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 that is receiving praise from a number of Washington opinion leaders
“Truth is stranger than fiction”…Mark Twain
“This was a story well worth telling.”- Benjamin Thomas
Questions and Answers for Mystery Thriller Week
How did you come across this story and what compelled you to tell it?
The details of the crime came to me from Ed DuBois. Ed runs a security firm, Investigators, Inc., 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.
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 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 the courage of the victim, Marc Schiller, and Ed’s determination to get the “bad guys.” Schiller’s survival of 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 close enough to the real events to convey the true horror of what Marc endured and how Ed worked skillfully to solve the crime.
With resources like Marc and Ed, and a story of human will and courage, how could I go wrong? Marc agreed to add another layer to the book by writing the Foreword and Ed wrote an Afterword.
What was your first reaction after hearing what happened to Mr. Schiller?
Astounded. Dumbstruck. Horrified. All of which grew into admiration and respect for the courage that Mr. Schiller displayed is surviving the ordeal, and for Mr. DuBois who was like a dog with a bone until the case was solved and the perpetrators brought to justice.
“Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly.” -Terry Waite
What was it like working with him?
Marc Schiller and Ed DuBois were very giving of their time and very open about their experiences. Without their cooperation Blood Moon would never have been written. I am in their debt.
Marc Schiller has written a first person account of his experience that readers can find at: Pain and Gain- The Untold True Story
What was different writing this book compared to your other novel?
The books are different genres, Evil Town being a political thriller. Other than that, there really wasn’t much of a difference in the writing or the creative process.
For Blood Moon, I worked with a story line that had some markers for me to follow since I was inspired by a true-to- life crime. I also had some traits I could instill in the main characters by studying the ways Marc and Ed dealt with their challenges. Developing the characters of the antagonists was a little different since I don’t think like a psychopath. Putting myself in the shoes of Dario Pedrajo and his cohorts was disturbing. But by playing them off against the courage and actions of Suarez and Stevens, and having the antagonists react in the extreme opposite of civilized, empathetic human beings, I think these characters are believable as multi-dimensional human beings, if very evil human beings.
For Evil Town, I mined my 30-plus years in politics to add dimension, reality and, hopefully, to create a compelling story that takes a look behind the curtain at how Washington and the political system work. My experience provided me with markers along the way much in the same way as did those I followed in writing Blood Moon, thereby allowing me to create believable scenarios and characters. A former member of Congress, Jim Lightfoot put it this way in his review of Evil Town: “For those of us who have been there and lived the political life it is easy to attach the names of people we know and/or have known to David’s characters. I think you will find that part of the fun when you read his book. Perhaps you will also pick up a little understanding of the high stakes poker is played with your life and income by thousands of faceless bureaucrats and unscrupulous politicians whose only goal in life is re-election.”
Is there a certain theme employed in Blood Moon?
If you’re referring to a “message” or “takeaway” that I intentionally incorporated into the novel, then “no.” I had a compelling story to tell and I told it.
That said, Blood Moon – simply in its telling — is an account 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 (as represented by Recidio Suarez and Nolan Stevens, respectively, in the novel) who are courageous enough and good enough to stand against it and defeat it.
At any time Schiller/Suarez 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. DuBois/Stevens could have given up when the authorities wouldn’t cooperate with him to find the psychopaths, and he could have gone on 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.
Are all your books based upon true stories or current events?
To date my novels have been based on true stories or current events. The novel I am currently working is not; however, it is told around events occurring during the final days of World War Two. For more on this see my answer to the final question.
Why did you decide to write fiction?
The novels of Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald entranced me and demonstrated how brilliantly-written fiction could gobble readers up and transport them to another place and time. And the storytelling ability of Stephen King showed me that a good tale could pull the reader into the story, increase their heartbeat, cause them to perspire with fear and anticipation, and come out the other end invigorated.
Plus, I have an imagination that plants stories with me that I feel compelled to write about. I’m cursed with a very active imagination.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a novel set in a small Midwestern town during the final days of World War Two. The gruesome murder of a local family starts an investigation that opens a door onto the national stage of politics and treason.
I wanted to thank Marc Schiller for his courage, Ed DuBois for his service, and John D. Bethel for taking the time to tell this story. It is truly a story of survival, hope, and justice.