Well Devil in the Red Dress has had it’s first public outing. Yesterday’s Sun and today’s News of the World both talk about a “sensational new book” on their front page – when I first saw the trail for the News of the World got all excited and wanted to know who had written it!
It’s odd reading material from my book as a news story. I’m so used to being the one reacting to the the news it’s weird being the news myself. Writing a book puts you in a bubble where it’s easy to forget about the outside world. You concentrate so much on telling the story that everything else melts away for the duration. Now we’re getting close to publication it’s all about changing gear and getting out there and selling my tale.
To be honest I’m looking forward to it. The more I looked into the details set out in the trial the more interesting I found Sharon Collins and Essam Eid. I spent eight weeks of the day job covering Sharon’s trial for the national and local media, I knew all about the emails, the letters to the Gerry Ryan Show (one of the most famous talk shows on RTE, Ireland’s national radio service), the fact that her lover, one of her three potential victims was standing by her and proved as much by planting a kiss directly on her lips as he left the stand.
At the Central Criminal Court, Sharon was very much the leading lady and there were many days when her co-accused faded into the background, a “patsy” bobbing along in the wake of the great white defendant as his defence counsel put it in his closing speech. It wasn’t until I started researching The Devil in the Red Dress that I came across the details of another leading lady on the other side of the Atlantic.
Teresa Engle’s trial for extortion in California yielded evidence just as lurid as that in the trial I sat through. Arguing that she had been pushed into her involvement with Hitmanforhire.net and the subsequent attempts to extort money from the unfortunate “marks” she painted her “husband” Essam Eid as a kinky sadist who made her do all manner of depraved things in bed. It was news to me, for example, that Eid had neglected to tell his first wife Lisa that he was in favour of polygamy even when he moved wife number 2 into the family house. Teresa was always referred to as his wife in the Irish courts because that was what she called herself.
I’m looking forward to talking about the weird symmetry that I found looking through the evidence against these two convicted women. Both of them got involved with a dodgy marriage – Sharon ordered a Mexican proxy marriage online while Teresa claimed she married Essam bigamously in a Vegas wedding.
Both of them accuse the partners they were so keen to snare of all kinds of sexual perversions (although the only claim that has had any evidence to back it up was the fact that Eid was in the habit of having threesomes with wives 1 & 2 – it was the one thing the wives agreed on in their statements to the FBI).
Finally both women had a staggering determination to get what they wanted. Sharon Collins would trawl the Internet to find someone to bump off her lover and his two sons when he refused to marry her and give her and her own two sons a claim to his millions. Teresa Engle on the other hand was so desperate to have a baby that she left her husband (who hadn’t told her he’d had a vasectomy), took up with a raging drug addict for a decade with whom she had the longed for baby, then dumps him and goes back to husband number 1, who was a better financial bet to play the kind of happy families she had always wanted to.
It’s a bizarre symmetry but one that gives the ballad of Lying Eyes and Tony Luciano an easy narrative flow that real life doesn’t often have. Maybe if Sharon Collins had met Teresa Engle under different circumstances (other than when Teresa turned up to give evidence against her) they could even have been friends.
When gardai first heard Sharon’s alibi, a woman called Maria Marconi who she claimed had been teaching her to write a novel but may have really been dating her blackmailer, they thought she and Teresa could have been one and the same. The description Sharon gave the gardai matches Teresa in all respects other than her hair. Sharon would tell of her friendship with Marconi rather wistfully…perhaps she could have found it with Teresa Engle.
When I start publicising Devil properly I’m looking forward to telling people about these two mirrored lives and everything else I found out when I researched the story behind the Hitman trial. But it’s not the same as reporting news. It’s telling a story certainly but it’s something that other people will report. It’s all a change of perspective and one that I’m looking forward to. It’s a great story after all…and one that’s been great fun to write about!