Friday, November 1, 2019

Film rights for sale

With my back to the wall financially and an 18 year old to send to college, I need to sell the film & TV rights for a series of private eye novels called The Case Files of Cable & Blount, a modern Nick and Nora Charles, equals in life, a tough ex-Marine paired with a brainy Silicon Valley heiress. Four novels cover multiple adventures, fighting mobsters and serial killers, covert ops overseas, and a global chase to find each other when separated in unexplained circumstances, 640 pages total, suitable for episodic TV or a feature film project.

Five star Amazon reviews: "The combination of courage, tenderness, integrity, and brains is way out of the ordinary. Alternately growls, whimpers, and seduces." (Erik Svehaug) "A master of sly observations, of the truths hidden in words. A big dose of literary fun, that even if played out in today's world, echoes to the time when men were men and writers weren't afraid to tell a story." (L.B. Johnson) "One part grit, a dash of over the top machismo, a pinch of womanly intuition, add heartfelt devotion, murder, and heat over a flame of erotic pleasure." (Librarian)

The text is frankly adult. It could be adapted for a general audience. The high concept is an update of 77 Sunset Strip, a pair of wealthy L.A. detectives with high tech communications, luxury cars, aircraft, a black female ex-cop sidekick, and family NSC and CIA contacts.

There have been numerous genre retreads with a husband and wife team, but Chris Cable and Mary Blount are action adventure wildcats, drawn into tense life and death operations that sidestep stern FBI bombast and LAPD's mulish, molasses slow cops.

A multi-year option is offered, email


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Apparently unable

Private government

In the first, fundamental sense of the term, private government describes the power of each individual to control the conduct of his or her life, whether right or wrong, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, courageously, cowardly, or cooperatively with others. In America, toleration of differences and separation of church and state were a precondition for national union, and it resulted in a widely understood right of individuation legally protected by the First Amendment. The state cannot compel a citizen to attend a church or be taxed to support a religious sect. Individual decisions concerning education, career, marriage, and finance are largely unregulated, despite a mountain of legislation and administrative rules imposed to limit individual choice. Liberty stubbornly persists as a matter of personal aspiration or folly, contrary to the best efforts of family, neighbors, and politicians to induce conformity.

That, however, is not the topic I wish to discuss. Private government has another meaning pertaining to constitutional law, not in the present, but the future. In tempestuous infancy and adolescence, the U.S. Constitution was a legalized tug of war with periodic explosions. Colonial frontier pioneers did not perceive an obligation to be stewards of the planet. The Federal Convention of 1787 did not debate LGBTQ or transgender privileges, and the Civil War was not fought to give birthright citizenship to foreign anchor babies.

American constitutional thumb wrestling was a brief struggle in the sweep of human history, even if we graft it to the dead root of English common law. Some historians point to ancient Rome as a source for concepts like contract, or Bible stories as the source of all law. Athenian aristocrats experimented with democracy and trial by jury. The Code of Hammurabi is taught in U.S. law schools as the ancient basis of equity and criminal law, improved incrementally by thousands of years of judicial and legislative thought.

Wait a minute. Spaceflight was derived from rock throwing?

Obviously not. The American Experiment was a clean break with all previous governments, and it was totally rewritten twice, by Civil War and by 20th Century Supreme Court decisions. If the Founding Fathers knew what we've done to their Constitution, they'd shout from their graves to damn us. Everything in law today is a radical break from its original intent, no better than juvenile delinquency, defying Madison and Franklin and Otis. You don't know who Otis was. Nor do you know why Franklin proposed that judges should be elected by lawyers, or why Madison opposed a Bill of Rights. Without Madison, Franklin, and Otis, there would be no Constitution to reinterpret and coin gay marriage rights.

Be that as it may, I'm not interested in political footstamping or current notions of political rights. What matters is the future, and I'd like to return to the idea of private government. Let's suppose that the public tussel of democracy is arbitrary and unpredictable. The United States is a bankrupt nonprofit corporation, a global welfare fountain that no one owns.

Private government is totally different. Instead of voting, free of charge, expecting the U.S. to hand you a pile of benefits, in a private government there are joint venturers (partners) who pony up "cash calls" to retain their right to elect a board of directors. There are no taxes, no regulation of commerce, no social benefits. The sole function of a private government is national defense, funded by insurance companies, banks, and wealthy individual citizens who can afford to buy a vote to determine the scale and scope of national defense. It's less nutty than it sounds. The American Revolution was funded entirely by private backers and fought by volunteer civilians.

I wrote a short story and recorded a lecture to explicate the idea.


Monday, September 23, 2019

Tough little predator

Seven days a week I'm as pliable as clay, easily chumped, a softy who cries if I see something innocent, e.g., Ingrid Bergman in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, especially the third act when she leads 150 orphans through Japanese lines across the mountains to safety, or when Jane says to Michael: "It's her, it's the person!" in Mary Poppins. Break out the Kleenex. It happens when I feel my way through a page of my own writing, when he loves her and she loves him. I'm a sucker for love and lovers, Jimmy Stewart nervously rotating his hat in his hands while talking to a girlfriend's mom (a terrific Capra insert in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) or Greer Garson holding a wounded Nazi pilot at gunpoint, and allowing him to eat, in Mrs. Miniver.

I like writing comedy, and I might be pretty good at it. I laugh easily. I shot G-rated comedy and goofball satire. I laughed on the set, silly unscripted improv that cracked me up. I talk to dogs and cats and cows, little birds nesting in the barn, neighbors and strangers, cops and crazy Vietnam vets. I'm a good listener and a good audience, happy as heck when I hear my daughter sing. I loved a thousand musicians and vocalists and dancers and actors in England and Australia and Holland and two dozen U.S. cities and villages, coast to coast.

So, who is that evil-looking character in the photo? Hard as nails. Armed and dangerous in a previous life, a daredevil who challenged pirates and prosecutors. I was an umpire who called balls and strikes in a prison baseball game played by killers and bank robbers, because no one else wanted to. That hard face is adamant about justice. It's impersonal, and it doesn't matter that I've been ignored and ridiculed and threatened. Justice matters.

That's all well and good, no regrets, but I have a problem. I've written everything I know and every story I could imagine. Something happened with my last novel, Chiseltown, the story of a fictional filmmaker and a low-budget movie. He has six weeks to organize it, six weeks to shoot everything, and six weeks for post production, working at lightning speed, no room for error, and every conceivable obstacle thrown in his way. It was a fun project for me, a goofy situation comedy with enough drama and verisimilitude to make it real.

I doubt that Chiseltown will earn two cents in royalties. My third wife slammed it, said it was beneath me to write about a B movie. It was published at Lulu because I didn't have $5 in the bank to buy a proof copy, a precondition for global distribution via Amazon.

That, in itself, doesn't bother me. None of my books sold more than a handful of copies, and I'm more obscure than ever as an intellectual or storyteller. Perhaps that's how it should be. The difficult problem I have is nothing further to say.

In a couple of days I will be 69 years old. I can take a lot of punishment, if there's a story to tell, but I'm empty, nothing left to explore or express. Poor old warrior, toothless and sick, kaput creatively. When I look at that photo, taken a year ago, I see a hard old midget inured to hardship. No mortal can do that perpetually. I should take up golf or ping pong.


The Woman In My Dreams

It's impossible. She belongs to someone else. She's beautiful, intuitive, healthy, my equal in every way, and she comes because she cares about me. I beg her to go away and she ignores me, stays for inexplicable reasons of her own. I'm old and ugly, don't want her to touch me, and her presence is painful because I need her so much.

It's a damn dream, so stop it, just stop it. Every moment is golden and warm. Her clothing is expensive and casual and simple, office attire that fits her comfortably and slips as silently as water on her thigh. She knows me, and it tugs at her conscience, doesn't want to be here.

So, go. Just go. I can't please you, can't smile, can't stand straight and tall as a man, too late in life for romance, no matter how much I want it again, haunting me while I sleep at night. I'm helpless when I dream. The truth does whatever it will.

You know what's funny? I write in my dreams, whole stories, polished phrases and scenes that I remember a few minutes when I awaken and then forget when I get out of bed to free the dog, wash my face, brush my teeth. Betty reported that carpenters build in their sleep. Do priests pray and Democrats concoct lies when they dream, or is it vice versa?


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Four Best Books by Wolf DeVoon

These four books are certainly representative, three novels and a volume of short stories, written during the past few years. There are many more that I care about, but these four in particular were mature and deliberate, as if each might be the last.

Chiseltown is my most recent, the story of a fictional filmmaker and a feature film. There's quite a lot of humor, some mildly adult intimacy, and an accessible narrative of how a "low budget" movie is created and completed, almost always a question of Who Knows Who.

Charity was part of a series (The Case Files of Cable & Blount) told in first person, a parable of privilege, discovery, black ops, and a cryptocurrency caper that destabilizes global banking. I like it because it deals with an important truth, that love is unchosen destiny.

Partners is set in 1975, an icy Wisconsin winter, an intimate struggle of triangles and tragedy. Men are killed. The stakes are as high as humanly imaginable in a war of innocent romance and steely determination.

Four Strange Stories is a collection of dreams, truths, seduction, and a complex portrait of a free society in the future, the widest possible mirror of what I think and feel as a man.

It cost quite a lot to create those works, plus twenty other self-published books, a half dozen screenplays, and thirty or forty miles of film and video. I started as a teenage filmmaker, learned to write along the way. My first job in Hollywood was an original screenplay. The last one was a cubicle at Disney, spending six figures of Mickey's money. I felt it was time to quit the "fillum" business. There are a couple recent video lectures, if you care to see what I look and sound like at age 69.

It stuns me when I apprehend that there's another story to tell, doubting my ability to write another full length novel -- however I am certain of this much: I cannot disown my literary legacy, nor the ideas that I endeavored to communicate, right wrong or purple. Like Popeye the Sailor, I am what I am and that's all what I am.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Just so you know

'Chiseltown' is completed. It is an intensely personal story, although it has nothing to do with me personally, as odd as that may sound. It's about a fictional filmmaker and a movie, from the first phone call to the last. That's how movies are made. I suppose it's not so different in other walks of life. Somebody calls, you do something, there's another phone call to find out if they liked whatever it was that you did. A producer calls, a movie is made, and then there's another phone call from a preview screening to report average Jane and John Doe audience response, in Fresno traditionally. Audience cards don't matter. What matters is whether the movie made them laugh and gasp and cry real tears, because movies should do that.

Along the way, 'Chiseltown' presents a detailed, accessible education in filmmaking, how a script is written and funded and translated into actors and location shoots and sound stages with forced perspective to create a convincing night exterior scene, or an apartment, or a repair shop. Bruno Heckmeier is making a low-budget movie. There are severe obstacles to overcome. He has an unusual home life. There's an enormous amount of comedy for light entertainment purposes. Some of the story is serious literature. Some is slightly adult.

I found that I cared very deeply about the 7 or 8 principal players in this story. There are many more bit players, and if it seems unusual to have so many characters, please consider that the movie Bruno makes involves a production company of fifty skilled professionals, stunt men, two very capable stars, and an unusual supporting cast. It's a very short schedule, six weeks to organize it, six weeks to shoot everything, and six weeks of post production. Trust me, that's working at lightning speed.

It's a personal story in two respects. I had to write the movie for Bruno to make. And I had to live in Bruno's shoes (and those of all the other characters) with honesty, humor, drama, and a deep understanding of the men and women who call themselves "show people," no matter what their specialty or contribution to a motion picture is. Camera grip, driver, bookkeeper, electrician, set decorator, or seamstress -- they are people who sacrifice much to work a few weeks on a movie, a collaborative art that cannot be created without them. I've done many "below the line" production jobs for an hourly wage, in addition to "above the line" writing, producing, and directing.  You have to take my word for it. Directing is a high privilege.

It's done by lots of different men and women. 'Chiseltown' is directed by a talented, goofy, warmhearted, intelligent middle aged guy who got stuck on Poverty Row doing low-budget movies, while others did studio pictures with an average budget of $75 million. Bruno has to conceive and execute a feature film on 1/5 as much money, and he wants it to succeed, not only at the box office, but critically as well. Being an "indie" confers a great deal of freedom. No studio moguls, Teamsters, or IATSE work rules. The whole of Los Angeles as a locale, in a "period" setting that's fun to shoot.

I always experience emotional awe when I've finished a story. 'Chiseltown' is in a class of its own, among all the stories I've written, among all the fictional characters that I loved and still love, of course. The story of making a movie is a personal confession of my lifelong passion.  'Chiseltown' is a movie I didn't get to make, and it's deeply gratifying to have directed its fictional creation. Many of the characters are based on people who I knew and worked with and loved.

Please buy a copy (less than $5 at Lulu) and review it. Thanks.