“RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES” ISN’T ALWAYS ENOUGH…
I’m a tabloid journalist and I write mystery novels. So people rarely ask me where I come up with the ideas for my books. They just assume I get them from the sensational stories I’ve covered in the newsroom.
Well, there is some truth I guess to the “ripped from the headlines” formula for writing crime fiction – first made popular by the TV show “Law and Order.” But it’s really not that easy to come up with a good mystery.
My new book SHOOTING FOR THE STARS (Atria – August 11) is about a newspaper reporter named Gil Malloy who investigates the long-ago murder of a legendary Hollywood actress and a series of present day celebrity killings. I draw upon some real life celebrity crime cases – most notably the murders of John Lennon and actress Sharon Tate, plus the controversial death of Marilyn Monroe – for inspiration.
But I go much, much further by adding to the plot a Charles Manson-like family of fanatics with a hatred of celebrities; a brutal underworld boss who became romantically obsessed with the actress; and greedy family members who have been using her death to cash in big time on her name.
Oh, and I also raise the possibility that the murdered actress might not really be dead and instead faked her death (and is presumably now living with Jim Morrison, Elvis and Andy Kaufman, if you believe that sort of thing).
I did the same kind of thing in my previous book, THE KENNEDY CONNECTION – the first in the Gil Malloy series.
The “ripped from the headlines” topic there was the most famous unsolved murder mystery case in American history (unless, of course, you believe the Warren Report) – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But rather than just rehash all the old conspiracy theories, I created a fictional secret son of Lee Harvey Oswald – whose explosive new evidence led Gil Malloy to a series of shocking revelations about both the half century old JFK assassination in Dallas and a series of present day murders in New York City.
A lot of other mystery authors do this sort of thing too. They take the beginning of their book from a real life crime. But then they create their own story, raise their own questions and – most importantly – come up with their own answers for who did it and how and why and all the rest.
Because just taking a story from the headlines is never enough to create a great murder story.
Well, almost never…
I do remember a story and a famous headline that I was personally involved with when I was city editor of the New York Post: “Headless Body in Topless Bar.” It was about a holdup man who robbed a bar, killed the owner and then cut off the victim’s head for reasons too bizarre to understand. That “Headless Body in Topless Bar” headline wound up being memorialized on T-shirts and buttons, on late night talk shows, and it even became the title of a movie loosely based on the incident. Over the year, it has truly become a cult classic — the “Night of the Living Dead” of headlines.
Now I don’t think there’s a mystery author anywhere – even on our best day – who could make up a story that wild.
R.G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City. His new suspense thriller, SHOOTING FOR THE STARS, is being published by Atria on August 11. It is the latest in a series of books featuring Gil Malloy, a hard-driving newspaper reporter with a penchant for breaking big stories on the front page of the New York Daily News. The first book in the Gil Malloy series – THE KENNEDY CONNECTION – was published in 2014 and an ebook novella titled THE MIDNIGHT HOUR came out in February 2015. Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. At the Daily News, he also held the titles of metropolitan editor and deputy national editor. Before that, he was metropolitan editor of the New York Post and news editor at Star magazine. Belsky was most recently the managing editor for news at NBCNews.com. His previous suspense novels include PLAYING DEAD and LOVERBOY. He lives in New York City
Sometimes real-life experiences can lead to some truly unforgettable books. This is certainly the case for thriller writer Ed Kovacs, who has studied martial arts, holds many weapons-related licenses, certifications and permits, and is a certified medical First Responder. He now works as an “international security contractor,” and here he shares a fascinating—even alarming—peek into some of the hairy situations he’s gotten himself into around the world.
Riding the Iron Cobra
Guest post by Ed Kovacs
As a young boy I recall watching reruns of the TV show “Dangerous Assignment.” The fictionalized intrigue that played out in exotic locations every week struck a chord in me. Little did I know that I’d eventually spend years of my life on the road or overseas living through my own intrigues. Nor did I realize that I’d become a writer whose real life experiences on the edge would provide me with such good material for my thriller novels.
When I flew into New Orleans in a private jet with eleven other heavily armed security operators after Hurricane Katrina struck, writing a novel wasn’t on my mind. I worked in dangerous environments and horrible conditions, and while doing so, learned about the last murder in New Orleans just before the hurricane struck. A murder with a missing corpse, no forensic evidence, and a destroyed crime scene sounded like a good premise to me, and ultimately resulted in my Cliff St. James crime novel trilogy, beginning with Storm Damage.
While researching my first novel, Unseen Forces, I traveled to Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle and crossed illegally into Burma (now Myanmar) to meet with a rebel group fighting the military dictatorship. When I got back to Mae Hong Song, Thailand, an employee of my hotel warned me there was a contract on my head from a local drug lord who suspected me of being an undercover DEA agent.
I was once taken into custody in Mongolia and accused (falsely) of antiquities smuggling. In Russia, I was detained at the airport in Irkutsk and not allowed to leave because my papers weren’t in order. I came way too close to falling to my death in a cave in Belize, and once got lost in the jungle and accidentally crossed the border into Guatemala while trying to find a Mayan ruin.
I travel for research, adventure or to work on security contracts. I’ve had guns pointed at me many times. One of the most dangerous places I worked, believe it or not, was the U.S.-Mexico border. Gunfights are common. I had weapons aimed at me by cartel lookouts, soldiers and Mexican police. Due to our rules of engagement at the time, I knew I was simply in God’s hands.
Beheadings and “stewings” are common down there. The bad guys will take a person and put them into a 55-gallon steel barrel, then add gasoline and lye flakes and seal the lid. An acid is created that dissolves a human being down to teeth and bones. The stewing thing made it into my novel, Burnt Black.
I’ve been to Russia many times. I worked with Russian military and intelligence people, and that helped me with material for my latest book, The Russian Bride. The villain is physically based on an acquaintance of mine, Viktor Kubetkin, a former KGB agent who operated undercover in London.
I’ve been to the Middle East, Africa, South and Central America, all over Asia and have had many close calls. Not that I go looking for trouble. I go looking for nuggets of gold; the characters I meet and situations I find myself in is the payoff that I file away to incorporate into my books.
Ed Kovacs is the author of five published thriller novels including his latest from Minotaur, The Russian Bride. He is currently on deployment in Eastern Europe as a security contractor. His website is www.edkovacs.com.
CJ Box and Keith McCafferty will be signing their newest books on Monday, August 3rd at 8;00 PM. Keith’s newest is Crazy Mountain Kiss and CJ’s is Badlands. To show our appreciation for our dedicated patrons, we will be offering a promotional item for those who buy Badlands, while supplies last!
Here is a sneak peak at the beautiful postcard rendered in classic style.
To pre-order your copy today, just click the link below:
Thank you and See you Soon!
Special thanks to Hector at St. Martins for coming up with the brilliant idea to make golden retreiver origami to promote David Rosenfelt’s Who Let the Dog Out. Although it has been very hard to fold the dog, we have made as many as we can before the event. Here are the instructions if you’d like to give it a shot.
Click here to view the template *Note: If you print out the template it is fit for legal size paper.
Series for Binge Readers as recommended by Redbook Magazine.
Watch the slide show. I’m very proud of my own Poisoned Pen Press author Mary Anna Evans ranking right in their with Sara Paretsky and others.
To purchase Mary Anna Evan’s books, or any of the other wondeful titles: