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Reflections on ‘Law & Order’

L-O

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve been watching reruns of the TV series Law & Order as I’ve had time. Both the ION network and WETV carry the series reruns and between them have run the entire 20 seasons. (Law & Order – the original – is the longest running hour-long TV series in history. It’s 20 seasons tie with Gunsmoke for number of seasons, but Gunsmoke was a ½ hour show for its first six seasons.)

Law & Order had many cast changes over the years – no one on the original cast stayed past season 10 – and some of the principal characters have generated their own followings and controversies. Each episode of the series was divided into two parts. In the first part, two police detectives and their supervisor investigated the crime presented at the beginning of the show. In the second part, the offenders were prosecuted by an Executive Assistant District Attorney with help from an Assistant District Attorney and support from the District Attorney.

Some observations about the series, which ran from the fall of 1990 to the spring of 2010:

  • The Assistant DAs, with one exception, were all female and most had very little to do with the actual prosecution. This did change somewhat as the series progressed, with a few individual episodes highlighting the ADA, but for the most part, the ADA was a shadow role.
  • Of the four District Attorneys portrayed, three were men. Only one of the four, in my opinion, credibly represented the office of the DA.
  • There was only one female detective portrayed during the series, and it was seriously miscast. Conversely, the detective supervisor was portrayed longest and best by a woman.
  • The detective roles, as well as that of the Executive Assistant DA, had their strongest characters in the middle of the series, with weaker portrayals at the beginning and end. (Although in both cases, the characters at the end of the series were stronger than those at the beginning.)

 

So, here’s my list of the best – and worst – of the series. Feel free to add your thoughts.

Detectives: By far, the best was Lennie Briscoe, portrayed by Jerry Orbach. He brought a weariness of experience to the role, but also showed an understanding of those who had less culpability of their own making. As for the ‘secondary’ detective, I actually pick three: Mike Logan – played by Chris Noth, Rey Curtis – played by Benjamin Bratt, and Ed Green – played by Jesse L. Martin. I felt that each of these characters were credible in their own ways.

Detective Supervisor: This one is pretty easy, since the part was only played by two actors during the series run. Hands down, Lt. Anita Van Buren – played by S. Epatha Merkerson, was believable in the role and seemed to have a handle on what it is actually like to supervise competent investigators.

Executive Assistant DA: Another easy pick. Jack McCoy – played by Sam Waterston, was a tough but – in most cases – steady influence on the choices a prosecutor must make and how they go about their job. He was far superior to the whiny Benjamin Stone – portrayed by Michael Moriarty — and much more rational in his decisions than the later EADA Michael Cutter – played by Linus Roache. Contrarily, I didn’t think Waterston’s portrayal of the District Attorney, after he was ‘elevated’ to the position, was very credible.

Assistant District Attorney: Again, this was really more of a ‘gofer’ position with no real part in the prosecutorial process, except in rare instances. That said, I think Claire Kincaid – played by Jill Hennessey — did as much to bring realism to the part as anyone who had the role. Generally, Elisabeth Röhm’s portrayal of ADA Samantha Southerlyn is regarded as the worst characterization of the entire series. I don’t agree. While Röhm is far from the best actor to ever portray a role, I don’t think she was as bad in this role as she is often portrayed.

District Attorney: This one, for me, was a case of the first was the best, Steven Hill as Adam Schiff. None of the successors – Nora Lewin (Dianne Wiest), Arthur Branch (Fred Dalton Thompson) or Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston) – came close to the authenticity of Hill’s character.

Not as Bad as Often Portrayed: I’ve already mentioned Elisabeth Röhm’s portrayal of Samantha Southerlyn, but I also need to add the character of Alexandra Borgia (Annie Parisse). Parisse is also usually panned in the critiques of the series, but I felt she played a reasonably strong character, especially given the constraints of the role.

The Most Miscast: Admittedly, I’m somewhat influenced by her subsequent work, but I think the biggest mistake in casting was Angie Harmon in the role of ADA Abby Carmichael. The weakness of the part didn’t help but to me, Harmon was over the top as a tough, take no prisoners ADA. Although I am influenced by her later work in Rizzoli and Isles, I think the producers of Law & Order missed an opportunity to cast Harmon as Orbach’s fellow detective.

Admittedly, Law & Order suffered from the same constraints as any TV ‘cop show’ but I think it did better than most as portraying the investigative/legal process.

Feel free to add your thoughts in comments.

By |March 24th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |1 Comment

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How to Support an Author

Most of us realize that there is a lot of work which goes into producing a written work, particularly a novel. The scene that takes five minutes to read may have taken the author hours to script, plot, write, edit, re-write, and edit some more. Of course, the reader is rewarding the author on one level by purchasing his/her book. But if we truly appreciate the time and dedication that went into the pages that give us a few hours of enjoyment, there’s another important step for each reader: Support the author with a review.

“But what if I didn’t like the book?” That’s okay. As long as the review is honest and respectful, no one says it has to be glowing. In fact, critics and authors themselves look for those reviews that might be stellar. It can help the author improve his/her writing skills, as well as provide a measure of validity to the entire review process. No book, no matter what the lofty credentials of the author, is perfect. Authors, if they are honest about it, know that and acknowledge it. But we all strive to be, if not perfect, at least a better writer in the current book that we might have been in the last one.

That’s not to say, of course, that you shouldn’t rate a book with five stars if you truly believe the work merits it. Authors, like everyone else, need a pat on the back once in a while and an acknowledgement of ‘job well done,’ even if there’s room for improvement. There always is.

But the common thread here is to support an author with a review. A review is useless to the author if it doesn’t exist.

 

A few days ago I ran across a meme on Facebook which describes very well the attributes of supporting an author through a review. The meme was uncredited so I don’t know who originally created it, but I’m re-creating it here as a guide for all readers:

 

HOW TO SUPPORT AN AUTHORstack-of-books

  • Purchase their work (Avoid pirating sites)
  • Always click “like” on Amazon and click on the tagged descriptions of their books
  • Review their work on Amazon & Goodreads
  • Join their fan pages – PARTICIPATE
  • Share links, tell your friends, get others involved.

By |February 27th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |0 Comments

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Track Your Book Collection

How do you track your book collection? If you’re like me, you have a lot of books. They’re on bookshelves, packed away in boxes, or sitting in stacks on the floor. Some are unread, others read long ago but still remembered. And some, well maybe started and never finished. But in the homes of most readers, there are books.

Probably like you, I’ve used paper lists, which perhaps gave way to something ‘exotic’ like an excel spreadsheet to track my books. But keeping those lists up to date was often more tedious than the benefits the lists provided.

But I recently discovered a software tool that tracks my books, whether I’ve read them one time or a hundred, and tells me, to any degree I wish to track, where they are. That tool is called CLZ Books.  There are versions of the program available for Windows, Mac, Apple IOS and Android platforms.  And CLZ has its own cloud base to keep everything synchronized across your devices.

 

Using the Program

What’s more, entry is a breeze. The easiest way is to enter the book’s ISBN. This can be done by typing it manually, or even faster by scanning the ISBN bar code with your phone’s camera or desktop webcam. The program then searches CLZ’s database of books and gives you a complete entry, including title, author(s), publisher, number of pages, and other relevant information.  You can then personalize the entry with items such as the owner of the book (you or maybe some other family member), the location of the book, and whether you’ve read it.  You can even create more specific locations, such as a particular shelf in your living room book case.

CLZ

Books are also easily sorted by title, by author, or other criteria such as genre. Your collection can be displayed by their book covers, as shown in the example, or in a sorted list.  And any changes you make to your entries are uploaded to the CLZ cloud for syncing to additional devices.

All versions of the software are now free. You pay a one-time fee based on the number of books you have in your collection.

And for those with other pursuits, CLZ also makes software to similarly track movies, music albums, comics, and games.

 

By |February 8th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |0 Comments

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Autographed Book Copies

Based on requests from some readers for autographed copies of my books, I have modified the book pages on my website. The ‘Buy Paperback’ option on each individual book page now takes the user to a Paypal order page. Previously, the option took the user directly to my printer’s order site. However, with this change, all orders for paperback books will come directly to me. In this way, I can autograph the books before they go out to the reader.

The order page gives the reader an option for a standardized autograph. However, the reader can also request a personalized comment during the order process.

I’m excited to be able to provide this option to my readers and look forward to hearing from you.

 

Go to the “Mike’s Books” dropdown option on the menu bar and select the book of your choice.

By |February 5th, 2016|Categories: General|Tags: |0 Comments

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You Have 1/2 Second to Decide

It’s been a topic in the news lately. A police officer is confronted by a person carrying a gun. The person points the gun at the officer.

The officer has 1/2 second to decide – does he shoot or not?

Is it a real gun? Does it make a difference if the person holding the gun is obviously a teenager?

How would you do in this situation?

While it’s true that police officers are more familiar with firearms than the majority of citizens, the decision is far from easy in many cases. As an example, look at the two firearms in the photo below.  One is a Colt .45 caliber pistol. It fires a slug almost 1/2 inch in diameter, fully capable of killing a person with one shot. The other is a pellet gun. It shoots a small lead projectile propelled by compressed air. It can hurt you, but isn’t likely to kill you.

You’re a police officer facing one of these weapons. Is it a real firearm or a pellet gun? You have 1/2 second to decide.

 

comparison

 

 

A California Highway Patrol officer recently encountered a situation involving one of the weapons shown above. In that case, no one was injured. But that officer still wonders ‘what if?’

Yes, it’s tragic when anyone is needlessly injured by a police action. But when you read about an officer who encountered someone who ‘merely pointed a toy gun‘ at the officer, think about how you would decide if the ‘toy’ looked like one of those weapons above.

 

(The real .45 is the one on the right.)

By |February 1st, 2016|Categories: Current Events, General|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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A 2016 Resolution

The New Year’s Resolution!  Yes, this is the time of year when we all dedicate our resolve to accomplish new goals, or perhaps just to rededicate our resolve from last year. Either way, I am no exception.

2015 was not a banner year for the Angela Masters Detective Novel series, at least from a development standpoint. Oh, sales were fine and I’m still happy that new people are discovering the series. And yes, I completed a revision of my first novel, Retribution, which trimmed quite a lot of unneeded material and made the story tighter while keeping the theme intact.

But for 2015, work on my sixth novel, tentatively titled Proven, lagged.  While I like the underlying premises, and the associated real-life cases, I had some difficulty in bringing them together in a cohesive story. Call it writer’s block on a large scale.

But I’ve dedicated (or is that re-dedicated) myself to completing the book in the first half of 2016.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement, and your relentless ‘hints’ for the sixth book to be released. I’ll do my best not to disappoint.

 

By |January 3rd, 2016|Categories: Work in Progress|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

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Thanks for Purchases

12/28/2015

Thanks to everyone who purchased one or more of the Angela Masters Detective Novels during the holiday. If you haven’t tried one of these suspense novels, they are available through runningspringpress.com
  

By |December 29th, 2015|Categories: General|Tags: |0 Comments

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Why Traditionally Published Authors Are Choosing to Go Indie

Reprinted from the Huffington Post – 10/19/2015

 

Here’s how the indie success story typically goes: little-known new author puts out a book, which skyrockets in popularity in sales and eventually attracts a lucrative deal with a mainstream publisher. It’s a rags-to-riches sort of story that’s mostly re-told to encourage new writers to try out self-publishing for its ease and accessibility to readers.

But what about the opposite side of the coin: the best-selling traditionally published authors who have kicked their publishers to the curb, focused on self-publishing their books both past and present? As self-publishing shrugs off its “vanity press” stigma and becomes recognized as a bonafide and lucrative option, more and more traditionally published authors are finding that going indie just makes more sense.

Recently, author Cornelia Funke decided to launch her very own publishing company, Breathing Books for continuing her Mirrorworld series. While Funke’s books under Little, Brown were bestsellers, Funke decided to self-publish when creative disagreements with the publisher hit a snag–after the book had already been published in Germany by another company. There were other issues as well, including Little, Brown marketing Funke’s Mirroworld series in the 9-12 age range despite Funke intending it for readers 14 and up.

Self-publishing now allows Funke to write, publish and market her books on her own terms. This new freedom has allowed her to put a lot of interesting projects down the pipeline: she intends to release a revised edition of the first novel in the Mirrorworld series, apps based on previous novels, re-release all of her out of print picture books and more. With such a wide variety and scope of projects, Funke embodies the small-business approach to self-publishing.

Breathing new life into books after their initial print run is another popular reason for authors to go indie–not only do their books become available to readers again, but authors can reap up to 70% of a book’s sales price–much larger than the typical royalties return from working with a publisher, which can be as little as 7% for print books of 25% for digital. Traditionally published authors would accept low royalty rates in return for advances or for the marketing of their books, but you can imagine how attractive self-publishing would be for someone who already has a following or built-in audience.

David Mamet made waves a couple years ago for announcing his interest in self-publishing. Mamet is an accomplished and iconic writer, popular enough to not have to rely on a publisher for marketing and exposure. He expressed overall apathy with the traditional system: “Publishing is like Hollywood,” he told the New York Times. “Nobody ever does the marketing they promise.”

Three War Stories, a novella and two short stories, is Mamet’s first self-published book. He published it with Argo Navis Author Services, which is aligned with ICM Partners, his literary agency. Maryanne Vollers, another prominent author represented by the agency, re-issued her first book, Ghosts of Mississippi (originally published in 1995 by Little, Brown), in a revised ebook edition under the same service.

Though recognition alone hasn’t helped every author in the digital self-publishing revolution; after the 2008 recession, bestselling author Eileen Goudge began to become discouraged by slumping sales. But that wasn’t all–publishers began rejecting her manuscripts as well. Finding no other option, Goudge decided to turn to self-publishing to rekindle her literary career, releasing her first indie mystery novel Bones and Roses in August 2014. The book was quite well-received–not a surprise, coming from an author whose work has been translated into 22 languages–and Goudge released the second in her series just last spring.

As with Funke, Goudge was able to focus on projects that met her creative interest without having to be concerned with what would sell to publishers: “I did a course correction and now I’m back to being excited about what I’m writing,” she told Publishers Weekly. Not having to be pigeonholed by a publisher, Goudge was able to turn her attention towards the mystery genre, something she’d always wanted to write. And because she now receives a greater percentage of the sales price of her novel, Goudge is able to sell her indie books at lower prices to entice new readers–the digital edition to Bones and Roses is listed at $4.99.

Then there’s Barbara Freethy, who re-published over a dozen of her backlist titles when they went out of print and the rights reverted back to her. Freethy found so much success with those books that she subsequently created her own publishing company, Fog City Publishing in 2011 (now called Hyde Street Press). Since then she has sold over 4.8 million books and in August 2014, was named the Amazon KDP Bestselling Author of all time. She has had 19 titles appear on The New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists in the past three years, and her title Summer Secrets hit #1 on the New York Times.

Warren Adler, the author of 27 traditionally published novels, including The War of the Roses, tried his hand with Print on Demand (POD) back in the ’90s because he was convinced it would “allow an author a chance to control his own destiny.” In an interview with IndieReader, Adler added, “Beyond moments of joy and fulfillment of which there have been many, the obsession of control lingers. Technology offered me the gift of independence and self-sovereignty, and I jumped at it.”

One assumes that Dr. Phil’s motivations were similar. After publishing numerous titles with Free Press (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) and Hachette, his last two books (Life Code and The 20/20 Diet) were published by his son Jay’s publishing house, Bird Street Books. It should be noted that prior to founding Bird Street, the junior McGraw was also a traditionally published author.

For Claire Cook, the USA Today bestselling author of twelve books, whose first novel was written in her minivan when she 45, its all about reinvention, which not-so-coincidentally is the title of her first nonfiction book, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention. At 50, she walked the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of the adaptation of her second novel, Must Love Dogs. She recently started hew own company, Marshbury Beach Books, to re-release seven of her backlist books, as well as three new ones, including two more titles in what is now her Must Love Dogs series.

Creative freedom, the ability to resurrect old and out-of-print books and take in high royalties make self-publishing seem like a no-brainer for authors who already have an audience. It’s worth mentioning that bigger-named authors in the indie space–which is already overrun with so many new titles and authors each day–might push out or detract attention from lesser-known authors. But having decorated, celebrated authors making use of such platforms can certainly help in legitimizing self-publishing’s image.

  • MirrorWorld
    While Cornelia Funke’s books under Little, Brown were bestsellers, Funke decided to self-publish when creative disagreements with the publisher hit a snag.
  • 3 War Stories
    David Mamet is an accomplished and iconic writer, popular enough to not have to rely on a publisher for marketing and exposure.
  • Ghosts of Mississippi
    Maryanne Vollers re-issued her first book, Ghosts of Mississippi, which was originally published in 1995 by Little, Brown, in a revised ebook edition.
  • Summer Secrets
    Barbara Freethy re-published over a dozen of her backlist titles when they went out of print and subsequently launched her own publishing company which is also responsible for her very successful self-pubbed titles.
  • The War of the Roses
    Warren Adler tried his hand with Print on Demand (POD) back in the ‘90s because he was convinced it would “allow an author a chance to control his own destiny.”
  • Must Love Dogs: New Leash on Life
    For Claire Cook, the USA Today bestselling author of twelve books, whose first novel was written in her minivan when she 45, self-pubbing is all about reinvention.

By |October 23rd, 2015|Categories: General|Tags: |0 Comments

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Fire Storm Video Trailer

Video trailer for Fire Storm – An Angela Masters Detective Novel

 

By |July 12th, 2015|Categories: General|Tags: |0 Comments

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Retribution Video Trailer

This is one version of the video trailer for the revised edition of Retribution – An Angela Masters Detective Novel.

 

By |July 7th, 2015|Categories: General|Tags: |0 Comments

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