Murder, He Wrote: Grove Point Press Builds a One-Author Publishing Program
by Linda Carlson
Chris Fischer has a problem. His father and business partner, Peter S. Fischer, turns out mysteries so fast that fans don’t have to wait for the next novel.
“You need the anticipation of the next adventure: you want to enjoy waiting for the next one,” says the younger Fischer, who helps run Grove Point Press in Pacific Grove, CA. “Since late 2009 we’ve released eight books in the Hollywood Murder Mysteries series, plus an earlier novel and my dad’s memoir about working with Angela Lansbury.”
Has Anybody Here Seen Wyckham? came out this month, following the September publication of Me and Murder, She Wrote, and Chris Fischer says it’s now time for a break in issuing new titles (despite the other manuscripts his father has completed that are waiting for publication). Instead, he and his sister Megan McElrath, who handles publishing at Grove Point along with him, are preparing audio editions of each novel, and striving for more media coverage.
“Before we move on to more titles, I’d like to see more readers discover this great series,” he explains.
So far, the Fischer books are off to a fine start in terms of media recognition. Each novel’s plot is woven around the making of a famous film, such as Giant and Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and each has won praise from Kirkus Reviews (“Well-paced, with exceptional, believable dialogue and development. . . . An addicting thriller”) and bloggers (“A very quick and enjoyable read, and so many twists and turns that you can’t stop turning the pages” and “Good character development with the fictional characters. . . . Fun reads”).
As Peter Fischer explained when interviewed by the Monterey Herald last year, “The famous people in my books—Bogart, or Cagney, or James Dean, or Jane Wyman, or Karl Malden—are peripheral characters.” They “don’t become killers, or suspects, or victims, but they are all integrated into the story, which, I think, makes it a lot of fun.”
Judges in IBPA’s Benjamin Franklin Awards program also applauded. The Unkindness of Strangers was a gold medalist in 2013 in the mystery/suspense category.
Popular as the mysteries are, the best-selling Grove Point Press book to date is Me and Murder, She Wrote, the senior Fischer’s story of writing scripts for the television series. In the first months after publication, it has prompted many glowing reviews.
All in the Family
“We are truly a family company,” says Chris Fischer, “with three of us handling everything.”
What his father points out is that another family member, Peter’s brother Geoff, was responsible in part for getting Peter into scriptwriting. As Peter recalls, he was on Long Island, publishing a magazine about sports car rallies, when he pecked out a movie script. Geoff, then a casting director at Universal Studios, sent it back with other scripts to Peter to use as a guide and suggested he try again. That second attempt turned into The Last Child, a 1971 Movie of the Week produced by Aaron Spelling.
By that time, Peter Fischer had sat his family down and discussed the opportunity to take on Hollywood. “Lightning had struck, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on Long Island, playing it safe, wondering what might have happened.”
Chris Fischer remembers the move to California as exciting. “The whole family sat in front of the TV. When that credit came on the screen—‘Written by Peter S. Fischer’—we all applauded. We were just in awe that it all was happening.”
And for the next 25 years, it continued to happen, with Golden Globe nominations and scripts for Marcus Welby, M.D.; Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law; and what Peter Fischer calls “the crown jewel” of his career, Murder, She Wrote, which earned three Emmy nominations, an Edgar Allan Poe Award, and a Golden Globe.
Five years after Fischer retired at age 60, he sat down at the keyboard to write his first novel, The Blood of Tyrants. That novel led to a second, and then, says Chris, “he came up with the premise for the Hollywood Murder Mysteries,” and Grove Point Press was established because he wanted his stories available without the work of dealing again with agents, or with submissions to major publishers.
To keep things simple, Grove Point Press makes the titles available only via print on demand and in Kindle editions. To increase distribution in bookstores and libraries, Chris Fischer is exploring possible affiliations with larger publishers and distributors. He’d also like to take the stories full circle by selling options for movies and/or television.
Linda Carlson writes from Seattle, where she enjoys her mystery novelist colleagues but says she can’t develop any kind of plot herself.