The Story Behind ‘Good Sam’ by Dete Meserve
One night while flipping through the network newscasts on television, I was dismayed to find that nearly every story was about a senseless murder, natural disaster, tragic accident, people perpetrating large-scale fraud, or the dark side of the American Dream. I looked through newspapers and magazines and found the same thing: fiery crashes, Ponzi schemes, shooting sprees in schools, and dead bodies found in dumpsters. As I delved further, I realized the obsession with stories about gruesome crimes, strange deaths and mysterious disappearances wasn’t just confined to news reports. It had also taken over our entertainment in prime-time television, movies, and on our bookshelves. I wondered, what would happen if someone were actually doing extraordinary good? Would the news media even find it worth of a mention? And how would we as viewers, conditioned by the steady supply of violence and tragedy, respond to stories about someone doing good?
I set out to write a mystery where the main character was searching for good, instead of evil. At the same time, I wanted there to be real stakes, compelling conflict and a satisfying journey.
I decided to tell the story through the lens of a Breaking News reporter—someone who covers tragedy, murders and disasters, also known as the Bummer Beat, on a daily basis. I spent time with KNBC4 Los Angeles news reporter Laurel Erickson to hone the character. At one point she invited me to spend a day with her “riding along.” What started as a routine day covering a story about water use on a golf course, quickly became a tragic breaking news story when an elderly man plowed his car through a busy farmer’s market in Santa Monica, killing 10 and injuring 63 others. Watching Laurel in action covering the chaotic scene became great inspiration for the lead character of Kate Bradley.
As the story developed, I needed further help on the rescue scenes throughout the book so I reached out to Larry Collins, then captain of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force. While working to get the water rescue details right, I learned that Larry had received the distinguished Medal of Valor from the Los Angeles County Fire Department for his rescue of a building inspector trapped in a 60-foot deep vertical shaft. This dramatic rescue and countless others that he shared with me shaped several scenes in the book. But it was Larry’s humble inability to see the extraordinary courage of his rescue efforts that inspired the character of Eric Hayes.
I’m truly convinced that there is far more good going on in this world than the news media have time or commercial inclination to tell us. Writing Good Sam was a way of imagining a situation where a story of someone doing good would capture the nation’s attention and make us all want to be more like Good Sam.
When Dete Meserve isn’t writing, she’s president of Wind Dancer Films, a film development, finance and production company based in Los Angeles and New York. The company has created such television hits as Roseanne and Home Improvement along with George Lopez’ latest series, Saint George, as well as successful films such as What Women Want and the award-winning comedy Bernie starring Jack Black and Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three children and a cat that rules them all. Learn more and order your copy of Good Sam here.
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