Nov 18, 2007


A large portion of my adult life, Hell, my entire life, has been influenced by what I watch on television and on the big screen. I love movies. I love a lot of television. And it's no real secret that there is big money involved.
So what I want to know is why don't the powers that be want to share some of it with the writers? Only a fool would think that these wonderful shows and movies get made with out great scripts.

Of course Time Warner's Entertainment Weekly is covering the strike. And they should. It will have a major impact on a lot of what they cover. But why is it that in the article about the strike all they show are the stars? And mostly good looking women at that. And Jay Leno, who is not a good looking woman.

I heard some numbers about how much the writers get from DVD sales compared to what the designer of the DVD gets and I think it's a crime. i also beleive that there will be big money in internet viewing of show and they deserve a piece of that, and a damn fair piece at that.

I don't understand the attraction to watching on a computer or a cell phone or some other small device all the kids have, I want to watch in a comfy chair on a big tv, but that's a different rant.

So what will television do? I've heard rumors of more reality television coming our way.
Why not just go ioff the air now? Haven't these people dameged the brains of Americans enough with this damn Big Brother and Survivor and American Idol? How much less do they want us to think? I'm guessing not at all. Reality TV isn't even reality any more. Now it's a bunch of disfunctional losers trying to get on TV by eithe rbeing the most whiney or the bitchiest or the cruelest. The way these people behave is not the way people should conduct themselves. And yet there is a whole genreationthinking it's ok to be an asshole because thes lame networks don't want to pay for writers to write real programing when they can just film people behaving badly.
TV viewing is down? No surprise. Give us back our well written prgramming. And while you're at it maybe cut back on the damn commercials? Why do so many people watch on DVD or TiVO or DVR? Because they are sick to death of comercials!
And the film industry is putting out it's share of stinkers too. They want to remake Death Wish with Stallone? Are you f*&king kidding me?!!?? Hey studio heads! Pay the writers what they want and let them write something new for you. Remember the remake of Psycho? That worked out real well didn't it?

This is getting away from me.

I support the writers in their strike. One hundered percent. My television will be tuning in to nothing but DVDs tll the strike is over.

And hey! Entertainment Weekly!?!?? How about a shot of Lee Goldberg picketing! He's a real working writer, not an actor showing support.

I suggest everone stop watching TV. Watch DVDs instead, or better yet, read a book!

For up tp date coverage read Lee Goldberg’s Blog

Nov 15, 2007

Murder and Mayhem In Muskego

I can’t believe it’s over. The third annual Murder and Mayhem in Muskego is done and so now are Crimespree Magazine’s mystery commitments for 2007. But what a Saturday we had. This year was a glorious year when it came to cons, both the national and regional. But while I love the conventions, my heart truly belongs now to the one day event in Southern Wisconsin that Jon, Jennifer and myself have been lucky enough to be involved in from the beginning. The Friends of the Muskego Library are fantastic and Penny and Jane continue to rock my world.

What makes the one day so special? The caliber of the speakers and the attention from the audience. You see there’s only one track of speaking, so all 223 signed registrants and the dozens of people who walked in just to hear certain speakers shared a singular experience. In Muskego and Milwaukee we’ll be talking about this Saturday until next year.

For us, the event started this year as the Library’s guests began to arrive on Thursday. This meant a little extra time with the wonderful Maggie Griffin, Sean Chercover and Gregg Hurwitz (who by the way is married to an absolutely amazing woman). Friday brought the T.V. spot and we were all up early to watch Richard Katz, Sean and our own Sis, Jen Jordan talk mystery with the T.V. host, cheering them on with p.j.’s and coffee.

Then the airport runs began. While “our drivers” Tim, Mike & Jon ferried folks to and from the airport to the hotel and Casa Jordan , the library staff and volunteers were busy and getting a little sore. They borrowed chairs from City Hall, built platforms, and I kid you not here, made enough cookies and bars to feed 300 people during Saturday’s afternoon break. Final prep day was frantic, organized, and energizing.

On Friday evening we held two signings. Collector’s Edge Comics hosted Brian Azzarello, Gregg Hurwitz and Greg Rucka from 5:00 to 6:30 and then we had a full house at Mystery One. So full, many sought refuge in the bar next door. After the signing everyone came back to our house for lasagna and “bathtub full o’ beer”.

And Saturday was magic. Murder and Mayhem in Muskego has been magic all three years but as people continue to hear of the event and the attendee list gets larger and larger the magic grows. There’s an energy when 300 people gather to see their favorite writers and the writers get to see fans. Many in Muskego have never been to a mystery con, most of those will never go to one, but in one day they are converted. Mystery fan through and through. They buy the books, they read the books, and in much the same way that Crimespree tries to, they spread the word one reader at a time.

Morning is panel style and what panels we had. First up was “Chicago Blues” led by Libby Hellmann, and featuring Marcus Sakey, Barb D’Amato, D.C. Brod, Jack Fredrickson, and J.A. Konrath. The Anthology is going gang busters and the collection of short stories in Chicago Blues will hold up to any collection out this year. These Chicago writers talked about the collection but mainly talked about setting. Chicago is different for them all, an their novels reflect that. For Chicago as character can be effective in many ways. These folks have the bases covered. Something they all wish the Cubs will be able to do one day.

Second up was the Minnesota Crime Wave + Two. Carl Brookins, Kent Krueger, and Ellen Hart were joined by Mary Louge. Tom Schreck who is not from Minnesota but whose publisher is, moderated the four from the north. We heard stories about all of their books and the characters that live within them and Tom ran with his panelists.

Lunch was followed by the last panel of the day. Maggie Griffin moderated a panel that featured writers who are making the mystery genre accessible to a new generation . Sean Doolittle, Chris Mooney, Gregg Hurwitz, and Brian Azzarello (of 100 Bullets fame) talked with Maggie about “voice”. For an hour they discussed the different emotions they project in their work and the voices of other writers who have spoken to them.

Conversations came after that. First up, myself and Greg Rucka. For those of you unaware, I’m a huge Rucka fan and therefore had no spit after 11:00 Saturday morning. Still, it’s easy to talk in front of people with Greg about his work. His Atticus Kodiak series and extraordinary female characters alone would have allowed me to speak for hours, the comic books I read to prepare for our chat open up the possibility of many future conversations. I’m looking forward to seeing Carrie Siesko hit the big screen next year. With the atmosphere of Antarctica, a locked island murder mystery, and a kick ass femme, Whiteout promises to have everything I love about the movies.

Gary Warren Niehbur interviewed Laura Lippman. Hearing Laura talk about writing and her experiences both as a reporter and an author of fiction is always a joy. I have to say though, this conversation was unique. Conducted by someone who knows both her and her work, Laura was able to tell stories that hadn’t been heard before. She had everyone hushed and laughing out loud in turn. Gary is one of the people I want to grow up to be. Laura is one too. To get that out of a forty five minute chat is amazing.

The day wrapped up with two of Crimespree’s favorite people. Sean Chercover’s debut novel, Big City, Bad Blood has put him on the map. One of the people who inspired him to write is Robert Crais. To pair them up in Muskego was a dream come true. Robert Crais is one of mystery’s finest storytellers. We heard of Elvis and Joe and the stand-alones, we heard tales of woe from the road, and we heard Crais’s background, what brought him to writing and why he’ll never go anywhere else. It was a fine note to leave the day on.

Dinner was provided for the authors by the library afterwards and it’s here that we learned who the true stars of the day were, Penny Halle walked into dinner to a round of very loud applause, the loudest of the day perhaps. And it was from the writers who had given up their weekends for a trip to Muskego, Wisconsin. Pretty amazing when you think about it. Jane Genzel, the applause was for you and your efforts as well and I hope that next year you will join us all. God loves the Librarians, no doubt about it.


Random Thoughts of the Weekend

Side notes from Muskego:

I am a fan and like everyone in Muskego I had some decidedly “pinch me moments”.

My conversation in a moving vehicle with Chris Mooney about “our next steps” in this wacky world of mystery is one I’ll hang onto for a very long time. Thanks Chris.

This was closely followed by Robert Crais’s affirmation that you have to be a little insane to give up security to write but it’s a happy madness.

Seeing my Dad revel while sitting between Laura Lippman and Robert Crais while they caught up with one another on Friday night. His head was bopping like a fan at a tennis match soaking it all in. Priceless.

Jack Fredrickson saying he was so happy to be with us and he had had no idea what to expect but it was great. (I was thinking when you’re with the Jordans you never know what to expect). Yarmphf.

Seeing Barb D’Amato again. We hoped to even talk , but every time I tracked her down visually she was surrounded by people.

Dana and Allison being with us. I cannot imagine my life without these two ladies.

Carl’s camera.

Kent Krueger’s “You were right, this is great.”

Listening to Azzarello and Rucka talk about the differences between the “comic” and “book” worlds.

Seeing Gregg, Joe, Libby and Michael Dymmoch there at any time not to mention good friends David and Annie C. They were there for the first Muskego and keep coming back.

Jeremy, Jill and Neil, Crimespreer’s who came from great distances to share with us. Mary R. next year we will kidnap you.

A customer from my day job. “Ruth, what are you doing here? Why do you get to interview an author?” I felt like Clark Kent. Busted.

The Wisconsin mystery community out in force to support this day. These are folks I’ve admired for a decade and to share this with them, especially because without the Bouchercon in Milwaukee in 99 that they organized it wouldn’t have happened….. mind blowing.

Jennifer’s short story collection Expletive Deleted officially launches this week. I have a short story in the collection. So I signed books, surreal enough …. but to do this while sitting next to Laura and being followed up by Libby. Geekiness ensued.

The Muskego Readers, the ratio of fans to writers on Saturday was 20 to 1, eat your heart out Thriller Fest.

Making the cover of the Shepherd Express & a spot on Channel 6. Murder and Mystery in Muskego has arrived.

Each and every author in attendance. All I read, and all I love for coming to spend the day with the good people of Muskego.

I’ll wrap this up. On Saturday morning the Muskego Police Department got a phone call.
“I think you’d better see what’s going on at the library?”
“Why sir, what’s wrong?”
“The parking lot is full of cars!”

Here’s to filling Library parking lots across the country, it can be done with “The Friends of the Library“ backing you.

Nov 14, 2007

Ira Levin Gone?

How can it be? I almost got to meet him this past summer. For health reasons he did not attend The Annual Mystery Writers’ Festival but he did judge all of the presented plays. I was looking forward to meeting this man, who like most of my generation I met through the movies. I consider myself lucky that I went back to read the books. And I'm honored that even as he he felt less healthy he cared enough about our genre to continue to help create new magic. Preservation of the mystery screenplay was as important to him as it is important to Jon and myself. The fact that he was willing to put his name in the mix in such an interactive way says a lot about a man who was often disappointed by what Hollywood did with his own work.

For he had a voice from the beginning. Plot twists and observations on society that became genuine gems when presented with his singular and sometimes sincere but often comical cynicism. The best case in point for this may be THE STEPFORD WIVES. Presented by Hollywood two times, Levin’s novel never got the screenplay it deserved. In fact, the second adaptation was in reality closer to his book than the first. For The Stepford Wives was surely a commentary on fear. The mundane fear of the average suburbanite for the then new movement called “Woman’s Lib”. How strange it was to sit down and read this book for the first time in 2003. I saw all the elements I’ve come to recognize in my own generation of books. There was “tuckerizing” (where characters are given the names of people from the mystery community and friends who’ve come to matter to a writer). There were shout outs (to bookstores, restaurants, books), and there was this gem of a plot, which is the part that Hollywood tried to get. And did in both movies but the book is where it’s at for me. Written not to be a big book, but to tell a story he wanted to tell.
I still remember reading Sandra Prowell’s novel WHEN WALLFLOWERS DIE. I couldn’t scope out the end for the very fact I could not imagine anyone leaving ROSEMARY’S BABY with only 35 pages to go. Talk about your red herrings. Levin had the narrative skills to take his reader from the beginning to the end. If you start one of his novels, you finish it. He was hailed by Anthony Boucher and he won the MWA award for best first novel with A KISS BEFORE DYING. It is a book that stands up today 50 years later as one of the best first novels ever written. it should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to read and/or write in the mystery genre. ROSEMARY was his second big success and Roman Polanski nailed the premise. I should know, I watch this movie annually and continue to find new minutia in the performances of the actors every time (especially the late John Cassavettes and Ruth Gordon). A chillier movie was never filmed.
THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL caused controversy. Using real life evil (Mendele) to entertain the masses was very controversial in the early seventies. I say Levin brought the horror of the Holocaust home to a generation and made us realize that the evil that was then will continue until we stop it. We haven’t learned the lesson yet but Levin did his best.
The list of great work that started as books and/or screenplays & moved into movies continues. NO TIME FOR SEARGEANTS, DEATH TRAP, and yes, SLIVER. SLIVER the book was chilling to read and whenever I have an opportunity to see the movie I do. Guilty pleasure that doesn’t stand up to the book though it may be, it is certainly Sharon Stone’s best movie and the relationship between her and Billy Baldwin in the film captures the feel of the book more viscerally than any other film adaptation of Levin’s work.
So I’m sad today. Sad we’ll see no more from this great voice. But I’m glad he left the work behind to read and view again and again. Both in screenplay and novel form Levin always had a story to tell living up to that “best first” from MWA and making everything he did “lasting”. And that last project? The Annual Mystery Writers' Festival? I know Zev Buffman won't let him down.

Nov 7, 2007

Living the Noir Lifestyle

Not me.
No thanks.

Most noir characters get pretty fucked. Betrayal. Abuse problems. Violence. Lots of violence. No thanks.

Take me to the river. Drop in the water.

I don't don't want no noir lifestyle.

A cat I know just died. Dude was only a year older than me. We weren't great freinds or anything, but we saw each other around the neighborhood. Doctor told Mark a year ago to stop drinking. It was a real Scudder moment, stop drinking or you're going to die.
Mark started his mornings with Seagrams seven crown whiskey. maintained it with beer.

Dropped dead in a lawyers office. Anyurism, autopsy showed that all the organs were failing. Why was he at the lawyers office? To avoid using an inheritance to pay the ten years of back child support he owed.

What a dumbass. But wow, he sure was a noir dude. And now he's a dead noir dude.

I love watching noir. I love reading hardboiled. But I don't want to live it.

Send lawyers guns and money.

I wonder how the lawyer is going to bill Mark's family for having to wait for the body to get picked up. A billable hour is a billable hour.

Another guy I know, one year younger I think. Doctor won't let him eat almost anything any more. Why? Because he spent thirty years eating garbage like McDonalds and Burger King.
Moderation baby. That's the key word.
At least with thing you put into your body.

No such thing as too many friends. Or too many hours watching good movies, or too many good books.

This weekend we'll be hanging with a bunch of good friends and people we love.

I may even over do the caffine.

But no noir lifestyle for me.