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Friday, May 27, 2011


When I roared up to Chris' house on my Suzuki, he was already rolling his bike into the garage. It was a tricked out Kawasaki Z1 that could do an honest 150 mph, with still more twist in the throttle.

When Chris saw me he pulled a manila envelope from his jacket and waved it. "Got the shit," he said. "Straight from the Guild."

Translation: The "shit" was a list of Guild-sanctioned agents. (Only later did I realize just how right-on that description was.)The Writers Guild Of America-west (WGAw) was a union of brother and sister scribes we had recently joined. You had to sell at least one movie, or two episodes of television to qualify. We'd managed that sale - a low budget flick about The Lost Dutchman Mine that would never be made. But it did pay well enough to cover the several thousand dollars it cost for WGA membership.

I made appropriate "hot damn" noises and we repaired to his home office, equipped with one state-of-the-art IBM Selectric for Chris, and an elderly electric typewriter whose particulars I can't recall, but I can tell you that when you hit a letter, a key rose up on a slender, curved metal type bar, which struck an ink-soaked ribbon, making an impression of the chosen letter on a piece of paper. In that pre-I-Pad age it wasn't quite a quill pen, but close.

Chris shook two copies of the list from the envelope so we could get to it. "It's divided up by state and city," Chris said, "but we can ignore most of them. Met another writer - a pro - coming out of the Guild office who was nice enough to give us some tips."

I fanned the pages. "Skip everything but Los Angeles, right?" I guessed. We were newbies, but not so new that we didn't know if you wanted a book agent you stuck with New York City and if you wanted a film agent, you stuck with Los Angeles.

"Narrowing it down to LA isn't enough," Chris said. "The guy told me that the only agents worth a fuck are In The Loop?"

"What's The Loop?" I asked, naturally enough.

"Basically, anything within a thirty-mile radius of SAG headquarters," he replied. (SAG is the Screen Actors Guild.) "He said by contract the actors get more bennies for any shoot outside that area, and the other unions basically follow suit. So that's where any agent worth a shit hangs his toupee." (Here's a modern list, boiled way down)

"Another thing," Chris said, "he warned us that just because an agent is what he called 'A Guild Signatory,' and is 'In The Loop,' doesn't mean he's worth a bucket of warm spit. First red alert, he said, is if they are ready to sign you at the drop of the fucking hat. They're just churning for scripts, hoping to come up with a winner. Second - and this was the biggest caution - is that if anybody asks you for money, tell them to fuck off. They are crooks. No fucking exceptions, he said."

I laughed. "An easy lay that asks for money is to be avoided," I said. "Sounds like somebody's uncle talking."

We got to work: dividing the list, then narrowing it down; first by zip code, then by the Agency's comments - if any. More than a few said they weren't taking on new clients. Much later, we learned that actually meant they would only consider writers recommended by somebody already in the business. All of them discouraged phone calls. They wanted a query letter, and if they liked the letter, they'd graciously permit us to send samples of our work. And we'd go from there.

(For my brother and sister scribes just getting started in the ink-stained wretch business, here's the format that Chris and I used.)

Chris said, "I think we oughta send a query letter to every single swinging dick and dickette."

I agreed."Writers' Market says you're supposed to approach them one at a time. That's bullshit. We'll be old and past it before we get to the end of the list."

And so that's what we did: A mass mailing of query letters, but with each letter tailored to what we could find out about the agency. In the following weeks, some positive replies trickled in.

Quite naturally, they wanted to see some script samples. Here's where the mass mailing idea turned up a flaw in our cunning plan. In those Neolithic times there was no such thing as a home printer or copy machine. Unless, of course, you had a spare 10 grand handy - which is what a printer cost back then. According to my handy-dandy inflation calculator, that'd be $38,909.73 in modern currency.

Bottom line: if you wanted copies you were at the mercy of print shops, which charged anywhere from 12 cents to 15 cents a page.

Your average movie script is a hundred pages plus. That was minimum fifteen bucks a copy, plus a suitably Fancy Cover (more on that boneheaded notion of ours down the road), which would run another five dollars, making it twenty dollars. Getting out my inflation calculator again, that'd be $72.80 in today's bucks. Now, each agent would need samples of three or four movies. So that means... Well, you get the idea. A whole mess of greenbacks for what would more than likely be a turndown.

Fortunately, right about then I got a gig on the side writing a car repair manual for the Chevy Nova for Peterson Publications and was able to hold up my end of the expenses. (I'd been recently divorced and after alimony and child support was clipped from my paycheck I was broker than a sailor after a two-week toot - but without the fun.)

So, you can understand that we greeted every positive response with mixed emotions.

"Fuck me, Cole," Chris said one particularly successful day."Any more agents say, 'Yes, please send samples of your work,' I'm gonna have to hock my bike."

His Z1 had been tricked out by the guys at Russ Collins' Speed Shop. Collins, for those who aren't students of motorcycle history, held the speed record in the quarter mile for eleven straight years - breaking his own record each of those years. He raced to promote his after-market shop.

Chris' ride was a project motorcycle for Big Bike Magazine. (He was the editor there for a couple of years) And in return for keeping it goosed up with the latest go-fast technology, Chris let Collins' lads bolt on new shit and run his bike through speed trials every month or so.

In short, it was his pride and joy and for him to talk about hocking it demonstrates just how desperate we were the day the my phone rang at the City Desk and the guy on the phone wasn't calling to threaten one of my reporters - or me - but to say that he was an agent and he'd liked our scripts so much he wanted an actual face-to-face meeting with the not yet legendary writing team of Bunch & Cole.

I had to stall him a tad. Chris was in Vegas on assignment for Rolling Stone covering the Bike Show.


Chris and I were both writing pros, but had taken divergent paths to get there. After the Army, Chris had been saddled with the sort of bullshit jobs soldiers home for the wars have been stuck with since - well, forever. A stint as an architectural reporter for McGraw Hill. A foray into the Underground Press - Open City and The Free Press, among others. Then into motorcycle magazines. And finally into magazine freelance. Popular Mechanics and Science. The various motorcycle magazines. Life Magazine. Rolling Stone. And even the magazine for the California Highway Patrol - I shit thee not.

Meanwhile, I'd gone a straighter route, working my way up the ladder at a series of Southern California dailies, until I was City Editor, then Wire Editor at a Santa Monica daily.

Another bit of Bunch trivia: While in Vegas for the bike show he ran into his old buddy - and Rolling Stone colleague - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the legendary Gonzo Journalist. He was there living the events that would become Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Chris set Hunter up with a rare Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle to ride during his stay there. Hunter later acknowledged Chris' help in the dedication of that book.


After some fairly insistent dialing - and making false use of my newspaper credentials - I finally caught up to Chris. I told him about the agent's call and the request for a meeting.

"Where's the guy's office?" was the first thing Chris asked.

Naturally, I'd double checked the address. "Beverly Hills," I said.

"So it's In The Loop," Chris said.

"Looks like it."

"I won't be back for at least a week," Chris said. "I'd hate to lose the deal making the guy wait."

"No problem," I said. "I'll give him a call, say you're on assignment for Rolling Stone. Which sure as hell won't hurt our Creds. Then, I'll set up a solo meeting."

Chris said go for it, and a couple of days later I climbed aboard my Suzuki and headed out.

Like I said, the agent's address was in Beverly Hills. That should have been gold, but when I got there, and made the turns as instructed, I suddenly found myself in some kind of factory district, with buildings pocked by busted out windows and guarded by razor wire and junk yard dogs.

Obviously, he was stretching the Beverly Hills connection a wee bit.

I finally found the address marking a little cottage on a huge gravel-covered lot. This couldn't be it - could it? Double-checked my Thomas Guide. (Expedia with a cover and pages) Yep. This was the place.

Went to the door, crossing a small porch with sagging floor boards.


A harried-looking guy answered, glanced furtively up and down the street, then hurried me inside.

It was the agent.

The office was set up in the cottage's living room and he hustled me over to his desk and asked me to relax for a minute while he finished what he was doing. To my amazement, he was addressing a big stack of Christmas cards. Mind you, this was in early February.

He grimaced when I looked at the stack. "Running a little late this year," he said.

I wanted to say, "No shit," but thought it unwise.

Then he called out over his shoulder, "Honey, can you get our guest some kind of refreshment."

I saw a door open and you might imagine my surprise, Gentle Reader, when a lady with long blonde hair, wearing nothing but a pair of sheer bikini panties, stepped out of the kitchen.

The first thing I noticed was her rather amazingly enhanced tits. The second thing was her bush, which was as blonde as the hair on her head.

And the third thing I noticed was this big damned lion standing next to her. I suppose it was actually a lioness, since it didn’t have a mane.

I suspect my reaction was typical guy: tits and bush, and then - oh, shit a lion. Not - oh, shit a lion, then the chick.

So now I was stuck there, wondering what to look at next - the lady, or the lion. For some reason I couldn’t turn my head away. And the guy was saying that this was his wife and "our pet pussy cat."

The might-as-well-be naked lady smiled and said, "Why don’t you come into the kitchen and pick out what you want."

In my confusion, I suppose I wondered if she was offering herself, or the lion, but I only gobbled, "Thanks."

What I really wanted to do was get the hell out of there, but I didn’t have the nerve to flee. What if they set the lion on me?

Anyway, I squeezed past the lion - the lady saying, just give her a shove. Which I sure as hell didn’t do and then I’m in the kitchen, and she’s got the fridge open, bending over and showing me everything all the way to China, and the lioness sidles up to me and starts sniffing me like a dog. I almost pissed my pants, Gentle Reader.

Soon as I could, I got some kind of a cold drink, retreated to the office and eagerly accepted the agent’s invitation to come along with him to the Post Office. He said we could talk while he drove.

The moment I got outside, I mumbled some kind of an excuse, jumped on my bike and peeled the fuck out of there just as fast as I damned could.

Obviously, Chris and I crossed the guy’s name off the list.

And no, we didn't get the script samples back.



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 110,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    


Relive the fabulous four-day Stregg-laced celebration.  Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. New recipes from the Eternal Emperor's kitchen. Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. Sten's thrill-packed exploits at the Emp's castle. How to make your own Stregg. And, did I mention, Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever?

Friday, May 20, 2011


Your Intrepid Hollywood Writers

Chalk in one hand, pointer in the other, the teacher skritched her name on the blackboard, then made a squeaky, swirly underline beneath and announced loud and clear for all to hear:"I'm Miss Susan Fordyce and I'll be your Journalism Advisor this year."

With her pointer, she tapped a large banner above the blackboard, which read: LA VISTA
And informed us, "This is where we publish Mira Costa's student newspaper, La Vista."

The kid in front of me snickered. "No shit," he said in a stage whisper that I'd come to learn was his trademark.

Miss Fordyce whirled on him! "Chris? Did you have something you wanted to share with the class?"

The kid named Chris said, "No, Ma'am. I was only expressing my pleasure that I wasn't in the wrong room. And I almost forgot the name of our school newspaper. Thanks for setting me straight."

Miss Fordyce paled and her lips, which were already thin, became pencil lines. For a minute I thought she was going to give the kid a righteous piece of her mind, but then she sighed, adjusted her stylish (for 1960) cat's eyes spectacles and returned her attention to the rest of us.

She said, "For your first assignment I want each of you to write a short biography about yourself, and then-"

The kid named Chris raised a laconic hand to half mast, saying, "You mean autobiography, don't you Miss Fordyce?"

She gave him a confused look - what the hell?

But before she could speak, the kid named Chris explained, "A biography about yourself would be an autobiography, wouldn't it, Ma'am?"

Another long sigh. "Yes, Chris," Miss Fordyce said.

From her tone I guessed she'd endured previous encounters with the guy. Probably last year, when he would have been a Junior. Only Juniors and Seniors could be in Journalism. I was a senior and the kid had that Don't Mess With Me, I'm An Upperclassman look, so I figured he was a senior as well.

It was my first day at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach - I'd transferred in from Hollywood High. The semester before that I'd attended three different high schools - one in Florida, two in Philadelphia. And before that, Kubasaki High School, in Okinawa.

How all that occurred is another story, and you can read all about it in my book, Lucky In Cyprus. In brief, I was a young nomad - a CIA brat who'd spent his life bouncing around the world, leaving everyone he knew behind and mostly forgotten.

And now I was in sore need of new friends.

Up front, Miss Fordyce was telling everyone that she expected the biog... mmm... autobiography... at the end of class. She would review them overnight and in the morning she would announce which of us were to be editors and which of us were to be mere reporters on "our award-winning student newspaper - La Vista."

Somebody asked, "How many pages."

Miss Fordyce raised three fingers. "Three," she said.

There were groans. In an outraged tone, somebody said: "Three pages?!?" (I would occasionally remember those groans years later when I'd routinely turn out a hundred or more pages a shift for whatever newspaper I was working at. And they were typed, not handwritten.)

Miss Fordyce remained firm. "At a minimum," she said.

There were more groans - but not, I noticed from the kid named Chris. Miss Fordyce told us to get started and he just shrugged, got out paper and a pen and started writing.

I glanced around, noting there were about two dozen of us. All girls, except for me, the kid named Chris, another kid whose name I'd later learn was Tom, and another guy whose name escapes me. Among the girls was a petite blond named Carol Cavanagh who was destined to be my ex-wife. But that catastrophe was in the future and so in my blissful ignorance I was of good cheer when I got to writing.

It only took a few minutes. I was a good writer, a fast writer, and besides I was used to this sort of thing. By the time I hit Mira Costa, I'd attended thirty one schools and had explained myself to so many people so many times - both formally and informally - that I had the whole thing down pat.

The kid named Chris had finished his assignment as well and fetched a book from the stack beneath his desk, opened it and became instantly absorbed. Hmm, I thought. A reader. That's a good sign.

I took further note. He was still in his skinny teenage stage, but from his long legs I could tell that he was tall. And he had a huge head topped by a buzz-saw haircut.

I craned to get a better look at what he was reading. From what I could see it was an odd-looking tome, with weird symbols and illustrations.

I whispered: "What's the book?"

He glanced back, displaying a long, shovel-shaped face and steely blue eyes. He shrugged and showed me the cover. It was The Encyclopedia Of Witchcraft And Demonology.

Damn, I thought. Now this has got to be one interesting guy.

I gave him a thumbs up and a grin. "Name's Cole," I said. He nodded. "I'm Bunch." Then went back to his book.

The following day, Miss Fordyce announced that she and the editor of the paper, a girl named Carol Chadwick - whose family owned a nursery across the street from the school - had made their choices. The other Carol - the one who was to be my future ex-wife - was named editor of Page One. I forget who was made editor of Page Two.

Chris Bunch was to be editor of Page Three, the feature page, on which he would soon establish a humor column titled, Phantasmagoria. It was packed with puns, some obscure, some not, and the column gave Miss Fordyce conniptions each week trying to ferret out rude double meanings. Without great success, I'm pleased to say.

I was named co-sports editor, along with the kid named Tom, whose last name I learned was Mead. This decision, no doubt, was made because, besides the kid whose name I forget, we were the only other males. And in those days only human beings bearing the XY chromosome were deemed suitable for the Sports Beat. The kid whose name I forget was a genial jock, who could barely spell, so that left him out of the running.

Of that group, three of us would become pros. Me and Chris, plus Tom Mead who would go on to become a reporter for Copley News. (Chris and I used him as a war correspondent in our Vietnam book - A Reckoning For Kings)

It was at Mira Costa that Chris and I hatched our first conspiracy.

The school was building a new indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool as well as a new auditorium. Why anyone would construct an indoor pool in Southern California where it rains maybe once every seven years is anybody's guess.

But Mira Costa was blessed with an enormous amount of vacant land, and in those days California schools were brimming with money, thanks to Baby Boom parents shelling out taxes so their little darlings would be decently educated to deal with a future made uncertain when the Russians shamed us by beating us into space with the Sputnik.

Wondering how Mira Costa had acquired so much land in a beach community where property values were golden, Chris did a little research. When he kept coming up with Japanese surnames attached to the previous property owners, he really dug in. Manhattan Beach was an upper middle class, very white, aerospace community where there was only one black family and a young Japanese American guy and his wife who ran a restaurant across from the pier. And they were newcomers.

Chris learned that prior to World War Two there had been many Japanese families who had lived in the area for years and owned well-established farms and nurseries. When World War Two broke out, so did mass hysteria and xenophobia and despite the fact that most of the farmers were native born Americans, they were rounded up and stuck in concentration camps. Their land and possessions were seized, or sold for less than a song.

The law that permitted this enormous ripoff was Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt and later upheld by the Supreme Court. (More than 120,000 people of Japanese descent were interred. Most were native-born Americans.)

And guess, what, folks? The land our school sat upon and was building new auditoriums and lavish indoor swimming pools upon had been stolen from Japanese-American families not many years before.

Chris wrote a series of articles exposing this wrong-doing, and a companion editorial urging that the families be located and properly reimbursed.

The articles never saw the light of day. No surprise there, right? But, Chris dug in and fought the censorship, enlisting first my support, then others, but nothing ever came of it.

Except that Chris ended up on Miss Fordyce's permanent shit list for causing so much trouble.

Well, what could she do to even the score? She could give him a poor grade, but other than myself, he was easily the best writer in the class. Nothing less than an "A" would be acceptable.

She bided her time until the annual Navy Day came round. Navy Day was a rather clever U.S. Navy PR (meaning Recruiting) program, in which student journalists spent a day and a night aboard one of the nation's battleships or aircraft carriers, and then wrote an article about the experience for their school newspaper. The article would be entered in a contest and the winners in various categories would win a handsome plaque, or framed scroll - I forget which. Maybe it was both.

Considering the times, you won't be surprised to learn that only boy journalists were allowed to participate in the program - just like only boys could cover sports.

That was when Miss Fordyce struck. She handed official invitations to me, Tom, and the kid whose name I forget - but, not Chris.

"Your classroom attitude leaves something to be desired," she informed him when he protested. "And, so I must withhold your invitation."

In later years, Chris would have told her where to put that attitude business, but he was too close to graduation to take the risk. It seemed that nothing could be done about it. The real pity was that Chris was the only one of us who really gave a damn. Sounded like fun, sure, but not that much fun.

Chris, on the other hand, loved everything military. Read stacks of books about wars and battles and weapons. Plus, his father had served aboard an aircraft carrier in WWII. (The same carrier the First President Bush - father of the Shrub - flew off of during his wartime service, and then crashed into the sea where he was rescued after a harrowing time afloat. Some of you might think the rescue was a good thing, others might not.)

"This is totally screwed, Cole," he complained. "If an editor spikes your story you're supposed to have the balls to kick, right?"

Well, sure.

Unfortunately, the First Amendment stops at the gates of your local school, and even bitching about it brings down the wrath - and pettiness - of The Powers That Be.

I tried to plead his case to Miss Fordyce, but she had put her Mean on and could not be budged. So, I got together with Tom Mead and the other guy and we joined forces and told her that if Chris couldn't go, none of us would.

These were the days of Teacher Loyalty Oaths and Commie Scares, so in the end she had to cave. Otherwise, she'd look unpatriotic.

We went. Had a nifty time. And when we returned we elected Chris to write the story about our experiences. He filled it with authentic detail, colorful quotes from officers and enlisted men alike and eventually it was Chris Bunch who snapped up the Navy Day prize for Best In The State, bringing honor to La Vista and pissing Miss Fordyce off to no end.

Although Chris' articles about Executive Order 9066 never ran, many years later he and I sold a story based on that travesty to Jack Klugman for ten grand. Which ain't bad for a little high school research.

And thus began a friendship that lasted over three decades; twenty of which we spent as writing partners. Our first collaboration was a very bad thriller, which we wrote by mail while he was humping jungle in Vietnam and I was pounding a typewriter in a newsroom.

The book was kind of a game. I'd write a chapter with a cliff-hanger ending, then ship it to Chris. Chris would solve the cliff-hanging business, continue the story, ending his chapter with a cliffhanger. If one guy couldn't solve the puzzle, he owed the other guy a bottle of scotch. If the guy who set up the cliff-hanger was stumped himself, he owed two bottles of scotches. I don't remember how it all came out.

We also collaborated on the world's worst porn novel, but gave up midway, bored out of our skulls.

Both of us had dreamed of becoming novelists and screenwriters well before our ages hit the double digits. And in 1976 we made a pact to team up and launch a concerted effort to crack the literary walls of both Hollywood and New York.

We worked 35-hours a week, while holding down stress-ridden full-time jobs. We got so many rejections you could have papered an executive bathroom at Universal Studios.

But we persisted.

Finally, in the summer of 1979 we got not one, but two breaks.

We sold our first novel, Sten, and our first TV script, Quincy, M.E.

A month later we quit our jobs and never looked back.

What follows are the sometimes frustrating, but always hilarious adventures - or misadventures - of Bunch & Cole, who became known far and wide as the fix-it boys.



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 110,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    


Relive the fabulous four-day Stregg-laced celebration.  Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. New recipes from the Eternal Emperor's kitchen. Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. Sten's thrill-packed exploits at the Emp's castle. How to make your own Stregg. And, did I mention, Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever?

Friday, May 13, 2011


The Eternal Emperor filled up his glass again. "You took care of everything? On the Sten matter?"

"Just like you said, boss."

The Emperor thought a minute. "Let me know how he works out. I think that Sten is a boy to watch."

"He sure is, boss. He sure is."

Mahoney forced himself to finish his drink. And then held out his glass for more. In his job, you made sure you always kept the boss happy.

And the Eternal Emperor hated to drink alone.
.......... (From Sten #1 - The Final Scene)

Lew Weitzman was on the phone. He said, "Hey there, Big Guy. How's everything in Gator Land?"

I said everything was fine and it was. The sun was doing its usual South Florida best. Through my office window the orange blossomed Poinciana Tree on the opposite bank of the canal delighted the eye. A fish leaped from mossy waters for a flitting dragonfly and was almost snared himself by an enterprising hawk. Besides the blessings of a benevolent Mother Nature, I had a good start on a new book; I was healthy and so was Kathryn; and now I was talking to one of the only two decent agents I'd had since Chris and I broke into the game. (To learn what happened to the first one see Episode #69: Hollywood Screw -Up.)

I was thinking of telling Lew about the bull gator Kathryn and I had heard bellowing for its mate the night before, but as The Boss Man at Preferred Artists he was perennially short on time so I just asked, "What's up?"

Lew replied, "We have a situation here that I wanted to run past you, Allan."

I said, go ahead and in his clipped, efficient manner, he said, "A kid from (Redacted Inc.) stopped by to inquire about Sten. (Redacted Inc.) has a pretty good reputation, so I said we might be interested in hearing what they had in mind."

I thought - Hmm. Movie deal? In my head, Chris warned, "Careful, Cole. They're gonna try to fuck us again."

I told both Lew on the phone and Chris in my head, "Won't hurt to listen."

Lew said, "Exactly my take on it, Allan. He said they're thinking movie - possibly even a series of movies. All the Big Tent Pole franchises in Town are getting pretty worn. Everybody's looking for new properties with legs. He thought with eight novels, Sten would be perfect."

In my head, Chris gave a cynical, "Yeah, yeah." But what I said to Lew was, "Can't disagree with that. There's enough material for a dozen movies. "

But, in my head, Chris was still arguing: "Been down this fucking road before, Cole. Sten is, Number One - too expensive. And Number Two - Hollywood just doesn't get it. They'll think it's just a bunch of bang, bang you're dead books."

Lew said, "This kid said he was a big fan of Sten. He said his father turned him onto the books years ago and he's read the whole series dozens of times." (This was not unusual. I've had communications from all over the world from people whose father - and sometimes mothers - introduced them to Sten. One Russian's old man was even a Soviet-era fighter pilot.)

In my head I told Chris, so much for Number Two. To Lew, I said: "Well, the bit about being a Sten fan is heartening. But what about the cost? Isn't it too damned expensive? Chris and I budgeted it out years ago, and a Sten movie would go for an easy hundred million dollars."

Lew laughed. He said, "Yeah, but, Allan - that's back when a hundred million dollars was A Hundred Million Dollars. Even adding in inflation, with all the computer Blue Screen stuff they have now it would probably cost about the same. Except, these days they'd consider a hundred million dollars for a Sci-Fi action movie pretty cheap."

In my head, Chris said, "Hmm. Maybe. But who the hell are they?"

Good point. I asked Lew, "Who are these guys? They some kind of a production company, or something?"

Lew said, "Part production. Part management. They're mainly a Canadian company, and now they're expanding their presence here."

"So, what do they want to do with Sten?" I asked. "Option it? Shop around for backers?"

"Pretty much like that, Allan," Lew said. "Except, it's my guess they'll try for more of a commitment than just an option. They'll probably want to manage the property as well."

In my head, Chris said, "Fuck that. Movie - maybe. TV - maybe. Nothing else."

No argument from me. I told Lew, "If they want to option the film and television rights for a limited time, let's see what they offer. But they can't have a say over the past, present or future of the actual books."

"That's my take on it too," Lew said. "The books are a known entity. You and Karen (Chris' widow) are doing a great job of getting them republished. And now they're all moving into new formats... E-books... Audiobooks... and every other kind of book."

It was good to see that, as usual, Lew and I were on the same page. Chris didn't say anything, so I figured he was of same opinion.

Lew asked, "What's the readership of Sten, now? The kid asked me, but I didn't have the details."

I said, "Ah, geeze, Lew. We're probably up to twenty five million sales... maybe more... and in half-a-dozen languages. The Dumb Asses in the U.S. let it go out of print, but we're doing gang-buster business in Europe. (As of this writing the books have been re-issued in both the U.S. and the U.K. See The Sten Page for details.) Last I heard from my Russian editor we'd sold ten million copies there. And that's in hardback. Top of the Moscow best seller list for over two years. And the German publisher is going to be republishing them as well."

Lew said, "Perfect. It's got a built-in international market. And it's action-adventure science fiction, which always sells a lot of popcorn and Coke no matter what country you're in. What's not to love?"

In my head, Chris said, "That's what we've been telling ever Tom, Dick and Lucas Films for years. And see where it fucking got us."

Ignoring the gripe - which was legitimate - I asked Lew, "What's the next step?"

Lew said, "I think the kid would appreciate a call from you, Allan. Get your take on him. Then get back to me."

And so that's what I did. My call was directed to voice mail, but I had no more than stated my name when The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) picked up. In a voice that started high, then went to just a chest hair less than shrill, he gushed, "Allan, it's such a thrill to speak to you. I've been a Sten fan for so many years. I just love the series so much. And when I got into this business I swore that someday I'd be in a position to do something with it. And now I can."

I mean, what could I say after all that? Uh... thanks? So, okay, that's what I said. But in my head, Chris mocked him with a screechy-voiced, "The Hawks take care of their own!" Sounding like the pre-teen actor who played the Wuss gang leader in Code Red who was trying to entice Adam (The Beach Ball) Rich to join his Band Of Punk Brothers. (See Episode #32: The Hawks Take Care Of Their Own.)

I had to bite back laughter as The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) gushed on, while in my head Chris muttered things like: "Yaps like a poodle in heat." And, "Maybe his balls haven't descended yet." And, "Comes on like a cross between The EatAnter and The Weasel." (A producer and an agent, respectively.) And then I really almost lost it when Chris started singing Tip Toe Through The Tulips in a perfect imitation of Tiny Tim. (Chris repped Tiny briefly in his days as "the worst PR man in the history of Rock and Roll.")

Finally, when The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) wound down, he told me some things his company was involved in, which were moderately impressive. Explained that they had a big fat Line Of Credit, which was more impressive. And that they had a relationship with the Weinstein Brother, which shut even Chris up.

I called Lew, told him what I'd learned, and asked the crucial question, "What's your take on this, Lew?"

Lew said, "Let's see what the numbers are. If we like them, we can bounce it off Karen and take it from there."

In my head, Chris said, okay, we'll see - and so I told Lew to go ahead. Then I got back to work on Lucky In Cyprus, an-in-progress book about my life as a CIA brat in the Middle East.


If all this sounds crazy - me talking to the ghost of my late partner - it probably is. But the fact is, even though Chris and I split up back in the mid-90's, and he died some years before this incident (July 4, 2005) we had been friends and writing partners for so many years that an area of my brain had been altered from long use to consider his point of view. Whether he was actually there in the flesh, or not.

Also, Sten was just as much his brain child as mine, and he'd poured just as much sweat and murdered just as many brain cells as I had to complete the series. So, I had to consider what he'd think about any deal involving our joint authorship.

Bottom line: I might be nuts, but name me a writer who isn't and I guarantee sleep-inducing prose. Either that, or a diabetic coma.


A couple of weeks later Kathryn and I flew out to LA. We visited her mom and younger brother, (Phil Bunch - an amazing musician.) and my son and his wife, Jason and Hiroko, and my grandsons. (Can't resist. Here's a picture of Ryan, the youngest, and his little girlfriend.)

Jason drove me to a meeting with The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) and his boss. They had a Beverly Boulevard address and a reassuring (Inside The Loop) 90048 Zip, so I went to the meeting wary, but encouraged.

The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) was a tall, good-looking lad and proved to be just as gushy in person as on the phone. His boss was small, wiry and nervously aggressive. He was in constant motion, running his hands through his hair, finger-drumming the conference table, shifting around in his seat like - well, as Chris opined in my head: "Fucker must have an anthill for an ass."

At that moment The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss shifted forward, until his Anthill was right on the very edge of the seat, and with great sincerity said, "I've heard all about you and your books, Allan. To be honest, I haven't read more than a few pages of Sten, but what I read was impressive. Very impressive. I really think that this is a property we can work with."

In my head, Chris snorted laughter. "Property? Things never fucking change, do they, Cole?" But I knew he really wasn't insulted. We'd grown thick hides in our time in Tinsel Town. Never mind calling books "property," that's how they viewed people as well.

I said, "I'm not quite clear on what you guys intend to do with Sten. I've heard movie. Series of movies. And even a television series. Maybe we could narrow that down a bit."

The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss said, "Definitely a series of movies. After we hook up with the right people, we'll start with one, then move up to the next level."

"That's the best sales point," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) put in. I thought I saw a flicker of annoyance on his boss's face (he wasn't done yet) but his oblivious employee went on, "Sten starts out young - seventeen, right?" I nodded."Then in each book he ages and gains more abilities."

The next line he addressed to his boss: "Just like Harry Potter.'

Outraged, Chris went, "Harry Fucking What?"

But The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss seemed pleased with this. He nodded. "Absolutely. And the Potter franchise is over and done with. Everybody's looking for a replacement."

"And that should be Sten," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said.

"Aw, fuck, Cole," Chris said in my head. "Set 'em straight, would you?"

I said, "Sten is a long way from Harry Potter, guys. To begin with, he kills people. He's the Eternal Emperor's number one assassin."

The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) waved that aside. "Not a problem," he said. "We can have all the blood we want and even flash Bet's tits, and we'll still score a PG rating." (Bet is Sten's first girlfriend.)


In Movieland, the preferred rating is P(arental) G(uidance) A much-tamer G rating is for kiddies, and that means too many half-price seats for a big bucks movie. Bottom line: you've got to have multiple viewings by millions of little Rug Rats before you can make a dime.

On the other hand, an R rating, means the Junior High crowd will have to buy tickets to something else at the multiplex, then sneak into the forbidden R flick to catch glimpses of the naked body of Angelina Jolie's double. (Or, the real deal with Lindsay Lohan.) Meaning, the money intended for your movie goes into a competitor's pocket.

An "X" rating almost never happens because the multiplex has to spring for extra security to keep the theater swapping from getting out of hand and bringing down the local law, Ministry, and the PTA on them.

But, with a PG rating you can have all the violence, fart jokes, and barely contained Jiggle you need to lure the young popcorn and Coke chugging minions, who, after all, have about the only real discretionary money there is to spend these days. (Outrageous ticket prices barely pay the bills at a multiplex. All the profit is in the outrageous candy counter prices.)


The Kid From (Redacted Inc.)'s Boss was starting to look less twitchy now. In my head, Chris said, "He's smelling money."

The Bossman said, "Is there a script?"

I said there wasn't. Chris and I had had only briefly considered doing a Sten movie script and decided against it. Unless somebody crossed our palms with silver, that is. We were too busy writing books. And I still was.

"Not a problem," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said. "I've got just the writer who's dying to do a spec script on something of this quality." (A spec script is for no money, but for the hopes of same. As Someone In The Know once said, "A freelance writer is somebody who is paid per piece, per word, or perhaps.")

The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) named the guy he had in mind, which seemed to more than satisfy The Bossman. "He's certainly, A-List," he said. I'd never heard of him, but then I'd been out in Boca Raton for quite some time.

I said to the (Redacted Inc.) Pair, "Sounds good to me."

In my head, Chris remained silent. No surprise there. If he were still alive and banging on the keyboard he'd have no more time than I did to write a Sten script on spec. Besides, as I've mentioned several times in these MisAdventures, books are way more fun and you don't have to take shit from anybody.

Then, just to make sure that we were all on the same GPS spot, I said, "Summing things up: We're talking option on film rights only, correct?" They agreed that it was. "And Lew is my agent, so any deal has to include him, right?" They said, right. "And I get final say-so on the script, obviously." It was and they said so. "Then, I'll give Lew a call when I clear the meeting and tell him what we all agreed on, okay?" It was.

We left and for a change the Beverly Boulevard traffic was mild enough to get back to Jason's house in Culver City in time to take my 5-year-old grandson - Ryan Ito Cole - to the park. And what a time we had running Grandpop's legs off.


I'm taking a break from the Cyprus book, perusing my e-mail, when I see something from The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) I open it. To my surprise he informs me in the email that he's had (Redacted Inc.)'s Business Affairs people work up a contract, which is attached.

In my head, Chris says, "What the fuck? Over."

I'm thinking the same thing. Lew hasn't mentioned anything about contracts. Hell, he's barely mentioned any details of a pending deal. In any deal in any field, there's always a tendency for the Side With The Big Bucks to grab as much as they can. In Hollywood, you can double that. No, triple that. As far as Lew and I were concerned, everything was still way up in the air. (Karen had been consulted from the very beginning. She was an experienced Hollywood hand herself, and had a positive, but wait-and-see attitude.)

As I clicked to open the PDF attachment, Chris was saying, "They trying some kind of end run around Lew, for fuck's sake?"

My thinking, exactly. Contracts and contract details should be handled by agents, not writers. There has to be a middle person between The Art, and The Business Of Art, or nothing but grief is sure to follow.

I open the attachment. Scan it. "Fuck!" Chris says.

I agree. It looks like total bullshit. Starting with the fact that it's basically a no-limits contract and the way it is worded there were loopholes that might not only give them control of all future Stens - in all media forms - but gave them a piece of the royalties of the completed series.

"Fuck!" Chris says again.

I forwarded the email and attachment to Lew's office. It was lunch time in Boca, meaning LA was just getting good and snarled in rush hour morning traffic, so I waited a couple of hours to call.

Lew was not happy. And by this time I was going from irritated to steamed. We talked it over, then Lew got me - and partner's ghost - calmed down. He pointed out that if we can make things work, maybe - just maybe - we can finally kick start Sten The Movie.

"He's a kid," he said. "Chalk it up to inexperience."

I agreed, although in my head Chris was making rude noises.

A day later The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) called to make squeaky apologies. It was never his intention to - blah, blah. Business Affairs communications screw up, blah blah. Unfortunate boilerplate language that slipped by, blah, blah, blah. Blah. (Ever notice that Boilerplate language always favors the We Say So Corporations of this world?)

Chris wanted to rip his lungs out just on GP, but I did my damndest to graciously accept his apology, said go thou and boilerplate no more, then got back to the far more rational world of 1950's Mideast terrorism.

A few weeks go by. Contracts bounce back and forth and are finally approved by me and Karen. I'm told the writer is excited to get to work on the Sten Script. Mild alarm bells jingle when I get the idea that the writer thinks all he needs to do is read the first book, and he'll be ready to go. (Everybody hates to read actual books in Hollywood, including many writers.) I warn The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) that if the writer wants to get a handle on not just Sten's character, but the all important character of The Eternal Emperor, plus the Galactic Empire Chris and I have created, he'd better read at least a few of the other books.

Sure, sure, The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) tells me. No problem. Not to worry.

In my head, Chris says, "Wanna bet?"

I sigh, tell him, "Back in the box," and time travel back to the good old days of the Cold War. Time passes. Every once in a while I pull my head out of the book long enough to ask how the script is going. Wonderful, I'm told. Just great. The writer's really "broken the back of this thing."

It's a familiar writer's lie that I've used often enough myself. But, I can't begrudge its use by a fellow ink-stained wretch. (See The Four Most Important Writers' Lies in Episode # 76 - Hooray For Hollywood.)

I pretend I believe the writer and return to my book.

More time passes. I finish the first rough draft of Lucky In Cyprus. Just short of nine hundred manuscript pages. By now, the Sten script - which ought to come in at around 90 to 120 pages with lots and lots of white space instead of prose - should be way, way done.

It's not.

"He had to take a break," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) tells me, "to do some character tweaks on a movie he's on."

"Character tweaks?" Comes Chris' outraged internal voice. "Only a Twinkie would fuckin' talk like that. Who are these guys?"

Alas, I have no choice but to let it go for a little longer. Kathryn and I have booked a trip to Cyprus so I can gather material for the second draft of my book.

I hadn't visited the island for many decades, and was dealing with some decidedly mixed emotions. Those were among my most formative years. I had a Cypriot teacher - Jim Demedrakis - who was probably more responsible than any other person for my success as a writer. He'd been murdered by terrorists shortly after I left the island, which would make my visit there bitter-sweet, to say the least.

All this made the goings on in Hollywood seem like baby stuff - which, of course, is what it really was. And is.

The visit complete, we headed home - only for me to be waylaid by a heart attack at Athens Airport. Fortunately, I remembered enough of my childhood Greek to get help and stave off the Grim Reaper. A week in Intensive Care later, we returned to Boca Raton.

In my experience, near death has a way of wonderfully focusing the mind, and so I threw myself into my work, pouring out pages. (So little time. So many books to write.) I finished the last draft of the Cyprus book. Published it. Finished a book about my adventures in the Crazy Hazy Sixties in Venice Beach - Tales Of The Blue Meanie. Published it. Also published The Hate Parallax, which I'd collaborated on with Nick Perumov, the Russian fantasy author. Got a dozen books that had been out of print back in print. Moved all my books into the e-book market and some into the Audiobook market. And, along with that, I resurrected two books that Chris and I hadn't quite finished when we were still partners: The Wars Of The Shannons and Freedom Bird. (One's about the Civil War, the other about The Summer Of Love in the Vietnam era.)

Sten The Movie was rarely on my mind, but once in awhile I'd pause long enough to make an inquiry, hear another writer's lie - which don't work as well when told by a Wannabe Producer.

But, I let it go, let it go, until, one day Chris stirred around in the back of my brain and informed me: "The asshole could have written War And Fucking Peace three times over, by now."

I made inquiries with The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) He did not reply. No return emails, or phone calls. I was starting to get pissed. Finally, I posted a "What The Eff?" on his very public Facebook page and instantly got this email saying that the writer had delivered a first draft and that The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) would read it over the weekend and get back to me on Monday.

Monday came and went. No word.

"They're dodging us, Cole," Chris said in my head. "This can't be good."

"No shit, Dick Tracy," I mentally growled in reply. "Where'd you park your squad car?"

Finally, The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) called. Squeaky apologies for the delay. Somebody got the flu. Yeah, yeah. Somebody else was stricken with Beriberi. Yeah, yeah. "Fuck me," Chris said in my head. "Will this son of a bitch ever get to the fucking point?"

Finally, he did. Sort of.

He said, "I read the first draft and except for a few things here and there, it's pretty good. We have a meeting set up (whatever day) so I can give him my notes."

In my head, Chris said, "Hold the fuck up! Why can't we see it, first?"

I said as much to The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) Hemming and Hawing commenced.

"What the hell's the problem?" I finally burst out. "Does a first draft actually exist? If it does, I'd appreciate the opportunity to look it over and offer notes of my own."

More hemming and squeaky-voiced hawing. Finally, The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said, "You see, back a few months ago (Redacted Writer's Name) and I decided that we had to make certain changes necessitated by marketing concerns. And those changes took us down - you know - different... uh... avenues... and that's one... uh... reason the... the... process has taken longer than we... uh.. expected. But those... uh... marketing changes... necessary though they may be... created some other... uh... problems... Unexpected problems... (nervous giggle) You know how that goes. And so, the first draft, is really to... uh... rough... and... uh... (then in a rush) really doesn't express what we had in mind. And so, if... uh.."

Enough! I jump in. "What marketing changes?" I demanded.

The hemming and hawing started again. I said, "Tell me."

He tells me. And with dawning horror I realize what they have done. Chris is going apeshit, and I'm only a few beats behind from joining him - howling on the bars.

"It's like this, Allan," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) began. "Sten is what, seventeen when the first book begins? And you know how hard it is to cast somebody that age in a major feature."

Dismay. Of the heart-wrenching variety. But I hold it together long enough to say, "Sten's seventeen at the start. Twenty two at book's end. In my experience, they'd cast an actor about 25 - or even 30 - for the part. Ask any Casting Director - it's routine casting. "

"Well, yes, but we thought somebody older might have more appeal to general audiences," he said.

"What the fuck's he talking about?" Chris said in my head. "What this kid knows about The Business you could stick in the small end of frigging nothing and it'd still rattle around."

I want to scream and shout, but I clamp down and say, "Would you please tell me what's going on?"

The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) finally got it out. "We made Sten older. He's 25 when the story starts."

"What the fuck?" I blurted. "So, now he's twenty five when his parents and his brother and sister are killed?"

"Well, that's the other thing," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said. "In this version, it's not his parents who are killed. But his wife and kid. We thought it better to give him a family of his own."

In my head, Chris said, "Don't they get it? The military becomes his family. The Imperial Guard. Under the Eternal Emperor. Whole damned point of the character. That's why in the end, it's..."

I break through Chris to say, "Let me get this straight. So, now instead of seventeen, he's twenty five when - not his folks - but his wife and kid are killed. And then what... is he still thrown into the Hellworld slammer?"

"Yes, just the same," The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) said. "And he escapes, too, just like in the book. And hides out until Mahoney comes along."

"Who does he hide out with?" I said. "In the books it's the Delinqs. Teenage - and younger - runaways and malcontents. All hunted by the Company."

"Yeah, yeah, the Delinqs," he said. "Same thing as the book"

I said, "Don't you think it's a little weird for this twenty five year old guy to be hanging out with a bunch of kids? Not only that, he's got a Delinq girlfriend he's fucking. She's about sixteen. So now he's a pedophile?"

"Well... That's one of the things we have to fix," he said. "We're going to make Bet older too."

Chris started to say something, but I'd already gone way around the bend. "That's just plain fucked," I told The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) "And it is so fucked in so many way I won't even begin to spell them out. Absolutely no way would I agree to anything vaguely like that. It's not only stupid, and unnecessary, but insulting."

The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) bleated a string of apologies. No insult intended. Stupid mistake. Don't know what I was thinking. Sorry. Sorry. Yadda. Yadda. And on.

One thing I'll give him, though. He didn't cast the blame on the writer. Took it all on himself. The writer was only following orders, and such.

That small act of generosity calmed both me and the internal voice of Chris Bunch, who always was a softie at heart. Witness the multitude of pussy cats that dined off his largesse wherever he lived. Or, how fast he'd reach into his pocket when told a tale of woe.

In my head, he said, "We've got, what, two three months left on the contract? Let them run it out. Maybe they'll surprise us."

"Fat fucking chance," was my take. Once again reversing roles - as was our habit. But he continued to plead their cause, and so I finally relented and told The Kid From (Redacted Inc.) that they could continue, but only if they returned to the original source and motivations of the novel's hero.

Sounding much chastened, he swore on stacks of holy nonsense that they'd sin no more and got off the phone. I sent Lew an email, briefly describing the imbroglio and the temporary status of things. A day or so later, Lew called back to say he agreed, but that we'd better "keep a close eye on things."

Time passes. I write many more words, some of which even involve these MisAdventures. A few days before the contract with (Redacted Inc.) ends I still haven't heard anything, so I send a "what's up?" email. Then another. Then I repeat the Facebook routine. Still nothing. I hit him on Linkedin.

Bam! The phone rings. Shrill voice proclaiming, "It's done, it's done!"

I say, send me the script, and a few minutes later an email with a script attachment pops up on my inbox.

I open it.

I read.

"Aw, fuck!" says Chris.

And that's just at the Fade In.

It gets worse from there.

Instead of the accident that triggers the first novel being the simple error of a hungover tech, it's now caused by a freighter that bangs - somehow unnoticed - into the factory planet that is Vulcan. Those of you who have read the books know that the old "for want of a shoe, etc." is at the heart of the whole series. Even three thousand years from now, things just don't work the way they're supposed to. Sten and Murphy's Law march very much in step. (Except when Murphy screws up.)

Okay. Never mind that. Proceed.

I flip pages. Come upon Sten's father, moments before death, staring meaningfully into the eyes of Sten's mother. Saying, "Everything's going to be fine, dear."

More "Aw fuck's" from Chris.

Flip. Flip.

The gates to The Row come crashing down and Sten charges them "like a fullback charging the line." Chris goes from "Aw fuck," to "What total, unmitigated sour owl shit!"

Flip. Flip.

Sten jumps on a small hooded figure, the hood comes off. Long hair spills out. And it's - no shit - a girl! Bet. The love interest.

"Who are these guys?" Chris demands - not for the first time. But, he knows. He knows.

Flip. Flip.

Enter the Eternal Emperor. But, instead of the down-to-earth guy in the series, who rules with a cat's paw instead of a mailed fist, we get this brooding figure, slouched in Thinker-like poses on a huge throne in a darkened throneroom.

"What's he think this is - Batman?" Chris demands. "The Emperor doesn't do thrones. He does barstools."

Flip. Flip.

And, "What's this shit?"

The feces Chris is referring to is the big fight scene at the end. Suddenly the Eternal Emperor is there with Sten and his Mantis team. Fighting side by side. This is a glaring example of how fucked up Hollywood can get. The Emperor showing up for the fight on Vulcan, would be like President Obama flying in with the S.E.A.L. teams to whack Bin Laden. Dumb. Never happen. But, it does here.

Then we have the penultimate scenes, in which things that never happened, happen. Mahoney saves Bet's life. She thanks him. He says (No kidding) "Just doing my job, Ma'am." And... get this... Bet says, "Not you weren't." And rises on her toes to give him a little thank you kiss.

I skipped the final scene and closed the file. Too depressed to go on.

Chris said, "Time to pull the fucking plug, Cole."

So, that's what I did.

Later, after the deed was done, Chris rose up in an idle moment and said, "Maybe we should write it ourselves, Cole."

Then Lew called and said the ties had been cut with (Redacted Inc.) and I said maybe - when I had time - I'd do a script for a Sten movie myself.

Lew said, "I've thought that all along. Who better than you, Allan?"

And maybe I will.

If I did, it would probably start something like this:

By Allan Cole & Chris Bunch


HARSH WHISPER: Death came silently to the Row


Spinning slowly on its axis. Vulcan is a gigantic artificial factory planet. Many thousands of miles long, but only a few hundred miles wide, it looks a bit like an enormous cop’s flashlight - with a glowing “Eye” at the top.

Old, space-worn freighters move in and out of gaping space ports that belch fire and gasses from the factories within. The “Eye” is a vast brightly lit “greenhouse” - think “Silent Running” on an immense scale. It contains forests, green fields, crystalline lakes and the luxury homes, apartments, and offices of the Execs - the planet’s elite.

But the main body of the planet is in desperate shape. It’s composed of many sections, and each section is an enormous and self contained module with loading docks, factories, crew spaces, Migratory labor (MIG) dorms and apartments, mess and recreation areas.

But the supreme bottom-line thinking of the Execs - especially their hereditary leader, BARON THORESEN, can be seen in the supreme neglect of anything but the comfort of the Execs. Cheaper to abandon then remove, some sections appear dark next to more efficient modules newly installed. Patched and pitted areas appear on the older modules, many hydraulic leaks are seen spewing into space.

And just then:

A small powered space suit is seen cruising over a low maze of pipes. As it moves past we can hear the Tech inside bitterly complaining.

TECH’S SPEAKER VOICE: Clottin’ suit stinks so bad, boss, I’ve got heaves. Somebody ought to make Jonsey take a bath, once every planet fall, or three, or four.

FOREMAN’S SPEAKER VOICE: Ah, you’re just hung over. Jonsey don’t smell any worse than the rest of us. I saw you knockin’ down the narco-beers last off-shift. Get your butt movin’ out there, or I’ll bust you down to MIG status.

TECH’S SPEAKER VOICE (contrite - but surly): Okay, boss. Whatever you clottin’ say.

As the Tech in his EVA unit moves on. But hungover as he is, the Tech doesn’t notice the small wrench drift out of one his storage pouches. It’s on a tether, and as he continues on the wrench swings violently to the side.

It soundlessly impacts one of the pipes, and we see metal fragments shatter outward.

The pipe array is laid across one of Vulcan’s modules. An identifying marker tells what it is: REC 26. And through large plas-glass viewing ports that peer into Rec 26 we see people moving about.


ANGLE ON PIPE A crack starts to form from the pressure and the wrench impact. Pale yellow gas begins hissing out. Fluorine - a highly corrosive yellow/green gas spews out, hosing against the side of the Module.

The metal wall begins to blister and boil.

CAMERA PUSH THROUGH the module - a MIG recreation area known to the inhabitants as:


Think of it as a mini Las Vegas, complete with a Red Light district where JOYGIRLS AND JOYBOYS ply their wares. ‘BOT GAMBLING MACHINES hoot the odds, and drinking machines dispense narco-beer, and other heady refreshments.

Way down along the aisle is the FAMILY SECTION, where MIGs and their kids can enjoy family-rated livees - movies with full quadra-sensaround - touch, hear, smell and feel - entertainments.

STEADY ON a MIG family: Father, AMOS STEN; his wife, FREED STEN; and two kids, a boy and a girl, eight and ten respectively. The boy is JOHS STEN, his sister is AHD STEN.

They hurry toward a livee marquee, which advertises: THE EXEC AND THE JOYGIRL. As they move past scantily clad hookers of both sexes and gambling machines, Freed tries to block her kids’ view of the seamier side of “The Row.”

JOHS (shouting): Hurry! We’ll miss the livee!


When I may, or may not continue.


Meanwhile, as we await the glorious day when Sten - The Livee - comes to Multiplexes near us, the books are still the books, and you can read them by actually turning pages, or hitting the next page bar on your e-reader, or listening to them on your favorite listening device. And they can all be found in The Sten Page alcove in Allan's Bookstore.



Over 200,000 readers visited the blog every Friday. Now all seventy three MisAdventures have been collected into a book. Click on one of the links above to buy the book. Maybe get one or three for your friends. If you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


The entire 8-novel landmark science fiction series is now being presented in three three giant omnibus editions from Orbit Books.  The First - BATTLECRY - features the first three books in the series: Sten #1; Sten #2 -The Wolf Worlds; and Sten #3, The Court Of A Thousand Suns. Next: JUGGERNAUT, which features Sten #4, Fleet Of The Damned; Sten #5, Revenge Of The Damned; and Sten #6, The Return Of The Emperor. Finally, there's DEATHMATCH, which contains Sten #6, Vortex; and Sten #7, End Of Empire. Click on the highlighted titles to buy the books. Plus, if you are a resident of The United Kingdom, you can download Kindle versions of the Omnibus editions. Which is one clot of a deal!
Here's the Kindle link for BATTLECRY
Here's the Kindle link for JUGGERNAUT
Here's the Kindle link for DEATHMATCH




Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.  

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. Here's where to buy the book.  The Tales Of The Blue Meanie blog will makes its debut after the first of the year, so stay tuned.