by | Nov 5, 2023 | Extraordinary Guest Bloggers | 7 comments

Writing Outside the Box

Lee Goldberg Goes Rogue

Chris Goff: I first met Lee Goldberg at a Bouchercon some 20 years ago, and what sticks with me is his sense of humor and bigger-than-life personality. The man was holding court in the hotel foyer, recounting a conversation he’d had with his beautiful wife, Valerie (who is French), and he was dressing himself down in this questionable French accent that had his all-star audience rolling on the floor. I later discovered Lee is a two-time Edgar Award and two-time Shamus Award nominee and the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty novels, including the Ian Ludlow thrillers, fifteen Monk mysteries, and the internationally bestselling Fox & O’Hare books, co-written with Janet Evanovich. He has also written and/or produced many TV shows, including Diagnosis Murder, SeaQuest, and Monk, and is the co-creator of the hit Hallmark movie series Mystery 101. An international television consultant, he has advised networks and studios in Canada, France, Germany, Spain, China, Sweden, and the Netherlands on the creation, writing, and production of episodic television series.

Is it any wonder he’s entertaining?

Now, he has done what many writers dreams of doing—he’s thrown the rule book out the window. His latest book, Calico, pulls from multiple genres and delivers a tight, hard-edged, witty book that melds a police procedural with a western theme into an explosive time-traveling thriller you can’t put down. 

Win a FREE copy of Calico! Two Rogue Reads subscribers will be chosen the night of Nov. 5 to win a copy of Lee Goldberg’s new novel! Sign up to enter while you still can!

By Lee Goldberg
Calico by Lee Goldberg

When you read a contemporary police procedural or a period western, you go into them with certain expectations about the stories, the characters, and the themes you’re going to find. Those expectations are what defines those very different genres. While some of those tropes are necessary, many of them are tired, ridiculous cliches. I set out with my thriller Calico to honor the tropes of those two genres while twisting them in new ways and bringing them together in a single, propulsive thriller.

I’m tired of brilliant, noble, middle-aged, big-city cops working against the system to catch serial killers…or the dedicated, small-town police chiefs enforcing the law, despite political interference, through the strength of their big personalities and unwillingness to bend. I’m also fed up with Westerns that depict a sanitized frontier where the streets are clean, the cowboys have perfect teeth (and, in the case of Gene Autry, Randolph Scott, The Lone Ranger, Marshal Matt Dillon, and the Cartwrights, perfect hair and practically dry-cleaned clothes), everybody is a quick-draw, and the vistas are majestic and awe-inspiring. 

Most of the tropes aren’t remotely true to life, and totally predictable, but there’s no denying the satisfaction that some of them deliver. So how could I be true to them…and subvert them at the same time?

In Calico, the heroine, if you can call her that, is a disgraced, ex-LAPD detective working as a deputy in Barstow: a bleak, dying, desert town that nobody wants to live in. She fights her crushing boredom in exile with sex and alcohol. She’s never chased a serial killer…and she never will. But she’s a good, methodical detective and all she needs, all she craves, is a chance to prove it again, even if it’s only to herself. And she gets her chance when an old couple in a motor home run over a vagrant in the desert, a fatal accident that seems mundane, until it isn’t. That’s the police procedural.

Lee Goldberg breaks down Old West tropes in his new novel Calico

The truth about the Old West is that the people had horrible teeth, dirty clothes, and bad skin. They smelled terrible. The frontier towns were incredibly filthy, stinky, unsanitary places, with excrement and urine from man and beast in the streets. And those were the nice towns. But Calico, a mining town in California’s Mojave desert, was even worse. Water was scarce, the heat was unbearable, and life was brutal, even if you weren’t digging in the mines. There was no sheriff, no jails, and no bank, but plenty of bars and brothels. And that’s where our hero wanders in. He’s not a lawman or a bounty hunter or even a cowboy. He doesn’t carry a gun, nobody does, and he wouldn’t know how to shoot one if he did. He’s a stranger, desperate to find a way to survive in this hostile, desolate landscape. That’s the Western. 

But as an added twist to the tropes, the two stories converge across time and genres. That’s what kept me entertained as I wrote it and, I hope, will delight, intrigue and surprise readers, too…while also giving them exactly what they expect.

Everyone is going to want to read this book! CALICO goes on sale November 7, so order your copy today. You can find more information about Lee and his work at www.leegoldberg.com.

Win a FREE copy of Calico! Two Rogue Reads subscribers will be chosen the night of Nov. 5 to win a copy of Lee Goldberg’s new novel! Sign up to enter while you still can!

Do you love books that twist genres and subvert tropes?

New York Times best selling author Lee Goldberg

Lee Goldberg writes books and television shows.

His mother wanted him to be a doctor, and his grandfather wanted him to go into the family furniture business. Instead, he put himself through UCLA as a freelance journalist. Goldberg now works as a consultant, producer, and writer for Hollywood television series and author of both fiction and non-fiction. He is #1 New York Times bestselling author and his upcoming release, Calico, will be available Nov. 7.

Lee Goldberg lives in Los Angeles with his wife and his daughter.

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  1. Denise Ongarato

    How did you come up with this topic to write about?

    • Lee Goldberg

      I don’t know, Denise. I just thought it might be interesting to share one of the challenges I faced writing this book (one of many, btw.)

  2. Lisa Black

    I love the idea of mashing all these genres together! Truthfully, I haven’t read a western in probably 40 years…so this will be an experience.

    • Lee Goldberg

      You’re missing out, Lisa. There are some fantastic westerns out there — like Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE (my favorite book of all time), James Daniels THE COMANCHE KID, Thomas Berger’s LITTLE BIG MAN, Charles Portis TRUE GRIT, Claire Huffaker’s COWBOY & THE COSSACK, Jim Bosworth’s LONG WAY NORTH, and AB Guthrie’s THE WAY WEST to name just a few. I hope you enjoy CALICO. Let me know one way or the other 🙂

  3. Karna Small Bodman

    I have followed Lee Goldberg’s incredible writing career — I love Janet Evanovich’s book and am glad they decided to write a few together. I also (still) love watching the old DIAGNOSIS MURDER series which is often reshown on a few networks. Now, I can’t wait to read CALICO — thanks. Lee, for being our guest on RWW!

    • Lee Goldberg

      It was my pleasure, Karna!

  4. Chris Goff

    I loved this book, Lee. Thanks for sharing how it came about. It’s inspiring.