Monday, April 30, 2012

Podcast: Ed Gorman Interviewed

Listen to Ed Gorman being interviewed by Ben LeRoy of Prologue Books about crime fiction, Gold Medal books and other topics.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Writing What You Have To

People are always asking Lawrence Block when he's going to write another Bernie Rhodenbarr book. He doesn't know. Besides, he's not interested in writing what you want him to write... because that's not what drives him, or most writers, to put words on the page. He says:
It’s counterproductive to tell me what you want me to write. I sincerely hope that my writing pleases you, but if you think I’m here to give you what you want, there’s a lot you don’t understand about writing, and no end of things you don’t understand about me. The greatest disservice I could do my readers is to try to give them what they want. That’s just not part of my job description. All I can do is write my books my way, and try to make them so irresistible that you enjoy reading what I want to write.
[...]as much as I might want to write a book about Bernie, or any other character, the desire’s not all that’s required. There are writers who can write anything they’re asked to write, and I thank whatever gods may be that I am not of their number. I probably was, early on, but I got spoiled, and for years now I’ve been unable to go on writing a book unless it engages me.
I love my readers. I need my readers. But some readers have the ridiculous notion that the novelists they read work for them and have an obligation to keep churning out the same book over and over. Some authors are quite content to do that. But even among those authors, I know many of them keep writing book after book about the same characters because they love it, because that's what they are driven creatively to do, and not only because its what their readers and publishers want from them. I'm on my 15th and final MONK book, and I can tell you I've never written them for the money. If I was, I would have quit long ago, because the money is far from spectacular.

Others, like Lawrence Block, would rather go where-ever their muse takes them, regardless of whether it makes the most commercial sense or disappoints some of their fans (I am sure there are scores of readers who wish he'd do nothing but write Scudder and Burglar books for the rest of his life). He writes the story that he has to tell...not the story that you, or me, or the publishers want him to tell.

I admire that about him.  Maybe it's that dedication to his muse, and not his readers, that's one of the keys to his prolific output and great success.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

They don't sign the notices over at Kirkus Reviews, so I don't know how better to attribute this one...

"Monsters, actual and metaphorical, are at the heart of this superbly crafted thriller.

Gallagher has been called a horror writer, a fantasy writer, a non-fantasy writer, a writer for big screens and smaller ones, a writer whose considerable talent has enabled him to slip in and out of genres precisely as if those tidy little boxes didn’t exist—as indeed they don’t for his character-driven books. In this one, Sebastian Becker (The Kingdom of Bones, 2007, etc.), his fast-track career abruptly derailed, contemplates an uncertain future. Now that the Pinkertons have sent him packing, he faces 1912 back in his native England, employed as the special investigator to the Masters of Lunacy... Gallagher loves character development but respects plotting enough to give it full measure. The result is that rare beast, a literary page-turner."

Read the complete starred review here.

The Bedlam Detective
is out in hardcover and now available as an eBook for the Kindle, the Nook, and in these other formats.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ITW Thriller Award Nomination for Dave Zeltserman

Congratulations to our own Dave Zeltserman on is ITW Thriller Award nomination!

German TV Finally Gets its Hannibal Lecter

Lee Goldberg here...

It was announced today that ProSieben, a big German network, has bought the rights to air Hannibal, the new TV series from NBC, showrunner Bryan Fuller, and French studio Gaumont. The series depicts the early relationship between FBI agent Will Graham and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, who we all know is a horrific serial killer.

I wasn't surprised by the news. ProSieben has long been interested in a series built around the concept. In fact, five years ago, they developed a series called Beauty and the Murderer, which was about a Clarice Starling-type homicide detective who discovers that the department's long-time psychiatric consultant is actually a prolific serial killer himself. She puts him away...but is stunned when the department continues to use the killer shrink as a consultant, even secretly bringing him out in chains to crime scenes to offer his insights.

The network ordered six scripts, including the pilot, and a twenty minute presentation film from the production company, a prolific supplier of TV movies for them. But early on in the development process, the project ran into trouble and the network brought me to Munich from the U.S. to redevelop the pilot script, set up the writers room, and oversee the writing of the five episodes.

The biggest problem that I saw was that the project was, basically, a beat-for-beat rip-off of Silence of the Lambs. I knew I couldn't dismantle the concept they bought, so the key for me was to strip it of everything that smacked of that movie, and Hannibal Lecter, and focus much more on the characters. So I tried to tone down the serial killer's Lecter-like qualities and make the heroine as far removed from Clarice Starling as I could, especially in her relationship to him.

The project was also unremittingly dark, so the other thing I brought in was some humor, which the network embraced but the German writers had a hard time with it. They didn't see how a show could be dark, but also still have some humor. So the network asked me to write one of the scripts as an example...which I did. You can read my first draft here.

All in all, it was a great group of writers, we had a terrific time, and we had a very supportive production company behind us that was eager to sell the project. I remember leaving Munich after a couple of months being very pleased with the six scripts that we developed and feeling good about the show's prospects, since I knew from the network that they liked what they'd read and were very pleased with my work (so much so, that they asked me to rush back and fix another troubled show, an X-Files rip-off, but I declined).

The fate of Beauty and the Murderer all came down to the pilot presentation. And that's where it all went wrong.

In Germany at the time, they had yet to embrace the showrunner system. Directors were in still charge, and the guy that the studio brought in, someone who had never done a pilot before, didn't like the scenes or the series concept. So he re-wrote everything, taking out the humor and making every scene a horrible, laughable rip-off from Silence of the Lambs...and trashing months of hard work by seven writers.

It infuriated me. I couldn't understand how the production company, after investing all the time and money in crafting the six scripts and developing a strong franchise, could stand by and let that happen. Why didn't they fire the guy and hire someone who would shoot the show that we developed... and that the network was expecting?

He's the director, they said. You can't tell him what to do.

Needless to say, the network took one look at that presentation and backed away from the project. They hated the demo film but, more importantly, they lost faith in the production company's ability to ever deliver the show that was promised in those six scripts.

Now, it appears, ProSieben is finally getting the series that they wanted five years ago.

Here's the pilot presentation for Beauty and the Murderer with English subtitles.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A BITTER VEIL video chat

From Libby Fischer Hellmann:

To celebrate the launch, I'm hosting a couple of online events:

Video Chat: Tuesday, April 17 6 PM (Eastern)

On Tuesday, April 17, at 6 PM (Eastern time so plan accordingly), I’ll be talking about A Bitter Veil, the state of publishing, and anything else that’s on your mind during a 45 minute video chat online! This is a brand new service provided by Shindig Events that allows up to 500 people to interact together in real time. All you do is go to this website. You'll be able to ask questions, watch my slide presentation (don't worry - it's short) and even chat among yourselves. Again, the website is:

“Everybody Wins” contest starts Wednesday, April 18

The day after the video chat, I will be launching a contest in which the grand prize is a Kindle Fire.

To enter, all you need to do is like my Facebook Author Page, read A Bitter Veil, post an honest review within 30 days on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or B&N, and send us a link to the review. On Friday, May 18, we'll pick one grand prize winner at random. As an incentive, the ebook will be free at Amazon for one day during the contest month. Keep an eye on my Facebook Author page and here where I'll announce which day it will be free. (Hint: It will be sooner rather than later).

But the best part is that even if you don’t win a Fire, you still win— everyone who enters will get a free copy of any one of my previously published short stories. Your choice. You can find a description of them here. Btw, all of the rules will be on my Facebook Author Page soon. Again the link to my FB page is

Thanks. Hope to see you online soon.


From Libby Fischer Hellmann:

I’m delighted to announce that my 9th novel, A Bitter Veil, is now available as an e-book in print and audio. You can find it here.

It all began with a line of Persian poetry . . .

Anna and Nouri, both studying in Chicago, fall in love despite their very different backgrounds. Anna, who has never been close to her parents, is more than happy to return with Nouri to his native Iran, to be embraced by his wealthy family. Beginning their married life together in 1978, their world is abruptly turned upside down by the overthrow of the Shah, and the rise of the Islamic Republic.

Under the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Republican Guard, life becomes increasingly restricted and Anna must learn to exist in a transformed world, where none of the familiar Western rules apply. Random arrests and torture become the norm, women are required to wear hijab, and Anna discovers that she is no longer free to leave the country.

As events reach a fevered pitch, Anna realizes that nothing is as she thought, and no one can be trusted…not even her husband
Already Veil has received some stellar reviews:
"Meticulously researched, fast-paced… this political thriller will please established fans and newcomers alike." Publishers Weekly

"A tragically beautiful story … that is both subtle and vibrant… the author does an amazing job... but never sacrificing the quality of her storytelling… a bleak and heart-wrenching tale that will stick with the reader long after they finish the book." Crimespree Magazine

"Libby Hellmann's A Bitter Veil brings a lyrical, literary dimension to her writing. Readers will be fascinated by this glimpse behind the veil of Revolutionary Iran and how a young American woman deals with her Iranian husband and family." Cara Black, Author, Amy LeDuc Investigations Series

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Signing THE HUNGRY at Dark Delicacies in Burbank

From left to right co-author Steven W. Booth, visitor actor Kurtwood Smith (70's Show, Robocop, Dead Poet's Society) and Top Suspense Group member and co-author Harry Shannon. The Hungry is a fast-paced, comic zombie novel now in paperback as well as on Kindle.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pre-order Monster Now!

Available August 2nd from Overlook Press. Pre-order your copy today!

The supernatural, unmissable new novel by the ALA Best Horror award nominee. In nineteenth-century Germany, one young man counts down the days until he can marry his beloved . . . until she is found brutally murdered, and the young man is accused of the crime. Broken on the wheel and left for dead, he awakens on a lab table, transformed into an abomination. Friedrich must go far to take his revenge --only to find his tormentor, Victor Frankenstein, in league with the Marquis de Sade, creating something much more sinister deep in the mountains. Paranormal and gripping in the tradition of the best work of Stephen King and Justin Cronin, Monster is a gruesome parable of control and vengeance, and an ingenious tribute to one of literature's greatest.

Victor Frankenstein. Marquis de Sade. Witch burnings. Vampyres. Devil worshipers. Depraved London sex clubs. Street gangs. Vengeance. Obsession. Damnation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Old Dog, New Tricks

Warner Hollywood Studios

Lee Goldberg here...
Recently,  I had the opportunity to stick my big, one-hour drama toe into the sitcom world, courtesy of a friend of mine who is writing & producing a pilot for a major network. Much to my surprise, he invited me to the studio one afternoon a few weeks back to participate in the initial punch-up of the script...along with a roomful of Emmy-award winning,  comedy legends, like my friend Ken Levine  and his partner David Isaacs. I figured I'd just sit in the corner, keep my mouth shut, and watch the masters at work. 
But like the lead character in the pilot, sometimes my mouth and my brain don't always work in concert. I was only there for a few minutes when I contributed a joke...which went over only slightly better than if I'd vomited on the table. I decided to keep my mouth shut. That resolve lasted perhaps five more minutes, when once again I heard myself suggesting a joke...which went over so badly, I expected security to be called to escort me out of the studio.
I know I can be funny...when I am sitting at the computer, by myself, writing. And I know I can be amusing on panels or when speaking in public. But I'd never had to be funny on-demand, to contribute specific jokes to serve a plot point or character beat. 
Who the hell was I to think that I could participate?  I decided I was going to just shut up, listen, and learn. But then, the more I listened, I realized thateverybody was offering stinkers as well as winners...for every ten bad jokes someone threw out, perhaps one would stick. And before I knew it, I was throwing another joke into the mix...and to my shock, everyone laughed and my buddy put it in the script. 
I was ridiculously pleased and my reluctance to participate evaporated. I stopped feeling so self-conscious about my horrible jokes and did what everyone else was doing -- sharing whatever came to mind. And to my delight, a couple more of my jokes got laughs...and found their way into the script in some form or another.
I ended up having a wonderful time and learning how a comedy writers room differed from the "drama" rooms I'd been part of for most of my career. 
The closest I've ever come to something approximating the punch-up experience was writing for MONK. Andy Breckman and his writing staff all came from SNL or Letterman or stand-up, not the episodic world, so they were always throwing out jokes...but we were still writing a mystery, and the room, and the plotting, felt comfortable and familiar to me. I knew I could do the job and I didn't feel any pressure to be funny. I was more likely to offer a funny situation to the room than a joke, per se.
But in the punch-up room, story structure wasn't the main issue. It was making the funny stuff funnier...creating new jokes to address specific problems. I've re-written scripts before...and made funny scenes funnier...but never on-demand in front of a room of other writers. Rewriting has always been a private affair.
But one thing the punch-up experience shared in common with all of my other writing room experiences was that brainstorming was encouraged, that even bad ideas were welcomed because they could lead to good ones. In that respect, throwing out jokes was no different than suggesting clues, plot points, character beats, or any other aspect of writing a drama. 
It was a great was an honor and a thrill just to be in the room with all of those extremely talented and acclaimed writers... to see how their minds worked...and how they worked with others.
The last thing I expected was to be invited back.
But I was. 
The pilot has now been cast,  a major director has been signed, the sets have been built, and it will be shot this week. Today I was invited back to help punch up the script following the final run-through.
This, too, was an entirely new experience for me. An entirely different group of comedy writers were gathered this time to watch the show on its feet, to see what worked and what didn't, then help the showrunner tweak the script to address network notes and smooth out some last-minute bumps that emerged during the staging.
So that's what we did. We watched a full run-through of the show, then locked ourselves in a conference room with a deli platter, soft drinks, a stack of scripts and lots of pencils. It was a lot like my previous experience...only scarier, because two top-level studio execs would be sitting in on the punch-up. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, what the rules were, or how this was supposed to work. But I knew if I made a fool of myself, the studio execs would certainly remember.
My friend, the showrunner, went through the script scene-by-scene, telling us what the problems were that had to be addressed and asking the writers in the room, all good friends of his, for their thoughts on any other bumps he might have missed.
People threw out new jokes and, once again, I hesitantly offered one of my own...that clearly nobody liked. It was as if I'd dropped my pants and urinated in the middle of the room. Well, at least that's how it felt to me.
More jokes flew around. I hesitantly offered another one, also D.O.A.  I was a fraud, a witless moron who had no place in a room full of professional comedy writers... so I tossed out one last joke to confirm what I already knew about my failings.
Everyone laughed.  And then they took that joke and started improving on it. So I added a tweak of my own. The joke went in to the script.
There was a young writer in the room who was absolutely fearless. Or perhaps "shameless" is the better word.  He threw out one joke after another....dozens of them, most of them lousy, and just kept doing it until he hit on something hilarious... and if that wasn't the joke that went in, it led the room to the one that did.
I learned a valuable lesson from him -- I realized my biggest problem was my hesitancy. I had to commit to my jokes, or go in the opposite direction, throw them out casually, without worrying about whether they were any good or not. 
From that moment on, I contributed whatever came to my mind...and was surprised, and ridiculously pleased, by how much of my stuff either made it in, or inspired someone else in the room to come up with something much, much better than what I'd offered, but along the same lines.  We began to work as a big team, backing each other up. It was great fun.
I have no illusions about being any good at this, or that I came close to holding my own with the far more talented people in the room, but I had a great actually felt good to be scared, to be challenged in new ways,  to discover new strengths as well as new weaknesses about myself.
This experience is going to make me a better writer...and for that, I owe my comedy-writing friend a big thank-you for taking a chance and inviting me into the room.

Pre-Order Yours Now! Murder of a Beauty Shop Queen: A Dan Rhodes Mystery (Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries) (9780312640170): Bill Crider: Books:

Sheriff Dan Rhodes is called to The Beauty Shack, where the young and pretty Lynn Ashton has been found dead, bashed over the head with a hairdryer. The owner said she’d gone to the salon late to meet a client, but no one seems to know who that client was.

Lynn was a party girl and it’s possible an angry wife or girlfriend, or jilted lover, had something to do with her death. Or maybe the killer is a client who confided a secret to Lynn.

While he investigates the murder, Rhodes must also deal with the theft of copper and car batteries, not to mention a pregnant nanny goat that is terrorizing the town.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Monk and Julius Katz in the latest issue of Ellery Queen

Top Suspense is being well-represented in the latest (June) issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine with a new Monk story by Lee Goldberg and a new Julius Katz story by Dave Zeltserman. And you can read extended excerpts of both Mr. Monk and the Talking Car and One Angry Julius Katz and Eleven Befuddled Jurors on Ellery Queen's website.

Amanda for All Seasons

Stephen Gallagher here...

I can remember watching the 6-hour Gerard Depardieu version of THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO over four nights, and finding some useful lessons there. The special power of the story lies in the way that Edmond Dantes remakes himself as a machine for vengeance and then reappears to engage with his enemies, none of whom shares the audience's knowledge of who he really is. And I was reminded of it last night while catching up with an episode of REVENGE, ABC's modern reworking of the same material.

It's an enormous story hook and it never fails – it was also the structural model for one of the best science fiction novels I ever read, Alfred Bester's THE STARS MY DESTINATION. Put a mask on Dantes, and he's Batman. Flip it around to the enemies' point of view and it's Friedrich Durrenmatt's THE VISIT. It's all about vengeance as a whole-life strategy, and the effect of its complex pressures and conflicts on the avenger. You wouldn't want to be the Count of Monte Cristo, Dantes tells one of his confidantes – he's a cold-hearted bastard who knows no happiness. I'd much rather be Edmond Dantes again, but they took that away.

In the 2002 Kevin Reynolds movie (which I liked a lot, by the way), the final answer to it all is a Hollywood sword fight. Good guy fights better than bad guy. But in this more resonant version he has a more subtle and complex revenge. He shames one enemy and drives him to suicide, puts another one into a personal hell by making him face the truth behind his family values, and finally finds his way back to being Edmond Dantes again by showing mercy to the last (albeit after ruining him financially).

The Depardieu version is far from perfect. The first time we see Dantes, it's as a prisoner of eighteen years' standing. He kicks away the thin gruel he's given and insists that he doesn't want food, he wants to die. But Depardieu looks more like a man who's eaten all his cellmates. Nose-and-wig disguises and melodramatic subterfuges that may work on the page don't work on the screen. And Dantes' ultimate reconciliation with his old love doesn't ring true and is, apparently, a significant divergence from the book.

But it felt like six hours well spent. THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO is more than a story, it's a classic form; an emotional setup that's available to all without fear of plagiarism. The story is what any writer can rise to make of the idea. MONTE CRISTO may be the material's most famous iteration but the underlying form wasn't even original to Dumas; remember how Odysseus returned to Ithaca in disguise, moving among the suitors who'd taken his home and were squandering his fortune?

And Odysseus wasn't the only returning avenger to have his disguise seen through by his dog. Will REVENGE's Emily Thorne lose sight of her own humanity, or will she find her way back to being Amanda Clarke again? There's no question that she'll trash her enemies along the way, because that's what we're here to enjoy.

The classics will always be, as Henry Fuseli once said of William Blake, "damned good to steal from".