RARA-AVIS: Stephen Cannell

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 29 Jan 2004

I saw Stephen Cannell at a book-signing at a San Diego bookstore yesterday. I had no idea he was going to be there. I had read his KING CON and thought it was pretty good so I hung around to hear what he had to say.

He's tall and tan and fashionably thin. He says he's got severe dyslexia and failed the first grade and then the fourth and then the tenth. He said an advantage was that he was incredibly popular with the other six-graders when he got his driver's license. He said his first published work was a poem about Martin Luther King. He got a B- on it, but his sister later turned it in as her own and got an A on it and got it published in a school publication. His parents pulled strings and got him into college and a teacher recognized his talent and told him to write constantly.

His dad was a successful businessman and had several furniture stores in the area and Cannell married his high school sweetheart and went to work for his dad. He came home every evening and wrote for five hours. He wrote half the day on Saturdays and Sundays. His uncle was playing golf with a guy named Eisenback who evidently was a big literary agent and Cannell talked his uncle into giving him a script. After several calls to the agent about the script, Eisenback called Cannell in and talked to him about how good a golfer his uncle was. Cannell got impatient and asked if the dickweed had read his script and the guy said no and that he wasn't going to and that scriptwriters were a dime a dozen and that Cannell was wasting his time thinking he could make a living scriptwriting. Cannell gathered up his stuff and left.

Shortly after that he wrote a script for 1 Adam 12 and the following week became the main writer and went on to write a buttload of stuff, including The Rockford Files. He opened his own production company but some law that got passed in 1995 made it difficult to be an independent so he sold it and started writing novels.

He's four or five into a series now. The latest, the one he was signing, is VERTICAL COFFIN. Anybody want to guess what that is an allusion to? I'll bet Jim Doherty knows. I think Cannell said it was police slang.

It was the first book-signing that I've ever attended.


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