Blood Moon is a big, compelling, entertaining novel about right and wrong, good and evil, choices and responsibilities, and justice and retribution.
On a hot, steamy afternoon in Miami, Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is brutally beaten and abducted. Handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded, he has no idea why he has been targeted.
What he discovers is heart-stopping. What he endures during almost a month of captivity compares only to the most horrendous stories of prisoners of war.
He is tortured, and under the threat of death, and worse – the rape of his wife and torture of his children – Suarez is forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors. These psychopaths include an ex-con who has served time for embezzlement; his former cellmate whose reputation while in Florida’s notorious Union Correctional Institute was so fearsome, the guards refused to discipline him; Suarez’s business partner whose past includes accusations of pedophilia and murder; and an aspiring NFL football player who was kicked off his college team for attempting to maim a coach.
After draining Suarez’s millions in properties and investments, his captors attempt to murder him. In what can only be described as a miracle, Suarez survives and then spends the next few months staying one step ahead of the murderous pack. During this time, he and his lawyer, Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – are having difficulties convincing the Miami-Dade Police Department that a crime has been committed. Their efforts are complicated by Steven’s difficult history with the head of the MDPD Special Investigations Division, who is not interested in pursuing the case.
Having suffered no consequences for their crime, and wanting to build on their success, the bad guys kidnap a wealthy young couple, but things go haywire. The couple is accidently killed and the group decides to carve up the bodies and get rid of the remains in the Everglades.
Carolina Suarez, a housewife and mother, whose docile personality and dedication to her family kept her insulated from the vagaries of life throughout her marriage, escapes to her parents’ home in Mexico City. Upon learning of her husband’s abduction, torture and survival, Carolina returns to Miami and begins a transformation that leads her to the forefront demanding justice for her husband and the other victims. Not trusting the police, a consequence of her upbringing in her corruption-ridden homeland, she enlists the help of acquaintances from a previous life who make her husband’s captors look like Boy Scouts.
The FBI and CIA jump into this mix of crime and retribution to protect ongoing cases that touch various characters caught up in the investigations. The federal agencies are determined to prevent the discovery of past activities in Central America, current involvement in the Middle East, and in investigations of gang-related crime in South Florida.
Nowhere but Miami is suited for this tale of crime, murder and intrigue – a beautiful city teeming with beautiful people looking for the easy life, and all too often an easy way to get there. It is an international hub where multi-million dollar business deals are conducted under the table and trust is in short supply. Sex, drugs, extortion and murder are part of the fabric of this city. A city with an elusive moral core.
Indeed, Blood Moon is a story of one man’s struggle to survive unspeakable evil in the midst of international intrigue complicated by indifference from those who should be seeking justice for the victimized. In the end, it becomes a tale of vengeance.
Q & A with J. David Bethel
Question: How did these horrific real-life events first come to your attention, and how soon after learning of them were you inspired to start writing your novel?
JDB: The details of the crime came to me from Ed DuBois. Ed runs a security firm, Investigators, Inc., and had been brought into the case by a mutual friend of Marc Schiller, the victim. Ed read my novel Evil Town and enjoyed it, and when he wanted to explore the possibilities of having a book written about the crime, he contacted me.
Initially, Ed wanted a true crime book written to counter the treatment the real story was getting in a movie that was being made of the crime, “Pain and Gain.” Ed was serving as a consultant on the movie and grew disenchanted with the “black comedy” slant being applied to the script. I wrote a treatment of the book but when it became apparent a true crime book could not be written and published in time to provide a balance to the movie, that project was abandoned.
I had become intrigued by the crime, especially by the courage of the victim, Marc Schiller, and Ed’s determination to get the “bad guys.” Schiller’s survival of 30 days in captivity during which he was brutally tortured and had every single penny of his substantial estate extorted was a story that was too compelling to ignore. My wheelhouse is fiction so I went to Ed and Marc and asked if they’d mind if I treated the story as fiction, hewing close enough to the real events to convey the true horror of what Marc endured and how Ed worked skillfully to solve the crime.
With resources like Marc and Ed, and a story of human will and courage, how could I go wrong? Marc agreed to add another layer to the book by writing the Foreword and Ed wrote an Afterword.
Question: Tell us who the heroes are in the novel Blood Moon. Obviously abducted and tortured businessman Recidio Suarez, but do other heroic figures emerge in the telling of this sinister tale?
JDB: Absolutely. Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – and Suarez’s lawyer faces down the kidnappers and fights tooth-and-nail to have his client’s case taken up by the Miami Dade County Police Department.
Stevens meets with one of the kidnappers and through sheer force of will convinces him that he and his cohorts have to deal with him on a plan Stevens has hatched to get them to unwittingly admit their involvement in the crime. In the meantime, he is fighting for recognition of the crime by the police who are convinced that Suarez’s kidnapping, torture and attempted murder were the result of a squabble between drug gangs. Stevens is doing battle with the bad guys and the good guys on Suarez’s behalf, putting his life and reputation on the line. Meantime, Suarez is in hiding to save himself from his kidnappers who thought they had killed him and want to finish the job.
Recidio’s wife, Carolina Suarez, also rises to the occasion and is dedicated to seeing justice done (or retribution depending on one’s point-of-view). She is a stay-at-mother raising a family when the roof falls in. Her husband is allowed to speak to her and convince her to leave Miami in exchange for promising his captors that he will hand over every cent he has. After making certain her children are safe, Carolina – the timid, quiet housewife – transforms into a harpy of vengeance. Her own plans for finding and punishing the kidnappers are brutal and unforgiving.
Suarez, his wife and Stevens are the most visible heroic figures although friends and relatives of future victims also have their moments.
Question: When I read Blood Moon I realized with a start that you had recreated conversations between Recidio Suarez and his many captors that sounded as authentic as if you’d been a proverbial fly on the wall—how did you do that?
JDB: Someone once asked Cary Grant how he managed to portray his characters so convincingly. He replied: “It’s called acting.” So, how do I do it? It’s called writing. It’s what I have a passion for and when a compelling story or plot line occurs to me, I have to sit down and write. I don’t think I could ever explain “how” I do it, I just do it.
That said, I had the very good fortune of having both Marc and Ed as resources I could tap as I wrote the book. And I also asked them to read a draft before I finalized it to get their take on Blood Moon. Both offered excellent suggestions for editing, and in other ways, for improving the plot, adding a shading to a character here and there to make them more real and so on.
Question: What would you like the takeaway for readers to be when they read Blood Moon?
JDB: I didn’t go into writing the novel with a “takeaway” in mind. As I explained, I had a compelling story with compelling characters, and I had to tell it.
If there is a “takeaway” I suppose it would be that there is a dark and evil inhumanity to some people that is balanced by the goodness and courage of others. I really don’t think it’s much more complicated than that.
Question: How did writing Blood Moon differ from your previous novel, Evil Town, also published by Tell-Tale Publishing?
The books are different genres, Evil Town being a political thriller. Other than that, there really wasn’t much of a difference in the writing or the creative process.
For Blood Moon, I worked with a story line that had some markers for me to follow since I was inspired by a true-to-life crime. I also had some traits I could instill in the main characters by studying the ways Marc and Ed dealt with their challenges. Developing the characters of the antagonists was a little different since I don’t think like a psychopath. Putting myself in the shoes of Dario Pedrajo and his cohorts was a bit disturbing. But by playing them off against the courage and actions of Suarez and Stevens, and having the antagonists react in the extreme opposite of civilized, empathetic human beings, I think these characters are believable as multi-dimensional human beings, if very evil human beings.
For Evil Town, I mined my 30-plus years in politics to add dimension, reality and, hopefully, to create a compelling story that takes a look behind the curtain at how Washington and the political system work. This experience provided me with markers along the way much in the same way as did those I followed in writing Blood Moon allowing me to create believable scenarios and characters. A former member of Congress, Jim Lightfoot put it this way in his review of Evil Town: “For those of us who have been there and lived the political life it is easy to attach the names of people we know and/or have known to David’s characters. I think you will find that part of the fun when you read his book. Perhaps you will also pick up a little understanding of the high stakes poker is played with your life and income by thousands of faceless bureaucrats and unscrupulous politicians whose only goal in life is re-election.”
Question: What similarities did you find in your research and your writing?
My research for Evil Town focused primarily on the science related to the environmental impact on the Everglades of farming by Big Sugar, which is a major element of the storyline. There are a few minor plot lines that “borrowed” from real events that required some research as well. The “call boy” plot line among them. I tried to be true to the research, that is, I did not inject a personal point-of-view but let my characters filter the information through their own lenses.
For more information on the research used for Evil Town, go to eviltownthebook.com. There is a section devoted to the research I used, with sources provided.
I’m looking forward to working with Tell Tale Publishing to promote Blood Moon. That’s first on the list. I am also beginning work on a new novel set in a small Midwestern town during the final days of World War Two. The gruesome murder of a local family starts an investigation that opens a door onto the national stage of politics and treason.
J. David Bethel is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been published in popular consumer magazines and respected political journals. He is the author of Blood Moon, a psychological thriller inspired by a true life crime of kidnapping, torture, extortion and murder. His previous novel was Evil Town, a political thriller. Both novels were published by Tell-Tale Publishing.
Mr. Bethel spent 35 years in politics and government. He served in the Senior Executive Service as a political appointee where he was Senior Adviser/Director of Speechwriting for the Secretary of Commerce; directed speechwriting offices for other Cabinet officials, serving as Chief Speechwriter to the Secretary of Education; and lead speechwriter in the Department of Transportation’s Office of Policy and International Affairs. He also served as press secretary/speechwriter to members of U.S. Congress.
Mr. Bethel works as a media consultant for a number of prominent communications management firms, including Burson Marsteller and The Wade Group. He writes speeches, opinion editorials and Congressional testimony for CEOs of the nation’s largest corporations, including the Monsanto Corporation, Hilton Hotels Corporation, and Royal Caribbean Lines. His op-ed pieces have appeared in The Washington Post and other prominent newspapers around the country.
J. David Bethel graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors from Tulane University and lives in Miami, Florida.