‘Veronica Mars’ started as a YA novel set at Austin-area Westlake High School

 

A long time ago, “Veronica Mars” used to be set in Austin. But we haven’t thought about that lately at all. Until now.

Kristen Bell plays the title character in “Veronica Mars.” The film version of the ’90s television series opened in March, 2014. CREDIT: ROBERT VOETS

Fans of the the CW’s criminally short-lived teen detective series “Veronica Mars” are well aware that the show took place in the radically divided Neptune, Calif., a town where all that separated the elite socialites from the seedy criminals was a murky gray line of questionable morality.

But, as Entertainment Weekly has revealed, the show wasn’t always set in California. In fact, “Veronica Mars” wasn’t even originally imagined as a TV show. At first, it was going to be a Young Adult novel set right here in Austin at Westlake High School, and the titular character later became Veronica’s dad, Keith.

First things first: If you haven’t already seen “Veronica Mars,” you’re missing out. The plot centered around Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), a high school student who moonlighted as a private eye for her father Keith. Keith was a former sheriff who opened up his own detective agency when he failed to get re-elected after he accused a Neptune socialite of murdering his own daughter (and Veronica’s best friend).

Related: This year’s ATX Television Festival is scheduled for June. Here’s what’s scheduled so far.

“Veronica Mars” was full of noir, camp, crime, quippy teens and lots of high school mysteries to solve. It also went to some pretty dark places in its examinations of class, race, wealth, sex and morality. The show was cancelled after three seasons, but a crowd-funded film was released in 2014 after a fourth season pilot was ordered by a network but never aired. Since the film’s release, series creator Rob Thomas has partnered with Austin author Jennifer Graham to write two books continuing the story of the plucky sleuth.

Rob Thomas on the red carpet for the movie Veronica Mars in Austin, Texas on March 7, 2014. (Thao Nguyen/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Anyway, Thomas originally intended for the story to be told as a young adult novel. He started a draft, “Untitled Teen Detective,” in 1996. That draft was shared with Entertainment Weekly this week for its “Hollywood’s Greatest Untold Stories” issue.

From the archives: Fresh from filming ‘Veronica Mars,’ Rob Thomas returns triumphant

Thomas set “Untitled Teen Detective” in Austin. His story revolved around Keith Mars, teenage detective. Keith became a detective after his father quit a promising career with the Austin Police Department to open up a private investigation agency. Like in the TV show, there is no mother figure in the picture. Also like in the show, the titular young detective starts out by catching the parents of his wealthy Westlake High School classmates in after-hours trysts at seedy motels.

via GIPHY

Another Texas twist: Keith pines for a popular girl who’s said to be dating a University of Texas football player.

But perhaps the biggest Austin element to the “Veronica Mars”-that-almost-was is a still-unsolved mystery that’s only hinted at. In the original draft, Keith discovers that the reason his dad left the police force is because he knowingly sent the wrong men to Death Row for involvement in Austin’s “Chocolate Shop Murders case,” a name which bears a striking resemblance to the real-life, still-unsolved Austin yogurt shop murders from 1991.

Years later, when Thomas took ideas from the draft into a spec script he sold to UPN (now The CW), Keith Mars became the disgraced law enforcement father figure, the main character became Veronica, and the main plot centered on a different kid of murder.

All of the Texas setting came natural to Thomas. He grew up in Texas, graduating from San Marcos High school in 1983. His father was a vice-principal at Westlake until the early 1990s, and Thomas attended Texas Christian University on a football scholarship before transferring to UT and graduating in 1987. Thomas was working as a high school teacher at John H. Reagan High School in Austin when he wrote the first draft of “Untitled Teen Detective,” and many characters in “Veronica Mars” were named for Austinites he met or musicians he played with. The music of several Austin bands also played in the show.

From the archives: ‘Veronica Mars’ film has many Austin music moments

Alas, the Texas version of “Veronica Mars” is not the version that made it to the small screen. Maybe someday, if Netflix reboots the series (one can only hope) a mystery might take Veronica all the way to Austin.

Home for the holidays: What students are most looking forward to during winter break

At the end of the fall semester, as studying for finals consumes both day and night, there is one thing college students cannot wait for — winter break. We went to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters and asked some what they are looking forward to the most during the weeks off for the holiday.

— Photos and text by Mackenzie Palmer/American-Statesman

1
University of Texas international relations and global studies junior Samantha Gorny, 20, said she is looking forward to hanging out with her parents and dogs during the break in Houston, her hometown, as well as watching TV, riding bikes and ice skating. She also will be going to New Jersey for a week to visit her father’s side of the family.

 

2
Seamus Hawley, 19, is from Minneapolis, Minn., and said he can’t wait to get back to the cold weather. “I only really like winter for about a month, so that is the perfect amount of time to go back,” Hawley said. He said finals burned him out and he is ready to relax.

 

3
Sophomore Jessica Plasters, 19, said that after attending the Day for Night festival in Houston, she can’t wait to hang out with her cats and listen to rap music with her friends at home in San Antonio.

 

4
Business marketing major Jared Malik Royal, 22, said he is ready to sleep in and wake up to a big breakfast once he gets home to Keller. In the spirit of the holiday, he said he loves giving presents to his friends and family.

 

5
Kassidy Knight, 21, is a University of Texas senior computer engineering major from Haslet, outside Fort Worth. She said she is ready to nap a lot and eat a lot but is going to miss her teammates from Texas 4000, a UT biking group, during break.

 

6
UT freshman Chris Uvalle, 19, said he is excited to head back home to Edinburg to hang with old friends and family. And after a semesterlong break, Uvalle said he can’t wait to be reunited with his piano at home.

 

7
Austin Community College student Danny Fraser, 25, said he is ready to catch up with old friends in Williamsport, Md. Fraser said he’ll spend his time walking his parents’ dogs, visiting his favorite childhood spots and hiking.

 

8
UT student Krissa Martin, 20, from Houston, said she can’t wait to mountain bike, play volleyball and see her 16-year-old sister, Wendy.

 

9
Cameron Osmond, 20, a UT liberal arts honors program sophomore, said he loves to eat his parents’ cooking (especially the two dishes above). While back in Flower Mound, Osmond said he’ll dedicate his time to writing the second draft of his screenplay.

 

10-1
Cade Stone, 20, said he is excited to return home, even though home is Austin. “It’s a 25-minute drive, but I’m still excited and looking forward to it,” Stone said.

For Mother’s Day, we ask University of Texas students – Why do you love your mom?

This week was a busy one for University of Texas students – Friday was the last day of classes, finals are approaching and many are spending Sunday with their mothers. We took to the University of Texas of campus to ask people #WhyMom.

 

IMG_6677

Freshman psychology major Daniel Spomer said he is thankful for his mother’s support, especially by letting him pursue the degree of his choice.

 

IMG_9332Weslie Onsando, a graduate student originally from Kenya, is studying film production at UT. Onsando admires her mother’s selflessness.

 

IMG_6679Freshman advertising major Matthew Johnson wanted to thank his mother Michelle for her constant support.

 

IMG_9330Graduating senior Areesha Ajani loves her mother’s strength and the example she sets for her. Ajani is a corporate communications major who will be working for Aon Consulting in Houston.

 

IMG_6676Andrew Bain, 21, will graduate in two weeks and head to medical school in Houston. Bain said his mother’s supportive nature is what he loves most about her.

 

IMG_9336
Timothy Cole is a senior linebacker for the University of Texas football team. Cole wanted to thank his mother for her patience throughout his life. Cole is planning to attend graduate school to study advertising in the fall.