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.