One man has spent his life creating TV shows that defy the
laws of science, featuring heroes who can dodge danger and fire thousands of
bullets per TV episode while never suffering a scratch.
The other has spent his life defining the rules of science,
expanding our understanding of the universe that we live in by refusing to
accept easy answers about existence.
But this week, these two famous men — legendary
producer Stephen J. Cannell (“The A-Team,” “Rockford Files” and a lengthy list
of other hit TV shows) and Skeptics Society founder Dr. Michael Shermer —
are both celebrating the release of two distinctly different tomes at events
presented by Vroman’s Bookstore.
Cannell will be at the Colorado Boulevard bookstore
discussing and signing his 13th and latest crime novel, “Three Shirt Deal,”
while Shermer will be discussing “The Mind of the Market,” a new analysis of
economics using science as a basis for understanding our society’s economic
engine, in an appearance at All Saints Church.
For Cannell, the event is particularly pleasurable because
he’s a Pasadena native who attended All Saints and he’ll only have to travel
“I’ve always loved Pasadena because it’s where I grew up and
learned all the important life lessons from my dad,” Cannell recalls while
surrounded by awards for writing and producing in his tastefully appointed
office six stories above Hollywood Boulevard. “My dad was my best friend, the
most powerful and important relationship in my life with the exception of my
wife. This guy taught me how to think, behave and be the right kind of person,
and I constantly try to live up to the high standards that he lived and he set
Cannell started his working life after college working for
his father’s successful interior design and furniture business for four years.
But each night, before a late-night dinner with his wife, he spent hours
writing sample TV scripts in an effort to pursue his true dream as a television
The hard work paid off with a career that saw him become one
of the most powerful producers
in the medium’s history, with more than 40 series to his
credit, including 13 that reached blockbuster status by completing five or more
seasons. Amazingly, he achieved this success despite having to overcome a
severe case of dyslexia.
But in 1996, Cannell decided to take on a new challenge,
shifting his career emphasis from television to novel writing and created Shane
Scully, who has been the lead character in seven of his novels. All of his
prior 12 books have proven to be national bestsellers, and hopes are high that
“Three Shirt Deal” will follow suit with its witty, twisting and action-packed
tale of Scully uncovering a massive wave of corruption that ties together
murderous cops, gang bangers, an LA mayoral candidate and the son of a powerful
Cannell’s novels are driven by the same strong moral codes
that suffused his TV series and all his subsequent novels: most cops are good
and the good ones will root out the bad ones through the system. In Cannell’s
TV series and books, America’s justice system still works and the people who
work for it engage in truly heroic efforts, and the heroes like Scully who are married
always stay true to their spouses.
“I was raised Episcopalian and was confirmed at All Saints,
but really my moral code comes from my parents. It’s one thing to have
religious examples, it’s another to watch a man you respect and love live
morally and see it works to be straightforward, not to lie, to live the Golden
Rule,” he says, referring to his father. “I’m certainly not perfect in this
regard at all, nobody is, but I try really hard in my own life to live by those
“Life’s all about choices. I also believe in prioritizing.
Most people aren’t good at it. But if I decide I want to accomplish this goal,
I will accomplish it,” Cannell says.
Altadena-based Shermer, meanwhile, is also happy for a
breather from his own national tour for his new book, “The Mind of the Market.”
It’s somewhat ironic that his local appearance is at All Saints, considering
that he’s one of America’s best-known yet affable atheists and is also touring
the country in debates against outspoken Christian conservative Dinesh D’Souza.
Just as writing the Scully novels represented a new stretch
for Cannell, Shermer’s focus on economics also marks a new career turn. Yet he
feels that economics ties in well with his scientific endeavors.
“Economics fits what I do on two levels. I deal with
irrational human behavior, and with money there’s no reason to think that
people that are irrational in all other aspects of life suddenly become
rational when investing, shopping and dealing with money,” Shermer explains by phone
from his Denver tour stop.
“The other angle is I do evolutionary theory and
evolutionary economics is a bottom-up, self-organized, emergent property of
people just trying to make a living and survive through trade,” Shermer says.
“It’s very similar to Darwin’s natural selection.”
Shermer’s new book builds a strong case for capitalism and
free trade through evolutionary biology, which he states no one has ever
“In a way I’m trying to convince my conservative friends
that evolution is just like the free market economics they already accept and
my liberal friends that free market economics is just like the evolution they
already accept,” Shermer says, laughing. “It definitely has come up. So far
everyone’s very receptive, and I’m getting a lot of nods.”