How writers channel their lives to their work

“Most fiction is shaped by geography and permeated by autobiography, even when it is trying not to be,” Ross MacDonald (Kenneth Millar), in the introduction to Archer in Jeopardy, a 1979 omnibus of three Lew Archer novels, published in 1979.

There’s an old saying you should “write what you know.” But, for many fiction writers, it goes beyond that.

Writers, whether they intend to or not, show what is going on with their lives.

Take, for example, the James Bond novels and short stories by Ian Fleming. “The early novels have an engaging style that concentrates on mood, character development, and plot advancement,” Raymond Benson wrote in The James Bond Bedside Companion. “In the later novels, Fleming injected more ‘pizzazz’ into his writing.”

Toward the end of his run, Fleming had other issues. In April 1961, the author suffered a major heart attack, according to the Ian Fleming Publications website. Fleming stories written after that time reflect a fascination with death, especially the 1964 novel You Only Live Twice.

Nor was Fleming alone. Paddy Chayefsky had a dark outlook about humanity. Characters played by James Garner in The Americanization of Emily, George C. Scott in The Hospital and William Holden in Network are, in effect, alter egos for Chayefsky.

This post began with a quote from Kenneth Miller, aka Ross Macdonald. His Lew Archer often probed troubled families to solve a mystery. Miller himself channeled his own troubled life when writing his Lew Archer stories.

Writing fiction is hard. Doing it well takes talent and effort. Even though who do it well may not be able to make a sale.

Regardless, the authors tell more about themselves than they perhaps intend. As Kenneth Millar observed most fiction “is permeated by autography.”

La-La Land Records to release a Goldsmith rarity

Brian Keith in the main title of an episode of the 1975 series Archer

La-La Land Records this month is bringing out Jerry Goldsmith music to a mostly forgotten 1975 TV show, Archer.

The title Archer is best known for the satiric 2009 cartoon series featuring a spy. The short-lived 1975 Archer was about Lew Archer, the private detective created by Ross Macdonald in a series of books from 1949 to 1976.

Macdonald’s The Moving Target was the basis of the 1966 film Harper with Paul Newman. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the novels had become popular and critical successes.

Paramount moved to get a Lew Archer TV series going. It made a TV movie of The Underground Man in 1974 with Peter Graves as Archer that aired on NBC. It included a score by Marvin Hamlisch.

Things were retooled and work began on a weekly series with Brian Keith in the role. NBC canceled the long-running Ironside and replaced it with Archer in January 1975.

It didn’t take hold. The network canceled the show and only six episodes aired. Jerry Goldsmith scored one of the episodes and did the show’s theme.

Decades later, La-La Land is releasing a CD set of Goldsmith’s music from Archer along with the film Warning Shot. It will become available on Feb. 19, according to a post on Twitter by the music company.

The Rap Sheet blog several years ago posted a copy of an Archer main title with the Goldsmith theme on YouTube. It’s from a beaten up print of an episode dubbed into Spanish. More recently, the entire episode (the show’s finale, in fact) has surfaced.