There are two things in life that John Schulian loves above all other interests: sports and writing. Thus, it’s fitting that after a lengthy career as an ace sportswriter for some of America’s best sports-related publications, he has finally released his debut novel, “A Better Goodbye.”
Schulian will be discussing the book and his impressive career at 2 p.m. Saturday at Allendale branch of the Pasadena Public Library. During an interview with the Pasadena Weekly about his work, which includes work on TV series including “Hill Street Blues” and “Miami Vice” and creating the worldwide smash series “Xena: Warrior Princess,” Schulian proved that his story is a fascinating one.
“I come from a generation where a lot of newspaper people aspire to write a novel someday,” says Schulian, 70. “The joke was if you didn’t have a bottle in your bottom drawer, you had a manuscript you were working on. It was always in the back of my mind, but I was always busy.”
Indeed, Schulian’s career involved writing for a whirlwind of major national magazines “Inside Sports,” “Sports Illustrated,” and “GQ” between long-running stints at the Chicago Sun-Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and other prime newspapers. The Los Angeles native split his childhood between his birthplace and Salt Lake City, but it was at the University of Utah that his professors convinced him he would become a star writer much more easily than he ever would excel at playing baseball.
Yet after controversial media mogul Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times in the mid-1980s and started taking the paper in a direction that Schulian disdained, he decided to pursue another lifelong dream and moved to Hollywood to launch a TV writing career.
Success came quickly, as Schulian almost immediately began writing for “Miami Vice” and “L.A. Law” before eventually co-creating the worldwide smash hit series “Xena: Warrior Princess.” While “Xena” set him up for life and its star Lucy Lawless remains a favorite of Schulian’s, he has a somewhat different relationship with Kevin Sorbo, the star of “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”, from which “Xena” spun off.
“The difference between Lucy Lawless, who played Xena, and Sorbo who played Hercules, was like the difference between ice cream and horse manure. Kevin and I went sideways because he made some cracks about the writing of the show in a newspaper interview.
“I wrote Kevin and said I didn’t like this and pointed out to him that in 10 years he’d be the answer to a trivia question,” continues Schulian. “He was more than ready to go to (producers Sam) Raimi and (Robert) Tapert and try to get me fired, or he could be a pro, say his lines and do the job. Or if he didn’t like those suggestions, he could go out in the parking lot and kick my ass. It’s an offer that still stands today. I’d still fight the son of a bitch.”
Ironically, Schulian’s novel is filled with boxing talk, as it follows the story of Nick Pasko, a promising pugilist who derailed his career by killing an opponent in the ring. The story follows his intertwined relationships with several different colorful and mysterious people, but Schulian notes that it’s more than just a light mystery.
“It’s not a mystery, because I’m not smart enough for mystery. It’s character driven,” says Schulian. “These people are living on the fringe of society and in LA there are a lot of people who scuffle to get by and bend the rules to get along. The other thing that some reviewers caught onto is it is a book about loneliness. When you’re driving on the freeway, look around and it’s one person in every car and people connect by cellphone and texting, not face to face anymore. A lot of the characters in my book, good guys or bad guys, face that same dilemma.”
“An Afternoon with John Schulian” features a discussion and book signing with the honored journalist, sportswriter, author and television writer/producer who discusses his debut novel, “A Better Goodbye,” starting at 2 p.m. at the Pasadena Public Library, Allendale Branch, 1130 S. Marengo Ave., Pasadena. Call (626) 744-7260 or visit pasadenapubliclibrary.net.