Monthly Archives: February 2012

Watson, We Need You

The Hollywood Reporter says that the world’s greatest consulting detective is getting yet another resurrection. This time with a twist.

CBS’ Sherlock Holmes pilot, ELEMENTARY, will feature Sherlock Holmes’ famed sidekick, Watson, as played by Lucy Liu. 

Lucy Liu, from Ally McBeal to Kill Bill, to Charlie's Angels, to ... Sherlock Holmes? The dame's afoot.

Described as a modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, with the detective now living in New York City, DEXTER killer Jonny Lee Miller has been tapped to star in the project, says The Reporter.

Holmes remains a Brit, although Watson will be an American (a surgeon, still) and the stories will be set in New York.

Question: Is this a brilliant new twist that will breath life into a too-well-mined story? Or will Mr. Miller and Ms. Liu be updating their resumes by Thanksgiving. Thoughts?

Stealing From Writers? I’m In Favor Of It

I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room with a paperback book of short stories.

Unlike the other patients, I wasn’t reading (I’d read it cover to cover). I was counting the number of words on an average line (11), then the average lines on a page (36).

Guy cleared his throat. “Dude? Can I ask what you’re doing, man?”

“Sure. Counting words.”

He was quiet for a while. “Can I ask why?”

The answer was: I enjoyed the book a lot. And although it isn’t my usual genre, I’d like to try my hand at it. Which means I need a template: In order to establish my pacing, and to figure out when I introduce  characters and primary settings.

In short: I was planning to steal from the book.

These writers had done a terrific job and if I wanted to try their genre, I needed to know what a terrific job looked like. So I could emulate it.

Is that plagiarism? Big shrug from me. Call it what you want. It’s something I tell writing students all the time: If you find a writer, or a genre, that you really love, buy a cheap copy of the right book, break it apart, write in the margins, use highlighters and scribbles on the cover. Do whatever you have to do, to understand why the book appealed to you. Then try to replicate it.

Stealing, schmealing. You gotta start somewhere.

Deft Writing a la Spain

Some writers can capture the nuance of a character with the deft sweep of a master fencer. Arturo Pérez-Reverta is such a writer.

In THE NAUTICAL CHART, Pérez-Reverta tells the story of Coy, a sailor without a ship, a shore-bound man who gets caught up in a mystery beyond his ken, while forced by a maritime accident to spend his days on dry land, which is terra incognita to him.

Pérez-Reverta (with assistance by English translator Margaret Sayers Peden) described Coy as walking distractedly around Barcelona without any goals or plans, as making “minute by minute comparisons between the gyroscopic and magnetic compasses; or, to put it another way, to verify a false north by means of another north that itself was not true.”


Correspondent Marie Colvin Dies in Syria

I was driving back from an appointment with a political campaign staff yesterday, my radio tuned to Oregon Public Broadcasting, and listening to famed American journalist Marie Colvin reporting from Homs, Syria.

I’ve written about Syria as a journalist and novelist, and I’ve studied that region of the world for years. I’ve never been there, of course. I have the comfort of being a rocking chair “expert.”

Colvin, an American of the Sunday Times of London, did her usual amazing work, talking about the shocking tragedy. As she has for decades from hot spots all over the planet.

She told BBC World Desk that Homs was a starving city. “They (the Syrian military) have locked everyone into the city and are shelling it.”

She spoke with a shocking, raw anger, rarely heard in the voices of most reporters, regarding the city north of Damascus. (And infamous for being razed by the father of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, almost three decades ago. It’s the origin of columnist Thomas Freedman’s dictum regarding all-out war on civilians: “The Homs Rules – there are no rules.”)

Colvin spoke with an icy accuracy, a cold rage put on hold long enough to tell the story. She set her horror aside to do her job.

I woke up this morning to find out Marie Colvin is dead. She is a casualty of the same bombardment she reported on. She and French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik both died.

For decades, I’ve studied war spots around the world. Often relying on correspondents like Marie Colvin, or Anthony Shahid, who died last week in Syria. They are the ones who bring these atrocities to our attention. They’re the outriders. The ones who risk their own necks so the rest of us know about the worst events in the worst parts of the world.

We owe a debt of gratitude to war correspondents like Marie Colvin and Anthony Shahid, and Rémi Ochlik. And photojournalist Tyler Hicks, who carried Shahid’s body from Syria to Turkey so his family could have closure.

There would be a mild irony in asking any of them to rest in peace. They never sought peace. Or maybe I’ve got that exactly backwards. Maybe all Colvin and Shahid ever did was seek peace, by shining a hot, harsh light on war.


Sad but timely: The Portland, Ore., chapter of Sisters in Crime met last night to hear some sobering statistics on the rise in suicide attempts that involve tempting law enforcement officers to help a person end his or her life.

Chief Ron Louie, former police chief in Hillsboro and Astoria, Ore., discussed the issue. He listed a wide array of reasons behind the dramatic uptick in the incidents. But no real answers about how to stem the tide.

It’s a sad state that this topic is so timely. Portland has had a spate of what Chief Louie calls “SBC” incidents. It also is the topic this morning on a local Public Broadcasting now, “Think Out Loud.”


%d bloggers like this: