John David Bethel is the author of the new novel Blood Moon. He also has written the novel Evil Town. Bethel spent 35 years working in politics and government and is a media consultant. He lives in Miami.
Q: Blood Moon is based on an actual case. How did you learn about it?
A: Ed DuBois, the private investigator who was instrumental in solving the case, brought me this story. He was consulting on the film “Pain and Gain” which was based loosely on the events of this crime, and he was not pleased at the comic take the director had adopted. Ed wanted to set the record straight as to the horrendous nature of the crime and asked me to consider writing a true crime novel to balance the direction of the film.
I wrote a treatment that we could rush to publishers in an effort to get something in their hands before the movie premiered, but time was against us. We had to abandon the project, but I was intrigued by the story and asked Ed and the surviving victim of the crime, Marc Schiller, if they minded if I wrote a novel inspired by these events. They gave me their blessing and Blood Moon was born.
Q: What did you see as the right balance between the fictional and real elements in the book?
A: I don’t know that I have an answer as to “the right balance between fictional and real elements in the book.” I simply sat down in front of my computer and began banging out the story. I let my imagination conjure up elements, conversations, character details and the like where I needed these details, while working within the framework of factual events.
That said I was doubly motivated to tell the story by what I consider the lapse in effectiveness of the authorities that allowed the kidnappers to escape detection for a long enough time to kill two people during a botched second kidnapping attempt.
Furthermore, two of the four perpetrators served minimal time for their horrendous crime and the two major mad men have avoided the death penalty imposed on them by using the system to appeal their convictions. So I created what for me (and Marc and Ed) was a more satisfactory conclusion.
Q: Did you need to do much research to write the book?
A: Marc and Ed had files of information from their interactions with the police and lawyers which they made available to me. And I studied the depositions given by all involved. There was also an article that Ed co-wrote that appeared in The Miami New Times and covered the facts of the case, and reams of newspaper articles on the case and on the trial. There was no lack of factual information to study.
Developing the characters of the antagonists was the greatest challenge since I had no experience with creating 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 did force 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.
Ed and Marc also cooperated fully providing me their personal take on the events and agreeing to read the manuscript when it was completed. They were also kind enough to contribute to the finished product by writing a Foreword – Marc Schiller – and Afterword – Ed Dubois.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from this book?
A: 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 cooperate with him to find the psychopaths, and he could have gone onto to another case, but he refused. He put himself at risk and stayed on it until his efforts forced the police to do their job.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am on to a new novel, Little Wars. In a way, it is a combination of the political thrillers I have written, like Evil Town, and Blood Moon. It takes place during the final few days of World War Two when a small town sheriff finds himself embroiled in a murder case that propels him into a world of wartime profiteering and national politics.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb