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tv   Author Discussion on True American Crime Stories  CSPAN  April 17, 2020 6:23am-7:24am EDT

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>> thank you for coming. true crime across america. i'm a graduate dean at the university and is happy to be here. we have about 45 minutes for this session and then will leave about 15 for q and a. the sponsors for our panel. are stay with us? [applause] i'm happy to introduce our moderator for this session. he's not only an attorney -- i'm sorry. i skipped over this. he's over there. moderator is an associate professor at the university of mississippi and he's also at the
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southern journal and positive. >> thank you all for coming. we appreciate the presence of our guests on the panel here at the book festival. it's getting big and better every year. i will introduce briefly our guests and will carry on a discussion and i hope you all have some questions for the panel towards the end. best-selling author of several books. her newest book is amazon's best book. maybe some of you read this, it captures the bill of that age and its gangsters. they also call her book a well
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researched and highly engaging work filled with intriguing infidelity, murder and headline catching courtroom drama. glad to have you with us. casey is author of curious hours, which recent reviews in the commercial described as her ravishing debut. casey lives in the eastern shore of maryland. she is a graduate of harvard and one in advanced degree in theology. she's already winning all sorts of commercial appeal.
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the pacing of a thriller, serious hours reveals full possession of her gilts. then we have those of us were old enough to remember the tv show, the untouchables. [laughter] some of us remember that and more recently the film. he worked as co-author with max of scarface. another era, it features a couple of familiar characters for those of us old enough to remember that. it's one of my favorite cities in chicago. no class of authority then. they call the book of gripping
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take on chicago's past. it reads like a novel. this is his first book. >> thank you. >> to set the stage for our discussion, i asked each of them to give a summary of what the book is about and what attracted them to the subject. >> i'll answer the second part of your question and answering your first, i grew up not quite so much on the tv series but first loving tracy and finding my way to kevin costner. initially because it was
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reminding me of the comic strip i loved as a kid. it is based on the true story or at least it was supposed to be. the familiarity geographically make me want to know more about the story of elliott so i was a rare kid who would go to the library and try to read as much as i could. it's something that interested me. and all of the books about al capone, a quickly presented me with this contradiction, i would seek on film presenting this great story with ellie is a hero and i would read nonfiction and it presented me with a different perspective. it had nothing to do with al capone but i also discovered that a writers whose fiction i already knew had written tracy
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but also some books about elliott and his career in a different image, closer to the hero that i knew from hollywood. they have a short afterward at the end talking about his research. how surprised he was to go to where elliott's papers were kept in cleveland and would look at newspaper articles and discovered what was discounted about his career, specifically with regards to al capone. i loved his work and i got to know him, i was studying history at the university of michigan. eventually, we were complaining so often about how the story was misrepresented by hollywood and a lot of poorly founded accounts
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and eventually i said to max, we've got to stop complaining about this and do something about it. you are a master novelist, so we can write the nonfiction book that reads like a novel and do the story right. so that's the story. >> if anybody has watched the tv series, boardwalk empire, there was a character named george, he was incredibly odd and cuckoo and he spoke of himself in the third person. nobody quite knew what to make of him, he stole everything he was in. he was a real person and the real george also spoke to himself as the third person. so many people wanted to kill remus.
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i'll give you my elevator pitch, he ended up becoming the most successful bootlegger in american history, he was also an inspiration. his wife imaging with whom he throw parties, ended up falling in love with an agent who put him in jail. this is all true. so that started a very big triangle. in my book, he's one of the good guys. [laughter] i want to say thank you to curtis, he did me the favor of not reading my sub title and the truth is, i was reluctant, first two of the nouns. i grew up loving mockingbird,
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probably like a lot of you. i was always interested in that, went down in 2015 to write a story about a watchman. when i was reporting on that, i learned about this other book she tried to write. it was a true crime project. a series of murders in a small town in alabama. >> thank you. correct me if i'm wrong but i don't think there's any simple character in any of your books that is still living. did anybody encounter any personal observation or talk to any of these characters?
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>> he was alive for the first year i was working on the book but for those of you who read it, i don't want to get bogged down on any one of the plots but the alleged murder was gunned down by a vigilante at the funeral of his last victim. that is still very much alive. i interviewed him for the book and i think i maybe had the advantage where i feel like my story is contemporary compared to them. i was able to interview a lot of people who knew my central characters and other family members and a lot of folks in this town remember meeting harpreet because she worked on the book in the 70s and 80s. >> i want to ask how you were able to develop the characters, defined their personalities, not really knowing them.
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>> i did speak with family members. he was an employer in cincinna cincinnati. he owned 35% of all the liquor in the u.s. he had about a 40 million dollar porch, it's not a inflation. i talked about the people who worked with him, they had stories and artifacts so i talked with them. the biggest piece was a 5500 page transcript at the library, which was invaluable. it gave incredible detail about his life, various people who knew him. bizarre works, one of my favorites was that george did not wear underwear. [laughter] was apparently a cause for great alarm at that time. is the sign of an unfound mind.
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just little things that by talking to relatives, but that wasn't the part of my research i would say. >> my co-author and i began with the understanding that these are mythic characters portrayed in television series and we wanted to make them live and breathe as much as possible. both of them, especially him but especially al capone were very different. it came down to incorporating their voices as much as possible. neither lefty compromise, maybe we can talk about heroes, short
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and spare 21 page account of the component investigation. as much as possible, we tried to go back to that. fortunately the two of them gave a lot of interviews and you can pull their voices from that as much as possible. because these two men died, they were both surprisingly young. the age of 26, and elliott is 27 and he's put in charge of the untouchables. they died very young. capone and 47. they spoke to a couple people who did that near the tail end of his life. ...
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>> it's a great question and i'm sure there's some writers in the room, and if there aren't, i'm sure everybody has tried to launch about something the never met. a grandmother, great-grandfather, the patriarch of the town where you were been and raise expelled there's interesting methods for doing it. court transcripts, there's almost always employs reports or investigative record or trial transcripts so you get a sense of the person's voice, but then you just go rooting around like a pig for truffles, liking for any mention of the person in newspapers or magazines or any kind of contemporary coverage,
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and for all three of us we talk before hand, being clear about our methods, was as important to us as the final product so for all of us you can go and look and it's a pretty serious bib logograph and a note situation so you can see exactly how we put at the portraits together and who talked to and what documents we relied on. >> each of you have again wayon the kind of journalistic approach of just the facts, ma'am, and have developed a really very colorful stories with strong character development, and i wanted to read a short passage from casey book that touches on a technique that truman capote likes to think he invented. casey referred to him, he thought he was the sort of marco polo of new journalism, and invented the first nonfiction novel, but this is what i think
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for purposes of our discussion, it's a good line that capote barriod the strategies of fiction writers in his nonfiction. rendering settings that were more than just datelines, crafting characters who are more than just quotations and physical descriptions, and identifying win his reporting or imposing on it, moods and themes that made a story more than the sum of its parts, and certainly there is more of a -- you call it new journalism and magazine writing or the nonfiction books we read that they are more colorful and people tend to put themselves in the head-of-the characters and so and so may
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have thought such a thing if want to ask each of you hutch of our own imagination dare youy in crafting your story? casey, why don't i start with you. >> i was hoping could carve an answer from what these two. wear ucreatures with minds mindd imaginations and you spend time thinking but someone you start to imagine things if think you have to be very careful when you writing a nonfiction book and want to very clear about the sourcing and where things come from, and if you do speculate, just want to flag that for readers but it's an interesting thing. we're gathered around this genre of true crime and it has different standards from other nonfiction genres, and it's been co-opted by podcasts and documentaries in a way that the boundaries are even more pourous between what is true and what is not and what is speculation and what is fact. i guess i'm probably on the conservative side of things, and i took my cue from harper lee,
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because part of the book it bowers relationship to the genre of true crime and she helped capote report "in cold blood" and she learned but the source dispel decisions he made so there's a her feelings but the genre and her thoughts and objections to some places it being goes in the 770s and '80s. >> exactly what casey said. also, i was dealing a lot with the trial transcript, and the whole nature of trial is that somebody is lying. if not one person, several people are lying think whole nature of the said/she said. was very controversial -- i do what people say and what they lie about and at that time they omit is just as telling to them as a character and to the story itself what they say that is truthful. i like to flag it and just say
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this is what the person contended or what this person claimed. and i like to trust that the reader has some emotional intelligence to decide who is lying and i don't have to spell it out for you and sort of the end sort of act like a prosecutor and lay out the case of what i think happened while leaving it a little open to interpretation. so, that people can have a little intellectual play with the book on their own -- with their open psyche and their own prejudices everybody brings to reading. >> this is one place in my case where i don't -- i didn't need the devil on my shoulder pulling me in that direction because i was work with a novelist who -- this would be the one sort -- one of the things that made the collaboration interesting and hopefully makes the book a little unusual. wasn't a dispute often timed but a tug of war between well we can say that, can't say that.
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his imagination having written a lot of historical novels would pull him more in that line and i would say, well, this is about as far as i can the can go. we have places where there's speculation and it's necessary speculation and it's sign posted as such. but just to give an example, there's a fame now -- the kevin costner movie but a famous see in the untouchables where al capone kills someone with a baseball bat and that is one of the few things film that is actually -- has a basis in history. had been discounted by a lot of of revisionist historians and we were able to find contemporary evidence in newspapers and true time magazines, that the story had been spread very deliberately by the capone mob as way of engendering fare bus capone in other words in this position as much as he wanted to
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he boyfriend the he public he needed to be feared by his employees in order to main his hold on power. so letting people know if you try to cross him, you would end up beaten with a baseball bat is one way to do that. so that's an instance where we have the -- in the book we have the discovery of the bodies and then we say the story started going out on the gangland grape vine and we till it the way it came down to us and can be pretty confident something like it happened, but that's an instance where you're dealing with people who aren't going to leave a record of multiple homicides so you're sort of left with the stories they told but themes. >> i'm going read you your account of that scene where de niro goes crazy in the movie but this is from your book. a body guard handed capone a baseball bat, which he gripped in hands as powerful as babe ruth's. while the stunned conspirators
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still seated were held at gunpoint, the boss began crushing his skull, red streamed down the man's face like a cracked egg, the screams of the two brave gunman awaiting the turns were cut off one at a time by similar blows. capote worked him over for a while, then none of the men dead, each clinging to consciousness, they were turned over to the waiting clutch of bodyguard its 0 blasted away, and then there's a line so goes the story, with variations but chilling similarities. aren't you pulling your punch a little bit? >> well, again, this is an instance where we're very mindful that we're dealing with an account -- characters of a story that has been soing myologyize that sometimes people
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are to quick to discount the myths. i think there's a great basis of fact behind it in this case but at the same time, as as we talk but earlier issue did have to convince my co-author the book needed 150 pages of support note he would say can't we write a essay and call it's day and i said no people need to see how well-founded this is so you can go back to the book and see the newspaper articles and true crime accounts. when you're dieted a history that dated to the '70s, having an image from true crime magazine from 1932, illustration of capone taking a baseball bat to these guys puts the lie to that quite strongly. >> you added credibility to the story by suggesting maybe it didn't happen exactly this way. you mentioned end notes. we talk but this before we went
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on. apparently new phenomenon with so much of nonfiction. all three of these books are chock-full of end notes, probably 30-40 pages, maybe more, the back of the book. if you wonder where they get that you can look in the back of the back, it's not in the academic footnotes that clutter academic writing but it's there for you, and up until maybe 25 years ago, you really didn't have that requirement, and i think it's a good one, and i congratulate all three of these writers. it is very extensive footnotes in it. you have an author's note where you assure the reader that there are, quote, no invented dialogue in the bork and you provide a lot of attribution to your end
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notes so i thought i'd test it. >> oh, no. >> well, bear with me. this is the beginning of a chapter and it's the way writers try to develop a scene and asset scene. it begins, on the morning of november 29, 1922, preparing for an appearance been the united states supreme court, wily brant -- the assistant attorney general -- has a cameo role in your book, too -- she stood at her closet and condition template it what to -- contemplated what to wear. i she had her way she wouldn't spend more than a moment thinking about fashion but from her first day on the job, the press focused on the cut of her dress, the style of her hair, the height of her heels, it's. said, come on, you obviously are making this up and damned if i don't look in the end notes and you got it from her own diorite library of congress.
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so, it's a good example of how these people have gone out of their way to assure that there is credibility in what you're writing about. >> if could just say one thing if the danger is only to tell stories that are so roughly documented and obviously only certain people of certain meanedsed a access or -- had access to keep a diary and certain community stories were prioritized over others so i think the kind of attention to detail in the scrupulousness with which we all operate is important but equally important are those silents where the historical record may never give you enough to make a character and don't want to erase the people from the story, too. so i just want to make it sound like it's a gym of you can only make characters from this people who left a robust record behind, because there are real injustices in history and it's why often academics, aside from
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their own beeasesases are are bd by what remains of the historical past. >> academic historians put apart shelbyfoot. shell by foote and they cite a dramatic scene involving robert e. lee in the battle of gettysburg, and the mississippi unit as decimated and had lee cantorring around on his horse like -- beating his chest and saying, my fault, my fault, all my fault, my men are lost. and the historians insist there's in other reference of that anywhere, and charged to put with making it up. and then we talked briefly about
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this. we were talking about another book that hadn't occurred to me but that's midnight in the garden of good and evil, which was wonderful book but came in for a lot of criticism because -- >> not really nonfiction. >> it's strong suspicion a lot of it is made up. it's interesting -- >> he massaged the time frame, too. so that was the big criticism. >> yeah. >> in our case, i referenced earlier that ness had a ghost-writer write an autobiography and became the basis of the tv show and the film and that's a book the -- be published vs. of the book "the unup toables" that came out after ness died in set 57 has been dismissed in a lot of the nonfiction write bought al capone and elliott ness and we set out to subject this to sort of scrutiny and try to verify
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because doesn't have footnotes, has a lot of invented dialogue and -- he can't know what people were wearing on a particular day necessarily. but if you take the incidents at are described in the become piecemeal their chronology is all messed up but take the incident described and compare them to the scrapbooks ness kept and to other sources we were able to find, i was shocked, frankly, however of it checked out and how much of it we were able to talk about in our own book to put in the proper chronological order and with the additional context because we didn't use anything from that book we can't independently verify but we independently verified at least three-quarters of the stuff described in it. >> individual question for each of you about your book. casey, without giving away anything in your book, could you tell us what your best guess on
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why harper lee never got around to writing that book? >> i love it when someone cuts to chase. i spend hundreds of pages avoiding the question and book talks all the time. so, my book has a come of mysteries and some are in the true crime section about methods and why cases unfolded the way they did and that sort of thing, and the stories that were told about the alleged murder at the time but the big mid-about the section of harper lee what helped to her own attempt to right about the case. some people who knee her say she finished it. and chose not to publish it and there's difference between what a writer might do for herself and what she might do for the reading public. so i want to honor these people who are real and knew her and her family and other people point to difficulties she faced in general when she was writing and in particular when it came to this case, and we're a panel
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full of writers and some of them are familiar and some of them are just things that other writers struggle with. harper lee has a drinking problem, suffered from depression, was real perfection gist and experienced writers block after mockingbird this project energized her and if you know anything but her work with capote in kansas, she was really the key to that community and she had gone to this small town and gotten people to tell their stories and the same thing in the small town in alabama so she was energized and moved by the reporting but struggled with the writing. you can have all the fun the world reporting and gathering information and learning about a story but -- i'm sure the three of us did but you have to sit down to write it at some point and that's harper lee's troubles started. i you're interested in crew true crime here experience with the case would we interesting because you get to see the kinds of decisions we make all the time, who is a hero, who is a
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villain, how do we represent dialogue, what is a reliable source, how die handed handel the complexity of a story i thought what murder but is actually insurance fraud. wish there were one thing but if there had been, probably some would have figured out a way through it. instead it's a lot of different things that made it hard for her to write in general and specifically this book. >> i can address this to eher brad or aabout and i'll get you-abbott and i'll get you next. in miss business we're familiar with prohibit base. -- prohibition. took us until 1966 -- >> just about to work, too. >> -- in the rest over untri -- huh? >> just when it started to work you got rid of it. >> so anyway, both of your books were about prohibition, was there anything -- you're about
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both about the criminal aspect of prohibition, would there is anything beneficial to this country about prohibition? >> anything beneficial if just wanted to say i don't think my book is about prohibition. it's sort of the backdrop -- >> but the king of the bootleggers. >> i understands the factor contributing to prohibition, the christian temperate downtown has reasons for not wanting their husbands to drink and stopping domestic violence, lost paychecks, unstable communities, and i can certainly understand that but as we all know, time and time again history teaches us you cannot legislate vice. it just doesn't work. and i get we just spent over a decade figuring that out with prohibition. the grand experiment that failed. but so george reamus was brilliant because he knew prohibition would be a failure
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as did anybody who got into bootlegging but was able to exploit a loophole that was heir particular experience and made him so successful. a brown as a pharmacist and a lawyer, and he read the act and found the loophole that with a physicians preprescription you can boy, manufacture:for met dissan purposes. of course nobody wag uses alcohol for medicinal services and he took full advantage of this and the country loved him for it. >> we always had our ways in miss this to -- >> there was actually -- one of my favorite things i do a slide show and there's a thing called cow shoes that bootlegs in rural areas who did moonshining in forests and meadows would wear these cow shoe and they were basically heels were made from wood carved to look like animal hoofs, and so they would cover their tracks if prohibition
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agent were trailing them how to a meadow they'd look for somebody's footprints and just see a bunch of hooves, and i kind of wish they'd come back in style. i'd like a pair. but people were -- the opinion is people were going find a way. people always going to find a way. >> fred, you talked about it briefly. your co-author and it's an odd couple with a novelty and historian. how did it work to -- for the two of you to put together this very hoe he'ssive book? >> -- cohesive book. >> it's a difficult thing to describe to somebody who hasn't co-wherein a book. people want a clear dividing you wrote this or that. when collaboration works to close to those equal 5, pairing
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brings something to the book. generally as a way of boiling it down i was responsible for writing the first draft and law enforcement more generally, he was responsible for having to do with out capone, the banks decide of things. we started to do alternating chapters but it gets messy in a good way. we felt that would be too distracting so it would naturally come together but after having written those parts we put the manuscript together and traded it back and forth to the point it did become one voice. it was difficult for me to look at a particular page, both of our fingerprints are all over it. not just in terms of differing
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approaches but i won't say how many but what made it work, the odd nature of that made it work. coming at it as a novelist, we have the same vision. we both knew what we wanted to read as what we wanted it to say so if he trusted me on the history aspect and i trusted him on the storytelling aspects, that push and pull gives the book energy that is unusual. >> each of you have wonderful characters in the book, well drawn. just wondering, each of you which character did you most enjoy dealing with?
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casey sep, why don't you start off. >> a kind of fascial way to think about characters, they are all interesting for different reasons and i think in my experience talking about the book people interested in them for different reasons. i think i wrote a book partly about a very famous novelist and famously private one. i was aware of the appetite for information about harper lee's life, for a satisfying emotional account of a writer who meant so much to so many. for that reason i felt most compelled to spend a lot more time with the alleged murder of the book, william axel and his -- i wanted to be democratic and look at their lives and take their story seriously because without them there would be no story to tell and without their stories there would not be a satisfying explanation for why it was so hard for her to write. i am interested in religion and politics. those characters were every bit as interesting to me but i tried to be democratic not only
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in the writing but the research. i will go with all three equally. i refuse to answer the question. >> in panels like this they call it pocketing the tennis ball. i pocketed the tennis ball. >> george rieman was the most bizarre character i ever came across in history and i have come across a few but the person i was most amazed by on different levels was mabel walker will and bram who was a character named ezra randolph, mabel will and brand, when president warren harding assisted her as assistant attorney general in 1921, we mentally had the right to vote for the 9 months, she was 32 years old, five years out of law school and never prosecuted a single case in her career and suddenly was in charge of
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thousands of prohibition cases across the country including against george remus and had a hard upbringing. she had a favorite saying, life has few darlings. her childhood event, her father, she bit a pet cat's either entity to lessen her father bit her ear back and she was inhumanly tough and thick skins and to make matters more difficult she was nearly deaf and had to spend an hour each morning arranging her hair over her hearing aid because she didn't want male colleagues to realize she was working with that deficit in addition to the sexism she faced the we talked about earlier. i love that her bosses at the justice department and in the white house, all members of harding's crooked ohio gang, put the little lady in there, she will be overwhelmed, she's not going to know what she is doing, we continue our cozy
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relationship taking bribes but she took her oath of office in the fall of 1921 and started kicking some butt. i thoroughly enjoyed that part and wished i could have spent more time with her. one of those people i would have liked to hung out with. >> before we start, maybe it is your co-author, capone at times seemed like a very affable, lovable rogue. >> he is. >> was that your intention? or aspect of his personality? >> sure. that is why it is hard to pick which character is most fun to write about because they were so confounding and surprising. capone as you said was extremely charming man and one of the things that was most
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surprising to me about him, i had never seen portrayed, we've seen the up and coming capone in boardwalk empire, the mythic capone in the untouchables and other things but when power is thrust upon somebody as it was with him it reveals character. some are diminished by it, some grow into it, he grows into it. he quickly matures from a street tough into a captain of industry, someone who thinks he ought to be a captain of industry. people often say being born into different circumstances he would have been the president of standard oil. i thought he was a born politician. when he got into prison, spoiler alert, the first thing he does is walk around and shake anybody's hand, if you need anything come to me and i will deal with it. conflict 404-8006. he is always struggling because
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the undisciplined side of him, the brooklyn kid, always straining to burst out and the disease affects his mind it is harder to keep it under control. >> did you have more fun with capone? >> i don't know if i would go that far. my co-author would say so. if i had to pick a favorite, it would be eliot ness because he was surprising in so many ways. he inspired dick tracy and definitely leans into that public image, talking about a guy crashing trucks in capone's breweries but was so interpersonally shy he couldn't ask a stranger on the street for a restaurant recommendation, couldn't think about approaching somebody, a stranger, in that way, somebody
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who turns down if you adjust for inflation what would be $1.5 million a year in bribes and yet lies about his age on his job application to qualify, someone we remember as robert stack as the ultimate two gun pitiless federal agent and yet had some ideas about law enforcement that would be progressive by today's standards. as much as we owe hollywood for remembering even his name the way the films and tv shows have mischaracterized him has skewered what he stood for in life. we find it fascinating we are currently finishing up a sql all about the rest of his life but hopefully we can bring some of what he actually wants to stand for back. >> we have 15 minutes left.
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and if you do and are able, in the center of the room, so everybody can hear the questions, some of you are fleeing the room or coming up right there. >> my name is maggie, looks like an interesting talk. my question is about your own vices. writing all your books you are dealing with larger-than-life, mythological almost people how do you disentangle your own vices about what you thought about them from to begin with from your finished product. do you want to start?
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>> i think the thing with narrative nonfiction when you say narrative nonfiction you mean nonfiction you want to read like a novel, you wanted to be a story. the key thing is details. writers can try to be funny, we have to let the details do that for us. unlike novelists who bring their own voice, not to say they are not styling the voice but all of those sort of emotional connections come through details we unearth in our research and that is important for us and another reason we are searching for truffles. i don't think, you bring a bias but it is covered over with details. i have many unlikable women characters in my books, and i don't care if people are likable. i care if they are interesting. i don't try to cover anybody's work. you lay it out and let people
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decide how to read that person and that is how i refer to it anyway. george remus is an unlikable person, many people rooting for him at the end. >> great question and the truth is i was more attentive to it when it came to the nonfamous character in my book. someone like harper lee, people think they know who she is and they love her and warship her for good reasons, good intentioned reasons but for me one of the tricky things about my book, something very tricky for her too, she was writing about an alleged black serial killer, black on black crime in the 1970s, she was not from that community, didn't know much about it and bias is an important word for any true crime writer, it matters when choosing the kinds of cases you want to bring to the public consciousness. it matters in how you frame
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them. for me one of the big moments was realizing the store that had been told to me is a story about a black man who perpetuate a lot of insurance fraud. it turned out fraud and predation went both ways in the life insurance industry at that time and only recently have they been these multibillion dollar settlements for african american clients who were denied coverage or charged too much water sold substandard policies or even after having paid for a lifetime of coverage were denied it when they needed the burial insurance or life insurance on the other side so it was important for me to move beyond the bias of the way the story was told to me and frame the life insurance industry and that part of the book and i tried over and over with different aspects of the story to do that so it had less to do with the kind of famous character in the book and more to do with systemic issues at work in any kind of crime story. >> i hate to be a broken record but it comes down to the sources. my co-author and i made a conscious decision to go back to the primary sources as much as possible, newspapers, court documents, federal files.
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i travel to something like a dozen states, all the way to wyoming, trying to cast as broad as possible. i was mindful what you are talking about, growing up loving dick tracy on some level want to portray dick tracy and al capone a certain way. but you have to be open to having your mind be changed, to want to be challenged. that is the most important thing about what you find and i will say that the characters that had come through the historical research, the cardboard cutouts we get in popular culture, and their flaws and mistakes often make them interesting. so with eliot ness you have someone who i don't think
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creates the untouchable image necessarily but leans into it and i talk about how it becomes a shield, as later, without getting too far ahead there are places in their where if you are dealing with a public servant, looking back we can see a dangerous blind spot, we need to address that and talk about ways he failed to serve all of the public all of the time and that will be a big part of this new book that i am so excited about. >> thank you very much. >> questions? seeing none, one more, we have one. thank you.
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>> as a journalist i appreciate the research, relying on the factual record. i wonder if any of you, have subject or an incident, there wasn't enough to fully develop that as part of your story. it frustrates you and how do you cope with a lack of a record? >> who wants to try it? >> i feel like i confronted a common occurrence for true crime writers which is history remembers so much more about the perpetrator than the victims. there are a few moments in my book that i am conspicuously telling you what i can't find out about in particular some economically marginal black women in a small town in alabama.
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all i can do beyond i try to talk to people, the journalists who cover those murders at the time. there's a way to call attention to what we don't know and why we don't know it and that is a particularly sharp contrast. i can tell you harper lee's sister's birthday party when she was 10 years old because her father owned a local newspaper, written up as front-page news. i can't do that because in so many black communities some were lucky to have a newspaper but the archives are less accessible than white monroe journals you could search today and even more discrepancies with digitization where even when you can't know something it is important to be conspicuous about why. that is a silence in the historical record i felt pretty acutely. all i could do was tell you why i didn't know more. that kind of discrepancy that
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is often the case between victims and perpetrators. there could have been someone more rambunctious who stood up for the apathy the culture has for criminals in these grandiose stories but it is something any responsible writer has to think about, how you are presenting discrepancy, power and survivorsship and that sort of thing. >> it brings me back to maple will and brand, such a prominent powerful woman in america at a time when people were not comfortable with women in power and so she was conscious of her image, she wrote about this all the time, her diary is full of notes about how she hates that girly stuff. people made all sorts of assumptions about her character because of the nature of her ambition. because she was so public and also in charge of enforcing
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prohibition which was news 13 years, very careful about how she curated the facts she put out and there was there was time she suspected herself she was having an affair with a prohibition agent who ended up running off with remus's wife. this is something she never addressed, there are letters from him to her, very affectionate language that would not have been necessarily proper for colleagues at that time, when it was discovered this prohibition agent was indeed running off with remus's wife, dealing with consistency and such, j edgar hoover was dying to prosecute this guy. he cared about having prohibition agent and will and brand said no. to me it was a sign, i make an assumption in the book that it
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is my assumption that i think she was so aware of the effect, if she prosecuted a guy publicly called the acer of detectives, she publicly supported and got behind in services one of our best men in the probation department it would affect not only her own career but the career of women in politics for decades to come. that is something that weighed heavily on her mind but she was so careful. when she talks about personal things, privately she would not comment on her public machinations she was thinking about her job if she thought was sentimental to her as it got out. that is something i wish i had more on. it would have been great to have a hotel receipt with dodge and will and brent but that did not happen. i would want more about her. >> in trying to put together what the untouchables actually did, that has been read
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misrepresented by hollywood but the investigation the untouchables were doing has been characterized as going around shuttering breweries, not doing any significant investigative work. certainly cutting off his income was part of it. but it ended up being much more -- trying to put together a rico case decades before the rico law was passed, the racketeering and corrupt organizations act which was the tool that finally gives federal law enforcement a means of combating organized crime. the untouchables, before j edgar hoover, is a household name, before people know what g men are in many cases, the untouchables are providing a new understanding of what it can do but we have difficulty of having to put together a lot
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of that, a lot of the work they were doing from the outside from newspaper articles, recollections that had been written 25 years after the fact, educated guesswork because there wasn't a great base of documents unfortunately and two months after the hardcover of our book came out a copy of the complete case summary case report of the untouchables compiled which one of nest's men kept illegally turned up. and so the first part is this is the document with all the answers was this would have been my life easier had it turned up two years ago. did we get anything wrong? we looked in and discovered a lot of our suppositions and speculation turned out to be warranted. what we did in june was put some excerpts from it in there so you could see what they were
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doing but one of the tasks we hoped the book would achieve was in showing you where nests in the untouchables really fit in the annals of policing in the united states. this is a major document that makes the case for them being quite significant. >> you heard from three good authors who produce three very good books and you heard how responsibly they handles its and i commend to you all three of the books and thank you also much for joining us. [applause] [inaudible
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conversations] >> you are watching a special edition of booktv airing now during the week when members of congress are working in their district because of the coronavirus pandemic. tonight on "after words," new york times magazine contributor peggy orenstein examine sexual culture and young male masculinity. former deputy national security adviser kay t mcfarlane details her time in the trump administration. new york times reporter jennifer steinour talks about the largest class of women of her elected to congress. enjoy booktv now and watch over the weekend on c-span2. >> the coronavirus pandemic is having an impact on the congressional schedule. house majority leader steny hoyer announced members will not be back for legislative business until monday may 4th


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