The Man With the Golden Arm

Remember that book and/or movie? “The Man With the Golden Arm,” written by Nelson Algren back in the 1950s, was one of the early novels (A FANTASTIC read, by the way), and certainly THE first big-studio Hollywood movie (it starred Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak and Eleanor Parker)that dealt directly with drug addiction—here it was heroin.

Well, I’m no druggie—never touched the stuff—but I’m still an addict, just as sure as was Frankie Machine, The Man With the Golden Arm. Except I’m addicted to WRITING.

Actually writing is not a bad thing to be addicted to. It doesn’t cost money like booze or drugs, it doesn’t make you crash your car into a crowd of people or fall down on the street and don’t know where you are, it doesn’t make you giggly or sleepy or give you the munchies. (Well—SOMETIMES it does…) But it’s something I feel I have to do every day of my life—my birthday, Christmas Day, Easter, Martin Luther King Jr.Day, Yom Kippur, Arbor Day, Saint Swithin’s Day (whatever the hell THAT is) or any other day of the year. THAT’S what addiction does to a writer.

I try to get in at least six hours a day of writing. My average at this stage of my life is about 1100 words per day (when I was younger, I used to write MORE words daily). There are those days when I’ll sit at the computer for those six hours, or even longer, and end up with one lousy paragraph—and I assure you that one paragraph is always harder to write in six hours than the 1100 words.

There are times when, for one reason or another, I’m not able to write. (Four years ago I couldn’t pop open my eyes in the Intensive Care room after awakening from open-heart surgery and immediately call for my laptop and a cup of coffee.) But after two writing-less days I actually start to twitch—my head is somewhere else when anyone tries to talk to me. After four days of not writing, chances are excellent that the first person who says good morning to me will have their face chewed off.

The recent terrible snow days in NE Ohio has been a good thing for me, as it more or less kept me from going anywhere that wasn’t important, leaving me more time to write. I’ve already completed my next book, a sequel to the 2011 stand-alone novel,”The Strange Death of Father Candy.” At least I THOUGHT it would be a stand-alone until I got another great idea for that book’s protagonist, Dominick Candiotti. And I’m VERY close to finishing my eighteenth Milan Jacovich novel. Yikes, that is my THIRTIETH book!!!! No WONDER I get sleepy sometimes.

The good news—for me, anyway—is there are three more juicy ideas simmering in my head, which will take me another two years to write, assuming I’ll still be able to sit up straight at my keyboard. By then I’ll probably have three or four more.

During my early New York and Hollywood days—probably when I was working a full-time job—I was a night person when I wrote. Now, though, I’m up fairly early and at my laptop—and if anyone wants to PHONE me before four o’clock in the afternoon—well, you damn well better be on fire!

Meantime, everybody out there, stay warm. And READ! I hope you read ME, but if not, please read SOMEBODY. You might be locked into a situation, or stuck in a rut. But read a book—-and you can FLY!

About Les Roberts

Author, Internet and Radio Personality (, Teacher, Critic, not a bad jazz piano player, Cleveland lover.
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6 Responses to The Man With the Golden Arm

  1. Carol McDonald says:

    Not only am I trying to cope with our NE Ohio weather but I am a caregiver for my husband who has numerous health problems and is in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t read. I am re-reading all your Milan Yakovich novels. In fact, Dr, Yakovich has been my husband’s dentist. for over 20 years. I am currently into The Lake Effect and today I ordered four more of your books on Amazon. You help me keep my sanity. I am a born and bred Clevelander and there is no other place on this planet I would rather live – I love it warts and all. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent with us.
    May God bless you with many, many more years of writing. Keep on, keepin’ on.
    Carol McDonald

  2. Toni Esser says:

    Hi Les, I read your idea about The Man With the Golden Arm. I truly believe that you were born to write. I’m excited about new Milan books. My husband (Tim)and I (Toni) are looking forward on meeting you and Holly at Jon and Christine’s on March 9th. Christine is my daughter, I am really a big fan of your books. Thanks again, and keep on writing. Toni Esser

    • Les Roberts says:

      Hi, Toni –

      Indeed I WAS born to write; otherwise I’d be handing out shopping carts at WalMart. I look forward to meeting you, too. I adore Christine and Jon; if not for them, I’d be wearing Coke-bottle glasses and working on one of those laptops for legally blind folks.

      See you on 3/9. Les

  3. Lou Armagno says:

    Les, just thought I’d point out that many of us have experienced your writing quite often without realizing it, including: The Man from U.N.C.L.E shows (I’ve got the entire set :); Hollywood Squares, and all the other venues. Matter ‘a fact, I’ve you (partially) to blame for my decision to move from Honolulu back to Cleveland. I left in ’71 and traveled the world with Uncle Sam, but returned annually if not two or three times a year. Never could get get C-Town out of the blood. But reading your mysteries and having our very own “famous” detective; well, that and attending the 2012 Bouchercon was the clincher for me! Thanks for being the prolific writer you are. I’m still trying to get over the fact that Marko Meglich is dead! (Frankie Machine–too good!) Ciao from Brecksville. Lou Armagno

    • Les Roberts says:

      Thanks, Lou. After 23 years in Greater Cleveland, I’ve begun thinking of myself as a native Clevelander. It’s a terrific place, wens and all, and I’ve loved every minute I’ve been here. My Hollywood years, when I was young, were exciting, fascinating, frustrating and STRESSFUL (that’s why my hair turned gray when I was thirty)—but the industry has changed, so have I, and I wouldn’t dream of going back there again. I often tell people who ask that when I DO leave Cleveland, it will be in an urn!

      Marko Meglich has been “dead” for about sixteen years now—and I STILL hear about it. Always makes me smile.

      Best, Les

  4. Les Roberts, you hit the nail on the head! I’ve enjoyed reading and writing since I was a kid. When I went to college, I started with a major in Journalism but realized very quickly, deadlines are deadly! I worked part-time with a Chicago Tribune reporter and, invariably, the story we would write to meet the deadline would have been much better had we waited a day, done more research, and wrote when we felt like writing. That, unfortunately, isn’t “news.” My degree is in Economics but my leisure time is devoted to writing. Hoping someday I’ll be the Les Roberts of Geauga County, I just published my first novel, In The Zone, a mystery about small town government and, of course, crime. I’m working on the sequel and I write when I feel like it which is pretty much all the time. You’ve set a wonderful example and I’m trying as best I can to follow in your footsteps. See you at your next signing. I’m the guy who buys your books on Kindle to read them and in print format so you’ll have something to sign. Keep up the good work!