by Deborah Harter Williams
Check out KRL’s video interview with Lee Goldberg from Left Coast Crime at the end of this article.
Lee Goldberg broke into television with a freelance script sale to Spenser: For Hire. Since then he has stayed true to his characters in both novels and scriptwriting with a dose of humor.
Brought in by mentor Michael Gleason (creator of Remington Steele) to write four freelance episodes for Diagnosis Murder, over the next few years Lee became one of the supervising producers and then co-executive producer with writing partner William Rabkin.
“We insisted that each episode have, at its core, a medical mystery. Our hero was a doctor, after all, so medicine had to be a big part of the story. They had to be honest mysteries…all the clues had to be there for the viewer to solve the crime, no key evidence could be withheld. We wanted viewers to be able to watch the show again and spot the clues that they missed.
“We also insisted that our characters have an emotional stake in the outcome. And, finally, we tried to do all sorts of mysteries, not just a murder.” When the show went off the air in 1999, Mark Sloan lived on in eight more Diagnosis Murder novels before Goldberg decided he had no more stories to tell about these characters.
In 2003 Rabkin and Goldberg were invited to write three episodes for Monk starring Tony Shalhoub. The results: “Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico,” “Mr. Monk Meets The Godfather,” and “Mr. Monk Can’t See a Thing”. The key to Monk, he says, as set up by creator Andy Breckman, was that it wasn’t enough to come up with a clever mystery…you had to find what was at stake for Monk, how it would create conflict for him and in his relationships with the other characters. “The character of Adrian Monk,” says Goldberg, “is utterly unique…and yet, and this will sound like a contradiction, warmly familiar. He’s Sherlock Holmes and Columbo and so many other beloved detectives…but with a heartwarming and funny twist. Plus the mysteries were terrific…impossible crimes with a really twisted, funny sensibility.”
When Breckman was approached to write the novels based on the show, he passed, but recommended Goldberg. He is now writing his 15th and final book in the series (he even adapted one of his books, Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, into the episode “Mr. Monk Can’t See a Thing.”
Now Goldberg and Rabkin have taken their talents to imaging crimes in South Florida working on the A&E show The Glades, starting its third season in June.
“We had worked with the creator/showrunner Clifton Campbell on two other series–Likely Suspects and Seaquest. So when he got this series, he invited us to come in and write some scripts as freelancers. We are currently writing our third episode.
The hero is a mischievous bad boy with an irreverent approach to life and crime solving. The sunny, blue sky setting populated by great looking people doesn’t hurt either. In this show I would say it’s important that Florida is treated as a character, so we have to make sure that the setting, the world that our characters inhabit, defines the stories that we tell.”
Goldberg’s view of the mystery landscape is that overall, the genre has become more procedural, but he intends to stick with character-based mysteries, saying, “I am just not that interested in the procedural aspects, though I am certainly capable of writing that. It’s just so boring.”
Anyone who has met or heard Goldberg speak (like at the recent Left Coast Crime–see video below) will within minutes be struck by his sense of humor. This leavens and infects all of his stories. “Humor is something I can’t help but add, even in the darkest shows and scripts I have worked on. But in the case of Diagnosis Murder, Monk and The Glades, humor was in the DNA of the shows anyway.”
Check out this video interview with Lee at last week’s Left Coast Crime:
More Left Coast video author interviews coming soon! You can find a review of Lee’s latest Monk book along with another print interview here at KRL.