|Just when I thought I'd be able to put my mind into some work, I thought I'd go out to my mail box and see what news awaited. There was a stack of third class fliers that I tossed into recycling and the box I've been waiting for and dreading at the same time. The return address was Adams' Media, MA. I knew what was in the box. It's still early in the day, but I pored myself a brimming glassful of chilled wine from a wonderful bottle of 1996 Avondrust chardonnay from western cape of South Africa that my friend Franko gave me when I last visited him in Brussels. I lit a candle, and then one of my stale French cigarettes I keep in my desk for such emergencies and settled back into the sofa. The box sat heavily in my lap; far more weight than it's actual 2.5 pound stamp gave way to.
I opened it. There were three copies of Don't Take My Child: a parent's guide to keeping our kid's safe, a book written by my friend the late Don Richard and his writing partner John Brodie.
I was the agent on this book, my friend Paula Munier Lee was the brave editor who purchased the book.
Don and John were both first-time authors when they embarked on this project that was spurred on by the major distress Don and John had been feeling while working on the Xiana Fairchild case, a child abducted in the East Bay (they recently found a piece of her skull in Los Gatos). I've included my Agent's Note that appears in the book to give you more background. Don and John wrote this book in the course of three months and sent it in to Paula on deadline. I was so proud of them. Don and John were working in the field of serial killer profiling at the time and had seen and felt every type of emotion that comes with this kind of work. So, they were working full time while ALSO working on this book on just a small advance. It was difficult work; I was so proud when they met their deadline.
I was working on one of my own books at the time while I was helping them work through the issues that come up when writing your first book. I was deeply into my own deadline when I received an email from someone I didn't know who worked at the Kevin Collins Foundation for missing children where he had been putting much of his effort into. It simply said that they had taken my email address off of Donís email address book; I was one of many undisclosed recipients of the email. It said that while vacationing Don had died. I sat there in one of those surrealistic moments that says that it must be some kind of cruel joke ó who receives notice of death via strangers on email? I tried to get Gabi his wife and my close friend on her cell phone, but was unable to reach her. It was cold and raining, I didn't get any work done. I couldn't think; I'd start to do something and lose interest, or just forget what I was doing. I went to a matinee and went from movie to movie trying to keep my mind occupied.
For days I wondered if it was true, finally I got a call from Gabi late one night. She had just returned from San Diego where she had been handling the details that comes with such a tragedy. We sat on the phone and talked and cried late into the early morning hours.
You see, Don was only 44, but had the brave heart and soul of a 30-year-old. Don loved wine, he loved his friends and family and he loved life. He had a son (by his previous wife) who was there when Don's heart just exploded and left him crumpled on the ground, as crowds of people who had been enjoying that day at Sea World watched on as paramedics tried to revive him. No one even knew he had been sick, or that anything at all was wrong. The coroner said he died instantly, and there was some comfort in knowing that.
As I tried hard to get through my eulogy at his service, I just kept thinking that Don would have wanted us to celebrate his life and the hope this book that might one day save lives. I took a deep breath and kept going. I had an opportunity to meet his family who were visiting from back east, they are the greatest people, especially his parents who had lost a son, but were giving strength to everyone else there. I also met a lot of agents from the Department of Justice and the FBI that day; all of these people who had worked tirelessly next to him trying to find murderers who plucked children from their homes and the streets. I loved this man and admire his work, and today with a heavy heart I raise another glass to a man who enjoyed fine wines and who did a job well done. I miss Don, he was a great guy and a very caring man.
After Don's ashes were scattered in Big Sur, we had a long battle with the publisher before this book finally did end up in print. We've waited more than a year for this book to finally get on to bookstore shelves. We were told on many occasions by Adams' Media that they didn't want to publish it, and we spent much effort trying to speak with the publisher who refused to return our calls. If this book sells well, it will sell on its own merits and our efforts; the publisher has already said that it is spending little on efforts to promote the book. Although I hope there is someone in Adamsí marketing/PR department who realizes the importance of this book and feels morally obligated to do this book a good turn.
All of this controversy about the book was supposedly based on the fact they did a small marketing survey: one they couldn't provide me the details of. Supposedly the feedback was that it was depressing material ó no shit. I had demanded to know what was asked or what the discussion was focused on during this "focus group." What demographics were used. They tried like crazy to back us into a corner to buy back the book, but we came back with not only would we not have to pay back the advance, they might end up paying damages ó not to mention the bad publicity for such a move. We were getting ready to bring legal action against them when they decided to go through with the printing after they came against their deadline to publish the book under our contract. I urge you all to never do any publishing business with Adams' Media; there are far too many excellent publishers out there to bother with this one.
Great editors never stay at mediocre publishing houses and Paula Munier is now, I am happy to say, no longer there. This book was one of her first acquisitions she made when she began working there. Actually, most, if not all, of the editors have moved on, including the one who took Paula's place.
Please buy this book if you have children, or if you have friends who have children. Proceeds from this book will go to the Amber Foundation for Missing Children, the forward is written by Kim Swartz, mother of Amber Swartz, someone who never imagined it would be her child abducted and in the news. I went to Amazon and they don't have either Don or John listed as authors, they only have the book listed under the title, I found this link: Amazon Link
California Senator Richard Rainey, John Philpin, PhD, Forensic Psychologist, Francis Koopman, Esq., Lieutenant NYPD (retired) and US Senator Dianne Feinstein all endorse this book. When Don died they closed the State Senate Floor in honor of the work he had done to bring legislation to light that will protect children far into the future.
De profundis vivamus
(out of the depths let us live & celebrate),
Below is the one of the forewords included in the book:
As I write this note to you, I have recently received word that Don Richard is dead. Don came to me several years ago via his wife Gabi, a writer and PR executive. I instantly liked Gabi when I first met her; I remember that lunch as being the first time ever hearing of Don Richard. She told me of his work as a profiler and said she was going to recommend that he take my writing class that I teach at a local college. Sure enough, I saw Donís name on my roster the next semester and we quickly became friends. He was working on another book at the time, a book he had thought he would finish later.
It was years later when one night, Gabi, Don and I were having dinner and I noticed how distraught he was. You see, Don was usually a very happy guy, but that night I saw that he was down and I asked him why. He had been working very hard in his efforts with the Kevin Collins Foundation to protect children and I had caught him at the tail end of a day when he had been working particularly hard to raise funds for one of the organizationís events. Although Iím sure, as usual, Don was working at three times the capacity of a normal human, I asked him if he still wanted to write a book, he didnít need to think twice to answer that question. I told him that as long as he was working so hard to campaign to save children, he should reach as many people as possible with his message. This could be done with a book. I told him that I knew an editor who might be interested in a book about how to protect children from predators. I outlined the book I envisioned and told him that he had a week to write the proposal. We bounced it back and forth over e-mail and within the week we had a full-blown proposal with chapter outlines and a marketing plan.
He decided to include John Brodie, one of his closest friends and a respected expert in the field, in on the project. These two guys are the dynamic duo of criminal profiling, between them they have seen everything and had unique insights into the criminal minds committing heinous acts against children. I sent the proposal to Paula Munier Lee, my long-time friend and acquisitions editor at Adams Media, who would purchase the project. Paula had recently signed on with Adams Media and this book was one of her first acquisitions with her new publisher. She believed in this project from the moment she heard about it.
Don and John had about three months to write the book if they wanted to make the winter 2000 list for Adams. Although this challenge was an extreme test for my first time authors, they wanted to get the book out as soon as possible. Both of them knew the faster this book hit the shelves, the better their chances in stopping the next abduction. I have never seen writers work so hard and with such dedication. I was used to getting calls late into the night to go over their work. Believe me, it wasnít the money that was super-charging these two brave men on a deadline from hell, first-time authors donít make the big bucks, it was all for the children, the kids they hoped to save.
The words inside this book may be difficult to read; these pages tell the story of the many years of research Don and John conducted that details the thoughts and actions of men who treat children as objects of sexual pleasure. When I did the first round of editing on this book, I remember thinking how terrified I would be if raising a child in these times. Don and John were very close to their work and, at times, I had to tell them to back away, to be objective, but it was even hard for me to not loathe the people they were writing about. Finally, we came up with a book we thought told the story in a fair and helpful way that educates parents about the patterns and methods of child abductors/molesters.
Don and John had a lot of help on this project; Gabi was really the third writer on this project. Although overwhelmed with the amount of writing and research that needed to be done for this book, Don always had time to praise her support and expertise at every junction. Gabi was worried that the book wouldnít be published; one of Donís last efforts had been this book. As soon as I had heard the news, I called Paula who assured me that plans would go on as expected. I told Gabi this news, she was comforted in knowing that Donís work would live on.
Although you wonít be meeting Don Richard on any of the scheduled book tours, he was a good man whom you would have liked. For the short time he was here, he made a tremendous difference in the lives of many. With this book his work will continue. Donís message was for you to embrace your children with love and to empower them with knowledge. I know he would have also want you to spend more time with your children, because our time here, relatively speaking, is marked in mere minutes.
Don and John had been recently working on the case of a missing little girl in the Bay Area at the time of Donís death. As I watch the local news focus in on a waste dump in a neighboring state where police believe her body may be buried, I canít help but imagine Donís spirit being embraced by many of the children he once worked tirelessly to find. Don Richard was loved by many, and in my book he was a great friend who left behind a work that we all hope will save lives and prevent hardship, in my business you come across a client like this once in a lifetime.
Jan 12, 2000