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Pulp Fiction


By Paul Feinberg '85

Published Sep 14, 2018 8:00 AM

Lee Goldberg had a thrilling path into the world of mystery literature.

Photo by Ron Scarpa.

Best-selling author Lee Goldberg ’85 first drew attention as a writer at age 19, when he told the L.A. Reader about the hazards of writing crucial-but-graphic scenes while in class at UCLA. “I’d be sitting in a lecture writing sex scenes or rape scenes, and people would look at what’s in my notebook, look at me and after the break I’d have two empty seats on either side of me,” Goldberg recalls. “I wanted to say, ‘I’m not a sicko, I’m getting paid for this.’”

Goldberg credits his career to Professor Lewis Perdue, the journalism adviser for the Daily Bruin from 1979 to 1982, who also wrote conspiracy thrillers, Goldberg says. The two became friends, and Perdue would show him his manuscripts. Goldberg found himself giving his opinions on espionage and sex, even though he’d had no experience in either.

“Pinnacle Books asked [Perdue] if he’d write a men’s action adventure series,” Goldberg says. “He said he wasn’t hungry or desperate enough to write one, but he knew someone who was.”

Goldberg was hired to write the series; if he failed, Perdue would take over. “It was great. I got this graduate school education in writing novels while still an undergraduate,” he says.

Those early novels were written under the nom de plume Ian Ludlow — a mashup of James Bond creator Ian Fleming and Robert Ludlum, the best-selling author in America at the time. Now, 30-something years into a career featuring dozens of novels and nonfiction tomes — not to mention writing and producing credits on such TV hits as Monk and Diagnosis Murder — “Ian Ludlow” has returned — not as Goldberg’s alter ego, but as the hero of his latest page-turner, True Fiction, which revolves around a writer of thrillers who gets caught up in a life-and-death adventure of his own. A sequel featuring Ludlow, Killer Thriller, comes out in February.

Goldberg, who is donating a collection of old scripts and production budgets to UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, makes no apologies about where his work resides in the literary landscape. “I don’t write literary novels. I write mystery and thrillers,” Goldberg says. “There’s this notion that ‘literary’ is somehow the only real writing. It’s ridiculous. The only thing that separates literary fiction from genre fiction is that literary fiction tends to sell less.”

A two-time nominee for both the Edgar and Shamus awards, Goldberg writes books on spec and sends them to publishers. His True Fiction was published by Amazon’s imprint Thomas & Mercer. “Intuitively, it felt like an Amazon book,” he says. “I knew they could market it right. To me, it felt like a book made for the Kindle.”