Doug Preston, current Co-President and a founder of ITW, began writing books in 1985. Twenty of his novels and five works of non-fiction have been published. Fourteen of his books were best sellers including his latest, COLD REVENGE, written with Lincoln Child, which reached number one on the NEW YORK TIMES best seller list. Doug’s thrillers contain suspense, intrigue, danger and a fascinating cast of characters. Ironically, Doug experienced an international real life thriller that included many of the elements of his fiction and gave him the unique perspective of being his own protagonist. He recently shared his adventure with me.
Your real life thriller took place in Italy. Why were you there?
I went to Italy with my wife and two children in 2000 intending to stay four years. I planned to write a murder mystery set in Florence involving an art historian who is murdered, his body found by the side of the road with his eyes gouged out.
Sounds like another best seller? How did it do?
I never wrote it. As I was researching the idea, I learned that the olive grove in front of our villa had been the scene of a real murder-one of the most horrific double murders in Italian history. There were other similar murders, committed by a serial killer nicknamed The Monster of Florence. The perpetrator was never identified and it became one of the longest and most expensive criminal investigations in modern Italian history. The case is still open.
Who brought this to your attention?
I needed to find out (for my novel) what the Italian police do when they investigate a murder, and a friend suggested I meet Mario Spezi, a crime reporter for LA NAZIONE, the local paper. He had covered the killings from almost the beginning. When he first told me about the Monster of Florence, I was stunned. It had never been told in English. I got hooked and abandoned my novel, which never got written.
What turned the project into a real life thriller with you as the protagonist?
Mario and I wrote an article about the Monster that was to be published in the NEW YORKER in late September, 2001 but was bumped after 9/11. (Later it was published in the ATLANTIC). That was when we decided to write a book. We began writing the book in 2002. In 2004 Mario attracted the attention of the investigators by going on a very popular Italian crime show, equivalent to AMERICA’S MOST WANTED, in which he criticized the investigation on national Italian television, presented evidence that investigators were on a wild goose chase, and ridiculed the (Sicilian) Chief Inspector who was heading the investigation.
Were there reprisals?
Yes. The chief inspector, with local police, broke into Mario’s apartment and all our papers, research and archives were seized along with Mario’s computer. Mario was indicted for 19 crimes which were kept secret.
Was all your research lost?
No. Mario saved our book by shoving one computer disc in his underwear.
Where were you at the time?
I went back to America in 2004 and returned to Italy periodically.
Were you accused of anything?
Not until February of 2006, several months before the book was to be published in Italian. I was in Italy doing some final research and got a call on my cell phone. “This is the police,” the voice said, speaking Italian. “Where are you? We are coming to get you now.” This was when they interrogated me for three hours, in Italian, with no attorney present and when I first met one of the monsters from the Monster of Florence case, Prosecutor Guliano Mignini. He accused me of being an accessory to murder after the fact, planting false evidence, perjury and obstruction of justice and demanded that I confess. It was so bizarre it scared the hell out of me.
Did they arrest you?
No. When I refused to “confess” they indicted me for perjury and other crimes then lifted the indictments so I could leave the country. I believe they wanted to get rid of me because we were making their investigations look bad. I departed the next morning with my family. Mario Spezi was not as fortunate. He was sent to jail on similar charges to mine plus Mignini accused him of the murder of a doctor in 1985 and of belonging to a Satanic sect that needed body parts for their black masses. An international outcry by fellow journalists eventually secured his release but he was treated horribly during his three weeks in jail. Since then all charges against us have been dropped.
I read about her case in the NEW YORK TIMES and thought she was guilty. And then I got a call from a friend of the Knox family, Tom Wright, who pointed out the fact that the same abusive prosecutor in my case, Giuliano Mignini, was the prosecutor in her case. I looked into it briefly, and quickly realized the case was bogus. I started to speak my mind. I went on national television many times pleading her case and telling the world about Mignini.
Had you ever met Amanda?
No, but I met her parents. They are wonderful people.
Amanda is free. What happened to Mignini?
He was convicted of abuse of office for the Monster prosecution and sentenced to sixteen months in jail. People soon realized he was using the same abusive tricks and crazy conspiracy theories against Amanda. This helped her appeal.
Is Mignini in jail now?
Unfortunately his sentence was suspended and he remains in office.
Will there be a Mignini sequel?
There will be a Mignini sequel. George Clooney is producing and will star in a movie based on THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE. Mignini will appear in the movie and not in a good role.
Who will play Doug Preston?
That would have been my choice.
Steven M. Forman was born in Boston in 1942, graduated the University of Massachusetts in 1963, married in 1968 and started a food marketing company in 1970. He always had a passion for writing but spent the next forty years building a world-wide importing and exporting business. His first novel, BOCA KNIGHTS, was published in 2009 and received excellent reviews. BOCA KNIGHTS was followed by two sequels, BOCA MOURNINGS and BOCA DAZE and an e-book novella entitled, EDDIE THE KID. All of his books are available wherever fine books are sold and as e-books on the internet. He and his wife Barbara divide their time between their two favorite cities, Boston and Boca Raton. His daughter Jana, his granddaughter Taylor and grandson Bradley live in Boca Raton as do his son David, his wife Stacie their son Tyler, and twins Shaina and Raquel.
To learn more about Steven, please visit his website.
Interested in becoming a member of the International Thriller Writers? ITW offers Active and Associate memberships.
Latest posts by ITW (see all)
- August 21 – 27: “Could an accountant, librarian or nurse be a spy?” - August 20, 2017
- August 14 – 20: “If you could write in another genre, which one would that be?” - August 13, 2017
- August 7 – 13: “How many thrillers do you read each year?” - August 7, 2017