Friday, April 20, 2012

The Story Behind the Story

My newest ebook, just available on Amazon for the Kindle, is titled Beware the Jabberwock. It has quite a story behind it. Actually, several stories. I wrote it back in 1990 after I retired from an eighteen-year career as executive vice president of a statewide trade association. I had written non-fiction for years as a newspaper reporter, free-lance writer, magazine editor, and a few other permutations. I had written two book manuscripts over the years and told everyone I intended to write novels when I retired.

I was an avid spy story reader all through the Cold War, so it was natural that I turned to this genre when I looked for a plot. I had read extensively about the KGB and CIA and had no trouble creating a situation involving both agencies. With the Iron Curtain shredding and the Soviet Union falling apart, clandestine warriors on both sides found their futures in jeopardy. I chose that as my starting point.

Since this was an international thriller, the setting was anywhere. I had been on a fifteen-day tour of Europe in the early eighties and spent a month touring the Far East in 1987. With that background, I had lots of possibilities to choose from. I started the story in Vienna, then moved to Washington, I had to depend on guidebooks for scenes on Cyprus and in Tel Aviv, but I had visited Hong Kong and most of the locations in the States. I created a small island off the Florida coast south of Apalachicola.

For the main character, I turned to a man I had met back in the sixties when I was editor of Nashville Magazine. He was a close friend of one of my colleagues and I got to know him pretty well. He was an ex-FBI agent with a wild story to tell. I did a long interview with him, and we talked about writing a book. Then he had second thoughts about writing it as a true story. The statute of limitations hadn't run out on some of the things he had done.

According to his story, and my colleague vouched for his authenticity, he had gone to Washington out of high school and worked as a clerk at FBI Headquarters while getting an accounting degree. His job involved taking documents to Hoover's home, and he became closely associated with the director. He attended the FBI Academy after graduation and worked as a field agent. He was tapped by Hoover to be a member of his Goon Squad, a select group of agents who carried out sometimes illegal acts for the director. According to my guy, some of it involved cases outside the U.S.

Hoover and his assistant came up with a plan to infiltrate the Mafia and chose my agent for the task. He was told to resign from the FBI, commit a few crimes to establish his bona fides, and work to get in with the mob in Las Vegas. But after months of trying, he never managed to get connected. When he came back to Washington, Hoover refused to talk to him, calling him a failure.

All of this is covered in the background of my character, Burke Hill. I lost contact with the ex-agent but learned he died several years ago. It makes for quite a story. You can check out Beware the Jabberwock at

Chester Campbell

Visit me at Mystery Mania

1 comment:

Morgan Mandel said...

Some of our friends do make fine fodder for our books!

Morgan Mandel