The Thriller Zone

On today's 147th episode of The Thriller Zone, I could not be more stoked to welcome the legendary Hollywood Writer/Producer and New York Times Bestselling Author Lee Goldberg.

There are talented guys who aren't always nice. And there are nice guys who aren't always talented. Then you meet someone like Lee who is both super talented and couldn't be nicer.

Bonus? He has some of the best writing advice to offer our audience yet. Sure, some of it you've heard before. And yes, a couple of points make you say, "Well, of course." But I would challenge you to dig deep, do your homework, LISTEN to his advice, INCORPORATE it into your own mind and writing. Then sit back and watch your quality SOAR.

Lee and I chat about "The Hollywood Machine," especially as it pertains to the current WGA writer's strike, what makes Hollywood tick, where some of those people on the inside are out of their minds because they're missing the point, not to mention the fact that GREED still continues to run the machine of Hollywood.

Trust me, this is one of the very best and most insightful podcasts since this show's launch. It's well worth the investment of an hour and change. If you'd like to learn more visit: LeeGoldberg.com

Do me a favor, would you? Listen first. Or watch, too, on our YouTube.com/thethrillerzone channel. Then SHARE with a friend; especially if that friend is an up-and-coming writer, or an author who could use a "shot in the arm." You'll be glad you did.

Oh, and REMEMBER TO SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube Channel, JOIN US at our homebase of TheThrillerZone.com, and follow us on X/Twitter & Instagram @thethrillerzone. Thank you.

I'm David Temple your host, thank you for listening and I look forward to connecting with you again on another episode of The Thriller Zone!

The Story Factory is an entertainment company representing some of the best authors in the business.

What is The Thriller Zone?

Podcast host and thriller author David Temple gives you a front-row seat to the best thriller writers in the world. If you like thriller fiction in Books, Movies, and TV Shows, you’ll love The Thriller Zone Podcast.

David:
Well, let's just shoot right out of the gate because I know we're tight on time. But hello, Lee Goldberg, welcome to the Thriller Zone.

Lee Goldberg:
It's great to be here.

David:
You know, I can say this because everyone in my audience knows I'm a full-fledged geek. So when you catch me geeking out on you today, just grin and bear with me because you're a legend in Hollywood and I'm honored to have you.

Lee Goldberg:
Can I get that notarized and give it to my wife?

David:
Yes, honey?

Lee Goldberg:
I want to- Hey Legend! Bring up the laundry!

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Hey Legend! The trash doesn't empty itself!

David:
So true. Well, we're going to be talking about Malibu Burning on today's show, which is just one hell of a ride. And Lee, I would love to impress you by saying, man, I've read all your books. This is the first book of yours I've read.

Lee Goldberg:
I hope you liked it. I hope it's a gateway drug and now you'll read all 40 some of my other novels and Just forget about the rest of your life. Just sit there in your underwear all day in your recliner reading one Lee Goldberg book after another

David:
Wait a minute, have you been peeking in the windows? I do read in my underwear. No, it was a fantastic ride. I'm gonna get to that in just a minute. We're gonna talk all about it. But first I wanna say, I guess the very first thing is like, let's just get to know you a little bit. I mean, for those who don't know Lee Goldberg, I can go down a litany of television shows, which we're gonna get to in a second, and all these books, as you said, 40 plus. But... How about real life, like when the wife tells you to take out the laundry and so forth? How's your summer going? And as it relates to Malibu burning, do you live anywhere near where this story takes place? Two point question.

Lee Goldberg:
Are you kidding me? I had the Woolsey fire licking at my backyard. Yes, I live right in the middle of that. And it's funny because the fire that I write about in Malibu Burning is actually the second time I've written about that particular fire. I wrote about it originally in my novel Lost Hills, which preceded the actual Woolsey fire. I ended that novel with this big wildfire in the Santa Monica Mountains that was sort of like my nightmare of what could happen here in Calabasas where I live. And as fate would have it, I got the galleys for Lost Hills a couple days before I had to evacuate my house and go out to my sister's place in Valencia while the flames raged all around my property. And it was funny because I was proofing what I wrote about, you know, the embers swirling around Canaan Doom Road. Now look up the TV, there are the embers swirling around Canaan Doom Road. Oh, I got it right. And then when I decided to write Malibu Burning, which was some years later, I really wanted to write two things. I wanted to get back to writing a big heist theft novel, which I had done with Janet Ivanovich. She and I wrote five novels together about this international con man thief. And I missed that. I missed that kind of stage to work on,

David:
Sure.

Lee Goldberg:
larger than life. But I also wanted to tell a different kind of police procedural, not another middle-aged cop. And I kind of married the two. I decided I'll try to pull out the biggest heist ever. in the midst of the biggest wildfire ever. And then I went, oh God, I already wrote about a wildfire. I can't really do it again, I'd be repeating myself. What if I made it the same wildfire? What if I did it from a different perspective? So

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
you look at my novel Lost Hills from a whole different light, and that made it sort of fun for me. And so in a sense, Malua Burning's two books, it's a police procedural about two arson investigators, and it's a big over the top con man heist that I hope is a lot of fun. And it was a nice break for me from the Eve Ronan police procedurals I've been writing, which I love, but they are a certain, you're on a certain track and you can't do the kind of storytelling that I did in Malibu Burning.

David:
Well, it's got everything, like you said, it's got everything you want in a story. It's got these characters you root for, even some of the bad guys. It has heart, it has humor, which I'm going to drill down on here in a second. And it's got this action that right when you think, and it's not to sound cliche, but right when you think, okay, well, he can't, he can't top that scene because he's just done everything. He's pulled that all out of the bag. You do it again. And it's just ridiculous.

Lee Goldberg:
Thank you.

David:
ridiculous fun. And it's funny, I was talking to my wife and I said, you know, I knew I know of you, of course, Lee, I mean, I know

Lee Goldberg:
Well, of

David:
that

Lee Goldberg:
course

David:
you're all

Lee Goldberg:
you do.

David:
in.

Lee Goldberg:
As you mentioned,

David:
Yeah,

Lee Goldberg:
I'm a

David:
yes.

Lee Goldberg:
legend with a litany.

David:
A capital L, no doubt. But I said, you know, I was telling my wife, I said, I knew he was a whale. I just didn't know he was the biggest orca out there. I mean, with this body of work.

Lee Goldberg:
I'm not sure how to take that orca whale thing. How do I look on this screen? Am I huge?

David:
You, you

Lee Goldberg:
I've been

David:
looks,

Lee Goldberg:
on a diet for a while.

David:
you looks felt.

Lee Goldberg:
Okay, good.

David:
No, yeah. And so let me back up a second, because I was stalking you. I mean, while doing homework on you on Instagram, and I did I see some guys crawling through the bushes on the back of your property?

Lee Goldberg:
Yes, yes, two weeks

David:
What?

Lee Goldberg:
ago, a bunch of, I guess you could best didn't call them as home intruders, tried to break into my home while I was here. And we saw them on our security cameras. And it was, first of all, I couldn't believe what I was seeing since

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
I had just written about it for a book coming out in January. But it was scary stuff. I was here with my family, but the most heroic thing I did was call for help.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
I called 911 and got the sheriff's deputies out here right away. And I think the intruders, as they came up my hillside, they saw me walking across my home with the phone in my hand. And I think they realized, A, there's somebody home, and B, he's calling the cops or getting out of here. They were actually apprehended, I found out yesterday. But

David:
Good.

Lee Goldberg:
what's weird is how viral that video went. I

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
posted that video on Facebook, and before I knew it, I was on CBS. NBC, ABC, Inside Edition, News Nation. There were stories written about this literally all over the world. My wife's relatives in France read about it in papers there. I have friends in Australia and Canada and the UK who read it, which shocked me because there are bigger, more interesting crimes happening than some guys trying to break into my house who did not succeed. And like I said, the most heroic action hero thing I did was help, call for help. It's like I took him on single-handedly though I was... this is the funny thing. I was walking across the house with the phone calling 911 to get to my kitchen to turn on the outdoor lights which I did and then I started to open the back door my wife's, what are you doing lady? I said I'm gonna go tell them to get the hell out of my yard. She said there's four of them. You're unarmed. You're in your pajamas. What are you going to do? And by the way you're gonna leave the door open to have us all raped and murdered? Good point.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
And I went back in the house.

David:
I could almost see you writing that into a scene as he as he whip hand to the camera and said But you remember I'm a legend

Lee Goldberg:
Yes. I yelled out to the guys on the hill, I'm a whale with a litany. And they

David:
Yeah,

Lee Goldberg:
ran, they ran.

David:
I saw that and I thought it was a spoof at first. I thought, you know, and then I'm like, well, no, I know, having lived in LA, I know crazy things like that happen. But I'm like, what are you doing crawling up through the woods? Thinking, you know, and then I thought about your book. And I'm like, as the book was unfolding, I'm like,

Lee Goldberg:
Well again, it's uncanny. I literally have a book about

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Chilean burglary tourists preying on homes in Calabasas and gated communities that face open space. The galley's right here, so it's history repeating itself. And I've had so many things in my books come true that my wife has asked me to write my next book about a family in Calabasas that wins the lottery and becomes obscenely rich and stay thin their entire lives and can eat Oreos for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. So I'm trying that. I think it's much of a thriller, but I would like it to come true.

David:
See, this witty repartee of yours is my single favorite thing of this book. I thought when I saw, when I see Malibu actually burning in the distance, and I used to have some friends who live in Malibu, so I know this area familiar, and I'm watching this and I'm like, wow, and it's a heist and it's Danny Cole and he's got all these, and this Marshall. I'm like, oh, this is going to be, this is going to be nothing but dark, thrilling ride. And then the humor that pours, that spills over the edge in this repartee. between Walker and Sharp is so... I mean, yeah, it's a cliche to say laugh out loud funny, but I was laughing out loud. It was just, it's dang hilarious.

Lee Goldberg:
Well, I'm a firm believer that there's humor in all aspects of life. Even the most tragic moments of my own life had humor. So I find novels that are unremittingly dark and have no humor totally unrealistic. I'm pulled out of it because it's just not life as I know it anyway. It's not like I'm going around cracking jokes and having banter all the time, but just humorous things happen. I mean, I can point to every tragedy and sad thing that's happened to me. And there's also been a humorous element in it. And I'm not talking about jokes and one-liners, but just the humor that comes out of situations. It's how we deal with stress. It's the inevitable, I mean, conflict draws action and conflict draws humor. And they're both integral in life. So the humor, I don't set out to be funny in these books. And I don't

David:
Right?

Lee Goldberg:
want the humor to distract from the action or the thrill or the tension or the suspense. But I think the humor makes my characters human. I think it makes them relatable. I think it pulls the reader in. Yes, they're laughing, but I think when you laugh, you're also investing in the character.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
It's not a comedy. It's not Inspector Clouseau. It's not Johnny English. It's not Get Smart. It's a thriller, and it's action, and it's a police procedural, but like all things in life, there is an element of humor to it.

David:
Yeah, and we often laugh in the face of danger only from the sense of being nervous, you know, and it's just precarious situations that we go that these automatic things spring out of our mouth, right?

Lee Goldberg:
I find Elmore Leonard

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
books very funny. I find

David:
Oh,

Lee Goldberg:
John

David:
yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Irving books funny. I find Larry McMurtry's books funny. Some of the best writers in the thriller space and outside of it are funny writers.

David:
Well, I couldn't believe as I was drilling down on your, I mean, seven series, we got Eve Ronan, Ian Ludlow, Fox and O'Hare, Monk, Diagnosis, Murder, Deadman, the Jury series, and 13 standalones, and nine non-fictions, and four anthologies. So back to your earlier point, yeah, I'm going to be spending the rest of the summer and winter reading just your stuff to catch up much less the rest of the show.

Lee Goldberg:
I have an expensive family.

David:
But you know, and I didn't even mention your Crime Hunter series. I mean, I'm thinking back to Hunter Spencer for hire a Seaquest. And when I was reading this, Tammy, again, my wife comes in and she, she always watched me reading and she knows that if she'll catch me right in the middle of the book and kind of sneak up on me, so to speak and say, you know, what is your take, what do you think, what do you feel? And I'll always give her that, that one line, um, that kind of says it all. And what I said to her was. I said, I know this is a kind of wacky, but I like it's like lethal weapon meets backdraft in Malibu. You know?

Lee Goldberg:
I'll take it. I'll take

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
it.

David:
Because you got that buddy cop energy in the back to your point right in the face of danger. And they're so freaked out, you're always having humor. But then you got that backdrop. So there's so much science to the fire, which I find intriguing. I love it when an author like yourself You're painting a huge canvas of a fire. Okay, got it. But then you throw in Thermodynamics and wind changes and all these little tiny without belaboring it and I go now I'm really vested because I know you know your stuff

Lee Goldberg:
I had to do an enormous amount of research. I kind of hated myself because once I decided to do a book about arson investigators, I realized I know nothing about arson investigation. I know nothing about fire. So I went out and I talked to experts. I talked to arson investigators. I also read a whole lot of textbooks for arson investigators. And again, I just delved into that whole field and I came up with a way of committing arson that I didn't think had been done before. And I ran it past the arson investigator with the ATF. And I don't know how family friendly your podcast is. So I won't say exactly what he said to me when I told him my

David:
You

Lee Goldberg:
idea.

David:
can say whatever you want.

Lee Goldberg:
He went, fuck you.

David:
Ha ha!

Lee Goldberg:
What? But fuck you. I said, why are you saying that? He says, because it could work. Damn it.

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
It could work. I said, do you want me to change it? So no, don't change it. But now I'm going to have to go do it. Excuse me. I'm going to have to go set some fires using your method. so I can see if I can detect them if they're ever used. So he went out and he set fires. It was obviously in a controlled situation, you know, in the back of the ATF building or whatever. And then he and his team, involving chemists and other forensic people, looked at the evidence that was or wasn't left behind to see if they would be able to determine this method of creating a fire. And he sent me the videos, which was, I can't believe this. And he said, this is why we like working with creative people, because we would never have thought of this. You give us new ideas that we can use to approach arsons. I might never have thought of this possibility, and now maybe I will when I look at a fire. Maybe there's something now I've got to look for that I wouldn't have otherwise. And so that was very gratifying. And

David:
Was this,

Lee Goldberg:
I started

David:
let me interrupt.

Lee Goldberg:
buying all these arson investigation textbooks. I actually heard from the arson. investigator who runs the courses saying, um, I looked into you and you're not a firefighter or detective. Are you running a book about arson investigation? I said, yeah, what did you say that? He says, you're the first person to buy these very expensive books who didn't have to for a course and he was great. He gave me a ton of background and information. So I do all this research and then I set it aside. I don't want to hit the reader and say look at me I've done all this research.

David:
right.

Lee Goldberg:
I wanted to come through with the characters are saying and doing. I wanted to imbue their actions and their dialogue. So yes some of it comes out enough so the reader can understand how the arson investigator is doing his job but I don't want the reader to just go oh this is Lee showing me all the research he did and god is it boring. It's like reading the textbook. I don't want to do that. I just want to have enough to create this sense of reality. so you won't notice how absolutely absurd everything I'm writing is. I want you to suspend your disbelief, and the way I do it is to give you enough truth that you buy into my con, which is the book,

David:
Sure.

Lee Goldberg:
and don't really notice how I'm suspending the rules of gravity and geography and common sense as I write my book.

David:
Well, without spoiling it, and the what you started at the top of that story with is that thing that they hadn't seen yet is that the we'll just use the word laundry scenario.

Lee Goldberg:
No, no, that laundry story, I actually got from one of the guys I was talking to. I said,

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
I'm using that. No, it's the method that Danny Cole uses to create the wildfire.

David:
Oh, got it. Okay.

Lee Goldberg:
To make it look like arson. It is virtually undetectable. I

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
mean, I would say, when I say virtually, it's probably 99.9% undetectable if you don't know how to look for it.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
And um. The odds of anyone being able to pull it off are pretty large, but then again I guess they could use my book as an instruction, man.

David:
Yeah, but what got my attention, which is what I'm referring to, was that laundry incident. When that came together, I was like, is that possible? And

Lee Goldberg:
That

David:
then I'm

Lee Goldberg:
is,

David:
like...

Lee Goldberg:
that actually came from an investigator's true experience and in fact at the end of my book I acknowledge the investigator who I didn't steal the story from but you know, this happened to him and oh this is a great story and I fictionalized it.

David:
Well, when you take me out of the story, and it's one of the few times that you can take me out of the story, and it's good, is I sat there with it for a minute, and I'm like, okay, is that possible? And could that have happened? And how many times have I been in a similar situation? Wow, what if that were happened? So anyway, kudos to you for pulling one over me. And it was just a wild ride. I wanted to know and with you know, We're, we're with, I think I have three years on you. How have you been able to create this amount of work at such a relatively young age? I mean, and I'm not trying to flatter you, but I'm like,

Lee Goldberg:
Well,

David:
it's

Lee Goldberg:
my

David:
frigging

Lee Goldberg:
first

David:
amazing.

Lee Goldberg:
novel was published when I was 18, 19 years old. You can see the

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
cover painting behind me. It was called 357 Vigilante by Ian Ludlow. So I've been on the shelf next to Robert Ludlum and Ian for Ian Fleming. So people would go, Ian Ludlow, I think I've read something by him. It

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
wasn't bad. And the books came out the same time Robert Ludlum was the bestselling author in America. So people were going to the L shelf anyway. And

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
I wanted to be right next to him. and his books had hammers and sickles and dora columns and all that stuff. I had boobs and explosions and big

David:
Ha

Lee Goldberg:
guns

David:
ha!

Lee Goldberg:
and my books sold extremely well and New World Pictures bought the movie rights and hired me to write the script and my television and book writing career were born while I was still in my teens. So I've been writing for a very, very long time and I put myself through college as a writer as well. Before I wrote that novel, I put myself through college writing about the entertainment industry for the LA Times Syndicate, United Press International, Playgirl, American Film, Starlog, anybody who'd hire me. So I've been writing all my life.

David:
Okay, well, this begs the question, since so many of my listeners are up and coming and budding writers, I'd like to drill down if we can on just a couple of those things. First of all, well, I want to touch on the writer's strike because it's so prevalent in our headlines right now, but I want to say, if you knew, if you were to start over to gay today and you knew then what you know now, would you? chase this same dream? No. I mean, in today's, we'll call it AI technology, jobs are tough, strikes around us, etc. Would you try to carve your way through a course of life like this today?

Lee Goldberg:
Yes, yes, but the

David:
Cool.

Lee Goldberg:
world has changed dramatically since I started years ago. I mean, the whole world, the way we consume media, the way media is delivered to us. I mean, ebooks didn't exist, streaming didn't exist, YouTube didn't exist. The ways I use to break into the business just aren't possible today. It's a whole different way of doing things. But yes, I would do it all exactly the same way. I was very smart about how I did it. I was very mercenary about how I did it. The only thing I would tell myself is, relax, it will happen.

David:
Mm.

Lee Goldberg:
Calm down. And it's funny because I am literally doing the same thing today that I was doing when I was 10, 12, 13 years old. I'm still sitting here telling stories, listening to movie soundtracks while I do it. And my life is the same. I have bigger responsibilities, I'm gray and fat, but otherwise it's the same. And I'm the luckiest guy I know. And what I did that was smart early on was I gave myself a graduate school education in television and publishing by interviewing people in those fields for

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
articles that I was writing. I never said I wanted to be a novelist or I wanted to be a TV writer or producer. But I interviewed the top people in those fields. and asked them all the questions I wanted to ask. And while I made money off of that, making, writing articles about it, I gave myself an education. I learned from the best and it served me well. And what's ironic is so many of those people I interviewed when I was a teenager became friends and didn't remember that I had interviewed them. And when I showed them and reminded them, they're like, oh my God, that was you? I was fortunate when I was young. And it's hard for me to imitate it now because I, as I mentioned before we went on the air, I'm having some vocal cord issues. But my father was a television anchorman on the 6

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
and 11 o'clock news when I was growing up. My mom was a newspaper reporter. So writing and television were always in our lives. And my father talked like this my entire life. Wiley, how are you doing? Please pass the salt. How was school today? And when he laughed, he laughed like this. Ha ha ha. So I never knew if my dad really found me amusing or not. Now you're

David:
Does.

Lee Goldberg:
laughing because you've only had to deal with this for about 10 seconds. Imagine if your entire life, your dad always talked to you like he was on camera. This is an exciting interview that we're doing. Dad,

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
can you please talk in a normal voice? I am talking in a normal voice. But what that voice gave me. was the ability to get on the phone as a teenager and interview people without them realizing I was a teenager. And it got me incredible access to so many people. And I applied those lessons. In fact, I can tell you one anecdote about it. I interviewed Stephen Jay Cannell when I was a teenager over

David:
Wow.

Lee Goldberg:
the phone. I made the mistake of mentioning when I came down to school at UCLA that I was in town. He said, oh, you should come to the studio and meet me. I'd love to finally meet you. And I went, oh crap. My con is gonna be revealed when I walk in the door, he's gonna see I'm a kid and think that I just was sucking up to get a script. What am I gonna do? So I went to the studio to see him and sure enough, the moment I walked through the door, I could see it on his face that he thought he'd been conned. So the first thing I asked him was this really tough question about the financing of his shows. Just, I just hammered him with these questions since he was going independent after leaving Universal. Just to show him I was a real journalist. And then I kept interviewing him after that for. other magazines I worked for. And one day I got a job as a story editor on Hunter, which was a Stephen Jay Cannell production.

David:
Wow.

Lee Goldberg:
But I didn't tell him. I had nothing to do with Steve. I got hired by somebody else. So I'm in the hallway working on Hunter and I bump into Cannell. He says, Lee, how you doing? Oh shoot, do we have an interview today? Did I forget about it? No, Steve, we had no interview. Well, what are you doing in the building? I said, I work here. You work here? Yeah. I'm a story editor on Hunter. You are? I had no idea you wanted to be a TV writer. I said, I know, because I'm an ethical journalist and that would have been other than, you work here? Oh my God, and he gave me this great big hug and

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
we became really, really good friends. I mean, I worked with him on two more shows. I hired him as an actor, I think four or five times on Diagnosis Murder.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
We ran into each other all the time on the book circuit when he became an author. So it was a great experience.

David:
Wow, what a fantastic story and what a legend. You know, back in the day, was it the 70s? Was the 70s really kind of his? That was when he was magic personified and you saw his name on every show, wasn't it?

Lee Goldberg:
It was the 70s, 80s.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
By the early 90s, the business had changed. And I remember the day he decided to stop being a TV writer, TV producer, writer. I was in the studio, I mean, in his building. And he had gone to CBS and pitched a series with George C. Scott that ended up failing. It was called Traps, I think. But anyway, he went in and pitched it. And CBS said, we'll put it on the air, but we want to own 50% of it. And he came back and he came to my office and he said, I just want you to know, this is the end of my business. What do you mean? He says, I did not create this business to give 50% of my show to the studio network in order to get it out of the air. I'm done. It's my last series and I'm not gonna pitch anymore and I'm gonna wait for all my other series to finally get canceled. I'm gonna sell off the library. I'm gonna become an author. And that's exactly what he did. Because he did not leave Universal and start his own company to give up. a share of the ownership of his shows. So we had to do that to get the George C. Scott show on the air, but that was it. He was never gonna do that again.

David:
Do you see some of that similar mentality going on in the world today, especially as it pertains to that strike we mentioned earlier?

Lee Goldberg:
There are no independent writer producers anymore. They're all aligned with a network. Almost every show on CBS is 50% owned by CBS productions. And so many of the shows now are in-house where CBS is producing shows for CBS, ABC is producing shows for ABC. But you have like Shonda Rhimes and all these big producers, but they have output deals with Netflix or ABC or Fox. They aren't truly independent in the way that and Steve Cannell were, but all three of them ended up having to sell out to a bigger studio and essentially get out of the business. You can't run the kind of business that Steve Cannell had anymore. He saw it coming and he was right to leave. I mean he was a multi-zillionaire by the time

David:
Sure.

Lee Goldberg:
he left but

David:
How did his books do by the way?

Lee Goldberg:
They did alright. I

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
mean, they were not great. And they didn't do great, but he enjoyed himself. And

David:
That's all that matters.

Lee Goldberg:
it just, his voice, his writing was best tailored for television.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
And I enjoyed his books, but to me, they all felt like television treatments. They didn't feel like books.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
But you'll never, he was the most gregarious, outgoing, friendly, warm writer on the circuit. You do a panel with him and he would make you feel great and he would buy all of your books and he would give you free copies of his. He was just a, you will never hear anyone say a bad word about Stephen Jay Cannell. He was a wonderful man who died way too soon.

David:
I love hearing that story except for the last sentence. Um, I want to go back to the strike for a second. How do you think that, uh, is going to wrap up and how do you think it's going to affect the landscape moving forward?

Lee Goldberg:
I predicted, it wasn't much of a prediction, because I've been a Writers Guild member since the late 1980s, so I've been through three strikes. I predicted when we went on strike that it would not settle until after September. I just knew they would try to bleed us, get us to lose our houses, try to break the union. I have never seen the union more unified than it is right now. In other strikes, we had factions that were tearing apart at us. But I think now every writer, whether a television writer or a screenwriter sees that we're at a pivot point in our industry. And I know it sounds highfalutin to say this, but it's an existential crisis. We're at a point now where it may soon be impossible to make a living as a screenwriter or a TV writer unless things fundamentally change. And the TV industry, they've made some big dumb moves that are costing them a fortune. They're trying to lay the cost off on writers. but they forget that without writers they have no industry. And what we're asking for is just a tiny, tiny slice of the pie. When we write something that makes billions, don't begrudge us a couple hundred thousand. It's, and what the studios are doing and networks are doing as far as television goes is so stupid. A writer's room and staffing on TV shows is a university. you are building the next generation of showrunners, the people who give you the next great shows. And right now at the same time that the networks and studios are saying, oh, we don't wanna have writers rooms, we don't wanna be required to have minimum staffing levels. They are also firing showrunner after showrunner because they keep hiring people who have no clue how to run a show because they've never had the education. They've never started from freelancer to staff writer to story editor to co-producer to supervising producer, working their way up the ladder. learning how it's all done by observing and seeing the successes and failures and picking up the skills and finding out what their skills are and aren't so they can become effective showrunners and know where their strengths and weaknesses lie and know how to talk to actors and edit shows and prep a show and budget a show and hire a staff. These are not qualities that come naturally to writers. We tell stories. We

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
don't know how to schedule a shooting schedule for a show. We don't know how to budget shooting days. We don't know how to prep with directors. We don't know how to music spot and color correct. And you don't get those experiences without being on the set, without being in the studio, without being in the writer's room. And being in a place where you can make mistakes without it destroying your career.

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
So what the networks and studios are doing right now is just unbelievably foolish and suicidal. And frankly, it's not going to work. They're gonna have to give in. They're gonna have to give us what we want. because the industry depends on it and writers depend on it because we won't have a profession. I'm lucky in that I have two professions. I'm a TV writer producer and I'm a novelist. So for me, I can live through a strike. I have my books. A lot of writers, the vast majority, aren't so lucky. I got good advice early in my career, which was be a writer first and don't put all your eggs in the TV and movie basket. keep your book career alive. So while I was doing all those TV shows, those hundreds and hundreds of hours of television, I kept writing books, even though it didn't seem to make any financial sense. So that when a day like this came, I wouldn't be in deep trouble.

David:
Well, it really, to put a finer point on that, it really is, isn't, it's gonna sound so absolutely, duh Dave, really you think? It's all about greed, isn't it? It always comes down to greed and money, right?

Lee Goldberg:
It comes down to greed and money and stupidity.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
They just don't realize how important writers are to them. You don't have a movie. You don't have a TV show without the idea, without somebody filling the blank page with words. And AI won't do it because all AI is plagiarism. They're teaching this computer all these phrases and characters and scenes from other people's books that they're gonna try to smear together into something. new and original and it's not going to work. AI is not going to replace the writer. You need originality, you need a different point of view, you need a voice, you need an attitude, you need inspiration, you need creativity, and AI doesn't have it. AI just parrots back data and bytes and bits. The studios are being just insane. The people who are running the studios are so out of touch. They're sitting there in their yachts and and just don't understand what it is to make a TV show, or they've forgotten what it is to make a TV show.

David:
Yeah. Well, I want to swing back around. By the way, thank you for that discourse because that is that's insightful. A lot of folks, you know, don't stay on top of this writer strike and don't know fully.

Lee Goldberg:
Well, most folks don't realize that a television show is no different than any other industry. We're making a product. And to make a product, you have parts from different sources and they have to be put together in a factory and

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
they have to be fine-tuned and distributed. When we're making a TV show, a studio is a factory and you have a lot of other people in there, set designers, lighting people, camera men, costumers. There are hundreds and hundreds of people employed on a TV show. And then there are people who don't have anything to do with the TV show. Lumberyards, people who make plants that go on the TV show. Food service people, people who provide vehicles. I mean, all camera people. I mean, when you start attacking one segment of the industry, it has a domino effect that impacts tens of thousands of people. The economic hit that Los Angeles is taking in particular, because of the Rider's Strike, is enormous.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Dry cleaners. nurseries, restaurants, drivers. I mean, so many people are, prop houses, so many people are suffering. Not only that, people have nothing to do with the entertainment industry. People who build houses, landscapers, people who sell cars, because all these other people are not spending their money,

David:
Yep.

Lee Goldberg:
they're suffering.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
So it's just really, really irresponsible and stupid.

David:
The trickle down effect is nuts. And it's not much unlike when COVID hit. And all of a sudden one thing triggers this and then the domino just takes out litany of industries

Lee Goldberg:
Well,

David:
along

Lee Goldberg:
right

David:
the

Lee Goldberg:
now,

David:
way.

Lee Goldberg:
the Ryder's Guild strike and the SAG strike are the equivalent of COVID, a COVID shutdown. We've now had months of essentially a COVID shutdown again in the entertainment industry on the heels of the previous COVID shutdown.

David:
Well, to go to a light note,

Lee Goldberg:
Yeah.

David:
I want to say it is so clear, back to circling back around to a Malibu Bernie so clear that you spent some time in television because reading it was like and I this is the best compliment I can give you is it was like watching a good television show. And insert Thank you here. It's not Like, I want to make sure I say good TV show because there are a few series out there right now, Lee, and I think you'd probably agree and I'm not, there's nobody in particular I'm disparaging, but there's a rash and I'd love to hear your take on this. There's a rash of, is mediocre strong enough a word without being too cruel of content out there that just like derivative of something before of something before of some.

Lee Goldberg:
or literally

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
is a reboot, it's Magnum PI or SWAT or a remake of an existing previous series, Hawaii 5-0. Yes, I mean I think there are too many shows right now that are serialized, that are arched, that require you to make a commitment that's like a marriage. If you miss one episode, you're screwed, and you have to watch the show within 24 hours of an airing or it's gonna be ruined for you on the internet. There are a lot of pleasures in episode of the week where you can miss a show for two weeks, it doesn't matter. You know, you tune in when you can and you know what you're gonna get, you're gonna get a great meal. You know exactly what to expect. Star Trek, Strange New World is a good example of that. There's a slight arc to the series, very slight, but you can tune in every week and just get pure pleasure, a story with a beginning, middle, and end, and

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
there's not enough of that right now. And when you mention that Malibu Burning feels like a TV show or a movie, that's totally intentional on my part. I want my writing to disappear.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
I don't wanna call attention to my writing, with the exception of the first paragraph or two of a book. I want my writing to become invisible. I don't say super clever things in my prose. I don't have clever metaphors because it makes you stop and see the writing. If I'm gonna say something clever, I'm gonna have my characters do it.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
I just say enough in my prose to put you in the place so you can build the sets in your mind and fill in the blanks. I have my books driven by action and dialogue, just like a script. I want you to see these as a movie playing out in your mind. I'm not writing literary fiction. I'm not writing great literature. I'm writing escape. I'm writing entertainment. And I feel if I've written some, I mean, I cut stuff all the time that I really like in my writing because it's writing.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
And if I can make my writing disappear and make you forget you're reading a book, then I've succeeded.

David:
Well, it's funny, there was two moments in the book, and I can think of them specifically, however, I did not circle them or quote them. But it's one of the only times you took me out because you wrote something that painted such a beautiful picture of the scene that was so poetic. And your stuff is not what I would call generally speaking poetic, meaning literally poetic. That but I stopped and I went, oh. It was the way you turned a phrase and it was, it was having to do with the way the ashes were falling on the ground and a particular thing. And it was just so beautiful. And it was just enough that made me go, huh. And then I kept going. The only thing if I had one negative to say about the whole book, and I'm saying this with the tongue slightly in cheek, is that I had to keep a notepad nearby me because there were so many characters coming and going throughout the story. And I'm like, Oh, you know, this guy was here and this guy was okay. Right. So I had to always make sure that I had all my worlds in my head.

Lee Goldberg:
Right?

David:
It's still

Lee Goldberg:
Well,

David:
a compliment.

Lee Goldberg:
it's a complicated book in that there are two timelines. There's one timeline that starts eight years ago and is moving closer and closer to present day, and then the other timeline, which is present day, and then the two timelines collide in the present. And that was extremely tricky. I had the wall, where you see Ultraman's, you know, solid steel butt behind me.

David:
Uh-huh.

Lee Goldberg:
I had, my wife calls that the stainless steel ass crack. I had... I had a spreadsheet on that door so I could track all the elements and move them around because I never wanted the reader to be too far ahead of my characters and vice versa. So I had to be careful what information I shared and when I shared it. And I wanted to heighten suspense but I also wanted to make sure the two storylines converge at the right point. And that was a challenge I hope to never do again. I really was really... I have another book coming out in November called Calico. And that book is a present-day police procedural and a period Western that also collide because they share the same dead body. But that was another situation where I had two timelines and I just, I'm not going to do that again. It's too damn hard. But I went back and started writing another Eve Ronin which is a straightforward police procedural unfolding in real time. It felt like a vacation.

David:
Well, I want to go, because I'm looking at your nonfiction books and you've got unsold television pilots, fast forward, the best TV shows tied in, successful television writing, James Bond films. These books about technique and the history of writing and so forth, you have to have had a remarkable education, both. Classically trained as well as your decades on the studio sets to have been able to You know acquire all of this knowledge What is that thing that you've kind of that little gem that you've walked away with it said? I mean sure you've got the and I'm not it's not this is this question is not what's your best piece of writing device Which is what I'm gonna wrap the show with so I don't want to go exactly to that But you know you got to do your homework You got to put in the time, you got to put in the hours, your 10,000 hours, etc. You got to really learn how the mechanics of writing, but has there been a gem that you went, wow, if there's one thing I've taken away from this business, it's kind of this. Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
There's one rule I tell writers, no matter what you're writing, whether you're writing a script or a book, which is every scene has to have conflict. Every scene has to reveal character and move the story forward or you cut it. And you'd be surprised how many books have scenes that are just narratively treading water.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
They have no conflict. They don't move the story forward. They don't reveal character. And then I have one other rule when you're writing a series. which is each scene should reiterate the franchise. Now you're saying, what the hell does that mean? Well, when you are doing a TV series, it's no different really than having a chain of hamburger restaurants. Because there's Wendy's, there's Jack in the Box, there's McDonald's, there's Carl Juniors. They all sell the same thing, a hamburger fries and a Coke. But there's a different experience getting a Big Mac than whatever the... burgers called at Carl's Jr. or Burger King.

David:
Sure.

Lee Goldberg:
They have slightly different tastes, the restaurants are different, the vibe is different. Those are the franchises. And you know, no matter where in the world that you walk into a Burger King, or walk into a McDonald's, or a Kentucky Fried Chicken, or whatever, it's gonna be the same experience every time.

David:
Yep.

Lee Goldberg:
So, if you're doing a series, whether it's for television or books, you have to tell stories in such a unique way. that it can only be told in your series. So remember when Chandra Levy, the Washington DC intern disappeared,

David:
Yes.

Lee Goldberg:
and everybody did a story about that on television. CSI did, Law and Order did, Homicide did, but they all brought their own version of it.

David:
Bye.

Lee Goldberg:
And the way Monk would investigate a case is very different than the way Jim Rockford, or CSI, or NCIS would investigate the same case. And if any of your dialogue could be in anybody else's mouth, then it's bad dialogue. So that gets me back to each scene should make it clear that the reader is reading an Eve Ronan novel and not Harry Bosch. That this is a story only Eve Ronan could tell or be it, or this is a story that only Monk could do. And if your scene is so generic that you could substitute any other character's name and the dialogue would play, if the scene read in the raw doesn't scream, oh, this is... Michael Connelly or this is Elmore Leonard, then you're making a big mistake. So that's putting a lot of pressure on you as a writer. And if you start thinking about it consciously while you write, you're never gonna get a word written. It's gotta be part of your character as a writer. It's gotta be part of your technique and who you are that it becomes unconscious. That you know a scene isn't working just because there's no conflict, because you don't have character, because it isn't moving the story forward. It's a placeholder. It's you trying to figure out what the story is or the character is, cut it. That doesn't mean you can't have it in your first draft.

David:
Sure.

Lee Goldberg:
And I learned this mostly in television, because in TV, every scene has to count because you only have 44 minutes to tell your story. So if a scene doesn't reveal a character, doesn't move the story forward, doesn't have conflict, it has to go. It must go because there's no room for it. You can't devote the television real estate to it. So that's the biggest lesson I learned in terms of storytelling.

David:
What a great piece of insight. And you know, I think one of the greatest aspects of your education, and I say that as it turned into a profession writing for television, is the fact that you were squeezed into those 44 minutes. So what better way to really hone your craft than to be forced into the mold, the parameter of time, to make sure that you're checking all those boxes.

Lee Goldberg:
I was forced into that before I got into TV.

David:
Oh.

Lee Goldberg:
My best education was being a journalist beforehand

David:
Mm-hmm.

Lee Goldberg:
because I had a certain amount of column inches to fill.

David:
Words, yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
I had to just, I had to look at a story and say, what is the story? What is the point of view? What is my lead? Where is it going? I had to start strong to pull my reader in and then provide the information in a descending order. So if the story was cut. the story would still hold. The biggest, most important stuff was up front, not necessarily at the end, because you couldn't guarantee that the story wouldn't be chopped for other reasons, especially if

David:
Sure.

Lee Goldberg:
you were syndicated. You never knew how other newspapers would handle that story. So making deadlines and finding the heart of a story and finding the key quotes that would deliver that story from the people I interviewed was a craft I honed as a journalist, and then I brought those techniques in. as a television writer. I found some of the best television writers and screenwriters in the business started as journalists.

David:
Yeah, it feels so obvious when you think about it. You know, and it begs this question. You mentioned Janet Ivanovich, who is one of my favorite writers, and you did this series, the Fox and O'Hare series. Two-part question. First of all, how did that experience come about and what is it like writing with her? Because she's just magnificent.

Lee Goldberg:
Keep in mind, television writing is all collaboration. You write stories in a writer's room with a whole bunch of other writers, you're rewriting each other. You're used to working with other writers and having input and having stuff cut and having to take the point of view of others.

David:
Okay.

Lee Goldberg:
I had known Janet for years. I knew her when she was Janet Ivanovich and not Janet Ivanovich, you know,

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
when she was just, in fact, we've known each other so long, we aren't sure how we met. It was probably...

David:
Wow.

Lee Goldberg:
on the One for the Money tour or something before she really broke through. So we were good friends. And we would eat dinner or talk on the phone for several hours, you know, once or twice a year. And she came to LA to have some meetings and we had one of our three hour dinners and she was bemoaning the problems she was having collaborating with writers.

David:
Uh-huh.

Lee Goldberg:
And she wanted to know how I did it because not only do I collaborate with writers in the writers room, but I had written the monk books. You know, those were... series of original novels I wrote based on a character that I didn't create. I did it sort of hand in hand with Andy Breckman and I also had a series with Amazon called The Dead Man where I hired writers to write books and we did a new book every month. We did 25 of them over two years and she's just like how do you work with writers? And I've talked to her about my collaboration approach and how it works and then the conversation shifted to the kinds of movies and TV shows that we love that weren't being done anymore like Thomas Crown Affair and It Takes a Thief

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
and The Saint and Maverick

David:
Ah.

Lee Goldberg:
and The Rockford Files and how much we've and the original Avengers you know with Patrick McNeese and Diana

David:
Yep.

Lee Goldberg:
Rigg and how much we missed those kinds of shows and books and then we had one of those comfortable silences that good friends can have over dinner and she said how come we've never written a book before together I said you've never asked she said why don't we write this I said what is this she said this book we're talking about the kind we miss why don't we do it and we start

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
talking about it and i went home that night and i wrote up everything we talked about as an email and i sent it to her and i said if you wake up in the morning sober and realize you made a big mistake i'll understand she said no i love it and she sold it to random house within forty eight hours and i think seven months later we were on the number one in the New York Times bestseller list

David:
Oh my

Lee Goldberg:
and

David:
god.

Lee Goldberg:
the way we wrote one of the advantages i had was I was not intimidated by Janet Ivanovich.

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
She was my friend. So if she had a bad idea, I could say, that's a bad idea. You

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
know, and, but also I didn't try to imitate her. And I told her, it's a big mistake to try to write in your voice. Because I could write in your voice, I'd have your money. I'd be as successful as you are.

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
We have to create a new voice that's neither me nor you. It's Leonovitch, or it's

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
Janely, whatever. It's a voice that we could both write in that's neither one of us. And also, we need to tell a story that will not only bring in your readers from Stephanie Plumb, but also their boyfriends and husbands who

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
aren't reading you. And so we came up with Fox and O'Hare. And the way we wrote it was I would come up with an idea, run it past her. If she liked it, I would write a short outline. She'd read it. If she liked the outline, she'd tell me what she liked. If she didn't, she'd tell me what she didn't like. Then I would start writing. And I'd write 25,000 word chunks. and I would send her the chunks and she would tell me what she liked and what sucked. And I wouldn't fix them right away, I'd just go on to my next chunk. And she'd give me her notes. And then when I was done with the whole book, 100,000 words, I would send it to her and she would do her Janet pass. She would sprinkle her magic Janet dust on the manuscript. And I'm not saying that facetiously. There's a reason why she's a globally bestselling author. She's a brilliant editor. I think of it as the showrunner pass. Like working on a TV series, the showrunner. always takes a pass at every script. And it's funny because I don't think you can point to anything in either book that screams Lee Goldberg or screams Janet. And often when people in the reviews say, oh this is clearly Janet, no that was me, or this is clearly Lee, no that was me, or Janet and I can't remember who wrote it. You know, it's we had so much fun writing those books and the only reason we stopped was because I had other things I wanted to write.

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
I did the five books and it was no acrimonious split up or anything. It was just like, this is great. I've had a wonderful time, but I could do this forever and I'll never write these other books I want to write. And so I got it. I got to go. And that's how we get Malibu Burning and Eve Ronan and all these other books that I was dying to do that I wouldn't have done if I was, I mean, I'd be on my 20th Fox and O'Hare by now, the way things were going.

David:
Now you have 2, 4, 6, 7 of those, right?

Lee Goldberg:
Fox and O'Hare?

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
No, we did five Fox and O'Hare, and I think she's done three or four since I left. I haven't read them.

David:
Oh, okay, God, I got pros and cons to heist the chase the

Lee Goldberg:
Oh yeah,

David:
job the shell game scam and pursuit

Lee Goldberg:
we did five novels and I did three novellas,

David:
Got

Lee Goldberg:
three novellas

David:
it. Okay.

Lee Goldberg:
that were prequels to the series that we did as sort of marketing tools.

David:
Well,

Lee Goldberg:
And

David:
now

Lee Goldberg:
they

David:
here.

Lee Goldberg:
hit the bestseller list too, that's what's ironic. We wrote these little novellas that were just as successful as the books.

David:
two godly questions jamming at me. I want to ask this one while you just said it. Do you see any pros or cons of novellas over novels? In other words, if you've got ideas as a writer, and you feel good that it's contained inside a novella, do you feel like it's a good exercise to go ahead and write and put it out and even sit on it a while and that splits off into traditional versus self publishing and so forth. So we'll just start there. So not to confuse

Lee Goldberg:
There's

David:
the

Lee Goldberg:
no

David:
loner.

Lee Goldberg:
market

David:
Okay.

Lee Goldberg:
at all for novellas. It's a waste of time. Amazon has a novella program,

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
which they sell as e-books, and it's unique to Amazon, and that does well because they pay you a lot of money, and Amazon can really push it. But in general, there's no market for novellas. You can't sell them, they don't do well. But if you're a big writer like Lee Child or Michael Connelly or Jan Navonovich, and you have a following, you write a novella that will sell because you have a built-in audience. Without that built-in audience, Nobody's buying novellas. It's just, it's not a good use of your time. And

David:
Alright

Lee Goldberg:
I say

David:
and

Lee Goldberg:
this as someone who's got three novellas in his drawer, I'm trying to

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
figure out what the hell to do with it.

David:
And here's the other question that was burning a hole in my brain when you were talking about working on a collaboration is, do you have an average span of time where your average book takes you? Are you a banging out in six months and then spend six months to craft it? Are you shorter than that? Or are you the classic one a year guy? How does that work for Lee Goldberg?

Lee Goldberg:
I've written books in eight weeks, I've written books in 90 days, but in my perfect world, the perfect world, I like to write a book in five months.

David:
What's

Lee Goldberg:
So I write

David:
the magic

Lee Goldberg:
the book

David:
of

Lee Goldberg:
in

David:
that?

Lee Goldberg:
five months, and then I take a month to relax and come up with a plot for my next book. So I'm a two book a year guy, and I like to have a book that I write in five months. But I've had situations I won't bore you with where I've had to write a book in 90 days and or even There's a book I wrote recently in a little over eight weeks because of the vagaries of publishing and when I got a contract and when the publisher decided, oh, God, we want another book in that series. Can you set aside the one you're writing and give us one of those right away? So I've written books very, very fast before. Back in the day, back when I was writing the diagnosis murder and monk books, I was writing a book every 90 days. I would write a diagnosis murder, finish on a Friday, start a monk on a Monday. and I was writing four books a year.

David:
And that begs this question that's been scrolling around is, how do you, if this is a stupid question, you can say it to me, we're good enough friends now. How do you keep all these characters and these worlds? It's, it's, it's as much a world as it is a character. How do you keep them all straight? You referred to that diagram on your closet door there earlier.

Lee Goldberg:
Well,

David:
I mean,

Lee Goldberg:
in general, I'm not I'm usually not writing two series at once.

David:
Okay,

Lee Goldberg:
You're

David:
got

Lee Goldberg:
generally

David:
it.

Lee Goldberg:
writing one series. Now, right now, I'm doing two series. I'm doing the Eve Ronan books. I'm doing Sharpen Walker, but I don't do them at the same time. Like I do an Eve Ronan and I do a Sharpen Walker and then I do an Eve Ronan. So I'm able to split up. And when I was first doing the Eve Ronan's, I had the Ian Ludlow books, but I only did three of the Ian Ludlow's. I've done six, five or six Eve Ronan novels. But the reason I'm confused is the sequel to Malibu Burning that's coming out in September of 2024, which I finished a week or so ago, is an Eve Ronan crossover. It's

David:
Ha

Lee Goldberg:
an

David:
ha

Lee Goldberg:
Eve Ronan

David:
ha!

Lee Goldberg:
book and it's a Sharpenwalker. So they're in the same world. So I was able to do two series at once. And now having just delivered that book, it's not entirely clear what I'm going to do next. I will probably start writing next week a standalone novel. but I'm fully expecting to get a phone call from my editor in a month or so saying, Lee, can you set that book aside and write another Eve Ronan or run another Sharpen Walker? And sorry, because we're giving to this too late, you're gonna have to write that book in three months. Can you do it? And I'll say, no, I can't. And I'll do it. And then I'll come back to the standalone, which is what happened with Calico and Malibu Burning. They were interrupted by other books and it's... I just, when I'm writing my book though, I'm focused on the book I'm writing. Where it gets crazy is if I'm writing a book at the same time I'm writing an episode of a TV show or I'm writing a pilot or I'm writing a movie. So when the Hollywood work intrudes, then that's a little more.

David:
And what a terrible thing that Hollywood did.

Lee Goldberg:
Yeah, these are champagne problems I'm telling you about. These are whining about things that I'm so freaking lucky to have to whine about. No, I'm well aware of how I sound. Oh, that guy, he's complaining about having too much work and making

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
a living pretending. I'm well aware

David:
Yeah,

Lee Goldberg:
that I'm the luckiest son of a bitch I know.

David:
no kidding. And one of the most talented guys I've met, and again, I'm honored to have

Lee Goldberg:
No,

David:
you

Lee Goldberg:
no, I'm

David:
on

Lee Goldberg:
not

David:
here.

Lee Goldberg:
one of the most talented guys you've met. I'm a legendary whale with a lit-

David:
That's right. I'll never live that down. I do, you know, I am not going to ask you this question, because it's my least favorite question on the whole world. And you can always tell a fresh new podcast when you hear the guest ask it, and I'm two and a half years in and 25 years of radio pass. So but I'm going to refer to it when people go, lay where to get your ideas from? Well, That is a pretty stupid question. However, and I'm trying to think of who I had heard say this, all you have to do, it was either Lawrence Block or Don Winslow or any number of maybe Andrew Child. You know, all you gotta do is turn on the news or pick up a New York Times or look out the window and the

Lee Goldberg:
or look

David:
ideas

Lee Goldberg:
at your

David:
are

Lee Goldberg:
mortgage

David:
there.

Lee Goldberg:
payment.

David:
Oh, and that is how I'm circling it back

Lee Goldberg:
or look

David:
around.

Lee Goldberg:
at tuition.

David:
Yeah, because people will say, oh, don't you ever get writer's block? Would DSE firemen's get fireman's block or cops get cop block?

Lee Goldberg:
That's the

David:
No.

Lee Goldberg:
thing people don't seem to understand.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Yes, I'm a writer, and yes, it's an art, but it's the way I make my living.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
If I don't write, if I'm not thinking about what's coming out 24 months from now, I can't pay my mortgage.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
I can't send my daughter to graduate school. I have bills just like everybody else, and I need to know that I have income coming in the future. That's not to say I don't have income from the past. It's not to say I do very well, but...

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
It is how I make a living. It is how I pay for my retirement. It is how I have peace of mind and handle my family responsibilities. So I can't have the luxury of not having ideas. I have more ideas than I have time

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
to write them. But

David:
There

Lee Goldberg:
I

David:
you.

Lee Goldberg:
essentially start usually from character. What is the character that interests me? What makes this character different and fresh? And then what story will make this character come alive? So I rarely start with the mystery. I start with, as I mentioned earlier when I talk about Malibu Burning, what kind of story do I want to tell? What kind of characters do I want to speak through? And then the shape of the story comes out of that. I very, very rarely am shaped by a true story. There are some exceptions. The poster behind me for Lost Hills, the story in that book is based on a real crime that I heard about while I was researching another book. I realized it was the perfect crime for a book and what kind of character would be able to solve that crime and it was a different way of creating a series or a novel for me. And my Eve Ronins now, I do find myself inspired by things that happen here in Calabasas where I live because that's where my story is set and I want my stories to reflect the genuine culture and life in this community. But most of the time it comes out of character and the idea is coming to me at the strangest times. I mean, they'll hit me at dinner, they'll hit me in

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
the bathroom, they'll hit me in the shower, they'll hit me in the pool, they'll hit me stuck in traffic. And then I've got to quickly write them down or send myself a text or call myself on the phone.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
I apologize for all the noise. Naturally, now that we're talking, they start doing construction next door.

David:
Oh good, perfect. Okay, well we're gonna start to wrap it. I wanted to say something about Danny Cole. And you mentioned about how you start with character, and he's one of the most interesting characters. I've ever read because out of the gate, you got this criminal, the seasoned criminal starting this escapade only to stop and help someone who has been hurt. And that becomes the Achilles heel because he has a heart and that guy who has a mind for, uh, for injustice, still has a heart for the right thing is the

Lee Goldberg:
Yes,

David:
best.

Lee Goldberg:
but he's still a criminal.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
And the plot he comes up with is putting thousands of lives at stake.

David:
Yes.

Lee Goldberg:
He's destroying people's prosperity. He's destroying, he's, what I wanna get across with Danny Cole is something that Steve Cannell taught me, which is you are never writing bad guys. You're writing people who commit crimes as part of their life. who see themselves as the hero of their own story.

David:
Uh...

Lee Goldberg:
They don't get up in the day and go, every day and go, whoa, I want to take over the world because I'm evil. No, they are people who think I'm a good guy. I'm just making a living. I wanna be loved. I wanna take care of the people I love. I wanna make money. I wanna be challenged. They may use crime as a way to do it, but they don't think of themselves as bad people. And there are more aspects to their personality than just the crime they are committing.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Steve always told me, what are the bad guys doing while the hero is doing what they're doing? What is going on in the bad guy's life beyond waiting for the hero to show up and complicate his life? But also if you look at Larry McMurtry, even the most loathsome characters in his westerns, a lonesome dove, he has what I call amiable villains, amicable bad guys, and so does Elmore Leonard.

David:
Yes.

Lee Goldberg:
So to me, it's always important that the bad guy not be slotted into a bad guy slot.

David:
That's good.

Lee Goldberg:
There are fully rounded characters who have an emotional life, who have wants and desires and tragedies and dreams and senses of humor. So Danny Cole, yes, he's a bigger than life con man, but he's also a scumbag.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
He's also reprehensible because what he is doing is destroying lives. He thinks he's got control. He thinks he's doing it for a noble reason. Yes, he does help people who are unintentionally. injured by his crimes, but those are the people he can see. How many people are out there that he doesn't see who are damaged by what he does in ways he can't envision? So he's fooling himself to some degree.

David:
Good point. Well, as I start to rep, my wife again was, I talk about her all the time because she's such a good influencer maybe. She said, you know, how would you describe this? And so I sat down and I scribbled out this little note that said, if I were describing Lee's writing like I was describing a fine wine, I'd say it was. rich and full-bodied with tasty top notes of humor and lightheartedness while enjoying a deep and robust blend of rich experience infused with an enormous heart making for an enjoyable readable accompaniment to any meal. Now that sounds really superfluous and hooty tooty, but it's just my way of going. It was such an enjoyable experience and so well rounded and so complex that

Lee Goldberg:
If

David:
I got

Lee Goldberg:
I

David:
fancy.

Lee Goldberg:
were single, I would take that and that's how I describe myself on Tinder.

David:
Oh, jeez.

Lee Goldberg:
Is Tinder the right dating site or is that all for gay people? I don't know.

David:
I don't know, I don't...

Lee Goldberg:
My daughter's on some of these and they all start with R, you know, Grindr, Tinder, Schmeckler, whatever.

David:
I'm

Lee Goldberg:
I don't know what they

David:
sorry.

Lee Goldberg:
all are, but you know,

David:
Hey,

Lee Goldberg:
Hinger,

David:
uh...

Lee Goldberg:
whatever. I'm not up on all the dating sites, but...

David:
And it's a good thing, Lee. Hey, here's a question. I, you know, there's a thing that I, I lived in LA three different times and I live now in San Diego, so not far from you at all.

Lee Goldberg:
Are you going

David:
And

Lee Goldberg:
to Boucher Con, the World Mystery Conference?

David:
yeah, are you going to be there?

Lee Goldberg:
Absolutely.

David:
Oh my gosh, I'm so excited. Sweet. All

Lee Goldberg:
You

David:
right.

Lee Goldberg:
should go, it's a great, great event if you're a crime fan. Crime fiction

David:
Oh,

Lee Goldberg:
fan.

David:
yeah, I'm there. I mean, it's 20 minutes from here. You kid me? Alright, so here's the thing I feared for LA because of this burning situation, this wildfire. And then I wondered, and fill me in here, has there ever been a heist of this magnitude? Because this is a D a ginormous potential heist everything, anyone think that scratch it? Has there ever been a heist at this? size before that you're aware

Lee Goldberg:
No,

David:
of.

Lee Goldberg:
and I only know that because Ed Nordskog, who ran the arson and investigation of the LA County Sheriff's Department, told me it's never been done. Which is kind of scary because you could theoretically do what I've done. But it's a foolish way to commit a heist because you can't control nature. You may think you can. That's one of the other things I want to do. In all these heist movies. You have these guys come up with these clever heists and they always go almost exactly the way they planned.

David:
Right.

Lee Goldberg:
But the truth is you have no idea what random things are gonna happen that will impact what you're doing. You can't control every element. You can't control nature and random acts. There's so much going on. All you can do is have a great plan and be able to think fast on your feet.

David:
And this is the one thing that I kept questioning myself in the back of my head as I'm thinking about Danny Cole and he's got this magic plan and this perfect plan and he's orchestrated everything and everything seems just dialed in and buttoned up until I go, well, what about chance? What about the wind shifting? What about somebody deciding they want to come down the hill when you're coming up? I mean,

Lee Goldberg:
Yep.

David:
so many things and yeah. Well, anyway, listen. The last thing, as I was approaching that ending, that crescendo of action and anxiety was unlike many that I've read this summer. So big kudos to you. And I want to wrap with this, Lee. What is, as we wrap the Thriller Zone, what is your best piece of writing advice? And we've got a lot of writers who are up and coming. We've got budding. We've got seasoned. But they all love this question because they're like, man, give me that little morsel of truth.

Lee Goldberg:
Well my Moral Slope Truth is not all that original. My best advice to you is read. Read lots of books. Good ones and bad ones. So if you read a book that makes your heart race, that makes you sad or makes you laugh or turns you on, go back and ask yourself, look at the text. How did he or she make my heart race? How did they make me laugh? How did they arouse me? What would they do with language? that made me have that visceral emotional reaction and try to figure it out. And if you read a book that sucks, ask yourself, why does it suck? What are the mistakes that this writer has made that have turned me away, that don't pull me into the story, that don't make me believe the character, that don't give me that rush, that don't pull me along? Go back and analyze it. If you read a book and you loved it, you plowed right through it, it was fantastic. Now go back and deconstruct it.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Chart every scene, chart every plot move, figure out what the ingredients were that worked because it's right there. If you wanna be a great writer, the way to understand great writing is to just look at the great writing in front of you.

David:
Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
There's no secret. You can look at it all right there. Everything that writer knows, all their tricks, all the way they distracted you or whatever. It's bold, it's black and white, it's there on the page for you to discover. So, you just have to do it. You just have to go back and look at it again. Read it first as a reader and then read it again as a writer. And as I said, good books and the bad ones. Don't just toss the bad books away. Force yourself to go through them and again, chart the scenes and everything so you can see, ah, that's the mistake. That's what he did wrong. That's where he lost me. That's where the character of the plot went awry. Or this is why the joke didn't work. Or this is why the sex made me laugh instead of pant.

David:
Hehehe

Lee Goldberg:
You know. That's, you can give yourself a graduate school education in writing just by reading the best and worst work that's out there.

David:
said and if you use this book as a model for that going back to your reference of your

Lee Goldberg:
That's where you'll find about sexual arousal. That's the book. What's burning in Malibu is your libido.

David:
Yeah, but I'll tell you what, man, if you use this as an example of breaking it down with these multiple timelines in the past and the present, they're merging together and the multiple viewpoints, you're going to be in... This is a crash course, a master's degree right here in that particular. Well, Lee, this has been absolutely fantastic. You're an amazing talent and a super nice guy. Yeah.

Lee Goldberg:
Oh, thank you. God, have I got you fooled. I got my wife and a seller downstairs.

David:
Hehehe

Lee Goldberg:
I just throw meat at her every day. And you think I'm a nice guy.

David:
Oh god.

Lee Goldberg:
Wait till she escapes and the story goes public.

David:
Oh, geez. All right. So we're going to see you when you heading down for Bouchercon. Tuesday, Wednesday?

Lee Goldberg:
I'm heading out Wednesday.

David:
Okay. All right. Well, we'll see you. Looking forward to that. And again, huge, huge thanks for all this time. I know we went over, but man, I so appreciate it, Lee Goldberg.

Lee Goldberg:
My pleasure being here.

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