Author Jeffrey Diamond knows first hand what goes on behind the scenes in television broadcast news.  With forty years of experience under his belt, he offers up a vivid, frightening look at sex trafficking and inappropriate relationships between law enforcement and the mafia, through the eyes of his protagonist, Ethan Benson, the alcoholic TV producer at The Weekly Reporter.

Diamond’s latest work is the jarring, thrilling and heart-pounding Live to the Network (Page Publishing), an addictive, dark mystery and compelling storytelling with a pace that leaves you breathless. We previously reviewed the thriller here.

Benson assists the police by taking on a forgotten case of gut-wrenching, seemingly related murders of several young girls.  He devotes himself to shedding light on the monstrous offenses, and in turn becomes obsessed with finding the killer.

Diamond describes his work and his writing in this recent Q&A.

As a journalist/producer, what was the most exciting story you worked on?

It was a profile of the serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who I met in an old rural jail in Texas. At the time, Lucas had been convicted of at least a dozen murders, and the authorities had linked him to well over a hundred more. I spent two days with Lucas, filming him in his jail cell, walking to and from the interview location—guarded by half a dozen Texas Rangers toting long guns—and chained to a chair in a conference room while my crew of ten shot the interview.

Lucas was a small, unassuming man who on the surface appeared calm, almost meek, but underneath this placid exterior was a violent and unstable killer who exploded without warning during the interview, rocking back and forth against his chains, screaming obscenities, and then withdrawing back into himself.

During the two days I was with him, I never knew what to expect or how he’d react to my camera crew or what I’d capture on film as his personality swung from one extreme to the next. Henry Lee Lucas was the most frightening human being I have ever met. He was pure, unadulterated evil. When writing my second novel, Live to Tape, I modeled my killer, Rufus Wellington, on Henry Lee Lucas.

Ethan Benson has the drive to investigate cases and be in the line of fire when it comes to discovery. How much of you is in your hero?

Definitely parts of me, given his occupation.  But Ethan’s personality, the essence of who he is, is drawn not only from me but from the many people I worked with during my long career in production. I have tried in my books to create a hero who is not only one of the best at what he does—at solving crimes—but who is also troubled, insecure, and flawed as a human being. He is deeply sensitive and insecure, and at times, buries his fears and his demons in a bottle of Scotch.

Live to the Network includes a lot of violence against young women. What led you to write about crimes investigated by the Special Victims Unit?

During my career, I produced many stories about young women and young girls who were abused mentally, physically, and sexually by violent predators lurking in the shadows. Most of these stories, especially in the larger urban areas like Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, and New York, fell under the jurisdiction of the Special Victims Units, where the cops are specifically trained to investigate the most horrific crimes committed against women, children, and the elderly.

When writing Live to the Network, I tried to incorporate in my storyline the many firsthand experiences I had working alongside SVU detectives—studying their crime scene photos, reading their police reports, going with them to the scene of the crimes, and interviewing, not only the killers, but the families of the victims.

All of these experiences have left me with vivid and troubling memories, and when writing this book, I tried to bring these memories to life—as horrific as they may be—so my readers would understand there is unspeakable evil in our society that leaves a permanent mark on everybody it touches.

How did you come up with the idea of the priest in Argentina, the Chinese mob in NYC, and the corruption in the police department? What is your process for developing a story that seamlessly connects characters and locations?

Research. Research. Research. For me, that’s the first and most important step in writing a novel. Each of my books always begins the same way—with a vague idea, a kernel of thought, a memory of a story I produced as a journalist that simply pops into my head at the most unexpected of times. Once this idea crystalizes, I begin to fill in the blanks by reading everything I can put my hands on to help me understand and then develop the storyline.

How do you create a character like Ethan Benson who is flawed and pathetic in some ways, but still manages to be likable and heroic?

Ethan is a producer and a reporter and one of the best, but Ethan’s private life is plagued by problems. The challenge is to show the reader how he uses his talents as an investigative reporter as a counterweight to his failures as a human being and to develop in my writing how he copes with both halves of his personality and changes as a human being from one book to the next.

If Live to the Network were adapted into a film, who would play Ethan Benson?

Simple—Kevin Bacon. Each of the characters he plays is a flawed human being but one of the best at what he does.

This is your third Ethan Benson thriller following Live to Air and Live to Tape. What’s next?

I plan on continuing to write my Ethan Benson Thrillers. I have already completed a draft of my next novel, All Cameras Live, in which my hero investigates a series of fires set by an arsonist/murderer in the Springfield, MA, area, and I’m currently researching my fifth book in the series about a female serial killer who terrorizes the Florida Keys.

Live to the Network is now available for purchase. Learn more about Diamond on his BookTrib author page and read his unedited interview here.

Jeffrey L. Diamond is an award-winning journalist with forty years of experience in television news. He began his career in the early 1970’s at ABC News, where he produced hundreds of stories ranging from several minutes in length to a full hour of programming for Special Events, Weekend News, and World News Tonight, before moving to the weekly newsmagazine, 20/20.