The Dirty World of NY Crime and Sex Trafficking Investigated By TV Producer Ethan Benson is Exposed in Live To The Network By Jeffrey L. Diamond

Live to the Network cover art

My Review:

Jarring, thrilling and heart pounding, Live to the Network by Jeffrey L. Diamond is an addictive, dark mystery; compelling storytelling with a pace that leaves you breathless.  Ethan Benson, a tv producer at The Weekly Reporter, assists the police force by taking on a forgotten case of gut wrenching, seemingly related murders of several young girls, to generate more public attention.  He devotes himself to shedding light on the monstrous offenses, and in turn becomes obsessed with finding the killer.  Danger increases as each new clue he discovers gets him closer to solving the murders, and at the same time he is battling his own demons, causing his personal life to fall apart.

Author Jeffrey Diamond knows first hand what goes on behind the scenes in television broadcast news.  With forty years of experience under his belt, he offers up a vivid, frightening look at sex trafficking and inappropriate relationships between the law enforcement and the mafia, through the eyes of alcoholic producer Ethan Benson.

Live to the Network is a wild and thrilling criminal mystery ride.  For fans of Law and Order SVUCriminal Minds and Silence of the Lambs, this is the perfect combination of heinous crimes, sly detective work and difficult personal journeys.  Available soon!  Pre-order your copy today!

 

Summary

Jeffrey L. Diamond

Q &A with Author Jeffrey L. Diamond

Q:  As a journalist, producer I imagine you have had some incredible experiences. What was the most exciting story you worked on?

A:  I worked for over forty years as a writer, producer, and director in television news and produced hundreds of stories, ranging from investigative reports on consumer fraud to      high impact interviews, political profiles, human interest, entertainment, breaking news,   and dozens and dozens of crime stories. Picking one that was the most exciting or the most memorable is nigh on impossible. But there was one story I produced over thirty years ago that haunts me to this day. It was a profile of the serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, who I met in an old rural jail in Texas. At the time, Lucas had been convicted of at least a dozen murders, and the authorities had linked him to well over a hundred more. I spent two days with Lucas, filming him in his jail cell, walking to and from the interview location—guarded by half a dozen Texas Rangers toting long guns—and chained to a chair in a conference room while my crew of ten shot the interview. Lucas was a small, unassuming man, who on the surface, appeared calm, almost meek, but underneath this placid exterior, was a violent and unstable killer who exploded without warning during the interview, rocking back and forth against his chains, screaming obscenities, and then withdrawing back into himself. During the two days I was with him, I never knew what to expect or how he’d react to my camera crew or what I’d capture on film as his personality swung from one extreme to the next. I can truly say that Henry Lee Lucas was the most frightening human being I have ever met. He was pure, unadulterated evil. When writing my second novel, Live to Tape, I modeled my killer, Rufus Wellington, on Henry Lee Lucas—trying to portray the personality of my character on the way Lucas made me feel when I was producing my television news story about this infamous serial killer. 

Q:  Ethan Benson has a drive to investigate cases and be in the line of fire when it comes to discovery. How much of you is in your hero?

A:  There are definitely parts of me in my character, Ethan Benson. He is a producer and a reporter in television news. I was a producer and a reporter in television news. He is an investigative journalist. I was an investigative journalist. He works with camera crews, production personnel, and anchormen. I worked with camera crews, production personnel, and anchormen. He covered the crime beat for The Weekly Reporter. And I covered the crime beat for the ABC Newsmagazine 20/20. But Ethan’s personality, the essence of who he is, is drawn—not only from me—but from the many people I worked with during my long career in production. I have tried in my books to create a hero who is not only one of the best at what he does—at solving crimes—but who is also troubled, insecure, and flawed as a human being. He is deeply sensitive and insecure, and at times, buries his fears and his demons in a bottle of Scotch. For me, one of the goals of my Ethan Benson series is not only to weave a good tale in each of my murder mysteries, but to also develop my character as he copes    with life’s uncertainties and with his own fragile ego, showing my readers how he handles the roadblocks in his life and changes from one book to the next.

Q:  Live to the Network includes a lot of violence against young women; what lead you to write about crimes investigated by the Special Victims Unit?

A:  Live to the Network, like all of my Ethan Benson Thrillers, is drawn from my personal experiences working as a journalist in television news. During my career, I produced many stories about young women and young girls, who were abused mentally, physically, and sexually by violent predators lurking in the shadows. Most of these stories, especially in the larger urban areas like Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and New York, fell under the jurisdiction of the Special Victims Units, where the cops are specifically trained to investigate the most horrific crimes committed against women, children, and the elderly. When writing Live to the Network, I tried to incorporate in my storyline the many firsthand experiences I had working alongside SVU detectives—studying their crime scene photos, reading their police reports, going with them to the scene of the crimes, and interviewing, not only the killers, but the families of the victims. All of these experiences have left me with vivid and troubling memories, and when writing this book, I tried to bring these memories to life—as horrific as they may be—so my readers would understand that there is unspeakable evil in our society that leaves a permanent mark on everybody it touches. So it is this sense of evil that I have tried to capture, not only in Live to the Network, but also in my two other Ethan Benson Thrillers, Live to Air and Live to Tape.   

Q:  How did you come up with the idea of the priest in Argentina, the Chinese mob in NYC, and the corruption in the police department? What is the process for developing a good story that seamlessly connects characters and locations?

A:  Research. Research. Research. For me, that’s the first and most important step in            writing a novel. Each of my books always begins the same way—with a vague idea, a       kernel of thought, a memory of a story I produced as a journalist that simply pops into         my head at the most unexpected of times, and once this idea crystallizes into a possible subject for one of my novels, I begin to fill in the blanks by reading everything I can put my hands on to help me understand and then develop the storyline. In Live to the Network, which focuses on the underbelly of human trafficking and the sex trade industry, I spent months doing research into the ins and outs of this problem—reading dozens of books and newspaper and magazine articles, talking to the experts in the field, surveying locations where the problem is most acute—to give me a solid foundation in the facts before I sat down at my computer and began to write. Then it was simply imagination. Imagination. Imagination. Whatever I dreamed up to make my story interesting, compelling, and a good read. The priest in Argentina came from a trip I took to Salta, Argentina and a morning I spent at its most famous cathedral. The Chinese mob came from the time I spent visiting my son who lived near Chinatown in lower Manhattan. And the corruption in the New York City police department, well, that came from the dozens of newspaper stories I read on a daily basis. The end process is taking all of these elements and writing a good story, creating tension in each chapter, and weaving in the characters, and the way I do this is something I really can’t explain. It’s just what I do.    

Q:  Ethan Benson is a drunk, and he may not always have his priorities straight, but I was always rooting for him. How do you create a character that is flawed and pathetic in some ways, but still is likeable and heroic?

A:  People ask me all the time how I created my hero, Ethan Benson, and why I created             him with flaws and imperfections. That, in essence, has been and always will be my       biggest challenge. Heroes in murder mysteries are always good at what they do. Detectives are good at looking for clues and catching the bad guys. Attorneys are good at analyzing      the facts and prosecuting the villains or defending their clients. And private detectives are good at earning their money and working on the periphery of whatever cases they are investigating. Ethan is a producer and a reporter and one of the best at digging into the facts and unraveling the inconsistencies as he draws his own conclusions and solves the mysteries hidden in each of his stories. But Ethan’s private life is plagued by problems. His marriage is falling apart, he questions his own self-worth, and his ego is fragile. That’s why he drinks. That’s why he buries himself in a bottle of Scotch. The challenge in all of my books is to show the reader how he uses his talents as an investigative reporter as a counterweight to his failures as a human being and to develop in my writing how he copes with both halves of his personality and changes as a human being from one book to the next. I think that’s what makes Ethan Benson interesting as a character, that’s what makes him likeable, and that’s why my readers root for him to get his life back on track.

Q:  Your writing is extremely visual and Live to the Network could easily be on screen. If you could choose an actor to play Ethan Benson, who would it be?

A:  The answer to that is simple—Kevin Bacon. Each of the characters he plays is flawed as a human being but one of the best at what he does. Case in point is his role as a corrupt FBI agent on City on a Hill or his role as an emotionally and physically scarred FBI agent on The Following. In both of these television series, he brilliantly balances the good and bad of his characters. I could see him playing Ethan Benson and bringing just the right touch as an actor to my hero.

Q:  This is your third Ethan Benson thriller. Live to Air and Live to Tape are the first two? What is next for you?

A:  I plan on continuing to write my Ethan Benson Thrillers. I have already completed a draft of my next novel, All Cameras Live, in which my hero investigates a series of fires set by an arsonist/murderer in the Springfield area of Massachusetts, and I’m currently researching my fifth book in the series about a female serial killer who terrorizes the Florida Keys that I hope to begin writing soon.

Q: What books have you read lately that you would recommend?

A:  I read all the time, and if you like murder mysteries, I’d highly recommend the latest Harry Hole novel, The Knife, by Jo Nesbo. I just finished it, and it’s great. If you like fantasies, pick up a copy of the first three books in the new Terry Brooks series, The Fall of Shannara, or anything written by Joe Hill. My personal favorite—NOS4A2. I’m just about to begin A Good Man in Africa—the first of fourteen standalone novels written by British author, William Boyd, and published in 1981. I’ll let you know what I think as soon as I finish the book! 

Q:  How do you write about a psychopath?  
Jeffrey L. Diamond

About the Author

Jeffrey L. Diamond is an award-winning journalist with forty years of experience in television news. He began his career in the early 1970’s at ABC News, where he produced hundreds of stories ranging from several minutes in length to a full hour of programming for Special Events, Weekend News, and World News Tonight, before moving to the weekly newsmagazine, 20/20. CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING.

Everything In Its Place, by the brilliant Oliver Sacks, and discussion with author/photographer Bill Hayes

Everything In Its Place

My Review:

Oliver Sacks, the bestselling author and professor of neurology wrote many books about his patients, his own disorders and nature, including the notable, Awakenings.  In his final compilation of essays, Everything In Its Place, he talked about a myriad of topics, from his love of libraries, to how cold temperatures stop the growth of cancer, from dreams and near death experiences to medical case studies and a town where everyone has Tourette’s Syndrome.  He was a true, deep thinker and scientist who studied the past.

Oliver swam every day, was severely shy and suffered from prosopagnosia (was unable to recognize faces). He was celibate for 40 years and was private regarding his sexuality.  He passed away in 2015 at 82 years old from cancer.  Everything In Its Place consists of his essays that were configured into this book and released post mortem.

Sacks lived alone, focusing on his work most of his life, but in his seventies he fell in love and enjoyed a wonderful 8 years with author and photographer, Bill Hayes.  Bill wrote the must-read memoir, Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me, along with 3 other non-fiction books, and a book of photography called How New York Breaks Your Heart.  My book club and I had the incredible opportunity to meet with Bill and we discussed his unsurpassable relationship with the brilliant neurologist and learned about their interests and the wonderful friendship and love they shared.

Oliver Sacks and Bill Hayes

Conversation with Bill Hayes:

Oliver grew up in a Jewish home and left England at 27 years old.  He lived at the hospital where Awakenings patients were being housed and he put all his efforts  into his job as a physician and neurologist.  Oliver had no romantic relationships for most of his life while he concentrated on his work.

Bill Hayes lived in San Francisco for 25 years.  He wrote a trilogy about medical history and the human body, and he studied anatomy at UCSF.  At 48 years old, in the spring of 2009, Bill moved to NYC to reinvent himself after the devastating loss of Steve, his long time partner of 17 years, passed away suddenly.  Previously, Bill had written to Oliver Sacks about one of his books, and coincidently, once in NYC, they ran into each other in the west village and they developed an intellectual and romantic kinship.

Oliver enjoyed the new found companionship with Bill, savoring the time they spent together making dinner and everyday chores like loading the dishwasher.  According to Bill, the two men had a deep connection despite their 30 year age difference.  They were kindred spirits, and both had been through a lot.  Bill says Oliver was “chronically quotable, hilarious, eccentric and philosophical”.

Oliver had prosopagnosia, and discussed it in his books, bringing this condition to the surface.  He was not able to easily recognize faces, something he deemed a “neurological hiccup”.  He studied how people adapt to different conditions including bipolar, Alzheimers, dementia, Tourette’s and autism, and wrote about them.

Bill told us Oliver mastered the art of writing.  It came easily and fluidly.  He wrote longhand with a fountain pen on yellow lined paper.  He used no technology, no wifi, and no computer.  He had two assistants in his office and they transcribed what he wrote.  He composed in his head and generally there were not a lot of revisions.

Oliver insisted Bill keep a journal and six months after he passed away, Bill felt free to write.  Using conversations he recorded in his journal, Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me, was released in 2015.  Today it is being made into a film.

Oliver published 16 books and Bill suggested we read Gratitude (4 essays about death that appeared in the NYTimes), and The Island of the Colorblind, which he described as most lyrical.

Oliver’s writing includes medical case histories,  essays on human behavior, nature, swimming, and other interests.  When compiling this collection, Bill fought hard to include the Why we Need Gardens essay in the book and it was added 6 weeks before Everything In Its Place went to press.

Bill’s memories with Oliver are joyful.  They shared so much laughter, even during his failing health in the last year of his life.  Bill says a lot had to do with Oliver; he was so clear when he learned he was terminal.  He wanted to live out his life with Bill, writing, reading, traveling and spending time with friends.  His old friend, Laura Snyder is currently in the process of writing a biography of Oliver Sacks.  She had written The Philosophical Breakfast Club, his favorite book.

Our book group was luck enough to see Oliver’s apartment via FaceTime and we asked Bill a few personal questions about himself. He told us he is currently single and dating, although the bar was set high once he met Oliver Sacks.  He also willingly shared the important significance of his five tattoos:  the end of one life and the beginning of another, I am my own anchor, a Joni Mitchell song, his five sisters and Oliver’s middle name, Wolf.

I highly recommend reading some of Oliver Sacks’ work, and Bill Hayes’ memoir, Insomniac City.  Both men are fascinating and a wealth of knowledge, compassion and creativity.

 

Goodreads Summary

Oliver Sacks

About the author:

Oliver Wolf Sacks, CBE, was a British neurologist residing in the United States, who has written popular books about his patients, the most famous of which is Awakenings, which was adapted into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams and Robert De Niro. CLICK HERE FOR MORE.