Smith, Mark Haskell 1957-
Smith, Mark Haskell 1957-
Born 1957. Education: Evergreen State College, B.A., 1979; American Film Institute Conservatory, M.A., 1987; Playwright's Horizon Theater, studied theatrical writing and directing.
Screenwriter and novelist.
Playing God (screenplay), Buena Vista, 1997.
Moist (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Delicious, Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2005.
Salty, Black Cat (New York, NY), 2007.
Film credits include Playboy—Inside Out, 1992, and The Inheritance (in Portuguese), released in Brazil. Television writing credits include work on Martial Law, Star Trek: Voyager, and The Magnificent Seven. Theatrical writing credits include Cost of Doing Business, produced in Los Angeles.
Author's novels have been published in numerous countries, including France, Russia, Norway, Italy, and England.
Mark Haskell Smith has written for theater, television, and film, his first major screenplay being Playing God, starring David Duchovny. Duchovny plays Eugene Sands, a surgeon who was stripped of his right to operate after losing a patient while in a drug-induced haze. Sands goes into a Los Angeles bar looking for a score and performs emergency surgery when another patron is shot. His heroics are observed by Claire (Angelina Jolie), girlfriend of gangster Raymond Blossom (Timothy Hutton); Blossom approaches Sands about being his private surgeon, beginning with the stitching up of one of Blossom's mobsters. Variety critic Leonard Klady wrote that Smith's screenplay "is a wild ride of ideas and mayhem, ambiguity and collisions" and "so frenzied in delivery that one can do little but hold onto the sides of the roller-coaster and experience the ride."
Booklist contributor Joanne Wilkinson commented that Moist, Smith's debut novel, "reads like an homage to Elmore Leonard." The story is set in Los Angeles, where Bob, a slacker pathology technician, spends most of his lab time surfing the Internet and playing computer games. When his desk is graced with a severed arm upon which the pornographic image of a naked woman is tattooed, Bob falls for the inked-in female. The arm, which belonged to Amado, an enforcer for the Los Angeles branch of the Mexican mafia, was ripped off in an encounter with a garage door. As Bob transports the arm to a forensics facility, he is waylaid by Esteban and his gang, who want to recover the arm that could connect them to the murder of an informant. Bob, who is recently separated from Maura, his sex-therapist girlfriend, is looking for some excitement, and he agrees to replace the arm with another in return for one night with Felicia, the woman who posed for the tattoo. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that "pace and plotting are all in this Pulp Fiction-esque tale."
Smith's next novel, Delicious, is a battle of the caterers. Any caterer working on a movie set is under the watch of the Teamsters Union and their contract conditions, which guarantees a fat paycheck for all involved. However, Jack Lucey resents the fact that his rival, Sid Tanumafili, seems to land all of these jobs on the island of Hawaii, leaving him to scramble for the less lucrative opportunities. When Jack manages to get the catering gig for a new television pilot, Sid declares war. Smith populates his book with a set of comedic, entertaining characters that keep the battle lively for participants and onlookers, as well as readers. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews remarked that "the effect is fast, funny and sometimes winsome, but consistently lightweight."
Salty is the story of Turk Henry, a rock star with a drinking problem, whose wife is kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Thailand. Turk intends to pay the ransom to get his wife back, but a rogue antiterrorism agent gets in the way when he decides to deliver the money himself. The book is heavy on sex scenes and debauchery, which resulted in mixed reviews from critics. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly accused Smith of "staking out uncomfortable territory between gonzo humor and something far more serious." However, Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson called the novel "absurd, grotesque, and plain fun reading."
Smith told CA: "I really believe that reading should be fun. I try to write books that are unabashedly entertaining and funny so that maybe people will turn off their TV sets, put down the video game controller, pick up a book and rediscover the pure pleasure reading can provide."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Spectator, December, 1997, James Bowman, review of Playing God, p. 72.
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Moist, p. 211; April 1, 2007, Joanne Wilkinson, review of Salty, p. 29.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Moist, p. 1260; February 1, 2005, review of Delicious, p. 145.
New York Times, October 17, 1997, Stephen Holden, review of Playing God, p. B18.
Publishers Weekly, September 23, 2002, review of Moist, p. 50; April 2, 2007, review of Salty, p. 39.
Variety, October 20, 1997, Leonard Klady, review of Playing God, p. 71.
Mark Haskell Smith Home Page,http://markhaskellsmith.com (March 1, 2008).