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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Law & Order’s Rene Balcer to Participate in Mystery Writers Festival

Rene Balcer, an executive producer for Law & Order Criminal Intent, and more recently for Law & Order, will be participating in the International Mystery Writers Festival this month in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Here are the details from the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer:

Crime Shows to Be Represented: 'CSI' Creator, 'Law & Order' Writer Both Will Attend Mystery Writers Festival

By Beth Wilberding, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

May 31--The creator of several popular television series and the head writer of another well-known show will both be at the International Mystery Writers Festival, Discovering New Mysteries at the RiverPark Center.

Anthony E. Zuiker, creator and executive producer of the "CSI" franchise, and Rene Balcer, head writer for "Law & Order" and co-creator of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," will make Writers' Reel presentations, attend cast parties that are open to the public and participate in other events at the June 12-22 festival.

Zev Buffman, president and CEO of the RiverPark Center, said festival organizers wanted to bring stars to the festival but needed a legitimate link to bring them.

"It will help draw people ... I love that we got both giants to be here," he said.

Officials found connections to both men because of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Allan Poe Awards. Three of the productions from the 2007 mystery festival were nominated for Edgars for best play this year, and "Panic" won.

Balcer has been nominated for several Edgars and has won three: one for Best Television Episode Teleplay for the "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" episode "Want" in 2005, and two for Best Television Episode for "Law in Order" in 1999 and 2000 for "Bad Girl" and "Refuge (Part II)."

Zuiker, who also writes episodes of "CSI" and its spinoffs, was nominated for an Edgar in 2006 for Best Television Episode Teleplay for the "Grave Danger" episode of "CSI."

"They're the best of the best," Buffman said.

Zuiker will be at the mystery festival June 21, and Balcer will be at the festival June 16.

"I always thought of 'CSI' as a modern Sherlock Holmes in many respects," Zuiker said in a phone interview.

He said he was looking forward to coming to the festival to share his experiences as a writer as well as to listen to other writers.

"Mystery, in my opinion, is a storyline that has missing pieces to a puzzle," Zuiker said. "I believe that 'CSI' does that very well."

Zuiker's day will include co-presenting the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Award to Gene Hackman and Dan Lenihan for "Escape from Andersonville -- a Novel of the Civil War."

At 9 that evening, he will participate in Writers Reel on the BB&T Plaza at the RiverPark Center. Zuiker will show clips from "CSI" and discuss the show. He will also do a question-and-answer session. He is scheduled to do a master class or panel June 22.

He is also scheduled to be at the Angie Award ceremony June 22, where he will receive the Ira Levin Award. Levin was an author and member of the mystery festival's executive committee, and he died last year.

The award is given to somebody who has come from behind to be a success, Buffman said, and it won't be awarded annually. Before creating "CSI," Zuiker was a tram driver at Las Vegas' Mirage hotel, according to the RiverPark Center.

When Balcer comes to the festival June 16, he will teach a master class for the Young Adult Theatre Academy in the afternoon, then make short appearances before a couple of the festival productions that day.

He will also do a Writers Reel session at 9 p.m.

Buffman's and Balcer's paths crossed years before the mystery festival was created. Buffman was called back to Israel in 1973 to serve as an officer during the Yom Kippur War. Balcer covered Buffman's unit as a combat cameraman for Canadian media, Buffman said.

Bringing in the men behind "CSI" and "Law & Order" provides a fresh perspective and broadens what a mystery is, said Travis Estes, director of sales and marketing for the RiverPark Center.

While some associate mysteries with magnifying glasses and period pieces such as "The Final Toast," the television shows use forensic science to solve mysteries, he said.

"I think it's going to help us build that younger audience," Estes said.

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