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.

Film Update

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 . . .

25 Responses to Pest Control

  1. Hondo Salas says:

    I read your book a long time ago, but it is still one of my favorits. It never gets old. If it ever gets made to a movie I know it will be a hit. I just hope they keep the story line as close to the book as possible.
    Good luck, take care and keep writing.

    • bill says:

      Hi Hondo — I swear I thought I’d responded to your email but since I don’t see it posted here, maybe I’m just crazy. I have no idea what Warner Brothers is doing with the movie. Most likely sitting on a shelf, forgotten, as happens with many project ideas. I’m hoping to have The Exterminators (sequel to Pest Control) published later this year but this too is out of my control… In any event, keep checking back to see if there’s news. Best regards, Bill Fitzhugh

  2. Aviva Heston says:

    My 3 kids and I went to see Pest Control 3 times in NoHo. They attend the nearby NoHo High School and sing internationally with the LA Children’s Chorus. They STILL know and sing the lyrics to Pest Control! We enjoyed it that much. Talked to some of your staff and were promised a recording, when it came out. Any chance of that happening? Love to hear from you.

    • bill says:

      Hi Aviva: I wish I had news about a video or a soundtrack of Pest Control but the producer has not made them available to me. I know they did a multi-camera shoot of the show but I don’t know if they ever cut it together. I wish I had a copy!!! I’ll keep after the producer but at this point, I think he’s moved on… Still, very glad you saw the show and enjoyed it. I thought they did a great job. Best regards,
      Bill Fitzhugh

  3. Dolores says:

    I just finished reading PEST CONTROL. It is the selection for our book club meeting on June 14th for the Second Tuesday Book Club in the Little Rock/ North Little Rock AR area. I just wanted you to know that I really enjoyed reading it. What a crazy, zany, madcap adventure. I can envision George Clooney and his band of loony friends doing this book justice on the big screen. What a fun movie it would be! Now I have to read some more of your work. Good luck!

    • bill says:

      Ack! Hi Dolores. I wish I’d seen this message a few days ago, I’d have called in to the book club! So glad you enjoyed the little bug book. The sequel is coming in January. Thanks for the kind words!

  4. Eric Rick says:

    My favorite book ever. I also just finished Organ Grinders which is brilliant also. Bill, you sir, are my favorite author. I have been excited for a Pest Control movie for a long time. I see Bob being played by Albert Brooks, maybe Clooney for Klaus. Regardless, I hope it comes true, but at least I can look forward to The Exterminators. Can we get a quick, un-spoiling plot summary?

    • bill says:

      Thanks Eric. As much as I love Albert Brooks, I think he’s a bit old for the part. You get Clooney for Klaus and I’ll split my back-end money with you… The Exterminators picks up after they blow up Bob’s house. Klaus goes to Bolivia to collect the $10 million, then tells Riviera he’s retired. Then we leap to “Six Years Later…” when everything comes back to bite them on the ass… It all starts when a representative of Dept. of Defense approaches Bob and Klaus about using their bugs in the war on terror…

  5. Mac says:

    One of mybfavorite books. I have a first edition and for that reason have on a couple of occasions taken it back from friends I have loaned it to. Delighted that a follow up is planned. And would love to see that movie.

    • bill says:

      Thanks, Mac. The Exterminators came out great if I say so myself which I do. If I knew how to make Warner Brothers make the movie, I’d do it. Seems like I should have included a comic book super hero or vampires. Wasn’t looking ahead I guess…

  6. Ken says:


    I can’t believe this hasn’t been made into a movie. Simon Pegg is Bob Dillon. Bill Nighy is Klaus. What the bleep is wrong with Hollywood. This is a great movie…..albeit not yet made…..but I remain hopeful. Looking forward to the next book….whenever it comes.

    • bill says:

      Thanks Ken. The answer to your question about what’s wrong with Hollywood is too long to go into. Suffice it to say it’s amazing they ever make a decent movie. Next book out is The Exterminators, the sequel to Pest Control. Comes out in January 2012…

  7. Linda Brandschain says:

    Read Pest Control, and all your others when they first came out……Pest Control remains one of my all time favs.
    Oh, and my number for the drawing is 912.

  8. Ralph says:

    Bill, Love all your books. We have our condo book club reading Pest Control. We want to have a contest to guess the number of song references in the book. Can you tell me how many song references are in Pest Control? Already bought The Exterminators and hope to convince our book club to follow up with that as our next book. Thanks!

    • bill says:

      Ralph, I have NO IDEA how many song references are in Pest Control. In fact, even if I re-read it, I bet I’d miss some of the more obscure ones. There are fewer in The Exterminators than in Pest Control. That much I know. Cheers, Bill F

  9. Randy DiPaolo says:

    Recently stumbled upon pest and am now a fan. Am 62 and a Dylan fan. Loved the hidden ” bombs” – references to Dylan lyrics: blood on the tracks, every man must fall, etc. Exterminators was not a let down. Am a retired career prosecutor able to provide context if your work takes you in that direction. Regards, Randy W. DiPaolo,Q.C. NB, Canada

    • bill says:

      Hi Randy –

      Glad you found the little bug books! I’ll put you on file for the prosecution. Thanks for the note. Regards,
      Bill F

  10. Lupe says:

    I bought this book when my daughter was in the hospital having my first granddaughter. (has it already been 14 years ago) just to have something to read, the cover caught my eye but the story held my heart. I have reread it till the book is ragged.

    When I started really collecting audiobooks I kept looking for it and have now found and bought it (Pest Control) from (

    I will have to look for your sequel, I loved the story.

    Thanks, very much and if they ever do make it into a movie, not only will I go to the theater to see it (a rare thing for me) but I will also buy the dvd to watch and re-watch.

  11. Kevin says:

    Everyone I’ve past Pest control to has loved it.Favourite books turned into movies often strikes fear in my heart. That being said I could see Brandan Fraser as Bob and a Dutch fellow, Frederik de Groot, who does Canadian ING Direct ads as Klaus.Here’s hoping they don’t screw it up.

    • bill says:

      Here’s hoping they ever make it with ANY body cast in the roles. Sure, they could screw it up but they should at least give it a shot!

  12. mandy says:

    Loved this book it was so funny,now just waiting for the movie!!

    • bill says:

      Sorry, no movie in the works. Warner Brothers owns the rights but seem to have forgotten about it and moved on… But thanks!

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