Posts Tagged ‘Reeder & Rogers’

A Fair Hearing

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Barb and I visited our son Nate, his bride Abby and our new grandson (still unnamed at this writing) over the weekend in St. Louis. The little guy – he was early, and truly is little – is doing fine, and so are his parents. It was a fun visit and heartwarming, and I’ll stop right there before everybody gets sick.

I mentioned last time that there’s a new audio out of my 2008 X-FILES movie novelization, I WANT TO BELIEVE. We listened to it on the ride down and back, and enjoyed it – the narrator, Patrick Lawlor, did a good job. I rarely revisit a movie novelization, and this proved interesting for a number of reasons.

First, as often happens when I listen to an audio of my work, I am in a best-of-times-worst-of-times mode. I usually have forgotten enough about the plot (whether my own or some screenwriter’s) to enjoy the novel as a narrative. But I also cringe at things that I will never get the chance to fix. In writing a novelization of a film, the work often goes fast and has to be handed in on a near-impossible deadline, and I WANT TO BELIEVE could definitely have benefitted from another pass where I tweaked and fixed things. On the whole, though, it came out pretty good. Or as Larry David would say, “Pretty, pretty good.”

When we got home, I decided to look at the film itself. I had it on blu-ray but hadn’t watched it since I saw it in the theater. I haven’t done a movie novelization in a long time (I WANT TO BELIEVE was one of the last), but my most vivid memory of those days is that seeing the film in a theater was always a weird experience for me. I had spent enough time writing the novel that the narrative on hand seemed my own (a delusion). A fact of life for the writer of a movie novel is that you work from a screenplay and do not get access to the film itself, though you are expected to mirror that film. Now and then, you get a few clips and the X-FILES people were generous with wardrobe sheets and cast lists, and were always there to answer questions (“What kind of car does Scully drive?” “What color?”). But mostly you’re flying blind, as screenplays are notoriously bare bones.

Seeing the movie after having just heard the novelization made me feel good about what I’d accomplished. I had definitely imagined, and recorded, a movie from that screenplay that tallied well the actual film. The biggest difference was an odd one. The main villain was described in the screenplay as having black stringy hair and craggy ugly features, and was frequently linked to the Russian madman, Rasputin. In the film itself, blond, rather handsome actor Callum Keith Rennie – who was a good guy co-star on one of my favorite TV series, DUE SOUTH – was the bad guy. So that change was startling.

Others were very minor. A couch turned into a folded-out day bed; bone marrow cancer became lung cancer. Otherwise, I pretty much conjured up the same movie, albeit on paper. Some of the character names – no doubt forced by the legal department on the filmmakers – I disliked. One tough African-American FBI agent was called “Wesley Drummy.” Horrible name, not at all suited to the character. In the film it gets used once or twice; in the book I had to use it all the time. A number of awkward character names made the book seem klutzy at times – this is not at all uncommon in the novelization game. You’re stuck with these stupid names.

I liked the film, which remains much maligned. I do think the X-FILES folks made a major mistake in having Scully and Mulder at odds and separated through much of the story. Nothing wrong with that story, but a crucial creative meeting was skipped – the one where everybody sat down and asked each other, “What do X-FILES fans want to see?” Not Dana Scully turning her back on the FBI and Mulder to tend to a little kid with a brain tumor.

The experience of hearing my books on audio is always gratifying and frustrating. I careen between thinking, “That was a really nice scene/line/description,” to, “Jesus, I wish I could fix that!” And you are the captive of the audio-book reader. I’ve had some great ones, quite a few good ones, and some terrible ones. One guy read DAMNED IN PARADISE in a bad Bogart impression. (I gave my freebie copies to friends as gag gifts.) On the other hand, the Hellers have all been read in recent years by the excellent Dan John Miller, who has virtually become Nate’s voice.

The day I’m writing this, Dan is in the studio reading FATE OF THE UNION. He did a fantastic job on the first book in the Reeder and Rogers series, SUPREME JUSTICE, and both Matt Clemens and I are thrilled to have him back for FATE. Dan also did a great job on THE WRONG QUARRY, but the new Quarry audio book publisher, Skyboat, features the QUARRY novels as read by the excellent Stefan Rudnicki. Rudnicki is an older, huskier Quarry, a deeper voice than the character usually receives but an excellent, expressive reader. He knocked the ball out of the park on QUARRY’S CHOICE.

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My friend Mike Dennis campaigned long and hard to get to record an audio of I, THE JURY. Check out his story here.

And, finally, here’s a good if somewhat patronizing review of ANTIQUES SWAP.


Fate of the Union—Covered

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015
Fate of the Union

Here’s the cover for FATE OF THE UNION, the second Reeder and Rogers political thriller from Thomas & Mercer. The first, SUPREME JUSTICE, was one of my bestselling novels ever, so I’m hopeful this one will do well, too.

Whether it will engender the same kind of political controversy as the first remains to be seen. I can’t see any reason for conservatives to get their panties in a bunch this time around, or progressives either; but you never know.

The cover process at Thomas & Mercer is fascinating – they provide a number of possibilities and give the author great input into the final product. I think this one is very good, and that it makes a nice fit with the SUPREME JUSTICE cover.

You’ll note that Matt Clemens shares byline this time around. That’s only a cosmetic change, because Matt was a collaborator on SUPREME JUSTICE as well, and the previous Thomas & Mercer novel, WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER. I wanted to include him on the byline of those, but was discouraged from doing so, because some people make the unfortunate assumption that when a secondary byline appears with a (fairly) well-known author’s, that means the book was ghosted.

Those of you who follow these updates know that Matt and I are genuine collaborators. Our process is one we have shared openly. I usually come up with the basic premise of a novel, and we then – in several sessions – come up with a plot. We both work on a chapter breakdown/synopsis, and then Matt writes a shortish rough draft, which I polish and expand into a longer novel. It’s a synthesis of two writers, and it’s worked very well for us for a long time. We developed the approach on the very successful CSI novels and have continued it elsewhere.

I’m proud and pleased to share cover credit with Matt.

And this book represents, in both our opinions, our best work together. It comes out next November.

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Check out this terrific review of THE LEGEND OF CALEB YORK from the great book review site, Bookgasm.


Real Life Intrudes

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015


This will be a short update because I am very much in the bunker, working on the second Reeder & Rogers novel, FATE OF THE UNION (I changed the title from STATE OF THE UNION when somebody pointed out there was a Brad Thor novel by that name) (I’ve never read him, is my lame excuse).

The book feels very good, but the work has been exhausting. Matt Clemens, my co­-author, is actually still working on his draft, and I expect the rest of his material by mid-­week or sooner. Matt and I have been on the phone a good deal – not constantly, but frequently – as we consult on the phases each of us is working on. Of all the books we’ve done together – that’s easily approaching two dozen – this one feels particularly collaborative.

Normally Matt would deliver his rough draft (based on our co­-plotting, about two-­thirds the length of what my final draft will be) before I begin writing; but the complications of real life threw both of us curves. Matt got involved driving a good friend to chemotherapy sessions some miles away, later lost that friend, and then his mother­-in­-law passed away. I got sick last year – a bronchial thing – while working on the new Heller. No project of mine is harder than a Heller, and while I never stopped writing, my work days were truncated.

Writers live by deadlines, but deadlines don’t give a damn about illness or family tragedy or really anything approaching real life. This past week, in and around working on FATE OF THE UNION, I have been helping Barb deal with our terrible leaky roof problems due to the suddenly melting snow and ice here in the Midwest. Those of you know how bad my vertigo is will be astounded to learn that I’ve been up on the top roof of our multi-level art deco house with its flat roofs (hence leaks) shoveling snow and chopping up ice like an Eskimo in an old cartoon.

We have severe water damage in several rooms, and even had to move from our bedroom into the guest room. None of this is meant to solicit sympathy. As I’ve said here before, my late friend Paul Thomas always said, “If you want sympathy, it’s between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.” But part of what I’m trying to do in these updates is provide a glimpse into a working writer’s life. And the intrusion of real life into the fantasy we create can cause problems.

I think anyone who likes my work will enjoy FATE OF THE UNION. Some of you, even my most loyal readers, haven’t checked out the first Reeder & Rogers book, SUPREME JUSTICE, because it’s from Amazon, in their Thomas & Mercer line, and isn’t easily found in brick-­and­-mortar bookstores. Its success has been largely as an e­-book. What may surprise you is learning that – excluding various editions of ROAD TO PERDITION and certain movie tie­-ins, like SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and DICK TRACY – SUPREME JUSTICE is my biggest bestseller.

Like the first novel, FATE OF THE UNION is a political thriller set around fifteen years in the future. It deals with big issues in, I think, an exciting way. SUPREME JUSTICE caught a lot of flack for having a liberal hero (most political thrillers are conservative, I’m told). This time I feel confident I’m being an equal opportunity offender.