Monday, September 24, 2012

Evil Town (Book Review) by J. David Bethel

“Ripped straight from the headlines”

I don't know if I can truthfully refer to J. David Bethel as a Louisiana author, but he did attend Tulane University in New Orleans. So...on my blog, that makes him a Louisiana author! Today - by way of Miami, I would like to introduce you to another Louisiana author, J. David Bethel.

Evil TownThe wife of popular Florida Congressman (and prospective Senatorial candidate) Clegg Caffery is murdered. FBI Special Agent Matt Thurston begins an investigation that leads him from the Pentagon to the small town of Clewiston, Florida in search of a photographer responsible for the photo found in the murdered woman's hand. He arrives too late. The man has committed suicide. Although Thurston uncovers a strange and suspicious story about the dead photographer that he believes is worthy of continued investigation, he is abruptly steered away from the case by his superiors.

Angered by this turn of events, Thurston enlists the assistance of two reporters. With their involvement, he begins to peel away layers of lies and deceit hiding the truth about the murder. Along the way, Thurston slowly unravels a complex weave of story lines that includes a sex for hire plot involving the President's wife; an attempt by computer magnate Norman Bremen to subvert the workings of Congress to ensure the survival of his sugar interests in Florida; and the revelation of a cover-up of a war crime in Vietnam that threatens the Presidency.

Although Evil Town is a work of fiction, it is based on historical and current events. The Vietnam element of the plot delves into the massacre of Vietnamese villagers at Co Luy. This occurred on the same day as the My Lai killings and happened as described in the novel. The military and political cover-up of the incident detailed in Evil Town is an interpretation of actual events that relegated Co Luy to the back pages of history.

The description of the political maneuvering related to the restoration of the Everglades, and to the "sugar wars" in Florida, is a dramatization of the intrigue currently being played out by power brokers, the media and Congress on this issue.

While it should come as no surprise that the drug war can be managed and waged for political purposes – a subplot in Evil Town – it is the subtleties of international politics that often allow this to happen. The novel provides insight on how this is possible.

Through it all, Matt Thurston and his allies match wits with the most powerful in Washington putting themselves in harm's way. Truth, honor and justice are slippery concepts in this story of politics and fragile human relationships.

John David Bethel
J. David Bethel is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He has been published in popular consumer magazines and respected political journals. 

Mr. Bethel spent 35 years in politics and government. He served in the Senior Executive Service as a political appointee, during which time 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 the U.S. Congress. Bethel authored the speech delivered by Senator Paul Laxalt (R-Nevada) nominating then-Governor Ronald Reagan as the GOP candidate for President.

Mr. Bethel works as a media consultant for a number of prominent communications management firms, including Burson Marsteller and Gibraltar Associates. He writes speeches, opinion editorials and Congressional testimony for CEOs from 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.

He is the author of Evil Town, a novel of political intrigue that is receiving praise from a number of Washington opinion leaders:

What is being said about Evil Town:
Most novels about Washington frustrate those of us who live and work in the Capital City. Not so with David Bethel's novel. He knows Washington. He knows politics and the personalities. To anyone curious about what really happens behind the scenes in our nation's Capital, this is a MUST READ. Bethel brings us a beautifully written inside Washington page-turner. A true joy to read.
Michelle Laxalt
Contributor, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN
Former Director of Legislation, U.S. Agency for International Development
Former Senior Legislative Liaison Officer, U.S. Department of State

Having worked on Capitol Hill and in the Executive Branch, this book rings very true. This book provides a gripping insider's take and should be on the must read list for anyone who wants to understand the real Washington.
W. Bruce Weinrod
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
Former Legislative Director, Office of U.S. Senator John Heinz

Evil Town plunges you into the netherworld of Washington, and you don't want to come up for air.
Richard G. Moore
Former Enforcement Attorney, U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Bethel is a master storyteller. Evil Town intelligently captures the "realities" of D.C. in a fast paced thriller that you won't be able to put down.
Katharine Uhre
Former Senior Advisor, U.S. Department of State

If you thought nothing new could be written about Washington, DC, Evil Town proves you wrong. Well-written with insight into the Capital City makes it hard to put down.
MJ Pizzella
Former Associate Administrator, US General Services Administration
Former Director of Communications, US Department of Energy

David Bethel's "EVIL TOWN" is a page turner you will enjoy whether you are a Washington "insider" or just someone that enjoys a great story. His characters come to life as you wind through this story of intrigue, passion, betrayal and just
 plain egos too big to fit into the majestic high ceiling rooms of the Nation's Capitol. For those of us that 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 played with your life and income by thousands of faceless bureaucrats and unscrupulous politicians whose only goal in life is re-election. "EVIL TOWN" great title and a superb read.

Jim Ross Lightfoot
1985 - 1997

Guest Post

Keith Richards, the mumbling singer/songwriter/guitarist with the Rolling Stones, who along with Mick Jagger, has written some of the most memorable music in rock and roll history, once said he begins with a “riff” – or refrain – and builds his songs around a simple riff.  Anyone who has ever heard “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, no doubt understands what he means.

That’s how I write.

I never approach the computer intending to write a novel.  I have a “riff,” or slip of a story in mind, and I spill that onto the page.  In the case of Evil Town, for years I had this image in my mind of a congressman coming home to find his wife dead.  Murdered.  I don’t know why this haunted me, or where it came from, other than I had worked on Capitol Hill among 535 members of congress. It must have just occurred to me one day that all hell would break loose if the wife of one of the members was killed.  There was no other reason for this bud of a story to be itching to be told.

After I had about three or four pages of the story, I went to motive for the murder because that was the most logical path to follow.  From there, the characters took shape and the story – to be really trite – “told itself.”

From the story as a riff, I go to the novel as “method writing.”  From what little I know of acting, I’m given to understand that method actors create their portrayals by getting inside the head of their characters.

Once there is a rhyme and reason for the story, I use the way the actions play on my characters to take me from one page to the next.  I essentially get into each character’s head and create the events of the story by following their reactions. Method writing. 

I close myself in a dark room, away from any stimulation, and channel the various characters in my novel.  My wife tells me that I “zone out” and stay that way for hours after I’ve shut down for the day and emerge from my cage.

And there you have it.  How this writer gets from the first to the last word in a novel.  Start with a riff, go into “zone out” mode and let it flow.      

Fact Echoes Fiction
Evil Town Continues to Reflect Ongoing Battle to Save the Everglades -- See the Following Newspaper Articles: 

Reservoir for Everglades restoration to get pumps to clear out... 
Water managers approved a contract Thursday for $64 million to install six massive pumps in the controversial L-8 Reservoir — a move that will finally 

My Review
          “Ripped straight from the headlines” would be my choice of a title for Evil Town. This book grabbed my attention from the first page and kept it until the very last word. There is no putting this book down. You will eat, sleep, and breathe this book until you finish it.
          I, like every other American, have a fascination with our nation’s capital and our politicians. Having traveled to Washington, D.C. several times, I was able to picture where people were and what they were seeing just from his descriptions in the book. It was also interesting to read a book written by an “insider” who spent countless years in Washington.
          Evil Town had me riveted to my seat as though I were watching real life (or what I assume – present tense) as I imagine it happening in our nation’s capital. Someone said that “Washington DC is a beacon for freedom and justice in an unjust world” and that is what we want to believe, but is it true? We see decisions made in our nation’s capital and we wonder what could possibly be behind some of the decisions that literally make no sense to us.

          I think David advertently answered some of those questions in his book. I refer to it as “Ripped from the headlines” because it reeks of truth. Is this truly how decisions are being made and played out in Washington? When we look at the corruption in government today and the money that is being wasted, one can only assume that it is possible that this book could mimic real life. Stranger things have definitely happened.
          I am sure that politicians, at one time, did go to Washington to fight for the rights of their constituents, but one only has to turn on the television to hear and see that elusion blown away. Our world has turned into an “all about me” society and Washington is its stage.
          What would happen if a Senator’s wife were murdered for the advancement of someone’s greed? Would a cover-up ensue as in the book? The trail is a long and complicated one, much like life; and there is no such thing as a secret anymore. If you love suspense, and our government fascinates you, then you will be totally enamored by this book. It has a deeply thought out plot that comes alive, and a list of characters that will have your head spinning.
          I don’t know what J. David Bethel has in store for us next, but, I, for one, cannot wait to see.

I hope you will come back and visit tomorrow. I will be posting the dialogue from a radio interview with J. David Bethel. It is very interesting and I know you'll enjoy it every bit as much as I did!

If you considered my review helpful, I hope that you will click on the link to Amazon and vote for it. Thanks!!

The author has graciously provided an e-book for a give away. To be entered, just leave a comment with your name and email for contact purposes only.

Evil Town is available in e-book format from Amazon

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