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Soon to Be a Major…?

BOOK cover First Edition Florida StraitsSoon To Be a Major Motion Picture!

Those were the bold and thrilling words emblazoned across the top of the very first paperback edition of Florida Straits in 1993. The claim, it’s fair to say, was premature and over-optimistic, but you couldn’t call it fraudulent. The book, after all, had been optioned for film even before its publication in 1992. Everyone agreed it was a natural for the cinema. Studio execs were already talking about who would be the perfect Joey Goldman, the perfect Bert the Shirt. I somehow got myself hired to write the first draft of the screenplay. Things were going swimmingly, and as far as I could tell, this whole Hollywood business was really pretty easy.

Easy? Ha! What I’ve learned since is that getting a movie made is about as easy as tossing a full box of Scrabble tiles up in the air and having them all land face-up, making seven-letter words on triples. The odds are staggeringly high against. A thousand things need to go right; a single thing going wrong can stop the whole machine like a sand grain in a gas line.

And things do go wrong. I once had a movie about to be green-lighted, when the financier choked to death on a piece of steak in a Beverly Hills restaurant; if he’d gone with the vegetarian option, I might have an Oscar on the shelf today. Another time, a producer became born again and decided he could not make movies that included profane speech; can you imagine any of my characters saying Gosh darn it? On yet another occasion, our presumptive star bailed at the last moment to do a different film in which he played a robot; who knows, perhaps the robot role better suited his emotional range.

In any case, I’m not writing this post to piss and moan about an unjust Fate, because the truth is that the movie fates have treated me way better than I had any right to expect. There’s a lot of follow-the-leader in Hollywood, as there is in every business, and once Florida Straits had been optioned, I seem to have been placed into that fortunate category of Writers Whose Books Might Make Good Movies. So other producers and studios wanted in, and, one by one, succeeding titles were bought up. Scavenger Reef, Sunburn, Tropical Depression, Virgin Heat, The Naked Detective—all those were optioned for feature film, all of them more than once. Option payments became a sort of annuity that I would not otherwise have had the cash or the brains to buy. Sometimes I’d get hired to write a script, other times I was politely told to go away. I ended up with just barely enough paid gigs to qualify for a modest pension from the Writer’s Guild. Pretty damn lucky, considering that screenwriting was never more than a side hustle for me and that I never even pretended to really be in the movie business. So, as I say, I’m not complaining.

Cut to summer of 2019.

Florida Straits finally comes out of option. Deals for other titles have lapsed along the way. For the first time in twenty-eight years (!!!) I find myself with zero novels under consideration for feature film. None. Not any. Zilch. My first thought: Well, that’s it, the ride’s over. Finito. Kaput.

My second thought: But, boy, it was a fun ride, a terrific ride. Be thankful for it.

My third thought: Oh shit, it’s really over.

I moped for a week or so. Then the television people started showing up.

Well, okay, they didn’t just appear out of nowhere. I made some inquiries. What had happened is that, during that week of moping, my whole perspective changed. What I’d first seen as an ending now appeared a tremendous opportunity. Being free of the movie options, I once again owned every character and every story line I’d ever written. The whole shebang was mine to sell, no conflicts, no restrictions. And everyone kept telling me that the best visual storytelling these days is on TV and not in film. So I got in touch with some TV folks. My pitch was basically this: Fourteen novels, all set in blue-sky Key West, with interweaving plots and an ensemble of recurring characters, the whole thing anchored by a very eccentric and completely lovable ex-Mafioso who wears loud shirts and owns a chihuahua. Why couldn’t that work as the basis for one of those edgy limited series that Netflix and Amazon and Hulu are doing?

Well, I’m happy to report that some folks in the television business seem to think it could work quite well. Suffice it to say that discussions have begun.

Will the show actually happen? As this is hardly my first rodeo, I won’t make any rash predictions. But I’ll tell you why I hope it does.

It’s not about the money. Partly it is, sure. But not mainly. I mean, revenue is always nice but it wouldn’t be a life-changer at this stage of the game. And it’s not for the presumed thrill of seeing my stories come to life; I clearly see them playing out every time I sit down to write. No, the reason I would really love to see the TV thing happen is that a TV show is the most powerful tool there is for recruiting Millennials as readers. Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale, Big Little Lies—those are just a few of the shows that have brought waves of new readers to pre-existing books. The Millennial audience—trust me on this—is the most challenging to connect with, and that’s the new audience I’m hoping to reach.

So I hope you’ll wish me well on this television caper. I’ll keep you posted on its progress. In the meantime, please feel free to let your younger friends and colleagues and family members know it’s in the pipeline. They’ll thank you for the tip when they find themselves way ahead of the curve for having read a few of the novels even before the show breaks big…Thanks!

41 Responses

  1. Annette stokes

    Yay. Ibwould love to see Bert the shirt on TV. Keep us posted. Love your books.

    • Catelyn Juliano

      That’s so exciting, larry! Fingers crossed here on The Rock!

  2. Dave Moro

    Being in the “business” for 10 years I totally agree with you, I have found that the less you appear to need them the more they want you.
    There are so many opportunities with the streaming services to get a story to the screen and most have excellent production values with top directors that rival anything on the big screen. I have read all the books (most more than once) and would love to see them come to life, best of luck to you Bert,Rita and all the Denizens of Key West, and Nacho has your back to kick some Hollywood butt?

    • Laurence Shames

      Thanks, Dave. Yup, the opportunities are definitely out there. And if publishing and the entertainment business have taught me anything, it’s patience!

  3. Kate Hurley

    I am so excited about the possibility and the journey this might unleash for you & Marilyn!
    This email has me sitting on my North Carolina porch with coffee in hand, so thrilled !

    Your point of view is spot on for the adventure!

    Congrats – I’m truly so excited! This could be fantastic on the screen.

    Love & good wishes ,
    … Kate

  4. Sharla Fouquet

    I would LOVE to see your stories on TV! It’s a shame no one ever managed to make a film of Florida Straits, because I think it would’ve been absolutely awesome. But a television series featuring all of your novels would be even better ?❤

  5. John Meyer

    It’s great to read this! I’ve loved every one of your books, sir; can’t wait for the next in line; and will keep fingers crossed and eyes opened for updates. Your stories are so much fun to read and easily trump much of the garbage that finds its way onto TV. Hope the network suits see this as the no-brainer it sure seems like to me. Good Luck!!

  6. Thomas Fitzsimmons

    Fingers crossed. Question: Who is your first choice – not that you’ll have one – to play Bert The Shirt?

    • Laurence Shames

      Well, I have a first choice, but I’m far too superstitious to name him. Besides, don’t want to hurt the feelings of choices 2 thru 6!

  7. Steve DeFillippo

    No Question your books would make GREAT entertainment; and I predict, very successful. NON-VIOLENT “crime” is potrayed in a light-hearted manner. You could be the new “Disney” of movie entertainment for the “Family”.

    I will be standing -by.

    Good LUCK to you
    The “kid” from Naples Fl

  8. John R Jones

    Fantastic news! Hope this flies! You know there was a 1986 movie Florida Straits? Don’t remember that movie. Doesn’t matter, yours will be mucho better. Bert the Shirt on the screen – the mind reels! Too bad Gandolfini passed. This will take the very best casting. Anyway, fingers crossed and good luck!

  9. Spider Robinson

    If it were announced tomorrow that everyone now alive would live forever and never regret it for more than seconds, for spice, THAT would be news almost as good as this. Nothing else I can think of comes close. Good luck, Larry!

  10. robin M gerber

    Good luck Larry! Most of the talk out here is about TV and series, and mini-series…!

  11. Katie

    Good luck!

  12. Dawn Johnson

    Congratulations Larry. What a wonderful odyssey you are on. I will definitely pass this on to my “millennial” niece and nephew who love a good read.
    Who knows, maybe Ernie Johnson the IRS agent will have a “bit” part!!! I love the books so seeing them come to life on the small screen will be a joy ride. Good luck and really happy for you.

  13. Glenn Sebold

    Actually, you are probably better off going this route, considering how badly Hollywood F’d up Carl Hiaasen’s books.

  14. Brent Evans

    That’s terrific news – sure hope it comes to pass (and not just gas!). Love your work Laurence! Long may you run!

  15. David

    I would love to see it all made! In my world, I would cast Steve Van Zandt as Bert. He’s not exactly what I’ve pictured all these years but he would fantastic.

  16. Christine O'Rourke

    I hope this works out! I’ve been hooked on your work since laughing out loud reading Tropical Depression. Good luck with millennials, though. They seem to be a tough group.

    PS – I have a vacation in Key West coming up in April 2020, and hope to have a new Laurence Shames novel on my Kindle when I arrive. The Nacho book was great.

  17. Mernie Budde

    This would be excellent viewing. Not that I know anything about anything, but Michael Connelly is a writer and an executive producer on the Amazon series ‘Bosch’ and I think maintaining that level of control over his books and the story has made it the best show around. For one thing, he insists that everything is filmed in LA, and LA becomes a part of the show. I would hope that you could do that with Key West because you make it seem so vital to the stories you tell. Best of luck in making this happen. Please do.

  18. Steve Pinto

    That’s great news Larry and we will all keep our fingers crossed.. I have read all the books and always look forward to the next one…

  19. Dennis Fetzer

    I have been a big fan since Florida Straits was first published in paperback and have read all the other books when they came out. You are one of my all time favorite authors. I am hoping that TV will be able to create a lot of young book readers. I will be 83 next month, and reading books has been one of my greatest lifetime pleasures.

  20. Nancy Hunt

    Would love to see the series come to our TV screens! And be sure to write #15, in the likely event this really takes off.

  21. John Varley

    You’re right about the thousand things that need to go right to get a motion picture made. There are so many weird ways for one to die, too. My own picture died its first death (it later came back to life five times!) when Natalie Wood drowned at Catalina. Too bizarre to explain.

    These days it’s TV all the way. It’s nothing like it was when we were young. There are a gazillion channels and they are all looking for a good series. I can’t imagine a better one than your Key West stories. Good luck!


    I do hope your books come to TV. I have loved every one and would love to see the characters come to life. Best wishes.

  23. claire shipp

    That would be amazing ! You deserve the revenue for sharing your work on kindle unlimited #HERO 😉

  24. Al Mosier

    If you do get green-lighted to series and have any input, ask for composer Tim Jones to do the soundtrack score. He did all the original music for CHUCK, and his humor and touch would definitely be a good match for these stories (all of which I’ve read!).

    Best of luck, Larry!

  25. Doug Brown

    Hot Dogs! May your tribe of characters, bring in the millenium…or Millenniels as readers. Cheers. Here’s to good TV watching in the pipe line. Way to see the brighter side.

  26. Diana Stephenson

    Dear Larry,
    This is great news! I’m a die hard fan from the beginning. I LOVE your stories and eagerly await each new book. I hope this works out. I always pictured Abe Vigoda as Bert, of course he’s dead, so that’s out. Who do you envision as Bert, if there is any actor you have in mind… cheers! Diana

    • Laurence Shames

      Hi Diana–Welcome onboard! I do have a current favorite for Bert, but I dare not name him. Several of my past picks have died…and I’d hate to jinx anybody else!

  27. Diana Stephenson

    Oh! Ha… whoever gets the part will have fancy shirts to fill.. can’t wait!

  28. Jane

    I just finished rereading Florida Straits and loved it again. I first heard of you after Evil Twin and read a comment you made about not many people reading your Key West books. So I immediately ordered them all, in paperback then. I’m looking forward to getting them on my Kindle app now. A tv series would be wonderful. Let’s hope for the best!

    • Laurence Shames

      Hi Jane–Thanks so much for reading–and rereading!–and for the good thoughts. Agreed that a TV series could be a helluva lot of fun. Stay tuned!

  29. Paula Sothern

    I’m really looking forward to the next Key West mini-series!

  30. Donna Ryals

    This is such exciting news. I would love to see your stories on TV. (I’m sure I’ll say “The books were better!”) I am going to go back and reread Florida Straights. I know who I think should play Bert, although he might not be quite old enough. I won’t name him in case he’s your favorite too. I don’t want the jinx to come through me.

    In the meantime, when can readers expect a new Key West series story?

  31. Andrew Plunkett

    Hi Laurence. This is great news. I’ve just finished Nacho Unleashed and found it as exquisite in tale and style as all of the previous capers. I’ve thought from the get go that they would make excellent Netflix (etc.) material so I truly wish you the very best of luck. For me I would love to see Joe Pesci in the role of lovely Bert.

    With Best wishes and crossed fingers

    Andy Plunkett (UK),

    P.S. I do hope there will be more from Key West soon

    • Laurence Shames

      Hi Andrew–Thanks for the good wishes, and please forgive the delay in my acknowledging them. Just back from vacation in Sicily and Puglia. Wish I could say I was feverishly researching a new caper, but the truth is I haven’t had a thought in my head in weeks. Bliss!

  32. I-DEFY

    I read this book when I was deployed to Bosnia in 1996 supporting the peacekeeping missions there. I have been waiting for a TV or movie adaption ever since! I hope this happens.

    • Laurence Shames

      Thanks for your good wishes and thanks for your service. We’ll see what happens!


    After reading the first round of books; which are now tattered but loved, I discovered you had a few new ones. Beyond excited. Kindle constantly on charge! Just finished 3rd new. I am trying to take my time as I know the delicious escapism will end too soon. I sincerely hope some of your, if not all of the capers are translated to screen. It would be amazing x

    • Laurence Shames

      Thanks, Judith. I, for one, would be amazed!