Flawed TV Producer Tackles Harrowing Story
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 gutwrenching, 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.
LIVE TO THE NETWORK is a wild and thrilling criminal mystery ride. For fans of Law and Order SVU, Criminal Minds and Silence of the Lambs, this is the perfect combination of heinous crimes, sly detective work, and difficult personal journeys.
Author Jeffrey Diamond knows firsthand what goes on behind the scenes in television broadcast news. With 40 years of experience under his belt, he offers up a vivid, frightening look at sex trafficking and inappropriate relationships between law enforcement and the mafia through the eyes of alcoholic producer Benson.
He provides more insight in this Q&A.
As a journalist/producer, what was the most exciting story you worked on?
I produced hundreds of stories, ranging from investigative reports on consumer fraud to high-impact interviews, political profiles, human interest, entertainment, breaking news, and dozens of crime stories. Picking one that was the most exciting or the most memorable is nigh on impossible. But there was one I produced over 30 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. 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.
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?
There are definitely parts of me in my character, given his occupation. 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.
LIVE TO THE NETWORK includes a lot of violence against young women. What led you to write about crimes investigated by the Special Victims Unit?
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 there is unspeakable evil in our society that leaves a permanent mark on everybody it touches.
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?
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. Once this idea crystalizes, 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 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.
Ethan Benson is an alcoholic, 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 likable and heroic?
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.
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.
If they made a movie out of LIVE TO THE NETWORK, who would play Ethan Benson?
Simple—Kevin Bacon. Each of the characters he plays is flawed as a human being but one of the best at what he does.
This is your third Ethan Benson thriller following Live to Air and Live to Tape. What’s next?
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, MA, area, and I’m currently researching my fifth book in the series about a female serial killer who terrorizes the Florida Keys.
About Jeffrey L. Diamond:
Jeffrey L. Diamond is an award-winning journalist with forty years of experience in television news. He began his career in the early 1970s 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.
About the Author: Jennifer Blankfein
Jennifer Gans Blankfein is a freelance marketing consultant and book reviewer. She graduated from Lehigh University with a psychology degree and has a background in advertising. Her experience includes event coordination and fundraising along with editing a weekly, local, small business newsletter. Jennifer loves to talk about books, is an avid reader, and currently writes a book blog, Book Nation by Jen. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two sons and a black Lab.