I Love What I Do

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New Trailer For Poisoned

When I entered law school I wanted to be a prosecutor. I'm so glad I became a writer instead. Law was the more conventional path. But I jumped to the unpredictable world of writing when my wife told me she believed I could succeed as an author. It's a lot easier to believe in yourself when someone else believes in you.

That critical decision was made fourteen years ago. I've published nine books since then. My tenth book POISONED goes on sale in two weeks. Last week I received a shipment of boxes containing the first editions to come off the press. After spending two years on this project, I couldn't wait to see bound copies of the finished product. Even though this is the tenth time, I still feel like a little boy on Christmas morning.

Slowly, I opened a box and saw twenty-eight copies of POISONED staring back at me. It's a little like seeing 28 television screens, all showing the same picture -- overwhelming. I removed one copy and ran my fingers gently over the glossy jacket. Then I thumbed through all 314 crisp pages while taking in the aroma of fresh ink on new paper.

I couldn't write a book like POISONED without people's trust and cooperation. In journalism, those two commodities are more valuable than gold bars and diamonds. I need people to open up and let me inside their lives. It can be a very scary proposition for them. One way I relieve the anxiety is by showing my subjects early drafts of pages. This is unorthodox in journalism. But I find that it strengthens trust and insures accuracy.

Still, I never know how my subjects will react to the final product. But I figure they should see it before consumers do. So after I inspected my new book I sent advance copies to some of the people featured in it. That's the part that can be a scary proposition for the writer, which is probably one reason most writers don't do it. You never know how people will react to the way they've been portrayed.

One of the people I sent a book to is Roni Austin. Her six-year-old daughter Lauren dies tragically in the first chapter. Roni and her husband had to decide whether to remove Lauren from life support. No decision compares to that one.

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Lauren Rudolph shortly before being hospitalized with a stomach illness.

Roni wept when she told me what it was like to be a mother in that position. I conducted that gut wrenching interview with her at an inn near San Diego. Fittingly, it rained that day.

I decided to dedicate my book to them. Here's the inscription:

To Lauren, a daughter whose time was cut short. And to Roni, a mother who made the right decision.

Although Roni had seen early drafts of the opening chapter, I nonetheless wondered how she would react to the final version and the overall narrative.

A couple of days later, I received this voicemail:

Good morning, Jeff. This is Roni Austin. Well, I think you probably did near the impossible. You've really left me speechless. I opened the book ...and saw the nice note you left in there. It choked me. (Brief pause) And I saw the inscription that you made, the dedication, and started reading the book. And I just wanted to tell you that you really got me.

I'm so glad I didn't follow my first reaction and say, 'You know, you're a nice man, but I don't think I want to talk to you about this.' I'm glad I talked to you. I feel like we're a little bit connected here even though we're brother and sister of a different mother. I hope you understand.

I just want to thank you for doing what you've done. And thank you so much for standing up for everybody.

This is why I love to write. The moment of listening to a message like this tops the one of seeing the book for the first time.

A few days after this message, I got another surprise. This one was a video. It was produced by Terry Murphy, who was just nominated for an Emmy for a short documentary she produced on the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak for Seattle's PBS affiliate. In mid-April, Murphy flew out from Seattle to spend a couple days with my family. She brought along cinematographer Chris Raaum and lighting technician Doug Irvine. They came to shoot a video for POISONED.

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Terry Murphy preparing to interview my wife Lydia

I've been interviewed at my home many times. But I have never had a television crew living in my home for two days. The presence of television cameras and microphones recording everything you and your family do and say is a bit like turning the tables on an investigative journalist.

Rather than read what I have to say about it, just watch. You'll see why Terry and her crew will win an Emmy.

 



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Jeff Benedict is the bestselling author of sixteen non-fiction books, as well as a television and film producer. His latest book, The Dynasty, is the definitive inside story of the New England Patriots under Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, each of whom cooperated for the book. Published in 2020, it was an instant New York Times bestseller. The book is being developed into a 10-part documentary series, which Jeff is executive producing. In 2018, Jeff co-wrote the #1 bestseller Tiger Woods and he was an executive producer on the HBO documentary “Tiger” that was based on the book and aired in 2021. The book is currently being developed into a scripted series, which Jeff is executive producing. Jeff is also the executive producer on a documentary based on his book Poisoned that will air on Netflix. In 2017, he co-produced “Little Pink House,” a feature film starring Catherine Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn that was based on Jeff’s book of the same title. And in 2016, Jeff co-wrote with Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young his bestselling autobiography QB, which was the basis of an NFL Films documentary. Jeff has been a special-features writer for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, and the Hartford Courant, and his essays have appeared in the New York Times. His stories have been the basis of segments on 60 Minutes, CBS Sunday Morning, HBO Real Sports, Discovery Channel, Good Morning America, 20/20, 48 Hours, NFL Network, and NPR.

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