Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Apparently, I Get My Ideas From Joe Mannix...

by Sean Chercover

So I went AWOL today. Instead of working, blogging, and obsessively checking email, I kept The Mouse out of daycare and we spent the day hacking around.

That's what we called it when I was a kid. "Hey, you wanna hack around after school?" These days, kids have play dates (retch), but when I was a kid, we just hacked around.

Hacking around consisted of many activities, the legal ones including: listening to records, riding bikes, collecting loose change and skateboarding to the store for Pop Rocks and Coke, playing mini hockey in somebody's basement, climbing onto the school roof, making forts from cardboard boxes, and of course, running around the back routes playing Joe Mannix.

The back routes were the neighborhood's interconnected back yards and lane-ways, and playing Joe Mannix meant running around shooting cap guns at each other, faux-fighting (which occasionally escalated to bloody lips), and throwing ourselves over hedges, fences, and (in winter) snowbanks. Sometimes we played Joe Mannix inside, which occasionally led to broken furniture and displeased parents.

For those who were not yet born when I was a kid (that means you, Marcus), Joe Mannix was the lead character in a television drama called, naturally, MANNIX. Mike Connors played ultra-cool P.I. Joe Mannix, and he was everything a man should be, circa 1967-1975. A man of fists and guns and fast cars, but also possessed of of sharp intellect, and yes, very smooth with the ladies.

Check out the opening theme, and see if you don't also want to be Joe Mannix:

Sometimes, when a boy in our group started acting a little tougher than his place in the pack allowed, one of the other boys would back him down with: Who do you think you are, Joe Mannix? Such was the pervasive influence of this character on young boys in the early 70s.

Okay, so what the hell does this nostalgia trip have to do with where I get my ideas?

A few years ago, I had an awesome idea for a future Ray Dudgeon novel, and I started making notes on the set-up, underlying crime, plot twists, and so on. It was a strong candidate for a possible third or fourth book in the series, and I returned to it often, confirming that, yes, it was indeed a kick-ass story, and adding new ideas as they came to me.

Then (you can probably see where this is heading) Jon Jordan brought Joe Mannix back into my life, when the first season was released on DVD.

I had not seen the show since I was a kid, and loved it all over again. Like all television drama of the era, it's dated. The world has changed since 1967, as has television drama. But it holds up better than many of it's contemporaries, and some episodes are quite excellent.

Then, about two-thirds into Season One (I'm not telling which episode), I watched in horror as Joe Mannix works the same damn case that I'd been planning for Ray! I grabbed my story notes, and was shocked to discover exactly how similar. Not just the premise, but the hidden agenda of the client, and the major plot twist, were identical.

Clearly, the writers of MANNIX had stolen my idea! Except, I was a baby in 1967, and surely only saw that episode as a rerun during the mid-70s. I guess it buried itself somewhere in my subconscious and hid there for thirty years.

So, the next time a reader asks me where I get my ideas, I know the answer. Joe Mannix.

The Mouse and I do not fight, or shoot at each other, but we do regularly throw ourselves over snowbanks, or into piles of comforters and pillows, and we call it playing Joe Mannix. When we do, we are both Joe Mannix, and our dialogue goes a lot like this:

The Mouse: Let's jump into that snowbank, Joe Mannix.
Me: I'm right behind you, Joe Mannix.

Sorry I'm so late blogging, but The Mouse and I had an awesome day.


Alan Orloff said...

Great post, Sean, and so true. I get a lot of my ideas from Jim Rockford!

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Dana King said...

Revisiting stories from thirty, forty, fifty years ago can be a great idea. (Observance of copyright assumed.) So much of the human condition remains unchanging (greed, avarice, lust, deceit, what other sins you can imagine), but how they're expressed and resolved changes dramatically as time goes on.

I recently read Ken Bruen's LONDON BOULEVARD, which is essentiall SUNSET BOULEVARD moved to 21st Century London, with William Holden's Joe Gillis character replaced by someone much more like Richard Stark's Parker. A fascinating story in Bruen's hands, one of the small handful of best books I read last year.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Go ahead and use the Mannix plot. (Worked for Shakespeare didn't it?) I'd be able to have a nice dinner at Gene & Georgetti's if I had five bucks for every time I've seen Rashoman revisited on TV. And the story won't be the same by the time you put your words into the matrix.

Sean Chercover said...

Michael - That's why I didn't say which episode :) Never know if I might still use elements of it, someday.

Dana - I loved LONDON BOULEVARD. Ken Bruen is da man!

Alan - Got the entire Rockford Files series on DVD. Rockford rocks.

Jon The Crime Spree Guy said...

No, I am Joe Mannix ~ he said in a Spartacus voice....

Todd said...

IIRC, the first season was never shown in re-runs, so either you remembered the plot from infancy or you came up with all by yourself.

Sean Chercover said...

Wow, Todd, that's crazy. Thanks for commenting.

I was a one-year-old when the episode aired.