Leigh Holland’s Interview with John David Bethel
I’m excited and pleased to announce that today I’m hosting the author of “Blood Moon”, John David Bethel, on my blog. Thanks for being here!
The pleasure is mine.
Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.
My father was a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State and I spent my younger years overseas. After stops in Germany, Japan and Cuba (we also had six month stints stateside in Honolulu, Norfolk and New York City), we settled in Miami where I went to high school. Following graduation from Tulane University, I worked in Washington, DC for 30 years. I served as a speechwriter and press secretary to various members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. I also worked in the same capacity for the Secretaries of Commerce and Education. After a stint as Associate Administrator with the U.S. General Services Administration, I retired and returned to Miami. I have written and had published two novels; Evil Town, a political thriller and Blood Moon.
Leigh: What inspired you to write “Blood Moon”?
The truth inspired me to write Blood Moon.
The details of the story came to me from Ed DuBois. Ed runs a security firm, Investigators, Inc.in Miami, and had been brought into the case by a mutual friend of Marc Schiller, the true-life victim of the crimes on which Blood Moon is based. Ed read my novel Evil Town and enjoyed it, and when he wanted to explore the possibilities of having a book written about the events, he contacted me.
Initially, Ed wanted a true crime book written to counter the treatment the real story was getting in a movie that was 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 it 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 the courage of the victim, Marc Schiller, and by Ed’s determination to get the “bad guys.” Schiller’s survival of kidnapping and 30 days in captivity during which he was brutally tortured, and had every single penny of his substantial estate extorted, was a story that was too compelling to ignore. My wheelhouse is fiction so I went to Ed and Marc and asked if they’d mind if I treated the story as fiction, hewing closely enough to the real events to convey the true horror of what Marc endured, and how Ed worked skillfully and tirelessly to solve the crime. Both men agreed and were very supportive, even consenting to write the Foreword (Schiller) and Afterword (DuBois).
Leigh: Can you tell us a little bit about the true crime case the book is based on? How well were you acquainted with the real life people the characters were based upon?
As noted, Schiller – a talented and hardworking entrepreneur – was kidnapped and subjected to 30 days of unspeakable torture during which all his assets were pillaged. When the perpetrators had drained every last penny from his accounts, they attempted to murder him, thought they had succeeded, and went on to kidnap and, unfortunately, murder two other innocents.
DuBois was contacted by Schiller when he was recuperating and hired to find those responsible. Ed had contacts with the Miami Dade Police Department and went to them for assistance only to find disbelief and disinterest on the part of the authorities. They refused to believe the incredible story that DuBois and Schiller told them. In the meantime, Ed had deduced through conversations with Marc that Schiller’s second in command at his company was responsible for putting the plan into effect and managed to collect enough evidence that should have been considered by the police. It wasn’t, and over the course of the ensuing months, two others were victimized and killed.
It was only then that the authorities put two-and-two together and finally arrested the gang.
Over the course of writing the novel, I came to know Schiller and DuBois quite well. I admire the men immensely and dedicated the novel to them.
Leigh: Were there any parts of the book that you edited out at the end? If so, what were they like and why were they edited?
I didn’t edit out anything at the end of the book, but I did carefully edit the descriptions of the torture that was inflicted on Recidio Suarez (the character based on Marc Schiller). I wanted the reader to fully understand what the man was put through, but not describe his treatment in such a manner than might compel them to be put off by the story.
This was a challenge because, believe it or not, the truth is that Marc Schiller suffered more horribly than I described. An example would be the way the perpetrators tried to kill Marc. They drugged him with horse tranquilizer after forcing a full bottle of whiskey down his throat. They put him in his car and filled the rear seat with propane gas tanks before running the car into a telephone pole. After the car exploded into flames, Marc was thrown out because he was not belted into his seat. He struggled to his feet and was spotted by the bad guys who were watching the car burn. They ran him over and were on their way down the road when they saw him again struggle upright. They returned and ran him over a second time and were about to back over once more when they noticed an emergency vehicle approaching the scene and left.
This description is itself PG-rated as you can imagine the damage that was done to Marc. Miraculously, he lived.
I opted for an alternative manner of attempted murder that actually provided me with the title for the novel.
Leigh: What was the most difficult thing for you about writing “Blood Moon”?
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. It did force me to hone writing skills I had not used before and it helped me to polish my craft. But it wasn’t a lot of fun.
Leigh: Can you share with us a little bit about what project you’re currently working on?
I am working on 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 days of World War Two when a small town sheriff finds himself embroiled in a chilling murder case that propels him into a world of wartime profiteering and national politics.
Leigh: What hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time?
Not surprisingly, perhaps, I’m an avid reader. I also enjoy running, which clears my head after hours pounding away on the keyboard.
Leigh: How much do you think the book cover influences readers to select a book? Who did the art for the cover of “Blood Moon”?
A number of readers (and reviewers) tell me that the covers for both Evil Town and Blood Moon attracted them to the novels. Hence, I’d say cover art is very influential as a criteria for selecting a novel.
I do not know the name of the artists but I owe them a debt of gratitude.
Leigh: If you could go back in time and give any advice to your younger writing self, what would it be?
Sit down, plow ahead, and don’t be concerned with the initial words or ideas you put down. All that will be worked out in the long and excruciating editing process. I say this because I was far too concerned early on with getting every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter, etc. perfect first time out of the box.
Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
Thank you for offering the opportunity to connect with your followers.