Thomas has completed three novels, Treasure, Meadowlarks and Deliberate Justice, and more than a dozen feature length screenplays.
In 1981, while sailing the Caribbean, I met John Quinn who joined me in several adventurous excursions during which we engaged in banter and “what if . . .” storytelling. Among those adventures was a hike to the top of Nevis, a volcanic island with a rainforest and a tribe of wild monkeys near its peak. This small volcano was connected to the larger island, St. Christopher by a sandbar and reef surrounding a lagoon. This location became part of my inspiration for Treasure.
John never stopped talking about his Hollywood connections; mainly an ex-wife he claimed was a high level casting director. With my ideas and his connections he asserted we’d soon be producing major motion pictures, if I could only move west.
I returned to my home in Coconut Grove, FL and John returned to Southern California from where he called me once or twice a week, constantly selling me on the notion of my becoming a screenwriter. Being a native of Southern California, I flew home to visit the family for Christmas and spent much of my time with John.
We barged in on a radio disc jockey friend of John’s and used his IBM, DOS PC to write the original treatment for Treasure. A friend of mine from Florida came from a film industry family and happened to be friends with Sean Connery, the perfect actor to play Jacob Hatch. Sean read the treatment and said he’d like to see the finished script, or so the story went.
Well, I was hooked. I quit the fire department, closed my construction company and moved back to California. I worked as a construction superintendent while rising early every morning to write screenplays. At one point, after submitting to a Warner executive, I was told I had great ideas but that I needed some formal training, either at UCLA Extension or at the American Film Institute.
AFI being the most prestigious film school in the world, I naturally went there and took every course offered on screenwriting. I also attended seminars and workshops on creative writing, film direction, cinematography, special effects and independent film production.
Miramax expressed interest in two of my scripts, Don’t Stand Close and Bait but said I needed more momentum, which is Hollywood speak for “Build a package.”
One of the best kept secrets in the world is Pay or Play. All aspiring filmmakers are familiar with the term but are never able to learn the process, the nuts and bolts, the how-to.
Hollywood is crowded with scoundrels who claim to be connected producers then spend investor funds on expensive offices, cars, furnishings, valley girls with well rehearsed British accents and take a lot of people to lunch. These want-to-be players do little more than squander other people’s money. They are never able to build a package because they don’t actually know how it works. This practice has tainted the industry for many outside investors.
At that time, I knew a few people with money who said they wanted to invest but wasting other people’s money is something I’ve never been willing to do. So, I continued to submit and hoped the writing was good enough to build a package. Over time, Bait, Coming to Terms and Treasure were ripped off for their original ideas and movie moments. Only once, with Bait, was the actual plot and story-line stolen to make End of the Earth starring Nastassja Kinski. The Village and Red Riding Hood merely gleaned original ideas from Bait. When Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ripped off Treasure, I took three pages of similarities to five different legal firms. All five firms came to the same conclusions: There is no doubt my copyrights had been violated and we could probably win a case in federal court. Unfortunately, to receive restitution, I must first win an Implied Contract lawsuit in the State of California where the California Supreme Court ruled almost exclusively in favor of established producers and production companies. Going up against Spielberg, Lucas, SKG Dreamworks, Paramount Pictures and a 20 year franchise of Indian Jones, forget about it. I didn’t have a chance. They felt they’d have a stronger case with Bait but it had been more than two years since the film’s release date. There is a statute of limitations of two years regarding intellectual property in the film industry.
Feeling like a whipped dog, I began the long process of learning the craft of writing the novel.
After self publishing an early draft of Treasure in 2007, I learned through a willing producer how Pay or Play actually works but, buy this time, I was no longer hanging out with money people.
In 2015, Samhain Publishing purchased Meadowlarks, previously titled Bait, and Treasure for their horror line. In 2016, Samhain suffered setbacks, laid off personnel, moved from their expensive offices and discontinued their horror line. They returned all rights shortly thereafter and I am again in the submission process.
Treasure and Meadowlarks might both spawn sequels. Deliberate Justice, inspired by actual events, is the first of my Paladin series. Mike Zabel will return. He will be joined by John Henry “Doc” Holladay and other heroes of the American west in a series of creative non-fiction books. I know most historians spell the name Holliday but I think this was an error originally made by some journalist, as they have sometimes done the same with my last name. As I grew up hearing stories of “Doc”, I will spell it Holladay. The church where his birth records were kept was destroyed during the Civil War so we will never know for sure.
My writing has always drawn on my exciting life experiences combined with studious research to create as real a narrative for my readers as possible.
ALSO IN THE WORKS
Sulu Sea – In 1942, a naval intelligence office is sent ashore of Palawan, a Philippine island where there is believed to be a secret Japanese submarine base. While performing his mission, hiding from Japanese troops, Philippine witches and ancient demons block his path and challenge his sanity.
The Box – A woman buys a locked trunk from a 500 year old warehouse under demolition, hoping to please her husband’s quest for valuable antiquities. She soon learns that something lives inside.
Graves of Salem – A reincarnate necromancer rebuilds her ancient cult while searching the dead bones and successors of those who burned her at the stake.
My Uncle Jack – A creative non-fiction of my uncle, Dr. John Scott Holladay, a pastor, missionary, WWII hero and crusader against post-war organized crime in Cairo, IL.
Give Way Jose – Private eye Joe Jeffries takes on a corrupt police unit.
A Time Before Dragons – Private eye Joe Jeffries takes on a criminal cartel know as the Dragons.
Old Friends – Private eye Joe Jeffries gets a call from an old girlfriend. His son, previously unknown to him, is in serious trouble with a drug cartel.