I can’t discover the origin of the aphorism “One thing leads to another,” but my fevered brain leads me to believe that its creator unwittingly was encapsulating the theory of natural selection propounded by 19th century British biologist Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species and embraced by his modern day apostle Richard Dawkins, also a British biologist and author, and a noted atheist.
This is a round-about way of explaining the evolution of the bulk of my authorial production. I did not set out to write about crime; in fact, the opening salvo in my oeuvre is a coming-of-age novel, Breaking Out – well, not counting The Way It Was: Short Stories and Tall Tales, which followed the process of, ahem, evolution.
But the novels Murder in Palm Beach: The Homicide That Never Died; to a lesser extent the current Blood on Their Hands; and the forthcoming work of narrative (or creative) nonfiction, Little Rag Doll: The Story of Wanda fell into my lap, one leading to the other, though not in precise order. (Interspersed was the ghost-written A Tale of Two Continents: Jetting Across the Globe to Have a Baby.)
Murder in Palm Beach was the beginning of my crime spree; that is – well, you know what I mean. It sprang from a request by the editor of Palm Beach Illustrated, where I worked as an editor and writer, for stories from the past to celebrate the magazine’s 50th anniversary in 2002. Though the story was never published – the editor had misgivings about the subject of murder in a luxury lifestyle magazine – I inadvertently came upon a key source of information in subsequent years and was able to construct a novel, which, I am certain, discloses in the guise of fiction who the perpetrator was. A reporter colleague at my previous employer, the Palm Beach Post, had discovered his identity, but the paper likewise wouldn’t publish that story.
While in the crime mode (no, I didn’t say mood), I was inspired by the milieu of police brutality toward Blacks to fashion a novel from ideas fostered by two of my favorite films, My Cousin Vinny and Gran Torino. The result was Blood on Their Hands, my latest, and best,
Before I undertook Blood, while hawking Murder at a local crafts fair, a woman urged me to write a book about her friend whose husband was a fellow prison inmate with the book’s main character. I toyed with the idea while working on Blood, then received an email from a Texas media producer-director named Alan Ames. He had been contacted by Wanda Eads, the woman referenced by the person at the craft fair. Eads proposed a movie about her life, and Ames was smitten. But he wanted a book on which to base the film, which is where I came in. He shipped reams of documents provided to him by Eads, and I went to work.
It turned out to be a complex, monumental task, but I completed the manuscript and have settled on the final of three revisions. I’ve titled it Little Rag Doll: The Story of Wanda, and am seeking a publisher. Ames dropped the movie idea, deciding Eads had exaggerated parts of her life and a movie wouldn’t be as sensational as he had imagined. Before her death row husband was murdered by prison guards, she had turned down large monetary offers for her life story from several big-name movie producers, and $1 million from the William Morris Agency.
Research on the Wanda book led me to a book authored by a man who was convicted of the same crime that put an acquaintance of Wanda, her future husband, in prison. That riveting, award-winning memoir is the subject of an upcoming article, which was my original purpose of this article before it got out of hand.
Stay tuned for the next installment of this evolution.