The First Two Reviews for TWO FACE: OBLIVION

Many regular readers of this blog have followed the Watts case from the very beginning. If the murders themselves aren’t still shocking almost a year later, what is almost as astonishing is the investigation into it. It’s not that the investigation lacked resources, quite the opposite, it’s this mismatch between the crime and investigation, and the prosecution.

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Each successive book in the TWO FACE series is harder to write, but perhaps easier and more interesting to read. The reviews reflect this, but let’s face it – the first two narratives were written without the benefit of 2000 pages of discovery, with no interrogations and very little evidence.

It’s been a challenge in the last few books trying to transcribe hours and hours of often indistinct audio into a cogent narrative. It doesn’t help that Watts and Kessinger are both mumblers, especially Watts. One hopes law enforcement will get their act together in this regard. If you’re going to record an interrogation, make sure you can hear it, and use it. But that’s part of the real meat and potatoes work of the true true crime writer.  Who’s going to do it if not TCRS?

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Over time, true crime evolves. We’ve seen in the Watts case how the story has evolved. It’s already split into those who believe the Second Confession and those who don’t, into a group who believe Watts is a monstrous simpleton who just snapped, and another group [a smaller group I think] who see the case as more complex, and the crimes as premeditated.

As we become familiar with the facts, evidence and nuances, we have to decide what to do with it. That takes discernment. We have to decide which path we’re going to take, and who to trust.

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In terms of the interrogations, it’s worth noting that while we hear the voices of the FBI, CBI and lead detective questioning Watts, and although we get to read the synopsis of the interview, we don’t get their interpretation afterwards. We don’t get to see what they actually believe, and what they don’t.

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It’s tempting to imagine what-you-see-is-what-you-get in these interviews, but it’s really a game. It’s the true crime game, isn’t it? It’s a game from the side of the Silver Fox, but it’s also a game played by law enforcement. Are we able to decipher the rules of that game yet, and the criminal psychology that governs it? Are we becoming better lie detectors, or liars?

All of this is reflected to some extent in the Watts marriage. It’s also a game. It also has unwritten rules and invisible threads running through it, pulling strings, drawing it in this direction or that. The affair is really a reality check for all three players in this game. The affair is going to validate some and invalidate others. It’s going to reveal the true state of the relationships, commitments, cash and secret resentments.

Our incredible access in this case to the Watts family allows us not only to fathom how fairy tales are born, but how and why they die. The Watts case is a vital and valuable cautionary tale, and though the American public were denied the opportunity to learn from this tragedy in court, through a criminal trial, the TWO FACE book series provides another alternative.

5star-reviews

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Two Recent Reviews of DRILLING THROUGH DISCOVERY by British Readers

I try to be balanced when blowing my own trumpet with book reviews, by also providing a poor review, and dealing with the criticisms. This time I’m not going to do that. I do find it strange how the reviews differ in that some [a minority] accuse the writing of being “badly researched”, while others refer to it as “superb journalism”. So which is it?

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It is important to note that, as “Liverbird” points out, one should read the books in the order they are written. The theories presented in the later books are “built” in the first narrative, and tested, developed and improved upon as more and more information is analyzed, integrated and the overall case understood.


More reviews from British readers for the first four books in the series, provided here in reverse order. RAPE OF CASSANDRA is the 4th book in the series.

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Below is a review, also from “Liverbird”, on TWO POLLYANNAS, the 3rd book in the series.

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British review for the 2nd book BENEATH THE OIL.

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I sincerely appreciate the reviewer “madbmad” for pointing out how accurate the first book was [published in mid-September] even though the book was only read in February. It’s easy to forget what we didn’t know prior to the discovery document dump in November. THE MAN UNDERNEATH CHRISTOPHER WATTS referred to the “other Chris” and a “second Chris” two full months before FBI agent Grahm Coder’s interrogation was made public, where he put it to the suspect that there were “two Chrises”.

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More: The Tale of Two Chrises

For American readers, follow this link to read samples or purchase the TWO FACE series from Amazon.com.

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2 Reviews – 1 Gets it, 1 Doesn’t

Some people wake up in the morning and check their notifications on social media. Since I have about 92 titles out there [including several series], and since I earn a living from true crime writing, I like to stay on top of the reviews. Am I hitting the mark with readers or missing it?

Are the Jerry MaGuire moments that I experienced while writing translating in people’s minds? Are they seeing some of the insights I’m seeing, is some of the obscurity around this case beginning to clear in their minds too?

Today was a pleasant surprise. A dude called Joshua found the signal in the noise and reflected on it. We’ll get to Joshua in a moment.

For true crime to be any good it has to be accurate. If any of the facts are wrong, if small details are slightly off, the whole narrative becomes unreliable. In this respect I sincerely value feedback from readers or critics who point out material inaccuracies.

One of the strong points of my books [and CrimeRocket] is the consistent quality and accuracy of the research. One can only be on top of a case by sitting on it day in and day out, and applying one’s mind consistently.  It can take a long time to unearth what’s hidden. As tough as true crime is, it becomes unnecessarily harder when conspiracies are added to the stew. They’re easy to foist away when they’re fresh. If, however, one comes to a case like the Ramsey case 20 years later, there are often so many myths and conspiracies, it can feel pretty daunting finding a tangible thread to draw on when the case is so littered with chaff and nonsense.

At this site conspiracy theories are avoided like the plague unless they’re considered serious and important enough to be debunked.

While precision needs to one of the highest priorities in true crime, what precision is not, and isn’t trying to be, is this:

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The “error filled” criticism suggests that the research is at fault, when in reality, the gripe seems to be about spelling mistakes. The Discovery Documents are rife with spelling errors, and a few factual inconsistencies too. Does that mean the entire file is trash?

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The above reviewer’s most useful contribution is in the color of the suitcase. He’s right. The suitcase Shan’ann traveled with to Arizona wasn’t a neon pink-orange as described in the first TWO FACE book [published in mid-September 2018], in fact it was black.

Of course, complaining about this in January, four months after the book was written [and with the benefit of the bodycam footage] is playing johnny-come-lately to this case, piggybacking on one set of data at one point in time in order to poke holes in another set, writing at another time. Not exactly fair, is it?

That said, it is worth mentioning, and it has been mentioned here several times. This issue was broached on November 25 [a week after the Discovery Documents were released] in this post:

Chris Watts moved Shan’ann’s suitcase from the bottom of the stairs to inside the master bedroom upstairs, leaving it at the doorway – why?

And again on December 4 in this post:

The Suitcase At the Bottom of the Stairs

And to some extent in this this post on December 6:

Shan’ann’s black suitcase was moved upstairs – what about the purple sleep mask?

What makes the reviewer’s point feel a tad disingenuous is the contention that the “errors” were made recklessly, rather than the fact that when the first book was written the color of the suitcase, as pointed above, was unknown.

When I described Shan’ann exiting Nickole’s vehicle in the narrative and entering the front door, I wanted as realistic an account as possible. So I went looking through Shan’ann’s social media for her suitcases and initially found this one.

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Ironically, this narrative description hasn’t been trumped by actual video footage from the doorbell camera of Shan’ann arriving at the door as she was recorded arriving. So we have to visualize that until the evidence is released [if it ever is].

The point of writing the first book barely a month after the crimes was to demonstrate [and test] how much we could know and extrapolate based on publicly available knowledge, as well as observation and insight.

In the scheme of things the color of the suitcase doesn’t matter as much as the suitcase narrative matters [where it was, where it moved to subsequently, and what was removed from it without the permission of law enforcement]. The suitcase is also an important marker in that theoretically it points to Shan’ann’s movements inside the house. She’s at the door, she removed her shoes, she enters and gets to the staircase. After that there is arguably no way to track her final moments.

The reviewer also seems to take great exception to the assertion in the first book that Shan’ann was a qualified nurse. Wasn’t she? What student loans was she repaying?

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The accusation that the book was published “too soon” misses the point. It was purposefully researched and written quickly and published first. This is one of the mission parameters of Rocket Science as per the TOOLBOX tab on CrimeRocket:

To deliver accurate, accessible  true crime narratives quicker, better and more effectively than anyone else.

The logo of TCRS depicts a journalist riding a rocket, holding a camera in one hand, blasting the latest story into the public domain. So to accuse Rocket Science of researching and/or publishing too quickly is like accusing Coca Cola of being sweet.

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As for the reviewer’s complaints about spelling, Dieter with a small letter is dieter, and like many in the news media, I took an executive decision and “corrected” the spelling. It’s true that Shan’ann and others spelled the dog’s name Dieter, but my own journalistic standards balk at the spelling. What can I say, sorry about that.

The spelling of Shan’ann’s name is a different story, but at least on this point the reviewer agrees.

The name of Thayer’s daughter was taken from audio interviews made to the news media following Watts’ arrest. Her name was not published in any news media, but was subsequently found on Thayer’s Instagram account.

The reviewer seems to care about these details, and of course they matter, but how they play into the material aspects of a triple murder are questionable. What about the big theories presented in the first book? What about the order of the crimes, the timing, the location, what about the core issues to this case?

The final point to make is about a regular accusation made by true crime critics of true crime writers. By writing a book about a case one is being “greedy”. I used to be a full-time journalist. Now I’m a full-time true crime author. I do it for a living. It’s work, it’s work I care about and I daresay harder work and longer hours for each dollar earned than most regular jobs. When folks working regular jobs receive their paychecks for work they did are they greedy too?

It’s tempting to think that the criticisms mentioned above aren’t even sincere, but rather that – for whatever reason – the reviewer simply wishes to score points. But it may be that they are sincere, which is a shame, because he completely misses the point of what these narratives are trying to do.

Far from just writing to pay the rent, I have a sense of mission about justice and true crime. And a few people do get it, like this guy.

More: Chris Watts: What Rocket Science got right – and wrong

First Review of TWO POLLYANNAS: “True fiction masquerading as true crime”

The first review has been posted for TWO POLLYANNAS and – oh dear – it’s a 1 star review. But does the reviewer have a point?

This book reads like a nit picky little old lady with a grudge. It’s hastily scraped together with bits and pieces of perceived reality that calls itself rocket science. My grandmother used to say if you’ve got nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all. Not only has the author nothing nice to say about a murdered woman and her children, what he says is simply not true. This isn’t true crime writing: it’s true fiction masquerading as true crime.

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And these are other reviews by “Don Pierson”:

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I regularly check my reviews and “Don Pierson” is definitely a new name on the review list. Since there were only three reviews of The Murder of Vincent van Gogh and SLAUGHTER I remember clearly who all three were. Ergo “Don Pierson” is Pauline, a former reader who has left 160 comments on CrimeRocket, more by far than any other reader.

And then yesterday, this one:

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Strange how we can discuss dishonesty, deceit and manipulation as an out-there-in-the- world-of-true-crime concept, but in reality, it’s right here with us. If I don’t like you, I do what I feel like to malign you, and my malice is completely forgivable – because it’s mine.

My response?

Take that HLN > “This book is better than any news channels I have watched!” ;-)

Below is a five-star review posted today [October 15th, 2018] on Amazon.com for the second TWO FACE narrative..

Such an engrossing, captivating read, that will have you continuously swiping the pages. The writer of this book did an amazing job writing it.

*The key to understanding all people, and all social constructs, is to see people through their eyes, not ours.

After reading the first book and this one, it raises my curiosity even more. He points out many aspects of the Chris Watts case that I have not thought of or took notice too.

In my first review of the first book, I referred to it as a novel. I am completely out my genre on this. I am a romance reader and review them as a hobby. But this authors writing is fantastic, I enjoy his input on the case and was glad to see he wrote another. I will continue to read every book he writes proceeding this case.

He has many great ideas and a unique way with his words. His words are just so absorbing, I literally cannot put the book down once I began reading. The first one or this one.

A compelling read. I refuse to share them all and ruin it for other readers. The writer has such a unique way with his words!
*But there’s a nasty edge side to the blade of symbolism. While validating symbols can cut through a stifling jungle of obstacles, allowing us to escape our cages…

I would recommend this to anyone who is following this case and tunes in every night to watch the news. This book is better than any news channels I have watched!

TWO FACE BENEATH THE OIL is currently a #1 Bestseller in Trail Practice, and ranked #22 in Hoaxes & Deceptions. 

 

Is the Criticism Against TWO FACE Valid?

The latest review of TWO FACE describes it as being 50% accurate “at best”. And the rest goes downhill from there:

Wildly inaccurate, a total work of fiction. This case is less than 2 months old and there’s extremely limited knowledge made public. Even the sample is at best 50% accurate. There were no cadaver dogs, they were search & tracking dogs. Cadavar dogs do not bark to alert their handlers either. The story the book tells is pure speculation, which [you] can read for free in any facebook group + copy & paste from news reports.
They’re not even cold in the ground yet and people are already trying to turn a profit and writing books based off of wild imaginations.

The main points in the review are summarized below:

  1. Wildly inaccurate, a total work of fiction. The main gripe in the review appears to be about accuracy.
  2. This inaccuracy claim is reinforced with the notion that the knowledge about the case is currently “extremely limited”, and thus any narrative about it [let alone two] has to be extremely limited also.
  3. As an example of the gross inaccuracy, the use of cadaver dogs [as highlighted in TWO FACE] is criticized.
  4. And to bolster the notion that cadaver dogs weren’t used, the reviewer notes that “cadaver dogs do not bark to alert”.
  5. You can read all you need to know about the Watts case on Facebook, for free.
  6. The book was written too soon in a cynical effort to make money.
  7. The idea of the book was to spin an imaginative yarn, and steal money from the public by deceiving them with speculations dressed-up as facts.

Now let’s deal with these 7 claims individually.

  1. The first section in TWO FACE deals with the timeline of events. A timeline is by default a factual narrative that’s anchored in time. In other words, at what time did Nickole Utoft Atkinson raise the alarm? When the police get the call and what time did they arrive at the Watts home? Where was Chris Watts at that time? What time did he return home? While he was out, and on his way, did he provide the cops with the garage key code? Had he really forgotten it? What happened during the initial wal-through? Which detectives were there? What happened afterwards? What was going on during the Sermon on the Porch? And so on. The narrative drills deep in the facts as they played out between Sunday August 12th and the end of that remarkable week, Friday August 13th. By placing the entire timeline in context and in chronological order, we suddenly see the events just as they are with a much deeper perspective. To argue that the timeline is either inaccurate or fictitious is a malicious claim.
  2. One of the reasons I wrote TWO FACE before the trial was to prove how much information and insight can be gained by paying attention to the case, and by simple investigation. One could argue the best, the most authentic data can only be gotten firsthand, by interviewing people directly, and by sniffing around the physical area.  What the narrative is really aiming towards is omniscience, but we don’t need to go to #2825 Saratoga Trail to be omniscient about Vass Road, or CERVI 319. We have modern tools for that – like Google, and Google Earth. The current archive of the Watts case – which is updated on a daily basis – provides more than 200 facts and hundreds more photos, maps, graphs, insights from the Watts’ social media and other relevant information. Although TWO FACE is a relatively short narrative at 30 000 words, I think most people have been surprised at just how much information it does reveal besides and beyond public knowledge.
  3. In the review the reviewer can’t even get the spelling of the word cadaver right. Cadaver dogs weren’t used? Actually, they were, and what’s more, the cadaver dogs probably provided the cops with their most important clue in the investigation.

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4. “Cadaver dogs do not bark to alert.” Some do, some don’t. Here’s an example of a cadaver dog barking to alert:

5. “You can read all you need to know about the Watts case on Facebook, for free.” If it’s free coverage you’re after, True Crime Rocket Science has already posted over 20 articles, and an ongoing archive updated daily. They’re free to whoever wants to read them, and at least one new article is posted daily. Free.

The twitter profile associated with True Crime Rocket Science also highlights important news updates and ongoing insights about the Watts case – free as well.

There’s likely to be a lot more free coverage to come too.

There’s also an additional free resource of Watts case-related articles viewed – at last count – over 250 000 times on Shakedowntitle.com.

What the narratives provide that go well beyond the somewhat fragmented analysis  of individual posts and tweets, is that it builds a much deeper, wider and larger case for what we know, and it builds something new that doesn’t exist in the mainstream or on social media: a cogent scenario [a theory] for what we don’t know based on meticulously incorporating everything we do know. That’s where the real Rocket Science lies, in the authentic narrative.

The narrative requires greater care and consideration not only to write, but to read. It’s a more concentrated analysis, and so it requires proper investments of time and thought.

A lot of the insight and research that goes into the narratives is only touched on very lightly in these blog posts, and the best insights are withheld in order to make the narratives stand apart as valuable in their own right. The blog posts are designed to be a quick study, a stone bouncing quickly and lightly on the surface of the case. The narrative’s long form chapters provide a much deeper, darker and richer view of all the information, typically within a particular theme and framework.

6. “The book was written too soon in a cynical effort to make money.” How soon is too soon? One of the factors that inspired the writing of Chris Watts were the initial reports by “experts” that his Sermon on the Porch was convincing. Fullscreen capture 20181014 123425

It was this obvious heresy recycled by the mainstream media that I first attempted to counter in my first post on the Watts case, on August 18th. From then on, I felt the analysis by the media and on social media was far below par, with dozens of people making the same claims: From the misleading: “He just snapped”, “He’s a monster/psychopath/narcissist”, “If he just wanted his freedom, why didn’t he just get a divorce?” to the indignant by not particularly helpful “GUILTY!!!!!!!”

So instead of having these misperceptions misshape the narrative and perhaps control it, I hoped to control the narrative by being the first to put the most authentic narrative out there. In terms of the money motive, I write books for a living. How many people do you know who work for no pay, or wish to work for nothing?

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7. Is the point of True Crime Rocket Science to be exploitative in the way tabloids purposefully manufacture clickbait [that they know is false]? It’s the opposite. But if that were the case, if the point were to make a nice profit, my narratives on Steven Avery for example would stick to the popular “innocent victim” theory held by the majority of the public. Selling the Avery is innocent narrative would sell more books. If that were the sole purpose, to would make sense to also steer clear of “controversial” true crime cases such as Amanda Knox, where a significant number of Americans still believe in her innocence. Instead, two trilogies have been written on Knox with two more narratives left to go. These books weren’t written expressly to make money; the mission was to address the false myths about the Knox case, a case which is a classic in how PR has been used to successfully mold public opinion around a true crime suspect.Fullscreen capture 20181014 132356

Do the two TWO FACE narratives out there add nothing to what is being said almost daily on HLN and Facebook? It would be good to get the views of those who’ve read and enjoyed the first narrative, so if you have, please do make your voice heard in the comments below.

In the reddit screengrab the accusation is made that the language and tone is tabloidy and thus exploitative. You mean like CNN:

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This is the way modern journalism looks and sounds today, my friend. As a narrator you either get with your readers, or you get left behind.

It’s the express mandate of this site, and this author, to provide an authentic narrative where none exists.  Where the media narrative is not up to scratch, True Crime Rocket Science aims to address it. Besides this, the dozens of true crime books already out there proves how much can be exposed and understood simply by taking a long, hard, honest look in the world of true crime. Part of the special power in these many narratives is how the criminal psychology in one case translates [or indeed, doesn’t] from criminal to criminal and case to case.

It’s my belief, for example, that the criminal psychology in the Casey Anthony case applies to the Watts case much more than has been appreciated, imagined or acknowledged thus far.

The ambit of Rocket Science is to explore true crime far beyond the factual or narrative spaces of anyone else.And so on that note, there’s a third TWO FACE underway that focuses entirely on the dynamic of the two murdered Watts daughters.

COMING SOON…

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