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The Lost
Veronica Mars Book Proposal: Found!

by JEFF JENSEN | March 30, 2017

photo: PATRICK ECCLESINE/The CW

photo: EVERETT COLLECTION

photographs by RON BATZDORFF/NBC

Veronica Mars is one of the great television detectives, but the snarky sleuth that made Kristen Bell famous could have been a YA sensation. In 1996, Mars creator Rob Thomas was just starting his Hollywood career (his current winner: The CW’s iZombie) when he dreamed up an idea for a novel about a teenage private investigator. He shared with us his book proposal and offered a peek at what could have been.

PAGE VIEW

UNTITLED TEEN DETECTIVE

April 8, 1996

Rob Thomas

Keith Mars is learning a lot from his dad: how to tap phones, shoot high-speed film, set f-stops on telephoto lenses; tail cars for miles in broad daylight. Keith is 17, yet he’s soaking up all the skills of a professional private eye. He wants to be able to help his father who hasn’t seemed the same since the old man quit a promising career with the Austin Police Department to open his own private investigation agency two years ago. As more and more of the elder Mars’ business takes him on the road in pursuit of bail-jumpers, Keith becomes the only other employee at Mars Investigations, one it desperately needs to stay afloat.

TLDR: WATCH KRISTEN BELL READ AN EXCERPT BELOW!

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Keith and his father didn’t always live in a garage apartment. They use to live in the big house in the front of the property that the elder Mars bought during headier times. Keith’s mother didn’t make the fifty-foot move with her family after her husband left his lead homicide detective post with the APD. She’d gotten used to a better lifestyle —a lifestyle she’s now enjoying with a computer executive three subdivisions away.

Veronica Mars was originally a boy named Keith
He was the son of a former hotshot homicide detective who turned to scrappy P.I. work after a reversal of fortune. The TV show tweaked the origin story but retained its gist, and Veronica’s dad took the name Keith (Enrico Colantoni). '”

photo: PATRICK ECCLESINE/The CW

Keith’s school work begins to suffer as more of his nights are spent outside roadside motels photographing the parents of his well-heeled classmates at Austin’s wealthiest suburban high school. Nearly friendless and routinely miserable at school, Keith would consider dropping out if it weren’t for the beguiling Greta Hall, a monied, though in Keith’s mind,“savable” socialite who has failed to notice his extraordinarily subtle advances. “Maybe it’s because you’ve never actually said a word to the girl,”suggests Keith’s lone friend, Reginald Cobb, “Or did you consider that maybe it’s because she’s already dating a football player? …A UT Longhorn football player?”

“Did you consider that maybe I’m playing a long game?” Keith replies in a manner that lands somewhere in the unsettling territory between quip and vow.


MRS. PEABODY

Thank you, Jack. I don’t know why my husband loved that thing so much - something’s always wrong with it. Maybe I should just sell it.

Jack GASPS, playfully.


MRS. PEABODY

Thank you, Jack. I don’t know why my husband loved that thing so much - something’s always wrong with it. Maybe I should just sell it.

Jack GASPS, playfully.

JACK


You watch your mouth, Mrs. Peabody. This is a 1967 Chevelle. You cannot sell a 1967 Chevelle.

MRS. PEABODY
(smiles)

Alright, alright, I’ll keep it.

THE SETTING WAS AUSTIN, TEXAS, NOT THE FICTIONAL NEPTUNE, CALIFORNIA
When not working jobs for his pop, Keith attended Westlake High School, located in a wealthy suburb. It was based on and named after a school Thomas attended as a kid, and inspired the book’s (and show’s) focus on socioeconomic issues.

photo: Ken Woroner/ Warner Bros.

But But as Keith’s night job erodes his faith inhumanity, it also inspires his plan to win friends and influence people at Westlake High. Adopting the motto “information is power, “ Keith embarks on a campaign of intimidation and insinuation that leads to a rapid ascent in popularity. Just as he begins to bask in the fruits of his labor, Keith’s junior detective zealousness leads to a secret that may explain — in a way he never imagined — the real reason his father is no longer a hotshot homicide detective.

THE HERO WAS A LONER
Veronica was a ruling mean girl who fell from grace after the murder of BFF Lily (Amanda Seyfried), but she quickly made new friends, including Wallace (Percy Daggs III) and Mac (Tina Majorino). Keith was an outsider from the get-go. He had a single pal, Reginald, and a crush on (to quote the proposal) “the beguiling Greta Hall, a monied, though in Keith’s mind, ‘savable’ socialite.”

photo: RON P. JAFFE

When Keith catches a high-ranking city official on film with one of his Westlake High School classmates rendezvousing at the man’s deer hunting lodge for a romantic tryst, the official trades Keith the photographic evidence for information about his father. Keith has questioned his dad about his decision to leave the force before, but the elder Mars has always refused to divulge any details. The new information Keith receives suggests his father knowingly sent the wrong two men to death row in Austin’s infamous Chocolate Shop Murders case. Keith learns his father was given an ultimatum: quit or be fired.

KEITH ABUSED HIS P.I. SKILLS FOR EVIL
"Adopting the motto 'information is power,,' Keith embarks on a campaign of intimidation and insinuation that leads to a rapid ascent of popularity," according to the proposal. Says Thomas: "There was a bit of that [darkenss] on Veronica Mars, and there might've been quite a bit more had it sold as a cable show [instead of as a network show]."

photo: Greg Schwartz / CBS

Keith doesn’t want to believe the story about his father, but if there’s one thing he’s learned over the past few years — no one is innocent. Still, the information he’s been given doesn’t completely add up. If everyone inside the police department knows his father screwed up the case, why are those men still on death row? And if the men who were convicted aren’t guilty who killed those three Westlake High girls working at the chocolate shop that night. Without his father’s knowledge, Keith digs into his dad’s old police files and reopens the Chocolate Shop Murders case.

GRETA NAMED HIS DAUGHTER
Rereading the proposal, Thomas realizes he and his wife didn’t actually come up with the name together: “It’s going to come as a shock to her that I’d been waiting to use it all these years.”

In a final test, Keith will have to choose between placing what’s left of his trust in Greta, Reginald and his mysterious and mostly-absent father or surrender to an empty world that he unexpectedly finds himself perfectly equipped to rule.

Photos from top to bottom PATRICK ECCLESINE/The CW, EVERETT COLLECTION, Ken Woroner/ Warner Bros., RON P. JAFFE, Greg Schwartz / CBS

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