Q&A With Jeffrey Diamond
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Q&A With Jeffrey Diamond
Today’s Q&A is with author Jeffrey Diamond. Jeffrey is the author of the Ethan Benson thrillers which are All Cameras Live, Live To The Network, Live To Tape, & Live To Air. According to Jeffrey Diamond’s blog. He began his career in the early 1970s at ABC News where he worked at Special Events, Weekend News, and World News Tonight, before moving to the weekly newsmagazine, 20/20. Producing hundreds of stories ranging from several minutes to a full hour of programming, his body of work includes breaking news specials, newsmaker interviews, investigative reports on consumer and political issues, entertainment profiles, and numerous crime stories. During his career, he collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business—anchors Barbara Walters, Charles Gibson, and Stone Phillips, and correspondents Tom Jarrel, Lynn Sherr, and Deborah Roberts. After taking a break from storytelling in 1991, Mr. Diamond embarked on a decadelong journey as an executive producer, managing broadcast, cable, and syndicated programming. He created Dateline NBC in the early 1990s, ran Martha Stewart Living Television in the mid-1990s, and launched Judith Regan Television in the late 1990s.
Q: Jeffrey, would you like to tell the readers of the blog and I about the Ethan Benson thrillers?
A: My Ethan Benson novels are a series of thrillers loosely based on my forty-year career as a producer, director, and writer at ABC News 20/20 and Dateline NBC. I investigated hundreds of stories for these two network newsmagazines and created Dateline NBC in the early 1990s, overseeing the content and managing the production from my role as the executive producer. So, I have an extensive background in storytelling and thoroughly understand the inner workings of a television news show.
Using this as the basis for my novels, I have created a character named Ethan Benson—a brilliant but flawed writer, producer, and reporter—who works for a fictional television newsmagazine and investigates a series of murders in each of my thrillers. The killers—a deputy mayor in Live to Air, a psychopath in Live to Tape, a gang member in Live to the Network, and an arsonist in All Cameras Live—are all based on killers who I met and interviewed during my career. So, the characters in my books are all fictionalized versions of real-life killers, and my hero, Ethan Benson, uses the same investigative skills that I used in telling stories for both 20/20 and Dateline NBC. In each of my books, you get a raw, unbridled picture of the psychological underpinnings that motivate a killer and the methods that a journalist—unlike a detective, or an attorney, or a private investigator—uses in solving a crime.
Of course, as a series, my protagonist has a backstory that evolves from one book to the next. He’s a man with a soul, a conscience, and a mission, and as Ethan searches for the killers in all my thrillers, he’s fighting his own demons and searching for the truth about himself. I think you’ll find my novels a good read with a great character and explosive endings that will keep you reading late into the night.
Here’s the synopsis on the back cover of my latest Ethan Benson thriller, All Cameras Live:
With his career at GBS News on the line as he battles to stay sober, Ethan Benson receives a newspaper clipping in the mail about a young woman who’s been killed in a spectacular fire in a small, suburban community just outside Springfield, Massachusetts. It is the fourth fire and the fourth death in a little over a year, and while the local authorities have ruled them accidental, Ethan suspects foul play and travels to the scene of the crimes in search of the truth. Scared, alone, and desperate for a Scotch, he begins digging into the facts, using his award-winning skills as an investigative reporter to unearth an insidious conspiracy and find a killer with a horrifying secret.
Piece by piece, he follows the clues as he builds his case and produces his story. Along the way, he is threatened by local authorities, hunted by a hitman, blown up by a car bomb, and saved by a beautiful young woman, the sister of the last victim, who becomes not only one of his key sources but also a pillar of strength as he battles his demons and hangs onto his sobriety. Like the other three Ethan Benson thrillers in the series, All Cameras Live is steeped in the world of television news with confrontational interviews, production deadlines, camera crews, a mercurial anchorman, and all the cutthroat political intrigue that characterizes the real world of television news. Ethan is a modern-day journalist and an intrepid crime sleuth who uses his skills as a producer/reporter to cull through the facts, read between the lines, and seek justice where justice is all but forgotten.
The novel is a classic murder mystery, a page turner with twists and turns, and an explosive ending that will leave you sitting on the edge of your seat. Our hero is the best investigative reporter in the business, a man with a conscience, a mission, who is not only seeking the truth for others but also seeking the truth for himself.
Q: If you are writing another book now, is it another book in the Ethan Benson thriller series?
A: I am, indeed, writing my fifth Ethan Benson thriller entitled Full Live Rehearsal that takes place in Florida where I now live. Ethan is investigating a series of brutal killings in the Florida Keys, and not to give away the ending, but the killer is female and modeled on a prolific real life serial killer named Aileen Wuornos who was arrested for the murder of at least seven men and executed in 2002. And, once again Ethan is battling his demons in my new novel—his alcoholism, his divorce, and his estrangement from his son—as he produces his television news story and seeks out the identity of the killer. I’m hoping to finish and publish this new book sometime next year.
Q: Would you say your time as a producer and executive producer influenced your writing in any way?
A: My time as an executive and a producer in television news is the only reason, I’m writing my Ethan Benson thrillers. I’ve always been a storyteller and a junkie for murder mysteries, and when I retired from my last job at 20/20 about a decade ago, I needed another outlet to stay busy and continue doing what I’ve done my whole life. So, Ethan Benson and GBS News, the fictional network where Ethan works, grew out of my career and my love for storytelling, and with the many psychopaths and sociopaths who I met while producing stories, I have a wealth of raw material to create the fictional killers in my novels.
Q: What was it like collaborating with Barbara Walters, Charles Gibson, and Stone Phillips, and correspondents Tom Jarrel, Lynn Sherr, and Deborah Roberts?
A: Collaborating with these superstars in the world of television news was not only thrilling but a great honor. They were the best of the best at what they did—smart, talented, and, above all, true journalists. Each one brought a unique perspective to a story, a unique ability to conduct a camera interview, and a unique set of challenges for a producer. While I enjoyed working with each of them, the late Barbara Walters was in a class by herself. She was hands down the most talented interviewer I ever worked with—brilliant, hardworking, and dedicated to her craft. Everything I learned about the art of an interview I learned from Barbara. She had a strategy that was unique—from the reams of research she read, to the countless planning sessions we did to structure the order of her questions on three-by-five index cards, to getting an interviewee to tell us exactly what we needed for our story. She was the consummate professional who worked from dawn to dusk and who demanded the best from everybody on her team—including me. When reading my novels, you can see the influence of Barbara Walters, as well as the other journalists who I worked with, in the characters I’ve created and in the way they go about telling a story and solving a crime.
Q: In the early 1990s you created Dateline. My grandmother and I watch it and we watch 20/20. Where did the idea to create Dateline come from and what made you want to do it?
A: By the time I created Dateline NBC, I had been working at ABC News for twenty years. I had clawed my way up from the very bottom as a desk assistant and was working as the senior producer and number two at 20/20—planning the programming, supervising the staff, and managing the on-air talent—skills that were all critical to creating and running a television news show. I had won four Emmy Awards and had a reputation in the business as a master storyteller, and when the call came from NBC to create their newsmagazine, I jumped at the opportunity.
The vision for Dateline NBC was really very simple. A television newsmagazine in the early 1990s was much like a print magazine with moving pictures. We did three stories each week that complemented each other, and I selected the segments from subjects I was interested in—the biggest news stories of the week, politics, entertainment, music, sports, celebrity and newsmaker interviews, investigative reports, and, of course, crime. The budgeting, staffing, production, and managing of the show was just the culmination of all those years I had already spent telling stories and managing a news show.
Little did I know at the time, but creating Dateline NBC would be the last piece of the puzzle that I would use from my former life to write my novels. Ethan Benson is a producer. He investigates murders. And he produces stories that air on a fictional television newsmagazine, The Weekly Reporter, that’s modeled on Dateline NBC which I ran and created in real life.
Q: What is next in your future?
A: Writing. Writing. And more writing! When I retired from television news in my early sixties, I set a goal to write ten Ethan Benson thrillers. I have already published four, have a fifth ready to go next year, and am working on a sixth manuscript. So, I’m more than halfway there and have countless ideas for new novels, and with a little luck, I’ll be able to continue doing what I love and get to at least book ten!