The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein



Thursday, January 08, 2009

Gina Barton, Fatal Identity

Please welcome Gina Barton, who writes for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is my latest guest blogger. I'm currently reading her book- Fatal Identity, and am looking forward to sharing my thoughts on it with you, but in the meantime, I've invited her to introduce herself to you.

Her website can be found at http://www.fatalidentity.com/, and for those who don't want to wait for my thoughts on the book- you can find copies available via Amazon.

From newspaper series to true crime book

By Gina Barton

Within my first week on the job at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, my editor handed me a short article about a headless, handless body found near the border of Wisconsin and Michigan.

“I know you like to do crime narratives,” he said. “This looks like it might be a good one.”

That was back in 2002. The body had been identified as that of a local man, Timothy Wicks. The police had a suspect in custody – but they weren’t charging him with murder. As soon as I started researching the life and times of Dennis Gaede, the suspect, I was hooked. His past had included using multiple stolen identities in Canada as well as some undercover police work here in Wisconsin. And while parts of Wicks’ body had been found in Wisconsin and Michigan, police believed he had been killed in North Dakota.

The newspaper series that became the book took two years to complete. During the reporting process, Gaede was in prison in North Dakota for insurance fraud. After I’d kept tabs on him and written him letters for months, he finally agreed to an interview. After that, the woman he’d been married to at the time of the crime, Diana Fruge, spoke with me as well. While Gaede spun one yarn after another about his colorful past, Fruge told me she had witnessed Wicks’ murder.

My editors were brave enough to run a five-part series on the murder in 2004, even though murder charges still had not been filed. When Gaede ultimately was charged, the paper sent me to North Dakota to cover both the trial and the sentencing. Only after Gaede was convicted did I realize I had a book on my hands.

I once read that the best way to finish writing a book was one page a day, one day at a time, and that’s how I wrote Fatal Identity. It’s the kind of story that proves truth is stranger than fiction. Now that it’s done, I’m on the lookout for the next one.