With Michael Barson

1) You’ve written three Buddy Steel novels to go along with the three best-selling Jesse Stone novels you wrote several years ago following the death of your good friend Robert B. Parker… In writing “Stealth” as a short story, how did you approach the writing versus what you do for a Buddy Steel novel?

As is the case with the other Buddy Steel mysteries, the pace of Buddy’s life goes from zero to sixty within the first few pages. STEALTH is no different.

The normally laconic Buddy, currently serving his infirm father, Sheriff Burton Steel, as his chief deputy, is confronted with the disappearance of three members of three prominent San Remo County law firms.

It falls to Buddy to discover why and how they vanished.

When Buddy discerns the threat to the lives of the three victims, who turn out to have been kidnapped by a ruthless gangland assassin seeking to wreak vengeance, he finds himself in a race with the clock to locate and save them.

The nature of this case, and the speed with which Buddy must operate in order to succeed, lends itself nicely to the short story format. No modifications to my usual approach were necessary.

2) Obviously the health crisis in the world right now has likely shut down all production on the next Jesse Stone TV movie that you’ve been writing with star Tom Selleck… But can you tell us a little about the basic story you and Tom devised for this new production?

As with each of the previous Jesse Stone movies, the narrative lines have always been closely held secrets. So it is with COLLATERAL DAMAGE.

3) Having worked with Robert B. Parker over a period of many years both adapting Spenser and Jesse Stone for television films and creating original westerns, you are in a unique position to comment on how Bob would have handled the current crisis were he alive today—no baseball, no book tours, no restaurants… Walk us through it please.

It’s a challenge to try to imagine how Bob would react to anything. Especially a pandemic. Household quarantine? For Bob? Hmmmm…

Bob used to say that were it not for Joan, he’d rarely leave the house.  Claimed he would be content to eat pizza standing over the sink.

And he sure did love his baseball.  Said he hibernated during the winter and only woke up on the day the pitchers and catchers reported.

Keep in mind Bob was also a chow hound who cherished any number of restaurants. And we mustn’t forget how much he loved to complain.  This pandemic would most certainly have gotten his goat and no doubt we’d all be hearing about it.

But we can be sure that unquestionably Bob would be working on three or four books, all at the same time.

Five pages a day, six days a week…  Spenser. Jesse Stone.  Sunny Randall.  Cole and Hitch.

No pandemic could hope to interfere with that uncanny discipline.

4) Whenever I read a Buddy Steel book I can’t help picturing the late actor Melvin Douglas (HUD) as his irascible dad, the former sheriff of a coastal California town whom Buddy has had to replace for health reasons. If the Buddy Steel series was developed now for a television series, which actors would you like to cast as the principals? 

The possibility of a Buddy Steel movie or series is under consideration.  And so the casting is a topic of conversation.

In the best of all possible worlds, my first choice for the role of Sheriff Burton Steel would be Tom Selleck. We’ve made twelve movies together.  Nine Jesse Stone TV films and three westerns. Let us also not forget Tom’s masterful performances in Blue Bloods, Magnum, Quigley Down Under, Ike, and An Innocent Man.

Burton Steel is another flawed figure.  A one-time iron-man now forced to confront his own mortality. Perfect fodder for Tom Selleck!

As for Buddy—although there are any number of very good actors whom we would be lucky to have and who could deliver excellent performances, if there was any chance of getting him, I’d love to see Jeremy Renner’s interpretation of the character. Crusty, dark, funny, lovable, vulnerable, complex… Renner’s performances are always a panoply of boldly colorful characteristics. It would be interesting to see his take on Buddy Steel.

5) How this pandemic is going to affect your OWN writing in the year to come… in both the work of your plotting and character arc and such, and also in the promotion and selling of the book once published?

I believe that post-pandemic, we will be living in disquieting times… uncertain, unsettled, unfamiliar. I don’t think we’ll be able to just pick up where we left off without acknowledging how dramatically our lives have changed.

Buddy Steel also will have lived through the pandemic.  How will he have been impacted by it?

His father, the Sheriff, and his step-mother, the Mayor, are both members of the demographic targeted by the virus.  Will they survive?

How will the new wave of pandemic-inspired scams and crimes affect the San Remo County Sheriff’s department?

As first responders, how will they fare?  Will any of them contract the disease?  Will they all survive?

What toll will the new psychological and economic realities exact in the business of maintaining order in San Remo County?

A new Buddy Steel mystery will have to mirror all of these exigencies. And at the same time, appeal to readers who will have been impacted in much the same manner as has Buddy.

We have to hope that the bookstores re-open and that the book business will once again be relevant and vibrant. And, most importantly, that writers and publishers will comprehend and keep pace with the challenges of a newly re-imagined culture.

STEALTH: a Buddy Steel short story by Michael Brandman, will be published in May as an e-book by Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks

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