The Wire
The Wire

David Simon, born 1960 in Washington, D.C., USA, is a motion picture writer and producer. He is the creator of The Wire. He was an Executive Producer and writer throughout the show's five season run. He has been active in the motion picture industry since 1993. He worked as a journalist before that and wrote for the Baltimore Sun City Desk for twelve years. He wrote Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and co-wrote The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood with Ed Burns. The former book was the basis for the NBC series Homicide: Life on the Street, on which Simon served as a writer and producer. Simon adapted the latter book into the Emmy Award winning HBO mini-series The Corner.

He adapted the non-fiction book Generation Kill into an HBO mini-series and served as the show runner for the project. He was selected as one of the 2010 MacArthur Fellows and named an Utne Reader visionary in 2011. Simon also co-created the HBO series Treme with Eric Overmyer, which began in 2010.


Early life

Simon graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park. While at college he wrote for the campus paper and became friends with his contemporary David Mills.[1]


Upon leaving college he worked as a police reporter at The Baltimore Sun from 1983 to 1995.[2] He spent most of his career covering the crime beat.[2][3] A colleague has said that Simon loved journalism and felt it was "God's work".[3] Simon claims that he was initially altruistic and was inspired to enter journalism by the Washington Post's coverage of Watergate but became increasingly pragmatic as he gained experience.[3] His main aim later in his career was to tell the best possible story without cheating it.[3]

He was a Union Captain when the writing staff went on strike in 1987 over cuts in their benefits.[4] When the strike ended he remained angry and began to feel uncomfortable in the writing room.[4] He searched for a reason to justify a leave of absence and settled on the idea of writing a novel.[4]

Homicide:A Year on the Killing Streets

The leave of absence resulted in Simon's first book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets (1991). The book was based on his experiences shadowing the members of the Baltimore Police Department homicide unit for the year of 1988.[2] The idea came from a conversation on Christmas Eve 1985 in the unit office where an associate named Brian Landry told him that he would read a book chronicling their activities for a year.[4] Simon approached the editors of the paper and the police department and received their approval. He initially faced negative reactions from the detectives but he persevered in "seeming like part of the furniture" going as far as cutting his long hair and they slowly accepted him.[3]

The book won the 1992 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book.[5] Simon credits his time researching the book as altering his writing style and informing later work. He learned to be more patient both in research and in his writing.[3] He also says a key lesson was not promoting himself but concentrating on his subjects.[3]

Homicide: Life on the Street

The publishers of Homicide:A Year on the Killing Streets were eager for a screen adaptation and submitted it to numerous directors but there was little interest.[4] Simon suggested that they send the book to Baltimore native and film director Barry Levinson. Levinson's assistant Gail Mutrix enjoyed the book and both she and Levinson became attached as producers.[4] The project became the award-winning TV series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999), on which Simon worked as a writer and producer.[2]

Simon was asked to write the show's pilot episode by Mutrix but declined as he felt he did not have the necessary expertise.[6] He collaborated with his old college friend David Mills to write the season two premiere "Bop Gun".[3][7] The episode was based on a story by executive producer Tom Fontana and featured Robin Williams in a guest starring role that garnered the actor an emmy nomination. Simon and Mills won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Writing in a Drama for "Bop Gun".[3]

Simon left his job with the Baltimore Sun in 1995 to work full time on Homicide: Life on the Street during the production of the show's fourth season. Simon wrote the teleplay for the season four episodes "Justice: Part 2"[8] and "Scene of the Crime".[9] For season five he was the show's story editor and continued to contribute teleplays writing the episodes "Bad Medicine"[10] and "Wu's on First?"[11] He was credited as a producer on the shows sixth and seventh series. He wrote the teleplays for parts two and three of the sixth season premiere "Blood Ties"[12][13] and provided the story for the later sixth season episodes "Full Court Press"[14] and "Finnegan's Wake".[15] He provided the story for the seventh season episodes "Shades of Gray" (with Julie Martin),[16] "The Same Coin" (with James Yoshimura)[17] and "Self Defense" (with Eric Overmyer).[18] Simon wrote the story and teleplay for the seventh season episodes "The Twenty Percent Solution"[19] and "Sideshow: Part 2".[20] Simon, Martin and teleplay writer TJ English won the Humanitas Prize for the episode "Shades of Gray".[21] Simon was nominated for a second WGA Award for Best Writing in a Drama for his work on "Finnegan's Wake" with Yoshimura and Mills (who wrote the teleplay).[22]

Simon has said that he thought the show was a "remarkable drama" but that it did not reflect the book.[4] He has also said that when writing for the show he had to put his experiences of the real detectives aside as the characters became quite different, particularly in terms of their more philosophical approach to the job.[6] Simon said that TV must find shorthand ways of referencing anything real.[3]

The Corner

Main article: The Corner

In 1997 he co-authored, with Ed Burns, The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, the true account of a West Baltimore community dominated by a heavy drug market.[23][24] Simon credits his editor John Sterling with the suggestion that he observe a single drug corner.[2] He took a second leave of absence from the Baltimore Sun in 1993 to research the project.[3][25] Simon became close to one of his subjects, drug addict Gary McCullough, and was devastated by his death while he was writing the project.[3] Simon says that he approached the research with the abstract idea that his subjects may die because of their addictions but it was not possible to fully prepare for the reality.[3] He remains grateful to his subjects saying "This involved people's whole lives, there's no privacy in it. That was an enormous gift which many, many people gave us. Even the most functional were at war with themselves. But they were not foolish people. And they made that choice."[3]

The Corner was named a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Times.[26] Simon again returned to his journalism career after finishing the book but felt further changed by his experiences. He said he was less enamoured with the bragadiccio of the writers room and no longer believed that they were making a difference; he left his job at The Sun within a year for work on NBC's Homicide.[3]

Soon after Homicide concluded Simon co-wrote (with David Mills) and produced The Corner as a six-hour TV miniseries for HBO.[4] The show received three Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or a Movie, for Simon and Mills.[4]

The Wire

Main article: The Wire (TV series)

Currently he serves as the creator, executive producer, and head writer of the HBO drama series The Wire.[25] Many of The Wire's characters and incidents also come from Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.[27] After a critically acclaimed fourth season, Simon has signed on to produce a fifth and final season of The Wire which will focus on the role of mass media in society.[28]

He again worked with Ed Burns on creating the show. They originally set out to create a police drama loosely based on the experiences of Burns when working on protracted investigations of violent drug dealers using surveillance technology. During this time Burns had often faced frustration with the bureaucracy of the police department, which Simon equated with his own ordeals as a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Writing against the background of current events, including institutionalized corporate crime at Enron and institutional dysfunction in the Catholic Church, the show became "more of a treatise about institutions and individuals than a straight cop show."[29]

They chose to take The Wire to HBO because of their existing working relationship from the The Corner. Owing to its reputation for exploring new areas, HBO was initially dubious about including a cop drama in their lineup, but eventually agreed to produce the pilot[29][30] after ordering a further two scripts to see how the series would progress.[31] Carolyn Strauss president of HBO entertainment has said that Simon's argument that the most subversive thing HBO could do was invade the networks "backyard" of police procedurals helped to persuade them.[2]

The theme of institutional dysfucntion was expanded across different areas of the city as the show progressed. The second season focused on the death of working class America through examination of the city ports.[32] The third season "reflects on the nature of reform and reformers, and whether there is any possibility that political processes, long calcified, can mitigate against the forces currently arrayed against individuals." [32] For the fourth season Simon again turned to Burns experience, this time his second career as a Baltimore public school teacher in examining the theme of education.[2][33]

Simon was reunited with his Corner producers Robert F. Colesberry and Nina K. Noble on The Wire.[28] Simon credits Colesberry for achieving the show's realistic visual feel because of his experience as a director.[34] They recruited Homicide star and director Clark Johnson to helm the pilot episode.[34] The completed pilot was given to HBO in November 2001.[31] Johnson returned to direct the second episode when the show was picked up.[34]

Simon approached acclaimed crime fiction authors to write for The Wire. He was recommended the work of George Pelecanos by a colleague while working at the Baltimore Sun because of similarities between their writing. The two writers have much in common including a childhood in Silver Springs, attendance at the University of Maryland and their interst in the "fate of the American city and the black urban poor."[31] Simon did not read Pelecanos initially because of territorial prejudice; Pelecanos is from Washington.[4] Once Simon received further recommendations including one from his wife Laura Lippman he tried Pelecanos' novel The Sweet Forever and changed his mind.[31] He sought out Pelecanos when recruiting writers for The Wire. The two met at the funeral of a mutual friend shortly after Simon delivered the pilot episode.[31] Simon pitched Pelecanos the idea of The Wire as a novel for televion about the American city as Pelecanos drove him home.[31] Pelecanos became a regular writer[35] and later a producer for the shows second[36] and third seasons.[37] Simon and Pelcanos collaborated to write the episode "Middle Ground"[38][39] which received the show's only Emmy nomination to date, in the category Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series.[40]

Pelecanos left the production staff following the third season to focus on his next novel; Simon has commented that he missed having him working on the show full-time but was pleased that he continued to write for them and was a fan of the resultant book The Night Gardener.[41] Similar to Simon's own experience in researching Homicide Pelecanos spent time embedded with the Washington DC homicide unit to research the book.

Crime novelist Dennis Lehane has also written for the series starting with third season.[42][37] Lehane has commented that he was impressed by Simon and Burns' ear for authentic street slang.[31]

Eric Overmyer was brought in to fill the role of Pelecanos as a full-time writer producer.[41][43] He had previously worked with Simon on Homicide where the two became friends.[41] Simon has said that he was impressed with Overmyers writing particularly in synthesising the story for "Margin of Error" as the episode is the height of the show's political storyline but must also progress other plot threads.[41]

Simon has stated that he finds working with HBO more comfortable than his experiences with NBC on Homicide and that HBO are able to allow greater creative control because they are dependent on subscribers rather than on viewing figures.[23] He has said that he feels unable to return to network television because he felt pressure to compromise storytelling for audience satisfaction.[4]

Follow-up projects

Simon wrote and produced an adaptation of Generation Kill for HBO with Ed Burns in 2007.[44]

Simon has written a teleplay about bluesman Muddy Waters that has not been produced.[3] He has mentioned plans to write another book; potentially about the rise of drug use in the 1950s and 1970s.[4] Simon continues to work as a freelance journalist and author, writing for The Washington Post, The New Republic, and Details magazine.[25]

Simon collaborated with Eric Overmyer again on Treme a project about musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans.[31] Overmyer lives part-time in New Orleans and Simon believes his experience will be valuable in navigating the "ornate oral tradition" of the city's stories.[31] The show focused on a working class neighborhood and will be smaller in scope than The Wire.[41][31]

Treme ran for four seasons from 2010 to 2014. Following the conclusion of that series Simon adapted the book Show Me a Hero by former New York Times writer Lisa Belkin. The resulting 2015 miniseries details a white middle-class neighborhood's resistance to a federally mandated scattered-site public housing development in Yonkers, New York, and how the tension of the situation affected the city as a whole.

Simon and frequent collaborator George Pelecanos reunited to create original series The Deuce for HBO. The drama about the New York vice industry in the 1970s and 1980s, stars Maggie Gyllenhaal and co-producer James Franco. The series pilot began shooting in October 2015. It was picked up to series in January 2016. It premiered on September 10, 2017 and ran until 2019 over three seasons.

The Deuce tells the story of the legalization and ensuing rise of the porn industry in New York beginning in the 1970s and its ongoing rise through the mid-1980s. Themes explored include the rise of HIV, the violence of the drug epidemic and the resulting real estate booms and busts that coincided with the change.

Simon's next series The Plot Against America debuted in 2020.

Personal life

David Simon is married to Baltimore novelist and former Sun reporter Laura Lippman.

Writing process and characteristics

Simon is known for his realistic dialogue and journalistic approach to writing.[31] He says that authenticity is paramount and that he writes not with a general audience in mind but with the opinions of his subjects as his priority.[31]


Executive Producer

Season 1 credits
"The Target" "The Detail" "The Buys" "Old Cases" "The Pager"
"The Wire" "One Arrest" "Lessons" "Game Day" "The Cost"
"The Hunt" "Cleaning Up" "Sentencing"
Season 2 credits
"Ebb Tide" "Collateral Damage" "Hot Shots" "Hard Cases" "Undertow"
"All Prologue" "Backwash" "Duck and Cover" "Stray Rounds" "Storm Warnings"
"Bad Dreams" "Port in a Storm"
Season 3 credits
"Time after Time" "All Due Respect" "Dead Soldiers" "Amsterdam" "Straight and True"
"Homecoming" "Back Burners" "Moral Midgetry" "Slapstick" "Reformation"
"Middle Ground" "Mission Accomplished"
Season 4 credits
"Boys of Summer" "Soft Eyes" "Home Rooms" "Refugees" "Alliances"
"Margin of Error" "Unto Others" "Corner Boys" "Know Your Place" "Misgivings"
"A New Day" "That's Got His Own" "Final Grades"
Season 5 credits
"More with Less" "Unconfirmed Reports" "Not for Attribution" "Transitions" "React Quotes"
"The Dickensian Aspect" "Took" "Clarifications" "Late Editions" "-30-"





  1. Hal Hinson (2002). TELEVISION/RADIO; Revisiting Baltimore's Embattled Streets. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-10-11.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Neil Drumming. High Wire Act. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2006-09-27.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 Cynthia Rose. The originator of TV's 'Homicide' remains close to his police-reporter roots. Seattle Times. Retrieved on 2006-09-28.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 Mary Alice Blackwell. Fun comes down to 'The Wire'. Daily Progress. Retrieved on 2006-09-27.
  5. Edgar Award Archives. Mystery Writers of America. Retrieved on 2006-09-29.
  6. 6.0 6.1 David Simon. (1998). 'Homicide: Life on the Street season 4 interviews [DVD]. NBC.
  7. "Bop Gun". Stephen Gyllenhaal, Writ. Tom Fontana, David Simon, David Mills. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1994-01-06. No. 01, season 2.
  8. "Justice: Part 2". Peter Medak, Writ. Tom Fontana, Henry Brommell, David Simon. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1996-02-23. No. 14, season 4.
  9. "Scene of the Crime". Kathy Bates, Writ. Tom Fontana, Henry Brommell, Barry Levinson, David Simon, Anya Epstein. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1996-04-12. No. 18, season 4.
  10. "Bad Medicine". Kenneth Fink, Writ. Tom Fontana, Julie Martin, David Simon. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1996-10-25. No. 4, season 5.
  11. "Wu's on First?". Tim McCann, Writ. Julie Martin, James Yoshimura, David Simon, Anya Epstein. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1997-02-07. No. 15, season 5.
  12. "Blood Ties: Part 2". Nick Gomez, Writ. Tom Fontana, James Yoshimura, David Simon. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1997-10-24. No. 2, season 6.
  13. "Blood Ties: Part 3". Mark Pellington, Writ. Tom Fontana, Julie Martin, James Yoshimura, David Simon, Anya Epstein. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1997-10-31. No. 3, season 6.
  14. "Full Court Press". Clark Johnson, Writ. David Simon, Phillip B. Epstein. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1998-04-03. No. 18, season 6.
  15. "Finnegan's Wake". Steve Buscemi, Writ. James Yoshimura, David Simon, David Mills. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1998-04-24. No. 21, season 6.
  16. "Shades of Gray". Adam Bernstein, Writ. Julie Martin, David Simon, TJ English. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1999-01-08. No. 10, season 7.
  17. "The Same Coin". Lisa Cholodenko, Writ. James Yoshimura, David Simon, Sharon Guskin. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1999-01-29. No. 12, season 7.
  18. "Self Defense". Barbara Kopple, Writ. David Simon, Eric Overmyer, Yaphet Kotto. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1999-04-09. No. 18, season 7.
  19. "The Twenty Percent Solution". Clark Johnson, Writ. David Simon. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1998-10-30. No. 04, season 7.
  20. "Sideshow: Part 2". Edwin Sherin, Writ. David Simon. Homicide: Life on the Street. NBC. 1999-02-19. No. 15, season 7.
  21. 60 Minute Category. Humanitas Prize. Retrieved on 2006-09-28.
  22. Nick Madigan. Cable pix please WGA. Variety. Retrieved on 2006-09-28.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Jesse Walker. David Simon Says. Reason Magazine. Retrieved on 2006-09-27.
  24. The Corner: About the Book. Random House. Retrieved on 2006-10-03.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 David Simon Biography. HBO. Retrieved on 03/10/2007.
  26. Notable Books of the Year 1997 - Non-Fiction. New York Times. Retrieved on 2006-09-29.
  27. David Simon. (2005). 'The Wire "The Target" commentary track [DVD]. HBO.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Wiltz, Teresa (2007-09-03). Down to "The Wire": It's a Wrap for Gritty TV Series. Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-09-03. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Wire wrap article" defined multiple times with different content
  29. 29.0 29.1 Ian Rothkirch (2002). "What drugs have not destroyed, the war on them has".
  30. Alvarez, Rafael (2004). The Wire: Truth Be Told. New York: Pocket Books, 18–19, 35–39. 
  31. 31.00 31.01 31.02 31.03 31.04 31.05 31.06 31.07 31.08 31.09 31.10 31.11 Margaret Talbot (2007). Stealing Life. The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 2012-09-04. Retrieved on 2007-10-14.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Richard Vine. "Totally Wired", The Guardian Unlimited. 
  33. A Teacher in Baltimore. HBO. Retrieved on 2006-10-03.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 David Simon. (2005). "The Target" commentary track [DVD]. HBO.
  35. Season 1 crew. HBO (2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-14.
  36. Season 2 crew. HBO (2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-14.
  37. 37.0 37.1 Season 3 crew. HBO (2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-14.
  38. Episode guide - episode 36 middle ground. HBO (2004). Retrieved on 2006-08-09.
  39. "Middle Ground". David Simon, George P. Pelecanos. The Wire. HBO. 2004-12-12. No. 11, season 3.
  40. Emmy award archives. Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-16.
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 41.4 Exclusive David Simon Q&A. AOL (2007). Archived from the original on 2007-12-11. Retrieved on 2007-10-14.
  42. Dennis Lehane biography. HBO (2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-16.
  43. Season 4 crew. HBO (2007). Retrieved on 2007-10-16.
  44. HBO drafts cast for 'Kill' mini. The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-06-03. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.

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