Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Monk Goes to The Firehouse; Stephen Marlowe

There was a time when writing TV or movie tie-ins was considered slumming. And most of the tie-ins read like slumming, too. But several years ago, when writers as good as Max Allan Collins, Thomas Cook and Lee Goldberg started writing tie-ins, the field changed. They took their assignments seriously. Tie-ins were no longer just sketchy impressions of movie scripts but fully realized novels that just about any type of reader could enjoy. Many of the tie-ins were better than the movies they promoted.

An example is Mr. Goldberg's new Mr. Monk Goes to The Firehouse (Signet, $6.99). Monk being my favorite crime series on the tube, I was interested to see what Lee could bring to it. It had to help that he's written scripts for the show.

Firehouse is as witty, inventive and just plain fun as any episode I've seen. Narrated by his long-suffering assistant Natalie Teeger, the storyine has Monk's house being fumigated and poor Natalie taking him in for a while. Not surpisingly, Monk finds her home to be a house haunted by germs of every kind.

The mystery here involves a dog dying in the local firehouse and its strange connection to a housefire the same night. Solid as the mystery is, the telling is even better. Lee has found the perfect voice for Natalie's first person narration--sweet, exhausted, frustrated, exasperated and sweet again. None of these feelings have to do with the mystery. They're all reactions to Monk's standard behavior as he wars with all the ways nature is trying to kill him.

Lee Goldberg has managed to concot a novel that's as good as--maybe even a bit better--any of the Monk scripts I've seen on the tube.

From Stephen Marlowe

Hi Ed-
Good piece about sci-fi was also weaned on, and even made some contributions to.
For pure space opera I was kind of partial to Eando Binder too. But wasn't Henry Kuttner Leigh Brackett's husband, or have I got that wrong?

Catherine Moore was Kuttner's wife and Brackett Hamilton's wife. The four of them turned out their generation's best fantasy and horror. And both Brackett and Kuttner were Ray Bradbury's mentors. Now that's a group of people that would be pretty cool to be part of.


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