TV weatherman Al Roker writes murder mystery

NEW YORK Tue Nov 24, 2009 12:33pm EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - America's best known weatherman Al Roker, who is already a top-selling author, changes gears with "The Morning Show Murders", a mystery thriller set in his world of network breakfast television.

The 320-page crime novel, which is released on Tuesday, draws on Roker's own experiences, those of people he knows and his love of cooking.

Its central character Billy Blessing owns a Manhattan restaurant as well as cooking on air for fictional show "Wake Up America". Unfortunately amidst his success, he finds his producer murdered and himself as the prime suspect.

While the ending can wait for the reader, Roker, 55, admits that there is more than a little of himself in Billy Blessing.

"He's black, bald and chubby with a little bit of a sense of humor," Roker said of Blessing.

Roker himself is best known to 30 million viewers for his work on NBC's "Today" show.

He also alludes to some characters being amassed from those he has worked with over the years though none are instantly recognizable.

"Traits of people I know were worked into certain characters," he said.

While there are irritations and annoyances even in his job, Roker denies ever killing anybody or using the book as an outlet for any workplace grievances he may have on occasion.

"I'm one of the lucky ones with one of the best jobs in the world," Roker said. "There are always frustrations and writing a murder mystery isn't going to take those out."

On his thoughts on killing a colleague Roker laughed.

"None that I'm working with currently," he said.

The book was written in collaboration with Dick Lochte, an established crime fiction writer.

"I'd read some of (Lochte's) books and met him when hosting the (Mystery Writers of America) Edgar awards," Roker said. "I know how to write but not that genre. I got some input from a pro."

Roker praised Lochte, 65, as indispensable and said he gave him an outline and made himself available for discussions during the nine months it took to write the book.

"I know TV and I know cooking. " said Roker, who has authored two cook books. "I knew who I wanted the bad guys to be. The international intrigue, he knows that."

Roker said he has loved mystery thrillers since he read his first Hardy Boys novel at aged seven and Sherlock Holmes at 10.

Roker wrote his own novel waiting at airports and on planes, even during brief downtime when covering the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

He has always wanted to open a restaurant but for now will live that dream vicariously through Billy Blessing.

"Talking about wanting to kill someone, just run a restaurant," Roker said.

The book is aimed at anyone who loves murder mysteries with a touch of comedy. Roker hopes it will leave the reader with a taste for a follow up book planned for this time next year with the same characters.

"I'm pretty certain Billy will live in the next book," Roker said. "He'll prevail. He's a little wiser for it."

Perhaps, just like Roker himself.

(Reporting by Nick Olivari; Editing by Patricia Reaney)

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