Sunday 16 April 2017

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to J. David Bethel

I love a good crime novel but what's even better is one that's based on a true story, so I was thrilled when author J. David Bethel got in touch with me to do a feature about his book Blood Moon here on The Hippo. After reading the blurb (which you can find later in this post) I was intrigued, but first things first, let me introduce you to the man behind the words.

Photo courtesy of J. David Bethel

J. David Bethel is a writer of fiction and non-fiction.  He has been published in popular consumer magazines and respected political journals.  He is the author of Evil Town, a novel of political intrigue, and Blood Moon, a psychological crime thriller inspired by a true story of kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder.

Mr. Bethel spent 35 years in politics and government.  He served in the Senior Executive Service as a political appointee where he was Senior Adviser/Director of Speechwriting for the Secretary of Commerce; directed speechwriting offices for other Cabinet officials, serving as Chief Speechwriter to the Secretary of Education; and lead speechwriter in the Department of Transportation's Office of Policy and International Affairs.  He also served as press secretary/speechwriter to members of U.S. Congress. 
Mr. Bethel works as a media consultant for a number of prominent communications management firms.  He writes speeches, opinion editorials and Congressional testimony for CEOs of the nation’s largest corporations, including the Hilton Hotels Corporation, and Royal Caribbean Lines.  His op-ed pieces have appeared in The Washington Post and other prominent newspapers around the country.  

J. David Bethel graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Tulane University and lives in Miami, Florida.

                      10 things you didn't know about BLOOD MOON

Blood Moon was inspired by a true crime of kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder.  That’s first on the list of things many do not know about the novel.  The balance of “things you didn’t know” flows from there.

The details of this compelling tale of survival in the face of human depravity came to me from Ed DuBois. Ed runs a security firm, Investigators, Inc., in Miami, Florida, and had been brought into the case by a mutual friend of Marc Schiller, the victim. Ed read my novel Evil Town and enjoyed it, and when he wanted to explore the possibilities of having a book written about the crime, he contacted me.

Ed introduced the story by telling me that Marc came from a very humble start in life. His parents were Argentinian immigrants who came to the United States to improve their lot in life.  They did, but it was their son who changed the course of the family’s fortunes. He took full advantage of the opportunities offered, and through entrepreneurial talent and very hard work he built a very successful life for himself and his family. 

Then came the nightmare.

Marc was grabbed off the streets of Miami and dragged into a van, winding up in a stifling, empty warehouse. Initially unaware of why he was being held captive, he soon learned that the goal was to extort everything he had built. He further discovered that one of the people who was involved in the kidnapping was a business associate – a man he had mentored – who thought Marc had made some financial decisions that cost him a lot of money.

The original plan was to kidnap Marc and hold him for a $250,000 ransom, which was the amount of money Marc’s associate thought he was owed. As it developed, the others involved in the kidnapping were not satisfied with this plan. Knowing that Marc was highly successful, they decided to keep him prisoner and force him to turn over his entire estate. They needed information on his various holdings and forced these details from him through various acts of torture, and by depriving him of food and the other basic necessities. They kept him captive in the hot, dirty warehouse for 30 days, where he was chained to a pipe, blindfolded with duct tape – causing his skin to rot – and was forced to live in his own filth.

Initially, Ed wanted a true crime book written about Marc’s ordeal to counter the direction the story was taking in a movie being made of the crime:  “Pain and Gain.” Ed was serving as a consultant on the movie and grew disenchanted with the “black comedy” slant being applied to the script. I wrote a treatment of the book but when it became apparent a true crime book could not be written and published in time to provide a balance to the movie, that project was abandoned.

I had become intrigued by the crime, especially by Marc’s courage and the ruthlessness of the psychopaths who had kidnapped him. Bottom line is Blood Moon is a tale of good versus evil. There is evil in this world; evil that most of us will never have to deal with and cannot possibly imagine. There are also people like Marc and Ed who are courageous enough and good enough to stand against it and defeat it. At any time Marc could have succumbed and said “to hell with all this pain and indignity” and laid down and died. That, believe it or not, would have been the easy way out for him. Ed could have given up when the authorities wouldn’t work with him to find the psychopaths.  He could have gone on to another case, but he refused. He put himself at risk by dealing directly with the kidnappers and stayed on it until his efforts forced the police to do their job.

My wheelhouse is fiction so I asked Marc and Ed if they would be okay with my writing a novel about the case, hewing closely to the events as they happened.  Both men gave me their blessings.

An extensive amount of research was required in order to tell the story faithfully.  I studied hundreds of pages of trial transcripts to fully understand details of the crime and to get a “feel” for the perpetrators and their victims. I also studied police crime reports. The depositions conducted by attorneys for the defense and prosecution were another source of information.  Most helpful were hours of discussions with the Ed and Marc.  

Developing the characters of the antagonists was the greatest challenge since I had no experience with such sick individuals. I had to go to some pretty dark places to successfully “imagine” their thoughts and describe how they operated in committing the atrocities they did. It forced me to hone some skills I had not used before and it served to polish my craft. But it wasn’t a lot of fun.

What was fun was deviating from the true story in the second half of the novel and putting control of the fate of the kidnappers and torturers in the hands of Marc’s wife.  That’s all I can say without spoiling this plot line, but both Marc and Ed agree, the ending of Blood Moon was very satisfying for them.

The final and perhaps most important contribution made by Marc and Ed was their agreement to write a Foreword and Afterword, respectively, to the novel.  I am very grateful for their support throughout the writing of the novel, and in recognition not only for their help with the novel, but to recognize their courage and determination, I dedicated Blood Moon to both men.

                                           *    *    *    *


On a hot, steamy afternoon in Miami, Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is brutally beaten and abducted. Handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded, he has no idea why he has been targeted. What he discovers is heart-stopping. What he endures during almost a month of captivity compares only to the most horrendous stories of prisoners of war. He is tortured, and under the threat of death, and worse – the rape of his wife and torture of his children – Suarez is forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors.

Suarez survives and then spends the next few months staying one step ahead of the murderous pack. During this time, he and his lawyer, Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – are having difficulties convincing the Miami-Dade Police Department that a crime has been committed. Their efforts are complicated by Steven’s difficult history with the head of the MDPD Special Investigations Division, who is not interested in pursuing the case.

                                           *    *    *    *

After reading that I'm sure you can see just why I was eager to find out more and hopefully now you are too! 

If you'd like to find out more about  David Bethel and his books or connect with him you can use the links below:

Facebook (Author page)
Facebook (Blood Moon)

I'd like to thank David for stopping by today and for writing such a great post. I'm looking forward to reading Blood Moon very soon.

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