Yep we've been talking about it on Facebook. I was a child in the 80's and a huge Cannell fan. He did some of my favorite shows including my all-time favorite, 21 Jumpstreet. Television ain't the same!
His creation of Jim Rockford for The Rockford Files provided the bridge from the classic gumshoes like Marlowe and Spade to a modern era where a down-on-his-luck PI living in a battered old trailer down on the beach was surprisingly revolutionary for TV at the time. Every PI that has found his way to TV since then is just a pale imitation of that original. But what made the show so great wasn't just Jim Rockford, a perfectly-drawn character who managed to be (believably) heroic while often professing to be neither courageous nor noble. What made The Rockford Files the greatest PI television show ever was the cast of supporting characters that Cannell surrounded his flawed hero with: Rocky, his scrappy dad; Dennis, his long-suffering and frequently resentful friend down at the station; Angel, the fellow ex-con who was always on the con. Everything about it was perfect.
And Cannell wasn't content to just turn in a simple detective show. Check out any of Isacc Hayes' appearances as Gandolph Fitch to witness a uniquely eloquent (for television at least) statement on race, the realities of poverty in America, and the complicated layers to a man's friendship with another man.
But for me, it wasn't just what he did as a writer. I met him once. Although he was a virtual Hollywood franchise in himself, he still wrote mystery novels. (And he wrote them for the best reason there is: because he loved to write.) And even though the royalties on his lifetime of work must far eclipse the GDP of most nations, he still went out on the road to promote the books he loved. And that's how I met him. I was just one of maybe forty or fifty people standing in line one evening (at which I'm sure must've been the end of a long, long day.) I introduced myself and told him that I was an aspiring writer, but confessed that I had other responsibilities and the market seemed impossible for a new guy to break into... And instead of thanking me for turning out and ushering me along with an autograph and a smile, he did something remarkable: he talked to me. He told me about his own struggles as a writer (which continued long after his "success") and then looked me in the eye to tell me to never let "them" take my dream from me. After he was finished and had handed me back my book I thanked him and moved on. When I left the bookstore and checked his autograph he had signed: "Always believe." That book is always on my desk and whenever I start to give in to my doubts...I remember and press on.
I'm new to all this--(social networking and this site)--so I'm not sure what to make of your comment or if it's even directed at me. I'm not sure what a "proper bib" is. And I'm not sure what that has to do with your reluctance to share your thoughts.
It was my first post and I only meant to express that Stephen J. Cannell was without question the most important writer to me. (I know it might not be a fashionable choice and most crime fiction fans would probably go with the classics like Chandler or MacDonald) But the fact remains that he's the reason I'm writing today. He was my inspiration from the time I was a kid and the small act of kindness I described is a huge reason I'm still working every night trying to make that kid's dream a reality.
As I said, I'm new to all of this, so I'm really not sure what to make of this exchange. I have absolutely no idea what "Tears are rolling down the backs of my legs" is supposed to mean. So I'm at a loss how to respond to you.