Westlake Village Inspires Murder Mystery Novel

Howard Pic (2)

Howard Rosenberg

When Howard Rosenberg,Pulitzer Prize-winning former television critic for the Los Angeles Times, decided to write his first fiction novel, he wanted to base the action in a Conejo Valley-like city. Up Yours!  is a humorous whodunnit that takes place in “the fancy Los Angeles suburb of Friendly Lake,” a nod to Westlake Village. “I used to walk around Westlake for exercise,” said the Agoura Hills resident. “There’s a community of walkers there and you all get to know one another. I remember thinking ‘what would happen if one of them goes missing?'”

With the “Westlake shoreline in mind,” Rosenberg crafted a Dashiell Hammett-style mystery surrounding protagonists Ted and Liv Milo, a couple living a lavish lifestyle, until their lives are upended after Ted gets sucked into a murder mystery and turns private eye. Rosenberg says that Ted is loosely based on himself. “He’s a a fiftyish former star obit writer [for a major newspaper] who decides to leave the newspaper world behind after receiving a large inheritance from a relative,” said Rosenberg. “So he’s got nothing on his mind beyond bladder control.” 

He admits that the story pokes fun at the local nouveau riche lifestyle. “It’s the comedic foibles of suburbia of which I’m a part,” he said. The book, which has received rave reviews from readers, is available for purchase on Amazon.com

(2)Up Yours! CoverRosenberg and his wife Carol, both mid-westerners, moved to the area in 1980, because their daughter, Kristen, rode horses and they needed a nearby place to stable her horse, which they did in Westlake. “We love it here,” he said. “Especially the topography. We love to drive through the area and to Malibu.”

Rosenberg was the TV critic for the Los Angeles Times for 25 years and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for television criticism. When asked if the award propelled his career, he said, “It got me a big time New York agent, and it’s a great calling card, but it’s all based on one of your editions that represents everything you’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to complain about, though.”

Rosenberg has also published several non-fiction books: No Time to Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle,” called “a vivd and brawny take on the blur of today’s sped-up, revved-up media and the danger they represent” by The Times of London; and Not So Prime Time: Chasing the Trivial on American Television, described as “delectable” by Publisher’s Weekly.

An avid mystery lover, he is currently researching his second novel about Elvis impersonators. He said he was inspired while watching the Elvis skydivers in the popular film Honeymoon in Vegas. “There are Elvises that do everything” he said. “It’s amazing.” The story takes place in Memphis where Elvises are getting “bumped off,” and an L.A. actor, a former Elvis impersonator, gets pulled in to solve the mystery.

Every Monday, Rosenberg makes the drive to the University of Southern California, where he is an adjunct professor teaching news ethics, critical writing and a TV symposium. Both ardent animal lovers, he and Carol–a Getty Center docent–remain active in the community they love with their cockatiel and two cats. Kirsten, who no longer rides horses, is a singer for The Iron Maidens, an all-girl heavy metal tribute band.


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