Comic Strip

Adventure comic strips are dead. There’s no audience for them.

Which is what Hollywood told William Goldman, in regards to Westerns. They’re dead; there’s no audience for ’em. So he wrote “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”


I’m convinced there is an audience for the adventure strip. And thanks to the Internet, there’s a way to reach the audience that doesn’t involve newsprint and ink.

I’m creating such a comic strip, and I’m looking for an artist who wants to give it a try.

I’m the author of seven published novels from St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur, Bantam Books and Severn House. All were mysteries or thrillers, so I know how to string together a story.

I believe that, if audiences today met “Terry and the Pirates,” or “The Spirit,” or “Secret Agent Corrigan” for the first time, they’d go nuts. I also believe that Peter O’Donnell was the finest storyteller of the 20th century and “Modesty Blaise” the pinnacle of the adventure strip.

1992_05-20Nobody’s doing them any more. Fine. Then the market’s wide open for whoever gets there first.

I’m looking for an artist who wants to give this a try. Someone who knows how to carry an adventure narrative. The idea is to create a set number of daily strips, launch them online, and see if they take off. If they don’t, they don’t.

But if they do, we’ll know how William Goldman felt when he was dumb enough to pen a lowly western.

If this interests you at all, I’d be pleased to show you a logline for the proposed strip, a “story bible,” and an outline of the first story arc, and the script for the first four weeks. Contact me at

Aaron Sorkin’s Master Class: Adapting a Short Story.

Jack Reacher- Second Son

Aaron Sorkin .jpg

Aaron Sorkin .jpg press image from PR

I’m taking an online class from Aaron Sorkin on screenwriting. The attached is from the third lesson, in which we were asked to take a well-liked short story and turn it into a screenplay (the first 10 pages anyway).

I picked “Second Son,” a short-story by Lee Child, author of the Jack Reacher thrillers. Obviously, as an assignment, and not with permission of the author.

The story takes place on Okinawa when Jack Reacher, our hero, is 13 and his brother is 15, They’re the new kids at the Marine base, and have to fit in. It’s a great little story. Intention: Reacher wants to protect his family (his motivation in the novels is “to protect…” Always.) Obstacle: The local bullies; his big brother’s perfectionism. Writer’s choice: There’s an entire bit of business with Reacher’s grandfather dying in Paris, and Reacher’s mom flying there. I left all that out (sorry Mr. Child) because I wanted to hone in on the dynamic between Jack, his big brother, and their father.

My draft is attached. Remember: This is a first assignment for a class; be kind.

Friends of Mystery Moves to New Digs

The Friends Of Mystery, one of Portland’s premiere venues for fans of mysteries and thrillers, is moving their “Bloody Thursday” events to The Old Church, 1422 S.W. 11th Ave.

The first event is set for Thursday, Jan. 28, in which Portland author Chelsea Cain will accept her Spotted Owl Award for her thriller, “One Kick.” The event starts at 7 p.m. with a half-hour social and runs until 9 p.m.

If you don’t know Friends of Mystery, this would be a good time to find out what they’re all about. And to support a great Northwest writer at the same time.

Crazy 8s Tour!

It’s a slightly nutty notion, so I thought, “What the hell.”

Shameless Self PromotionPromoter George Wright has created the “Crazy 8 Author Tour,” featuring eight award-winning Oregon authors who will each speak for eight minutes at eight venues around the state.

First up: 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, in Loucks Auditorium at the Salem Public Library, 585 Liberty St. SE. I’ll be there with authors Ruth Tenzer Feldman, Lindsay Hill, Susan Hill Long, Ismet (Izzy) Prcic, Jody Seay, Alexis Smith and Christina Struyk-Bonn.

The idea: Each one of us introduces the next, then talks for, you guessed it, eight minutes regarding why we write. Books for all the authors will be on sale courtesy of The Book Bin, a really cool indie bookstore in Salem.

I’ve spoken at both the Salem Public Library and at the Book Bin in the past. Two great venues with great audiences.

This is going to be a blast!

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words — But Which Words?

2 Moscow fotosWhat can a mystery writer learn from these photos?

Both were shot side-by-side and simultaneously. The color photo is by David Maung, Bloomberg News (front page of Wall Street Journal, Feb. 28). The B&W is by Pavel Golovkin, Associated Press (New York Times, page A9, Feb. 28).

Both show a crime scene: the murder of Russian activist Boris Nemtsov. Both are great photos.

The difference is in the cropping.

At the WSJ, the page designer went wide, taking in more of the street scene: the police, the media, the onlookers to the right; the grandeur of the onion-domed St. Basil’s Cathedral resplendent to the left. And the body of Boris Nemtsov front and center, well-lit but not spotlighted, the investigators and criminalists looking calm and maybe a little bored as they go about their routine.

The NYT page designer tightened up the shot. Nemtsov’s body is much more prominent; almost the first thing we see. The photo is about him, not about the scene. St. Basil’s looms behind him, along with a perfectly bland car park. The juxtaposition of pomp and prosaic are superimposed over the horror of death; a nice metaphor for modern Russia.

It’s the same set of decisions mystery writers use in setting a scene. What elements are essential? How much detail is too much? Is this a crime or a crime scene?

As a page designer, I would have opted for the NYT crop: tight and horizontal (same decision I would use as a reporter). As a novelist, I like the WSJ’s crop; the essential Moscow-ness of it. It looks like a scene shot by William Friedkin or Michael Mann.

(Please note, I do not take lightly the death of a political activist in Moscow, and I apologize for anyone who interprets this as cold-hearted. I react as a human being differently than I do as a scene-setter; distancing myself from the horror.)

When crafting a scene: What do you put in, and what do you take out? Some days, that’s about 90 percent of what we do.

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