Category Archives: Robert Gregory Browne

Aural Pleasure

by Rob Gregory Browne

I remember the day vividly.  I was riding in the back seat, my father at the wheel, my mother beside him, and we were headed over the Pali to the other side of the island.  It was a Friday evening and we were going to Buzz’s Steakhouse in Kailua, our favorite.

About halfway there, my father turned on the radio and something very strange happened.  The radio started pumping out TV sound.  One of my favorite shows at the time was The Lone Ranger, which was rerun every afternoon on television.  And there it was, coming out of the car’s tinny speaker.  Hi-yo Silver.

Or was it?

It took me a moment to realize that even though this sort of sounded like the Lone Ranger that I knew and loved, the actor’s voice was different.  Deeper and more commanding.  And as I listened closer, I realized this wasn’t TV sound at all.

My father must have seen my astonished look in his rearview mirror, because he smiled and said, "This is what we used to listen to when I was a kid.  Before we had TV."

I stared at him blankly, not quite believing him, but the more I listened the more I realized he was telling the truth.  And, god, it was wonderful.

That, my friends (to borrow a phrase), is how I discovered audio drama.

Okay, okay.  I know what you’re thinking.  Audio drama?  Oh, please.  Those old shows with the corny acting and the cheesy organ music?

Yes, I became obsessed with it.  And yes, early radio drama WAS pretty freaking corny.  But as the years went on and I managed to collect more and more tapes, I realized that there was a real progression in quality over time.  The latter years of radio drama, here in the US, offered wonderfully crafted stories with great actors, great music, great sound effects.

But by the early sixties, it had all gone down the crapper.  It was a slow, pitiful death, brought on by television, and not all that surprising.  Why bother with radio when you can SEE your favorite actors in living black and white?

Which, of course, is why a large portion of the people reading this have only a vague idea of what I’m talking about.

For those of you in the UK and Canada, however, radio drama is still alive and kicking.  The CBC still produces it.  And every afternoon on BBC4, and all day long on BBC7 and elsewhere you can hear a variety of dramas.  In countries other than mine, radio drama is considered a true art form, and many great artists create it.

If you want to hear an amazing example of "movies for the ears," try to track down a copy of Julian Simpson’s THE LISTENER, which recently played on the BBC.  A near-future spy story that will keep you in your chair until the last, delicious twist.

Or go right now and listen to INFIDEL, Roger Gregg’s epic audio masterpiece.  You will not regret it.

These ain’t your father’s old-time radio shows.  They are, quietly simply, beautiful examples of the possibilities of audio.  The ability to paint a vivid picture in your mind with a few simple strokes. 

Of all the dramatic arts, I think audio drama comes closest to novels, because most of it happens in the listener’s mind.  Listeners are required to use their brains, their imaginations, to help the story come alive.  Using a handful of words, a few sound effects, and some decent acting, audio dramas can take you anywhere, from beneath the surface of the earth to the farthest reaches of outer space.

I love the medium almost as much as I love fiction.

Which is why I’m a little worried. 

Although there now seems to be a minor resurgence of audio drama here in the US, thanks to the iPod, there’s not all that much more interest in it than there was in the early sixties when it died a dusty death.

So why does that worry me?  I mean, who gives a damn about a barely remembered art form?  Radio shows were quaint, but this is the modern age.  We have movies on demand.  The Internet.  Games at our fingertips.  Thousand of songs on our mp3 players.

Why the hell do we need radio shows?

Well, I’m not sure we do.  Maybe we’re beyond them.  And although the art form has grown up quite a bit, maybe it’s just too late.  Too… dated.

But that’s not what worries me.  What worries me is that I think a lot of people are beginning to feel the same way about novels.

Tell me I’m wrong, but I believe fewer people are buying books every year.  Bookstores are closing.  Kids don’t have time for fiction unless it’s written by JK Rowling.  A trip to Costco and you’ll find a table full of novels with all the same old names on them and few new authors are being read.  Of all the people I know personally, at least half of them don’t even read a book a year.  Why read a book when you can, say, shoot a moose?

So I have to wonder, when will it be the early sixties for novelists?

And, trust me, I don’t worry because of a potential loss of income.  This has never been about money for me.  But I worry about the loss of a vitally important art form.  Just like audio.

And if it can happen to something as wonderful as audio drama — an industry that was filled with stars and had people rushing home every night to listen to their favorite shows — surely it can happen to books.

As Rachel Maddow would say, somebody please talk me down.  Convince me that, sometime in the future, I won’t have to fly to the UK or Canada whenever I feel like cracking open a book.


By the way, they still do hold book festivals, so if you’re in Santa Barbara this Saturday, stop by the SB Courthouse around noonish, where Gayle Lynds and I will be on a panel talking about thrillers and mysteries.

No Offense Intended

by Rob

I’m concerned.

It seems to me that it’s getting harder and harder for us to say what’s on our minds, these days.  If we get even the slightest bit controversial, we’re told to keep quiet because someone might get upset.   If we speak in shades of blue and green rather than stark black and white, we risk being attacked by those who are colorblind.

A politician makes a nuanced and valid point and his words are distorted and he’s jumped on for going too far.  The outrage is as phony as the people who make the charge, of course, but the drums start beating anyway, and before you know it, he’s tarred and feathered by the press.

This has been going on for quite awhile now.  I see evidence of it everywhere.  People afraid to speak up about how they feel.  Holding back because they don’t want to risk offending anyone.  Or being branded a troublemaker.  Or losing their jobs.

A woman in the workplace can’t mutter a swear word for fear that some co-worker might overhear her and turn her into the boss.  And even a hint of sexual innuendo is immediate cause for firing.

A man can’t wear a certain declarative T-shirt in public because he might become a target of harassment.

It’s as if we’re all being conditioned to be afraid of our own shadows.  We’re taught to be good and polite and inoffensive, because good and polite and inoffensive people get rewards.  Like food on the table.  Cars to drive.  TVs to watch.

As authors, we debate about the language we use.  Is it too strong?  Should we tone it down?  Make our books more palatable?  We avoid any obvious political or religious statements because we’re afraid we’ll lose half our readers.  And half our income.

Recently, a bestselling author wrote a book featuring his series character and, according to the reviews on Amazon, went a little too far this time out.  The author dared to give his character a point of view — one that didn’t sit well with some of his readers — and the Amazon reviewers went nuts, telling the author to keep his politics out of his books.  How dare he ruin their favorite hero by making him utter such tripe?

But really, folks, are we that shallow?  Can we not recognize that EVERYONE has differing points of view about many different things, and simply learn to live with it without going ballistic?  Especially when it comes to fiction.

Must authors and musicians and artists strive for the lowest common denominator?  Strike the blandest note they can, in order to try to make everyone happy?

I don’t think so.  We’re all adults here.  Why on earth can’t we act like it?  Why must we allow the emotionally stunted, the colorblind and the brain dead to dictate to us what we can and can’t say?  Why must we tiptoe around them for fear that they’ll somehow steal our lives away?

To my mind, if we allow them to control us, then our lives are already gone.

In the words of Howard Beale, "I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore."

And maybe you shouldn’t either.

No offense intended, of course.

Even When it Hurts

by Rob Gregory Browne

There is a gene in me that compels me to do what I do.

Or maybe it’s a disease.  A sickness I’ve carried from the moment of birth.  I often think I might be better off with a transorbital lobotomy, lumbering vacantly toward an empty room.

I don’t know why I’m this way.  Could probably trace it to my mother.  I grew up listening to her play Chopin and Beethoven in our living room on a funky console piano.

It sounded like a Steinway to me.

Or there’s my Uncle Ed, who loaned me his baritone uke when I was eight years old.  He saw my eyes get big when he started playing, and for reasons I’ll never know, handed it to me, wearing that wise-acre grin of his, and said, "Keep it for awhile, kiddo."

Next thing I knew, I was blasting away on those nylon strings, writing songs.  But then I guess I’d always been writing them.  When I was very young I used to sing myself to sleep every night, rolling my head from side to side in rhythm to the tune I’d made up.

Yes, I was a strange kid.

But then we’re all strange, aren’t we?  Those of us who attempt to create.  We spend so much time in our own heads that the people around us, the people we love, start to feel neglected.

We live in messy rooms, drive dirty cars and can’t stop humming that new melody we’ve come up with —  working it, revising it, sometimes forgetting it.  We figure out character flaws and plot turns while we’re supposed to be concentrating on the road.  We sketch doodles on place mats as we wait for our french fries.  We snap photographs of our children, experimenting with angles, then upload them into an electronic box to play with the colors and the grain and the contrast.

I’ve had this disease — this desire to create — for as long as I can remember.   And I can’t control it.  Can barely manage to channel it into one specific task.  When I’m writing, I want to be making music.  When I’m playing guitar, I want to be editing video.  When I’m editing video, I’m thinking about the book I should be working on.

But then it all comes together somehow in my brain — the melody, the images, the words — and after a long, difficult slog, a book is born.  A song is written.  A video completed.

But I often wonder what it is that compels me to do these things.  What is it in my DNA that forces me to pick up a pen or play a piano or draw a picture?  And when I was first starting out, what gave me the audacity to believe that I’d ever be any good at it? 

Or does that really matter? 

Gift or curse, this desire is something I’ve had to learn to live with.  And the most painful thing about it is that most of my attempts to be creative actually fail.  I’m never completely satisfied with my efforts.

But then maybe that’s okay.  Maybe it’s only the pursuit that counts.

And I always enjoy the pursuit.  Always. 

Even when it hurts.

A Song Only You Can Hear

by Rob Gregory Browne

"You’d better take a can of mace," my friend said, and he was only partly joking.

You see, he knows several romance writers and he warned me that, being one of the few men to attend the annual RWA conference was akin to volunteering to be the bait at a greyhound race.

But when I looked in the mirror, I thought, don’t worry, Rob, you’ll be safe.  They only chase small animals and you’re anything but small.  Especially since you packed on those extra 20 lbs.

So, as you read this, I’m driving up the coast to windy San Francisco, facing uncertainty and possible doom.  I will, however, not be in the company of a pack of dogs, but a lot of writers and readers and genuinely wonderful people who happen to be mostly female — some of whom are my friends.

Which is fine with me.  All my life I’ve felt more comfortable in the company of women.  To be perfectly honest — and I don’t want to insult any of the men in the crowd — I find the conversation among females to be far more interesting and stimulating. 

And it doesn’t hurt that they’re a lot easier to look at.

When I tell friends here at home that I’m going to the conference, I usually get a blank stare. 

"But why?" they say.  "You don’t even write romances."

Oh, but I do.  In my first book, KISS HER GOODBYE, there is a definite romance in the making — my hero and his assistant, who have been eying each other for quite awhile.  In WHISPER IN THE DARK there are two romances:  a man struggling with his love for his dead wife as he starts a new relationship, while another — a cop — rekindles his feelings for his ex-partner.

These relationships don’t dominate the books, but I can’t imagine the stories without them.  Every book I write has at least a touch of romance.  Partly because I’m a romantic at the core, and partly because I strongly feel that the best stories are about emotion — big emotions — and romantic love certainly qualifies in that regard.

Romance writers and, especially, readers often get a bad rap.  The stuff they write and read, some say, is pure pablum.  Silly little love stories that feed on the fantasies of middle-aged housewives.

And to this I say, bullshit.

What surprises me most is that some of the people I’ve heard express this sentiment are mystery and thriller writers.   And if anyone should understand literary snobbery and all of its pettiness, it’s mystery and thriller writers.

The truth is, the quality of any book comes down to one thing:  how it connects with an individual reader.

Our tastes vary from person to person — and sometimes, in fact, from day to day, within ourselves.   So, to my mind, it’s the individual who must decide the worth of a particular book or genre he or she has chosen to read.  One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.

I myself have read several romances over the years and while I can’t claim that I loved them all, I certainly fell for quite a few and found them no different than any other book I’ve enjoyed.  When an author’s voice speaks to me in that certain way, I’ll follow her wherever she wants to take me.

There’s an anonymous quote I came across recently that I think sums it all up:  "You don’t love someone for their looks or their clothes or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear."

Perhaps this is something we should remember when we feel the urge to insult someone’s reading preferences — and I don’t pretend to be a saint in that regard. 

The phrase, "to each his own," works quite well here.

Beyond all that, of course, there’s also a practical reason for going to RWA: 

Connecting with readers.  Most readers in this country are women, and the majority of those women read romances.  I would be crazy not to attend a conference that caters to the largest audience this industry has.  And while it’s true that it’s generally a writer’s conference, let’s not forget that writers are readers, too.

So I’m now heading up to San Francisco, certain I’ll have a blast, but still hearing echoes of my friend’s warning in the deepest recesses of my brain.

Thankfully, however, I won’t need that can of mace to fend off the hordes of adoring females.  I’ve got something even stronger:

Barry Eisler will be there, too.

The Long and Winding Road

by Rob Gregory Browne

We missed our connecting flight by ten minutes.

Ten measly minutes.

The woman behind the airline counter had a sour look on her face.  She clearly hated her job, herself, her country and undoubtedly all of mankind. 

Which, of course, included my wife and me.

"The next flight to Philadelphia doesn’t leave for another five hours," she said.  "I can put you on standby, if you like."

Standby?  Did I just hear her right?  Freakin’ standby?

That was the moment I nearly lost it.  The moment when a mild-mannered writer of thrillers came dangerously close to turning into a sleep-deprived, ax wielding mass-murderer.  Fortunately, my ax had been confiscated at the security gate in L.A. along with my switchblade, my Beretta and my bottle of Silky Boy shampoo.

Before I became a published novelist, I didn’t really travel all that much.  Honolulu once a year.  An occasional jaunt to San Francisco or Vegas.  A few cruises to Mexico.  But what they don’t tell you when you sign up for this gig is that you’d better learn to pack economically and carry an inflatable donut, because — thanks to the zillion and one writers’ conferences and book festivals out there — you’re going to be spending a lot of time sitting on your ass. 

Not writing, unfortunately.  But in planes, trains and automobiles.

And in terms of comfort and sanity, planes are by far the worst.  (Trains, by comparison, are bliss.)

But back to O’Hare International, my favorite airport:

Being victim to a delayed flight/missed connection was bad enough, but what truly got my panties in a wad was discovering that not one single employee of the airline — including the woman behind the counter — seemed to give a damn about our dilemma. 

And the missed connection was their fault!

Thankfully, my wife — who stayed amazingly calm throughout the entire debacle — managed to find the ONE sympathetic airline employee (okay, I lied earlier — so sue me) in all of Chicago and we were able to spend our unscheduled stopover in the VIP lounge.


True, they had nice comfy armchairs, mini muffins, surprisingly good coffee (which I doctored with Swiss Miss) and free (but agonizingly slow) Internet access, but none of it made up for the loss of time in Philly.  And at that point, even fem bots offering free sexual favors wouldn’t have made me feel any better. 

Thanks to the world’s worst airline service — and I’m talking a major carrier here — our much anticipated two-day vacation — prior to Thrillerfest in New York — was virtually cut in half. 

And I had to wonder.  Was traveling by plane always this bad?  Or is the tanking economy, the price of gas, the general fear of job loss, personal bankruptcy and corporate indifference turning customer service into a steaming pile of doggy dung?

Not everywhere, it seems.

Because when we finally caught our flight, then a cab, and staggered into our quaint little Philadelphia hotel — 24 sleepless hours after we’d started this endless trek — the kind and patient gentleman at the front desk listened to our tale of woe, then smiled warmly.

"Not to worry," he said.  "You’re home now."

And those six words reminded me of what’s so great about travel: 

Being there. 

I know that those of you reading this have had similar — or even much worse — getting there experiences.  So take a little time and vent. 

Trust me, it feels good.

For Crying Out Loud

by Robert Gregory Browne

I’m going to admit something here that few men are willing to cop to.  At least publicly.

I cry sometimes.

Yes, I know.  You look at that handsome, macho photo of me on the left of your screen — the one that says, he’s all man (come on, keep looking, you’ll find it), and you’ll have a hard time believing that that particular hunk of granite ever cried a day in his life. 

But it’s true.  I cry sometimes.

In fact, not only do I cry — I outright blubber. 

If you happened to be anywhere near me in the theater as I watched The Joy Luck Club or Awakenings or Sophie’s Choice, you undoubtedly had to dig through your (or your wife’s) handbag and pull out an umbrella.  I’m talking deep, wracking sobs.  The kind you try so hard to keep in because you’re embarrassing the hell out of yourself.  But you can’t.  Because the movie is just so damn sad.

A woman writer friend once said to me, "Rob, what I’ve noticed about your books is that they’re chock full of emotion.  A lot of thrillers written by men are more about events than feelings."

I think it was a compliment.  At least, I certainly hope it was.  And her words stuck with me because, to my mind, the best books, the best stories, the best movies, the best songs — are all about feelings.  Love.  Fear.  Sadness.  Joy.  And the more we know about how a character is feeling, the more we can identify with that character.  The more we become invested in his or her story.

There’s no better way to get to know the people around us than to find out what makes them laugh or cry or gets them angry or sends them dancing in the streets or forces them to scream in terror.  These moments usually hit without warning — an unrehearsed reaction triggered by the unexpected — and when we experience them, we are revealing our naked, unvarnished selves to the world.

The ability — or inability — to turn on the water works at the appropriate (or inappropriate) time, tells us a lot about our friends and family.  And the same goes for the characters we create. 

And because emotion is so universally understood, crossing all cultural and religious boundaries, utilizing it in our stories is a good way to draw readers in.  To make them care about and believe in our creations.

So when he’s caught in a firefight, I’m less concerned about what type of gun my hero is shooting than I am about what he’s feeling when he shoots it.  About the adrenaline pumping through him, about his concern for the woman or child or friend that he’s protecting or trying to save.  And if he’s faced with a devastating loss, I confess that I feel that loss as much as he does — and will often find myself crying at the keyboard as I write the scene.

Yes, it’s true.  And I’m sure I’m not the only writer in this crazy crowd who experiences this.

So you readers and writers out there, tell me what makes you cry.  What song, what movie, what book brings on tears so strong you find yourself sobbing.  We all have at least one.

I have several.  And I’m not ashamed to admit it.


A couple of weeks back I played a video created by Tess and me for Thrillefest Arizona.  A couple of you had guesses to the solution of the mystery and one of you actually got it right.  Here’s the entire video now, from start to finish, with the solution intact.

The winner, who will know who he is, can email me at rob at, or simply click on my name above, hit "email me" on my website and fill in the blanks.

Here it is:


Good Books, Bad Movies

by Rob Gregory Browne

Dusty’s off today, so I’m filling in.  He’ll pick things up next week.  In the meantime:

Like many of my writer friends, I absolutely love movies.  Almost as much as I love books.  And after years of watching movies, writing screenplays and, of course, reading and writing books, if there’s one bit of wisdom I’ve always lived by, it’s this:

Latob_16Let’s face it.  How many times have you read a truly wonderful book, only to see it destroyed by Hollywood?  Sometimes they get it right (Mystic River, Godfather, Gone Baby Gone), and sometimes they do it better (ha, you thought I was going to tell you the titles and insult some poor novelist?  Think again.) 

But most of the time, Hollywood screws it up.  Badly.

People who read my books often say to me, "Oh, this would make a wonderful movie."  Now, I agree that it would nice to see my books turned into movies, partially because of the financial rewards, but also because it would be exciting to see the books in a form I so love.  But chances are fairly good that my books would wind up unrecognizable on the screen.

And who would get the blame?  I’m guessing me.  A bad movie version of your book can, I believe, kill books sales.  Because, after all, if the movie stinks, the book must, too, right?

In fact, I was told recently that one very well-known author’s career was severely damaged by the god-awful excuse for a movie they made of her book.  I have no verification of this bit of gossip, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.

What follows are a few book to movie translations that I think completely missed the mark.  I had a lot more, but for the sake of space, I pared it down to what I think are three of Hollywood’s most egregious sins.  And I might as well start big.



Yes, you read that right.  This is one of Stephen King’s most popular books and there have been two versions of it made for the screen.  But I’m not talking about the mini-series version.  I haven’t seen it.  What I’m talking about is Kubrick’s completely f’d up interpretation of the book.

I love Kubrick.  Paths of Glory is one of my favorite war movies.  Barry Lyndon another favorite.  A Clockwork Orange changed my life.  I even loved Eyes Wide Shut.  And I know there are people out there who absolutely love Kubrick’s version of The Shining.   

But I just hated it.  What was supposed to be a suspensful, nerve-shattering horror story turned out to be a complete and utter bore.  Except for a nice reveal ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"), and the last fifteen or so minutes when wife and son are being chased through the maze by crazy dad, this movie completely fails to deliver. 

Nicholson chews the hell out of the scenery and half the time Kubrick seems to be snoozing behind the camera.  If you’re gonna do King, please, please, please give Rob Reiner, William Goldman or Frank Darabount a call.


I don’t even know where to begin with this one.  James Ellroy wrote the book.  Considered a masterpiece by many.  And when I heard Brian DePalma was doing the movie adaptation, I thought, hmmm, this might actually work.  DePalma is known for doing over-the-top set pieces, but it’s usually over-the-top in a good way.

But Black Dahlia?  Brian, Brian, Brian — what the hell were you thinking?  This movie wasn’t just bad, it made no sense whatsoever.  Disjointed scenes.  Weird changes of tone.   Characters played as if they were all in different eras.  Scarlet Johanssen delivered her lines as if she were straight out of a really bad forties noir film, while Josh Hartnet seemed to be a fugitive from CSI Miami, minus the red hair.  And I don’t put blame on the actors.  They’re both normally very good.  But they were betrayed by De Palma and an unworkable screenplay.  (Sorry, Brian — I love you, but…)

The Black Dahlia is a mess from beginning to end.  When it was over, my wife and daughter and I turned to one another and said, "WTF was that?" 

We still haven’t gotten an answer.  I don’t know how Ellroy felt about it, but I would’ve been crying.


This one is my biggest book to movie pet peeve of all. 

I absolutely love Gregory McDonald’s dialog heavy mystery/thriller Fletch.  It moves quickly,  is a real page turner, and the plot is as clever as it is hip.  Fletch Is a tall, tanned, smart-ass beach bum reporter who gets tangled up in a murder plot. 

The first time I read it, back in the late seventies, I kept envisioning William Hurt or Jeff Bridges in the lead.  Today I could see Pitt or possibly even Clooney doing it.  But, of course, when Hollywood got hold of it, who got the role of Fletch?

Chevy Chase.   Chevy f’ing Chase.  And Chase played Fletch as if he were…well… I think you can figure it out.  With Chase at the wheel, Fletch became a buffoon.  Who wore outlandish disguises.   And never said or did anything remotely clever.

The ONLY thing that saved the movie was that they stayed fairly true to the plot.  And the sad thing about it?  Whenever you mention the book Fletch, the first thing that pops into people’s mind is Chase.  Ugh.

I firmly believe that anyone who loved the movie — and there are more than a few — has never read the book.  Or, if they have, they read it AFTER they saw the movie.

Now I hear talk of a remake.  Ahh, finally, Hollywood gets a chance to redeem itself on this one.

So who’s up for the role?  Zach Braff.  Zach Braff?  I mean, sure it’s an improvement, but he isn’t the Fletch I know and love.


So that’s it.  It was tough to pare it down to just those three — I could go on and on — and I’m sure a lot of you could, too.

So tell me what books you think have been destroyed by Hollywood.  And while you’re at it, tell us the ones you think worked.


No, I haven’t forgotten about the solution to the Gerritsen/Browne video mystery.  Due to technical difficulties, however, I’ll have to show it next time.  But I can say that of the eight or so people who actually commented on the first part, one of them got the answer right.  So we have a winner — to be revealed…

Videorati #3

by Rob Gregory Browne

In my short time in publishing, one of the great things I’ve discovered about the business is that you get to meet a lot of wonderful people.  People you never dreamed you’d get a chance to meet.

Years ago, while I was in the midst of my Hollywood phase, I longed to write a novel.  But I was one of those wannabes who are always planning to write that novel "some day" while never bothering to lift a finger to actually do it.

During a vacation to visit family in Hawaii, I was in the Honolulu Bookstore (which, sadly, no longer exists), browsing the magazine rack, when I saw an ad for a hot new thriller coming out by an author named Tess Gerritsen.  I looked at the photo and was pleasantly surprised.  Ms. Gerritsen looked like a "local girl," someone you might bump into at Ala Moana Shopping Center. 

Intrigued, I sought out her book, Harvest, and found myself falling instantly in love with her writing.  And I can’t tell you what that did to my spirit.  Her obvious talent, along with the fact that she wrote the kind of book I loved, AND looked like someone I could have grown up with in Honolulu, gave me hope that I might one day do exactly what she had done.

Of course, it took me many years to get off my okole and finally do it.  But once I got my book deal with SMP, I sent Tess an email and she responded immediately and the next thing I knew, she was reading and blurbing my first book.   I discovered that Ms. Gerritsen was as classy as she looked in that author photo and I was thrilled to be exchanging emails with her.  I also found out that she had actually LIVED in Hawaii for many years and practiced medicine there.  So I actually COULD have bumped into her at Ala Moana.


I finally met Tess in the flesh at Thrillerfest Arizona.  And she’s as much of a class act in person as she is via email.  Just prior to that meeting, she had contacted me about a presentation she was planning and I volunteered to help her put together a video segment.  It was a bit of a rush job, Tess writing the script, her husband shooting some of the witness footage and recording some audio, which they then sent to me. 

I shot more footage, added music, sound effects and some graphics and the video made its debut at that very first Thrillerfest.

The presentation was well attended, but I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who never got a chance to see it.  So, as a way of welcoming Tess to Murderati, I decided to show you the video here.  I’ve made a few changes.  Blurred out some of the autopsy images that made the Thrillerfest audience cringe, and changed another small section, but it’s pretty much what Tess showed during that presentation.

Oh, and don’t expect Emmy award winning material.  Far, far from it.  The guy who plays the cop is probably the worst actor on the planet, but he told me he had a lot of fun doing it.  Think of it as the neighborhood kids putting on a play.

What you’ll see here was merely the beginning of Tess’s wonderful presentation.  After you watch, skip down below for a follow-up and a chance to win something.   

Here we go:

Gerritsen-Browne Project

Okay, now that you’ve seen it, I hope you were paying attention, because the medical examiner at the end of the video was dead wrong about cause of death.

So your job?  Tell us what really killed this poor guy.  Yeah, I know, the clues are a bit sketchy — most of it was filled out by Tess and Doug Lyle’s follow-up, but take a guess anyway.

The first person who gets it right, wins a copy of my just released paperback KISS HER GOODBYE, along with the trade version of my recent UK release, WHISPER IN THE DARK.

Oh, and no cheating.  Anyone who saw the video at Tess’s presentation or read the solution later is ineligible for the prize.  So, feel free to comment, but please refrain from giving away the answer.
Next week, I’ll show you the very brief ending, along with all the credits, and announce the winner.

And, answer or not, I hope you’ll all join me in welcoming the lovely and talented Ms. Tess Gerritsen to Murderati.


by Rob Gregory Browne

The last time I saw him, he looked as if he were sleeping.


But then I realized that there was an unnatural stillness there.  No gentle rise and fall of the chest, no sounds but the muffled cacophony of the hospital ICU unit just beyond the closed door.


What struck me was how small my father looked.  He was naked, except for a tiny modesty cloth draped over his midsection.  The tubes and wires that had been attached to him for the last few days had been removed, but he was still surrounded by machinery that dwarfed him.


I kept looking at his shoulders, thinking how long it had been since he had hoisted me onto them with an “Upsy-daisy,” telling me to duck as we passed through the doorway into my room, where he’d deposit me onto the bed and tuck me in.  But the shoulders I was looking at weren’t really my father’s.  This wasn’t really my father at all.  He was gone.  Had vacated the premises, leaving behind only this oddly childlike shell, a familiar but soulless vessel that would never again open its eyes and smile at me.


Now, here it is, over thirty years later and three days past Mother’s Day, and as much as I love my mother, it’s my father I’m thinking about.   Mostly because of what he’s missed since the day he died.  What I’ve missed sharing with him.


My marriage.  My children.  My successes and failures.


Pretty much my entire life.


My father had a gift that I’ve always envied:  the ability to walk up to anyone, anytime, and start a conversation.  The ability to be instantly charming, never forced, always genuine, with a warmth and humor that made whoever was in his company feel accepted.  He was an unpretentious man, not a deep thinker but always interesting.  He spent the last years of his life — his late fifties — struggling with emphysema, unable to cross a room without huffing for breath.


And thanks to a neglectful doctor, the disease finally took him.


When I was seventeen years old, I wrote my first television script.  I had long wanted to be a novelist, but had somehow gotten it into my head that I should write for TV.  Probably because the scripts were short and full of white space, and dialog came naturally to me.


When I was done with that script — an episode of Harry-O — my father read it, loved it and immediately started making phone calls. 


Anyone who has ever tried to break into Hollywood, especially the world of television, knows that it’s nearly impossible to get someone to read your screenplay.  Yet two days later, my father had the name and address of one of Harry-O’s producers, along with a promise to take a look at what I’d written. Within a few weeks, I got a letter back from the producer telling me that he thought my work had a lot of potential but that I had to be careful not to “overwrite.”  Keep it lean.  Shorten the dialog.  Have your characters get to the point as quickly as possible.  And don’t try to explain everything.


This was wonderful advice and encouragement that I never would have received if it hadn’t been for my father.


A few months later, I finished my one and only attempt at writing an episode of The Rockford Files, and my father once again went to work.  This time, while at the local race track, he ran into one of the Rockford co-stars and convinced him to read it.  Nothing ever came of the gesture, but to this day I marvel at my father’s salesmanship.


What I’ll always carry with me, however, is how proud of me he was.  I can think of no greater gift a parent can give a child than the gift of pride.


Which is why it’s so hard whenever I reach another milestone in my career.  He would have been so proud when I won the Nicholl.  Would have been bursting with it when I made my first deal with Showtime.  Would even have been excited to know I was writing episodes of Spider-Man for Fox Kids. 

And all these years later, working on my fourth book for St. Martin’s, my father would be calling everyone he knows just to boast about me.


My father’s pride is his legacy.  The part of him that most resonates with me whenever I think of him, even when I have a hard time picturing him beyond the small, still figure on that hospital bed.

I suppose I could have waited until Father’s Day to say all of this.  Especially when we’re still so close to the day we’re supposed to be celebrating mothers.  But my mother is alive and well and has always shared in my successes —  and for that I’m grateful.


But this morning I’m compelled to talk about my dad.  Because, for me, every day is father’s day.


And my only hope is that when I’m gone, my children will feel the same.

Lost in Translation

by Rob Gregory Browne

You know you’ve made it when you suck in German.

Last week Dusty talked about Amazon reviews and author reactions to them that are sometimes misguided if not downright crazy.  Dusty mentioned Tess Gerritsen, who has also written about negative reviews on her blog a few times, and she and I recently agreed via email that a good old fashion EXPLETIVE DELETED to an empty room can do a lot to cleanse the soul.

Good reviews are wonderful and make me momentarily feel as if I might actually know what I’m doing when I sit down to write a book, but the key word here is "momentarily." 

Bad reviews, however, seem to settle in deep and simmer for awhile — perhaps even forever — a constant reminder that I truly, truly suck and should probably give up this fantasy of ever being a "real" writer.

I like to pretend that I can simply shrug them off, but I think I’m fooling myself.  What’s worse is that I can’t find it within me to ignore the particularly depressing one-star monstrosities.  They’re the proverbial train wreck that I can’t stop gaping at — except that I don’t just happen upon them.  I actually seek them out.

Seem hard to believe?

I subscribe to a service called Google Alerts.  It’s a pretty spotty little service, but the idea behind it is that every time your name is mentioned on the web, Google notifies you and gives you a link to the page that mentions you.

Last week, I got a notification that my name was mentioned on Audible Germany.  This isn’t all that surprising considering I have an audio version of my book for sale there called DEVIL’S KISS (the German title for KISS HER GOODBYE).  When I went to the page, I discovered I had a few reviews for the book  and, surprise, surprise, one of them was a one-star.

So what did I do?  Did I shake my head and just walk away?


Believe it or not, being the glutton for punishment I am, I actually copied the one-star review, written in German, took it over to my favorite translation website, Babelfish, and pasted it into the translator.

This is what popped out:

A book of point of zero, which was to be borne only by the speaker at all. A completely not-saying banal mixture of likewise banal already Trade Union of German Employees nature works such as
Sutherlands/Roberts Flatliners (this nevertheless importantly more excitingly) and Steven Kings pseudophilosophical blood Erguessen…Completely unclearly that this ‘ work ‘ found at all a publisher and
then even still into the lists of sales of Audibel succeeded, in order to bore our brains… Recommend the money to save!

Now, there’s enough in that ridiculous "translation" to pretty much get the point across.  This guy thought my book sucked, big time. 

So what exactly was I thinking here?  Why on earth did I take it upon myself to translate this review in the first place?  Am I a complete masochist or what?

Fortunately, the same website had a couple of five-stars, one of which I feel duty bound to reprint here:

This ‘ Hoer’ book has still somewhat differently than most of them, because according to my opinion reality, dream, fantasy, its and Nichtsein devoured so closely with one another is that one can become dizzy and the own imaginative power thus no borders are set. It works
still for a very long time after…

Outstanding read. The individual characters come super more rueber and before the mental eye run off the book than film proper. For people, which do not only believe in the things those it see can, must. Much pleasure.

I’m not sure what a "Hoer" book is (it sounds a bit like a Long Island working girl), but the final words, "Much pleasure" are enough to give me that momentary reprieve from literary self-loathing I crave.

Yet despite my own pleasure, the phrase Recommend the money to save! (complete with exclamation point) from the one-star review keeps creeping back into my brain and, let’s face it, it’s my own goddamn fault for translating the sucker in the first place.

The saving grace here is something that all of us who have managed to get into print have to remember:  we have reviews.

Good or bad, it’s truly a wonderful thing that we have reviews at all, and I’ll take a bad review any day over not being published at all.  A bad review is proof that I’ve made it.  A bad review in German is proof that I’ve REALLY made it, because I can thank my lucky stars that people in Germany are actually reading my book.  In fact, I just got a royalty check from that amazing country, so you definitely won’t hear me complaining.

So, go ahead, bring on those bad reviews.  Because no matter what they say, I know I am blessed to be doing what I love………..

So now, for the writers in the crowd, it’s your turn.  Post a Bablefish translation of your favorite review, good or bad.  I just love to read those things.

Oh, and while I’m here, I guess I should plug KISS HER GOODBYE, which was released in mass market paperback here in the U.S. yesterday and can be found at your favorite bookstores and, I’m told, your local Walmart.

I guess I should brace myself for more reviews…