The story synopsis
Bob Dillon is a down-on-his-luck exterminator from Queens who just wants to make a killing with his radical new environmentally-friendly pest elimination technique, involving his hybrid assassin bugs (a very real group of insects). But when Bob decides to advertise, his flyer falls into the hands of a European murder-for-hire broker who mistakes Bob for a professional assassin. Before he knows it, Bob’s “competition” targets him for extermination, sending him running for his life from a motley collection of the world’s deadliest and most outrageously eccentric contract killers.
How the story became a novel
Matt Hansen (my former writing partner) and I came up with the general idea for Pest Control in May of 1991. We pitched the idea to several production companies during the summer of ’91 but no one bought it.
June 11, 1991 – Pitch Pest Control to Michael Chinich at Ivan Reitman’s company — pass.
June 13, 1991 – Pitch Pest Control to Willie Kutner at Lou Arkoff’s company — pass
June 17, 1991 – Pitch Pest Control to Michael Bostick at Imagine Entertainment — pass
June 19, 1991 – Pitch Pest Control to Jude Schneider at DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group — pass
June 20, 1991 – Pitch Pest Control to Mitch Davis at Cash-Epps Productions — pass
We decided to stop pitching and just write it as a spec script and we had a draft finished by late August. My friend Michael Schroeder, a director, loved the script and took it to producer Peter Samuelson who eventually optioned it. Six months later, when the option period was over, he wanted to extend the option for free. We said no.
Matt and I schlepped the script around Hollywood for the next couple of years getting it to anyone who would read it. In the summer of 1993, after reading a story about a writer who turned one of his screenplays into a novel, I started doing the same with Pest Control. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife, Kendall) paid for me to take a novels-in-progress course at UCLA Extension. A few months later, my friend Brian Meehl hired me to write the “Insect” episode of the BBC “Eyewitness” series.
A few months before I had a complete draft of the novel, I started looking for a literary agent in New York (since the vast majority of LA literary agents deal exclusively with TV and film writers). I began sending query letters to NY agents in September of ’94. 139 rejections later I got the manuscript into the hands of Jimmy Vines. He loved it and I signed on as his client in May of ’95. By June of ’95 all the major publishers had passed. Jimmy told me not to worry, he was going to sell it. He also told me to get started on my second novel. So I started working on the research for The Organ Grinders.
Jimmy gave the manuscript to Claudia Citkovitz who was working at Spring Creek Production’s New York office. She loved it and sent it to their offices at Warner Brothers Studios. Jimmy called on August 2, 1995 to say Spring Creek was offering a big bucket of money for the manuscript. Naturally I thought he was full of shit.
The next day Daily Variety announced the sale of Pest Control to Spring Creek Productions and Warner Brothers Studios. Sales to Avon Books (U.S.), Tokuma Shoten (Japan), Random House (U.K.), Scherz-Verlag (Germany), and RCS Libri (Italy) followed over the next several months.
The final touch, and perhaps the thing that sold more books than the book itself, was the cover art by Bill Mayer. Bill has done all the cover art (US and German editions) for my books — and I hope Avon continues to hire him to do so.
Paula Weinstein’s company, Spring Creek Productions bought the film rights to “Pest Control” back in August of 1995. Paula, who has produced a lot of great movies, including one of my all-time favorites, “The Fabulous Baker Boys” later merged with Barry Levinson’s Baltimore Pictures to form Baltimore-Spring Creek Pictures.
They first looked at Peter Segal (“My Fellow Americans”) to direct “Pest Control” with Jack Kaplan and Richard Chapman doing the first adaptation of the book. After their drafts of the screenplay failed to get the green light, Spring Creek turned to Peter Tolan to either rewrite the Kaplan-Chapman draft or to do a fresh adaptation. Since I’d already been paid, I wasn’t kept in the loop on all these decisions.
Eventually the project fell out of active development and was just sitting on the shelf. But one day someone got excited about it again and they brought in an actor/writer/director/producer by the name of David Raynr (“Trippin'”, “Whatever It Takes”). Mr. Raynr did either a rewrite of the Kaplan-Chapman and/or Tolan draft or did a fresh adaptation.
The last I heard, Raynr’s draft satisfied the folks at Baltimore Spring Creek who sent it up to the studio executives at Warner Brothers who liked it, but had notes. Raynr then addressed the notes and got a draft that satisfied the studio and now they’re out looking to attach some talent.
Stay tuned . . .