In this podcast, Jordan Harper talks about working in Hollywood, the Young Brothers Massacre, Petscop, and much more.
About Jordan Harper
Jordan Harper was born and educated in Missouri. He now lives in Los Angeles where he works as a writer and producer for television. His best known books are She Rides Shotgun and Everybody Knows. In Hollywood, he is best known for The Mentalist, Gotham, and Hightown.
Thanks for Listening!
Help out the show:
- Support This Is Horror on Patreon
- Listen to This Is Horror Podcast on Apple Podcasts
- Listen to This Is Horror Podcast on Spotify
- Rate and review This Is Horror on Apple Podcasts
- Share the episode on Facebook and Twitter
- Subscribe to This Is Horror podcast RSS Feed
Let us know how you enjoyed this episode:
Author Carson Winter presents Soft Targets, a novella of new weird horror out March 22 from Tenebrous Press.
Cosmovorous by R.C. Hausen
The debut from R.C. Hausen, available now.
Michael David Wilson 0:28
Welcome to This Is Horror Podcast for readers, writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson. In every episode alongside my co host, Bob Pastorella. We chat with the world's best writers and creatives about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Today's guest is Jordan Harper. He is the author of she ride shotgun. And everybody knows. He has also worked as a writer and producer on a variety of TV shows including The Mentalist and Gotham. Now, some of you incredibly perceptive listeners may be thinking, Wait a minute, didn't you advertised a second part with Eric law rocker as the next episode of This Is Horror Podcast? And to you people, I would say yes, that is 100% Correct. However, due to scheduling issues, we had to rearrange our second part of Varrick. So bringing you part one with Jordan now, which I believe will be followed by Part Two of Jordan, which has yet to be recorded, or part two with Eric, but he has also yet to be recorded. So it is all chaos here at This Is Horror. But what we are doing is guarantee and new great conversations. And this chat with Yordan is no exception. It was the first time that I got to chat with Jordan. And he is such a likable and interesting dude. And not only do we dig into his early life lessons, but we find out what it's like working in Hollywood. We talk about the haunted video game paths cop and let me tell you, I hadn't seen that before this conversation. I've already gone down that rabbit hole a little bit. I think I will have to bring it up again in part two. You've got to check it out on YouTube, if you haven't, but let me tell you what else we do. We delve into the differences between a co producer, a supervising producer, an executive producer. And we also talk a little bit about his boats, including everybody knows, but we will get into that a little bit deeper in the second part, and as always, before any of that it is time for a quick advert break
Bob Pastorella 3:01
Carson winter presents soft targets and develop new word horror out March 22. From tenebrous press a pair of Office drugs to discover a loophole in time that makes some days less real than others, allowing them to act on their darkest impulses without fear of reprisal. Their morals become more slippery and their fantasies more violent. And soon that you have to decide what line they won't cross soft targets in a timely reality bending novella about the easing surrender to violence and the addictive appeal of tragedy is entertainment. More information at tenebrous press.com.
Cosmo Voris the debut cosmic horror novel from Marcy house, Esmeralda has lived on the fringes of society for as long as she can remember. Until a Halloween night gone wrong on Lux a cache of nightmarish memories, visions of a bizarre desert town images of a mysterious woman the pain of an ultimate betrayal and the shame of a bargain made in blood. Now she must travel back and learn the true nature of the ravenous cosmos. Cosmos is available everywhere books are sold.
Michael David Wilson 4:03
Well, okay with that said, here it is it is Jordan Harper. On This Is Horror. Jordan, welcome to This Is Horror Podcast.
Jordan Harper 4:17
Thank you for having me. I'm so glad to be here. How are y'all doing?
Michael David Wilson 4:20
Yeah, doing good. Thank you. I know, to begin with let's talk about any life lessons that you learned growing up in Missouri. And they don't have to necessarily pertain to writing but just anything that you learned in those formative years.
Jordan Harper 4:40
That's an interesting question. You know, I don't know if you all are familiar with the novel Winter's Bone by Daniel withdrawal, which is the great novel of the Ozarks, in my opinion, and in the very beginning chapters read Dolly, who's the 70 year old girls at the center of that book, she's watching her neighbors hang up a deer carcass outside their neighbor's house and you read her little brothers are hungry, they don't have enough food. And her little brother says, Maybe we should go over there and ask them for some that deer meat, and re grabs the boy by the ear. And she twists it, she says, never asked for anything that ought to be offered. And I don't think that's a healthy lesson, necessarily to be taught by the Ozarks. But it was really a moment when I knew that the writer knew the area because it was a lesson that I'd never had anybody say to me, but that I understood intrinsically as being part of like, the culture that was just part of me at that point that like, if somebody is supposed to, to help you, you, they should help you and you if you have to ask you're imposing on them. And I think again, I'm not actually you know, I guess you're looking for actual like wisdom. But to me, that's just that's that individualists strain of the Ozarks that I carry along with me. And I'm actually trying to get over and make myself more comfortable with asking people for things and, and intruding, because I think that there's a lot of that character that is about being self sufficient unto like, letting yourself go hungry, just because the other people, if they, if they offered it, you would take it, but it's, you're too proud to ask for it. And I think to turn that into a lesson and particularly a writing lesson, one thing I think I'm pretty good at, is writing about the difference between what people say and what they mean. And, and, and that there's an entire language in people that happens underneath the surface. And in fact, most communication happens underneath the surface. And I think there's a lot of writers who maybe imply, you know that there's more under the surface, but I'm somebody who's always trying to find the thing that is being said, under what is being said. And so I do think the Ozarks in a weird way, and not a totally healthy way, actually kind of trained me to do that. But you know, it also taught me, you know, especially when it comes to fiction, I talk a lot about my grandfather, who was a prison guard who made knives in his spare time. And he, he taught me how to how to play poker, he gave me chewing tobacco at a rodeo when I was seven years old, you know, and he taught me a lot of great ways to swear. You know, when I when I beat him at poker, he'd say you're luckier than the three Packard preacher, which there's a lot going on in that phrase, really, because it kind of, it's like, it says a lot about the Ozark attitude towards religion before the modern era. So yeah, I mean, you know, and I just, I really liked growing up where I grew up, I do think that it's changed a lot in the last, you know, 30 years, but there is like, A, there's like an Ozarks characteristic that I've I've seen in other places, but that is like, again, it is the good sides of being self sufficient and rugged, and not that I'm particularly rugged, but you know, all of that stuff, I think, is great. And, and it's it's given me a great perspective on the world, because you're from a place that not many people even know exist. And so you're, you're always coming to places as an outsider in a lot of ways. And I think as a writer, I like that feeling. I like coming from the outside.
Michael David Wilson 8:27
Yeah, and I'm wondering how having this kind of never asked for what should be offered mentality served you or perhaps even disadvantaged you when you were both working in advertising, but then also working in Hollywood, because these are both industries, where you kind of have to ask you have to put yourself forward a lot. So it's like completely the opposite mindset. So how was that dynamic?
Jordan Harper 9:00
Well, I mean, specifically to Hollywood, you're exactly right. It's a it's a total disadvantage is if I was building a TV writer, like if there was a role playing game, I'm based on being a TV writer, and I was trying to build a successful character, I would min max my attributes and put most of the points into ambition and pushing us because those those are really the it is you're exactly right. Those are exactly the wrong lessons to learn. Come out to Hollywood because people who go out and hustle and ask and push and make assumptions and present themselves as ready to be given great things. That doesn't work for everybody. But that is the better attitude to come into Hollywood with for sure as opposed to the whether you're talented or not. And this is not a comment on me but like, you know, they will I'm just going to do great work and then they will beat their way to my doors because of just this great work that I'm Doing, which I think is a lesson a lot of struggling writers have to just deal with, or beginning writers not necessarily struggling, is, I always think about that scene in the wire, which I think is when Marlowe steals the lollipop and says, you know, the security guards like why you disagree, man, come on, have some respect for me. And Marlo says, you want it to be one way. But it's the other way. And that that's what I would tell a lot of writers who just think, well, if I write a great script, a great book, then success will find its way to my door. I don't, I don't see that and the world that I live in, and in the industry I work in, you have to, in one way or another go out there and be the face of your own work. And you have to be pushy in the system we have right now. That's that's what we have.
Michael David Wilson 10:52
Yeah, yeah. And I think it applies to publishing as well as Hollywood. I mean, perhaps Hollywood, more so but I mean, the the other day on social media, and I periodically see things like this anyway, there was a writer who was upset because they felt that they weren't getting a lot of opportunities that were coming their way, or they weren't getting invited to things, but like my experiences, it's like, no, you kind of accuse yourself, don't wait for the opportunity to come along. Because if you do that, then you might be waiting forever, you have to make the opportunity, you have to have these conversations. And it might not be something that some of us naturally feel comfortable doing. But it's kind of what we have to do if we want to make it in writing and in this industry.
Jordan Harper 11:46
I think that's exactly right. And then the other the other ingredient to it, which is the part that will drive people absolutely insane is that luck is an undeniable part of it yet. You know, that you could be the go getter with the great script, and you could just not catch the right breaks and somebody else who's just like, you, catches the break. And that's life that is there is a contingency. To all of this, you know, you hear about like the movies that got released on September 11 2001. Right, like, you know, or albums or video games, anything that came out that week is gone. You know, like, and that's part of life is just like somebody, you know, had their big debut novel come out the week the Moon Landing happened, and it's just like, nobody cared because the moon landing happened. Like, and there's nothing you could do about that. And, and maybe people get rediscovered, but like, you know, I think about somebody like Jim Thompson, in crime, who could very easily never been, you know, he died, undiscovered, he died. And then you know, I don't I don't actually, I should know more about this that I know, at some point, very different was involved, but like, you know, with black lizard publishing and all that, but like, people found those books and re excavated them, but I promise you are their books. There's somebody out there who's as good as that who we we missed and never got that, whether it's in crime, or horror, or sci fi or something. There's somebody who has an entire career of amazing books from that era that are effectively lost and may never be rediscovered. And it's at some level, even if you're great and talented, and do everything right. There's still just that piece of luck that it's unavoidable.
Michael David Wilson 13:31
Yeah, yeah. And it's so surreal to the amount of writers and then discovered after their death, it's like, you know, we, as creatives, I mean, a lot of us are plagued with self doubt anyway, but to think that it's like, well, you might be successful, but you'll never ever know it becomes become in after you're gone. And it's such. It's just such a bizarre notion.
Jordan Harper 14:03
It is. And then there's the I just rewatched this movie, this documentary. I don't know if you all have ever seen it called an overnight. You ever seen the documentary overnight? It's it's about Troy Duffy, who was the writer and director of The Boondock Saints, which is a not very good crime thriller, and like the kind of post Tarantino era. But he he was in a band. And he had written this script, and he was a bartender. And somehow, the script got to Harvey Weinstein, who made him this giant deal, and he was going to write and direct this movie and his band was going to do the soundtrack. And he gets a couple of his buddies to start filming him because he's going to be such a big huge star, and the documentary is not very well made. But what it captures on film is fascinating because you just see this man who has given everything on a platter and instantly REVEAL HIMSELF TO Be a monster just instantly. And I mean, I suspect he was already one and this just turned volume up, but it is watching a man go from the you know, being working class guy to the height of success. And then spoiler alerts back to being a working class guy in the space of five years. They just totally it's really, it's, it's on Tubi I think you can find it on YouTube, it's not very well known that I just rewatched it. I rewatch it every couple of years, because it's a good thing when you work in Hollywood. Not that I would ever be like that guy, but it's good to just see what that looks like to just be Yeah, okay. Okay, that's the other road. Let's not go down that road.
Michael David Wilson 15:39
Yeah, I guess it keeps you grounded as well, and just reminds you, you know how fleeting success can be. And I sometimes think about this in terms of just like, with music, like the amount of like, singles that at some point, were really, really successful. But then the band or the artists just kind of disappeared, like I think about this a lot with stuff from the 90s. Like, I don't know if this was popular in America as well. But Babylon zoo Spaceman, that was absolutely huge in the ICU. Only in the UK, then you're just like, completely blanking on that. But there's other things like I guess, Return of the Mac by Mark Morrison, and it was just so big at the time. And that was it. I mean, yeah, Mark, Mark Morrison was maybe not the best example because.
Jordan Harper 16:41
But that's great. And that is that is that? You know, I mean, I don't know, maybe he's got a whole back catalogue. I don't know about but I suspect we're, we're, we're here to play the live. There's going to be an audience that is just kind of bored and looking at their watches until that song starts. Yeah. Yeah, you know, I'm, like, I did not go to this better. When I was in college, the band that did the theme song to the friends the sitcom Friends. Yeah, came and played a show at my college. And I mean, I would that doesn't appeal to me. But like, again, you got like, if I was that band, I would probably play the friend song first. Right? And just be like, that's what you came for. There it is. And now we're going to play other songs. If you're curious, stick around. Rather than having like a bunch of people glaring at you until you play the Friends theme song. But you're right. I with music, especially back then is you could like, maybe you got rich enough to buy a house. But maybe you didn't. Maybe you just had one really cool. Four weeks in one summer where you were on the radio and then then it's gone. Right?
Michael David Wilson 17:53
Yeah. Yeah. I didn't go with the concert with the band, The Friends theme Kuhn. And this shares, we don't even know the name. We know that it was the band that did that. The best way to do it is usually to just book ended the concert. It's like, right, we're gonna open with it. And we're gonna close with it. So then that's like a reason for you to stick around. Otherwise, I just imagine this mass exodus of everyone leaving.
Jordan Harper 18:26
Or you you figure out a way to like you play half of it. And then you kind of like segue. And you just play your other songs like a medley. And yeah, and then you finish Yeah, with the second half. Yeah. Short concert. I bet it's a short concert. Right? They're not they're not doing three hour sets. I don't.
Michael David Wilson 18:46
Yeah, this isn't a rush. You're a Dream Theater gig.
Jordan Harper 18:53
Or, or they're an amazing band, because you know, I'm sure that you guys also probably have bands that you're fans of that there are other people who only know the one song. I'm a huge fan of the 90s all rock band Wien who are barely known anybody if they're known, they're known by a really annoying song called push the little daisies that is, you know, they're one hit. The Flaming Lips are the same way. I'm a big Flaming Lips fan. And there's a lot of people who only know them for the Vaseline song. They actually they have a huge catalogue. I guess they got more popular later on, but for a long time, that was all people knew of them. And I know people who are huge fans of Midnight Oil who did beds are burning, which is the only song by them I've ever heard in my life. But I have a couple of friends who have seen them like 12 times in concert and so I guess that's if that's your life. And you know, you get a few extra people at the shows because you had that one hit but also you have a hardcore fan base. That's maybe the best of both worlds.
Michael David Wilson 19:52
Jordan Harper 19:56
make your money but have your like real art that you get to do Most of the time,
Michael David Wilson 20:01
right? Well, I mean, this is what a number of actors do as well, you know, they take the big paying gig, and then they do the kind of artistic thing that they actually, you know, care about or, or care about more, or let's say, you know, it's more of a passion project.
Jordan Harper 20:19
Right. The what is the phrase? One for them? One for me? Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. And I mean, that's if you can pull that off, I do think you know, or, or there's like, The Beatles model where you become the most popular band in the world and then go great. Now I can do literally anything I want. Yeah. Which has some appeal to it as well. Yeah, being the most popular band in the world has a little appeal, I guess.
Michael David Wilson 20:44
Yeah. I mean, it sounds like it's a, it's a good strategy. But you know, first obstacle is becoming the most popular in the world. You probably get people angry if you wrote a kind of how to guide and that was one of the steps.
Jordan Harper 21:04
Step one, become most popular band in the world. Yeah,
Michael David Wilson 21:07
I paid for this.
Jordan Harper 21:13
You know, that's where you go back to like that idea of like contingency and luck. Sometimes I think about, like Jimi Hendrix was born 30 years later than he was, he couldn't become the world's greatest guitar player. Because yeah. And I'm not putting him down. But he he was who he was at the right moment for the world to have. It's the guy who could find out all the weird things. Guitarists could do. But like, if somebody that talented was a guitar player today, people wouldn't care. They'd be like, oh, yeah, he would like make a living. It's somebody living but it's just like, the the time for the world's greatest guitar player to be a big deal is, is over. And I think that that part of life, again, is understanding that like, it's not just being talented, it's being talented at the right thing at the right time. And like, and you can't again, you cannot control that he just happened to like to exist in exactly the right moment to be Jimi Hendrix, which again, he's a genius. I'm not putting him down. But I'm saying, again, I just I'm always fascinate with the idea of people who could have been that and then, you know, got into jazz in the 1960s, you know, as opposed to get into the rock and roll and then, okay, yeah, you can be Herbie Hancock if you get the jazz in the 1960s. But you can't be Miles Davis, because we already had that era. And then it's if you think about it too much, it's easy to get depressed because you go, well, what's the left like Twitch streams? Like we haven't had the Jimi Hendrix have Twitch streams yet? I think so. And that's not going to be me. Yeah, not that I think I'm a genius in any way.
Michael David Wilson 22:52
Well, a paradox that sounds like the Jimi Hendrix of Twitch streams, but I hope someone's listening who is going to prove me wrong, and it's like mother fucker, you're about to find out. This is how we twitch. I don't know if that's a verb.
Jordan Harper 23:11
Well, like I learned about this thing. And this is this is me being an old man and learning about something after the fact is this. This, I guess you would call it a YouTube show, but it's very weird. It's called pets cop. Right? And pets cop is a fake playthrough of a video game that becomes sort of a horror story over the course of like three or four hours and multiple episodes. And it was made by a guy actually building a fake video game and then acting it out. And a lot of is just this weird little duck creature, whatever it is walking, but it's walking through all these weird things. And then unex it's like the game. It's like the concept basically, is that it's a haunted video game that this guy has found in his playing, but it is done like it's done strictly like video game play through and it gets very, very weird by the end. And again, as somebody who's like, not part of that generation and doesn't watch video game playthroughs I had the sense of watching something from like, art from people who were like, younger than me, and that, that like we're doing something I couldn't quite fully comprehend and never would have thought of myself, which is really fascinating.
Michael David Wilson 24:17
So there is this, like, one one video one playthrough or the numerous fake video game playthroughs?
Jordan Harper 24:28
Well, this one, I think they're like 19 episodes all together. And and some of them are very long and hard to understand. But I'm sure that it must be part of a genre, right? Like, yeah. But it's presented as like one play through that just keeps going and again, starts to feel like it's sinking into the real world. And like, I like it's very interesting. It's really, again, I had the sense we have something new, which is so thrilling when you find something that feels actually like authentically new.
Michael David Wilson 24:57
Yeah. And then it's the Video game itself fake or a day taken to make even trippier a real video game, but somehow mashing it up. So it becomes a fake version of a real thing that exists. I mean,
Jordan Harper 25:14
there must be versions of that too. But no, I think, literally, if I understand and again, this is I'm so out of my depth here, but that he he programmed his own video game, and then he is acting it out. He is like, it's not it's not an animation that he plotted. It's that he created the game, and then it's walking through it. So he's like, doing it with a controller, you know? Which is fascinating, again, like, and a bunch of skill sets that I have no, no, yeah. But yeah, it's called pets cop. So
Michael David Wilson 25:47
you're gonna watch this, and we're gonna put a link to this in the show notes. What an insane idea and then do also have all their skills and to make a video of a fake playthrough rather than just released the game. Yesterday.
Jordan Harper 26:06
It's, you know, but that's like, that's that part of the internet that is going away a lot is like, the Internet was used to be more of a place where people would just do their weird things that yeah, interested them and, and just, you know, and again, I believe if I, if I've got the story, correct, that he basically he created it, and then just dropped the link of it on some, some subreddit and was just like, hey, look at this game playthrough I found and like, and lead, like, there was no advertising or anything like that. Just let it build totally organically, which I really dig that it's very different than anything I do. But like, you dig that.
Michael David Wilson 26:42
And funnily enough, this comes back to the idea of people being discovered or not being discovered, because I'm sure there's a lot of people who have done a similar thing, and they dropped the link and nobody commented on it. Like, what the fuck is this shit?
Jordan Harper 26:58
It's like, what we're trying to be underground. That's like, what you got you did it. Your real underground?
Michael David Wilson 27:03
Yeah. Yeah. I was gonna say you were talking before about your grandfather, and obviously, how he was a big influence on you growing up. And so So my understanding that your interest in crime fiction goes back to your grandfather as well, and specifically, the young brothers massacre in 1980s. So what can you tell us about that?
Jordan Harper 27:37
So the young brothers massacre was the largest loss of law enforcement life in American history until 911, in any one incident. And it was these two brothers, the young brothers who were car thieves, outside of my hometown, and they had like a car theft ring from the Ozarks to Austin, Texas that they were doing and they had murdered Marshall in a small town outside of Springfield, and then they had gone on the run. And then this rumor came that the young brothers were at their family home. And so the sheriff put together a posse of like, active duty cops and some people who were off duty who had been fired recently. But they brought him in just for this one day and one of those people with my great grand uncle, and they went out to the family house, and it was, you know, this was a long time ago, and the cops see they each had a revolver a piece with six bullets a piece and carry extra bullets or anything like that. And they knocked on the door and nobody answered, and the sheriff opened the door and got shot in the face with a shotgun. And then the guys inside the house just opened fire and they had rifles and shotguns and the people on the outside all had six shooters that they emptied almost instantly, just in like defensive fire. And they got picked off one by one and I think it's either six or seven, but I believe it's seven, seven police officers killed and and then the two brothers got away and there's a huge manhunt and they ended up killing each other while surrounded by cops in Austin, Texas. And they do I mean, they kill each other as in like a joint suicide pack of just like they shot each other. And so like I said, my great grand uncle all the Crosswhite was one of those cops. And so my great grandfather, who was a prison guard, helped fund this little booklet on the young brothers massacre that local reporters wrote, and they printed it up and it was really dark and violent and pulpy and written with like, you know, the bullet sizzled and all caps for sizzled through his brain pan as it exited through the back of his skull and things like that. And I these books, were always floating around my family, and I read it when I was really young. And I really think that had a tremendous amount to do. And my grandfather was kind of the guy who taught me about it, and I guess a lot to do with why I've always been really interested in violence and crime as as vectors of storytelling. Because like, not only was I Most of this is a young man. But I was also told it was really important. You know that this story was important. And so I've always kind of held on to that I've meant for my entire career to write a novel or something like that about the young brothers massacre. I haven't yet I don't know if I'm building towards that. I don't really know what it would be yet. But I would like to write about it someday. And you know, also just, you know, my, my grandfather was also a prison guard. And he told me stories about Bonnie and Clyde, like kidnapping the sheriff in his hometown, and my when my grandfather was a boy, and everybody in the town, pop the sheriff was a pussy, because he, you know, he got in the car with Bonnie and Clyde and they let him go at the other side of town. And he had to walk back in and tell his story. And I think he ended up losing his job, but I could I could be making that part up. But uh, so I just kind of grew up steeped in this stuff, and, and, you know, mob movies, and gangster rap, and 90s crime films and all that. And I just always was really drawn to that, as you know, what I found interesting. And, you know, I drew comic books, and I wrote your master stories and things like that. But I always, even as a little kid wrote, crime stories and gangster stories. And so it's, it's been one pretty unbroken line through my life, about what I'm interested in, you know?
Michael David Wilson 31:21
Yeah, yeah. And what was your grandfather? The main person raising you? Or did you just spend a lot of time with him?
Jordan Harper 31:30
No, I mean, I had my I was, I was raised by my parents. And obviously, they had a big influence on me as well. But I just, you know, the main thing they did for me other than the being just really good parents was is encouraged me to believe that I could be a writer even though nobody involved knew what that meant. I mean, not that we were like, ignorant I don't mean that like the woods, a writer, I mean, in a very specific, like, you know, now that I'm in Hollywood, and I work with people, some of whom have parents in the industry or, or just grew up in LA, the idea of being a TV writer isn't a completely foreign idea to them, they see people who do it, like, I really desperately The other thing I want besides crime fiction in my life is I really wanted to be Hunter S. Thompson for a long time, particularly when I was in high school, and college that was more what I was hoping to be was take a lot of drugs and write cool, taking a lot of drugs. But even that I didn't really and you know, you mentioned earlier, I worked in advertising. And that certainly was not any passion in my on my part, like it was, well, I always all I knew how to do well was right, and like, what can you do. And like, while we knew people who worked in advertising in my hometown, we didn't know anybody who was novelist or screenwriter or anything like that. So that's just that's kind of what I fell into, after I left college. And, and so that, I mean, that's why I did that. And then a few years after doing that, I was in St. Louis and I was writing music reviews on the side again, like, I've always been a big fan of music and and the person who ran the local art weekly, who ran the Music Section quit after I've been writing reviews for about two years. And I so I actually became like, as a full time music critic for a few years and and that kind of opened up my mind to the idea that like, oh, no, no, no, you can like, you don't have to just do this. For fun. I was writing music reviews, mostly for fun. And with a little eat, sometimes I got paid for them. And sometimes I didn't. But the idea that no, no, you can actually do something for money that you also really enjoy and like plays to your strengths. That job was what taught me that.
Michael David Wilson 33:42
Yeah, yeah. And then what was the moment where you realized or perhaps were presented an opportunity where you could go from obviously this kind of nonfiction, salesy writing, like advertising, to actually writing fiction and screenwriting and being immersed in that world?
Jordan Harper 34:05
Well, you know, the other reason I bring up my grandfather and all of these in the story is because, you know, he while I was working as a as a music critic, and immediately afterwards, right around that time period, my grandfather and Johnny Cash both died in fairly close proximity to each other. And I'd always associated Johnny Cash with my grandfather, they're about the same age they were both you know, hard case guys that kind of looked alike and and you know, my grandfather was a big fan and I think he embodied a lot of that stuff that Johnny Cash saying about and and so I wrote this short story called Johnny Cash is dead about a retired prison guard, whose granddaughter is raped and the rapist is set free and is not going to see any justice. And this old man like climbs up three flights of steps to confront her His granddaughter's rapist, and I bring up three flights of stairs because he's old enough that that, in and of itself is a feat to get up flights of stairs to confront this guy. And it was the first real piece of crime fiction AI or any kind of fiction that I wrote as an adult. And I knew that it was good. And I knew I needed to do something with it. And I had just left St. Louis, where I was music critic and moved to New York, where I worked as like a film critic and did a little music criticism. And I found a website called thug lit, which had just begun now it's like a pretty famous in the in crime fiction circles as a launching pad for a lot of great people. But it was brand new, they just post the very first episode issue online. And I submitted that story. And Todd Robinson, the guy who ran froglet, published it. And, and then I met Todd because he lived in New York, he became my friend, we were in a writing group together. So I write more and more crime fiction. And really started to get a feel for what I what I wanted to do. And Todd and thug would publish seven or eight of my short stories over the next couple of years. And I post more crime stories, other places, and really just started to understand that that's what I wanted to do, and then eventually moved from New York to Los Angeles. I was tired of being a music critic. I wasn't very good at being a movie critic, because I wanted to write movies. And I think that's a pretty bad place to come from when you're a critic is, it can be there are people who pull it off. But in my case, I was better. I was like a guy who'd be like, Well, they didn't really pull off the second act break. And like, because I wanted to write movies, I was like being hypercritical, in a way. That was not good. It was not good that I did that. And at least I recognize it myself. And, and said, Okay, I need to take a shot at doing this. And so me and my old my now ex wife, but we moved to Los Angeles. And I took one of the other short stories I'd written and I turned it into a spec script. For like an episode of The Shield, I made an episode of The Shield, which is my favorite TV show of all time. And us that I had been told about this thing called the Warner Brothers writers workshop where they would Warner Brothers would train you to be a TV writer. And what you had to do to get is you had to write a spec script for a TV show and then enter it in and, um, you know, back then it was very competitive. It was like something like 1000 people entered, and they took 10 So that's like really competitive but now they're they're shutting it down. Now. They just announced with all the Warner Brothers budget cuts that they're shutting it down, but that but now even before they shut it down, it was getting where they were like eight or 9000 people applying every year, they were still only taking 10. So it really got out of control. But at least when I got in it was a great program and they trained us to be TV writers, and they send us out on job interviews and help connect us with Warner Brothers TV writers, which is where I got in with a man named Bruno Heller, who created a lot of great shows he created Rome. He created Gotham, but the one I worked with him on first was The Mentalist where I worked for six years, and wrote 14 episodes of The Mentalist and then went on to work with Bruno at Gotham to. But that was really I mean, I, I've said this before, but I feel like I got paid to go to grad school by getting to work on a TV show with with a lot of very smart people who kind of taught me story structure. And even if like, I mean, I'm not a fan of case of the week, network mystery shows particularly but they're in incredibly good training for writing because you learn that it's like learning how to write really structured poetry. Where even if you don't want to write that even if you want to write free verse, I think it's really, really important that poets learn how to write really structured poetry first, because that's the discipline and then once you have that mastered, great, go on, do whatever you want. But but but learn that, you know, like Picasso, learn how to draw, like architecturally normal things, and then became Picasso. He didn't just start as Picasso I think it's really great to have some kind of like, you know, discipline at the heart of what you do and then and then go nuts. And so I'm really grateful for The Mentalist for giving me that like giving me that like base to work from.
Michael David Wilson 39:22
Yeah, and in terms of the timeline, I know that you were a co producer for The Mentalist in 2017. And you also released your short story collection, American Death Songs in 2013. So I have to imagine that both of these things were kind of going on simultaneously, but what's the kind of timeline is it that you are working on The Mentalist first and then you started working on the collection or is it more the other way around? So please talk on No, it was the
Jordan Harper 39:58
other way. It was. It was the Other way around, it was a you know, a lot of that collection was the stuff that I written for thug, lead and other magazines. And so I came to Hollywood with those already in place. And I'd also written, I'd written a novel, at that same time that I'm not being cute or modest was very bad. It was my bad novel that I had to get out of the way, and very few people have ever read it or ever will. And I but I had, you know, like I said, I The Mentalist, while it was very valuable, and I love the people I work with, it was not my kind of show. And I was starting to feel really chafed by like the moral and content, you know, conditions or restrictions that I was working under on The Mentalist and so my first way out of that was to self American death songs was completely self published. I put that all together myself, I hired the book designer, and I just put it out on Amazon. And, you know, it was it was very much a reaction to working on The Mentalist it was and I think doing that was helped what helped kickstart me working on the novel that became she ride shotgun. But while I was I did all that while working on The Mentalist, especially after I'd been on the minstrels for a few years. And we got into a cycle of I knew when I would be very busy. And I knew when I wouldn't be if I wasn't specifically writing an episode, I had more time to work on my own stuff. So it became kind of kind of became kind of punctuated. And, and so I published American death songs. And then my agent who's still my agent today, Nat Sobel, who is like the Lion of crime fiction. literary agency has been a lot of people's literary agents over the years, including James Ellroy. And he found American death song, somebody sent it to him. And he was like, Oh, we could have published this, like, why did you self publish this? We could have published it? So he took it out, he sold it. And he said, Well, why don't you write a two page description of a novel? And also this two book deal? So that's crazy, but okay, and I had already been like, I had been sketching out what became she right shock. And that was the working title. So I wrote a two page description of she ride shotgun, and we put together a short story collection and and he sold it. And that was how I kind of got into publishing was the I didn't think anybody could sell a crime fiction short story collection in those days. Short Stories are just so much less popular than they used to be in this country, but but he did. So I mean, you know, I guess they're sort of popular, not popular here in as far as I can tell, because my he did manage to sell my short story collection in France. And I think the art of the short story is completely unknown in France. To the point where I read, like, I read like a bad and this is unhealthy behavior, but I was reading Google reviews of my books, like reading them through Google Translate because they were in French and and one of the people was like, this isn't a novel. It's more just like a collection of things that happened to different people and in every chapter is just as like the guy had literally had literally never heard of a short story collection. So that's just an aside I find that really interesting, but but especially considering how much they love books and how strong supporters they are of crime fiction in France. So yeah, that was but you know, that got it started and then I managed i i left The Mentalist I followed Bruno over to Gotham. And that's where I finished the ride shotgun was at Gotham and I'd been working for Bruno for a long time. At that point. I didn't like Gotham as much as I liked The Mentalist and we kind of we parted ways. After I'd done two seasons on that show, and, and by that point, she right shock and came out pretty quickly after that. And then I was just kind of off to the races at that point.
Michael David Wilson 43:54
Yeah. And when you say you didn't like golf, as much as The Mentalist? Do you mean aesthetically as a TV show? Do you mean the experience working on it? The mean, a little bit of both?
Jordan Harper 44:08
I mean, a little bit of both. And I have to caveat that because I did meet my partner, Megan, Megan, Mohsen Brown, who's also a TV writer. on that show, we were both in the writers room. So I yeah, this the experience. That part's great. But there were a lot of other parts about it, that weren't great. I think maybe in later seasons, they kind of figured out what the show was, while I was there. I think there was a lot of confusion between the writers about what kind of show we were making and what the tone was. And I think, also, I had been, like I said, been working for growing for a long time. And I think I had an idea for what I wanted Gotham to be which by the way, it wasn't my call, like it was Bruno's show. It was my show, but like, I had an idea of what I thought it should be that I kept pushing for it and that did on the show. And so Yeah, I it just didn't work. I just, I needed to move on to I think I'd been doing network TV at that point for eight years straight. And that's a lot of work. You make 24 episodes of TV a year, which like, you know, and modern era barely happens at all anymore. And now it's everything's eight episodes, 10 episodes, but so I think I was also pretty tired and, and so I, I left I left and I haven't worked in network TV since I've been trying to work in cable and streaming ever since then.
Michael David Wilson 45:31
I said before you worked as a co producer, and a supervising producer, of course, for LA Confidential as an executive producer. So I'm wondering, and I think this will be of interest to our listeners, what are the specifics that are required of each role? And how much control or lack thereof do you have in each of those producer roles?
Jordan Harper 45:59
That's an interesting question. And the answer is a little complicated. But the basic answer is, there was a time in Hollywood where all of those titles meant very specific things. And you start as the staff writer, and the staff writer was the junior writer on the set. And well, actually, to really get in the history of it, it gets very complicated. But eventually now they're just almost more like belts in a in a martial art, where you start as that you start as a, as a staff writer, and then you become a story editor. And then you become an executive Story Editor, then you become a co producer, and then a producer, and then a co executive producer, and then executive producers like your black belt. And that's sort of all it means now is, you know, you're in a writers room, you have everybody is in the room at the same time, and we're all talking but there is a hierarchy of experience. That kind of way. There's a lot of also just hierarchies that are bad, and TV rooms sometimes. But like, there's a general like, you know, the executive producers. And then there's the term that I'm sure everybody's heard of showrunner, which is not an official title. You don't see showrunner on IMDb or anything like that, that's just a term of art of the guy who's like in charge of the show, like where the buck stops. So executive producer can just mean that you're one of the senior writers on the show. Or it can mean that you're deeply involved in the production, and you're going into production meetings and helping with casting and you're staying on for the filming. So really, the terms are a little meaningless to the point where I've never really cared about them too much. And because, you know, there have been times where like, oh, they don't want to give you this title. They want to give you a lower title. And I would always ask my agents, well, are they paying me like the upper title? And they go, yes. And then I don't care. Yeah. Because it really doesn't matter that much. At the end of the day, it's it's, especially now I've been doing it for you know, 14 Yeah, about 14 years, I guess. My math is good. And, and so, like, I'm experienced, I'm a black belt, you know, like I I have done that. And I've been executive producer and CO showrunner on the show that I'm on right now that I, I can't name unfortunately, because it hasn't been announced yet. I'll tell you guys about off air. But yeah, you know, and show runner, that means something like that's a meaningful title. But like the rest of them, it's it really is when you see those titles, scroll past the screen. Um, it really is just an indication of seniority at the end of the day. And so I went up most of that ladder while I was on The Mentalist, and it was just I was there for six years. And so I didn't get six promotions, because it doesn't quite work like that. Sometimes you spend more than one year. But again, that's all there's no regimentation. There's no tests, you have to pass. You don't have to, you know, ace the lieutenant's exam or anything like that. It's just like, Okay, well, your contract requires you to be bumped up to the next level when we started the next. Okay. And yeah, and so yeah, it's, like I said, I think now, it used to mean something. But now it's, it doesn't mean quite as much.
Michael David Wilson 49:13
Yeah, yeah. And as I namedropped LA Confidential, I know there'll be listeners who are like, Whoa, you got to pick up a little bit more on that. So I'm wondering, I mean, I was struck. Firstly, how did that come about? And, most importantly, for listeners, do you have any news? Is there a possibility that we might see this LA Confidential series?
Jordan Harper 49:43
Well, I mean, to be a bummer and get to the bad news first. No, it's pretty much dead at this climates. We shot the pilot in 2018. And, you know, never say never if they gave me the chance, I would happily do it at this point. What I'm really hoping for, is for it to get released, just As you know, just as the pilot so people can see it because I'm very proud of that. So, you know, like so I've been writing in TV for awhile, and this was not too long after I left Gotham, and I'm a huge you know, as a crime fiction person. I am a huge James Ellroy fan to the point that my dog is named Elroy and I love I used to just rewatch LA Confidential the movie over and over again, I've read the book. I don't know how many times I've read that book. I just reread it again a couple of weeks ago and and so you know, I was submitted along with a lot of other writers to to be somebody who could new Regency films wanted to turn it into a TV show. Those are the people who own the rights to it. And I got submitted along with a lot of other people and I had they had submitted as my sample to say, why actually write LA Confidential my agents had given new Regency a script I had written a pilot called Surf City hardcore, which was a very Elroy esque story that I had written set in Huntington Beach, California, just outside of LA in the 1980s. So it was like an 80s update to like a James Ellroy vibe. And so you're the executive at New Regency a man named Kevin Plunkett responded well to that and saw that I kind of could do a James O'Reilly I don't think it was a it wasn't like a pastiche of him. But it was in that area of just like complicated evil cops with great Hard Boiled dialogue, but with punk rockers and crack cocaine and Nazi punks and things like that. It was it was a fun script. Um, so I came in, I met Kevin and I think the fact that I was able to show him a picture of my dog Elroy certainly helped and I pitched what I thought I would do if I could turn LA Confidential and T TV show. And he really liked it. And he said, Okay, well, let's go out and try and sell it. And so he and I worked up a pitch and we took it up all around town. And, you know, I mean, like, I don't mean that I'm very grateful for CBS for buying it who, which is who bought it and let us shoot the pilot. But obviously, our first intention was to sell it to somebody where we could do like a James Ellroy hard are violent, bloody thing, and we weren't able to sell it there. And so, you know, there was an executive at CBS who really gave us our shot. And let us try to do like the most mature, interesting intellectual. Well, that makes it sound boring, because it's not boring, but like, you know, they let us try and do LA Confidential on CBS and try and marry those two worlds. And I gotta say, I really we did a screening of at one time for friends of the cast and crew. And a guy who hadn't worked on the show came up to me afterwards and said, You know, I didn't notice there wasn't any swearing. which I take to be the big compliment is that we created something on CBS or that could have ran on CBS that had had fool people into thinking they were saying James Ellroy Yeah, but no, you know, we wrote it. We are I wrote it and we shot it, a great director named Michael Dehner directed it, who has done a lot of justified and a lot of other really great TV and we got Walton Goggins in the jack Vinson slash Kevin Spacey role. A lot of other really great actors, in fact, I mean, I know this is a podcast, so this won't work for the listeners, but I'm going to scroll up here on my camera, if you can see that. At the top there. That's a big hush hush magazine with with Walton Goggins? Yeah. So yeah, that I Yeah, it's really cool that we use that as a prop from the, from the pilot. And you know, and we were gonna do it, we I had a whole I had five seasons mapped out of how to do the entire novel of LA Confidential with some changes and stuff, but we were going to do all the things that they left out of the movie, and yeah, the serial killers and, you know, a lot of the other stuff that the fake Disney Land and the connection between the serial killer and the fake Disneyland Yeah, that. So look, if you know, I, if, if somebody called me tomorrow and said, Oh, no, they want to do it, I would drop everything. And I would run and go do it. I would love to. If we could get as much of that cast back as possible. I would love to if we can get Michael dinner involved. I'd love to and me and Kevin Plunkett, who's the Executive involved in Michael dinner, are trying to find something else to work on. Because we all had a really good time doing that pilot and I think there's a there's a there's a specific kind of crime show that I really wish was on the air so I could watch it. And yeah, that's what we were going to try and do. And and so maybe someday, or I would love if somebody had wanted me to do any of the other Ellroy things like white jazz or American tabloid I would. I would die to do American tabloid. Yeah. HBO.
Bob Pastorella 54:46
That was my first venture into Elroy I got stuck on a JFK rabbit hole. And I had a buddy of mine who I'll never forget this conversation. He took a piece To paper, held a joint his mouth and said, This guy, American tabloid get this in read Don DeLillo. If you want to go down the JFK rabbit hole, this is where it's going to fucking take you. So I went to the local bookstore, went down there, and I couldn't even I mean, he wrote what he wrote Elroy, I would have never found it. I had to get creative because he couldn't spell good. So and but I seen the book, I was like American tabloid. And just all I did was I read the back cover, and then I couldn't find the dawn. I couldn't find Libra. So I went and read bought American tabloid and read it in three days. Yeah. And I was like, it sounds like I'm back at it. You know, and I'm every bookstore in town. I'm like, going, you got James Ellroy. And they're like, Well, I can't keep his stuff in stock. I'm like, No shit, you know. But yeah, you could do American tabloid as a series. Um, I don't see how it could ever be a movie. But that's, that would be, that would be really good.
Jordan Harper 56:09
It would be really tough to get that all into a movie that way, at least a season of TV, if not more than one season a TV. No, I love it. And Libra too. And you it's the new addition to that, that that cannon that nobody is talking about is the new Cormac McCarthy book. The passenger. There's a chapter near the end of it, where the protagonist sits down with a guy who goes out of nowhere not coming out of any other conversation. Just go super deep on the Kennedy assassination. And you're like, wait, what like what why are we Why is like the McCarthy's in this to like, I love it. I I want to go back and reread that chapter again and kind of dig into because he's like, he's full. The mob killed JFK, which I if if you embrace his conspiracies, which I'm agnostic on, like, I find that one really hard to believe but like, the CIA just seems like a better choice. But again, that whether any of that's true, but he gets into such detail about like, the type of rifle that it was, and what that would have done to somebody's head and how it had to have been, like, all this stuff. It's like, this is what Cormac McCarthy thinks about to like, man, what it really whether again, whether it's true or not the fact that it obsesses, like some of the greatest writers of our times, yeah, is really important and really worth talking about, you know, which this is a pivot here. But I gotta tell you, like, you know, for me, and what I'm working on right now, for me, the new version of that is Epstein. And like, you know, did Epstein kill himself? Did he not? Who was he working for? Was he really working for the federal government at some level? And again, I'm not saying any of that's true. I'm saying it makes fantastic fodder fiction. And people aren't taking it on yet, like people I think are a little scared. They'll do like little head nods like, Oh, that's a reference to an Epstein thing. But like, and I'm still not, I'm not using Epstein's name and what I'm writing, I'm not doing that full Elroy or Libra thing, but like, is this a little too soon for that? I think but like I say he's been spending a lot of time reading his autopsy report and things like that, while working on the new book. So yeah, but I love all that. Again, whether or not it's true, it's important in a weird way.
Michael David Wilson 58:37
Right? Yeah. Yeah. And this new book that you're working on, is this a follow up to Everybody Knows, or is this a standalone?
Jordan Harper 58:49
Well, you know, if I have a problem with with my careers, I really do follow James Ellroy in a lot of different ways. And one of the ways I'm following Him is I am doing a follow up to everybody knows that does not have the same protagonists. Yeah, it's not going to be me and Chris, who are the protagonists of everybody knows it's going to be a new group of people, but it's in the same world with the same villains. And it will take place very clearly in the aftermath of everybody knows. But I really, I always want to write my books where if you just start reading, if you start with a second book, I want people to enjoy it just as much as if they had already read everybody knows, I don't want to. It's not a sequel, where you had to know that there was a book before it. And again, to reference Elroy Roy's quartet, like you can read white jazz and not know, and you read LA Confidential and I had read Black Dahlia, and you're fine. And so that's sort of what I'm doing now is finding different angles. I've kind of said everything I had to say about the specific angles that may and Chris had into this world of like, privilege and wealth and decay. A and now I want to find other people who can kind of take us into this world and, and have different looks and, and different takes because if it was another and we haven't really talked about everybody knows but like, you know, May is a black bag publicist who doesn't get the good news out she keeps the bad news in. And I think that was a really interesting way to talk about how information is disseminated in our culture and how much people really do control what we put in our heads, whether we know it or not, and, and trying to kind of explicate that as cleanly as possible. But I don't have another books worth of things to say about that, like that. What I put in the book was what I have to say about that. And now I'm trying to find, yeah, again, other other other weird careers that people have in today's world, like, you know, I'm very into, like, one of the characters in this new one is a private concierge, which is a, it's like a less dramatic thing. But that's not the drama of her story. But it's like, you know, like the people who just, I'm fascinated with just the people who make things happen for these people. I'm way more interested in that than I am. That like the people who are enjoying the weirdness or the like, you read about all these like, weird Hollywood drug orgies that are sex parties, and everybody's taking drugs and fucking in some mansion, I want to know about the person who had to rent the mansion, who had to, like, buy the lube who had to, like, you know, make sure all the sex workers were tested, like, like, That, to me is that's the interesting thing is like the people who have to, like still work in this world and do that job, you know, and, and so like, I've spending a lot of time researching stuff like that right now. And what like, what are the weird things that people are asking for? And like, you know, what are the things that nobody talks about? Those are those are the things that really interests me right now.
Michael David Wilson 1:01:54
Yeah, there's a temptation to ask what stone were distinctive under covered in or uncovered I should say, in your research for this, but perhaps you want to save that, for me reading the actual book.
Jordan Harper 1:02:10
I mean, there's a lot of you know, there's a lot of I have a long running file now of, of just like news stories, and rumors and things that I keep, and I a lot of them went in the first book, and you know, the list has gotten longer since then. But like, everything from like, there was a sushi bar in LA a few years ago, that got busted for serving whale meat. Right? Which is illegal in America, but just the idea that people want to eat whale and and that they will arrange ways to do that. And that's just like a little tiny one. You know, and everything from that to just the idea of Yeah, like the kind of flights you can go on where people are weightless. To people who want to pay somebody a large sum of money so that they can go out and hunt and kill another human being. Which I kind of have some leads on ways that you go, well, nobody can really do that. And I have found some things that suggest Yeah, you know, and here's how you do it. Here's your legal cover. And I have found that I am going to sit on because it's, it's going in the book, but um, but like, Yeah, I figured out I had some actually tell me a story about a Hollywood star. And it's like, no, he goes out and he kills people. And you go, what? And then when he said how he did it, you go. Oh, okay. Okay. I mean, it's not good, but I get how you could get away with that. And yeah, yeah, so yeah, I'm really getting in again, there's there's Epstein stuff. And there's just everything that kind of makes our world go and cannibalism. I'm interested in cannibalism right now, because cannibalism is having a moment. Have you noticed?
Michael David Wilson 1:03:58
I have Yeah, I never thought someone would quite put it like that. On the podcast. Cannibalism is having a moment but you are right. You're right. Yeah. It's been going on
Jordan Harper 1:04:10
for a while. It has it that's the thing about writing a book is so I'm writing the book now. It probably won't come out till 2025 You know, because that's just how, like, I'm not going to finish it right away. And and there's usually a year between turning a book in and getting published. So anything I write won't come out till 2025. And and so you're like, Well, I hope the cannibalism moment doesn't end right. But like, I was worried about a lot of that stuff. And everybody knows and it would be like, Well, I hope people still care about oh, there's this big police brutality thing going on. Are people still gonna care? It's like, Don't worry, the cops are gonna kill somebody else. You know? Oh, what about me too stuff? Are people gonna be tired of it. Don't worry. There's going to be a new guy gets arrested for me to stuff every year. Like these things are eternal, but the cannibalism thing is really good. Got some staying power. And so, I, I'm dealing with that in this new book, but I'm also trying to ask the question of like, why, like, why are we all suddenly so interested in cannibalism and, and when I work that out, I'll let you know. But like, I have some theories, but it's like, again, that's like for the book stuff that like, um, these are like the, you know, thematically a lot of my work is just like about violence and why, like, in power and why and like, and the intersection of those things, the working title for this new book, is this new violence. And because it does feel like violence, there's still the old kind of violence, but there's new kinds of violence coming in all the time. And, and really, the really good trick is when there's the kind of violence we don't even call violence. So that like, if something happens to you, where you are oppressed and hurt and press down and fight back, suddenly, you're violent, because you're you're the one who swung a fist first. But like, you know, but And again, it's it's hard to talk about what those things are, but like, you know, a lot of things that I think are self defense get characterized as violence because we don't characterize the instigation as violence, if that makes sense, right. I'm talking mostly about governments and things like that, that what things governments do, that we don't call violence, or to say is fine violence, that if anybody else was doing it, we would be like, Hey, I think that might be something that people should fight back against. But I'm not. I can go down a rabbit hole that you know, we'll start well, I'll be joining the Red Army by the end of this, so I'll pull up but yeah,
Michael David Wilson 1:06:43
yeah. Yeah. I mean, look, your next book, I really want it to read anyway, because I absolutely love he ride shotgun. And everybody knows, but my God, just what you've said in the last five minutes, you've absolutely sold it, to me even more just given us these little snippets of things that it's going to pack into it. And I'm god, I'm so intrigued. It's just a shame that we have to wait a couple of years, right.
Jordan Harper 1:07:15
Yeah, I'm sorry. I'm trying but like, you know, there are people who put out books every year. And I admire those people a lot. And yeah, I I'm never going to be one never. Two years, every two years is my goal right now. Yeah. Yeah. And I think, to do the kind of work I do, I can't. Yeah, I mean, the amount of detail like if you read, everybody knows the amount of just sheer information that's in that book, which makes it sound boring, but I just mean, the amount of scandals, the amount of different kinds of people. I can't come up with that. Even though I'm drawing a lot of it as fictionalized true stories and things like that. I can't accumulate enough stuff to put into a book every year. So I think that's a lot of it, too, is giving myself time to like, kind of reabsorb information that I can now squeeze into a book.
Michael David Wilson 1:08:06
Yeah, yeah. And I don't think anyone could accuse everybody knows of being boring. Or if they were to then you know, they'd be objectively wrong. Sorry. But, I mean, it's very, it's so tightly written. I mean, it almost reads like a screenplay at times. And I mean, I feel to that, of course, like James Ellroy has been an influence. It's permeated your career. But I kind of want to say this is the most Ellroy book that you've written to date.
Jordan Harper 1:08:41
I think that's totally fair. I almost dedicated the book to him. And then yeah, I was happy to dedicate it to my partner instead. But um, but yeah, no, I mean, I think, you know, if somebody were to like, say, I'd gone too far in emulating him I would, I would have to have that conversation of like, well, I'm trying not to, but I am. I am very much in this book in his debt. And I am the next book, I hope will be a little further away from Elroy, this one is very much like, I mean, well, we didn't really talk about this, that it was very much I came out of the LA Confidential pilot experience. And all of this like James Ellroy energy inside me and I just spent a year like breaking down the novel, LA Confidential and plotting out all these intricate plots that were now useless and we're never gonna go anywhere. And it's not that I took those plots and put them in the book, but I still had this energy and this desire to do this really tight but epic la story and the big. The big twist that I think gets me off the hook for being too much like Elroy is that it's not set in the 50s it's set right now. And I think that is a huge difference. And again, I if somebody says well, you but also you're you're like clearly drawing from his prose I've just but yeah, I am I am like, I'm not gonna deny that he's a huge influence on me. But like, I do think that I'm doing something new with it and that I have found a, you know, a new field of snow to run in. If he read it and yelled at me I would I would go hide in a cave or something but like, you know, but no, I don't I absolutely I never hide my influence. That no raise is my number one influence. I'm trying this next one. Like I said, I'm reading more Cormac McCarthy. I'm trying to find if there's a fusion between them and the other person that I people never comment about. But in my own work, I'm aware of how much Megan Abbott I put into my writing. I don't know if you guys are familiar with Megan. Yeah. She is the person whose current crime fiction I admire the most. I think she's the best person putting out books right now. I just I think her her prose is so great. And I just think she sucks you into the books and you just get totally inside the worlds that she puts you in and so and I guess the other way you can see that is all of my novels, including I have a third novel called The Last King of California that's only been published in the UK. Yeah, and all of those novels had a male and female protagonist and point of view character, which I think differentiates me from most male crime fiction writers but and I don't think I'm gonna stop that. I think this new book has two men and a woman but it's something you know and she writes shocking the woman's in the main role and last can California man story more everybody knows it's more than woman's story and then this one, I think is going to be one of the man's stories most of all, but like, I don't know, there's something about doing both of those perspectives at once that I find really pleasing. So I think we're gonna keep doing it.
Michael David Wilson 1:11:52
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, with the last king of California what what's the kind of story as to why was it released only in the UK and then for American listeners is Is it coming to the US is like gonna be a publication is in some weird publishing limbo right now?
Jordan Harper 1:12:14
Um, no, you know, the answer is that you can buy it on Amazon if you live in America, which is not normally where I send people to buy books. You can also get it shipped from the UK from the Book Depository and or Blackstone's or Blackwell's? I forget which one it is but like coins? Yeah, Blackwell's Blackwell's will ship it here. Um, but as of right now, no, there's no plans. And it basically, I had written a draft of the last camp California that I didn't think worked very well. And I put it in a drawer. This was after she ride shotgun. And then while I was writing, everybody knows, I finished the first draft of that, and I just put it aside, you always put your first drafts aside for a couple of weeks, you know, to let them rest. And in that period, I picked up the last game of California and read it and went, Oh, this is way closer to being done than I thought. And so I ended up putting everybody knows on a shelf for about six months, and, and finished last game, California. And we sent it out to all the publishers in the US and none of the mainstream publishers wanted it. I think it's a little darker. It's a little more literary than some of my other work. And there were some smaller presses that were interested in it and would have published it but I knew that I had everybody knows coming down the pipe. And again, this is just dumb rules of publishing. If you go from a mainstream publisher to a small house, that is seen as taking a step down whether that is or not that's immaterial. The point is, I knew it would hurt everybody knows publication chances to go down to a smaller house. So I made the choice not to publish less and California in America for now and publish everybody knows which has been much more commercial than my other books, and it's doing better than my other books. And so I guess, much like my friend essay Cosby just published his first novel my darkest prayer just got rereleased on a mainstream press now that he is big fancy hotshot. I hope that maybe after this new violence I can do the same thing Alaska California and just just put it out as a paperback here in America because I do understand I mean, it is it's really dark it's it's it's it's literary it has a main character who is not a normal crime fiction guy he's like scared and weird and lonely and and sad and all these things that like don't get mainstream publishing really excited anymore. And I was a little a little bitter about it for a little while, but like, it's just again, this is the game. This is what happens and I still own it. I can still do something with it. So it will get published some time, but if somebody really wants to read it, they should find a way of getting the British copy for right now, because there's no plans in the immediate future for it to come here. But someday, I mean, and again, if, if, if I published a couple more books, and I still can't get a post, and I'll self publish it, because, yeah, I think we're gonna see more of that in the future, too. I know, several crime fiction authors, Sara grin, the great, great Sara grin. Just self published her last novel, because she is, you know, Sarah has always been somebody, I think, further down the road than me, but like me, who is really well thought of in crime fiction. She's a crime fiction authors, crime fiction author, you know, and, and I think that's had her run into trouble. I don't know where so I'm totally speculating here that like that, it kind of makes more sense for her to just go ahead and self publish, she has a great fan base, and like, and there are people who want to buy her books, and she can get more of the prophet by self publishing. And she has enough experience to know like, you still give it a real cover you copy edited, you know, she did all the work that you're supposed to do to publish a book. And then she's also famous enough that she can get press for a self published book. Yeah. Because the right people like, like Sarah's work, so I think that is a future that I could see, for a lot of people like me who aren't ever going to, even if my books are getting more commercial, I'm never going to be a to weird and dark fare like superstar status, you know what I mean? Right? That, like sells a billion copies, kind of guy, which is fine. I mean, I'm happy with where I'm at. But like, I could see in the future as publishing gets narrower and narrower, more people making that choice, not just in publishing, by the way, I mean, I think, in film, I think indie films are going to, they've always been interesting, but I think we're about to have another resurgence, because I can tell you Hollywood is getting more conservative. Yeah. And I don't mean that politically, although I also politically, but like, um, but like, in that, like, they just want the big stuff, you know, that's they, yeah. And, and those of us who care about other things are just going to have to, like, get into physical media and, and, and supporting artists directly and making things directly. And I think that's the future for a lot of a lot of good art. In the future.
Michael David Wilson 1:17:27
Yeah. Yeah. And I've noticed in the publishing world, there are more people taking this hybrid publishing route, where they will have like, some ink with a big press, and then they'll put something out independently. And I mean, I, I'm wondering, you've obviously said, that's a route that you could take now, you said, if you'd put the last king of California out with a smaller press that would be seen as a step down? Do you think if you were to do something with like a big publisher, and then you were to independently put something out? Would that have the same kind of negative stigma or potential impact? Or is it a bit of a different case, when you're putting it out yourself?
Jordan Harper 1:18:14
Here's why it gets really complicated is because as more and more decision making is pushed towards algorithms, you start seeing these algorithmic choices where for instance, like, you know, you publish one book that, and then you come out with another book that's completely different. And maybe feels more commercial. But there's a certain big bookstore chain that said, well, we'll take as just as many copies of this book as the last book sold. Because that's, that's just algorithmic thinking, you know, this author sells X number of copies. So that's where you get into danger if you go out with a small press. But if you start a small press, and then work your way up, that's a totally different vibe. I don't know why. But it just is they don't count that. But like, if you were somebody who sold up here, and then all of a sudden you sell down here, yeah, it doesn't matter why to the algorithm. The algorithm just says, well, this person doesn't sell as many copies as they used. It's very, it's a very weird system. And it's why you hear all the time now, if people are submitting to agents, a lot of agents will not consider people who've already been published as clients unless they're already big successes. Because a new author is an unknown quantity, there's no there's nothing in the algorithm to make a decision about them. You can only make a human decision about a new author. So if you so it's actually and this is again, this is perverse. This is not the way the world should be. It's just the way the world is. Yeah, it's better for you as an author to have never published your first books than to have published a book and not how to be a success which weirdly, like Hollywood doesn't work that way, at least not all the time. But like, in Hollywood, it's like if you've gotten a show on the air, even if it got canceled right away, it's seen well, but they have experienced getting a show on the air so that that must mean that they know what they're doing. And we can trust them. And they'll, you're more likely to get another show on the air. But publishing is, that's one way that publishing is worse than Hollywood most ways. Publishing is better than Hollywood. But that one that weird algorithmic thinking is very bizarre.
Michael David Wilson 1:20:29
Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, unfortunately, I think there's more of a shift in all realms to algorithmic thinking and AI and these weird, automated kind of decisions that are being made. But I mean, I don't know if this is a concern for you, but I, I'm not concerned about AI stories, or AI, art in inverted commas, you know, replacing real art because it just lacks the humanity it lacks, you know, what makes it fundamentally human. So I just think you're not going to be able to replace real artists with AI, because, you know, they're literally not human. That is the missing ingredient. There's no soul.
Jordan Harper 1:21:21
I know, I can completely agree with that. My I always say that, particularly fiction, but film anything. Paintings, like art exists, it's a medium for one subconscious to talk to another subconscious. And then our conscious brains of both the creator and the consumer are just sort of, like in the way of that basic conversation between two subconscious is, and AI literally doesn't have a subconscious, it does not have one, if you ask it to do something, it will deliver that thing, but there will not be any weird stuff bubbling up. And if that does bubble up, it's not from a subconscious. It's from some work in the algorithm. Yeah, I mean, people sometimes like, I kind of mean this literally, I find that stuff demonic. Like, what's a demon, a demon is an unliving thing that like, marks life and exhibits the signs of life, and he gets inside your head. But with something that is not alive and is Yeah, to me, like that's the scary part is like, putting that stuff in your head. But to me with the threat of AI is not taking my job, or anybody like anybody's, like creative art job, it's just that it's going to start flooding the zone, like, like that, like people are going to learn how to pair AI with chat bots that come on Twitter, and suddenly, every Twitter thread is going to be just exploded with comments and everything you saw about what is it Clarkesworld or Clarke world? The site? Yeah, website that had to shut down because they got bombarded by AI stories like, yeah, the stories don't have to be good, the flood the zone, they just have to flood the zone. I mean, I've, I think that's going to be a real problem, I think it's just going to increase the amount of noise everywhere,
Michael David Wilson 1:23:09
is just gonna say if that kind of thing happens, and a natural reaction is going to be less open submissions, because people don't want to have to deal with that. I mean, God, if I had an open submission call, and I'm just getting hundreds of AI generated things, it's like, sorry, you know, invite only going forward, because I'm just not going to deal with that. Or, I guess, like, you know, there's ways you could get kind of clever about it. So you almost have like, a semi open submission. So you'd have to have, like, some email list with different writers that you know, and then you make them aware, but you don't publicly put it out there.
Jordan Harper 1:23:53
Yeah, I mean, there's, again, then some, somebody somewhere his job is going to be the learn how to like, bypass that, or, Oh, yeah. I mean, It's an Arms Race, you know, and I'm very interested because I do think that, again, I don't think it's because they're gonna start writing novels that people want to read. But I do think we're at an inflection point where things are going with the, the ones that I think are really funny, and that I really enjoy are the the voice emulators where they're like, right, you know, doing fake Joe Biden speeches, or like Joe Rogan, and Ben Shapiro having our I just laugh at those like, but really, like those are going to get better, the chat bots are gonna get better. There's going to be whole websites that are just filled with nothing but like people who don't exist, having conversations with each other. It's really it's going to end I again, I just feel like it's gonna flood the zone and then the AI bots are going to start learning how to speak from not humans, but from other AI bots, because they're just gonna be scanning the web constantly. And it's more than one by this written by AI, more AI is going to learn how it will it will go off into things that we cannot predict. Yeah, and not that not that they're going to take over the world. I just think we're entering some I do feel like we're entering a weird inflection point that we can't see the other side of yet that we don't know where this is gonna go, but it's gonna go somewhere.
Bob Pastorella 1:25:19
Yeah. And I think when I on the Clarkesworld thing, what he said was after he shut it down, was there was a lot of these people who were actually sending out submitting, said that they genuinely needed the money. And it's like, you know, as a writer, it's like, okay, there's a fundamental lack of understanding how publishing works. Yeah, if you if you get if you if you accept my story, if I have any story acceptance in my email, I do not have a check in that email. No, no, but I guess I guess, because they were thinking, well, I'll generally needed the money if you need the money that bad McDonald's is hiring.
Jordan Harper 1:26:02
Yeah, I mean, I know. No insult to anybody, but like, that's not that's not why you write short stories. Like if you get it, yeah. Terrific. Congratulations, like, I'm glad for But yeah, if that's like, that's, I mean, you know, I think maybe the last writer who pulled that off, who like really made a significant amount of money off short stories in that style was Stephen King before, right. Yeah, you know, that generation when you really could like, make a noticeable difference in your income as a hustling young school teacher in Maine, who I believe lived in a trailer or a very small house, that and there were like porno mags that would pay you $200.19 70s dollars to write a horror story that Stephen King was really able to, like, have a noticeable. And I think by way, that's why he can write the way he can write write as fast as he can write is because he came up in an entirely different era when like, cranking out short stories really did mean the difference between like a shitty dinner and a good dinner and his life. But that was 40. That was 40 years ago. And I don't think anybody in a genre if I'm wrong about that, I would love to know who's done it since but I just think he was like at the tail end of that era that like started with Robert Howard. And guys like that, where it's like, no, Robert Howard really could live off writing short stories. And so yeah, I mean, again, I it's not I want people to get paid for their short stories. It's not that but like, Yeah, you can't. You needed the money. I don't know. I
Bob Pastorella 1:27:43
think that seemed funny. They say even say that. Yeah.
Jordan Harper 1:27:48
I believe that. Like I'm sure how much do those quarks Clarkesworld pay
Michael David Wilson 1:27:55
your exact word? Yeah, it might be Yeah, that's what I was gonna guess that? Yeah. Yeah.
Jordan Harper 1:28:02
I mean, you know what, I gotta say, that's pretty decent. I didn't know anybody still paid that anymore. But the, you know, that is, but again, you can't count on that, because of Clarkesworld doesn't accept your story, then. I'm not gonna, you know, I'm not in a position to like diss anybody for going out and trying to sell a story, but like, but I guess that's why the AI is targeted them too, right? It's like, Well, all we need to do is sell one story out of these 500. And we'll have paid for our very little time that it took to generate them because they're not writing those stories.
Michael David Wilson 1:28:39
Right. Yeah. But yeah. Well, I know that we are coming up to the time that we have together. And by coming up to the time, I mean, have massively so you did it already.
Jordan Harper 1:28:53
But this was really fun. I really enjoyed this.
Michael David Wilson 1:28:57
Yeah. But I do want to know, like, how have your colleagues in Hollywood responded to Everybody Knows, because to say, you know that the criticism of Hollywood is scathing, is perhaps even an understatement.
Jordan Harper 1:29:15
I mean, quite frankly, everybody in Hollywood is really enjoyed it. They've really enjoyed it, because I think they all know what I'm talking about. And that that phrase that kind of drives a lot of the book and it's become kind of the tagline of the book is nobody talks but everybody whispers and that is 100% true. Hollywood is most of the secrets are open secrets in one way or another. And so people know what I'm talking about. People have lived these lives they've had this experience of and you know, this feeling of like having a job that is fun and rewarding, but it's also in the surface of something that you're not totally comfortable with and then causes you to interact with these incredibly powerful and incredibly toxic people. Is you know, obviously every Everybody knows as the most exaggerated pulpy version of that, but I was portraying the standard issue Hollywood experience by in that book that is, that's the underlying tone of it. So no, I, you know, I'm you know, trying to sell it as movie have some news I can't say about it, but like, I've been taking meetings with, like, people all up and down like a couple of very famous people who have, like, really enjoyed it in a way where I'm like, really? Oh, I'm so glad I'm so glad because, you know, I do love and hate Hollywood at the same time. So it's, it is scathing, but um, again, most people in Hollywood I think would like to do better than they do. And we all feel trapped like most people do in life, I think by the system that we're a part of the constraints. And while I do think a lot of the book from my secret perspective is about how I would really like stop working in Hollywood and just write books if everybody would write just everybody knows that will help a lot in that journey. But um, but I think a lot of people who have who lived in Hollywood and live in the neighborhoods that I write about it this is very much my LA which makes it very much the LA have a lot of people who work in Hollywood all the restaurants are real all of this celebrity sightings are celebrities I saw in the place I saw them you know, like so it has it rings true to the people and I'm really glad about that.