George D. Putnam, born in San Bernardino, California, was a shy boy with a hyper imagination. An example of this was an ad he posted on a bulletin board in his parents’ mom—and—pop store. From a distance, the three—by—five card read in bold letters: "Work Needed: Brain Surgery." A closer look at the ad, however, revealed more information: "Work Needed. I can do anything but Brain Surgery."
Putnam’s inspiration to become a writer was The Dick Van Dyke Show. He wondered how such nutty characters could get serious enough to write anything for public consumption. Mad Magazine, Superman comics, and Classics Illustrated also fascinated him. He used to read the same editions over and over, until the next issues arrived. This left no time to cultivate friends. Nor did listening to his favorite records over and over. He once estimated that he had replayed "El Paso" and the title theme to "To Kill a Mockingbird" on his record player a thousand times. Had his parents been more attuned to this, they would have summoned a psychiatrist.
He spent so much time in after—school solitude reading sophomoric literature and listening to music that he was a poor student. This lead to a humiliating episode wherein a math teacher, instructing Putnam’s class on how to determine averages, used as sample numbers Putnam’s test scores on the blackboard. The computed average was a failing grade. (His twin brother’s scores were included). The boys ran home crying to their mother, who promptly called the school to berate the teacher.
Putnam’s self—imposed isolation and summa—cum—skin—of—the—teeth academic performance naturally lead to drug abuse, alcoholism, and failed marriages.
He graduated from California State University at San Bernardino with a major in music composition. Being a first—rate music theorist landed him on the dean’s list. Nearing the completion of graduate school at the University of California at Riverside, he suffered a grave loss when his brother died. This rendered further education meaningless to him, so he quit before completing course requirements, though for his masters thesis he had written a symphony based on a twelve—tone theme. It was never performed, but renowned musicologist Robert Craft, long—time secretary to Igor Stravinsky, later read the symphony and proclaimed, "Remarkable, remarkable, remarkable," particularly because Putnam was only twenty—two when he composed it.
Wanting to write film scores and realizing that nothing in San Bernardino could advance his ambition, Putnam moved to Los Angeles. There he soon realized how unprepared he was to penetrate the movie business; the foolishness of showing up drunk for an interview with a producer had eluded him. To pay bills, he sold his piano. His then—wife bought him a book on writing screenplays. He loved it. Soon his fingers went from the keys of a piano to the keys of a typewriter, and in no time he wrote his first screenplay, though nothing became of it.
A book review in the Los Angeles Times changed his life. It cited the editor of a collection of letters by Raymond Chandler as saying that he got hooked on Chandler after browsing the first page of "Farewell My Lovely." Putnam told his wife, "Let’s go to the bookstore," and there he felt the same joyful discovery of lurid and stylized writing as had the editor of the reviewed book. Putnam devoured all of Raymond Chandler’s novels and promptly wrote three crime novels. Each remains buried somewhere in his garage.
Putnam’s jobs included delivering auto parts, a worker in a paint factory, construction laborer, staffing executive at two major hospitals, bartending at dives and country clubs, buying produce for a restaurant wholesaler, maintenance manager at a health club, and writing press kits for a public relations entertainment firm. A connection at the firm got him a job as an amanuensis for producer Steven Bochco, whose landmark shows, "L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue," enabled Putnam to examine the process of TV storytelling up close. After a few years, Bochco hired him to write several episodes of "NYPD Blue." Soon Putnam sold his first screenplay, "Unlawful Entry," written with John Katchmer. The movie was a success.
Despite his feature and TV credits, Putnam was not comfortable working in the script—by—committee practice that fast—paced TV production requires. So he decided to write a novel, "The Honey Bubble." He drew on his brother’s death as a source for a pivotal turn in the story. Also contributing to the overall story were the years he tended bar in a rundown section of northeastern Los Angeles. This became the fictionalized setting for the novel.
In 1983, Putnam sobered up, and a few years later was clear—headed enough to marry Linda Azarone, a woman of refinement, intelligence, and moxie. She helped to smooth out the rough edges from his early years. Linda also read all of his writings and was the first to give feedback on them. After she died of cancer, Putnam decided to write a sequel to "The Honey Bubble." Its tentative title is "The Bane of a Good Cause." If luck intervenes, Putnam will write many sequels, such is the richness of the characters in "The Honey Bubble."
Putnam is a widower living in West Los Angeles. He has four children, David, Russell, Oliver, and Henry. His favorite movie is "Chinatown." It inspired him to write a screenplay, "Route 220," about a murder in the formative years of stock car racing. He calls it the unwashed side of "Chinatown," meaning the same era (1930’s), but different coasts and different degrees of glamour (affluent Angelinos in magnificent mansions vs. poor dairy farmers who run moonshine and race cars). But each story shares the intrigue and mystery of what happens when a character’s ambitions are thwarted by lust, betrayal, and greed.