CELEBRITY
12/06/2011 03:06 pm ET

'CSI' Creator Anthony Zuiker Shares Personal Story In A New Book

Anthony E. Zuiker is constantly asked, "How did the guy who drove a tram in the middle of the night at The Mirage go onto create 'CSI: Crime Scene Investigation'?" It's a legitimate question, so Zuiker decided to answer it in his new book, "Mr. CSI: How A Vegas Dreamer Made A Killing In Hollywood, One Body At A Time."

Originally conceived as a self-help book, "Mr. CSI" soon morphed into Zuiker's personal tale of growing up as an only child abandoned by his father, and raised by his mother in Las Vegas. The book tells a story of a man, who through hard work and perseverance, became one of the most successful and celebrated creators and producers on television.

How did you come up with the idea for "CSI"?
I was watching a forensic docudrama called "The New Detectives," and in one episode they were featuring a case about a missing cheerleader. They were focusing on a long blond hair follicle, and at the very end of it was a tag cell or seed that was attached, signifying that the hair might have been yanked out in a struggle. I remember the second I heard that I was dumbfounded at the fact that the body was and is, indeed, the perfect specimen to give clues to the investigators. At that point I realized that the twist on the cop genre was going to be forensically driven and the idea for "CSI" was born.

A big theme throughout "Mr. CSI" is your father's abandonment. How did that affect you?
When your father abandons you at a very young age and your mother takes it upon herself to be a single mom working in the casino industry, growing up as an only child and a latchkey kid -- there is a benefit to that. I had to channel the angst and abandonment into creativity. I was always a very creative and curious kid.

You write about how on the morning after "CSI" won People's Choice Award for Best TV Drama, you a received a call informing you of your father's suicide. It's a bit ironic that your father shot himself -- which is a very violent way to die -- and you are the creator of a crime show.
The true irony inside of that is the real-life Gil Grissom, that man's name is Daniel Holstein. When my father shot himself, the first person who called me to tell me was Daniel Holstein. Ironically, this show started because of all my childhood rage and curiosity. I created a character based on a real life gentleman, and that gentleman called to give me the news that I'd been dealt the worst personal crime scene that a young man can be dealt. It's sort of like art imitating life and life imitating art.

You had some terrible jobs before landing the "CSI" gig, such as driving a tram in Las Vegas. How did you get to where you are now?
Yeah, driving a tram at The Mirage from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. After about 1 a.m., everything died down so you were standing in the cold for three hours. It was at a time where if you had a college degree, you weren't guaranteed employment. My philosophy back then was -- because I felt I had some talent -- to take a low level job at The Mirage and perhaps get the attention of Steve Wynn and he would put me in a job more suitable for my talents. I moved up from tram driver to baggage handler to bellman to advertising. When I got to advertising, I got a call to write a script for Hollywood.

"CSI" is the most popular show on TV.
It is, and it's in every country but six.

Does that blow your mind?
It's just one of the things you just don't want to think about, because you can't really fathom the scale. It could keep you up at night, thinking, "What is it about this particular show that has captured the world's fancy?" Maybe the short answer is that mysteries are intriguing in any language. It really is about a group of hardworking people who are bringing closure to victims on the worst day of their lives. I think that's a universal theme that's acceptable to everybody.

Or you could say, "Because I'm a genius."
No, I won't say that!

CONVERSATIONS