How to Write & Sell True Crime
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He worried about the quality of his writing, but felt confident that at least he had an amazing story. Reback died in Fuck him. You come off as a complete sociopath. He began writing scenes of his early life, trying to understand himself better. He spent a long time thinking about his father. He was also an alcoholic who spent lavishly to establish himself as a big shot. Because of his learning disability, Cox believes, his parents never expected him to graduate from high school.
Once, when he called his mother from Coleman, he mentioned that he was a GED tutor for other prisoners. Sometimes, Cox would find himself crying as he wrote. But his story started to make a little more sense. The low-security prison held mostly nonviolent offenders; in the mess hall, you could spot white-collar criminals, drug traffickers, and money launderers.
There was a pill-mill doctor and a cartel boss. There was Efraim Diveroli, whose story of transforming from a pot-smoking high-school dropout into an international arms dealer had been written about in Rolling Stone and was being made into a movie, War Dogs , starring Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill.
What Authors Need To Know About True Crime
The self-published book, Once a Gun Runner , has been the subject of protracted legal battles among all three men, with Cox suing Diveroli and Reback, Reback and Diveroli suing Cox, and all of them suing Warner Bros. The cases against Warner Bros. For Cox, writing was a way to reinvent himself.
If Reback could sell one of his books, Cox would be able to describe himself as something other than a convicted felon. The more self-aggrandizing inmates, the ones who imagined themselves as the inspiration for a big-budget thriller, saw talking to Cox as an opportunity to get their story out there. Others wanted to expose what they saw as corruption on the part of the Drug Enforcement Administration or the attorney general or a shady business partner. Recounting their stories to an engaged listener disrupted the monotony of prison existence; they also got the satisfaction of having the muddle of their lives streamlined into a page-turner.
Soon, Cox had a waiting list with more than a dozen names on it. There were jailhouse lawyers and jailhouse personal chefs; he was the jailhouse true-crime writer. Sure, he could work with that. The prison lawyer who accidentally uncovered a botched cartel assassination? That was a story he wanted to tell. Cox expected his subjects to meet with him several times a week for interviews; he estimates that he spent at least hours talking with each person he wrote about. He had the time, after all. Partly for that reason, and partly because he was squeamish about violence, he avoided writing about murderers.
At some point in the interview process, Cox would feel a mounting sense of excitement as the narrative arc cohered. Usually you can pinpoint something, some catalyst.
You start to listen for it. Like the thing with my father. Up until I started really paying attention, I never saw it like that, but everyone else in my life did. He relied on official files he procured via the Freedom of Information Act, which allows anyone to request nonclassified government documents.
See a Problem?
He sent away for indictments, police reports, court transcripts, and interview memorandums. His research has helped at least one prisoner petition to get his conviction overturned, after FOIA documents bolstered an argument that the prosecution had withheld key evidence at his trial. Being a writer in prison presented plenty of obstacles.
Cox could conduct phone interviews only in the minute increments the prison system allowed, and then only if the person accepted his collect call. Cox sent her one chapter at a time to type up, and Rausini found herself impatient to know what happened next. He sold one book to a traditional publisher. And this feeding frenzy means that some writers are getting hefty option fees for stories, particularly those centering on some sort of heist or caper or scam or scheme.
Find, Develop, and Write a Gripping CRIME Script
Cox attempted to do the same thing, albeit as a media outsider. He asked his subjects to sign contracts granting him their life rights and 50 percent of the proceeds of any future film or television adaptation. He knew his credibility was questionable, so he provided stacks of documentation. This is what Cox was up to when he contacted me about the currency-trading scam last year. There was an element of hustling to the work, to be sure.
But Cox says it also began to shift his understanding of himself. He began making a conscious effort to listen more carefully, to focus on other people. Vitale had defrauded investors, promising them impossible returns and spending their money on strip clubs and sports cars. It involved his friend and associate Frank Nuzzo, who had died of an apparent overdose in October It seemed that the barber and Vitale had acquaintances in common, and—more alarming—that the barber might have been present when Nuzzo died. You should go check up on Vitale , he said.
Cox found Vitale sobbing in his cell. Cox wrote it all down. Cox ended his story about Vitale on a hopeful note, implying that the information Vitale had given to the authorities might be a turning point in the case. Cox got almost 12 years knocked off his sentence, and was released to a halfway house earlier this year, after having spent more than a decade in custody.
This winter, I met Cox for the first time at a gym whose owner, an old friend of his, had hired him to put his art-school training to use by painting murals. We talked in front of a half-finished, wall-size painting of two buff gorillas snarling at each other, a pile of barbells at their feet.
A look inside true crime writing
Cox is a short but densely muscled man with bright-white teeth and a nervous, eager-to-please air. Now that he was out of prison, Cox told me, he hoped the traits he had relied on while committing mortgage fraud—a gift for storytelling, careful attention to documents, a patient ability to untangle complex systems, and a familiarity with the underworld—would serve him well in his writing career. We both were participants in the true-crime economy, and we each had our own reasons for hoping this story would be successful. Cox has an instinct for finding frothy sectors; he may have found another one.
True crime makes the world coherent by reducing chaos to a neat story line with a clearly defined culprit. Some true-crime podcasts have tens of millions of listeners; the true-crime cable channel Investigation Discovery drew more viewers than CNN did last year.
Cox was anxious to know how I would portray him, but he also realized that subjects have only so much control over how a writer handles the material of their life. I made a lot of mistakes. It was an awkward conversation, and I left Florida still not sure what to make of Cox. Afterward, I called his former co-worker and accomplice. She was cautiously optimistic. I guess only time will show us. While he was at Coleman, this role gave him a sense of purpose, not to mention the prestige he craves.
These days, Cox spends a lot of time thinking about Frank Abagnale, the con man who, after serving five years for his various crimes, became a fraud adviser to the FBI. It seemed like an ideal outcome: respect and riches earned on the right side of the law. This is the arc Cox would write for himself, if he were the one in charge. From an early age, she was fascinated by crime—not the how , but the why. Following her passions over the years, she took any ridealong with law enforcement she could get.
And along the way, she began writing, collected innumerable rejections, and penned pieces for true detective magazines, which she realized could pay the bills. Back then, not even her children slowed her down.
- Character Worksheets.
- The 10 Best True Crime Books?
- Breaking Into True Crime: Ann Rule’s 9 Tips for Studying Courtroom Trials?
- At a Glance;
- At a Glance.
- Trauma: From Lockerbie to 7/7: How trauma affects our minds and how we fight back.
- About Vikki Petraitis;
New help developing new story ideas? Three great resources, one low price. Order now from our shop. Her brother had committed suicide, so she decided to volunteer at the crisis clinic in Seattle. The clinic paired volunteers with work-study students. If you want to be a true crime writer, Rule said the best thing you can be is immensely curious.
And, you should go to trials—something anyone can do. Hope to hear from you soon. Anna, thanks.
Wallpaper aja. Hello good day, i will like to meet you in person, am miss Anna, am from France and am leaving in London, please contact me on my email id at annh1brown hotmail. Love her books and I have read all of them.