Caitlin Rother instantly became one of my favorite authors when I began — and could not stop — reading Dead Reckoning, her account of the murders of Tom and Jackie Hawks, a retired couple in Newport Beach, California, who were convinced by former child actor Skylar Deleon and his pregnant wife that they could afford to purchase the Hawks’ 55-foot yacht, The Well Deserved. Tied to the anchor while still alive and thrown overboard, the Hawks’ bodies were never recovered. Her account of the crime, investigation, and trial were so mesmerizing that I have since read a number of her other books eagerly anticipate each of her new releases.
Caitlin recently published her tenth book, Then No One Can Have Her. A Complicated Woman is her first of three entries in Greg Olson’s “Notorious USA” series and will be followed up with volumes focused on crimes committed in Georgia and Florida.
I’m delighted to welcome Caitlin back to Colloquium today!
And Now For Something A Little Different
After hitting a personal milestone of publishing 10 books, I decided to change up the pace a bit by writing some shorter works to keep my readers happy until I can finish my next book. I am continuing this trend in 2016 with a series of Kindle “shorts” about historic and compelling crimes.
The publishing world is a quickly and constantly evolving organism, and as a result, an author and freelance investigative journalist like me does best to try a variety of options to see what people want to read, more of which seems to be online these days, in order to thrive in today’s marketplace.
As such, I’ve been working on a variety of projects with two fellow New York Times bestselling true crime author colleagues, both of whom are also indie publishers—Steve Jackson of WildBlue Press and Gregg Olsen of the Notorious USA series. This way, I can release my writings in a wider variety of formats, get them out faster than with traditional publishing, and also give myself a bit of a break in between researching and writing full-length books.
With the Notorious USA series, I’ve been enjoying the chance to do some historical research about older cases that traditional publishers aren’t really interested in (they usually want recent cases), but that my readers have told me they do want to read.
For me, there are a couple nice things about writing for the Notorious series, which also features authors such as Ron Franscell and Katherine Ramsland. One, these state-by-state “shorts” are not as long as regular books (thus the name), but they’re long enough to give you the gist of the case and the key players. Two, they allow me to explore a number of interesting cases rather than sticking with just one project for a year or more at a time. And three, this also means that my readers don’t have to wait another year after I turn in the manuscript before they get to read my work. It brings me closer to my days as a reporter for daily newspapers, where I could get my stories out to readers—and get feedback from them—on a regular basis.
My first in the series, A Complicated Woman, was just released. A compilation of three murder cases in South Carolina, A Complicated Woman is already ranked as a bestselling “Hot New Release” on Kindle and will be released in other formats in the near future. Each story is the length of a magazine feature article. (Click here to purchase it.)
Featured on the cover is Sue Logue, the first woman to be electrocuted in that state after hiring a hit man to kill her neighbor in a feud over a dead calf. She had one last tryst with her old lover, that rascal Strom Thurmond, on the way to the death house.
Also featured is a story about Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins Jr., who killed at least 14 people (I say “at least” because he claimed to have murdered dozens more). His last victim was a murderer in the neighboring cell on death row. Gaskins was hired “under contract” to kill this man, who had murdered two people, and their son was frustrated the man hadn’t been executed yet. After failing to poison his neighbor, Gaskins killed him with explosives he’d smuggled into the prison.
The third story is about Dylann Storm Roof, the white supremacist who is accused of fatally shooting nine black people, who were worshipping at a historic church in Charleston, to incite a race war. Roof, who is still awaiting trial, said he’d intended to plead guilty to the murders until prosecutors announced they were seeking the death penalty.
My next installment in this series, which will be released soon, features stories about murder cases in Georgia: the slaying of Lita Sullivan by a hitman who delivered her a box of long stemmed roses and then shot her; the murder of Richard Braun (and the non-fatal shooting of his son) in his driveway by a hitman wearing a ski mask, one in a series of murders contracted through the pages of Soldier of Fortune magazine; and the story of Kelly Gissendaner, the second woman ever to be executed in this state, who persuaded her lover to kill her husband for insurance money, then found religion behind bars and repented for her crime.
The third, which will be released later this year, will feature cases in Florida.
With WildBlue Press, I’ve been enjoying the opportunity to update, rewrite and improve a couple of my older titles, which were or are out of print. The first so far is my one and only mystery novel, Naked Addiction, a story about sex, drugs and murder at the beach in San Diego. Naked Addiction is available on Kindle, in trade paperback, and was recently released in an audio version. (Click here to purchase it.)
I am working on another and significant re-release that will include several unpublished chapters from the vault, which I will announce later this year. I’m also working on a number of other longer-term projects on new and historic cases, some of which I hope to do with WildBlue.
My tenth book, Then No One Can Have Her, was just released by Kensington/Pinnacle. This is the story behind the murder of Carol Kennedy, an artist, therapist and mother of two, 35 days after her divorce was finalized from her “soulmate” and ex-husband, investment broker Steve DeMocker, of Prescott, Arizona. It is a tale that will take you on a five-year roller coaster ride to justice, marked by two trials, a series of judges, defense and prosecution teams, and more twists and turns than you could imagine. It is available in paperback, as an e-book, and also in an audio version. (Click here to purchase it.)
I’m not done writing books. For the past few years, I’ve been working on a political crime book, and I’ve got a number of other cases I’m following as well. These cases take time to work their way through the courts, so I can’t predict when they will come to fruition, because I have no control over that.
I always welcome emails from readers and my Facebook and Twitter followers who want to suggest cases to me, in fact this is often how I learn of the cases that appear in future books. So please don’t hesitate to let me know if you see a juicy, complex murder case developing in your community, especially if it’s being covered by Dateline or 48 Hours. Just remember I’m in San Diego, so the closer to home it is, the more likely I am to look into it. Although with the Internet, anything is possible. I’d also like to hear how you like these shorter stories vs. full-length books.
And who knows what other surprises may present themselves. I have been known to hear about a great case or be offered a new book deal and my life has changed overnight. Just like that.
Please remember that authors need readers’ help more than ever these days to get the word out about books they like by writing an honest review on Amazon, Goodreads, Nook, or even better, on an established book blog like this one.
So thanks to Janie here at Colloquium for the invitation to talk about what I’m working on, and to all of you, happy reading!
Caitlin Rother was an only child who entertained herself “by reading stacks upon stacks of books and using my mind as a stage where characters talked to each other.” She holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and earned her master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. In high school and college, she explored journalism, but opted for a career in public relations with a San Francisco cruise line. Eventually, though, she was compelled to choose the “balance and objectivity of newspapers over the positive spin world of PR, marketing and advertising, . . . ”
It was not until the late 1980s that she joined a writing workshop in Northampton, Massachusetts, in her quest to write more in-depth, creative stories while toiling as a reporter with the Springfield Union-News. The series of short stories produced in that workshop eventually evolved into her first novel, Naked Addiction.
As an investigative journalist, Caitlin was drawn to “complex and dramatic stories – the most bizarre or tragic deaths and the public figures whose questionable actions evoked my investigative curiosity.” She wrote about Michael Jackson’s original molestation charges and addiction to painkillers, the lifestyle of the Heaven’s Gate cult and strippers’ laundered political contributions to San Diego City Council members, and developed expertise in addiction (alcohol and methamphetamine, suicide, mental illness and the family dynamics and pharmacology involved).
She expanded a series of news stories about the Kristin Rossum murder case into what would become her first book, Poisoned Love. In 2006, she contracted to draft her second non-fiction book and in a risky leap of faith, left the security of her position with The San Diego Union-Tribune behind.
In 1998, Caitlin was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the Union-Tribune. Her story about a depressed teenager who died after lighting himself on fire behind a WalMart won three awards in the annual Best of the West contest. Her journalistic honors also include a Best Feature award from the Associated Press News Executives Council and Best News-Feature award from the Los Angeles Press Club.
Caitlin is a sought-after speaker who also helps aspiring authors as a book doctor and writing/research/promotions coach and consultant. She teaches narrative non-fiction, digital journalism, and author branding/promotions at the University of California, San Diego Extension and San Diego Writers, Ink.
Her other books include Deadly Devotion/Where Hope Begins; My Life, Deleted; Body Parts; Twisted Triangle; and I’ll Take Care of You, the story behind the love triangle murder of Newport Beach multimillionaire inventor Bill McLaughlin by his fiancee, Nanette Packard, and her NFL-playing lover, Eric Naposki.