Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pro-File: Lee Goldberg

From Lee Goldberg's website:

Lee Goldberg writes books and television shows.

"His mother wanted him to be a doctor, and his grandfather wanted him to go into the family furniture business. Instead, he put himself through UCLA as a freelance journalist, writing for such publications as American Film, Starlog, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times Syndicate, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle (He also wrote erotic letters to the editor for Playgirl at $25-a-letter, but he doesn't tell people about that, he just likes to boast about those "tiffany" credits).

"He published his first book .357 Vigilante (as "Ian Ludlow," so he'd be on the shelf next to Robert Ludlum) while he was still a UCLA student. The West Coast Review of Books called his debut "as stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort," singling the book out as "The Best New Paperback Series" of the year. Naturally, the publisher promptly went bankrupt and he never saw a dime in royalties.

"Welcome to publishing, Lee.

"His subsequent books include the non-fiction books Successful Television Writing and Unsold Television Pilots ("The Best Bathroom Reading Ever!" San Francisco Chronicle) as well as the novels My Gun Has Bullets ("It will make you cackle like a sitcom laugh track," Entertainment Weekly), Beyond the Beyond ("Outrageously entertaining," Kirkus Reviews), and The Man with the Iron-On Badge ("as dark and twisted as anything Hammet or Chandler ever dreamed up," Kirkus Reviews).

"Goldberg broke into television with a freelance script sale to Spenser: For Hire. Since then, his TV writing & producing credits have covered a wide variety of genres, including sci-fi (SeaQuest), cop shows (Hunter), martial arts (Martial Law), whodunits (Diagnosis Murder, Nero Wolfe), the occult (She-Wolf of London), kid's shows (R.L. Stine's The Nightmare Room), T&A (Baywatch), comedy (Monk) and utter crap (The Highwayman). His TV work has earned him two Edgar Award nominations from the Mystery Writers of America.

"His two careers, novelist and TV writer, merged when he began writing the Diagnosis Murder series of original novels, based on the hit CBS TV mystery that he also wrote and produced. And he also writes novels based on Monk, another show he's worked on.

"Goldberg lives in Los Angeles with his wife and his daughter and still sleeps in "Man From UNCLE" pajamas."

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1 Tell us about your current novel.

My latest book is my seventh original MONK hardcover mystery, "Mr. Monk is Miserable." It's set in Paris, which makes it a very personal book for me. My wife Valerie is French, born and raised in Paris, and we go there each year to visit my in-laws. On our last visit, I took our 13-year-old daughter Maddie to The Catacombs. She took one look at the millions of bones stacked underground and said "Can you imagine Monk here?" Yes, I could. We both could. And from that moment on, I couldn't stop seeing Paris through Adrian Monk's eyes. And neither could she, which turned this book into sort of a family affair. As familiar as I am with Paris, I still had to do a lot of research into the sewer system and, on a subsequent trip, scout locations for the book. The hotel, the restaurants, and just about every other setting in the book actually exist. I also named many of the characters after my French family and friends, so that made it fun for me.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

I had a little window of time between finishing my last MONK novel ("Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop") and starting my next one ("Mr. Monk in Trouble") so I wrote 200 pages of a crime novel that's been percolating in my mind for some time now. I've given those pages, and an outline of the rest of the book, to my agent to shop around after the holidays. I would have liked to have finished it, but I don't have the time to gamble on writing a novel without a contract. I'm also develo ping a TV series for a major studio. If it goes, I'll produce it with actress Kathryn Morris (star of "Cold Case") and director David Barrett. I've also got a new, spec screenplay making the rounds.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

It's exactly that -- having a writing career. I get paid to sit at my computer and make-believe. People pay me to share my fantasies. It doesn't get any better than that.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

The opportunities for writers in book publishing and episodic TV are shrinking every day. It's a scary time to be a professional writer if you aren't already a bestselling author or an A-list screenwriter/TV showrunner.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Pay me more.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

Richard S. Prather, Harry Whittington, Dan J. Marlowe...and, from more recent times, Richard Barre, Jeremiah Healy, and Doug Swanson.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

My first novel under my own name was "My Gun Has Bullets" (I'd written four others under the pseudonym "Ian Ludlow"). I wrote it out of frustration. I was stuck in Canada working on a terrible syndicated action show starring a compete imbecile. Instead of getting into arguments with the so-called star, I went back to my hotel room and took my anger out at the keyboard. The book was a broad satire on the TV business. The tagline was: "The Mob is bringing their style of doing business to TV. They don't cancel series. They kill them." It was great fun to write.

8. What do you consider the highlight=2 0of your career thus far?

In publishing, it would have to be writing "The Man with the Iron-on Badge," which didn't sell well but it was very well reviewed, was nominated for the Shamus, and is probably my best book. I am very proud of it and wish it had been successful enough for me to still be writing about that character.

In television, it was the three years I wrote and produced "Diagnosis Murder" with William Rabkin (whose original "Psych" novel "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read," comes out in January). We knew even as we were doing it that things would probably never be as good again, which somehow made the experience even sweeter.

9. How about the low point?

In publishing, it was the commercial failure of my book "The Walk," which also didn't get any critical notice one way or the other. In TV, it was writing for "The New Adventures of Flipper," starring a teenage Jessica Alba and a dolphin.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?

My best book is "The Man with the Iron-On Badge," but it's pretty hard to find. Otherwise, I'd recommend the DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel "The Past Tense" (the darkest entry in that series) or any of my MONK books, all of which are light-hearted mysteries that I'm proud of.

Thanks very much, Ed

4 comments:

anne frasier said...

i loved, loved, loved the man with the iron-on badge. hey, here it is. in my hand.

Vince said...

Good to see the Pro-File feature again. I always enjoyed it.

Randy Johnson said...

I loved The Man With The Iron-On Badge and would have loved more. I also liked The Walk.

Paul Guyot said...

This Lee Goldberg character was also a Navy SEAL at one time... or at least he looks like it when you see him in a Speedo and paratrooper's scarf.

I didn't know he could write, too.