Wow, 2017 already. Incredible how, the older you get, the faster time flashes by. As most everyone is saying, I, too, am glad 2016 is over (good riddance)—though, I might add, there were moments for me during the year that I will cherish forever.
It’s been a challenging year (2016), with no shortage of uphill battles, publishing highs and lows, successes, failures, things to celebrate, and things to look forward to in the coming years. Overall, of course, I am grateful for being able to get up every morning and write. That is my passion: writing. Been almost 20 years now since I’ve been writing professionally and I still bounce out of bed every day at 4:30/5:00 a.m. to begin my long workday. For that alone I am one grateful sonofabitch! I never forget how fortunate I am in this regard.
Beyond the writing, I’ve been doing a lot of development work for TV and film, with one film project in production as we speak. (More about this in the coming months—not yet allowed to announce which book the film is based on! Hollywood, go figure.)
On February 28, 2017, I’ll publish DON’T TELL A SOUL.
Cover copy: Cherry Walker was a devoted, trusting, uncommonly innocent young woman who loved caring for a neighbor’s little boy. But when she was asked to testify in court against his abusive mother, Cherry never got the chance. She couldn’t lie if her life depended on it—and it did. Cherry’s body was found on the side of a Texas road, doused with lighter fluid and set aflame.
Attractive, manipulative, and violent, mother of four Kim Cargill had a wealth of dirty secrets she’d do anything to keep hidden. This in-depth account by bestselling investigative journalist M. William Phelps takes you inside Cargill’s shocking trial—and into the mind of one of the most conniving female psychopaths in recent history—and on death row.
If there was ever a book that returns my writing back to its earlier days of straight-forward true crime storytelling, DON’T TELL A SOUL is definitely it. The things this woman did not only to her children, but her husbands and the people in her life will have you shaking your head page after page. This is a book which shows, by example, how one psychopath can wreak havoc, inflict pain and emotional suffering, on those around her and make those lives a miserable existence—and then turn around and kill one of those people, on top of everything else.
Next up (July 25, 2017) is a project five years in the making, DANGEROUS GROUND: My Friendship with a Serial Killer.
Cover copy: In September 2011, M. William Phelps made a bold decision that would change the landscape of reality-based television – and his own life. He asked a convicted serial killer to act as a consultant for his TV series. Under the code name “Raven,” the murderer shared his insights into the minds of other killers and helped analyze their crimes. As the series became an international sensation, Raven became Phelps’s unlikely confidante, ally—and friend.
In this deeply personal account, Phelps traces his own family’s dark history, and takes us into the heart and soul of a serial murderer. He also chronicles the complex relationship he developed with Raven. From questions about morality to Raven’s thoughts on the still-unsolved, brutal murder of Phelps’s sister-in-law, the author found himself grappling with an unwanted, unexpected, unsettling connection with a cold-blooded killer.
Drawing on over 7,000 pages of letters, dozens of hours of recorded conversations, personal and Skype visits, and a friendship five years in the making, Phelps sheds new light on Raven’s bloody history, including details of an unknown victim, the location of a still-buried body—and a jaw-dropping admission. Eye-opening and provocative, Dangerous Ground is an unforgettable journey into the mind of a charming, manipulative psychopath that few would dare to know—and the determined journalist who did just that.
The cover copy merely scratches the surface of what is a testament to my life in true crime, how I got here, the absolute emotional breakdown I had while interviewing this serial killer, and how what we do as work can sometimes penetrate the very depths of our souls and darken our lives. Writing this book forced me to look back. I had thought I’d tackled all of my past issues, but when you lay them out on paper, sudden realizations occur. You begin to see your life differently. I’ll never write another book like DANGEROUS GROUND. I might also say that I tell the complete story of my sister-in-law’s murder and how it rippled throughout our family, sending my brother into his own deadly hell hole. A lot of you have asked over the years about this part of my life. No stone is left unturned here. I drag every bit of it out into the open, warts and all (yes, that’s me on the pony—a photo from DANGEROUS GROUND. Sheriff Phelps!)
Cover copy: Iowa housewife Tracey (Richter) Pittman Roberts seemed to have it all: natural beauty, three loving children, and a fairy tale second marriage to a handsome self-made businessman. But beneath the happy façade was a woman who used lies, manipulation, sex, ugly allegations, blackmail—and even murder—to serve her own selfish ends.
On December 12, 2001, police rushed to Tracey’s home after a shooting left her special-needs, young neighbor dead. Tracey claimed it was an act of self-defense. Nine gunshot wounds—and a decades-long trail of extortion, fabrication, fraud, and intimidation—said otherwise.
Ten years after the crime, Tracey’s case finally went to trial in an explosive courtroom showdown. In a searing exploration of the criminal mind, bestselling investigative journalist M. William Phelps traces the saga of a psychopath who hid in plain sight—until her wicked ways caught up with her.
That’s one of Tracey’s many mugshot photos. She is, no doubt, one of the most notorious psychopaths I’ve written about. There is no other person on the planet like Tracey and BEAUTIFULLY CRUEL cracks her entire life open and shows, by Tracey’s own behavior, just how “cruel” human beings can be. I’ve never had more behind-the-scenes access to a case in my career. The book is being legally vetted and edited as we speak. I’m overwhelmed by the amount of psychotic behavior by one person—who has seemingly fooled so many in her life, including family and friends.
I’ve written a bona fide thriller based on some of my cold cases, (wt) THE OTHER GIRL. My agent is now finding the right home for the project. This is my “break out” thriller, I am certain. It’s something I’ve wanted to do—trying and failing in the past—for a long time. We’ll see where it all goes.
Television & Film Projects:
For TV and film, I have several projects in the works. I’ve been saying this for quite some time, I know. But I need to point out that what I do is not your typical TV fodder, so finding the right concept and the right space for my ideas is not always easy. It’s coming, please don’t worry. It just takes a lot of time, planning, developing, and pre-investigating to get on air the type of programming I like to produce and can be proud of when done.
I wish I could say more about all the television projects I am involved in, either as producer/creator or presenter/host, but I hate to talk about things in the development stage. (I also despise the tease aspect of how this all sounds—that’s certainly not my style, but it is what it is, I guess you could say.)
There is so much junk on TV today sold as “true crime,” it makes me work harder at creating unique and quality true crime TV, a series I can take pride in when I am out on the road and in post-production. I see so many “Dark Minds” knockoffs on TV today, it makes my head spin. It’s actually flattering that, without getting any credit, John Kelly and I kind of started a true crime TV trend in the realm of cold cases and hands-on investigatory, so-called unscripted television.
My aim has always been to raise the bar, not come in underneath it. That said, creating quality nonfiction television take a tremendous amount of time, effort, thought and (pre)investigation prior to even becoming an idea.
The film in the works, of which I am executive producing, is with a wonderful company, Synthetic Cinema International. Synthetic founder/producer Andrew Gernhard and his right-hand man, Colin Theys, have taught me more about film-making over the past 18 months than I could have ever learned in years of working in the business. I see a bright, prosperous future here, a long working partnership—that is, as soon as we get this first film in the can and completed.
Andrew and Colin are full of passion for making films. Andrew has schooled me on the business of producing and we’ve become great friends in the process. I’m lucky and fortunate. Very grateful. (There’s Andrew [Bad Santa] and I at Synthetic’s 2016 Christmas party—he looks a lot angrier and menacing than he really is, trust me; and below that, Colin Theys [one of my favorite people!] and I talking on set of a Synthetic film shot in Connecticut last summer.)
Making films is a tricky business. All the stars (no pun intended) need to align for a film to get made—then, when you’re in it, you need to forget about the business end and focus on making the best film you can with the amount of money budgeted. There is so much competition today. It’s no wonder, really, anything of any quality gets made. I am extremely fortunate to have met and now be working with Colin and Andrew—Synthetic makes high quality films on budget. I’ve met and worked with so many in the business over the years, spent time in Hollywood, and met lots and lots of film producers making empty promises they never keep, etc. These guys are top notch. I have a lot of respect for them, their entire crew, and what they do.
I’ve filmed many more SNAPPED episodes and other true crime TV commentary spots (even one for a Japanese true crime series—incredible, huh, the reach of true crime today) which will air in 2017. Also, we’re gearing up to begin filming season 10 of DEADLY WOMEN. Wow, what a milestone. (Take that, Homicide Hunter! LOL. Just kidding, Kenda. You really have a great success there with your series and I am extremely happy for you and Investigation Discovery.)
Thank you, all of my readers and TV viewers and social media fans, for an inspiring 2016—all the comments and kind remarks and well wishes, I try to read them all. Each one of you means so much to me. There are so many true crime choices today. The fact that you rely on me for some of your true crime is overwhelmingly humbling.
I am so grateful for all of you. I mean this. You are my true inspiration to continue doing what I do. —Sincerely, MWP, January 5, 2017
PS: Please don’t forget about your local foodbanks–they need your donations: canned goods, pasta, money (whatever you can give). Post-holiday, when everyone (understandably) slips from being in the giving mode, is when foodbank donations tank hard. Be generous and thanks for helping.