featuring guest mystery authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, March 25, 2011

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY -- GUEST AUTHOR CANDACE DEMPSEY


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

17 comments:

Irene said...

The truth has to be out there somewhere. Perhaps someone will dig it out or someone will come forward and bring in new evidence or even a confession. Hah! Even with a confession, I doubt the Italian legal "system" will accept it as truth. Reading about the case made me so angry! Is she innocent? My gut says so.

Cynthia said...

I agree with Irene, somewhere the real truth will come out. I'd love to read this book as we followed this case when it first hit the news sources.

Pat Dale said...

I wish I could be as positive as Cynthia. I've also followed this 'case' with great curiosity. I believe in my heart that Amanda is only tangentially guilty of something after the fact, but with the system in place over there, we may never know. Thanks, Candace, for digging itno this and bringing what you've discovered to the public, evin if in a work of fiction.
PatDale

Deborah said...

As a former journalist myself, everything about this case, especially the sensationalist and sexist coverage that condemned Amanda at the outset, has been really troubling. I'm so glad that someone is covering this case with integrity and am hopeful that Amanda will be cleared soon and allowed to return home. Your book is now on my must-read list!

Judy Alter said...

I believe Amanda may have made some mistakes in judgment and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but murder? No. I too am appalled at the Italian determination to keep her in jail and cannot bear the thought of her spending her life in an Italian prison. Big shout out to Candace for presenting an unbiased view as much as possible on the basis of the facts she's been able to find.

DUDE said...

The authorities gave false testimony in court on numerous occasions. That should help one figure it out. But what was Mignini's motive? What was in it for him to convict two innocent people when Guede was obviously the only person involved in the crime?

Theresa said...

I, like many others living in the Pacific Northwest, have been facinated by this story. I still haven't made up my mind about her guilt or innocence because I don't believe we've heard the whole story. But,let this be a wake up call to all our youth, that you cannot expect other countires to treat you with respect and dignity or give you the benefit of the doubt as in America. They don't have to prove you are guilty, you have to prove you are innocent. My prayers go out to her family and I hope God gives them stength to get through this.

Anonymous said...

why is it so hard to believe a pretty American blonde can be a murderess? the naivete on this site is appalling.

Carol-Lynn Rossel said...

Fascinating stuff,. Put my name in the hat, please, for the book drawing.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I tried to keep an open mind about this trial but the Italian prosecutors and police after a while seemed completely untrustworthy. The last straw for me was when the Italian courts charged her parents with slander (or libel) for speaking against the court decision and the legal process in Italy. I think the court business has gone from inept to vindictive. As an aside, the whole thing made me think of a memoir I read a few years ago by an Italian journalist living in India. The one thing that came across was how much he hated Americans and America, and I've wondered about that ever since.

BJSimon said...

I am anxious to see how the appeal turns out and would love to read your book! My best friend Sheryl Clough is also in SOLO, which I have read.

ANASTASIA POLLACK said...

I want to thank Candace Dempsey for such an interesting guest blog today. I was hoping she'd be able to stop by to comment, but she may be off on assignment. Hopefully, she'll have a chance tomorrow. For those of you who have commented, be sure to check back Sunday to see if you're the winner of a copy of MURDER IN ITALY. And for those of you who haven't commented yet, there's still plenty of time today and tomorrow.

ccd5a5ee-5753-11e0-b17d-000bcdcb2996 said...

I would love to win a copy of this book, because I am very interested in the case. I don't know Amanda Knox was involved in this murder, but I do think she was involved in some way. I watch Datelines all the time and you would be surprised to see how many reasons there are for someone to murder you.

shirley said...

Cases such as this make us grateful for the American courts ... not perfect, but often much more evolved than many other countries.

Donnell said...

Is it me, or does anyone else find the airing of a movie fictionalizing an ongoing criminal case complete unethical? Worse, that they can incorporate fiction and falsehoods into it, per Candace's statement. Life is stranger than fiction, and whether this woman is guilty or innocent, everyone is entitled to a fair trial. This is hugely prejudicial and unjust in my opinion.

mary kennedy said...

Candace, you have a terrfic background and it sounds like you are the perfect person to write this book! Everyone on both sides of the Atlantic is intrigued by this case...great post!

Anonymous said...

I paid slight attention to this case at the beginning, but the more I learned, the more I thought: There is reasonable doubt here. Lots and lots of it - the motive is so weak. And the prosecutor was a little too ambitious, wanting a headline-grabbing case. He got one.