Monday, February 23, 2009

Sadly, Life Imitates Art, by Reed Farrel Coleman

This past Saturday night, as my wife and I waited for our friends to arrive for an evening out, we were sitting in the living room, barely paying attention to the news on TV. Then a photograph of Chandra Levy flashed across the screen. Now I was paying close attention. It was the 2001 disappearance and murder of Chandra Levy—an intern for California Congressman Gary Condit— that was at least partially the inspiration for my sixth novel, The James Deans. In the novel, my PI, Moe Prager, is hired to look into the two-year-old disappearance of Moira Heaton, the Chandra Levy-like intern of NY State Senator Steven Brightman.

During the course of Moe’s investigation, he discovers that Moira, like Chandra, was sexually involved with her boss. As Moe delves deeper into the case, he makes a possible connection between a predator, already in police custody for having committed several attcks on women, with Moira Heaton’s disappearance. When a second photo flashed across the screen I got a sick feeling in the pit of my belly. This photo was of a twenty-seven year old Hispanic man, Ingmar Guandique, with scruffy, unkempt hair and dressed in orange jailhouse coveralls. He had a blank expression, but cold, dark eyes. Here’s an excerpt from The James Deans:

On the subway ride from Flushing, I found myself staring across at the front page of the Post. There was a big picture of a man in his late twenties or early thirties. He had shoulder-length, scraggly hair, a cruel smile, and dead black eyes. The kind of face nightmares are made of… Whenever I looked away, I found my gaze drifting back. There was something about those eyes gazing back at me, beyond me, through me, all the way to hell.

In The James Deans, the suspect was named Ivan Alfonseca, dubbed Ivan the Terrible by the media. He had been convicted of several assaults on women and was on trial for several more, but, like Guandique, had never been accused of murder. Apparently Guandique, like his fictional counterpart, likes to brag about his exploits. An old cellmate told the cops that Guandique confessed to killing Levy years ago.

Yet in site of the parallels between my fiction and the facts, there is one very important difference. My victim, as real as she may have seemed to the readers, was made out of words. Chandra Levy was made of flesh and bone and feelings. It’s now Monday morning and I still have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.


The James Deans (978-0-9792709-8-7) has recently been reprinted by Busted Flush Press.

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