The Tragic Genius of Robin Williams

williamsI tarried before writing about Robin Williams because his suicide produced such a melancholy in me that I needed a few days for the feeling to fade a bit in order to think about it clearly.

Robin had so much to live for. He had more money than I could ever dream of. (Rumors of financial difficulties were debunked by his agent.) He never had trouble finding creative work. The divorces must have been painful for such a sensitive soul, but he had been happily married for some years now, with a beautiful and intelligent wife and daughter.

I cannot imagine taking my own life–except, perhaps, at the very end, if physical pain should become too difficult to bear. Like Robin, I have much to live for. But depression is a terrible illness.

Robin Williams was never my favorite comedian. George Carlin was, both in life and in death. And I was never a fan of Robin’s movies. Most were heavy-handed message films. Perhaps because of the scripts, but probably because of Robin himself, the characters he portrayed were often cloying and maudlin.

good-morning-vietnam-645-75The one exception was “Good Morning Vietnam,”  because director Barry Levinson had the good sense to chuck the script and let Robin improvise his rantings as an Armed Services Radio disk jockey in the war zone.

Comedic improvisation was Robin’s great gift. No one did it better. Not anyone. Not ever. Only Jim Carrey and Robin’s idol, Jonathan Winters, can be mentioned in the same breath, and they fell a distant second.

He was at his best when he was able to run wild. In his standup routines, of course. In “Mork and Mindy,” where a series of directors gave him free reign. And most of all in his many appearances on late-night talk shows, where his conversations with the likes of Johnny Carson and the others inevitably produced bursts of improvisational brilliance.

MorkMindyOne great moment out of many occurred toward the end of his astonishing appearance on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” The host, James Lipton, asked Robin to explain why his mind worked so much faster than anyone else’s. Robin said he couldn’t explain it but could demonstrate it.

He rose from his seat, approached the audience, and took a pink shawl from a woman in the front row. With this as his prop, he proceeded, in rapid succession, to improvise six very different characters including an oppressed Iranian woman, the Iron Chef, and a car emerging from a car wash. You can find that segment here. But the entire hour-long appearance is available on YouTube here, and I know you’ll love every second of it.

There is no question that he was a rare sort of genius. I’m both sad and angry that he is gone. I miss him like crazy.

 

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Who’s Reading “Providence Rag” Now? It’s Best-Selling Thriller Writer Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder doneJoseph Finder is one of the top thriller writers in the business, and his latest novel, “Suspicion,” is a New York Times best seller. You can learn more about Joe and his work here.

Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. I hope you will purchase a copy from an independent bookstore; you can locate one in your area here.   If that’s not convenient for you, the novel, as well as the first two books in the series, are available in print, e-book, and audio editions here. 

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“Providence Rag” Named One of the Ten Best Crime Novels of the Year

Rag Cover 2My thanks to the great folks at Book People, Texas’s largest independent bookstore, for listing Providence Rag as one of the ten best crime novels (so far) of 2014.

You can read their full list here.

Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. I hope you will purchase a copy from an independent bookstore; you can locate one in your area here.   If that’s not convenient for you, the novel, as well as the first two books in the series, are available in print, e-book, and audio editions here. 

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Who’s Reading “Providence Rag” Now? It’s Basketball Legend John Egan

John Egan doneIn my first novel, Rogue Island, one of the characters had a dozen autographed photos of Providence College basketball stars hanging on his office wall:  Ernie DiGrigorio, Lenny Wilkins, John Thompson, and many more. A few weeks after the book came out, I got an email from John Egan asking why I’d left him out.

Why indeed. Egan was a big star at Providence College. A second-team All American as a senior, he led the Friars to the NIT championship in 1961, back when that tournament decided the national championship. His 39 points against Villanova set the tournament’s single-game scoring record at that time.

The 12th selection in the NBA draft that year, he went on to play 11 pro seasons with the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Baltimore Bullets, Cleveland Cavaliers, San Diego/Houston Rockets and, most notably, the Los Angeles Lakers, where he started on a team that included Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Later, he served as a coach of the Houston Rockets from 1973-76.

I wrote John back, apologizing for the oversight and promising to mention him in every novel in my Mulligan series from then on. And so I have.

That was the start of a beautiful friendship, mostly carried on by email; but John has made a point of showing up for my book signings at Murder By The Book in Houston.  That’s where I took the photo of him reading the book, just before we went to dinner.

John also sent me this great photo of him attempting a reverse layup over my boyhood hero, Boston Celtics center Bill Russell. Russell was the best shot blocker of his day — probably the best ever–so I bet John that the shot was blocked. I lost.

Other players who can be seen in the photo include Wilt Chamberlain, Bailey Howell, Emmett Bryant, and John Havlicek.

EGAN

Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. I hope you will purchase a copy from an independent bookstore; you can locate one in your area here.   If that’s not convenient for you, the novel, as well as the first two books in the series, are available in print, e-book, and audio editions here. 

 

 

 

 

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Who’s Reading “Providence Rag” Now? It’s Thriller Writer Ian Rankin!

Ian Rankin doneIan Rankin, author of the fine Rebus crime novels, is a two-time winner of the Thriller of the Year Award.  I snapped his photo earlier this month at the annual Thrillerfest conference in Manhattan.

You can learn more about Ian and his work here.

Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. I hope you will purchase a copy from an independent bookstore; you can locate one in your area here.   If that’s not convenient for you, the novel, as well as the first two books in the series, are available in print, e-book, and audio editions here. 

 

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Who’s Reading “Providence Rag” Now? Thriller Writer Meg Gardiner

meg gardiner doneThat’s thriller writer Meg Gardiner reading Providence Rag, the latest crime novel in my Edgar Award-winning Mulligan series.  I snapped the photo earlier this month at the Thrillerfest conference in Manhattan.

You can learn more about Meg and her new novel, Phantom Instinct, here.

Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. I hope you will purchase a copy from an independent bookstore; you can locate one in your area here.   If that’s not convenient for you, the novel, as well as the first two books in the series, are available in print, e-book, and audio editions here. 

 

 

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The Sad Decline of The Providence Journal, Model for the Fictional Newspaper in My Mulligan Novels.

Me interviewing V.P candidate Sargent Shriver in Providence during my "Providence Journal" days.

Me interviewing V.P candidate Sargent Shriver in Providence during my “Providence Journal” days.

Liam Mulligan, the protagonist of my Edgar Award-winning crime novels, is an investigative reporter for The Providence Dispatch, a once-great, now dying newspaper in Providence, R.I.  Although The Dispatch is fictional, its decline does resemble what has been happening to the real-life Providence Journal, where I began my journalism career many years ago.

In the 1970s and ’80s, The Journal was a truly great newspaper–so great that if it existed today as it did then it would be one of the three best metros in the country. But decades of declining revenue, circulation, staff, and ambition have diminished it beyond recognition.

In the following article, Scott MacKay, a former Journal reporter who now works for Rhode Island’s NPR affiliate, tells the sad story.

Oh, and if you’re a mind to, you can order my Mulligan novels, including the latest, Providence Rag, here.

 

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Who’s Reading “Providence Rag” Now? Best-Selling Thriller Writer John Lescroat!

John LescroatJohn Lescroat is a New York Times bestselling author whose books have been translated into 16 languages in more than 75 countries. He’s one of the best and most successful thriller writers in existence.

If you’d like to learn more about John and his work, please click here.

Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. I hope you will purchase a copy from an independent bookstore; you can locate one in your area here.   If that’s not convenient for you, the novel, as well as the first two books in the series, are available in print, e-book, and audio editions here. 

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My Review of James Lee Burke’s “Wayfaring Stranger”

burkeJames Lee Burke’s last three novels, Light of the World, Creole Belle, and Feast Day of Fools, were arguably his best. Wayfaring Stranger joins them as one of his most powerful and ambitious novels to date.

To read my full Associated Press book review of Burke’s latest novel,

 

 

 

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Who’s Reading “Providence Rag” Now? It’s Best-Selling Author Scott Turow!

Scott TurowAttorney Scott Turow burst onto the literary scene in 1987 with the runnaway best-seller Presumed Innocent. While continuing an active legal practice, he has since written another eight legal thrillers and two non-fiction books as well as essays for periodicals including The New Yorker, Playboy, and The Atlantic.

Presumed Innocent, just one of his works that were adapted for film, was a huge hit starring Harrison Ford. You can learn more about Scott and his work here.

Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I., newspaper. I hope you will purchase a copy from an independent bookstore; you can locate one in your area here.   If that’s not convenient for you, the novel, as well as the first two books in the series, are available in print, e-book, and audio editions here. 

Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of nine best-selling works of fiction, including his first novel Presumed Innocent (1987) and its sequel, Innocent (May 4, 2010), and his newest novel Identical(2013). His works of non-fiction include One L (1977) about his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic. Mr. Turow’s books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment and Time Magazine‘s Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for Personal Injuries. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into a full length film and two television miniseries. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/scottturow/bio.html#sthash.6F9unKqh.dpuf
Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of nine best-selling works of fiction, including his first novel Presumed Innocent (1987) and its sequel, Innocent (May 4, 2010), and his newest novel Identical(2013). His works of non-fiction include One L (1977) about his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic. Mr. Turow’s books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment and Time Magazine‘s Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for Personal Injuries. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into a full length film and two television miniseries. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/scottturow/bio.html#sthash.6F9unKqh.dpufsdf
Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of nine best-selling works of fiction, including his first novel Presumed Innocent (1987) and its sequel, Innocent (May 4, 2010), and his newest novel Identical(2013). His works of non-fiction include One L (1977) about his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic. Mr. Turow’s books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment and Time Magazine‘s Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for Personal Injuries. His books have been translated into more than 40 languages, sold more than 30 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into a full length film and two television miniseries. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/scottturow/bio.html#sthash.6F9unKqh.dpuf
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