Edgar-nominated novel. I don’t see how it’s possible for the book to be Edgar-nomated, since it hasn’t been released yet. You also mention in your bio that you are an Edgar-nominated author.  So I looked in the MWA Edgar database, and could find no mention of you or your books. Were you nominated under another name for a different book?

I knew for certain that he was lying about being an Edgar Award nominee, but I was being polite and wanted to see how he’d explain himself.He immediately wrote back:

It is in the works and the web site is only in preparation for the release that is coming in a month. The applications have been made to MWA with a galley of the book.

He was obviously unaware that I was chair of the MWA membership committee, that I helped draft the Edgar submission rules, and that I’ve been an Edgar Awards chair and a judge. I am absolutely the wrong person to try to con on this subject. So I wrote back:

Applying for an Edgar award does NOT make you an Edgar nominee. An Edgar nomination is a great honor and highly coveted and you have not earned one yet. You need to remove the Edgar references from your site right away.

On your website, you also excerpt reviews of your book from the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. I have checked both newspaper sites and can find no record of the reviews. Are the reviews upcoming?

I knew that wasn’t the case, and that the reviews were fake, but I wanted to see how he’d try to talk his way out of this one. He shot back a quick reply, probably realizing by now that he’d made a big mistake contacting me and inviting me to look at his site:

Yes, from galleys.

While I was still reading that lame response, he immediately followed up with an email that he hoped would get me off his case.:

Mr. Goldberg: Don’t worry about the review. My publisher will handle the review galleys. I have to get permission from my publisher before presenting the galley for review and they have informed me I do not have permission too present it to you.

They’d informed him in the three minutes between our emails on a Sunday morning? Yeah, right. Not that it mattered. I wasn’t ready to let him off the hook yet. He was, after all, falsely claiming to be the author of an Edgar-nominated book that the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune had drooled all over. And that pissed me off. So I pressed on:

Do you mean that you’ve submitted the galleys for review…or that the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune have both reviewed the book in galleys and have sent you an advance peek at their to-be-published reviews?

I knew that wasn’t the case, either. But again, I was being outwardly nice about it. He, on the other hand, was scrambling. He replied:

They will publish the reviews on the right dates.
My website is not public until the date of publication either. It is just a work in progress for the publication date.

That explanation didn’t make much sense to me… and probably not to him, either. He’d been cornered and was not a good liar under pressure. So here’s what I wrote back:

I understand…but if you are directing potential reviewers and “blurbers” like me to a link to see the blurbs on your site, the blurbs should be real, not fake place-holders for the real reviews you hope to receive. It’s misleading.

BTW, your publisher is not on the list of MWA-approved publishers so your book is not eligible for Edgar award consideration. Your publisher needs to be vetted and approved by the membership committee before the book can be submitted for consideration.

He still wasn’t willing to admit his reviews were fake…or that he’d made a big mistake calling himself an Edgar-nominated author and his unpublished book as an “Edgar-nominated” novel. He wrote:

To clarify, the manuscript I sent was compiled my own working copy of the manuscript and not the actual galley from the publisher.
I have got a slap on my knuckles for being over-eager and enthusiastic to get into a discussion with you.

We are simply preparing things for the publication date.

We understand the requirements of the MWA. Thank you for your advice.

Here is some more advice:

1) before you contact an author for a blurb, make sure you have a well-written and coherent pitch letter.
2) Be sure you know all about the person you are contacting for a blurb. If you’re pretending to be an Edgar award nominee, don’t approach someone who used to be closely involved in the running of the Edgar Awards.
3) If you are pretending that your book has won acclaim from The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, don’t send your book to someone who has an internet connection and has heard of Google.
4) If you are plumping up your website with lies, don’t send a link to your site to someone who delights in ridiculing inept pitches and skewering liars regularly on his blog.