Friday, April 2, 2021

The Legal Killer: Interview with Elliot Mason

For many years, Elliot Mason was a featured and contributing writer for several websites, blogs and trade magazines. In late 2019, his first suspense thriller, "The Arlington Orders", was released too much critical acclaim. Featured on radio interviews, podcasts and television shows, Mason's work struck a chord with the public as it touched upon many of today's hot button topics, making him one of the most in demand new authors. His eagerly anticipated follow-up novel, "The Legal Killer", is set for release in the spring of 2021. It's controversial subject matter has already created a buzz among fans and critics alike, and will certainly be one of the year's most talked about suspense-thrillers. In addition, he has two more novels in the works due for release in 2022 and 2023. Mr. Mason still resides in Southern California and is currently active in writer’s workshops, book readings and signings and other appearances.

Let’s jump right into the book, “The Legal Killer”. For anyone reading this interview and have never heard of the book or is curious about the backstory, why this story? What was itching in your soul that told you that you needed to write this story? 

I have always been fascinated at how perceptions are formed about our institutions and how people accept myths or propaganda as truth without ever questioning it or the people who distribute this information. And over the course of many years, I had read an enormous amount about our federal justice system. 

Yet after reading so many stories, I realized how little I knew about the Department of Justice, how it functioned, and its impact on the country. When it became obvious how little I knew of this major part of our system, I also began to understand that most of our society was just like me when it came to their lack of knowledge as well. 

As I researched the Department of Justice and the major entities that comprise it, such as the US Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Bureau of Prisons, I was shocked and disgusted about how they conducted themselves. I soon came to the opinion that these people who were charged with the responsibility to protect Americans, were actually one of the greatest threats to our country’s citizenry. 

The more I learned, the greater desire I had to expose it for what I believe it is, and to dispel the misconceptions and counter the information that the DOJ distributes. They try and portray themselves as the public benefactor, and as I see it, they are anything but. 

In a nutshell, what is “The Legal Killer” about? 

The Legal Killer is the story of a young graduate student in Georgia who becomes the focus of a killer’s twisted game. The story begins with the murder of an Assistant US Attorney in California. The body is displayed in a very unusual manner. 

My main character, Des Cook, has just finished his studies at the University of Georgia when he gets a knock at his door. Two FBI agents are there and begin to question him about the young attorney who was killed in California. 

He is bewildered and asks what this has to do with him. They present him with a note which instructs the FBI to find Des and claims that “He has the answers”. Soon afterward, the killer contacts Des and gives him a series of riddles to follow. If he fails to arrive at the location the riddle designates within the given time frame, another person dies. 

As the story unfolds, Des begins to learn the motivation of the killer, the possible next targets and why he has been made the focus of such a deadly game. 

Your first novel was, “The Arlington Orders” and that was a suspenseful story about the disappearance of the Confederate Treasury. These are two totally different stories or are they? As a genre writer, are there any similarities or are they just topics that you personally enjoy? Although both have historical aspects, they are vastly different stories. The Arlington Orders was really entrenched in history, whereas The Legal Killer is a much more modern thriller that touches heavily upon one of the most discussed topics in our political discourse. 
All the stories I write about are topics I find fascinating. As a writer, I think writing about topics you enjoy or touch you on a deep level is a prerequisite. If a writer tries to force an interest where there is none simply because they think that others may find it interesting, that is probably the quickest way for a story to become a disaster for both writer and reader alike. 

Passion comes across in writing, so whether a topic fills you with joy, anger, sadness, or hope, as long as it’s something you feel strongly about, there is a much greater chance that the quality of the writing is going to be better. 

This is only your second novel, but there seems to be a theme, fiction combined with a touch of reality. Conspiracy perhaps? Controversy? Are portions of this story inspired by real accounts? 

I use actual truth or facts in which I build fictional stories around. I believe that most often, the best way to ensure that people will learn about a topic is if they are entertained in the process. 

I would say my books touch more upon controversy then conspiracy, especially in The Legal Killer. I try and shy away from conspiracy theories as I find the credible much more interesting. 

The problem with conspiracy theories is that they are based in beliefs usually driven by emotion or ideas created solely by a desire from their adherents to make sense of the world around them. However, conspiracy theories all have one thing in common, they lack any real research or concrete evidence, instead relying on conjecture or the loosest of ties. For the most part, they stretch the conceivable to a point where it no longer makes any sense or is so ridiculous it becomes comical or tragic. 

Even though The Legal Killer is a fictional story, all the stories surrounding the Department of Justice and its entities were inspired by real accounts. It took me four years of research to finish the book. I interviewed many people who were either currently or formerly associated with the DOJ and its many entities. These people risked not only their jobs but their safety in talking with me. 

In addition, I talked with people who were currently or once associated with other businesses and governmental departments who have firsthand knowledge of our federal justice system and the way it operates. I studied hundreds of real cases, learned the immoral and sometimes illegal tactics that the DOJ utilizes and the utter destruction they leave in their wake. 

What are some of your inspirations? Do you sometimes observe things and see what others don’t? 

I find myself inspired by people who can see through the BS and get to the heart of the matter. It seems in today’s age of social media and twenty-four-hour news cycles that have become nothing more than propaganda outlets for one point of view or another, that people have not only lost their sense of what is real, but what is important. I think this leads me to find inspiration in strange places. 

This may seem strange, but I find inspiration in comedians. I will find inspiration in people like Bill Maher, who although has a definite political leaning, is not afraid to call out people on his own side of the aisle. I find inspiration in comics like Bill Burr who says things that may not be politically correct or popular but are often rooted in common sense. To me, artist and entertainers who focus more on the art of their craft, rather than satisfying the requirements of someone else’s narrative are the most inspirational. They are the ones that that give me the strength to tackle difficult topics and not be concerned whether some may find it objectionable. 

I don’t think I’m unique. I think a lot of people see what I see on various topics, however, are frightened that if they speak up, there may be serious consequences. I do not believe I possess some special talent to see what others cannot. I think if I have any advantage whatsoever, it is having an inquisitive nature and to not be willing to settle for the answers or explanations that are given on social media or other outlets. 

How did you develop the characters in this story? Was this hard for you to develop? What was the process for you to create these characters? 

My characters tend to be a combination of people I know, or I have interviewed. I will incorporate their personalities or even aspects of myself into my characters. Ironically, I will often write parts of my personality into the villains. 

When I created my main characters for this story, I wanted them to represent certain attributes of society. My heroes are far from perfect. For instance, Des is honest but can be na├»ve to the point of being gullible. I wanted him to not only represent the loss of innocence, but also serve as an indictment of our foolishness. In a way, he represents American society. He is one who constantly holds onto hope and belief in certain institutions even when he has been consistently proven wrong. My villains are also never completely villainous. The old school James Bond villain who wants to take over the world and who is completely evil to the core of his being is fun, however, is not very realistic. I believe there is good and bad in each of us. When I create my villains, they will often do the wrong thing for the right reason or vise-versa. When I am writing my villains, I do so with the hope my reader will feel torn about them. 

In your opinion, what kind of person will like this book? 

I believe anyone who likes political thrillers or murder mysteries will enjoy this story. I also believe that anyone who follows the news will find them interesting as well. However, most of all, I believe anyone who likes to be challenged will enjoy this book. 

My goal with every story I write is to make my reader feel uncomfortable. If I can challenge their preconceived notions and accomplish this, then I think I have done my job. 

Obviously, you are an avid book reader, as most writers are. Who are your favorite authors and what are your favorite books? 

Don Winslow is one of my favorite authors. The way he styles his stories is incredible. His book The Force, is one of my all-time favorites. I am a fan of James Elroy and his gritty style. LA Confidential and The Big Nowhere are fantastic. I am also a fan of Dan Brown, and admire his attention to detail, from a research standpoint, he is unmatched. 

It sure seems like you are on a roll or about to be on a successful one. Do you have another project already on the backburner waiting to be written and published? 

I am working on another suspense thriller that deals with the Israeli/Palestinian issue, its impact around the world and especially here in the United States. I am currently entrenched in research and have been amazed at what I have found out and some of the massive misconceptions and lack of knowledge that people have about the history of that situation and the myths that are being propagated today. 

What did you do before you became a published writer? 

Before I became a novel writer, I did a lot of freelance writing for websites, blogs and online magazines. I was also involved in special events coordination and marketing. 

Obviously, the theme of your first novel is historical suspense and this one seems to follow the Suspense genre. Is this a genre you want to continue to create in? What other genres are you exploring? 

 I feel comfortable writing suspense thrillers and feel that I can challenge people best in that genre. However, I also have an interest in writing about political issues away from the suspense format. I enjoy commentary writing and feel that writing in an op ed fashion that encourages vigorous discussion and debate is exciting and extremely important. 

I want to get people away from what I call “fragmented thinking”, which is basically thinking in 280 characters or some other truncated social media platform style. Our world is too complex for topics to be completely defined or discussed in such a limited space. Social media is great for entertainment purposes and limited perspectives about unimportant items, and in many ways, it has become necessary. But in my opinion, when it comes to using it as the format to discuss important issues, I believe when people look back at this time period in terms of the thoughtful exchange of ideas about politics and social issues, it will go down in history as something akin to the dark ages.

Follow Elliot Mason and purchase "The Arlington Orders" on Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Find Elliot Mason on Instagram 
Elliot Mason official website

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