Sunday, September 30, 2012


Back in 2009, when I was about halfway through writing the third Poke Rafferty book, Breathing Water, I began to hear a voice in my ear.

It had an attitude and a tone that definitely didn't belong in a somewhat grim Bangkok thriller.  What it sounded like was  the San Fernando Valley.  What it really sounded like was a crook.

I ignored it for a few weeks, but it kept coming back.  It was especially vociferous at night, when I was trying to go to sleep, and in the shower, which is where I usually go for ideas on the book I'm writing.  (When I'm having a hard time, I'm so clean I squeak.)  It wouldn't quit.

So I put Breathing Water aside for a few days and listened to it. And it told me a short story about a crook and a hamster. Someone said there was a story competition I could enter if I wrote something about Australia, so I changed the hamster into a koala bear and called the story "Koala Mode."  My agent didn't like the story (he was right) so I didn't enter the contest, but the experience introduced me to a character named Louie the Lost.

In the story, Louie, a former getaway driver who changed his career got his nickname when he made a wrong turn in Compton following a diamond heist, buys the koala bear from a fence named Stinky Tetweiler (his family invented the perfume strip).  Louie falls in love with the little bear because it is, as he says, so ootsa-pootsa cute, but somebody steals it.  In his eagerness to get his pet back, Louie turns to someone I hadn't seen coming, Junior Bender.  Junior, I learned as I wrote, was a burglar who worked as a private eye for crooks.

When I finished Breathing Water, I sat down, flexed my fingers, drew a deep breath, and wrote an opening sentence: "If I'd liked expressionism, I might have been okay."  Six weeks later I had  a book called Crashed, narrated by Junior, with Louie and Stinky in supporting roles. The koala didn't make the cut.  It was the fastest I ever wrote a book, if we don't count the 72-hour pulp novels I knocked out in the seventies betwen Friday morning and very early in the morning of the Monday they were due, guided out of the ether by red wine, cigarettes, panic, and amphetamines.  Not only had I written Crashed in record (sober) time, but I'd laughed myself senseless doing it

So I went to work on The Queen of Patpong and, from time to time, made notes about a story that would become the second Junior book, Little Elvises.  In the meantime, Crashed was turned down by my publisher of the moment, HarperCollins, to whom I was under exclusive contract, so it seemed Junior would never be published.

HarperCollins let go of me after Queen, and by then I'd put Crashed up as an ebook.  When I finished Little Elvises, it also went up as an ebook. In the meantime, the amazingly cool people at Soho gave Poke a new home.  Immediately after I wrote the fifth Poke book, The Fear Artist, for them, I spent an absolutely wonderful seven weeks writing a third Junior, The Fame Thief, and I prepared it for ebook publication, too.

But in the darkness, fate moved its heavy hand.  My agent, Bob Mecoy, sent The Fame Thief to Juliet Grames, the head editor at Soho, and to my film agent, Steve Fisher.  Within about a week we had an offer from Soho for the entire series in hardcover/paperback and another offer from Blackstone, for audio.  And then Steve called to say that two production entities, Lionsgate and another biggie which I won't name, were both bidding for film and TV rights.  Lionsgate won.

The deal got written up in the book trades and in Variety as a "trifecta."  My little ebooks were suddenly a "multimedia platform," whatever that means.

Whether there will ever actually be a film version is in the laps of Lionsgate, but the hardcovers and the audio will make their appearance beginning November 13 with the publication of Crashed.  Then an extremely accelerated publication schedule will see Little Elvises coming out on January 29 and The Fame Thief on June 4, by which time I think I'm supposed to have written the fourth, which is tentatively titled King Maybe.

And there are these three great Soho covers, which look to me like hard candies that might have a mildly poisonous center.

So life is good, this week.  And next week is Bouchercon.

-- Tim, Sundays


  1. Tim, I think there is a moral to this story. If you keep writing really good stuff, eventually somebody notices!
    A trilogy of congratulations and see you next week!

  2. The "Koala story" sounds familiar. Did you eventually include it in one of the later books, or publish it on your blog? Or am I just remembering you talking about it before on your blog? I'm SO confused...

    Congratulations, Tim! Here's hoping for a FAITHFUL and WELL-DONE movie or TV series. But the books will always rule!

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  4. Thanks, Michael, although there's another possible moral, too, which is that you never know when dumb luck will strike. I think it hovers in the ether, along with automobile accidents and bad colds, and any one of them can hit you at any time.

    Thanks to you, too, Everett. No, "Koala Mode" has been read by no one but Bob Mecoy and me, so far as I know. The ending was pretty cute -- they stole the bear because it had chewed through a leather bag in the container it was being smuggled in and had swallowed a bug emerald. When Junior discovers the second murder in the story, it's in a crummy little apartment in North Hollywood that's got newspapers covering ever horizontal surface, and the newspapers are the clue as to what's happening. It's also got some pretty funny dialogue from Louie that I might want to look at again.

  5. Sometimes, good things happen when you do good things. I see it as getting your due. You deserve it! Will you still talk to us, if your movie/TV series is a hit?

  6. ".....although there's another possible moral, too, which is that you never know when dumb luck will strike. I think it hovers in the ether, along with automobile accidents and bad colds, and any one of them can hit you at any time."

    Love that, Tim, and all of this post. I'm saving it and will quote it back to you when you least expect it. I'm sneaky that way.

    You do the best characters. I love Louie the Lost, and King Maybe -- ?? I'm laughing already.

    Pat Browning

  7. This is the second bit of news I've heard this week that makes me think that this business of ours isn't so bad after all. Good on ya Tim.

  8. Go Tim! I would love to go to the movies and see a film with your name on it. I would go twice. At least. Congratulations!

  9. I am so happy the deal came through for you, Tim. You really, really, really earned it. I may even open up a Netflix account in your honor! Congratulations! See you soon.

  10. All of this couldn't happen to a nicer or more deserving guy. I'm looking forward to the next installments in both series. Meanwhile, i still have a Simeon Grist book queued up on the Kindle for after Bouchercon.

  11. Lil, I will always talk to you. Even if TIME names me Man of the Year, even if I become a CNN Hero, even if -- aaahhh, you know. It's my privilege to be able to talk to you.

    Pat, I wish I wrote this stuff down somewhere, I mean somewhere I could find it. I've written half a dozen guest blogs about writing that I remember as being pretty good, but I could never find them in a million years. Maybe some day you'll quote myself back to me and that'll be the very day I need it. (When I get talkative, my wife tells me to stop wasting material. Hmmmm.)

    Dan, thanks for that. What was the other good news? If you wrote about it here, please forgive me for not having read it. I'm sort of going 25 hours a day now, what with the trip to Asia coming up three days after Bouchercon.

    Yrsa, as you know, production companies buy a hundred properties for every one they actually film, but we shall see. I'll call tomorrow to tell them they've got two tickets committed in Iceland.

    Hey, Jeff -- you and me both. I wouldn't rush the Netflix thing if I were you. Odds are against, but the money is real anyway.

    Thanks, Dana. I am also looking forward to the next book in each series, since I've been bumping my head against the same 20-30 pages for about ten days now. See you at B'con.