Monday, December 11, 2006

Ode to the Generalist

This was sent to me from one of my SEAL buddies currently overseas. Amen.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Philosophical/Literary Quotation of the Moment

"Tragedy is a conflict between two rights."


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

"You should always work hard at work worth doing."

Teddy Roosevelt

Friday, November 17, 2006


Stanford is again offering their wonderful program where they mail twelve weekly facsimiles, this time of Sherlock's return and struggle with Professor Moriarty.

For more, visit

Friday, November 10, 2006

Noir and Literary Thrillers

I came upon an essay on this topic on the blog of Jerome Weeks

Here's an excerpt:

"Basically, these are often novels that use the hard-boiled conventions but don't fit simply into the genre. Or they are the essential definers/redefiners of the genre itself. Those conventions include, but are not limited to, a sense of moral complexity if not outright confusion, a society that is compromised or corrupt and violent, crime treated not as a puzzle to be solved but as an act of violence that typifies something about this noir world, a protagonist who doesn't so much solve a puzzle as make a dangerous moral choice or act of redemption (the protagonist himself is most likely implicated or compromised, too) -- and a menacing mood, a laconic or succinctly vivid style and various characters to suit all of this."
I think this is a goddamned brilliant encapsulation of noir and literary thrillers. That's what so many people fail to grasp: It is ALL about the dangerous - or compromised - moral choice, and the choices made in the fallout. And sometimes, that moral choice or position can seem forced upon the protagonist simply because of who the protagonist is, because of unexamined assumptions underlying the protag's personality and life. There's the ambiguity. And the act of violence MUST be emblematic about the world portrayed, not merely horrific, not merely puzzling.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quality Control

If you need any evidence why politicians shouldn't write sex scenes, click here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Jim Webb's Novels and the Strategic Idiocy of Senator Allen

In an idiotic move that seems unreasonably low-stooping even for U.S. politics, Virginia Senator George Allen has sent out a press release condemning excerpts from his rival Jim Webb's fiction writing. Yes, that's right. Lines of dialogue, taken out of context. Notions of character. He seeks to prove that Jim Webb is a misogynist because his characters - his CHARACTERS! - mention things like "knocking the bitch up." And there are - gasp! - graphic sex scenes. And mentions of breasts. He's also making much of an excerpt that portrays pedophilic sex.

Now I've yet to get political on this blog, but I can say in all seriousness, give us a fucking break here. Are we really going to judge men and women who run for office in this country by nasty (or merely sexual) things that their characters say and do? I guess that rules out pretty much anyone in the entire crime fiction community from running for public office. I know I've written some particularly graphic things, sometimes words in the mouths of characters, sometimes in point of view or free indirect discourse of a character, sometimes in the tone of a narrator who - newsflash - is not me. It's not just those of us who write crime fiction who could be called to moral task here - it could be anyone who's ever written about, uh, conflict. Or assholes. Or racists. Or misogynists. Let's just not portray those people at all. In fact, let's not write about these topics. Allen's campaign is now judging literary themes, and sensing "patterns" in Webb's portrayal of women. So I guess Joyce and Hemingway are screwed too. And Christ - what to do if someone catches Dianne Feinstein reading Sanctuary? A U.S. Senator, exposing herself to a book with a graphic corn-cob rape scene? Surely a human such as that wouldn't be fit to hold public office.

This is clearly a calculated absurdity. There's no question it will prove effective, but I hope it's roundly condemned in thinking quarters as well.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Israel and, uh, Comics

Okay, here's my first interview about Foolkiller - the classic Steve Gerber character who I'm bringing back for Marvel. Only's in Hebrew!

Here's the link for those of you who read Hebrew or want to check out some Foolkiller graphics (actually, if you scan down the page, you can read the interview in English):

Friday, October 06, 2006

Is There Such a Thing as Non-Literary Fiction?

The terms "literary fiction" and "commercial fiction" always crack me up. As if Thomas Harris or Stephen King's writings are, uh, "non-literary." As if Philip Roth mows lawns to supplement his unmarketable talents. It's been said before and often: Isn't there just good fiction and bad fiction? People forget that Camus's inspiration for The Stranger was The Postman Always Rings Twice. Cain's masterpiece is pretty goddamned literary. And The Stranger has sold a few copies. Why bother labeling them? Frankly, they both kick serious ass.

The following section is from an amazing Washington Post article, in which Ayn Rand compares the writing of Mickey Spillane, rarely the critics' favorite, to those of Thomas Wolfe:
"Rand appreciated Spillane's precision as a writer, and in an essay on literature (which appears in her book "The Romantic Manifesto") quotes from Spillane's description of New York at night as an example of his skill -- "The rain was misty enough to be almost foglike, a cold gray curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were faces locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by. Even the brilliance that was Manhattan by night was reduced to a few sleepy yellow lights off in the distance" -- and then compares it to a passage by Thomas Wolfe -- "The city had never seemed as beautiful as it looked that night. For the first time he saw that New York was supremely, among the cities of the world, a city of night. There had been achieved here a loveliness that was astounding and incomparable, a kind of modern beauty, inherent to its place and time, that no other place nor time could match."

To Rand, "there is not a single emotional word or adjective in Spillane's description; he presents nothing save visual facts; but he selects only those facts, only those eloquent details, which convey the visual reality of the scene and create a mood of desolate loneliness." Wolfe, she argued, used only estimates, "and in the absence of any indication of what aroused these estimates, they are arbitrary assertions and meaningless generalities."

for the complete article, click here:


Now Wolfe is a brilliant writer, and Spillane certainly has written a few clunky passages. It's unfair to compare merely two sentences and draw broader conclusions. But I found the contrast interesting and compelling, and worth discussion. Which do you prefer and why?

Friday, September 29, 2006

On Politics

I got this interesting email from a reader the other day.
After a couple of chapters of Last Shot, I was hooked. Then came the cheap political barbs agaist Cheney & Ashcroft, and I kind of lost patience with it. Too bad your so jaded. It looked promising.
I wrote back:

It always surprises me when readers take political dialogue or comments of the characters and assume them to be the position of the author. My characters tend to be apolitical or anti-political - they're a cynical, suspicious bunch. The Clinton barbs in my books during those years inevitably led to emails from angry liberals. But no one interprets a rapist character's rantings as the author advocating rape, or revealing his true position.

In any event, if you find such remarks off-putting, there's not much I can say to that.
To his credit, the man responded:

Thank you for your reply. It did seem that a point of view was being expressed. I'm sorry if I have jumped to a conclusion. I'll give some of your earlier books a try to get some context, and perspective. Thanks again.

To which I replied:

It's an interesting question. In Do No Harm, I wrote about a liberal doctor colliding with street-smart cops. The doc is too naive, and the cops tend too aggressive. In the book, the path to successful resolution of the issue lies directly between the two. It was funny for me to see how people on either side of the political fence reacted, everyone thinking that the characters' opinions were the author's -- but usually only the characters whose opinions they disagreed with. Maybe we're set up to interpret that way.
It is an odd issue -- when people decide to get offended and why. Sometimes, a book DOES display a clear bias. But sometimes, as in Last Shot, the opinions are what make the most sense for a character. At times these opinions can overlap with the author's, but not always. Bizarrely, I've also had people email me thinking I was racist because my antagonists use derogatory terms(!).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

My Last Blog Entry

Was in fact from The Onion, identified by Hunter Goatley. Thanks, Hunter!

The link is

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Of Mice and Cliffs Notes

This was forwarded on to me by my high-school English teacher. Priceless. It's been zapped around the Internet enough that I've lost the reference (maybe from the Onion?) so if you can identify it, please do and I'll put up the proper credit and a link.


Girl Moved To Tears By Of Mice And Men Cliffs Notes
August 18, 2006 | | Special Section: Back-To-School Special


In what she described as "the most emotional moment" of her academic life, University of Virginia sophomore communications major Grace Weaver sobbed openly upon concluding Steinbeck's seminal work of American fiction Of Mice And Men's Cliffs Notes early last week.

"This book has changed me in a way that only great literature summaries can," said Weaver, who was so shaken by the experience that she requested an extension on her English 229 essay. "The humanity displayed in the Character Flowchart really stirred something in me. And Lennie's childlike innocence was beautifully captured through the simple, ranch-hand slang words like 'mentally handicapped' and 'retarded.'"

Added Weaver: "I never wanted the synopsis to end."

Weaver, who formed an "instant connection" with Lennie's character-description paragraph, said she began to suspect the novel might end tragically after reading the fourth sentence which suggested the gentle giant's strength and fascination with soft things would "lead to his untimely demise."

"I was amazed at how attached to him I had become just from the critical commentary," said Weaver, still clutching the yellow-and-black-striped study guide. "When I got to the last sentence 'George shoots Lennie in the head,' it seemed so abrupt. But I found out later that the 'ephemeral nature of life' is a major theme of the novel."

Weaver was assigned Of Mice And Men, a novel scholars have called "a masterpiece of austere prose" and "the most skillful example of American naturalism under 110 pages" as part of her early twentieth-century fiction course, and purchased the Cliffs Notes from a cardboard rack at her local Barnes & Noble. John Whittier-Ferguson, her professor for the class, told reporters this was not the first time one of his students has expressed interest in the novel's plot summary.

"It's one of those universal American stories," said Ferguson after being informed of Weaver's choice to read the Cliffs Notes instead of the pocket-sized novel. "I look forward to skimming her essay on the importance of following your dreams and randomly assigning it a grade.

Though she completed the two-page brief synopsis in one sitting, Weaver said she felt strangely drawn into the plot overview and continued on, exploring the more fleshed-out chapter summaries.

"There's something to be said for putting in that extra time with a good story," Weaver said. "You just get more out of it. I'm also going to try to find that book about rabbits that George was always reading to Lennie, so that I can really understand that important allusion."

Within an hour of completing the cliffs notes, Weaver was already telling friends and classmates that Steinbeck was her favorite author, as well as reciting select quotations from the "Important Quotations" section for their benefit.

"When I read those quotes, found out which characters they were attributed to, and inferred their context from the chapter outlines to piece together their significance, I was just blown away," said a teary-eyed Weaver. "And the way Steinbeck wove the theme of hands all the way through the section entitled 'Hands' he definitely deserved to win that Nobel Prize."

Weaver's roommate, Giulia Crenshaw, has already borrowed the dog-eared, highlighted summary of the classic Depression-era saga, and is expecting to enjoy reading what Weaver described as "a really sad story about two brothers who love to farm."

"I loved this book so much, I'm going to read all of Steinbeck's Cliffs Notes," said Weaver. "But first I'm going to go to the library to check out the original version Of Mice And Men starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cocktails and Writing

There is an interview with me up on the Good Girls Kill For Money Club website:

in which I converse with readers and the delightful Tasha Alexander. I also pose a few questions for you readers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Great Books by Friends

Okay, here's some serious ass-kicking books you may have overlooked. They're written by buddies of mine, which made me all the more relieved when they were really good.

The Purification Ceremony, by Mark T. Sullivan. I met Mark at Thrillerfest this year, and got a copy of this tracker-in-the-woods thriller. Not only does he know this world inside-out, but his prose is goddamned beautiful. I mean, this boy can seriously write.

Shotgun Alley, by Andrew Klavan. The second in Drew's superb Weiss and Bishop series (or, as I like to think of it, Bishop and Weiss series), this is a great, wonderfully written story about outlaw biker gangs. It was interesting to see what a writer who I admire did with the same world I researched for Troubleshooter. (Drew's latest, Damnation Alley - also great - just came out).

Public Enemy, by Will Staeger. Okay, so I'm cheating because I'm not quite done yet. But Will is such a solid writer that I know the ending will be great. When I blurbed his first book, I referred to his "adrenalized lyricism" and that's precisely what it is.

These books are remarkably different, but they all have excellent crime/action plots and ALSO (increasingly rare) wonderful use of language. These are three novelists who aren't just storytellers, they're writers too. Check out three guys at the top of their game.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Best Sports Movies

In my last Poll of the Moment, I asked you - devoted readers and culture consumers - which was your favorite sports movie. I was curious as I'd just begun my soccer script for ESPN. And the critics have spoken! Your top choices were Victory, Hoosiers, the Replacements, Caddyshack, Rounders, Vision Quest, Bull Durham, Breaking Away, Any Given Sunday, Remember the Titans, da Rockies, Happy Gilmore, and Brian’s Song.

Any movies missing from that list?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Kafka on the Joys of Writing

For all you writers out there discouraged that you're not feeling the inspiration, here are a few entries from Kafka's journal (from the period when he was writing The Trial).

They illustrate that anyone can get writer's block, but more importantly, that self-perception is not always accurate. Here he was, feeling at a low point during the time when he was creating an enduring piece of literature.


Jan 20: The end of writing. When will it take me up again?

Jan 29: Again, tried to write, vritually useless.

Jan 30: The old incapacity. Interrupted my writing for barely ten days and already cast out. Once again, prodigious efforts stand before me. You have to dive down, as it were, and sink more rapidly than that which sinks in advance of you.

Feb 7: Complete standstill. Unending torments.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thriller Writers - Renaissance Men and Women?

I just got back from Thrillerfest, where much of the discussion centered around what thriller writers do in their outside lives. A lot of thriller writers, I've learned, have a variety of hobbies and skills, everything from stunt flying to cave diving. And many have other jobs as well - cops, firemen, businessmen, CIA operatives. As I overheard one reader comment, "Doesn't anyone just write books anymore?"

I think part of this is the thriller writer's temperment; he likes high stakes and excitement, so is prone to seek it out in his life, or to use research as an excuse for new adventures. And this topic reminded me of one of my favorite quotations, from JFK during a Commencement speech at Harvard. He was discussing how politicians have strayed in their interests from their intellectual predecessors, remarking of Thomas Jefferson that he was, "a gentleman of 32, who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin." While it would be ill-advised to compare even the most sophisticated of thriller writers to Jefferson, the former President and Renaissance man certainly gives us all something to aspire to.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I'm off to Thrillerfest today, which takes place at the elegant Frank Lloyd Wright Biltmore in Phoenix. This is the first convention dedicated exclusively to thrillers, thriller fans, and thriller writers. Weather reports have Phoenix at about 115 degrees, so be prepared for lots of bad comments on various blogs about this "hot" event.

I will be moderating a panel of dedicated thriller readers, participating on a panel with Christopher Rice, Chris Mooney, and Will Staeger - with Tess Gerritsen moderating - about new types of heroes/protagonists, and giving the award for Best Thriller Screenplay (I chaired the panel that decided). The noms for Best Script are:

MATCH POINT (screenplay by Woody Allen)
SYRIANA (based on the book by Robert Baer, written by Stephen Gaghan)
CACHE (screenplay by Michael Haneke)
OLDBOY (screenplay by Jo-yun Hwang, Chun-hyeong Lim, Joon-hyung Lim, and Chan-wook Park; story by Garon Tsuchiya)
MUNICH (screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth; based on the book by George Jonas)

Winner to be announced at the banquet Saturday night.

Hope to see some of you there!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Reader Feedback

Every writer I know gets feedback from their readers. Some types of readers are more likely to write or email than others. Maybe you ran over a cat in one of your books. Maybe you got a fact wrong about the Glock one of your characters carries. You will hear about it. Cat-lovers and gun-lovers at last find common ground!

Now and then I get an email about a mistake I've made that I find utterly charming. And this one is an example of that:
One hundred six/seven years ago Rimsky Korsakov composed the Flight of the Bumble Bee.

I am nearing 76 years of age. I commenced piano lessons at age 4. My mother was a classically trained pianist of considerable dexterity and varied repertoire - but that comes with decades of practice and performance. I heard her play Flight of the Bumble Bee without missing a single 64th note. I seethed with envy and respect - in that order.

About 35/40 years after the piece was first performed the staff producing The Green Hornet, searching for an appropriate theme and knowing absolutely nothing about the difference between hornets and bumble bees opted to use Nikoli's piece.

I recall being glued to the Philco cathedral radio listening to the Green Hornet, thrilling to the theme rendered by a stringed ensemble.

I have read every one of your books. I frequently have laughed out loud at some of your very witty writings. I lost my wife of 54.3 years of happy marriage last year. We both read avidly. I think I average 200 books a year or thereabouts.

Now searching for a comparison I envision Bear could make his living in the World Wrestling Alliance. I think it was in KILL CLAUSE you had Bear humming the "theme from the Green Hornet."

Have you ever attempted to do that? When I read that line I marked the page with a laminated book mark and for roughly 5 minutes tried to hum the Flight of the Bumble Bee. Now I have been a fair to middling pianist most of my adult life. I could not hum it. I firmly believe no one else could, let alone our mutual friend Bear-- or his creator!

If you'll keep writing I'll try to live to read as many of your books as possible in whatever time remains in my life. The tie between the drugs in the punch in THE PROGRAM and Al Gore kept me laughing gleefully for an enjoyable spell.

Note this e-mail is written on faint but discernible replicated sheet music. Perhaps Bear could sight read and hum it in a future plot.

I wrote back:

I just listened to the Green Hornet theme and yes, it would be difficult for someone to hum, especially Bear, who generally has his mouth full. Your suggestion about Bear as a professional wrestler made me laugh – particularly after the Great Mustaro scene in TROUBLESHOOTER.
And the gentleman was, in fact, kind enough to include some sheet music for the next time Bear feels like humming.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Proposition

This bloody Australian Western, written by Nick Cave, directed by John Hillcoat, and starring Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone (who is inspired), Danny Huston, John Hurt, David Wenham, and Emily Watson is an exercise in elegance and economy. It's a beautiful piece, so violent it might make Peckinpah cringe, but most amazing is the starkness of the plot——how little is said and done to set forth epic conflict. I want to give nothing away, but I will say that by the end of the first scene, the film's major dilemma is set firmly in place. That dilemma has consequences for all the major characters, and the complications deepen, twist, and intensify with no contrivance and gorgeous simplicity. I'd recommend it to any writer (all of us?) still learning how to say more in fewer words. It proves yet again that often the most compelling plots are also the most elegant in design.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Many of you have likely heard about THRILLER, the new anthology put out from the Internation Thriller Writers through Mira. Edited by James Patterson, it features stories from Lee Child, David Morrell, Christopher Rice, Chris Mooney, Gayle Lynds, James Siegel, Ted Bell, Grant Blackwood, Lincoln Child, David Dun, Heather Graham, James Grippando, Denise Hamilton, Raelynn Hillhouse, Alex Kava, J.A. Konrath, John LesCroart, Robert Liparulo, David Liss, Eric Van Lustbader, Dennis Lynds, Katherine Neville, Michael Palmer, Douglas Preston, Christopher Reich, James Rollins, MJ Rose, Brad Thor, M. Diane Vogt, and F. Paul Wilson. Oh, and yours truly. I have a little piece in there called "Dirty Weather." Quite a cast, huh?

The book offers a unique chance to see some of the top names in the genre showing off.

I must say, I'm amused by the flap copy, which lists a number of the all-stars, then says the anthology includes "four of the hottest new voices in the genre." Which four? And why only four? I think this is a strategy of flattery - it leaves every other contributing author believing they're one of the four. Kidding aside, Mira's done an excellent job in publishing and marketing this puppy - anthologies ain't easy - and I'm pleased it's getting the big launch it deserves.

One other thing's for sure, when I look at that list, I see more than four of the hottest new voices. This anthology is a pleasure through and through and I'm flattered to be included in such company.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Faulkner in His Own Voice

This is an absolutely amazing website:

It contains clips of Faulkner reading excerpts from his own work, and you can hear him deliver his Nobel Prize acceptance speech (one of the finest speeches about art ever written). The acceptance gives me the chills every time I read it, and this is the first time I was able to hear it read aloud - and from the salty Southerner himself. Simply staggering. I think every writer should have a copy of this taped above their desk. Thanks to Harper for providing us all this unique opportunity.

Do give it a listen.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Laughing Sinner Prisoners Pull Off Daring Freeway Escape

This is a great mock news article my publicist put together. I thought some of you readers out there might get a kick out of it.

50 cents, Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Two Officers Dead, Armed Fugitives on the Run

Early this morning the lanes of a busy Los Angeles freeway played witness to a truly horrific and daring escape involving an extremely well-timed roadblock and enough explosives to blow a hole through four lanes of highway.

Prisoner’s Den Laurey and “Kaner,” both chief members of the outlaw biker gang, The Laughing Sinners, were en route to San Bernardino County Jail where Con Air transport was awaiting the arrival of the two felons to take the prisoners to a federal penitentiary. The prisoners were serving time for the torture-killing of three members of their rival biker gang - The Cholos.

There is speculation that the two prisoners had outside help from the nomads, a separate and notorious chapter of the infamous Laughing Sinners gang.

The Warrant Squad’s Escape Team has arranged a special task force to help track down these felons and sources say that former deputy US marshal Tim Rackley, known by some as TROUBLESHOOTER, has been called on to the case.

At this time the police department has confirmed that deputy U.S. marshal’s Frank Palton and Hank Mancone were killed in the incident and four unnamed deputies received significant injuries.

The escaped felons are currently at large and considered to be armed and extremely dangerous.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Brokeback to the Future

A while ago I posted a trailer of The Shining, recut, re-voiced-over, and re-scored as a feel-good movie. A great illustration of just how manipulative trailers (and music and editing) can be.

This is another re-skewing of a classic. Who knew Doc could cast such lascivious glances?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Quotation of the Day

A fool is someone whose pencil wears out before its eraser does.

~ Marilyn Vos Savant

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bikers and Bodies

This is an amazing story from the AP about the assassination of eight Bandito outlaw biker gang members, whose bodies were found stuffed into cars in a rural part of Ontario.

Authorities believe the group assassination was an effort by the Hell's Angels to wipe out their competition. The Angels are tough as hell, the Canadian chapters in particular, and it's doubful the Banditos will recover.

My research into this world when I was writing Troubleshooter was fascinating and unsettling. The book deals with similar events, opening with a daring freeway escape, as my fictional biker gang, the Laughing Sinners, busts their two enforcers out of a US Marshals prison transport van. Why were they busted out? For a number of reasons, but the foremost one is to put a serious dent in their rival outlaw biker gang, the Cholos, to clear out the competetion. Once they're freed, the Laughing Sinners enforcers do more than that....

It's always odd when events from the headlines mirror events in your books, and vice versa. Especially when they're terrible events. You feel like you've anticipated a little tweak in the zeitgeist, but you're none too happy about it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Palm Springs Bookfest

A great event is coming up on April 22 - the Palm Springs Bookfest. It will be crime-fiction intensive, as Christopher Rice set up wall-to-wall panels and events at the Suspense Pavilion. Myriad authors will be appearing, with a number of highlights, including Chris in conversation with his mother, Anne Rice.

I have a really full day, and I'm looking forward to my events, since many of them are more creative than usual book-festival fare. Two of my SEAL buddies are coming in for the gig, and I've never before done an event or interview with any of my consultants.

My panels are listed below:

Real writers come up with instant storylines based on actual press clippings from that morning's paper, including a discussion of how often real news stories inspire our works and the challenges of turning real events into creative inspiration.

Panelists: CHARLES O'CONNOR Navy SEAL 20 yrs (retired) & ROSS HANGEBRAUCK Navy SEAL 5 yrs (retired)

Never before have Special Operations Forces played such a crucial role in our nation's foreign combat operations. But how do two of these real life heroes feel about being portrayed through fiction? Critically acclaimed thriller writer GREGG HURWITZ will pose that question and more to two of the real-life NAVY SEALS who have acted as his research consultants for several best-selling thrillers.


DALE BROWN has been hailed as "the best military adventure writer in the country"* His 1987 novel Flight of the old Dog is an undisputed classic of contemporary thriller fiction, recently listed as one of the Must Read Thrillers of all time by International Thriller Writers Inc. GREGG HURWITZ is one of the hottest new voices on the thriller scene. His breathtaking series of novels featuring U.S. Marshal Tim Rackley have drawn unanimous praise from authors like James Patterson, Tess Gerritsen, Janet Evanovich and other titans of the genre. See what happens when these two maestros of unrelenting suspense and cutting-edge technology sit down to discuss what goes into their work...and what explodes out of it!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Department of Homeland, er, Producing?

The restriction of official images is troubling indeed. Can we no longer write about, say, the FBI or CIA in ways that aren't strictly flattering? (And who wants to write or read ANYTHING that's strictly flattering about its subjects?).

I'd read some time ago that LAPD was considering copyrighting its name and logo so writers would have to pay a fee or get approval to use them. I'm not sure if that's fact or paranoid urban legend, but the topic seems to be very much in the wind.

I don't have an update on the outcome of Schulman's complaint, so if any of you do, I'd be curious to hear it....
A Los Angeles screenwriter is claiming that the Department of Homeland Security has informed him that he may not use the agency's name "or any of the Department's official visual identities" in the script for his film, Lady Magdalene, despite the fact that the film presents a positive image of the DHS. The writer, J. Neil Schulman, said Tuesday that he had received a notice from Bobbie Faye Ferguson, director of the NHS's office of multimedia, informing him that his "project does not fit within the DHS mission and that it is not something we can participate in." In response, Schulman wrote to Ferguson that he had already received assistance from a special agent of the NHS's air marshal service while he was preparing his screenplay and that the agency's notice to him now represents a violation of his First Amendment rights. "Merely the claim that you have the power to restrict such official images is chilling to the process of writing and producing a movie -- and certainly to an independent film in pre-production with a start date for principal photography only six weeks away," Schulman wrote.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Another Sordid Cult Tale

Yet another fine cult tale, emailed to me from a fan. As they say on the magic box, names have been removed to protect the innocent....


Dear Mr Hurwitz,

I enjoyed your book The Program. Good job on nailing those culties

Here's a cute story.

In 1980, or somewhere around there, my sister's blissed out friend talked me into a ____ seminar. I was only 20 or so, and thought it pretty weird from the beginning; hundreds of people jammed into a hotel ballroom; loads of rules about going to the bathroom, too much intimacy with strangers. Still, I stuck it out pretty well until Sunday-- the graduation day. That morning, I'd felt a little sick and then during the training things became dire. I got up during some exercise, confronted the six foot ten inch guards at the door and told them I needed a break. They said no, that breaktime was coming up in forty-five minutes. So I told them if they didn't let me out, I was gonna puke on their shiny shoes.

They let me out.

And they had to keep letting me out about every forty minutes for the next few hours.

Finally the break came. And The Trainer, the big guy, brown-grey hair, ice blue eyes, threads of his slate grey suit creating what looked like the perfect human being. I was nervous as hell in his presence. He looked like a God or something-- his shit so together it was like some cosmic singularity. He took me outside and we sat by a planter of bouganvillas while told me I was disrupting the training and that the reason I was doing it was that I was avoiding something profound and traumatic. The implication was clear. I was way more fucked up than I could even imagine, and worse yet, if I didnt' stop, he was gonna throw me out. I leaned over and puked in the bouganvillas.

I didn't stop, but with the help of my sister and a paper bag, I was able to hide.

The next day, after it was over, I called in sick to work. Later that day my minder-- a handsome plucky blond guy with tragic eyes-- called, trying to get me to drop another six hundred bucks for the next level seminar. I had my checkbook in my hand, all ready to mail off my deposit, when I looked at the calendar. Goddamnit, how long HAD it been since I had a period? Holy Fudd. The puking... it was, it was... morning sickness. I was knocked up, not nuts.
I was in no position to have a kid, and didn't. But you know, all the hassle that ensued, the moral qualms, everything, it was all kind of a relief. It could be taken care of. What couldn't have been taken care of was the fact that a sharp suited trainer had just about convinced me that I was such a psychological wreck that if I didn't proceed with _____, there was now and never was gonna be any hope for me.

Life's funny, ain't it?

Again, thanks for a good read.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Oscars! And the Problems of Hosting...

How many of you watched? If you skipped it, why?

How'd you think John Stuart did?

I think he's a brilliant commentator, but I think desk comedians have a harder time seizing control of the Oscars in all their unruly (ordered?) glory (Letterman wasn't as funny on stage as he is nightly smirking behind his desk). My favorite of recent years was Steve Martin, but I think he was too dry and smart for the average viewer. Chris Rock couldn't quite find his rhythm - he's the best stand-up comedian around, I think (except for maybe Sarah Silverman, whose Jesus is Magic strays so far into hysterical irreverency you can't believe how funny it is), but he couldn't quite nail the format. I saw Rock live a few weeks before his Oscars - he came into a small comedy club - a surprise guest much to the delight (and then horror) of Midwestern tourists - to work out his material, and it was excellent. He was more relaxed - he said he came in to practice not swearing. He failed.

I think the best Oscar MC of recent years is Billy Crystal. No one can compare to his blend of humor, schtick, and dance - he is Mr. Entertainment, and a true performer. It's such an odd skill set that makes the proceedings really soar...

Who's your favorite Oscar host?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Christopher Hitchens on Cartoons and Free Speech

Christopher Hitchens may be a divisive figure, but he's also a brilliant, incisive, dynamic thinker. He never stoops to dogma or peddles ideas under the banner of "common sense." When asked on tour, I regularly name him as one of my favorite writers, though it often draws confused looks from my readers, who are looking for me to name crime-fiction authors. The quality and elegance of his writing are staggering, especially considering that his articles are time-sensitive and written to more intense deadlines than many of us writers face.

For two razor-sharp articles on free speech and the cartoon "debate," check out:

Stand Up For Denmark!

And Cartoon Debate

Friday, February 24, 2006

Zach Helm

There's a great article in this month's Vanity Fair about screewriter/playwright/director Zach Helm. He and I share an agency - CAA - but more importantly, a professional philosophy. Evidently, Zach's career, while successful, wasn't going where he wanted it to. So he sat down and wrote a Manifesto - the ethics and rules that should govern his creativity. Since he's abided his Manifesto, his career has really taken off.

As I've learned - you have to respect your creativity or it'll get tired of you and move on.

A few points that he emphasized I believe make for important lessons for young writers.

1. Write what interests you. Don't get penned into one genre or field. This year, I've worked on a new thriller novel, a historical sports drama screenplay, and a six-man play that tackles social issues. Each one, oddly, informs the other and allows me to approach all my writing with a freshness that I wouldn't have if I focused on, say, crime fiction alone.
2. When placing your work, don't decide merely based on immediate financial gain. Money works in odd ways - sometimes, if you take more cash up front, it's a short-sighted proposition. Better to place your screenplay with the right producer or director, for example - someone who gets the project and respects you. You'll be happier if you're demanding that your work is treated with respect - and to get that, you have to treat your own work with respect. Plus, you never know when or how something is going to pay off - either in a financial or creative windfall.
3. Don't take crap jobs for money. Rewriting gigs can pay a lot of money in Hollywood, but they can also drain you. Likewise with other projects that sail down the pipeline. The first question should always be: Is this a stimulating, challenging project? When you're focusing on your own writing, why do anything except what is of the highest interest for you? For the money? If you're after that, you'd do much better to go into commercial real estate or investment banking. If you're going to tackle the trials and tribulations of a writing life, follow your passions. Take risks. Go out on limbs. It's a field where - at least for me - playing it safe means creative stagnation.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Peter Benchley

I was quite saddened yesterday to hear that Peter Benchley had died.

Jaws was the first adult book I read. As a fourth grader, I was drawn in by the cover, which is my favorite of all time. I shoved a chair over to my parents' bookshelf so I could reach the book, which they kept on the top shelf beside Valley of the Horses (which would provide an entirely different kind of education for me a few months later). I absolutely loved Jaws, and went on to read all of Benchley's work. I wrote him a letter saying how much I liked Jaws, Jaws II, The Island and The Deep, and he wrote back thanking me, but saying he couldn't take credit for Jaws II, as he didn't write it. So much for my impressing him with my precociousness. I kept a written correspondence with him through high school and college, telling him I wanted to be a writer, and I sent him an ARC of The Tower when it was published. He wrote me a very kind congratulatory note.

He was a very bright man with an abiding love of the ocean. The water has never been the same....

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Sleepless in Seattle

This is the best recut trailer since The Shining one I posted a few months ago (which recut The Shining trailer to make the film appear to be a feel-good family comedy).

Check this out:

I never cease being amazed by how much of an impact music and editing have on our emotions. We have very easy buttons to push....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Starting Out

I got a great email today from a devoted reader - and an aspiring writer. He asked advice on how to get started, and on what to do with his book once he's done with it. My response, I hope, could be helpful to other writers out there:

My advice is simple: write, write, and write some more. At this point, I wouldn’t focus on the end game – you’ve got a long ways to go before you have to worry about getting a book noticed. That’s sort of like a freshman in college asking about job recruitment after graduation. Right now, your focus should be honing your craft, and spending as many hours as possible in that chair. The market will have shifted so much by the time you’re ready to send out your manuscript that planning for it now would be a waste of time. Plus, you’ll need to get in touch with writing as its own process – as an end in itself. Only when you focus on the actual work – rather than the marketing to come - will you be able to enjoy yourself and grow as a writer.

All best of luck – and keep writing.


Monday, January 23, 2006

What You're Reading

A while ago, I posted a question on the website, asking what you'd read lately that you loved. Here are a few of the more unusual titles:

BLUE BLOOD, Edward Conlon's memoir about his first five years on the NYPD. I haven't read this yet, but I've heard wonderful things and can't wait to pick it up.

An advanced readers copy of EVERYTHING I'M CRACKED UP TO BE, by Jen Trynin. The book will be out in February 2006, so you heard about it first here.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon's SHADOW OF THE WIND.

A number of you were kind enough to mention my books, which I suppose makes sense, since that's how you found your way to my website. But thank you.

I'm reading Daniel Silva's A DEATH IN VIENNA, recommended to me by Chris Mooney, and I'm enjoying it very much. Silva manages to be sophisticated without being pretentious, and his research is extensive, his dialogue stunning - he's really a next-level author. I look forward to meeting him one of these tours.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Great Writing Quotation

From last month's WRITTEN BY, the official magazine of the Writer's Guild:

"Writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."
Mary Heaton Vorse

I think, if you're starting with some basic talent, the above will get you further in your writing than anything else.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Back In Black

Hello everyone and welcome back.

The quotation with which I closed last year belongs to Mr. Kurt Vonnegut, who incidently has a new book out (after he swore he'd never publish another book). The new book, A Man Without a Country, is a collection of essays, and some believe that this is in keeping with his vow, that he technically said he'd never publish another NOVEL. The book is excellent - you'll read it in one sitting. He turns his trademark wit and a caustic eye to contemporary politics and finds much worth mocking.

I hope everyone got in lots of reading over the break. That's what vacations are for. What were the best books you read these past few weeks?

I'd have to say my favorite was THE CUTTING ROOM by Louise Welch, a Scottish novel about an auctioneer who finds a snuff photo in an attic and becomes obsessed with determining whether it's real. The tone and voice were excellent, the plot - at times - chilling.