Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bloodline Season 3

Bloodline: Season 3

I crossed the finish line with Bloodline Season 3 last night. Perhaps that phrase will serve as a clue to what I thought of it.

This review contains spoilers so read no further if you don't want to know details.

Back in December, I watched Season 1 and raved about the series, especially Ben Mendelsohn's character, Danny. He was mesmerizing. He didn't survive to Season 2, having been murdered by his brother, John, played wonderfully by Kyle Chandler. Most of Season 2 was John and his two siblings (Kevin and Meg) and the constellation of characters around them try to come to terms with Danny's death and John trying to keep the law away. The finale of Season 2 also featured a murder and much of Season 3 was...wait for it...John trying to keep the law away from discovering *that* truth.

I'll be honest: there were certain stretches of Season 3 that were a slog. Well, not a slog, but just dull. I don't binge watch, so my wife and I watch an episode a night. Seven of the ten episodes in Season 3 typically ended with "Well, Kevin's being stupid, John's always looking like he's trying to contain his anger, lots of people are trying to talk to each other and leave voicemails like 'John, it's Kevin. I really need to talk to you.", and not much else." Oh, and a lot--a lot--of F bombs. It got to the point where I could tell, by the slightest of pauses from the actors, that they were about to unleash that word.

But the last three episodes made up for the previous seven. Well, Episode 8 was more of the same, but the last image served as a cliffhanger. So the wife and I binged the last two back-to-back. Hallelujah! Mendelsohn was back. Sure, he was still dead, but his 'ghost' kept up a running conversation with John. All that gravitas from Mendelsohn was on full display, and frankly, Chandler did some of his best acting opposite Mendelsohn. Episode 9 was a wonderfully trippy, what's-going-on hour of television that I enjoyed specifically because I didn't know what was going to happen. Might be the best of Season 3. The Finale was good, wrapped up some loose ends, but, ultimately was a little underwhelming considering how fun Episode 9 was. And the last moment, the final bit of this series, left you with an unanswered question. Sure, it leaves the true ending up to the viewer, but come on. We all want things tied up in a bow.

Acting-wise, Mendelsohn really shined in all of his parts, but Kyle Chandler I really enjoyed, too, even when he's often doing the same thing. This is my first time seeing him, and I'm definitely going to keep an eye out for his projects from now on. It was fantastic to see Sissy Spacek again, and her role and performance only gets better as the series moves on. Heck, her final scene is pretty darn brutal.

Overall, Bloodline was an enjoyable show, despite some dull parts. I could actually make a case where new viewers simply watch Season 1 and go no further. That season ended on such a high that it, frankly, never achieved again. But no one is really going to do that because of the questions posed at the end of Season 1.

Bloodline. It's certainly a recommended show despite its flaws, and I'm glad I watched it.

Self-Promotion Time

On Father's Day, my new western short story will be released. There may be some mystery readers who also enjoy westerns, so I'm letting everyone here know about it.


A man shouldn't outlive his son. Neither should his killer.

IN A SEARING NEW WESTERN FROM AUTHOR S. D. PARKER, you will discover all a father will endure to see justice done right by his murdered son.

Luke Russell was a cowpuncher, making an honest way in the world at one of the biggest ranches outside of Junction City. But he got himself in trouble over a girl, and he paid the ultimate price.

Now, a stranger's in town, asking after Pete Davidson, the man who put a bullet in Luke Russell's gut. This stranger is old, and folks realize it's Luke father, come to kill Davidson. The gunslinger is young and vibrant, just like Luke Russell was. The old man doesn't stand a chance.

Or does he?

The answer comes in a brand-new western written in the style of Robert Vaughn, Louis L'Amour, and Chet Cunningham.

Pre-Order now from Amazon.

Available 18 June 2017.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Short crime fiction scene

This week the facebooks have been sprinkled with discussions of the publishing scene for short crime fiction.

Brian Lindenmuth linked to this piece he'd written a few years back, a post worth your time.

Collecting the Short Crime Fiction Scene

While I pine away for an annual best of anthology for short stories published online there is a way that future generations of readers will remember the vibrant short crime fiction scene, site specific print anthologies. Right now anyway books last and websites fade and the sites that have anthologies will stand a greater chance of being remembered down the road.

Here’s an interesting thing. Next time you’re at a thrift store or a garage sale or whatever keep an eye out for old genre magazines and anthologies. It can be science fiction or fantasy or whatever. Take a look at the table of contents and read the authors names. It’s almost guaranteed that some of the names you’ll recognize and others you won’t. Some of them made it to greater posterity and some didn’t. But here you are, however many years down the road, holding something that contains a story by this person. Some of the folks published in the online zines will go on to greater fame and some won’t; some will publish novels and some won’t. Regardless of what may or may not happen at a future date the scene deserves to be remembered.

I don’t want the online scene to fold and turn into print. I like the online scene BUT I do want to see some of the fiction from online make the transition to print. Some have. As I mentioned above some of the sites have been publishing anthologies of stories that were originally published online. I just wanted to take a moment to highlight the site anthologies that were out there because THEY are the permanent record.

Buy them now, while they are all still reasonably available, because this is the scene as far as future generations are concerned. The legacy is being defined now and your small part in all of this is to remember.

Back in 2005 Anthony Neil Smith >>>

Talking American Static with Tom Pitts

Tom Pitts is a fellow crime writer I consider a friend and mentor, so when given the chance to talk shop about his new novel, American Static, I was eager to jump in. The book isn't out until the end of the month, but anyone familiar with Tom's writing is excited for this one. (Preorder here) We talk about cynicism in politics, Google Maps, and writing in bathrooms among other things.

1) A lot of your writing seems to come from your own experiences and interests - I know Hustle drew on your time living rough, and your love of baseball is ever present in Knuckleball - so what was the way in for American Static? Is there anything particular you’re drawing on this time or is this unchartered territory?What I drew from my own life was the city itself. The methadone clinic (which was torn down while I waited for the book to be published, by the way), the donut shop, the secret spot in Golden Gate Park, etc. The city is very much a part of me and I hope it shows in the work.

Truth is, we don’t have any choice but to draw on our own experience as writers. Even if you’re writing sci-fi, you still mine the people you’ve met and the conflicts you’ve battled to build your story. Now that I think about it, we even do the same as readers. How we relate, hate, sympathize, or empathize with a character has a lot to do with our collected experiences in life. That’s why some of us root for the bad guys too.

2) A hardcore knowledge of setting defines a lot of your longer work - reading Hustle made me feel like I knew the neighborhoods. American Static takes us through San Francisco, Oakland, and Wine Country - did you find it more difficult to balance a map-like handle of the setting while still getting those great descriptions in? And do you feel like a hardcore handle on setting is necessary to your work, or do you take some creative license to make scenes work?I do think it’s necessary. I’m definitely one of those guys who crosschecks the internet while I read a book. Not for accuracy but for feeling. When I read Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston, I wanted to see the coastline he was talking about. Same as some of the desert in No Country for Old Men. It’s not that I can’t envision it from the descriptions, but I want to be immersed. I want the scenery to wash over me. The internet is a gift, use it.

 Highway 101 and its tiny towns I knew well from the road to Humboldt and back, but I will admit I’ve never been to Calistoga. There’s a pretty big chunk of the book that happens there. Did I lean on google maps? You bet I did. Doesn’t it have to be perfect? No, the story still dictates what’s needed. As the author, you can move mountains if the story calls for it.

3) Government scandal seems like a really appropriate topic right now, but I know writing a book takes a lot longer than an election cycle (most of the time). When we’re talking about cops, ex-cops, and City Hall scandals how much cynicism and distrust comes from the needs of the story and how much comes straight from your gut?
Are you asking me if Mayor Wong in American Static is based on San Francisco’s own Mayor Ed Lee? No. As much as Lee decimated the city, the mayor in the book was entirely fictional. As for the ex-cop Tremblay, good God I hope there’s no one out there like him. What a monster. It was a blast living in his bitter head. I don’t think I’m that much of a cynic politically. I think a lot of what people view as corruption and conspiracy happens organically.  Sometimes politicians don’t have an evil agenda and they believe what they’re doing is the right thing. They just happen to be wrong. Unfortunately the end result is often the same. Okay, maybe that is a bit cynical.

4) I like to write about how music plays into the writing process here, so I have to ask - did American Static have a soundtrack?
No! I must have silence while I work. I know I sent you a picture of the crowded bathroom I used to write in. My present spot is even worse. I write in the hallway of our tiny one bedroom apartment. I can be seen sitting there with wads of toilet paper sticking out of my ears. I’ve even tried white noise, rain sounds, you name it. So I guess you could say the soundtrack was barking dogs, heavy footfalls from the apartment above, and strained TV sounds drifting down the hall.

5) I know American Static hasn’t been released just yet, and all of your anxious readers are waiting for it - but what’s next? Do you have a new project already started?
I completed a novel called Coldwater after American Static. It’s set in Sacramento but ends in Malibu. And the behemoth I just finished is called 101. It’s my opus to the marijuana trade that completes my quartet of California crime novels. It’s chocked full of bizarre and twisted characters. It takes my plan, my style, my thing, whatever it is I’m trying to do, to the furthest extreme. I don’t believe in sticking with one PoV. I’m trying to create a cinematic experience for the reader. I’ve never been a first person kind of a guy. I like to explore several points of view. Like in film, the perspective will jump character to character, setting to setting. I think a lot of simultaneous action and quick cuts build tension across the board. It drives some of my editors crazy, but I think the reader can roll with the pacing.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Sense of Wonder

Cheesy is one of the words banned in my world. I’m tired of sincerity being something we have to be afraid of doing. It’s been like that for 20 years, that the entertainment and art world has shied away from sincerity, real sincerity, because they feel they have to wink at the audience because that’s what the kids like. We have to do the real stories now. The world is in crisis.
I wanted to tell a story about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind. I believe in it. It’s terrible when it makes so many artists afraid to be sincere and truthful and emotional, and relegates them to the too-cool-for-school department. Art is supposed to bring beauty to the world.
 -Patty Jenkins, director of Wonder Woman and Monster, in interview.

I saw Wonder Woman last week, and it was the most refreshing action film I've seen in a very long time. It has been compared to "Captain America meets Thor" but it's really its own beast, thanks to its director, who as you can read in the above quote, was unafraid to embrace sincerity. Not once does the story "wink" at the audience. The setting on a mythical island of Amazons and during The Great War certainly helps; to keep verisimilitude, the characters can't be too "cool" like we expect today. Irony and sarcasm weren't common traits at the time. Now, I won't judge the film as a period drama, but as a pulp tale it holds up just fine, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again with my wife tomorrow night. I wish my niece was older, but the violence, bloodless as it is, would be too much (she's 4).

I won't spoil the story, but if you've read Greg Rucka's Wonder Woman: Year One, there are similarities except for the modern day setting. The heart is the same. She is born on an isle untouched by war, where Amazons train to fight war. She is a fighter, but war is her sworn enemy, and she does not have the hang-ups and limited thinking of us in the rest of the world. She is a hero, and not only lassos, slashes, kicks and sweeps her way through battle, but inspires heroism in others by showing what you can do with the power of your convictions (and a little help from your Olympian friends).

"That scene," in the horrific trenches of the first World War, is the most memorable. It has strong emotional stakes. It is not there as a set piece, to show off her moves, or to revel in the horrors of war. She defies her comrades' despair and does what needs to be done. It reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from Band of Brothers, when  Lt. Speirs runs into a village taken by the enemy under rifle fire to pass a message to men pinned down behind cover. And then he comes running back to his men. Like he thought he was bulletproof.

Diana has seen what bullets can do. But like Speirs, she charges in anyway. Because she refuses to do nothing. It is a very moving scene, and I'm not alone in believing so. She turns the tide of the battle and later, sees the true horrors of the war as her enemy strikes back. She sees the lack of all honor on both sides: one who uses chemical weapons on civilians with impunity, and the other sends men to charge to their deaths from the comfort of the war room. She refuses to be part of such a world. That is what heroes do.

In Avengers and the Captain America movies, and the old Superman movies, they are called "boy scouts" for sticking to principles we have long cast aside as "inconvenient" or "unrealistic." We have bought into the cynicism that leaders want us to, to not hold anyone to a standard, as they are "only human." As if we should never aspire to do better than accepting fear, venality, and corruption. Even if all our heroes eventually are shown to have feet of clay, if we hold those feet to the fire, they will harden over time. If that's "cheesy," maybe this story isn't for you. Wonder Woman has always been more than human.

And under Jenkins's camera, she and her island of Amazons are never eye candy. The camera never pans over their bodies like a platter of delights in a restaurant commercial. I grew up watching Lynda Carter play Wonder Woman in her very revealing outfit, and I won't deny that it was part of the appeal. But Carter sold the role that she wasn't just a cheerleader, she was more than an equal. Gadot sells it as well. Her Diana is new to the world of war and corruption, but she is no naif. She holds us to her society's principles of honor and responsibility, and Jenkins never portrays her or the Amazons as women playing at war. They charge into battle and hold to their rules. They never question their validity, in the face of "dishonorable weapons" and tactics. So filming them with utter sincerity was necessary to sell the story to the viewer, and it worked.

That isn't to say that Gal Gadot's beauty was never remarked upon, or that she isn't forced to maneuver around the rules of a pre-suffrage world, where her presence in a war room is an affront, speaking to men of power as equals is an outrage, and her armor would get her mistaken as a prostitute. She has to hide her identity until she is on the battlefield, and then once we see what she can do, her skirt and breastplate aren't sexy outfit, they are armor that represent her actions.

I haven't mentioned Chris Pine's Steve Trevor, spy and soldier, but he is an important ally. He knows from the start that she is extraordinary, but remains shackled to the beliefs of his world until that pivotal scene I mention above. She shows him that these rules exist because we allow them to. And he has lessons to teach Diana of his own. Their interaction is strong and never cliche or predictable, because his convictions are as strong as hers, and they admire each other for it. He isn't a mirror or spoof of the female love interest/sidekick we see, who exists to support our protagonist. He has his own story, his own goals. It's not a perfect film; some parts needed more (Themyscira) and others less (London) but it's the best superhero movie I've seen in a very long time, one that captures the spirit of the character without twisting it to fit our own cultural mores. Superman showed us that a man could fly, Spider-Man and Iron Man showed us comic book stories could make us laugh without being silly, The Dark Knight and Watchmen showed us that serious questions could be asked in a superhero story... and Wonder Woman does it all.

Maybe not backwards, but in heels.

With sincerity.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps

There's the kind of crime writing that's understated and the kind that throws caution to the wind.  Nick Kolakowski's A Heartbroken Bunch of Brutal Saps falls squarely into the second category.  Kolakowski, until now known for his shorter fiction (he's also an editor for the flash fiction site, Shotgun Honey), doesn't play it safe in his first longer work, a novella, and his willingness to tell a tale gleefully over the top almost from page one pays entertainment dividends.

A Heartbroken Bunch of Brutal Saps alternates between the first person voice of a professional killer and third person narration centered around Bill, a man who begins the story "dangling upside-down over a pit, ankles wrapped in heavy chains, sweat stinging his eyes, head throbbing like a dying tooth." Bill is a guy with business acumen who involved himself in a number of shady activities in New York City, and being a total conniver at heart, he manages to embezzle a lot of money from his employers.  This is white collar crime that will result in something more dire than a country club prison sentence, however, because his employers happen to be a criminal organization called The Rockaway Mob. We don't get many details about The Rockaway Mob, but we do know one thing for sure: taking their money is an unwise choice that will only bring a death sentence down on the perpetrator.  Bill knows this as well as anyone, and he's made his plans to flee New York and get out of the country.  He has a "spectacularly anal-retentive escape plan".  It consists of him driving southwest in a beat--up convertible bought for cash.  He's got stolen identities in his wallet, expense money in a duffel bag in the car's trunk, his sizable nest egg in an online account.  All he needs to do is get out of the country and he'll be able to kick back with his money in the tropics.  As he drives, he sees no one on his tail and clear road in front of him. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot, of course, when Bill's car acts up and he has to pull off the road just past Tulsa, Oklahoma. He stops at a remarkably grubby restaurant for a bite and some beer and shots, and here his nightmare truly begins.  The town he's stopped in harbors dangers he never suspected, and the hit man the Rockaway Mob hired to find and kill him turns up.  The town representatives, Bill, and the hit man each have their own agendas, and how the imbroglio among these three players shakes out is in doubt until the very end. Kolakowski knows how to plant his twists to keep the reader on his toes. Progress for a person turns into a setback turns into an apparent escape turns into yet another reversal.  It all reads very fast and the author has a light touch; he wants his readers to have fun.  He knows just how far to push the twists and the action without making his tale a complete cartoon.

A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps is the first in a prospective series.  It's the opening salvo in what's called "A Love & Bullets Hookup".  And true to this description, for all the bullets that fly in the story, for all the lovingly rendered violence, love plays a large part, too, though Nick Kolakowski is way too cynical and smart a writer to let anything here become sentimental. He's good at writing banter between men and women, and he can sharply etch, in a sentence or two, the ridiculous self-pity men can wallow in when reflecting on relationships gone bad. The word "Saps" is not in the book's title for nothing; guys who fancy themselves the toughest son of a bitches around can be as soft as melted taffy on the inside.

Where the series goes next is anybody's guess, but volume one gets things going well.  There's blood, wit, and romance under duress.  A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps delivers the goods in unapologetic pulp style.

You can get A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps at Amazon right 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Redemption or Revenge?

In the wake of yet another terrorist attack, there are some predictable responses. Before the police have even disclosed the identities of the terrorists fingers start pointing at Islam, and politicians distort what information there is to support their agendas.

That's not what I want to focus on, though. I want to focus more on outcome motivations. Why is it that in the wake of horror the primary response seems to be to assign blame and want revenge?

Why is there so little talk about redemption?

Is it possible that people really think that it isn't possible?

A long time ago, I had the opportunity to work on a history project. That might not sound exciting to some, but I found it fascinating. It recounted how a Christian organization was founded after World War II. I wasn't aware that in Britain, one of the strategies after the war was to promote travel and education opportunities for German youth. As I was told, the government looked for any organizations willing to provide food and housing and some basic civics instruction; money was provided to host these young people, and that's how this Christian organization began. A British major who fought in World War II used that funding to participate in a national program targeting German youth.

The purpose? Britain understood that the German youth had been conditioned. Hitler's German Youth programs had been operating for years, and while defeat in the war may have disrupted the actions of the Nazis, it did little to change the thinking of the young people who would rebuild Germany. Would Germany rise up from the ashes of World War II and be a catalyst for another world war, the way they had from World War I, or would Germany follow a different path?

I've found little information about this program online. I worked for the organization in question, which went on to become an international organization.

I was a student at one of their schools in Europe in 1989, when the Iron Curtain collapsed and the Berlin Wall fell.

The Iron Curtain between East and West Germany

Allied Checkpoint Charlie 1989
The Berlin Wall, December 1989

Myself and an East German border guard in 1990.
I learned a lot that year through my travels. I had the opportunity to see the Berlin Wall being cut apart, while I still passed through the border into East Germany and walked the streets of East Berlin. It was a time filled with tension and optimism. I had this great teacher at school who taught the history of the Old Testament, and he'd talk politics. While it may have bored others to tears, I found it fascinating. He was aware that, in the wake of the changing political situation at the time, nations like France were eyeing Germany with some concern.

My experiences traveling had shown me that the German people, however, seemed largely hopeful. They welcomed East Germans; for them, it almost seemed to be part of a national healing process to put their country back together.

I had a Germany roommate, and I learned a few things from her. One of those things was that her family went to a Germany concentration camp every year as a reminder about what happened. From what I understood, the practice was common among German families.

They did not dismantle the camps and build playgrounds or a residential complexes in their place. I went to Bergen Belsen, and Dachau myself.

Later, I spent time in Ireland, and what I experienced there didn't center on hope for unity. Unlike the train stations in Europe where I spent a number of hours, the train station in Dublin cleared within minutes after we disembarked. I loitered, waiting to be picked up and unaware of train station policy due to the perpetual terror threats that existed then. Terrorism never even occurred to me, but I was questioned by police as a result. Fortunately, they realized I was a naive Canadian and redirected me to where I could wait safely, although they kept an eye on me until I left.

That was really, for me, my first experience of living with terrorism. I had to travel back to France briefly, and the organization I was working with was in fear of letting me leave alone. At that point, I'd traveled to more than a dozen countries on my own and I felt comfortable traveling; what I hadn't come to fully appreciate yet was that nowhere I'd traveled to that point was more dangerous, and that during my time there a constant threat of terrorism would exist. The military presence and the way the situation in Ireland in 1990 impacted the day to day lives of people stood out by stark comparison to every place I'd been to in my travels to that point, East Germany included. Snipers were positioned near border crossings. I suppose it didn't help that my travels across the border to Northern Ireland coincided with an even for the royal family. Any vehicles driving next to a military vehicle had a gun pointed at them.

Lately, I've thought a lot about that history document that I worked on for that organization decades ago. Although there seems to be limited information about it and little credit assigned, I wonder how much the actions of embracing German youth in the late 1940s helped prevent another world war.

In the wake of 9/11, I traveled to North Africa. I remember an elderly man coming up to me in the market and clasping my hand and thanking me, in broken English, for still coming to their country.

For not blaming them.

As I've been thinking about this, I realize that so much of what I read and write focuses on justice. It focuses on getting the bad guy and, in some cases, making him pay. It focuses on restoring order, but that order is limited by enforcement. It isn't a complete restoration, because the threats usually still exist; they're simply obstructed by bars and walls.

What I don't see a lot of people writing about is redemption. Maybe that doesn't make for exciting stories. Maybe we're so jaded most of us don't believe in it. I don't know.

What I do know is that the foundation of my views about foreign policy regarding refugees and actually trying to prevent terrorism find their roots in the origins that Christian organization, all those decades ago. By welcoming the Germany youth, the British taught them that they were forgiven. They were welcomed. They were accepted.

They were not shunned. Forgiveness is a part of what enables people to redeem themselves. People could have held on to hate and blame. I'm sure some did, but on a national level the United Kingdom did not.

Do you know why there are laws that support children being removed from their family when they witness and experience physical violence? Because children who grow up being abused or witnessing abuse are more likely to become abusers.

Do you know that some of the primary factors that make people susceptible to becoming human trafficking victims include war, poverty and lack of education? Consider the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram a few years ago; Islamic militants stole girls that they then declared they would sell into marriage, enabling them to build their population base with children conditioned to follow their beliefs.

For the child living on the street, who has lost their family to war, if we won't take them in how likely do you think it is that they'll be given shelter by terrorists, who can distort the truth and train them to hate and to act on that hate?

I'm finding it funny that my personal beliefs lean so strongly towards redemption, when my primary entertainment seems to center more on justice and punishment.

I wonder if those who haven't had similar traveling experiences or exposures might never consider that modeling the change you wish to see in the world is how you can see it manifested.

Maybe for some it's easier to hate. And in the spirit of self-fulfilling prophecy, by perpetuating that hate, those people help perpetuate more violence instead of finding ways to stem the tide.

Maybe today, it would be nice to read something that ended on a hopeful note. I'm taking recommendations in the comments. Tell a great story that touches on the heart of darkness and still leave the reader feeling hopeful at the end? There should be a prize for accomplishing that.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Writing the Real Thing

I’m on TV again. Not because of my novels, but because of a true crime so depraved and cruel that it continues to fascinate seventeen years after it happened.

The False Prophet
Before I started writing fiction, I dealt in the world of real crime. I covered the criminal courts for a newspaper in the Bay Area of California – specifically a vast county in the East Bay. It had urban areas at one end and rural trailer parks at the other. In between were some of the wealthier sections in the East Bay, as well as perfectly ordinary suburbs. They all had crime. Murders even. Murders happen everywhere. To anybody. For so many different, tragic, crazy, greedy reasons that it boggles the mind. I wrote about it all.
But there was one case I covered that stunned everyone who came in contact with it, including me. A man who proclaimed himself a prophet of God convinced two others to help him usher in Christ’s Second Coming. To do this, Glenn Taylor Helzer said they needed money. After months of plotting, they kidnapped a retired couple, forced them to sign over their life savings and then killed them. But the bank put a hold on the checks. So Helzer panicked and decided they needed to kill the 22-year-old woman he was dating. He’d started wooing her a few months before for the express purpose of using her to launder the stolen money, telling her a lie about getting an inheritance. She knew absolutely nothing about his real plans.
You still with me? Hang in there, it gets even more convoluted. After killing the young woman, Selina Bishop, Helzer and his brother/accomplice dismembered all three victims. Then he took stock of how things were going and found another loose end. He’d tried to avoid meeting any of Selina’s friends while dating her, but he’d run into her mother at one point. So he drove across the Bay in the middle of the same night he killed Selina and shot her mother and her mother’s friend – a victim of wrong-place, wrong-time – to death.
Take a minute for that to sink in. In the span of five days, Taylor Helzer killed five people in two different counties, dumped duffel bags full of body parts in a third jurisdiction, and then calmly left for a weekend music festival several hours away. (And I haven’t even gotten to the Playboy centerfold, or the plan to smuggle Brazilian orphans into the U.S., or Helzer fleeing a manhunt in nothing but his underwear. I told you it was stunning.)
The case was so complicated, it took authorities four years to unravel and bring to trial. There were tens of thousands of pages of documents and hundreds of court exhibits. I wrote countless newspaper articles about it, but the only way to tell the entire story was to write a book. So I did. And now that means I get asked to appear on true crime programs to talk about it.  

Filming an episode of "Most Evil," an ID Network show.
The latest one is “Occult Crimes,” a series now streaming on Netflix (I’m S:1, E:1). It was pretty good as these shows go. Not the best that I’ve participated in, but certainly not the worst. I’ve done at least five others, and they’ve all been interesting experiences. Some producers do their homework. Some don’t. All of them require that I not stumble over my words, which is reasonable, but harder to do than you’d think. It's gotten easier to do over the years, which is good, because I can't imagine that this latest show will be the last done on this crime.

Next week: I’ll introduce you to the five wonderful people who lost their lives to Taylor Helzer’s rampage.