cover image Life’s Work: A Memoir

Life’s Work: A Memoir

David Milch. Random House, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-525510-74-1

Milch, a TV writer and producer best known for his work on NYPD Blue and Deadwood, delivers a warts-and-all memoir. Born in Buffalo in 1945, Milch didn’t have it easy from the start: his prominent doctor father was also a gambler, alcoholic, and philanderer, and his mother was a driven educator who didn’t always keep track of her own kids. Between the ages of six and 13, Milch was routinely sexually abused at summer camp, a trauma he kept secret for decades. He was expelled from Yale after he shot out the lights of a police car during an acid trip, but not before he became a protégé of poet Robert Penn Warren. Milch’s big break came during the TV writers’ strike of 1982 on Hill Street Blues—the show’s producers had to take a chance on a screenwriter too new to have joined the Writers Guild—which paved the way for his later series of “shows known for profanity.” Deadwood fans will relish the behind-the-scenes accounts of casting decisions and the series’s origin story: the concept Milch first pitched, of a power struggle between cops in Rome, morphed into the morally complex western. But his professional success was marred by endemic self-sabotage in the form of erratic behavior and racking up millions in gambling debts. The circumstances of the memoir’s creation—Milch now has Alzheimer’s, so recollections derive from recordings made years earlier by his wife—lend the whole affair a sense of melancholy. It’s an unflinching self-portrait, and one that could just as easily come from the mouths of the unvarnished antiheroes he put on screen. Agent: Jennifer Joel, ICM Partners/CAA. (Sept.)