We normally showcase fiction on Book Club Fridays, generally mystery, thrillers, or suspense. Today we have true-crime author Candace Dempsey, the award-winning Italian-American author of the MURDER IN ITALY: The Shocking Slaying of a British Student, the Accused American Girl, and an International Scandal. Candace has reported on the Kercher/Knox case for CNN Headline News, KOMO TV and Italian television. MURDER IN ITALY grew out of her true crime blog, which has attracted worldwide attention. It's hosted by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and has been featured on Newsweek.com and CNN Anderson Cooper 360.
Candace has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and decades of newspaper and magazine experience. She has been a magazine editor (Alaska Airlines Magazine), a newspaper editor (the Argus) and an editor, writer and producer for MSN, as well as a freelance travel writer. Her adventure tales appear in Travelers’ Tales A Woman’s Passion For Travel, Solo: On Her Own Adventure (Seal Press), Gifts of the Wild (Seal Press) and other anthologies. She is the former editor/producer of MSN Underwire.com, a women's website that Newsweek called "cheeky, nicely written, fun" and The New York Times saluted for "serious sisterhood." Candace has covered travel, women's issues, business and other topics for numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Phoenix, Puget Sound Business Journal, Art & Antiques, Passionfruit and Adventure Journal.
You can read more about Candace at her website, and if you’d like to read MURDER IN ITALY, post a comment today or tomorrow. You could be the lucky winner of the copy Candace is giving away. -- AP
Why Make Up Amanda Knox Whoppers?
Short of covering Angelina Jolie, I can’t imagine a more paparazzi-perfect writing job than penning MURDER IN ITALY, my true crime book about the sensational Amanda Knox case. She’s the U.S. college student from Seattle, convicted of killing her British roommate.
Each time Amanda shows up for court in Italy, the flash bulbs pop. She can’t chop off her hair, as she did last summer, without causing international headlines. Every story dwells on her looks. She’s fat, she’s thin, she’s pale, she’s tanned. She has a cold sore on her lip.
Meanwhile the beautiful twenty-three-year old, who rides from Capanne Prison to court in a cramped metal cage inside a police van, becomes more unreal. Since reporters aren’t allowed to interview Amanda, I captured her journey from honor student to convicted killer through her own words, pulled from diaries, Facebook, MySpace, court statements, and videos. Whatever bits and pieces of the real Amanda that I could find. I did the same for the victim, Meredith Kercher. The cover of MURDER IN ITALY recreates her last walk home across the cobblestones.
Amanda’s parents say she was horrified when she recently reached the pinnacle of reverse fame. A Lifetime movie (“Amanda Knox: Murder On Trial in Italy”) based on her arrest and three-year imprisonment, starring blonde starlet Hayden Panettiere (who looks like her and did a pretty good job). I found 27 fact errors (like showing her giggling at a prayer vigil she didn’t attend), which I would’ve considered semi-hilarious and so Hollywood if Amanda’s case weren’t on appeal and these errors weren’t so prejudicial.
Why make anything up? That’s what I kept wondering. The prosecutor from Central Casting (a chubby, pipe-smoking man later convicted of abuse of office) claimed Amanda had stabbed her roommate to death with a kitchen knife during a “drug-fueled sex game gone wrong.” The alleged co-conspirators: Raffaele Sollecito, Amanda’s Italian ex-boyfriend of six days; drifter Rudy Guede, a man she’d met only once and Raffaele didn’t even know.
Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini blamed the crime on everything from Halloween to satanic rituals, from Manga comic books to the Celtic New Year and messy housekeeping. In the end, the prosecution admitted it had no motive, claiming the trio did the murder just for kicks. They all claim to be innocent.
If you can’t concoct a cocktail esplosivo from those ingredients without fakery, then you don’t recognize a fabulous story when you see one. For me, the excitement came in trying to figure out what really happened, in doing that detective work. For what is more elusive and unbelievable than the truth, especially during a show trial?
I adore Agatha Christie and have read everything Patricia Highsmith ever wrote. But the Knox case never required fictionalization, although many news stories came close. I loved being in court, digging into documents, interviewing the big players on both sides, meeting Amanda’s friends and family members. I started covering the case from the start on my seattlepi.com blog and will keep going until the final appeal.
I’m an Italian-American journalist and I spent three years traveling back and forth from Seattle (Amanda’s hometown, where I’m based) to Italy to cover this once-in-a-century case. My ultra-wise Penguin editor, Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, said I had enough material for eight books. I still regret the juicy nuggets we had to cut because Shannon, who usually edits mystery books, said they were “tangential to the plot.”
What’s that you say? How can real life have a plot? I wondered this myself, before I learned how to weave a real-life murder mystery from the actual facts
Truth isn’t just stranger than fiction. In MURDER IN ITALY, it’s every bit as fascinating.
Thanks, Candace! I’ve been following the case since the beginning and have been amazed by the ineptness of the Italian prosecution and their court system. I have my fingers crossed that Amanda wins her appeal and look forward to reading your book. What about the rest of you readers? Post a comment for a chance to win MURDER IN ITALY. -- AP