Thursday, December 09, 2010

Pro-File: Lee Goldberg

Pro-File: Lee Goldberg
Member of The Top Suspense Group

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."


1 The Monk novels are big hits. One just appeared in paperback, correct?

Yes, “Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out” is now in bookstores, drugstores, airports, e-retailers and finer supermarket nationwide. The hardcover really seemed to hit a nerve…in a good way…with readers and reviewers, since it dealt with the current economic crisis. Monk essentially loses his savings and his job…and is facing eviction. I think it gave readers a chance to find some laughter in their own predicaments. The story also touches on the whole Bernie Madoff thing. Monk is convinced a Madoff-like guy is guilty of murder…even though he’s under house arrest, is wearing an GPS ankle bracelet, and is under constant police and media surveillance.

2. What’s the next Monk book about and when does it come out?

It’s called “Mr. Monk on the Road” and comes out in hardcover in January. It’s the first book set after the final episode of the TV series. The book is also something of a departure…literally. Monk and Natalie take Ambrose on a road trip in a motorhome. Naturally, they come across a murder along the way.

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?

Hire me to write more books and 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 of 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 (who writes the "Psych" novels). 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 (but the story has a happy ending – it has become a Kindle bestseller. I’ve sold nearly 19,000 ebook editions of “The Walk” in almost a year-and-a-half). 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

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