Category Archives: TV

Eric Idle - Writers Cut car3

The Writer’s Cut
Part One

by Eric Idle

Book excerpt from the Monty Python legend: a wisecracking, ambitious and horny film/TV comedian goes to a pitch meeting. 4,096 words. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Los Angeles – January 2003

My name is Stanley Hay and I’m a professional writer. I write movies, I write sitcoms, and I write gags 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3for TV shows. You may have heard some of them. “I believe in the separation of Church and Planet.” That was mine. Caused quite a stir. I don’t mean to cause trouble. It just seems to be what I do best. I make a pretty decent living writing and rewriting, but I have always wanted to write a novel, and this year, in January 2003, I decided it was time.

It didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned.

Steve Martin says that the problem with fiction is you’ll be happily reading a book, and all of a sudden it turns into a novel. You should hear the way he says that. “It goes all novelly.” He’s a hoot, Steve. He cracks me up. It’s the way he says things. “Alllll novelly.” But it’s true isn’t it? That is the problem with novels. They are so palpably fiction. Maybe we’re a bit sick of plots with stories and characters, the usual bull. Oh she’s going to end up in bed with him. He’s going to do it with her. They’re all going to run away and join the navy … After all we’ve been reading books for centuries and watching movies and TV for years, and we’ve sat through hundreds and thousands of tales by the time we’re adults, so we know all about plot twists, and sudden reversals of fortune, and peripeteia and all that Aristotelian shit they cram into you at college. But real life doesn’t have a plot, does it? It just kinda rambles on.

So that’s what I set out to write. A reality novel. A novel about a Hollywood writer who is writing a novel about a Hollywood writer writing a novel about Hollywood.

Continue reading

Diary Of A Mad Tv Executive

Diary Of A Mad Executive

by Cynthia Mort

He knew no one in television and quickly came to know everybody. Who will stop his rise? 5,069 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


THE EARLY YEARS

Weight was always an issue for me, when I was young. An Italian boy from Ohio, I was basically loved 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3to fat by my mother. All the love she didn’t get from my father, she gave to me — in huge pans of lasagna, monster portions of risotto, and gigantic slabs of tiramisu. I ate it all; it was so worth it to see her smile as I cleaned my plate.

So, at 21, I was living at home, a short fat Mama’s boy, a community college graduate, and in my private moments, gay. One night, right after my father kissed me with a look of disgust that was hard to hide, I went downstairs — I was living in the basement, my star athlete brother getting the only other bedroom upstairs — and sat in the dark, thinking. I stayed down there for days, not that anyone noticed. Well, my mother would pass down food whenever she was depressed.

And to me there only seemed one place to go, one dream to live, one big, great fuck-you-to-everyone-who-ever-made-fun-of-me — Hollywood.

My first job in Hollywood was not the mailroom, it was as an assistant to the assistant of the assistant to the assistant of the assistant to the Executive Vice President of the major cable network. I could not believe when I walked through those basement doors for my interview.

Continue reading

Roommates NEW

Roommates

by Robert W. Welkos

Three world famous actors started out long ago as NYC roommates struggling to make it. 3,222 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


New York City — 1950s

Sheldon Dumar, Bo Daggett and Bill Travers live together in the same New York City apartment 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3building as close to roommates as three straight guys can get, all in their twenties and all focused on finding acting jobs.

Tonight, Sheldon is awakened by a pluk, pluk, pluk noise. What is that, the faucet? Geez, can’t a guy get any sleep around here?

“Shut up.” He covers his ears. “I said, shut up, dammit!” Groggily, he rubs the sleep from his eyes and stares unfocused into the grayish darkness. He has to laugh. How does that TV show go? There are eight million stories in the naked city… and now this is one of them: Bo’s shitty leaky kitchen faucet. Then Sheldon remembers all those lessons drummed into him using the Meisner Technique. Learn to improvise, Sheldon, like Meisner says. A phrase. Respond with intensity. Let your emotions flow. Sheldon glares at the faucet. “Are you pluking with me, faucet? Stop pluking with me!”

Sheldon dips his head and laughs. Always on. Always the actor. But he’s thankful Bo doesn’t kick him out of the apartment. Bo wouldn’t, would he? They’ve been pals since meeting at the Pasadena Playhouse, as unlikely a pair as Wally Cox and Marlon Brando.

Sheldon asked to crash at Bo’s pad while looking for a job in New York. Found one, too. Waiting tables. Don’t we all in this profession until the auditions pay off? Now Sheldon is looking for something off-Broadway or maybe a TV commercial. That would suffice until he gets on his feet financially and can afford his own pad. Until then, Bo says Sheldon can sleep on the kitchen floor. What a pal. Pluk, pluk pluk.

Continue reading

Theres_no side of the street_1250_900

There’s No Side Of The Street Like My Side Of The Street

by Bill Scheft

A comedian who says what Hollywood doesn’t want to hear tries to right his wrongs. 2,712 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


I’m not sure how this works. This was someone else’s idea. Actually, a lot of people’s. My agent, my 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3shrink, two old friends, two guys who know and two ex-wives. The only one who said not to do it was my new girlfriend, which is why she is my new girlfriend. I don’t have a computer. Well, I do, but it’s dial-up. I don’t have email anymore. I would have typed it on my computer, but my printer is busted. Or needs a new ink cartridge. So, I am dictating this into a tape recorder and giving it to one of my daughters, who said she would type it up and email it to some new website where, ideally, they would post it and then other places might pick it up and then everyone would eventually know everything and then… then what?

So, if you’re reading this now, it made it. Which is the difference between what this is and me. I never made it.

There’s a great joke. It’s not mine. I don’t know whose it is, but the fact I’m not saying it is mine is an incredible departure for me. Here’s the joke: Saint Peter at the Gates of Heaven. First guy comes up. Saint Peter says, “What did you do on Earth?” Guy says, “I was a doctor. I made $500,000 a year, but I put in at least one day a week at the free clinic. I also went to Africa twice and performed medicine in destitute villages. My wife and I were married for 35 years, we had three beautiful children, and I had seven grandkids.” Saint Peter says, “Okay, you can go in.” Second guy comes up to the gate. Saint Peter says, “What did you do on Earth?” Second guy says, “I was a lawyer. I grew up poor. Paid my way through law school, started with a big firm, made it to partner. I was earning at least $1 million a year, but three years ago, I left and started my own firm, which did exclusively pro-bono work. I was married 25 years. My wife couldn’t have children, so we adopted two girls, and they both just graduated from law school and are taking over my business.” Saint Peter says, “Okay, you can go in.” Third guy comes up to the gate. Saint Peter says, “What did you do on Earth?” The guy says, “Not much. I never made more than $7,500 a year. I was married and divorced three times. I have five children, two that I’ve never seen. And I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict.” And Saint Peter says, “What have I seen you in?”

I’m not dying, unless you heard something. I’m not sick. The fact that my health is as good as it is may be one of life’s great jokes. As great as the Saint Peter joke, probably not. As great as the bit I came up with in 1994 about the realtor showing John Wayne Gacy’s house (“The basement is 20×30 and sleeps 26…”)? Well, comedy is subjective. A lot of comics love that bit. I heard Robin Williams laugh one night in the back of the room when I did it at the Holy City Zoo. So, for all I know, he lifted it and it died with him.

If I sound bitter, that’s what you’re hearing. I am not bitter. I am just relentlessly realistic.

Continue reading

Birthday Party v3

Birthday Party

by Ann Hamilton

A child’s fourth birthday becomes a battlefield for two fathers waging Hollywood’s agency wars. 2,907 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Derek is supposed to be listening to his client’s pitch, a mini-series for Syfy, and he knows it’s 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3something about global warming. Or a pandemic. Maybe both (“a contemporary dystopian take on Noah’s Ark”). But instead Derek finds himself looking at a photo of his daughter Sierra taken in Maui on a family trip last spring. Three-year old Sierra stands on the beach looking at a man in a yellow Easter Bunny suit, staring him down. Come on, bunny. Bring it on. He wonders what she’s doing at preschool right now. Gluing nuts to construction paper to spell out her name? Taking a nap?

He wants to yawn, but that would be disrespectful to Tyler, his client. Derek nods and smiles. He hasn’t been paying attention for five minutes which is dangerous in these cutthroat times when, in a blink of an eye, agencies are losing even their unsuccessful showrunners to unscrupulous competitors on the prowl.

Tyler stops and looks down at the pitch pages on his lap. “Albino twins with telekinetic powers? Too much?” says Tyler, making a quick slash with his pen. “Let me tell you about the shipping crate they find filled with Red Trolley Ale. I was thinking product placement.”

Derek nods blankly. He is thinking about the conversation he overheard his wife Kiki having on her cell in line at Starbucks with another mother over the weekend. “Dylan’s birthday isn’t until the 18th, and Sierra’s birthday is the 10th, so the 13th and the 14th are Sierra’s days. It’s the rule. I’ve booked a Bollywood dance teacher. Non-refundable deposit.”

Tyler won’t get in to pitch to Syfy. Derek has already come up with a good excuse. Staffing change. They need to sort things out in Syfy development. Oh, shit. Did he say that last time about Tyler’s canceled Sony meeting? Derek isn’t interested in Tyler anymore. Another agent warned him, pre-signing, “Tyler had one good idea five years ago, always late with drafts, bad in a room,” but Derek enjoyed the challenge of luring Tyler away from a boutique agency. Boutique means bullshit, that was Derek’s pitch. People will take you seriously, Ty. Once you’re with us.

Continue reading

Heigl2 FINAL

The Assistant To The Assistant For An Actress Not Ms. Heigl

by Tom Ruprecht

A new assistant to a famous actress gets hired only to find out the reality of working in showbiz. 2,354 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


“First off, you’re not going to meet the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl, so let’s 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3just get that little fantasy out of your head right now.”

Clutching her resume, Ally Larson nods.

Nicole sternly continues. “The job is to be my assistant. You assist me. I assist the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl. You get it?”

Again, Ally obediently nods although she really didn’t need the stalker chat. She has no burning desire to meet an actress who’s not Katherine Heigl.

“Seriously, you can forget that fantasy you probably have that you and the actress who’s not Katherine Heigl will be drinking Cosmos while she solves the problems of your love life,” Nicole scoffs.

Cosmos? Ally thinks everything about that screams 2008. Well, aside from the problematic love life. That is still very much a thing with 2016 Ally.

“Whatever,” Ally replies in keeping with the “I love 2008“ theme. “I honestly didn’t come here with any expectations.”

Continue reading

Thomas Warming_Night Shoot_1600

Night Shoot

by Nat Segaloff

A perverse concept for a Reality TV show turns into an even more perverse shoot. 2,122 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It was the dumbest Halloween pitch anybody had heard in forty years. So, naturally, it sold. The reality show was suggested as a joke at a party on Friday night, and by Monday morning the network lawyers had the contracts ready to sign for The Real Vampires Of Transylvania. Why it never aired is revealed in line producer Josh Combs’ production reports. Thanks to Mr. Combs’ widow for permission to reprint them here:

Friday, April 13:
How auspicious to start a vampire series on Friday The 13th. I’m here in Romania for pre-production. We announced an open casting call from 10 to 6, then realized that we should have made it PM instead of AM. In line with the network’s mandate for diversity, we put out a call for a cross-section of physical types. Of course, all the vampires have to look young, beautiful, and sexy; our shorthand for this is “VILF.” Anybody who’s either old or ugly will be cast as villagers. Since we’ll be shooting entirely at night, we were afraid the show couldn’t have any children. Amazingly, all those who applied so far are at least a hundred years old yet look like they’re nine and ten.

In order to make sure we hire the real thing, we have mirrors posted at strategic spots around the meeting room. Note: this may eventually pose a problem for the make-up department. Costuming probably won’t be an issue since everyone tends to arrive dressed in period finery looking like a cross between a Frozen character and the Ambassador Hotel doorman. Most of the actors say they’re from Seattle and are almost all unrelentingly morose. One of the ways we ferret out fakers is by inviting them to sample our craft service table. They refuse everything, although we almost had a disaster when one of the less worldly applicants started to eat a blood orange and we quickly told him it was just a name. Rather than risk another such incident, Amazon Prime is overnighting a supply of crucifixes.

Continue reading

dyin_to_direct_3_v2

Dyin’ To Direct
Part Three

by Tom Musca

The director has some last filming to do before it’s the end. 2,792 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Ivan acted like a tyrant with a giant ego but Gail knew he was even tougher on himself. When the director looked back on his body of work all he could see were his mistakes. These two never watched TV together.

Gail was suppressing the real emotions waiting for her at the starting gate of the end of Ivan. “At least you’re still you.”

Ivan declared, “Is that a good thing?” His voice was weak enough for that to come off as funny.

Ivan was now the actor who had only a few more days on the picture and wanted to make sure it was acknowledged he could make things difficult until he was wrapped and his performance handed to the editors.

Ivan stared straight ahead for the next five minutes and reviewed his life, starting from his first memory of falling down the stairs before he learned to walk. Most people had no memories before the age of three but Ivan was different. He remembered nearly everything in moving images that he could summon with little effort.

Continue reading

dyin_to_direct_2

Dyin’ To Direct
Part Two

by Tom Musca

A director stages and blocks the actors for his waning days. 1,868 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The next morning, to combat his feelings of extreme insignificance, Myles insisted on bringing cappuccinos. He needed to make some sort of contribution walking to Ivan’s room in Gail’s company. But it was hard to feel helpful in a hospital setting.

Suddenly, they heard yelling coming from Ivan’s room. Gail lengthened her stride.

“How dare you, You don’t know anything about where I’m going. Who are you kidding? Forget global warming — the world is going to end when I die! Count on it, you motherfuckering-cocksucking-fuckface. People in Asia don’t exist unless I’m walking the streets there. You’re all here as supporting characters in my movie!”

The priest of Indian descent fled Ivan’s room, bumping the cardboard coffee tray in Myles’ hands. Myles bent over and dropped the recycled paper napkins that couldn’t adequately soak up three spills. At Starbucks the biscottis would have come in secure plastic pouches and could have been saved. Instead, the homemade and unpackaged ones that were purchased at the hippie coffee shop were now inedible, crumbling under Myles’s feet. Anyway, the mess in the hall would soon be someone else’s problem.

Myles walked into the room, nodding hello to Ivan for the first time in over a decade.

“I’m not only the star but the entire fuckin’ audience.” Ivan softened his last syllables as Myles drifted to his bedside.

Continue reading

dyin_to_direct_1

Dyin’ To Direct
Part One

by Tom Musca

This helmer finds himself in the hospital for his final scenes. 2,033 words. Part Two. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


2016 was a banner year: Prince, Mary Tyler Moore, Nancy Reagan, Alan Rickman, Gary Shandling, Garry Marshall, Patty Duke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Abe Vigoda, John Hurt, Gene Wilder, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, followed a day later by her mother Debbie Reynolds and, most relevant to Ivan, directors Curtis Hanson and Michael Cimino. Dead and buried, or incinerated and turned to ashes if they were politically correct, and most were. After all, we’re talking Hollywood A-listers.

Ivan wasn’t sure if he would have enough produced credits to qualify for the “In Memoriam” feature at next year’s Oscars or Emmys. Embracing the uncertainty of outcome when it came to living fascinated Ivan. But dying was certain and, at least so far, had proven to be far less interesting than he thought it would be. He had moved to Hollywood, Florida, so his Hollywood, California, acquaintances wouldn’t feel obligated to watch him wither away. People in L.A. didn’t like unhappy endings. They liked sequels.

Now with just days to live, Ivan would direct his death, if only to keep himself entertained.

The hospital room was a visual prison for a man who made a living finding interesting frames and giving depth to images. But since he was directing without interference from a producer, studio or network, he could experiment.

Although he did drape an extra blanket over the metal chair to dampen sound, there wasn’t much he could do about the acoustics. But the lighting he could control. When he could still navigate his hospital room without assistance, he covered the overhead light with an amber gel that produced softer skin tones, and he flagged his bedside lamp so its illumination bounced off the back wall, affording his visitors fill light.

Continue reading

Thomas Warming - Mickey and rat1600

Mickey Mouse And Sewer Rat

by Matthew Licht

Can a Hollywood animation icon make it in the harsh world of NYC reality? 1,386 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming


Mickey was awful tired. The snap of life was long gone. The heartbeats and thought-waves had died out when the drawing stopped. After that, animation was only a matter of machines, and money. Walt Disney, who wasn’t the nice man his conglomerate’s PR department sold to the world, was long dead, his severed head supposedly stuck in a San Fernando Valley deep-freeze. Minnie, the she-mouse Mickey was supposed to love, had turned into a block of black ice with long eyelashes and too much lipstick. Minnie had nothing to say anymore. She’d been clobbered by life or its simulation, stricken mute as Pluto, that distant animal star. Mickey knew how love felt, but he’d never been happy with what it really meant, to him.

He felt rootless, lifeless, old. Born from a bottle of India ink and a stolen idea, made to move by brushes with destiny, forced to express emotions not necessarily his own, he nonetheless felt the urge to return, somewhere. Back to the well of blackness, the life-blood that tasted like the end, which is where it all began, for him.

Mickey didn’t say goodbye to anyone at the Studio. Not a word to Huey, Dewey and Louie, or whatever Donald’s nephews were called. Not a word to his supposed friend, that buck-toothed monster from another species. He couldn’t even bring himself to say that stupid name.

He didn’t leave a note, he just left.

Continue reading

Hollywood kid4_1600

A Hollywood Kid
Part Four

by Maureen Harrington

Is Jason going to spy on his celeb friends for a gossip mag? 2,304 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Beverly saw Jason sitting at a corner table under the heavy drape of bougainvillea. He looked like his dad with some of his mother’s refinement thrown in. He definitely wasn’t movie star material but he was cute. Beverly didn’t like her staff to be too great looking. It made them memorable. Memorable was definitely not good. A few years ago, she’d had a reporter with a purple streak in her hair. Jenifer Lopez referred to her on the red carpet as Juicy’s Miss Purple. Subsequently, the reporter had been thrown out of a posh hotel in Cabo because Jennifer’s security people recognized the hair and knew she was a gossipmonger.

Looks are fine, but not too out there. Jason could blend in wherever he went.

He stood up when she approached the table. She never saw that anymore, thought Beverly, who would have raised an eyebrow but that expression had been wiped out by Botox long ago. Melody must have been awake enough during his childhood to get some manners pounded into him, Beverly surmised. Actually, he’d learned that from Big Jack. Stand up, look them in the eye and shake hands, but only if they offered theirs first. “It’ll get you laid, I promise you." Big Jack had been right.

Beverly went into her no-nonsense mode, shotgunning questions at him. Asking Jason what he did for fun. What he read. Where he went with his friends. And what he was studying. Then she got down to it. Did he know Selena or Kendall? What about Demi’s kids? Does anybody still care about Britney Spears anymore? Is Jennifer Lawrence going to keep so private she’ll fade? Which clubs were hot right now?

Continue reading

image001

A Hollywood Kid
Part One

by Maureen Harrington

This "son of" is smart and celeb-connected but desperate. 1,965 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Dude, I am so screwed, Jason Alden muttered to himself as he sat up in bed alone late Wednesday afternoon to find his apartment trashed, as usual, his grubby sheets kicked to the floor. Earlier he’d had a fight with his girlfriend, Nicole, and she’d thrown him out of her Santa Monica beachfront condo, which her daddy, the guilty party in her parents’ nasty divorce, so generously paid for. That was considered only fair in a L.A. divorce war: he’d been caught sleeping with Nicole’s tennis teacher, then was stupid enough to knock her up and marry her.

Nicole never did get her backhand down.

Jason had slammed out of Nicole’s posh apartment’s parking lot at 5 a.m. in his three series BMW – overdue to the leasing agency, with no replacement in sight. Now he was in his own apartment on the wrong side of town. His study pad, as he described it to his parents when they rented it for him in a sort of safe neighborhood near USC. But even that was about to come to an end. Daddy Dearest wasn’t going to renew the lease and had told Jason in no uncertain terms that he’d have to cover any damage that had been done. There was plenty of that, for sure. Holes in the walls and carpets, vomit in the closets. It was a sty and now he was stuck with the clean-up.

A lot of things were coming to an end for Jason. His dad, Teddy Alden, was a washed-up director-writer-producer who was still talking about his glory days with Spielberg in the 1980s and 1990s. But the senior Alden never made Spielberg money, never had his drive and most importantly hadn’t had the sense to hire his accountants. Teddy Alden had been a partier of the first degree. Right up there with Don Samuels, the producer who famously died on his toilet, stoned on a pharmacy worth of drugs. It was a miracle Teddy was alive, but as he hit his fifties he’d started to slow down. Jason wasn’t sure it was because of the natural inclination of the elderly to get to bed early, or, that he had blown through a Hollywood-sized fortune and had to stop leasing jets to go for lunch in San Francisco.

Whatever.

Continue reading

NotMyKids_Harry_Dunn

Not My Kids

by Harry Dunn

The agony and the ecstasy of one man’s experience working in the TV writing biz. 1,449 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


There are many dreaded words a father can hear from their child. “Dad, I wrecked the car.” “Dad, I’m in a Tijuana jail.” “Dad, the pee stick has a plus sign.”

But none of those words could ever compare to the sheer horror of hearing a child of mine say, “Dad, I want to work in showbiz.”

Perhaps I should elaborate…

I am a husband and father of three kids. My career has been spent bouncing back and forth between life as a writer and life producing promos for a TV network. It’s been an occasionally pleasant but also frequently demoralizing. The highs are way too high and the lows are way too low. It’s career crack. Addicting, unhealthy and way too much suffering has to incur before receiving those rare tastes of joy. All those years of stories that started out with, "There’s a producer who seems to like my script…” “A big agent is going to read my script this weekend, I hope…” “The producer said if I give him a free option, he’ll try to sell it…" and then inevitably end with, "I haven’t heard back from him/her yet."

This is a profession I’ve regretted pursuing for a lot of years. And a profession I have adamantly tried to steer my children away from pursuing. You want your children to be both successful and happy, not just getting by and miserable. So I tell them my war stories to make it easy for them to reach their own conclusions.

Continue reading

Thomas Warming - Manhunt 4_1600

Manhunt
Part Five

by Dale Kutzera

Cop turned screenwriter Nick Chapel finds another body and puts his own in danger. 3,036 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I’m riding shotgun in the LAPD department issue Ford Taurus going south on the 405 and trying not to imagine the sources of the stains, tears and burned holes in the fabric around me. The seats are wide and the suspension spongy. My slacks and blazer will have to be laundered and even that may not erase the smell of fried food and cigarettes. I crack the window, but it’s not big enough to air out this kind of stink.

For the longest time Ayers says nothing, focusing on the intricate sequence of lane changes required when traveling through West L.A. and Culver City. He’s a meticulous driver, head on a swivel, checking his mirrors. Perhaps he was in the military, or played ball in college. I sense team sports in his background, but the lanky frame that impressed high school recruiters has gone soft.

“So you and Brandt were a team,” the police detective finally says. “I hear you didn’t suck. A real hard charger.”

“I liked putting the cuffs on bad guys.”

“Hard chargers burn out. That what happen to you?”

I smile at the jab, then explain, “I got a job on a TV show and it stuck. Now I’m a screenwriter.”

“I need you to just remember one thing: you’re not a cop anymore. So who is this mook we’re trying to find?”

Continue reading

Thomas Warming - Manhunt 3_1600

Manhunt
Part Four

by Dale Kutzera

Former LAPD detective turned screenwriter Nick Chapel follows a lead in the serial murder case. 2,096 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Five tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


There is a reason I specialize in rewriting crime stories. It’s not just the compelling nature of murder, and the ease of breaking a second act that is propelled by the search for a criminal. It’s the simple motivation that drives the hero to his or her goal. No boring exposition is needed to explain why a police officer or private investigator endures trials and hardships to solve the crime and catch the villain. It’s simply what they do, and who they are. It defines them.

It’s the detective who doesn’t pursue the killer that requires explanation. He knows the criminal is out there somewhere. The same sun beats down on him. He wears sunglasses to cut the glare, just like I am, and maybe even a hat to protect his sensitive scalp. The same hot wind blowing in from the desert burns his lungs. I drive east, sketching out the backstory of a man I’ve never met.

He works in show business, or used to, but the reality never matched his dreams. That made him angry, enough to kill, but he’s no wild man ranting on Hollywood Boulevard about what might have been. He’s quiet and thoughtful. Intelligent. He has a plan and a place to do his work that must be private, where no one would notice his comings and goings, or the bodies he carries.

Driving through Beverly Hills, I wonder if he is shopping at this very moment. Maybe he is sipping a cappuccino at one of the coffee shops on Robertson, or eating lunch at the Beverly Center. But then he is probably more accustomed to brown-bagged lunches and black coffee from a thermos than hipster meetings at The Ivy. I settle into his shoes, and feel the weight of the implements he uses to cut his victims apart. I should be angry with my ex-partner, LAPD Homicide Det. Jim Brandt for introducing me to this character, but only feel an odd gratitude. Finding Sid Shulman is the least I can do.

Continue reading