By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated June 28, 2007 at 02:00 PM EDT

Veteran character actor Richard Belzer (Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order: SVU) might be coming soon to a bestseller list near you: Simon & Schuster just gave him a two-book deal, with the first volume slated to appear next fall. They’re going to be mystery novels, and the protagonist in each tale will be… veteran character actor Richard Belzer. Huh?

It seems Belzer has considerably more in mind than your typical, formulaic procedural. His novels will imagine himself, the guy who plays a murder detective on TV, getting caught up in a series of actual crimes. (The title of the first one, naturally, is I Am Not A Cop.) Belzer was at no loss for words when it came to describing his literary vision. He told the AP that his influences include “Dashiell Hammett, Oscar Wilde, Lenny Bruce, and Robert Altman” — nice list! — and that readers should prepare to experience “the first ‘reality novel’ of the new millennium that explores a unique universe that poses the question, ‘What is reality?'” Uh, right.

addCredit(“Richard Belzer: Will Hart”)

It all sounds something like a put-on, sure. But it also soundshalfway brilliant. Belzer’s been among my favorite TV thespians sincehis glory days playing Det. John Munch on Homicide, where he laced his hard-boiled intensity with a cynical New Yorker’s sense of humor. He’s reprised the Munch role on what feels like 10,000 other showsover the ensuing decade; I’m still not tired of it, and I’m definitelylooking forward to seeing a new spin on that same multilayered personain print. (I’m actually a little disappointed that the novels aren’tgoing to be straight-up narrated by Munch.) Plus, I’m a sucker for anysly metafictional look at the entertainment biz, a la Chuck Barris'”unauthorized autobiography” Confessions of a Dangerous Mind or Spike Jonze’s film Adaptation — which reminds me that the incomparable Charlie Kaufman, who wrote the screenplays for both Adaptation and the movie version of Confessions, could probably write a fantastic film treatment of I Am Not a Cop. And you know who’d star in that one.

So, PopWatchers, are you going to register your Amazon pre-ordersfor Belzer’s new authorial adventure along with me? Are there other TVactors who you think ought to write surreal, self-referential novels?