A woman's unborn child is the key to a cult leader's sinister plan.
Hollywood has been good to Doug Richardson. The author of the screenplays for Die Hard II, Money Train, and Bad Boys also sold his first novel-- a tale of political intrigue called Dark Horse-- to Twentieth Century Fox for $1.5 million.
Richardson's follow-up effort, True Believers (out from Avon Books in June), is no sophomore slump. Richardson pulls on his background as the son of a California senator to create Senator Will Sullivan and his wife, Gwen, who find themselves in a madman's plot as Gwen carries the maniac's child via an in vitro procedure gone horribly wrong.
Interview by Jeffrey Marks
MysteryNet: Can you tell us a little something about your new book, True Believers?
Richardson: True Believers is the story of an imprisoned cult messiah who's hell-bent on fathering a child before his date with an executioner. The objects of his obsession are a Washington power couple who have been pushing the envelope of science in order to conceive. Worlds clash. Cults meet politics.
MysteryNet: Your background helped with the creation of this book. Can you tell us about the similarities? Why did you select this type of couple (rich, powerful) as the recipients of the villain's attentions?
Richardson: I grew up in politics, but work in the movies. And movies are best when they examine a big "what if?" From that, a tale is born. With this particular story, I wanted to take a husband and wife who appear to have everything. Money, power, status. All that is missing is a child. How far would they be willing to go in order to serve this final ambition? And what would happen if this couple became the focus of an evil obsession? Their perfect universe crumbles. I wanted to strip them of their veneer and see if they can survive, overcome, and change.
MysteryNet: With all the emphasis on cults as the Millenium approaches, did that fuel your interest in the maniacal cult leader in True Believers?
Richardson: Not really. I've been fascinated by cultism ever since reading Helter Skelter many years ago. My character of Vance Allatore is loosely patterned on Vince Bugliosi, the famed Manson prosecutor.
MysteryNet: The cult leader reminded me slightly of Charles Manson-- at least that's the visual I get in my mind. Did you have to do much research on cults for the book? Did you have to do much research on fertilization and conception techniques?
Richardson: Like I said before, I've been reading up on cults for quite awhile now. So there wasn't much research required. When it comes to the issue of infertility, yes. I did some research. The rest came from interviews with friends of mine who've suffered through infertility and adoption issues over the past years. This has resulted in my current editing of Barbara Nuddle's forthcoming nonfiction tome chronicling her own adventures in infertility.
MysteryNet: Your first novel, Dark Horse, was purchased by 20th Century Fox. Has there been interest in True Believers?
Richardson: Very much so. It is currently under option to Mutual Film producers Mark Gordon and Gary Levinsohn, who produced Saving Private Ryan and Speed, among others.
MysteryNet: You've also written a number of successful screenplays for Hollywood. How do you compare novel writing to screenplays? Which is more satisfying to you?
Richardson: They are very different disciplines and are yet very much alike, each satisfying in their own ways. They are the same in that the require a daily commitment to spend time alone with your thoughts, fantasies, and a word processor. I get up every day and write, be it a movie or a novel or a magazine article. The disciplines differ in that one is about telling a story with merely prose and wit, where the other is storytelling via images, characters, and dialogue. Screenplays are constricted and confined by page length, budget, genre and the like. And after my first draft, a screenplay is up for interpretation by producers, studio executives, directors, actors, etc... It's a collaborative medium. Books, on the other hand, are literally carved in stone. They are the author's undiluted, unexpergated, unmitigated, and un-negotiated vision.
MysteryNet: Will you continue to write screenplays?
Richardson: I'm currently writing and developing movies at Paramount, Disney, and Dreamworks. So the answer is yes.
MysteryNet: What's next for you in terms of your writing?
Richardson: More movies, more books, and the occasional magazine assignment that promises fine cigars and exotic locales.
Jeffrey Marks, of Cincinnati, Ohio, is the editor of Canine Crimes, the author of numerous mystery short stories and a lifelong fan of crime fiction.
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