Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Curse Of The Black Tower


Coming Soon: Sten And The Pirate Queen



In Hollywood... they don't throw their garbage away. They make it into television shows. 
(Woody Allen) 
The Golden Screw
As we crept from beneath the scary shadow of the Black Tower and headed for the Studio gates, Chris said, "I think we were just royally screwed, Cole."

No disagreement here. But I said nothing until we had waved goodbye to Scotty, everyone's favorite gate guard, and Chris pointed the BMW toward home.

As he negotiated his way onto the freeway, I said, "We were royally screwed not just once, partner mine - or even twice. We were screwed seven times over."

Chris' eyes cut to me, then back to the traffic. "How so?" he asked in a dread-laden voice.

I sighed. "While you were in the Head, Larry told me that was the standard deal Universal requires of its writers. Seven years. Renewable each year on Universal's option, not ours."

It is a testament to Chris' driving skills that he didn't lose it right there and pile into a big damned Shell Oil tanker truck that had jumped lanes in front of us.

"Well, we won't fucking sign it," Chris said.

"Do you really think we have a choice?" I asked.

Chris' brows furrowed. Thinking over what had just happened.


Mr. Thompson Will See You Now
The three of us - Chris, me, and our agent, Larry Grossman - followed the silk-clad posterior of Peter's lovely executive assistant into his office.

Peter waited behind his incredibly expensive antique desk, framed by a huge window that looked out on a significant portion of the World Of Entertainment. (Lest you forget, Gentle Reader, Peter Thompson was head of production for MCA/Universal, prince of the Studios' Black Tower, and one of the el primo Guys With The Big Telephones.)

He watched us enter, smiling that Highwayman's smile and when we were settled, and he'd asked his assistant to bring us refreshments, he waited until she closed the door then let the smile dissolve into a gleam of sharp teeth.

And he said, “Now what’s this bloody shit about you boys not coming on board at Galactica 1980?”

Our agent, a really, really nice guy, said, “I’m sure it’s just a little misunderstanding, Peter. Something we can clear up in no time.”

It was no misunderstanding. Jeff (The EatAnter) Freilich had asked us to write an episode for GL80. A show we had no liking for whatsoever and only agreed to the script deal because Jeff was a "friend." At the meeting, he'd asked us to join him on GL80 as story editors but claimed to take no offense after we refused as politely as we possibly could. Obviously, this was bullshit and he'd gone and did his EatAnter whine to Peter that we were badly needed, but were bull-headedly ignoring his entreaties.

Private Doberman
Of course, we couldn't say any of that. And when Chris nearly slipped and opened his mouth, Larry shot him a warning look. Then he was all beatific smiles again, doing his best to charm Peter back into good humor. Our agent always reminded me a little of Private Doberman of Sgt. Bilko fame. Larry was a chubby little cherub with a lust for chocolate turtles and a passion for small carvings of elephants. His specialty was comedy. How he came to represent us is a whole story in itself, which I will tell down the road.

After the executive assistant had delivered the refreshments, Peter made with a sigh of great sorrow. Disappointment, even. “My dear boys,” he said. “What have I done that you would treat me this way?”

Chris and I hastened to assure him that we were the best of pals, owed him our very lives and intended to name our grandchildren after him if we ever had any.

“It’s not that we don’t want to work for the show,” I lied. On the face of it, Galactica 1980 was many levels below abysmal. “But we have a novel due. Soon it will be overdue. And, frankly, Peter, we’re making more money freelancing than you could ever pay us on staff.”

Peter snorted. “You have no idea,” he said, “what staff money is.”

In our partnership, it was my role to beard the beast, so I continued on with our well-planned (ha) defense. “We’re not trying to be difficult, Peter,” I said. “But we really like working on a smorgasbord of shows. We’re learning so much, jumping from one show to the other.

"It’s like the old days when magazines were king and writers served up short stories to dozens of different publications. It’s a real learning experience, Peter. Besides, we’re already agreed to write a script for Galactica… a really dynamite idea about earthquakes… and we’ll write as many more as Jeff and Frank want.”

(Frank was Frank Lupo, who shared Showrunner duties with Jeff. He was the boy genius on the lot. A former cab driver, he’d risen quickly through the ranks to co-helm his first show. Though GL80 failed miserably, it wasn’t Frank’s fault. And he was so damned good that nobody tried to blame him.)

Peter took my statement in. Nodding in gentle (was it agreement?) as I made point after point.

When I paused for breath, he said: “Are you quite finished, my dear boy?”

I admitted I was.

Peter inquired, “So, you’ll agree to write more than one episode for us on Galactica 1980?”

“As many as you want,” Chris put in. “We’re ready.”

“How kind of you,” Peter said, but he said it in a way that we knew he didn’t really think we were being kind one damn bit.


This was not going well.

Peter said, “Allan... Chris... In the time I’ve come to know you two, I like to think that I’ve become an uncle to you. A wise uncle.”

He gestured for agreement or disagreement.

We did not disagree.

“Since we met during those first days at Quincy, I’ve also thought of myself as your mentor. I saw talent.” He paused and looked at both of us. Then at Larry. Then added, “Great talent. Rare talent.”

Our agent nodded vigorously. Larry wasn’t bullshitting, by the way. He really thought well of us. And was trying to bring us along in Larry’s very personal way. In later days we screwed up big time and traded Larry for some sweet-talking devils. It was the second worst mistake we ever made.

“I was the first producer to buy one of your scripts,” Peter said. More nods of agreement. (Although, actually our break came courtesy of Jack Klugman, star of Quincy M.E., and friend to writers everywhere. But this was no time to quibble.) “And since then,” he continued, “I’ve done my best for you.”

He laid his hand across the phone positioned before him. “Many a time I have picked up this phone in your behalf,” he said.

My mouth went dry. I knew what he was going to do next.

“And many times I spoke your names into the receiver…” He picked up the phone and whispered into it: “Bunch and Cole.”

Then he lowered the phone. Replaced it in its cradle.

“Now, my dear boys,” he went on, “it would be just as easy for me to..… well… ” He patted the phone… “Well, you know…. There are some who are my friends… and some who are….”

He let the rest slide. But we certainly got his point.

Larry said, “I’m sure the guys are eager to help you out on this, Peter.” He turned to us. His eyes saying it all: Blow this and you are dead. “Aren’t you, boys?”

“Damn straight,” Chris said.

“It was our intention all along,” I added.

"When would they start?" our agent asked.

Peter looked us over. First me. Then Chris. Making certain his victory was assured.

And he said, "Monday wouldn't be too soon."


"I won't fucking do it," my partner said, maneuvering the car around the Shell Oil tanker. "I will not - Capital N-O-T, NOT - bend 'em and spread 'em for the likes of Peter Thompson and fucking Universal Studios."

"You're right," I said. "Fuck him. We'll tell Larry to have Peter stick his contract where the sun don't shine."

Later - after we'd had a couple of soothing Scotch and waters -  we thought we'd best seek the advice of someone who didn't have a dog in the fight. Larry was on our side, of course. But, he also got ten percent of our action, so we weren't sure how unbiased his opinion would be.

Story? What story?
We got our producer/mentor, Al Godfrey, on the line and told him our sad story. Godfrey, you may recall, succeeded Peter as Showrunner at Quincy and had bailed us out of a jam Peter has stuck us well into. (See, Episode #5: What's The Story Boys?)

Godfrey said, "You do realize, don't you, that you guys have only been in the business for a few months and you are already being tapped as story editors on the most expensive show in TV history?"

"It's a shit show," Chris said.

"So what?" Godfrey said. "Shitty is the definition of television. Comes with the cost of admission, which is Free."

"Yeah, but this is really shitty, Al," I said. "We don't want our names associated with it."

Godfrey sighed a weary sigh. "Boys," he said, "do you really think anybody ever looks at the 'Written By' part of the End Credits? Shit, by that time they're taking a bathroom break, grabbing a snack, or onto the next lousy show."

"It's a total loser," Chris said. "It's gonna be canceled."

"Everything's eventually canceled," Godfrey said. "The good news is - then you can go home."

"What about the seven-year contract?" I asked.

There was a long silence from Godfrey.

"Al?" Chris pressed. "Al?"

Finally, Godfrey said, "Better buy some KY, boys. You're fucked."

I said, "Is it really for seven years? That's like being indentured servants."

Godfrey said, "The way it works, is that your first contract period will probably be for ten weeks or twenty weeks."

"That's not so bad," Chris said. "We can handle a couple of months. The show will be kicked off the air, and they won't need us anymore."

A Seven-Year Sentence
Godfrey grunted. "Yeah, but that's not how it goes. Canceled or not, when that time is up it is Peter's choice on whether to pick up your deal for whatever is left of the first 52 weeks. If he does that, then you are on the hook for the full seven years. And you'll have to work on whatever show they want you on. Shit, they can even loan you out to another studio, if they so fucking desire."

"What if we refuse to sign the contract? I asked.

Godfrey said, "Right now Universal is just about the only game in town when it comes to television. If Peter blackballs you - and he will - then you've just lost over eighty percent of your freelance market."

"Well, shit and fall back in it," Chris said. "Guess we've got no choice."

Godfrey said, "Look on the bright side, boys. Think of it as an adventure."

Chris said. "Last time I had an adventure some little guys in black pajamas kept trying to kill my ass."



Between February and May of 1942, German U-boats operated with impunity off the Florida coast, sinking scores of freighters from Cape Canaveral to Key West and killing nearly five thousand people. Residents were horrified witnesses of the attacks—the night skies were aflame and in the morning the beaches were covered with oil and tar, ship parts and charred corpses. The Germans even landed teams of saboteurs charged with disrupting war efforts in the factories of the North. This novel is based on those events. For my own purposes, I set the tale in the fictitious town of Juno Beach on the banks of the equally fictitious Seminole River—all in the very real Palm Beach County, a veritable wilderness in those long ago days. Among the witnesses were my grandfather and grandmother, who operated an orchard and ranch in the area. 


The year is 1778 and the Revolutionary War has young America trapped in the crossfire of hatred and fear. Diana, an indentured servant, escapes her abusive master with the help of Emmett Shannon, a deserter from the desperate army at Valley Forge. They fall in love and marry, but their happiness is shattered and Diana Shannon must learn to survive on her own. From that moment on she will become a true woman of her times, blazing a path from lawless lands in the grips of the Revolution, to plague-stricken Philadelphia, to the burning of Washington in the War Of 1812.

Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It 
Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.


THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions. 

NEWLY REVISED KINDLE EDITIONS OF THE TIMURA TRILOGY NOW AVAILABLE. (1) When The Gods Slept;(2) Wolves Of The Gods; (3) The Gods Awaken.


A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.



What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)


A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan

After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.

BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 



Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.

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