Rupert Holmes has contributed to mystery and detective fiction in a variety of ways, and almost everything he has touched has turned to gold (or platinum). Beginning in his late teens, Holmes, like other singer-songwriters of his era, such as Jimmy Buffet, Don McLean, Al Stewart, and the late Warren Zevon, composed songs that told stories often of a dark and dangerous nature, perhaps best exemplified by his 1971 opus, “Timothy,” which described possible cannibalism in a collapsed mine. During more than a decade as a performer whose works were often performed by other recording artists—including Barbra Streisand, Gene Pitney, the Platters, and the Drifters—Holmes found success with such hits as “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and “Him.” His songs and arrangements have been featured on many film soundtracks, including A Star Is Born (1976), How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), Shrek (2001), and The Sweetest Thing (2002) and on television series like The Shield (beginning in 2002) and Six Feet Under (2001-2005).
In the 1980’s, Holmes began to write plays and scores. His first effort, a musical called The Mystery of Edwin Drood (pr. 1985), adapted from Charles Dickens’s novel of the same name, took five Tony Awards and an Edgar Award, probably because of Holmes’s innovative staging. Others of his plays have also met with critical acclaim: Accomplice: A Comedy Thriller (pr. 1990) won an Edgar; the suspenseful Solitary Confinement (pr. 1992) set box-office records at the Kennedy Center; his serial-killer play Thumbs (pr. 2000) set similar records at the Helen Hayes Theater; and Curtains (pr. 2007) has also proved popular. Other nonmystery Holmes plays, including the nostalgic Say Goodnight, Gracie (pr. 2002) and the musical adaptation of Marty (pr. 2002), have likewise been well reviewed.
Television has also benefited from Holmes’s talents. Though not a mystery—but sometimes incorporating mysterious elements—Remember WENN (1996-1998), the American Movie Classics series that Holmes created and wrote in the 1990’s, won Cable ACE awards for editing (1996) and costume design (1997) and captured an Emmy Award (1996) among its five nominations.
Holmes’s first mystery novel, Where the Truth Lies (2003), was nominated for a Nero Wolfe Award as best American crime novel and was made into a major motion picture. His second mystery novel, Swing (2005), was well reviewed and incorporates a CD of songs composed by the author; the title song is performed by Melissa Manchester.