- Short Stories
Like most writers, I’ve worked on a broad range of projects, some which I initiated, others for which I was hired. Some of my scripts were eventually produced, many were not. It’s the nature of the business, and no one ever forced me to pursue it. Here are some of the things I worked on as a writer. I’ve left out a few, including After-School specials, episodes for television series, and uncredited rewrites on several movies.
The Dogs of War (screenplay by)
The New Yorker
The New York Times
When I was hired to adapt Frederich Forsythe’s novel of the same name as a screenplay, five or six other screenplays had already been written, one of them by Michael Cimino. Years before, I myself had been offered the job when another producer briefly owned the book’s movie rights. I read Cimino’s script and while it was high-octane and effective, it had little to do with Forsythe’s book. I worked in London, meeting often with the producer, Larry DeWaay, and director John Irvin, who was in the midst of post-production on his marvelous BBC series “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.” The basic problem with the story Forsythe had devised was that A hires B to do C, and that is exactly what happens in the book and it is not that much fun. I added the element that A hires B to do C, but doesn’t tell B everything. There was a huge catch, and it was up to B, mercenary Cat Shannon played by Chris Walken who was sensational, to go through some hell to work it all out. The late Gary DeVore did a revision on my screenplay, we shared the final credit, and a lot of people liked the finished movie a lot.
Out Cold (screenplay by)
The New Yorker
My friend Len Glasser had written a screenplay called “Hamburgers,” the story of two butchers in Queens whose lives get messed up by the wife of one of them. Len asked me to work on it with him, we did a lot of rewrites, and then Len sold it and it was made. John Lithgow was one of the butchers, Terri Garr was the dangerous wife, and it was all shot south of Los Angeles in San Pedro, which was not Queens. But the reviews were good and it’s still fun to watch.
Kavik, The Wolf Dog (screenplay by)
These two novels are available at Amazon, Alibris, and Abebooks.
“Take What You Will”
My first short story was published in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. There have been others since, more recently in literary journals such as Pleiades. But in 1973 I published a story in Penthouse, which the year before had published my long interview with English author Anthony Burgess ("A Clockwork Orange"), and then another in one of the first issues of Genesis. Quite a few of these men's magazines appeared in those days, a few publishing interesting new fiction and serious journalism, others more dedicated to what Mort Sahl once called hi-fi and seduction: "The hi-fi," he said, "is in the science section, the seduction in science fiction."
Here are my more recently published stories. Just click on the PDF to read any one of them.
In the mid-90’s I was in East Africa, up-country in Kenya, scouting and researching a movie. I subsequently wrote the story and the screenplay, but the movie, a thriller called “The Hunt,” was never made. My story, “KOR” came from that experience and appeared in Volume V. No. 1, of The Distillery. Barely embellished, it happened largely as I have written it, which probably makes it less of a story and more of a very personal chronicle.
This story was an excerpt from an early draft of my novel, “Spying On My Father,” evolving for a long time, and finally completed only in the past year. At the suggestion of Harper Lee, who read a later draft, this episode, which originally opened the novel and was, by the time she read it, not written in the third person, was jettisoned, even as the father-and-son visit to the amusement park is now used elsewhere. The story itself appeared in Pleiades, Vol. 18, No. 2, Spring/Summer 1998.
This story has, with time, emerged as the novel “Candell’s Revenge,” recently revised and completed. The title is a legal term first explained to me by the late Leonard Holland, a lawyer of decency and generosity who was, most important of all, my friend. The story was originally published in Red Rock Review, Vol. One, Issue Six, Summer, 1999.
It was another friend, the late Derek Marlowe, a wonderful writer, who once told me about an anonymous encounter which ended badly. That led, circuitously and by way of Venice, to this story, “Ravishing Nebraska,” which appeared in NDQ North Dakota Quarterly, Vol. 66, No. 4, Fall 1999.
As a writer gets older in the movie and television business, he or she becomes more and more aware of the trends nipping at their heels, not the least of which is that everybody is suddenly looking a lot younger. This story, which never happened to me, was an invention that was fun to write, almost like getting in my two cents worth. It appeared in RIVERSEDGE, Volume XII, No. 2, Spring, 1998.
This is another excerpt from “Spying On My Father,” now its opening chapter, but different from how it appears in the novel. It was published in The Licking River Review, Volume 29, Winter/Spring 1997-1998.
“Exterior - Day”
Also from “Spying On My Father,” this story comes as a crucial revelation, which shifts a lot of things in the novel. Also different from how it now appears in the novel, it happily stands alone. It was published in INKWELL, No. 8, Spring, 1999.
I am preparing several one-act and full-length plays which will be available for purchase on Kindle® and NookTM.
I am also preparing my translation of "The Cherry Orchard," by Anton Chekhov,” which was commissioned by and premiered at The Nora Theatre, Cambridge, MA, in January of 2009. Here is the opening of Louise Kennedy's review in The Boston Globe.
CAMBRIDGE - Of all the tricky things about staging the works of Anton Chekhov, getting the tone right is the trickiest. Like a sunset, a fire opal, or a shimmering mist, a Chekhov play makes even the strongest impressions through the accretion of a thousand tiny variations in shade. Push any one color - comedy, tragedy, oddity, romance - too hard, and the thing congeals into a caricature of itself.
Earlier generations overstressed the tragic; even the archetypal Chekhov interpreter, Konstantin Stanislavsky, made "The Cherry Orchard" more maudlin than its creator desired. These days we seem to be veering more toward the comic end of the spectrum, perhaps out of a desire to avoid the lugubrious excesses of the past. But surely it's possible to find a range of tones instead of hammering away at just one.
George Malko's new translation of "The Cherry Orchard," commissioned by the Nora Theatre Company for its current production at the Central Square Theater, weaves its way deftly through these challenges, with a delicate attention to elegiac nuance that doesn't slight the eccentric comedy, either.
Currently available is “A Tragic Man Despite Himself: The Complete Short Plays of Anton Chekhov,” published by Green Integer Press. Click here to buy the book and read the read the review published in The Times Literary Supplement.
In January, 2009, the Actors' Summit Theatre, originally in Hudson, Ohio, and now in brand new quarters in nearby Akron, produced four of the one-acts under the collective title 'Russians In Love.' The actors, members of Neil Thackaberry's outstanding company, were, clockwise from the upper left, Frank Jackman, Sally Groth, Keith Stevens, and Constance Thackaberry. The experience was wonderful and the reviews were excellent, one of them calling my translations 'witty and bold.'"
Over the years, I've written and published a wide range of articles and reviews in an equally wide range of magazines. Subjects included Visiting Your Kids At Summer Camp (NYTimes Sunday Travel), The Song Festival in San Remo, a profile of the legendary stripper Blaze Starr (Lithopinion), a different profile of the late conductor Newell Jenkins (NYTimes Arts & Leisure), Chain Letters and Australian Artists (again in Lithopion), painter Jaimie Wyeth (Mademoiselle), a profile of Pauline Kael (AUDIENCE Magazine and since anthologized). My wife and I published ski cartoons in SKI Magazine, and I wrote an article about the fate of that American icon, the yo-yo. It became THE ONE & ONLY YO YO BOOK, and nobody sued me. When I expanded another article into my book, “Scientology: The Now Religion,” I was.
“A CERTAIN ART”
My father, the late conductor Nicolai Malko, had always wanted to write a book about his illustrious teachers: Rimsky-Korsakoff, Liadov, and Glazounov, as well as musicians such as Eduard Napravnik and Artur Nikisch, to name but a few who he believed had shaped and influenced his creative life. From the few profiles and extended pieces he had been able to write, I collected, translated from the Russian, and edited to produce his book “A Certain Art,” which title is taken from Cicero: “Not only is there an art in knowing a thing, there is also a certain art in teaching it.”
“SCIENTOLOGY: THE NOW RELIGION:
I was in Australia, working on an article for Playboy Magazine, when a reporter tracked me down to ask if I had heard that I was being sued by the Church of Scientology over my recently published book, “Scientology: The Now Religion.”
This was in the fall of 1970 and the book had come out some six months before. It had been well reviewed, including this one from John Leonard in the New York Times. My article for Playboy, “America: Loved It & Left It,” was about American families which were abandoning the U.S. and migrating to Australian, and it came out in 1972. By then I was in my first year of interrogatories in preparation for the lawsuit. My publisher, Delacorte, had hired the San Francisco law firm of Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro which had defended the New York Times before the Supreme Court in Times vs. Sullivan, an issue of free speech. The Times had prevailed. I didn’t. Three years into the suit, when a San Francisco judge ruled against a motion for summary judgment dismissal, instead finding reasonable cause to go to trial, Delacorte settled for a few thousand dollars and suppression of the book. Then they told me.
I came to the book by way of an article I wrote for a hip late 60s New York magazine, EYE. The article was called “Is There Anything You Don’t Understand,” and it so pleased the Church of Scientology that it sent me a letter of thanks and voted me a free Dianetics Auditors Course. The book was no less balanced. But as Bob Sherrill, former Washington Editor of The Nation as well as editor of Lithopinion, a remarkable journal published by the Lithographer’s Guild, once told me, “Hubbard’s orders are to sue everybody, the moment they hear someone’s either writing about them, or just thinking about it.”
During the three years of meeting with lawyers to answer questions, I was never harassed, as I was warned by several journalists and former Scientologists I would be. I did, within months of the book’s publication, start getting phone calls from distraught parents searching for sons or daughters; they hoped I might have some suggestions as to how they could locate children who had formally “disconnected” from them. The phone calls continued long after the book’s fate had been decided by the publisher.
As for “Scientology: The Now Religion,” someone seems to have put it up on the internet, copyright page and all.
THE ONE & ONLY YO-YO BOOK
Originally commissioned by Playboy because of its Americana nostalgia subject, it was eventually published by Bob Sherrill in Lithopinion, and then sold to AVON Books to become a book. Designed by the late and very great Ken Kneitel, it is now out of print, but copies can still be found on eBay, Alibris, and Abebooks, in prices ranging from $2.79 to $84.63. Tommy Smothers, creator of The Yo Yo Man, has always been convinced it would make a great movie. Every so often we talk about it. It could happen.
My first boss in the business was legendary newsman Tex McCrary (shown at left), a demanding personality who never stopped having ideas. Tex became not only a mentor, but a dear friend. The fourteen months I worked for him as a reporter/writer for the radio interview show that he and his wife, Jinx Falkenburg, broadcast live five nights a week was beyond graduate school. It taught me how to research, ask questions, and listen to the answers.
Not long after, NBC News sent me to Moscow because, as the son of Russian-born parents who had managed to get out of the Soviet Union in 1929 (about which I've written more particularly in "Where, O Where," the play I fashioned from my late mother's journals), I speak, read, and write Russian, and because Tex put in a good word for me. The four months I spent there were a constant mix of exhilarating and grim, a collision of wanting to see myself as quintessentially American with the fact that I was not simply in the land of some distant ancestors; every moment was about something else, or more. Historically, the highlight of my assignment was the exchange between Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Vice President Richard M. Nixon in our NBC/RCA television studio. You can see their historic exchange at the bottom of this page. Seen by most of America two nights later, many assumed it was the Kitchen Debate they had read about in their morning papers. It wasn't. A good account of the confrontation came from Bill Safire, writing in The New York Times (article will open in a new window - you can skip the ad) on the 50th anniversary of the event. He was in Moscow as a p.r. man working for Tex's public relations firm, as he mentions in his piece.
At the beginning of the 1960's I worked in Australia for the Australian Broadcasting Commission as a writer/director/producer. My parents were living there because my father was Musical Director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Sydney was where I met my wife, Elizabeth (Biffy). When we returned to New York I was hired by CBS News and we soon found ourselves in Rome for a year a half with a small CBS News unit producing documentary films in England, France, and Italy.
I quit because I wanted to write, which CBS was reluctant to let me try. I naively struck out on my own, confident that I knew how and in what order I would be advancing my writing career. I was wrong, and it was a long while before I was able to support my family as a working writer. That work, the novels and short stories that came to be published and the scripts produced for film and television, along with what's currently in progress, I detail elsewhere.
I've had plays produced in a variety of venues here and in Europe, and will soon have them available on Kindle® and NookTM. My translations of the short Chekhov works, published by Green Integer Press, Los Angeles, as "A Tragic Man Despite Himself: The Complete Short Plays of Anton Chekhov," have premiered in various American and Australian theaters. In January, 2009, the Nora Theatre Company, Cambridge, MA, presented the world premiere of my commissioned new translation of "The Cherry Orchard."
My first serious teaching experience happened years ago when I became a certified ski instructor, and immediately loved it. Though on snow and often freezing, one of its basic tenets of detecting and correcting a student's mistakes carries over to most other disciplines. For a number of happy years now, I have been an Adjunct Professor of screen and television writing in the Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and have also been Visiting Professor of Screenwriting at the International School of Film & Television, San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba.
I grew up in Chicago because that's where my father found work when we got out of Europe after the Nazis occupied Denmark. I arrived speaking German, some Danish, and rudimentary baby-talk Czech. My parents immediately began to teach me Russian while I learned English at school and from the street. I went on to study at Haverford College and The Sorbonne. I was about to leave for Paris when my friend and mentor Studs Terkel asked me to take something over to his friend Richard Wright. It was a manila envelope and I had no idea what it contained. As soon as I could, I went to Rue Monsieur le Prince where Wright lived, climbed the stairs to I think the fourth floor, and rang the bell. Wright himself opened the door, we exchanged some words, and I gave him the envelope. Wright asked me to thank Studs when I saw him, and closed the door. I knew that something important had just happened to me, but I have never been able to remember what we talked about.
I am a Lifetime Member of the Writers Guild of America, East, and am recipient of the Richard B. Jablow Award for service to the guild. For more than thirty years I had the rewarding privilege of being a Trustee on the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild - Industry Pension & Health Plans. For the past twelve years I was Co-Chairman of the Finance Committee of both plans.
In addition to Russian, I'm fluent in French and Italian, and have worked as a screen and television writer in those and other countries. I am recipient of a playwriting grant from the NEA, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in screenwriting, the first ever awarded.
My wife and I live in New York, as does our son Justin, his wife Erica, and their son Lucas. Our son Anton and his wife Hilary live in San Francisco with their sons, William and Theo.
The debate participants are, of course, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Vice President Richard Nixon. I'm briefly visible at the very beginning, and then continue just off-camera asking the questions. You can see who else was there in the black and white photograph at the very bottom.
Part 1 of 2:
Part 2 of 2:
From left to right: Nikita Khrushchev, Richard Nixon, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Klementy Voroshilov, First Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan, and me.