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Archive for Sunday, September 20, 1998

S NOVEL SNAGS MOVIE CONTRACT

September 20, 1998

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A Lawrence writer's "conventional shoot-'em up" has attracted an all-star cast of actors, suggesting Hollywood sees big promise in "Thick As Thieves."

Lawrence writer Patrick Quinn's first novel, "Thick As Thieves" (Berkley/Prime Crime, $5.99), will be coming to the big screen next spring. But it almost ended up in the trash can.

Quinn started his crime story by writing five chapters in four days about a character named Mackin, a ruthless professional thief who gets double-crossed by a partner in crime, setting off an escalating cycle of betrayal and revenge.

"I still remember writing the first line," Quinn said during an interview at The Bourgeois Pig, the coffee shop that's his home away from home. "I had no idea who the character was or how the story would turn out. It was the closest thing to automatic writing I've ever experienced."

Afterward, he sent the 60 pages to journalist Dave Barry's agent, Al Hart. Hart offered encouragement but said Quinn would have to finish the book before he could sell it.

"I was drinking a lot in those days, and my attitude was, if you can't sell the book as it is then forget you," Quinn said.

He proceeded to do just that. He lost the agent's address and abandoned the project for four years, concentrating instead on building a career as a rock 'n 'roll writer.

"Then I turned 35 and I said to myself, if you're going to write books it might be a good idea to get started now," Quinn said with a laugh. "So I bought a new computer and started going through all my old files."

While deleting files and transferring others to his new computer, he came across the 60 pages that later became chapters two through six of "Thick As Thieves."

"It was on its way to the trash can," Quinn said, "and then I said, `Wait a minute, that's a big file. Maybe I better take a look'."

Though the material initially didn't excite him, Quinn began working on the novel again. When he finished, in 1994, he tracked down Hart and sent him the finished manuscript. The agent called five days later and offered to represent the book. Two weeks later, it sold to Crown Publishing.

Quinn calls the novel "a fairly straightforward, conventional shoot-'em up" story about a gang of professional criminals. But the all-star cast assembled for the film suggests that Hollywood sees big promise in "Thick as Thieves."

Alec Baldwin stars as Mackin. Andre Braugher (who chose the film as his first project after leaving the critically acclaimed TV series "Homicide"), Rebecca DeMornay, Janeane Garofalo and Julia Sweeney also appear. An official release date hasn't been set, but Quinn says the movie -- directed by first-timer Scott Sanders and produced by independent filmmaker Donald Zuckerman -- is expected in spring 1999.

When Quinn learned his story was destined for the big screen, no one was more surprised than him.

"I had a peripheral knowledge of how the film business works, and I knew that most books don't get made into movies," he said. "When my agent called me in April and said we're all set, you could've knocked me over with a feather."

Quinn hopes to use what he calls his upcoming "fifteen minutes of fame" in Hollywood to make his mark as a screenplay writer. He's currently writing a screenplay about a gangster's moll in Kansas City during the 1930s era of Tom Pendergast.

Though he fears being pigeonholed as a crime writer, he has written another novel about Mackin, whom publishers view as a potential "franchise character," along the lines of Robert Parker's Spencer. "Mackin's Rules" is nearly ready to shop around to publishers.

"As soon as you sell any kind of genre book -- whether it's horror or crime or science fiction -- they immediately want another one," Quinn explained. "I thought the last thing in the world I wanted to do was write another one of these, because then there's no escape.

"I assumed at a very early age that I was going to write books, but I never intended to write crime novels. 'Thieves' kind of happened by accident."

And it almost didn't happen at all.

-- Steven W. Hill is a part-time writer for The Journal-World.

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