When reporter Carol Childs is called to the scene of a body dump she has no idea she’s about to uncover a connection to a string of missing girls. Young, attractive women drawn to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood via an internet promise of stardom and romance have been disappearing. A judge’s daughter leaves behind a clue and a trip down Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame reveals a connection to a high powered real estate mogul and to a cartel targeting girls for human trafficking.
Author Nancy Cole Silverman stopped by to chat about her latest mystery, Beyond a Doubt.
Q. Can you tell us what the book is about?
A: Beyond a Doubt deals with the very real world of what happens behind the scenes in Hollywood when young, attractive women respond to blind internet ads for modeling and acting lessons that promise fame and riches. All too often the end results are anything but what a young, naïve wannabe actress expects, and sometimes, like in the book, things can turn deadly.
Q: What kind of research did you do for Carol Childs, the reporter? Or did you model her from your own experiences? How close to your own journalism experience is her life?
A: I worked for news and talk radio stations most of my adult life so it was easy to imagine a character like Carol Childs based upon my own experiences and those of other young female reporters I knew. I’ve tried to stick as close as I could to life behind the mic, what it’s like to work for radio station, the pressures of the job, the over-sized, ego centric personalities one runs into. Most importantly I’ve tried include some of the particulars of what someone like Carol, a single, working mom, is faced with as she tries to balance her personal life with that of her career.
Q: Were there any surprises when you were doing your research?
A: Once the idea of the story hit me, I started my research by talking with LAPD’s Missing Persons Unit. I was surprised by the number of missing people that are reported each year in a city the size of Los Angles, and how few officers there are to follow up on their disappearances. My respect went out to officers of LAPD Missing Person Unit, not only for their heavy case loads, but also for the sad stories they see and must sometimes carry with them. Fortunately, most of those who go missing in LA, don’t end up like the young woman in the opening scene of my book.
Architecture and the history of LA also played a big part of my research. I felt like I’d hit gold when I learned about LA’s secret tunnels. During the age of Prohibition, some of the speakeasies inside the old hotels had secret passages leading to escape tunnels deep beneath the city. If only those buildings could talk.
In addition to the tunnels I found there were changes in LA’s skyline as well. In 2014 the LA City Council abandoned their long standing rule that allowed for flat top buildings with helipad access, and ruled to allow spires on top of the city’s sky scrapers. This was perfect for my antagonist whose use of helipads was essential to my plot line.
Q: Your bio states that much of what you write “is pulled from events that were reported on from inside some of Los Angeles’ busiest newsrooms.” Were there any real-life cases similar to the one at the center of Beyond a Doubt?
A: I worked in Hollywood for most of my career. At one point I used to have to walk by a Children of the Night Rescue Center. At the time, I was single mom, like my character, and wondered how it was young kids, not much older than my own children ended up on the street. I suppose in some ways that never left me and was on subliminal level at work while this story developed.
Q: In particular, did you ever cover a case where the bad guy was, as one book review describes your antagonist, “everyone’s good guy?”
A: Don’t we see that every day in the media? Someone falls from glory and its front page news. In California, OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger are just a few of high profile personalities whose actions stunned us and became headline news.
On a personal note, I was once doing a story about the Los Angeles River when the woman I was interviewing, introduced herself as one of Heidi Fleiss’ girls. At the time, Heidi Fleiss, aka, The Hollywood Madam, was in the news because of her call girl ring and her little black book, with the names of some of Hollywood’s rich and famous. I thought it interesting the girl wanted to share with me more about her life with Heidi than she did about cleaning up the river. It made for an interesting story.
Q: What are the best and worst ways that journalism has changed since you started? Since you retired from it?
A: I worked both sides of the desk. By that I mean I worked both as a reporter and on the business side of radio. I wrote everything from news to commercial copy and retired as General Manager for a sports talk station. When I began, women’s voices were a rarity on the air, particularly in news. The idea was that no one would believe a serious news story coming from a woman. Thankfully, women have come a long way. With regard to the present, I think the biggest change I’ve seen with reporting is the number of bloggers who don’t seem to know the difference between editorializing and balanced reporting. That, and the lack of diversified news outlets, concerns me. These days, everyone is covering the same story. Stories get their fifteen minutes of fame and then the press is off to the next big story. There’s no follow up.
Q: Your website is gorgeous. Can you tell us a little about what went into the design?
A: I wanted to go for a black and white theme. Coming from radio where there are no pictures, I thought it was important to play down the intrusion of color on my website. I’m a big believer in creating theater of the mind, and somehow going with black and white theme seemed to do that.
Q: Writing can be very solitary. How do you balance the need for solitude with the need to get out and be with people?
A: My best writing is done early in the morning and I take frequent breaks. After working for radio I’m used to setting deadlines and working under pressure and I plan for time off exactly like I would have if I were still working at a station. That’s important. However, I do think writers tend to be less social animals and more inclined to hibernate with their thoughts and pages.
Q: Where can readers find you?