Friday, November 16, 2018

WILLIAM GOLDMAN: R.I.P.

William Goldman died last night. He was 87.

From Deadline:

William Goldman, who twice won screenwriting Oscars for All The President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, passed away last night in his Manhattan home, surrounded by family and friends. His health had been failing for some time, and over the summer his condition deteriorated.

Goldman began as a novelist and transitioned to writing scripts with Masquerade in 1965. While his greatest hits were the indelible pairing of Robert Redford with Paul Newman in the George Roy Hill-directed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Redford and Dustin Hoffman in the Alan Pakula-directed toppling of President Richard Nixon drama All The President’s Men, he wrote the scripts for many other great movies. The list includes the Hoffman-starrer Marathon Man and The Princess Bride, Flowers For Algernon, The Stepford Wives, The Great Waldo Pepper, A Bridge Too Far, Chaplin and Misery. He also did a lot of behind the scenes script doctoring where he didn’t take a screen credit, on films that included A Few Good Men and Indecent Proposal.

Beyond that, Goldman was a renowned script doctor and memoirist. His travelogue through the movie business, Adventures In The Screen Trade was a primer for wannabe screenwriters and for journalists covering them. When I first got to Variety about 30 years ago, veteran reporters there told me that was the best book to understand the chaos, randomness, the headaches, futility and joy of the movie business. Goldman is probably best known for his apt description of Hollywood: “Nobody knows anything.” I still have the book on my shelf.

Read more here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can I Keep the "God" in God Damn?: Guest post by John Edward Mullen

John Edward Mullen:
Can I Keep the ‘God’ in God Damn? 

While attending the 2018 Bouchercon, I received an email from an independent editor reviewing my current work in progress. She expressed a concern that I was “hitting the God stuff too hard.” My protagonist is an 18-year-old Catholic woman living in a California gold-mining town in 1892. I didn’t think having her pray to God to save her father who’d been shot, or saying grace, or attending church would be a commercial issue. The editor thought some agents and librarians find religion a touchy subject and she suggested I downplay that aspect of my character and the times. As it happened, one of the Bouchercon sessions the next day was devoted to religion and mysteries. I asked the panelists “Is religion relegated to only a small corner of the mystery world?” I got mixed responses. Two panelists felt that you could write about a character with a religion in any mystery. But Mette Ivie Harrison believed 100 agents declined to represent the second of her adult mysteries because there is a prejudice against religion in the publishing world. Harrison’s protagonist is a Mormon bishop’s wife.

Maybe I should have known religion could be an issue. In 2014, I submitted my mystery novel Digital Dick to be considered for the San Diego Book Awards Best Unpublished Novel Award. I won, but only after the organization intervened when one of the judges took offense with Dick, my A.I. sleuth, because in the book, Dick insists he has a soul. (“That’s not possible.” Well, um, it’s fiction.)

In thinking about novels I have read, I recall a number of mysteries I would consider mainstream in which characters at least profess a religion. Stuart Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman series centers on two Chicago P.D. detectives, a Jew and his Catholic partner. Within the stories, they are referred to as the Rabbi and the Priest. Lieberman is often involved in activities at his synagogue. Frederick Ramsay wrote a three-book Jerusalem series in which the sleuth is the head rabbi of the city, circa 30 A.D. (Or should I say 30 C.E.?) Orhan Pamuk’s (more literary mystery) My Name is Red has the Ottoman Court and Islam as its backdrop. I just started reading August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones. Chapter two of this Shamus Award-nominated novel begins with the hero going to mass at St. Al’s (Aloysius) Catholic Church. Religious fiction? I don’t think so.

So, I could use your help. How much religion is too much in a mainstream mystery? Can characters believe in God? Can they practice their religion on the page? Or, like murders in a cozy, must prayer occur offstage? What religious behavior or language would turn you off as a reader, agent, or editor?

Can I keep the ‘God’ in God Damn?
***

John Edward Mullen is the author of the self-published mystery Digital Dick. He is currently writing the first of a mystery series set in the 1890s involving Nell Doherty, a young woman with a wooden leg who dreams of becoming a Pinkerton detective. John lives in the San Diego area.