I finally killed my white whale. I slew the dragon. I wrote until my fingers bled. I read court transcripts until I started saying, "Yes, Your Honor" when my daughter asked me for another juice box. I recently finished a 145,00o-word first draft of "Framed," the story behind the story about the trial, imprisonment and royal screwing that Rick Tabish received at the hands of the Las Vegas "justice" system in the death of Ted Binion. If you don't remember the Las Vegas "trial of the century," look it up here.
Rick (who is a great guy and was most certainly not guilty) hired me to write his story because he wanted to tell it. Getting a publisher was a secondary concern, though I'm certainly going to do all I can do to that. But the main thing was getting the real story out into the world about how the Binion family, with its wealth and power, despised Ted's live-in girlfriend, Sandra Murphy. When Ted, a heroin addict, died after overdosing on heroin and Xanax, the family couldn't stand the idea of Sandy getting Ted's house and wealth. They also wanted to collect on a fat life insurance policy. They needed a felony. They needed a murder. Rick, Ted's friend and Sandy's sometime babysitter, became the fall guy. Read the book one of these days and you'll see what a royal ass-reaming Rick Tabish took at the hands of the law.
What does it take to complete a book like this? First of all, an understanding of the seriousness of the affair. I had this man's story in my hands. His truth. That's one reason I took so long on it: I had to make sure I got it right. The detail was immense, and I'm sure the rewrite will be immense because with thousands of names, dates, facts and statements, I'm sure I got a lot wrong. That's why we do drafts.
Second, it takes organization. I had to be ferociously organized, even in moving my residence twice during the writing. I had to have everything in its proper file, in the proper chronology. Even then, I was constantly finding a new piece of news coverage or a new fact that shed some light on some part of the two trials, countless hearings, dozens of writs and motions and beyond.
Finally, I had to give myself time to read and absorb. You can't write a book like this without first grasping the big picture. So I read news accounts, court transcripts, books by newspaper reporters, and Rick's own handwritten recollection of his arrest and trial. I watched video on DVD. I tried to wrap my head around all the parts of the story before writing it—and then found that I was still barely keeping my head above water with the detail: Rick's time in Las Vegas, Ted Binion, the death scene, Ted's silver hoard buried in the desert, supposed Mafia connections, an FBI investigation, Vegas politics, the Binion family infighting, private investigator Tom Dillard, the arrest, charges of not only murder but silver theft and a separate kidnapping, preliminary hearings, the first trial, prison life, rotating attorneys, massive media coverage, family issues, the appeal before the Nevada Supreme Court, the second trial, maverick attorney Tony Serra (check this out if you want a taste of this brilliant, eccentric cat) , the verdict, continuing appeals, Rick's adventures in the prison kitchen, his parole, his release and his life after prison.
It was insane. But it's going to make one hell of a book.