Authors’ ideas come from myriad places.
Sometimes the ideas come from old friends as it did for J.A. Jance in her latest novel, Second Watch.
Second Watch finds Seattle investigator J.P. Beaumont undergoing knee replacement surgery.
But he doesn’t allow himself to forget about work.
Instead, his dreams take him back to his early days as a cop with the Seattle P.D. and to his stint in Vietnam. He begins to think about his past and the people and events that shaped him.
For her 22nd novel with J.P. Beaumont, Jance bases two characters on real people from her own life.
According to Jance, Doug Davis was tall, handsome, smart, kind, and an outstanding athlete. He graduated from Bisbee High School with Jance in 1961 as valedictorian of his class. From there he went to West Point, then to Ranger School, and finally to Vietnam.
“Sometime between graduation from West Point and his arrival at Ranger School, he went on a blind date in Florida with a girl named Bonnie MacLean,” according to Jance.
“The two of them soon fell deeply in love and became engaged. When he shipped out for Vietnam, they corresponded faithfully until, on August 2, 1966, a few weeks before Doug's 23rd birthday, he was killed in a firefight in the Pleiku Highlands. His brave attempt to retrieve the bodies of two fallen comrades earned him a Silver Star.”
Jance said that for years she felt guilty that she had not been at his funeral to honor his sacrifice.
Doug’s widow, Bonnie, eventually remarried. She and Jance met for the first time years.
While reading one of Jance’s novels, “Bonnie encountered a scene that takes place in the same Bisbee cemetery where Doug is buried,” said the author.
To work Doug and Bonnie into her novel, Jance wrote a prequel so that the age of the characters and the era would make sense.
In Second Watch, a fictional version of Second Lieutenant Doug Davis serves as J.P. Beaumont’s commanding officer in Vietnam. Bonnie also plays into the story.
For Jance, Second Watch is more than a gripping thriller—it is a tribute to old friends and all who served in the Vietnam War as well as their families.
Now that the third season of Homeland is in full swing—including the seemingly relentless anti-Dana Brody campaign—the inevitable has happened.
I am talking about the novelization of Homeland.
When I was a kid, the idea of a TV show or movie spinning off into a novel was a revolutionary idea. At least to this child; and I still have the “novel” versions of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
But novelizations seem to thrive.
Murder, She Wrote went off prime-time TV years ago, although it still thrives as reruns on various channels. But the novels about Cabot Cove continue. The latest of which just came out this week, Murder, She Wrote: Close-Up on Murder by “Jessica Fletcher” and Donald Bain, who has written numerous novelizations and stand-alone novels.
Richard Castle of ABC’s Castle has at least four novels out, including the latest Deadly Heat. But do you really think Richard Castle, the fictional mystery writer on this TV police procedural, really wrote these novel, even though his name is on the cover? Or that Nathan Fillion is ghost writing between takes on the set of Castle?
Tod Goldberg has several fiction works including the novel Living Dead Girl, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He also writes the Burn Notice series, based on the USA series about the “burned” spy that recently ended its run.
Tod Goldberg’s brother, scriptwriter Lee Goldberg, also has written a slew of books based on the Monk series, in addition to his own novels and screenplays. Lee Goldberg recently teamed up with Janet Evanovich for the caper The Heist.
And that brings me back to Homeland, making its debut as a novel titled Homeland: Carrie’s Run.
The novelist is Andrew Kaplan who has written such intriguing novels as the bestselling spy thrillers Scorpion Betrayal, Scorpion Winter, and Scorpion Deception. Kaplan’s background as a novelist of spy thrillers makes him the perfect candidate to write about this intelligent spy drama on Showtime.
Homeland: Carrie’s Run takes place in 2006, long before Brody came along. Assigned to the Beirut station of the CIA, Carrie has been outed by a contact she trusted. She’s brought back to Washington, D.C., and sent to what her bosses hope is a safe assignment in the States. Of course it isn’t safe and acting on a hunch, which Carrie does a lot, she returns to Beirut.
So, Mystery Scene readers, what do you think of novelizations and do you prefer the screen or the print version? After all, Murder, She Wrote wouldn’t still be published if the books weren’t being read.
Fans of Michael Connelly have been waiting a long time for his iconic Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch to take the leap to the screen.
For most readers, it doesn’t matter if Bosch is made into a movie on the big screen or a TV series or a made for TV movie.
“When will the Bosch novels be filmed” is one of those questions that pop up a lot.
The good news is that Connelly’s character is getting closer to the screen with the announcement of the actor who will play Bosch.
And the better news is that it is not Tom Cruise.
Veteran character actor Titus Welliver, right, has been tapped to play the detective in Amazon’s first drama pilot Bosch.
Welliver’s name may not be familiar to most viewers, but I think that is good news. Any “star” attached to Bosch is sure cause controversy as viewers will remember past projects.
Instead, Bosch can be a star-making turn for an actor.
Welliver’s name may not be recognized, but he is one of the best character actors around and I guarantee you have seen him in myriad roles. A good character actor blends into a role and makes each role a bit different. And Welliver has done that.
He has played Senator Pratt in White Collar, Glenn Childs in The Good Wife, Jimmy O'Phelan in Sons of Anarchy, The Man in Black in Lost and Silas Adams in Deadwood. He also was in the film The Town. In Gone Baby Gone, he played Lionel McCready, the brother of Helene whose daughter is kidnapped. He also will be in Transformers: Age of Extinction to be released in 2014.
The Bosch pilot was written by Connelly and Treme co-creator Eric Overmeyer, who are executive producing with Fabrik’s Henrik Bastin and Mikkel Bondesen.
No word yet on when Bosch will be aired. Meanwhile, Connelly has written about 20 novels featuring Bosch.
Connelly’s next novel The Gods of Guilt revolves around his lawyer character Mickey Haller and is due out in December.
In the past month or so, three long-running series of interest to Mystery Scene readers have ended.
I have hesitated to write about them until now because a) I don’t believe in spoilers b) I figured by now anyone who is going to watch the endings has by now and c) I finally decided what to write.
And just in case you haven’t seen the series’ finales, I still promise no spoilers.
Breaking Bad’s five-year run, Dexter’s eight-year-run and Burn Notice’s seven-year run kept us entertained while, in at least two of the series, pushing our boundaries on what kind of characters we should care about.
In the end, I think each series gave us the ending it should, wrapping up character arcs and letting us glimpse things to come. And also, mercifully, left no room for reunion shows.
Like many viewers, I was disappointed in the finale of the Sopranos. For six seasons, Tony, Carmela, Meadow, Tony Jr., Dr. Melfi, and Tony’s crew gave a view of the people behind organized crime that both fascinated and repelled us, but was never boring. But that ending was beyond frustration.
It wasn’t that we wanted closure with the finale Sopranos episode—we needed it. Even it was just to find out what the Sopranos ordered in that favorite diner, or to find out why in the heck it took Meadow so long to park that car.
To spend that long with characters we’ve grown to love, and in some instances hate, we need to know what happens next, in whatever form that takes.
Burn Notice came in with a bang, a spy show that doubled as a private detective series.
Michael Westen (played by the so-easy-on-the-eyes Jeffrey Donovan) was the spy who was fired—with a “burn notice”—during an international spy operation. He ends up back in his hometown of Miami where his mother Madeline (the superb Sharon Gless) lived. Michael’s only friends now are Fiona Glenanne, (Gabrielle Anwar) a former girlfriend who cut her arms-dealing teeth in the I.R.A., Sam Axe, (Bruce Campbell) a retired spy, and, in season four, former counter-intelligence agent Jesse Porter (Coby Bell).
While trying to clear his name, Michael works as a pseudo private detective, helping those caught up in circumstances beyond their control. The series also weaved in bits and pieces about Michael’s childhood, his abusive father and how he and his crew met. Burn Notice kept its focus with well-designed plots until the very mixed sixth season.
But Burn Notice got back on track during its last season, giving us a sometimes uncomfortable but all too realistic view of the effect Michael’s choices have had on him.
Burn Notice always was about Michael trying to get back into the spy game, even when it was obvious to the others that this was the last thing he needed in his life.
The finale kept the spirit of the series, played a bit with the series’ tag lines, and went out with a bang. I thought the ending—despite some sadness—was a satisfying finale that respected each character as well as previous plots.
In many ways, Dexter on Showtime proved to be a better series than the novels by Jeff Lindsay on which it was based.
Michael C. Hall always gave a pitch perfect performance as Miami’s unusual serial killer. Dexter knew he was a monster who could not stop his homicidal urges. But Dexter had a code, devised by his adoptive father who understood who and what Dexter was. Dexter could kill only other killers, who were much worse than he ever could be—child killers, pedophiles, wife murderers, gangsters and the like.
Hall gave a stronger and more emotionally involved view of Dexter Morgan than Lindsay’s novels, which often strayed into an unbelievable realm. We could believe that Dexter was a killer for whom we could root, but some of the novel’s plots stretched credibility.
Dexter’s complicated relationship with his adoptive sister, Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), was well explored.
But Dexter also had a lot of missteps. The murder of his wife, the Trinity Killer, LaGuerta's death left us feeling that the series had lost its way.
I have a lot of problems with the last episode and some of the choices made.
But the last 15 minutes of the finale were brilliant, a satisfying end to a good show and a redemption, of sorts, for Dexter.
No series gave us more of a character arc than Breaking Bad—to see chemistry teacher Walter White go from an ordinary family man to a ruthless drug dealer and killer was amazing.
The sharp writing coupled with Bryan Cranston’s razor edge performance made Breaking Bad one of the most intriguing series.
Breaking Bad begins with Walt White being diagnosed with lung cancer. His wife is pregnant with their second child; their oldest son has cerebral palsy. Walt doesn’t make much as a high school chemistry teacher, a job he clearly seems to hate.
To provide for his family after his death, Walt turns to crime, producing and selling meth- amphetamine.
For once, chemistry will pay off.
Walt teams up with a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), now a low-level drug dealer.
While many of us have little connection with spies or serial killers, most of us can relate to an ordinary person pushed to his limits; Walt’s decision to turn to crime actually seems plausible at times.
The sympathy that Walt elicited in the first few episodes dissipated as the series continued. But as bad as Walt became, some of the people he dealt with were worse. At the same time, Walt committed many unforgivable actions. And yet, we still rooted for Walt, at least a little bit, even as we grew to despise him.
Perhaps because Walt begins as a powerless teacher who found his power in the worst ways. And this power turns him into an evil man.
Walt may have started cooking meth as a way of getting lots of cash for his family. But the deeper he got, the more it was evident that Walt was doing this for himself.
Even Walt admitted this to his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn): “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was alive.”
Black humor cuts a wide swath through Breaking Bad. Walt talking about furniture and extended warranties with Krazy 8; a family intervention during which each family member shows their true colors; a party at an old colleague’s mansion shows Walt the kind of career he could have had; Jesse’s very awkward dinner at the Whites. And we learned that cooking meth is expensive.
When a series begins with the lead character’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, logic dictates that there can be no happy endings.
But it made for one kicking ending of Breaking Bad.
Photos: Top: Burn Notice: Sharon Gless, Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar; second photo: Jeffrey Donovan; USA Network photo
Center: Dexter: Michael C. Hall. Showtime photo
Bottom: Breaking Bad: Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston; Bryan Cranston AMC photos
Soho Press is taking a different approach with the publication of Colin McAdam’s third novel, A Beautiful Truth.
Most mystery readers know Soho for its imprint Soho Crime, under which it publishes wonderful international thrillers. But Soho has several imprints and while A Beautiful Truth isn’t a mystery, it sounds like a book that mystery readers might enjoy.
A Beautiful Truth prominently features chimpanzees in several different storylines, including roles in domestic settings, linguistic and medical research facilities.
“The novel is really a collection of true stories,” said McAdams in a release. “I think people are instinctively inclined to believe it is a fantasy because it involves ‘animals.’ All the behavior in the novel is based on documented chimp behavior and on behavior that I witnessed among the chimps I met.”
As a way of showing a commitment to chimpanzees, Soho Press has partnered with Save the Chimps, the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary, to help raise money and spread awareness for the Florida sanctuary. A large portion of the proceeds of book sales will go to the group.
Save the Chimps was founded by Dr. Carole Noon in 1997 and is now home to nearly 300 chimps in Fort Pierce, Florida. Its mission is to provide and build support and permanent sanctuary for the lifelong care of chimpanzees rescued from research laboratories, entertainment, and the pet trade.
Many of the chimps who call Save the Chimps home were rescued from situations similar to those described in the novel.
“I did a lot of research for A Beautiful Truth, including spending time with chimpanzees in similar situations as those at Save the Chimps. It makes me happy that the story can make a real difference,” added McAdams.
The fund-raising campaign kicks off this month during booksignings and special events and will continue through next spring. In addition, proceeds to benefit Save the Chimps are for the lifetime of the Soho Press edition of McAdam’s A Beautiful Truth.
For more information, visit Save the Chimps.
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