Thursday, March 11, 2010

The story behind THE EXTERMINATORS

By Bill Fitzhugh

The long and winding road to the publication of The Exterminators. And oh, what a long, strange trip it’s been…

David asked me for some blog content to commemorate our deal to publish the long awaited sequel to Pest Control. I decided to take a look back at the history of the little bug book that could…

It all started in May of 1991. A screenplay brainstorming session with a former writing partner led to the germ of the idea that would lead to a screenplay called Pest Control.

We finished a draft in September of 1991.

It was optioned for $4,000 November 1991, but the project went nowhere.

Worked on other screenplays for the next two years (including the script that would eventually become my third novel, Cross Dressing) before I decided to try writing Pest Control as a comic novel.

I began research in June 1993. I finished a draft in the fall of 1994. After rejections by 124 agents, I got a call from Jimmy Vines who loved it. However, all the major publishing houses passed on it. Jimmy told me not to worry, told me to start writing another book because he was going to sell Pest Control. So I started on The Organ Grinders.

In July 1995, Jimmy Vines gets the Pest manuscript to the New York offices of Spring Creek Productions. They loved it and send it to their L.A. offices on the lot at Warner Brothers.

On August 3, 1995, Spring Creek Productions bought the film rights to Pest Control for $500,000 against $1 million (i.e., half now, the other half if/when they make it).

October 1995, Japanese and UK publishers buy Pest Control.
November 1995, Avon Books buys North American rights.
February 1996, German publisher buys it.
March 1996, Italian publisher buys it.

May 1996, Pest Control is published in the UK. The Times of London calls it “one of the funniest, most off-beat thrillers to hit the bookstalls in years… Fitzhugh does for New York what Carl Hiaasen did for Miami.” And just like that, five years and 125 agents later, I’m an overnight success.

1997, Pest Control is published in the US, Germany, and Japan.

Italians decide to wait for the film. Bastards.

Many screenplay drafts are written and several directors are considered, but none Warner Brothers likes enough to make the movie.

Jimmy Vines begins urging me to write a sequel to Pest. I say I don’t have a good enough story for it. So I write The Organ Grinders, then Cross Dressing (which Universal Studios bought but still hasn’t made. The bastards.)

Jimmy Vines continues to urge me to write a sequel to Pest. I say I still don’t have a good enough story for it. So I write Fender Benders and Heart Seizure.

Jimmy Vines continues to urge me to write a sequel to Pest. I say I don’t have a good enough story for it. So I write Radio Activity and Highway 61 Resurfaced.

February 2005. The late, great, George Taylor Morris reads Radio Activity. George is the program director for the Deep Tracks channel of XM Satellite Radio. We start talking. I have an idea for a radio show. He says send him a sample. So I do.

Early 2005, I finally figure out a story for the sequel to Pest Control and begin writing The Exterminators.

May 2005, “Fitzhugh’s All Hand Mixed Vinyl” debuts on XM Satellite Radio. Five years later, it's on the air five days a week on Sirius-XM.

June 2007, a German Radio Production company buys the rights to make Pest into a radio show.

June 2007, an attorney from New York sends me an email saying he represents a producer who wants to turn Pest Control into a musical. Seriously? Yes, seriously.

July 2007, Canum Entertainment buys the STAGE MUSICAL RIGHTS for Pest. Seriously.

August 2007, the German Radio version of Pest airs for the first time.

November 2007, a Romanian publisher buys the rights for Pest.

April 2008, Pest Control: The Musical hits the stage in Los Angeles to excellent reviews. (It goes on to win awards for Best Costume. Seriously, the best cockroach costumes you’ve ever seen.

June 2008, a Spanish publisher buys rights to Pest.

September 2009, Reed Farrel Coleman is in Los Angeles on tour for Tower. We go out to dinner after his signing at The Mystery Book Store. He says great things about his publisher, Busted Flush Press.

October 2009, I contact David Thompson, who 'craps his pants' [editor's note: Not really.] when asked if he's interested in reading The Exterminators.

February 2010, Busted Flush Press and Fitzhugh have agreed to publishing deal.

April 2011 (twenty years after the original idea for the original screenplay) the sequel to Pest Control is published.

There’s an old saying that “Good things come to those who wait.” It’s true. If you enjoyed Pest Control, you’ll love The Exterminators. But you’ll have to wait…


Bill Fitzhugh is Toastmaster at this weekend's Left Coast Crime in Los Angeles (March 11-14). Visit him online at

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