TV Mysteries Solid as 'Stone'
Tom Selleck and the other makers of CBS' "Jesse Stone" movies are fortunate, then, since they've had veteran novelist Robert B. Parker's blessing from the start.
In the third of the "Stone" TV mysteries -- "Jesse Stone: Death in Paradise," airing Sunday, April 30 -- the troubled New England police chief (played by Selleck, also an executive producer and co-writer on the film) probes Boston's underworld as he seeks a teenage girl's killer.
"Knots Landing" alumnus William Devane co-stars as a doctor who counsels Stone on his drinking problem, and Orla Brady ("Empire") appears as the headmistress of the prep school the victim attended. Viola Davis and Stephen McHattie reprise their roles from the previous "Jesse Stone" films.
Also the creator of the private-detective character that yielded Robert Urich's and Joe Mantegna's "Spenser" television projects, the good-humored, Massachusetts-based Parker claims "how much?" was his only question when the screen deal was made for his Stone books.
"Seriously, somebody once asked me, 'Why do you sell your books to Hollywood?' I answered, 'For money! What other reason is there?' That's not just for the television rights, but the books sell better. My latest Jesse Stone novel ('Sea Change') started higher and lasted longer on the New York Times best-seller list than any other. And gee whiz, Tom Selleck has done several Stone movies in the past year or so. I wonder if there's a connection."
Impressed by Mantegna's thorough knowledge of the "Spenser" books and character, Parker feels similarly about Selleck's take on Jesse Stone. "Selling your book is like selling your house," he reasons. "You can go by it a year later, and they've painted it an ugly color, but it's not your problem anymore.
"In this case, when I saw the first movie (last year's 'Stone Cold'), I actually got tears in my eyes. It was the first time I'd ever seen stuff that I wrote come to life like that on the screen. I think Tom has so nailed the character, it's almost breathtaking."
Parker maintains that even when television first came calling in the mid-1980s, through Warner Bros. and ABC's approach about Urich's "Spenser: For Hire" series, he didn't worry about the result.
"My agents are very savvy people, and they would tell me, 'Remember, you're selling the rights to these people to make their movie.' I caught on pretty quickly that my books are my books, and the movie or television show is theirs. The two things aren't the same, so I just go by Woody Allen's famous 'Take the Money and Run.'"
So far, Selleck has resisted a weekly "Jesse Stone" series because of the long hours it would entail, something he knows well from his years on "Magnum, P.I." Parker also realizes such a show would mean "heavy lifting" for the Emmy-winning actor, yet the writer of three novels per year muses, "The last time I was with him, I said, 'Well, what about me? Sure, it'll kill you, but I'll get rich!'
"You're in every shot when you're the star, or at least the conventional wisdom says you should be. I'd love to see a 'Jesse Stone' series for all the obvious reasons, and I'd love to see Tom do it."