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Thursday 21 May 2020

✉ Using A Real-Life Crime For Mystery Fiction - R. G. Belsky

Today author takes over our blog to tell us about "Using a real-life crime for mystery fiction". The Last Scoop (, Oceanview Publishing, 369 pages), a Mystery, book three in the Clare Carlson Mysteries series, is his latest release.

"The Last Scoop is another surefire success for author R. G. Belsky as well as for Oceanview Publishing which has been putting out one top-notch page-turner after another." --New York Journal of Books

Praise for the Clare Carlson Serie
s "In today's world of fake news and alternate facts, R. G. Belsky reminds us why we need reporters like Clare Carlson more than ever before. She is what we want all our journalists to be--honest, objective, and relentless in her pursuit of the truth."--Lee Goldberg, New York Times best-selling author

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By R.G. Belsky

        I’ve written a number of “ripped-from-the-headlines” murder mystery novels in the past, drawing on my years as a journalist covering big crimes in order to turn them into inspiration for fiction.  These include sensational front-page stories such as Son of Sam, the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz, John Lennon’s murder, the Central Park Jogger case and others.

        But the real-life murder story that is the starting point for my new book THE LAST SCOOP was not a story I covered for newspapers or TV. I was too young for that when it happened. Instead, it’s an unexplained, unsolved murder that took place when I was growing up in suburban Cleveland – and, more than a half century later, it remains one of the most baffling cold cases ever.

        On the afternoon of December 28, 1964, a 16-year-old Catholic high school girl named Beverly Jarosz was brutally attacked, strangled and stabbed to death during broad daylight inside her home on a quiet street in Garfield Heights, Ohio. No suspect or motive was ever found - and, more than a half century later, the baffling case remains no closer to be solved than it was at the time of her death.

        It was one of the few violent crimes I ever remember as a boy in Garfield Heights (which I recall as a neighborhood as safe as Leave It To Beaver or Father Knows Best on TV in those days), and I still find the case haunting after all these years.

        Many people were questioned as possible suspects and many possible motives for the murder pursed, but all to no avail. One detective at the time said the trail for Beverly Jarosz’s killer went cold less than two days after the murder. "We're no nearer a solution now than we were when the body was found," he said then. "For all I know, we're farther away from one."

        And that’s still the situation some 56 years later.

        Now the murder of a teenaged girl inside her house in a quiet neighborhood that I use in THE LAST SCOOP is not the same case - different circumstances, different state, different crime completely.

        But it did give me the inspiration for the beginning of the story that I tell in THE LAST SCOOP. I was fascinated by the idea – like I am with many of the “ripped from the headlines” cases I covered in the media – that I could come up with a fictional solution to a case that real life investigators have never been able to solve. In this case I created a whole new scenario for what happened to the young female murder victim, and even linked it in my book to a terrifying serial killer.

        That’s the great thing about being a mystery author: Even if you don’t have hard facts, you get to make stuff up.

        And, at least in a fictional sense, give some closure to a case that will never see any closure in real life.

        Or course, I’m not the only mystery author who mixes real life cases with fiction like this.

        I did an interview with best-selling author Michael Koryta a while back about his mystery novel How It Happened - in which he also talked about how he incorporated elements of a baffling real life murder that happened when he was in high school in Indiana as the inspiration for the crime in that book. That case involved the disappearance of a 19-year-old Indiana University student named Jill Behrman.

        “I was 17 years old, and she vanished during a bike ride on a road near where I lived,” Koryta told me in recalling that long-ago case from his childhood. “So I have that memory of the shock that went through the community and how jarring it was to me and my family. And it has had unusual lasting power with me. That was a profound memory from my childhood. I think about her on a very regular basis. I’ve covered a lot of stories, and I’ve written a lot of novels. But this story has always had a different kind of emotional feeling.”

        In his case - like mine with Beverly Jarosz - the details in the novel are very different from the true-life case. It’s simply a starting point for the story. Or, as I like to say when people ask me about doing the “ripped from the headlines” mysteries of mine, it’s the “what if?”

        Maybe the classic case of this for me was when I used the tragic murder of John Lennon on the streets of New York City by crazed stalker Mark David Chapman as the idea for a thriller about celebrity murders.

        In my book, a celebrity - a celebrated Hollywood actress - is gunned down on the streets too just like Lennon was, apparently by a disturbed fan. But then I did the “what if?” What if the stalker didn’t really do it? What if there was an entirely other reason for the celebrity’s death? What if the entire murder happened differently than we have been led to believe.

        I’ve done similar “what if” scenarios in other mystery novels with the disappearance of 6-year-old Etan Patz from the streets of New York; the tangled Central Park jogger case; Son of Sam; and more real life crimes that I was involved in reporting and writing about as a journalist for the New York Post, the New York Daily News, Star magazine and NBC News.

        Of course, many mystery authors - including myself - do write stories that are completely made up without any real crime involved.

        But there are times when true crime - used as an inspiration for a murder mystery - can work well to create a good book.

        Because truth sometimes is stranger than fiction.

The scariest kind of serial killer—one you don't know exists

The Last Scoop
Available to pre-order NOW! OUT Tomorrow!

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1 comment:

CMash said...

If you haven't read this series, I highly recommend it!!!