Dazed and Confused — Headlock, Obama and Sewer Rats

DAZED AND CONFUSED:  I don’t get it, and neither does         any author/publisher.  Some books, despite rave reviews           and lovely covers, just…well… lie there, underappreciated,         with pages still stuck together as if they were German Go0-       Girls after a 12-hour Bukkake Marathon.

Lee Goldberg and I were discussing this the other night —         the books, not the Goo-Girls — and we each had stories to         share of  excellent books that didn’t reach their target                 audience.  We also had stories of books that failed to                   perform on initial release, but inexplicably caught fire years     later upon re-release.

    Lee’s THE WALK, a disaster novel that lived up to that description, became a highly praised best-seller when he brought it back first as an ebook, then as a paperback.  Lee tells the story best…

    My PI novel HEADLOCK, first released 15 years ago, garnered  rave reviews internationally, but because it was “print on demand” technology before that process caught on, the book was nearly impossible to buy, and I netted approx. $56.75 before the original publisher, Deadly Alibi Press, closed shop.   Wild Blue Press recently re-released HEADLOCK with snazzy new cover, more readable font, and they even fixed all the typos.


 Will HEADLOCK catch fire now, or is it doomed despite rave reviews?  My suggestion is for you to buy HEADLOCK by Burl Barer, read it and then let me know your opinion by posting a review on your favorite book site.


The only reason I mentioned Obama and Sewer Rats is because any blog post containing that phrase gets massive hits.

You can change fiction, rewrite reality.

Memory is a tricky thing. There are things I don’t remember, and there are things I can never forget.   I wrote a short story last year that I called,”The Girl I Don’t Remember”  It is a fictionalized version of a true memory of mine from late 1960’s or early 70’s — I don’t really remember what decade — and I didn’t like the ending in real life, or in the story. The other day, I rewrote the ending. Tell me what you think.

©2015/2016 Burl Barer. All Rights Reserved



Burl Barer

I once met a girl about whom I remember absolutely nothing except this story.  There is no image of her in my mind, no recollection of her scent, her smile, her laugh or the long tender kiss we shared before we parted.  I’m sure there must have been a kiss, or several kisses and perhaps some type of intimacy, but it is lost to me now after so many years.

All I know is that we met one gloriously romantic night in Seattle, and shared the evening together until just past 2 am.  I imagine we laughed a lot, or at least smiled until our cheeks hurt.  Whatever we did, I know we had a wonderful time. If not, I wouldn’t remember this story.

Our time together was joyous, stimulating and so blatantly rewarding that the idea of not seeing each other again was so absurd that we laughed about it. That much I recall.  It is only the ending events of the story that remain remarkably clear.

We were in her car, and she was dropping me off at my car.

“Now I suppose I’ll never see you again,” she said, and we both laughed. “You are one of those men who never calls the next day, or the next week, or ever .”

“I’ll call you before you’re home, just to hear it ring,” I said. “In fact, when you get home, the phone will be ringing as you open the door”

“You’ll need my number then. You can’t just dial at random and expect to get me.”

She found a napkin, dug a Schaefer cartridge pen out of her purse, and wrote down her number.

“I promise to stare at the number until it is embedded in my brain,” I said, “and I’ll save this napkin the rest of my days.”

“Okay, then,” she said, and I would like to think that she kissed me again. I pulled on the door handle, stepped out of the car, shut the door and waved goodbye as she drove off in the rain.


White napkin.

Blue cartridge ink.

No ringing phone awaited her at home. Not that night, not the next day. Not ever..

As  Seattle rain smeared the number from the napkin,  it also erased every detail of our encounter from my memory.

She is the girl I don’t remember. The Forgotten Woman.

The napkin, the rain and the dissolving bluish streaks are forever embedded in my brain, and true to my word, I saved the napkin.

I hope that if she remains alive, and by fate providence or literary curiosity she reads this story, I pray she forgives me.

Then again, the rain washing away her number possibly saved me from the devastating heartbreak of a disastrous affair climaxed by her murdering me, dismembering my lifeless body, running my remains through a meat grinder, then donating the lean ground author to the local senior center.

The Holy Book says, “every drop of rain is accompanied by an angel of the Lord.”

The angels of the Lord get credit for saving me from that vicious bitch.

I hope she died in a flood. 

Wait. What if she were saved from me?

Remind me to toss out this damn napkin.

I don’t even remember why I saved it in the first place.

The Literati love me in Pakistan.

“Inspiration inspires inspiration.”

My dear friend Allen Goldblatt penned that line on behalf of Mike Curb who, supposedly,wrote liner notes for “Music from 2001: A Space Odyssey Vol 2.”  This was inspired by inspirational music heard on the original film soundtrack  Well, of course. If vol 2 didn’t exist, it would prove that the first LP was not inspirational. What has this to do with Pakistan, or people loving me there?  Plenty, my book reading fan base, plenty.

The #1 hot-shot author, media master and marketing expert in Pakistan is Mian Moshin Zia.  I don’t know how Mian found my work, my books or this blog, but we know he did, and he found inspiration for his own career while reading about my life and my career — most especially a blog post I wrote, entitled The Day my Father Apologized.

He went so far as to contact me from Pakistan, and ask my sage advice on writing, reaching the international market, and other topics on which I was more than willing to pontificate as if I knew what I was talking about.  Also, I could easily see that Mian had incredible drive, talent, imagination and the proven chops in  marketing to make his dreams become a reality — and damn if he didn’t follow my advice to the letter! Wow, if I had known I gave such good advice I wouldn’t have been ignoring me all these years.

Today, Milan Moshin Zia is an internationally respected and admired author of suspense, mystery, and true love romance novels that pluck at your heartstrings until your ventricles collapse!

Here is his latest book and the book trailer….notice how Mian has mastered the cinematic presentation — the book cover looks like a movie one-sheet, not a book cover.

Obviously I am proud of Mian’s success, and he’s just getting warmed up. He is a quick study, a dedicated artist, and a bit of a visionary. Nice guy, too.  Plus, in interviews, he always says nice things about me. Hey, can’t beat that!


No one pays any attention to facts. People believe whatever crap is fed them in the newspaper and on TV…and the sad thing is that Newspapers and TV used to believe that honesty was a good idea. Not anymore. And no matter how many books are written about “Moral Panic,” no matter how many research studies are conducted on how people are manipulated into a “Moral Panic” over some fearful outrage — something that gets a lot of fearful press that is mostly bullshit, but someone is going to benefit –usually law enforcement, prisons, or politicians. You see it done a lot with drugs — and I have repeatedly warned my readers”IF THEY USE THE WORD EPIDEMIC, BE ON GUARD — UNLESS THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT A REAL COMMUNICABLE DISEASE SUCH AS TYPHOID OR SCARLET FEVER, YOU ARE BEING WORKED!” It is disingenuous to use “epidemic” to characterize social issues. If it is epidemic, who are the carriers of this disease, and what oppressive laws can we pass.
The latest absolute bullshit is the LA TIMES and LA WEEKLY both going along with a manufactured “MORAL PANIC” of the non-existent deaths caused by overdosing on MDMA. In the approximately 90+ years that MDMA was legal, and used therapeutically, no one ever died from an overdose. Since it became a schedule one drug a few years there is still not one death confirmed as being from an overdose of MDMA. There is a possibility that a girl in England may have died of an “overdose” although her dose was not “over” the known therapeutic dose. She was very tiny and weighed less than 100 lbs. Hence, a 500mg dose may have been too much. But that is only theoretical. So, there is NO KNOWN CASE OF AN MDMA OVERDOSE. There are known cases of people getting ill after they took something they THOUGHT was MDMA, but because real MDMA is now illegal, who knows what garbage those kids were sold? If it were legal and quality controlled, the kids would be safe!
Obviously lawmakers don;t care about keeping kids safe. If they did, they wouldn’t have made MDMA illegal.
People have died from heatstroke because they were in a hot club dancing while on MDMA, or drank way too much water to cool off while on MDMA, but in all those cases, the dose of MDMA they took was NOT an overdose. It was a perfectly normal therapeutic/recreational dose.
You see, back when it was legal, it came pure from the manufacturer, and came with easy to follow instructions on what to do and not do when you take it. I know, because my Dr gave it to me once a week until suddenly, it became illegal. Why the latest lies about MDMA? Simple. Politicians want to use moral panic to control who gets to rent venues. If it is a concert for teens and young adults, they don’t want to rent it the show’s promoters This is nothing new — I saw this in Seattle when there was moral panic over LIGHT SHOWS!!! they called it Vicarious LSD!
Oh spare me the manipulative bullshit.
Oh — you know the heroin epidemic that is killing our kids? No, you don’t because it doesn’t exist. The increase in opioid deaths is among male senior citizens taking too many of their legal medications. AND remember, if they call it an epidemic, watch out for new laws that could target you.


It was my great honor to work with Dr. Akikur Mohammad on the first early drafts of the manuscript which, over time and with significant additional research, evolved into a most impressive and important book, THE ANATOMY OF ADDICTION, for which Dr. Mohammad deserves full praise and credit.

Here for the first time, all the BS and superstitions are stripped away from the subjects of addiction and dependence.  When myths are busted, and false premises tossed out,  we find ourselves dealing with what is real — and reality is something you can live with.

If you or anyone you know is considering going into “treatment,” do not go to rehab without reading this book first! 

anatomy of addictionAdvance praise for The Anatomy of Addiction

“A lucid examination of addiction and treatment from a neurobiological perspective…with particularly engrossing chapters dispelling the 10 biggest myths of addiction.”

“Dr. Mohammad’s look at the current addiction treatment climate is direct, unflinching, and an absolute must read for everyone touched by addiction. The man is a true pioneer in the field of addiction and one of the few addiction experts to accurately and effectively balance science, medicine, and behavioral health.”
Darren Kavinoky, co-creator and host of Deadly Sins on Investigation Discovery and Certified Intervention Professional.

“This is strong medicine with no spoonful of sugar. But the book is not meant to inform; it is meant to transform.”
Dr. Walter Ling, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Integrated Substance Abuse Programs (ISAP) at UCLA

“A helpful resource for readers struggling with addiction, and their families and friends, as well as anyone who is interested in the global problem of addiction.”
George Simpson, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at Keck School of Medicine at USC and Former Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California

“When I first met Dr. Mohammad, addiction had left me broken and destitute on every level, and he saved and changed my life in a matter of minutes. He was the only treatment professional to show me that with the help of science, the truth about addiction, and a balanced treatment approach, I could have my life and family back. That was 13 years ago and I’ve never looked back. We are not powerless over addiction and this book tells you exactly why.”
JW, a patient of Dr. Akikur Mohammad


About the Author

Akikur Mohammad, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist with a second board certification in addiction medicine, is an award-winning academic and serves as a professor, specializing in addiction medicine, at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

He founded and serves as the medical director for Inspire Malibu in Los Angeles, a science- and evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment facility that focuses on dual-diagnosis and treating patients with addiction and co-occurring disorders.

He received the Outstanding Teaching Award from USC in 2003, the Outstanding Teaching Award from Residents in 2012, the and Outstanding Service Award in 2006 for his work as the associate director at LAC+USC Medical Center PES. Patients’ Choice has honored him with the Top Psychiatrists of America Award several times since 2005. In 2011, Who’s Who in America named Dr. Mohammad the Top Addiction Professional of the Year.

Dr. Mohammad has been the guest speaker at numerous regional and national conferences. Major pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, and Pfizer, have retained his services as a consultant. He has also appeared on many radio and television programs, including on ABC, A&E, and MTV.


There are so many new books, you might be in a quandary as to what books you want to own NOW.  Allow me to be of service, and do some blatant self-promotion at the same time.

First of all, if you don’t own it already, I insist you purchase MAN OVERBOARD: The Counterfeit Resurrection of Phil Champagne. 

“A fascinating adventure of deceit and deception as depicted by the facetious and brilliant, Burl Barer. This was a riveting read from start to finish fraught with twists and turns that keeps the reader captivated and entertained. A true crime library is not complete without Man Overboard.” — RJ Parker, award-winning true crime author and publisher.

HEADLOCK_concept2_Revised1_KindleNext on your list should be  HEADLOCK  my rave reviewed PI novel where I get to be the hero.  Well, it was pretty obvious that no one else was going to write a book with me as the hero, so I wrote it myself.’

“Jeff is the most appealing private eye since Archie Goodwin…the funniest and freshest mystery I’ve read all year!” – Cluelass

Now, here is one to PRE-ORDER right now for arrival in March, 2016:

A TASTE FOR MURDERTASTEforMURDER_concept1_var1_12-28-2015

A TASTE FOR MURDER Will Be Available March 8. Pre-Order Now!
Then Be Watching Investigation Discovery On March 12 When The Book and Authors Will Be Featured On “Epic Mysteries”

“A true crime murder mystery that will leave you gasping for breath”Steve Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of BOGEYMAN and NO STONE UNTURNED

“A doozy of a murder”Suzy Spencer, New York Times bestselling author of BREAKING POINT

Burl Barer, with co-author Frank Giradot, has hit yet another home run with this crime story. A smart and well-written who-dunnit tale.Cathy Scott, Los Angeles Times bestselling author of THE KILLING OF TUPAC SHAKUR

Frank Rodriguez, a much-loved counselor of troubled teens, lies dead on the bedroom floor. His wife and step-daughter are in shock, and so is the medical examiner when he performs the autopsy. Aside from being dead, Frank is in perfect health.

Demanding to know the cause of her husband’s death, Angie Rodriguez badgers the police, insisting that Frank was murdered. The cops attribute her assertions to overwhelming grief, but soon they too believe that Frank didn’t die of natural causes.

When the police enlist their number one suspect to help in the investigation, things spiral out of control until police are dealing with a daring plot to murder Angie’s best friend, and allegations of another homicide so evil and perverse that even seasoned L.A County Detectives are shocked beyond belief … and so will the readers!

Now, here are other brilliant suggestions!  SAVAGE HIGHWAY by Richard Godwin!

“The road novel from hell, a scarifying, terrifying savage highwaytour of a nether world that Godwin convinces us is right beneath our feet, a surrealist inferno that makes Dante’s version look like a Rotary breakfast. By no means for the fainthearted, SAVAGE HIGHWAY has one lesson for any readers who plan a visit to the American Southwest: take the train.”-Castle Freeman Jr., author of THE DEVIL IN THE VALLEY.

I loved it too!  Meanwhile,  Tod Goldberg has a new collaborative effort you won’t want to miss –– House of Secrets, written with Brad Meltzer.  And don’t miss out on Tod’s GANGSTERLAND.

”The Mafia plus the Torah makes for a darkly funny and suspenseful morality tale…[Goldberg] can spin a good yarn.” —The Millions



Here are some of the proposed covers for my forthcoming true crime mystery  A TASTE FOR MURDER — my first full-length non-fiction thriller co-written with famed crime journalist Frank C. Girardot, Jr.  The final version will most likely be a variation on #3.   The book comes out March 8th, and there will be a one-hour TV special, EPIC MYSTERIES: A TASTE FOR MURDER Saturday night, March 12th 9pm PT/ET  on  Investigation Discovery!






HEADLOCK_concept2_Revised1_Kindle  I alway wanted to be the hero of a private eye novel, and it was obvious that the only way that could happen is if I wrote a PI novel, and made myself the hero.  This novel was great fun to write, and people seem to get quite a kick out of it.

It is available in a snazzy new paperback edition, and also as an eBook.  There will also be an audiobook. I would like to narrate that one myself, but I might have someone else do it, just to see how it turns out.

Frank C. Girardot, Jr and I  teamed up for the true crime epic mystery, A TASTE FOR MURDER.   This is going to be a one-hour special on INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY’s EPIC MYSTERIES in March 2016.   Yeah, I thought it was going to be February but it keeps changing.

Meanwhile,  my nephews, Lee Goldberg and Tod Goldberg both have new books coming out.  Buy them. Please.  Not that they need my support, but I do what I can for them, and they do likewise.





There are certain things all mystery writers haves drilled into our heads, and we all have a screw loose.  We are all warned against using certain JEPS.   JEP is short for jeopardy.  Using those threats of harm, or actual harm, are deemed manipulative and emotionally upsetting to the reader.

I gave this a great deal of thought, and I believed that I could do one of the big “no-nos” if I did it as a magician does slight of hand. Yeah, and Buzz Lightyear thought he could fly.  Well, so far it remains in the air and is at least a partial refutation of JEP dogma.  Mystery writers will spot it instantly; hopefully, readers will HEADLOCK_concept2_Revised1_Kindle just keep reading.

The next challenge was writing the book in first person, and first person present tense.  First person, as your teacher will tell you, “imprisons you in one character.” 

John Gardner writes that “first person locks us in one character’s mind, locks us to one kind of diction throughout, locks out the possibilities of going deeply into various characters’ minds, and so forth.” (The Art of Fiction). First person is a form with very strict limitations compared to writing in third person omniscient.  Hence, my riddle:

Where is the only place where God is not omniscient? 

The answer: In the Bible.

Yes, God is a character in the Bible. He is a player in the story. Moses is also a character.  Although the first five books of the Bible are “The Books of Moses,” not a single word is written from the perspective of Moses. And none of it is written from the perspective of God, So, God is not the omniscient voice in the Bible because God is not telling the story, yet the story is told from an omniscient perspective. 

Now, here is an amazing illustration of God hand-delivering to Moses the TEN ROMAN NUMERALS. moses roman numerals

While you meditate on that, I’ll warn you that at a certain point in HEADLOCK, I do something really dangerous —a real risky stylistic twist of tense.  Jane Gelfman, famed literary agent, said “What you’ve done is heretical, but it works.”  Whew.

Before I began, she did warn me:  “Don’t  be too funny. You have a tendency to be too funny.” 

HEADLOCK isn’t funny to me because I seldom make me laugh. When I said “any toy store can sell you a Talking Barbie, but you can’t even special order Listening Ken” I was simply making an observation,  It is now a meme I see posted on Facebook,  At least I get credit for the line.

In my next missive, I’ll explain HOW I actually researched and wrote a book that is fiction yet inspired by real events, real people and contains tons of historical fact.


          The origin of HEADLOCK: by Burl Barer,

 Bill Macdonald, famed TV and film producer,  and I were hanging out one day in Los Angeles when  he said to me, “Burl, you should write a small town ChinatHEADLOCK_concept2_Revised1_Kindleown.”  I said, “Okay.”  

So, it would be a private detective in a small historic town, there must be corruption and colorful characters and a twist ending that you don’t see coming.

    Simon and Schuster, pleased with my work on THE SAINT – A NOVEL, asked me for a mystery or thriller.  The editor wanted to see the first few chapters. If they liked it, they would tell me to keep writing and then deliver.  I took Bill Macdonald’s advice and started thinking about that “small town Chinatown” idea.

    Well,  being an investigative true crime writer living in Walla Walla, Washingto, who had one New York Times best seller (Murder in the Family), I thought I should take on the role of the PI and tell it from my perspective. 

     (2)  When hawking the first edition of MAN OVERBOARD in San Francisco, I was paired with my old pal, Professor Christopher Buck, a long time friend and fan of my  radio shows.

He wrote a fascinating book about the Book of Certitude by Baha’u’llah, the Central Figure of the Baha’i Faith.   Chris Buck explained to me about the complaints leveled against both the Qur’an of Islam and the Sacred Scriptures of the Baha’i Faith regarding the use of tenses  — past, present and future.

Baha’u’llah Himself stated that He made sure the texts were “brought into conformity with the grammatical conventions of the people in order to forestall the cavils of the opponents of the Cause.”   

    Mohammad faced similar opposition.,  For example, in the Quran, when it speaks of creation, it isn’t a past event, but an ongoing process.  This was a shocking assertion in the early 600’s, and it wasn’t until recently that creation being ongoing was established as a scientific fact.

    In speaking, we mix up our tenses all the time when telling stories — we jump from past tense to present tense all the time. “Let me tell you about last night — there I am, I’m sitting in a bar…”   mcfeely street view

    See what I mean? That’s telling a past event in present tense. I wanted to play with tenses, and I also wanted to “get away” with overturning convention, if possible.

I managed to violate two so-called rules of writing a  mystery, and got away with them both.  It was rather like pulling off the perfect crime.  Details in our next conversation.