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Video: Al goes from weather to whodunit

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    announcer: could be his. reliability,

    >>> and now to the special congratulations for mr. roker. somehow, along with his duties here at "today," on the weather channel , and just about everywhere else, he has found time to write his first novel. it's called "the morning show murders," and leading up to its release, we noticed some strange things happening here.

    >>> it was a dark and stormy morning over at studio 1a .

    >> hey, good morning.

    >> reporter: what seemed like a normal broadcast was anything but. amidst our morning coffee , something else was brewing, something evil. someone had murder on their mind. the nightmare began at 7:48 --

    >> but first, these messages.

    >> reporter: a commercial break and ample time for the killer to get into disguise. the suspicious figure ran amuck, terrorizing the studio and locating the weapon of choice . meanwhile, our executive producer, jim bell , hard at work in the control room , unaware danger, death was lurking just around the corner. at 7:50 eastern standard time , jim received his last emmy .

    >> reporter: the number one morning show was now in mourning.

    >> i'm heartbroken.

    >> dealing with the sadness of it is overwhelming.

    >> reporter: who was capable of such a brazen, brutal act? former fbi profiler clint van zandt gave a glimpse into the mind of a killer.

    >> this was a gruesome, a grisly crime. there was a lot of anger and rage expressed when the killer used his weapon to hit the victim over and over again.

    >> reporter: the suspects were brought in for questioning.

    >> did i do it? oh, come on.

    >> i didn't do it.

    >> i did not do it.

    >> i didn't do it.

    >> did somebody say i did it?

    >> reporter: with pressure mounting, the finger-pointing began.

    >> you know what? my money's on curry.

    >> i was in the studio. i mean, i have witnesses. there are people who saw me there.

    >> three words -- kathie lee gifford .

    >> well, there's only one person that possibly could have done it, that would have had a motive, and that would have been matt lauer , i mean, obviously. the day before jim died, matt went into his office. matt went in screaming, screaming that i was getting more airtime. and apparently, jim said, well, of course she's getting more airtime, she's better at what she does than you are, and i think that just -- matt snapped. he snapped.

    >> a break came today in the murder of "today" executive producer jim bell . it turns out the emmy used in his killing was for outstanding hurricane coverage. all signs are now leading to al roker . a search is under way in his neck of the woods.

    >> all right, i admit it, i did it, yeah, and you know what? i'm not sorry, either! every day, jim bell 's cutting my time. i need a quick weather here, 30 seconds here. how much more can a man take?

    >> al is out on bail. his new book "the morning show murders." congratulations on the new book.

    >> thank you.

    >> but before that, you had the opportunity to kill jim bell . how come you get all the good assignments?

    >> just lucky, i guess. he actually wasn't harmed. we had a stunt double in there.

    >> exactly.

    >> where did this idea for the book come? why a murder on morning tv?

    >> well, they say write what you know. i've never actually killed anybody, that i'll admit to, but you know, i do know a little bit about morning television. i've worked with you guys. and it's something i've always wanted to do. i always loved mystery and my mom was a great reader of mysteries and she kind of inspired me. so, this was something i always wanted to do.

    >> and your heart of the book is this character named billy blessing.

    >> yes.

    >> and he's a real jovial guy, reminds me of somebody else we know.

    >> well, he's a chef.

    >> based on someone we know?

    >> he's a bald, little stocky, so i see denzel washington in the movie, obviously.

    >> already gone there.

    >> but no, he's a chef. so you know, chefs are very popular on morning television. you kind of combine them. of course, i had not the first iota of a way to write this, so i teamed up with dick lockey, a terrific murder mystery writer, and we teamed up in the process.

    >> he said you were brilliant in fleshing out the characters, and some of them are a bit bizarre. are they based on any of us?

    >> we're not in the book, are we?

    >> on advice of my toernsiattorney, i'll say no.

    >> there are no characteristics that will jump out at people?

    >> nothing?

    >> listen, no. maybe subconsciously, somebody works their way in.

    >> that's it.

    >> but not wholeheartedly.

    >> here's what i want to know, when do you do this?

    >> exactly.

    >> you know what, you've got three kids, i have three kids. you get up early in the morning , so do i. where do you find time to sit down and write this book is this.

    >> well, like you guys, i'm traveling all the time. i wrote a good part of it while i was in beijing, you know, during -- and then flying, in hotel rooms , airport lounges. i'm making the most of my time.

    >> we want to mention, because you mentioned earlier good company. we have celebrated crime novelists who said many nice things about you.

    >> many people did.

    >> janet ivanovic said " al roker 's mystery thriller is a winner." james patterson , a best-selling writer himself, says " al roker should quit his day job." please don't.

    >> many of you feel the same way.

    >> and they called it a "great fun." so, congratulations.

    >> here's my problem with the plot of the thing we just showed there.

    >> what?

    >> if you went after jim bell with an emmy , first of all, it would bounce off him. he's the man of steel.

    >> he's tough.

    >> he would have squashed you like a bug.

    >> they caught him by surprise, right behind him.

    >> don't forget, al, we have the power down here. we can close your mike. you talk about the emmy . go to '86. you didn't receive an emmy for hurricane coverage.

    >> no.

    >> you know, matt, my truck operator, tom bear, said don't you wish you had your weight back? right about now i do.

    >> ooh!

    >> get off of this, and don't forget --

    >> it gets old!

    >> -- when all else fails, go to "b."

    >> go to "b"? what's "b"?

    >> oh!

    >> cleveland!

    >> is there a "c"?

    >> just for no particular reason, just to do.

    >> just because you can.

    >> good luck with the book.

    >> he murdered you.

    >> thank you.

    >> also want to thank steve asher, who did a great job --

    >> congrats.

    >> and there's a sequel coming up, so there you go.

    >> and nobody got hurt!

    >> that's right.

    >> yet. you can read an excerpt on our website.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/24/2009 10:24:00 AM ET 2009-11-24T15:24:00

Is there nothing Al Roker will stop at to get ahead, and nothing he can’t do? Until Tuesday, his friends, coworkers and TODAY co-hosts would have drawn the line at murder. But now, with the publication of his first novel, a whodunit titled “The Morning Show Murders,” they’re not so sure.

“We’re not in the book, are we?” co-anchor Meredith Vieira asked when she, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry sat down to talk about the indefatigable Roker’s latest venture.

“On the advice of my attorney, I say no,” Roker laughed.

Art imitates life
The only character Roker admits is based on a recognizable TODAY star is his protagonist, Billy Blessing, who is not only a celebrity chef, bon vivant and restaurateur, but also hosts the nation’s most popular network morning show, “Wake Up America!” Billy is jovial, liked by all, and a bundle of energy — much like someone millions of TODAY viewers know well.

“He’s a chef. He’s African-American, bald, a little stocky,” Roker said of his fictional hero. “So I see Denzel Washington in the movie, obviously.”

The central plot involves the fictional morning show’s executive producer, Rudy Gallagher — an ornery womanizer who constantly butts heads with Billy. When Rudy is found poisoned in his home after a meal of coq au vin ordered from Billy's restaurant, suspicious eyes turn to Billy. From then on, it’s a race against time — and around the world — as Billy Blessing goes sleuthing to clear his name.

We won’t give away the ending, but chances are, it’s a happy one: Billy is slated to star in a sequel — one that may involve a hit late-night show.

Renaissance man
The 55-year-old Roker is mainly known as TODAY’s weatherman, but he’s also a correspondent and host who is has shown an ability to excel at about anything: writing a New York Times best-selling non-fiction book, “Don't Make Me Stop This Car: Adventures in Fatherhood”; creating Al’s Book Club to promote reading among kids; hosting his own Weather Channel show as well as co-hosting TODAY; interviewing newsmakers, and traveling the world reporting stories.

Dell Publishing

Lauer expressed wonder at how Roker managed to write a book on top of everything else he does. “You have three kids; I have three kids. You get up early in the morning; so do I,” Lauer said. “Where do you find time to sit down and write this book?”

“I wrote a good part of it while I was in Beijing,” Roker replied, referring to NBC and TODAY’s coverage of the Olympic games there last year. “And then flying, hotel rooms, airline lounges —  making the most of my time.”

But why a whodunit? It turns out Roker’s mother is a big mystery fan and instilled a love of the genre in her son, who confesses to having been a somewhat nerdy kid who spent a lot of time in the library. His favorite writers include Walter Mosley, Harlan Coben and Janet Evanovich, all known for their crime fiction.

Collaborative process
Still, Roker confessed, “I had not the first iota of an idea of how to write this.” So he turned to crime author extraordinaire Al Lochte to help him. Unlike many celebrity authors who do not give their collaborators cover credit, Roker does not hide Lochte’s contributions. He said Lochte helped on the whodunit parts, while Lochte says Roker injected all the zany characters and fun.

TODAY
The TODAY hosts were all suspects in a tongue-in-cheek murder mystery cooked up to celebrate the publication of Al Roker’s first piece of fiction, “The Morning Show Murders.”

Evanovich, the best-selling author of the Stephanie Plum mysteries, was impressed enough with the results to contribute a jacket blurb that says: “Al Roker's first mystery thriller is a winner. Terrific plot, fast, funny, and full of action and adventure with even a touch of steamy romance. And I love his leading man, TV personality, restaurateur and amateur sleuth Billy Blessing.

“I think Stephanie Plum would love him, too,” Evanovich added, “even with some of the misguided things he has to say about New Jersey."

The TODAY crew spoofed Roker’s work with their own filmed murder mystery in which the victim — beaten to death with his own Emmy — was the show’s own executive producer, Jim Bell. In the satirical mini-mystery, the culprit turned out to be Al himself.

But why would Al want to kill his own producer?

TODAY
Al Roker confessed to the bogus “murder” of TODAY executive producer Jim Bell.
“Every day Jim Bell’s cutting my time: ‘I need a quick weather here, 30 seconds over here.’ How much more can a man take?” Roker wailed as he confessed to the bogus homicide.

But Bell got his revenge from the control room. First he treated viewers to a shot of Roker being blown off his feet while covering a hurricane. That he topped off that embarrassment by cueing up a shot of a younger Roker with something resembling hair.

Al laughed good-naturedly with the other TODAY hosts — but was that a glint of homicidal cunning in his eye?

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

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