Going Rogue

This article excerpt, part of a series entitled The Quorum Chronicle, appears in full — along with expanded audio content — exclusively for our Patreon backers. See our Patreon page for further details.


The Quorum ChronicleI first heard about entertainer Brian Brushwood when he was interviewed for the Skepticality podcast back in 2009. A sort of cross between magician, comedian, and sideshow performer, Brushwood had an ongoing stage show called Bizarre Magic, appearing regularly at college campuses across the country. He also hosted a YouTube show called Scam School, in which he would good-naturedly perform close-up magic or brain teasers at various San Francisco-area bars and restaurants, soliciting drinks in exchange for explaining the mystifying secret behind the trick or puzzle. His bizarre, spiked hairstyle and gregarious personality made for entertaining viewing, and I learned quite a few tricks from him — even teaching my then-nine-year-old daughter some of them so she could amaze the whole family with her magical talents.

In fact, everything Skitch does in “All That Glitters” is completely factually accurate… Jimmy’s shock at how simple — and inexpensive — this process was definitely mirrored my own.

In 2012, after Discovery Networks purchased Division3, the publisher of Scam School, Brushwood took advantage of the transition to move the show’s base of operations from San Francisco to his home city of Austin, Texas. Once there, Brushwood was more regularly able to bring occasional guests onto the show, frequently other magicians who would demonstrate their close-up magic skills. But in addition to magicians, he brought in experts with skills in other areas — notably picking locks.

Brushwood had discussed lockpicking before, likely a logical outgrowth of the “escape artist” school of magic, during the San Francisco run of Scam School. In fact, I first learned about using the “bump keys” Jimmy makes passing mention of back in a 2010 episode. But it turns out there is an entire community in Austin — the Longhorn Lockpicking Club, led by lockpicking champion JGor — that picks locks competitively. JGor and other members appeared several times on the show, demonstrating how to pick everything from door locks to bicycle locks to padlocks and even handcuffs with simple, everyday items. (One thing that became abundantly clear was just how inaccurately the process of lockpicking is normally depicted in the movies — but for the record, Linda Hamilton gets it pretty close to right in Terminator 2). Brushwood would eventually open an online merchandise shop — called, appropriately enough, Scam Stuff — where he would make available many of the tools of the lockpicking trade, including not just bump keys and lockpick sets, but transparent padlocks and full lockpick-training setups. (I may or may not have availed myself of some of those learning opportunities.)


Be sure to check out the complete article, in both text and enhanced audio formats, along with the rest of The Quorum Chronicle series, at our Patreon page. And thanks so much for your continuing support of Jabberwocky Audio Theater!

— William R. Coughlan, writer/director of Quorum

JAT Jot # 16: July 2022

JAT Jot

Here in July 2022 to let you know three things:

1) We should be back on the terrestrial airwaves this month

2) This month’s Patreon bonus segment is about the origins of Quorum character names.

3) This month, we need you to go to https://www.podcastawards.com/ and nominate “Quorum” in the Fiction category for the People’s Choice Podcast Awards.

It’s time for the People’s Choice Podcast Award Nominations!

Okay, the JAT Phone technically isn’t a thing, but if it was, it’d look something like this:

Will you answer the call?

Why’s it ringing? Because the 2022 People’s Choice Podcast Awards are upon us and we need your help!

What can you do?

  1. Go to the Podcast Awards website
  2. Register for free (this allows you to nominate now and potentially vote on finalists later).
  3. Nominate “Quorum” in the “Fiction” category.

But please take the time to do it now! The nomination period and the registration deadline to be able to vote on the finalists is Sunday, July 31st, 2022!


In case you want some screenshots, here you go.

First go to the Podcast Awards website. You should see a screen that has a blue box for nominating podcasts:

After you click on the blue box, you’ll be taken to a registration page:

Don’t forget to check that checkbox near the bottom about being randomly selected to vote on the final slate in August! Hopefully, Quorum will be among the finalists.

Once you’re registered, you can log in and see the categories listed alphabetically, so you’ll likely need to scroll down to see “Fiction” and select Quorum. Feel free to nominate shows in other categories you’re interested in, but you don’t need to nominate someone in all the categories.

Once you’re sure of your selection, you can click the “save” button at the bottom of the screen and it will lock in those categories you selected. You can always come back and add nominations, but we don’t know of a way for you to unlock your saved nominations, so take your time.

Then, we wait for news of whether we’ve made the cut.

Thank you all so much for your support and we hope to have good news in August!

Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Characters of “All That Glitters”

This article excerpt, part of a series entitled The Quorum Chronicle, appears in full — along with expanded audio content — exclusively for our Patreon backers. See our Patreon page for further details.


The Quorum ChronicleThe primary character-naming convention of “All That Glitters” started as a kind of inside joke. By way of background, the scene where Jimmy impresses a big-time L.A. venture capitalist — initially named “Bob Lawrence” — appeared in the very first draft of The Gambler’s Tale, way back in early 2011. At the time, the story had Jimmy hastily departing Las Vegas for Los Angeles — with Big Mike, no less — immediately following the car bomb that apparently took Will Archer’s life. At the time, I was envisioning the tale as a single story arc, as opposed to subdividing it into separate “seasons.” But once I opted to keep the action in Las Vegas for the inaugural story arc, now called “Outstanding Debts,” this scene quickly ended up on the cutting room floor. But I knew I’d be bringing the character back in season two.

The decision to make Malone a corrupt police detective came fairly late in the process, but served to add another element of menace — not only would he be physically untouchable, but he would also be, to a large degree, immune from legal consequence.

Even before I finished that initial script, I worked up a “story bible” for the series, a sort of master blueprint to make sure I kept the plot and characters consistent. Not a complete script, or even a full outline, but mapping out the major beats for each season and defining the key characters. So now, I started developing this investor character in greater depth, working out his key personality traits. He had to be engaging and personable, but with a ruthless quality — something lurking beneath the surface that would only come to the fore when he was crossed. Not quite so simple as turning a switch on or off, but still a transition that could happen surprisingly quickly. At the risk of going into some vague spoilers, while we see hints of that transformation in “All That Glitters,” it promises to become more evident in our third-season story arc.

For some reason, an old Cheers episode popped into my head, 1989’s “The Two Faces of Norm,” in which barfly Norm Peterson is taken advantage of by his painting-business staff, who see him as a lovable pushover. To whip his team into shape, he invents a fictional “business partner,” Anton Kreitzer, who can be the hard-nosed taskmaster while Norm remains the affable, good-natured buddy. At one point, Norm even has to adopt the Kreitzer persona in an attempt to keep up the ruse — which naturally falls apart in typical sitcom fashion. Amused, I penciled in the name “Anton Kreitzer” for my venture capitalist and didn’t think much more about it. Later, rewriting his introduction to the story, and having already added Eleanor Wallis to the scene, I realized I needed another character in the mix, to provide an additional point of potential conflict. And if I had one character named for Norm, why not name this new character for Norm’s near-constant barstool companion? So Cliff — short for Clifford — became Ford.

From there, throughout the entire writing process, I started sticking in Cheers character names. MaloneChambersBoydPantusso — that’s Coach’s last name, by the way — and even a bunch of secondary characters, like Tom, Paul, Drake, and Gittes, who’s actually named for Harry Anderson’s flim-flam character rather than for Jack Nicholson’s Chinatown protagonist. None of the Quorum characters are really anything like their Cheers namesakes, but once I got rolling, it just sort of stuck. I even threw in a reference to a “Screaming Viking,” a fictional drink featured in the show.


Be sure to check out the complete article, in both text and enhanced audio formats, along with the rest of The Quorum Chronicle series, at our Patreon page. And thanks so much for your continuing support of Jabberwocky Audio Theater!

— William R. Coughlan, writer/director of Quorum

Building the L.A. of “All That Glitters”: Touring the City of Angels (Virtually)

This article excerpt, part of a series entitled The Quorum Chronicle, appears in full — along with expanded audio content — exclusively for our Patreon backers. See our Patreon page for further details.


The Quorum ChronicleOne critical step in building a story’s environment — at least for those taking place in the real world — is familiarizing yourself with the location as much as possible. The last thing you want is for someone to be taken out of the story because of some obvious detail you’ve overlooked. But for “All That Glitters,” not living in Los Angeles meant that I was left making a fair number of assumptions and relying on more than a little educated guesswork.

All of which led to an unusual source for exploring the City of Angels in detail: video games. Stick with me here.

One big advantage of presenting the city in something like L.A. Noire is that it showcases the city as befits a noir environment… This is L.A. as backdrop for crime and corruption.

I’ve never been a hardcore gamer — honestly, I bought a PlayStation 3 less for its gaming capabilities than because it was the least expensive Blu-Ray player on the market at the time. But one day, I happened to be perusing a Time magazine article on the top 10 video games of 2010, and I was struck by an image for a game called Red Dead Redemption: a lone cowboy astride his horse, framed against a gorgeous desert sunset. Intrigued, I picked up a copy of the game, and was immediately hooked by the stunning western vistas, playing the game through to the end, exploring every nook and cranny of this phenomenally detailed open world in the process. (I’m kind of obsessive that way.)

A short time later — in the spring of 2011 — I was at a local GameStop when the clerk commented that the studio that published Red Dead Redemption had another open-world game due to be released that month: a 1940s-set detective story called L.A. Noire. I preordered it on the spot.

Produced by Australia’s Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, L.A. Noire is set in Los Angeles in 1947, one of the deadliest years on record for violent crime at that point (including the infamous “Black Dahlia” murder, which is referenced heavily within the game). Players take on the role of Marine veteran Cole Phelps, now a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, as he works his way through several different desks — from Traffic to Homicide, Vice and Arson — solving a series of cases inspired both by real-world events and classic film noir stories.


Be sure to check out the complete article, in both text and enhanced audio formats, along with the rest of The Quorum Chronicle series, at our Patreon page. And thanks so much for your continuing support of Jabberwocky Audio Theater!

— William R. Coughlan, writer/director of Quorum

Broadcast Schedule On Hold for June

For all our listeners who like to tune into WERA every Sunday at 4pm ET, we have some bad news: we’ll be off the air for the month of June.

Our “home base” radio station is doing some much-needed maintenance and upgrades, so all the pre-recorded programs will be off until June 30th.

You should be able to hear us again on Sunday, July 3rd.

Jabberwocky in the Magic City! (Miami Web Fest 2022)

We recently got word that four of our productions are official selections of this year’s Miami Web Fest, which will be happening in the “Magic City” September 29th through October 2nd.

Those productions are:

Congratulations to the casts and crew! We’ll have more information about the festival as we get closer.

Building the L.A. of “All That Glitters”: Out of the Past

This article excerpt, part of a series entitled The Quorum Chronicle, appears in full — along with expanded audio content — exclusively for our Patreon backers. See our Patreon page for further details.


The Quorum ChronicleThe film influences that went into crafting the Los Angeles of “All That Glitters” are too numerous to mention. (Or at least too numerous to iterate in a single Chronicle entry.) After all, many of the signature characteristics of the city — at least within the crime genre — are common to nearly the entirety of the noir ouvre. Not that The Gambler’s Tale fits definitively in the noir model: I like to think the world we portray isn’t quite as irredeemable as is the case in true noir, which is why I tend to refer to our story as a hardboiled crime drama — a subtle distinction, but distinct nonetheless. I’ve always thought of it as a sort of hybrid with roots in film noir or hardboiled crime fiction in general. With that in mind, it’s only right to at least attempt to highlight a few memorable standouts.

[What] makes Los Angeles unique as a setting is that the omnipresent sunshine and wide-open spaces serve to make the dark alleys and backroom dealings all the more jarring.

Two of Billy Wilder’s classics immediately come to mind. First, 1944’s Double Indemnity, which presents L.A. as a place where otherwise appealing people are willing to do terrible things, executing an intricate, cold-blooded fraud and murder scheme in the service of all-consuming ambition. Second, 1950’s Sunset Blvd. throws into sharp relief the ultimate futility of ignoring reality in favor of a preferred fantasy, as well as the dissonance between the utter corruption and moral bankruptcy of Hollywood and its irresistible appeal. And both of them highlight the sharp divide between the way things work for the rich and powerful and the less well-connected among us.

That same divide comes through in Howard Hawks’s 1946 classic The Big Sleep, which also deserves credit for explicitly portraying an illicit gambling operation — The Cypress Club — that villain Eddie Mars operates without the slightest fear of legal complications. Of course, we can only hope to recapture a fraction of the chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in that film — though I do think we manage to resolve our mysteries a bit more cleanly. The Big Sleep also features a memorable scene where the protagonist, Philip Marlowe, attempts to decode a mysterious cipher, a task Jimmy also tackles in “All That Glitters” (and which may be of particular interest to anyone who listens all the way through Quorum’s end credits).


Be sure to check out the complete article, in both text and enhanced audio formats, along with the rest of The Quorum Chronicle series, at our Patreon page. And thanks so much for your continuing support of Jabberwocky Audio Theater!

— William R. Coughlan, writer/director of Quorum

Building the L.A. of “All That Glitters”: Obsessing Over the Details

This article excerpt, part of a series entitled The Quorum Chronicle, appears in full — along with expanded audio content — exclusively for our Patreon backers. See our Patreon page for further details.


The Quorum ChronicleAs an author, when crafting any new story, it’s important to make sure your environment is fleshed out as much as possible. For one thing, even if much of that background material is never explicitly referenced in the final result, it helps you avoid inconsistencies — which careful readers, viewers, or listeners will notice, no matter how much you might try to convince yourself otherwise. For another, it gives you a foundation on which to make revisions — and rest assured, no matter how confident you are in your initial outlines, there will be revisions. And finally, it ensures that your world has the same kind of tonal consistency as your story and characters.

The Hall of Records is a genuine location, and one I couldn’t readily fictionalize without breaking the illusion of reality… but for the sake of storytelling, I opted to retain the location while dramatizing its contents.

The first season of The Gambler’s Tale, “Outstanding Debts,” was set in and around Las Vegas, and I took great pains to make sure my representation of the city was as thorough as possible. That’s not to say it was completely, factually accurate, but it was based in reality — which meant that any time I deviated from reality, I did so intentionally, and made sure that within the bounds of my tale, everything remained consistent. The casinos and other locations may have been fictional, but I made sure I knew where each of them was situated geographically, even to the point of checking traffic routes and distances between them. Anyone who’s spent any time in Las Vegas — and, admittedly, my time there has been limited — will know there’s a big difference between the classic casinos on Fremont Street and the Strip-based megaresorts.

This season, The Gambler’s Tale heads to Los Angeles with “All That Glitters.” And once again, I wanted to make sure to present the city in as detailed a manner as possible. Again, that’s not to say it’s exactly accurate in the strictest sense, but any alterations to reality are made with deliberate intent. For example, we feature several real-life locations and landmarks — such as the Griffith Park Observatory, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Exposition Park Rose Garden, the L.A. Civic Center, and the viaducts crossing the Los Angeles River — but just as many fictional ones. As a general rule of thumb, in cases where I’d be depicting these locations as they appear in real life — or where they were too iconic to reimagine as fictional alternatives — I would go ahead and reference them directly. But in instances where the location was purely fictional, even if comparable to some real-life location, I’d take the time to give it its own distinct flavor, while still anchoring it alongside its real-world analogue (or analogues).


Be sure to check out the complete article, in both text and enhanced audio formats, along with the rest of The Quorum Chronicle series, at our Patreon page. And thanks so much for your continuing support of Jabberwocky Audio Theater!

— William R. Coughlan, writer/director of Quorum