I’ve often mentioned that many of my books are inspired by events that actually happened. Sometimes you just can’t make up anything as odd, or devastating or, sometimes, as inspirational as the actions of real people.
But nothing came closer to my real life as one of my romantic suspense novels, “Tempting The Devil.”
I was reminded of it recently when I was invited to talk to a book club. It was unstructured as I’m apt to do in such talks, and the conversation turned to story inspiration. I had one for each of the more than fifty books I’ve written but none so close to my real life as “Tempting The Devil.”
I was a reporter for the Atlanta Journal at the beginning of my professional life. I was one of two women in the newsroom and the only beat I was not allowed to cover was the crime beat. That was definitely a no no. Women were not to be put in way of violence, etc., although I covered many trials.
But I covered politics and city hall and federal court and I was extremely happy. Reporting was all I wanted to do, and I was lucky enough the grab a summer internship as a college senior, then turn it into a full time job. It wasn’t easy. I worked twelve hours a day, picking up extra feature stories on my own, heading out to add color to major stories on my own. I covered malfeasance in office, major legislative battles, deficiencies in mental health facilities in Georgia, but never, ever police reporting.
Never, that was, until one day I was the only reporter in the newsroom on a late afternoon after all but the final deadline had passed. I was in the newsroom because I was wearing a brace and on crutches while recuperating from an auto accident. A call came in that three policemen had been murdered in a rural county just outside Atlanta. No one else was available. It helped that it happened to be in a county that I covered previously, and I knew the county commissioners and other officials. I was sent to the scene, crutches and braces and a bee in the car as I broke every speed limit in Georgia.
I’ll never forget that day. Three county policemen had been handcuffed together and shot in the back of the head. The bodies were still there; they were the first dead bodies I’d ever seen.
I limped over to the scene, talked to the law officials and other reporters there. I took full advantage of the “poor injured me” situation to get what info I could as fast as I could and phone it in for the late edition. (I was not too proud to use any advantage I had in what was then a very competitive news market).. I was able to keep hold on to local parts of the story (the funerals, the human aspects) while the paper’s police reporter took over crime aspects. Turned out there was a county police department and a competitive sheriff’s department. The chief deputy sheriff was running a stolen car ring, and the police officers unfortunately wandered on a site where the deputy and his crew were dismantling stolen cars. (The sheriff was later convicted of bootlegging liquor: I did get to cover that).
To make a long story short, the case was eventually solved, the chief deputy sheriff was convicted, sentenced to death, ultimately saved by the federal moratorium on the death penalty and given a life sentence.
That case never left my mind as I left journalism to enter public relations and then started writing western historicals. It was a story that eventually turned me to writing romantic suspense.
And it’s one book in which I included much of my life in Atlanta, my sometimes dangerous curiosity and my passion for journalism. I used the place in which I lived. I used the newspaper, although I changed its name as well as the name of the county. I used my accident. My heroine Robin Stuart, is also on crutches after an automobile accident. I kinda felt she was my alter ego. At any rate, I knew her inside out.
And I used one of the questions that, as a journalist, I always pondered:: how far does a reporter go in protecting a source? In the book, Robin goes to extremes, knowing that revealing her source might mean his death, and she is willing to go to jail to protect him. But then does it mean killers might go free and put her own life in danger?
It certainly complicates her attraction to the FBI agent determined to get the information she has, even if that means sending her to jail..
I was never confronted with that choice but I’ve always wondered what exactly I would do if I had to decide between revealing a source or going to jail, or worse?
So this book is special to me, and I wanted to share the details with you. It was published by Berkley and is now available as an e-book with Amazon and other outlets. .