Saturday, May 5, 2012

Guest Post by Jon Jefferson, the "Writer" Half of Jefferson Bass

Jon Jefferson at the gate of the Body Farm
Novelist Jon Jefferson teams up with legendary bone detective Bill Bass to write memorable forensic thrillers under the pen name “Jefferson Bass.” The latest and most ambitious Jefferson Bass novel, The Inquisitor’s Key, comes out May 8. Read an excerpt on the Jefferson Bass Facebook page.

Stabbed Ribs, Barbecued Bodies, and Other Forensic Adventures

By Jon Jefferson

A dozen years ago, I was developing a television documentary about the Body Farm. I’d called up the founder of the unique post-mortem research facility, Dr. Bill Bass, and explained what I’d like to do: a piece that focused more on the scientific research than on the sensationalism of the place. Dr. Bass was agreeable, and fairly early in my research, he and I met for lunch at a Knoxville barbecue restaurant, Calhoun’s, to talk about forensic anthropology and murder cases.

Midway through lunch, he began describing the case of Letha Rutherford, an 18-year-old girl from Lexington, Kentucky, who went missing one day. Months later, her decaying body was found hidden in a trash pile in a rural area. Her death was declared a homicide, but the medical examiner couldn’t determine the cause of death.

Letha’s mother remained determined to find out what had happened to her daughter. Eventually she learned of Dr. Bass and his forensic prowess, and she persuaded him to examine her daughter’s remains. The body was exhumed, and Dr. Bass and a graduate student cleaned and examined the bones. On one of the girl’s first ribs, he told me, they found a cut mark. “Let me teach you something about stab wounds,” Bass said, and with that he snatched my plate, grabbed a steak knife, and plunged it into my half-slab of smoked ribs. Heads swiveled in our direction, then—as our fellow diners recognized Bass, a local celebrity—they smiled and returned to their conversations.

That lunchtime demonstration taught me a little bit about cut marks, and a whole lot about Bass: a guy who, despite being up to his elbows in death and dismemberment, loved his work, and loved sharing his knowledge. “This is gonna be fun,” I thought, and I was right.

I ended up making not one but two Body Farm documentaries, and for the best possible network: National Geographic, which—to their huge credit—allowed us to put the “graphic” in Geographic, when graphic (even gruesome) footage was required to explain the forensic research. Often that meant getting up close and personal with insects feasting on decomposing flesh; one night it meant filming arms, legs, and torsos as they burned on a half-dozen fires—a graduate student’s unflinching research on the effects of fire on flesh and bone. It was a nightmarish, hellish scene, and it got even more surreal around midnight, when coyotes began howling on a nearby ridge.

The adventures didn’t end when the television documentaries were done. Nine books later, they’re still going on. Some of the adventures are real-life forensic adventures (mostly Bass’s, but I’ve had a hand in some, too), recounted in the nonfiction books Death’s Acre and Beyond the Body Farm. Others are a combination: real-life science and sleuthing, applied to fictional crimes, as in the new e-story, “Madonna and Corpse” (download it for just $ .99 – the cost of a candy bar, and lots easier on your teeth!) and the latest Body Farm novel.

The novel—The Inquisitor’s Key—is the ultimate game of “what if”: What if an ace forensic anthropologist were given the chance to examine the bones of the most famous victim—the most innocent victim—in all of human history? Read it, and join us for the adventure!

For more on Jefferson Bass, find them on Facebook, join them at the blog, and follow along at Twitter

If you would like to check out other Jefferson Bass blog tour and book tour events, CLICK HERE.


KaYe said...

What a interesting little tidbit! I felt like I was spying on their conversation from the table next to Mr. Jefferson and Dr. Bass! *Could someone pass me the BBQ sauce?* ...

It takes an awesome set of people, like these fine gentlemen, to enjoy their work as much as they do. I am so envious of the other students that have been able to personally learn from Dr. Bass himself. I am just so glad that Mr. Jefferson has teamed up with Dr. Bass to share these stories with the world! Even, subsequently, teaching in that process as well!

Now, who is paying the bill here? .... said...

First, I love how they combined their last names to form the pen name Jefferson Bass.

I have never heard of either men, but then, I concentrate on kid's lit. This book sounds amazing and just might have me taking a break from the middle grade.

I have always wondered how writers went up to experts and got into their studies or labs, followed them around and poked and prodded. So the answer is to just call. Who'd of thunk.

Interesting post from every angle.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

That sounds like a terrific book. Great guest post - love the real life story behind the fiction...

SherryE said...

I really enjoyed reading this. It's fascinating to learn the story behind the story.

J.L. Campbell said...

It must be awesome to be able to work with someone like Bass in creating story. Must lend authenticity and colour to the stories.

Jen J. Danna said...

What a great (and hand on) first meeting. Nothing like a live demonstration of kerf marks to liven up lunch! A true introduction to the man behind the research facility.

Talli Roland said...

I always love hearing the stories behind the novel!

Catherine Noble said...

I love hearing stories about forensic research and unsolved mysteries... they fascinate me! Your book trailer's very good :)

Arlee Bird said...

What a thrill to read this. I'm a big fan of the Body Farm series. These books are of special interest to me since I came from not far from where the actual Body Farm is (in fact most of my family still lives in Maryville, Tennessee). And especially since when I was attending the University of Tennessee in the early 1970s I was in one of Dr Bass's anthropology classes. He was one of the best professors I had while there--entertaining, engaging, and always interesting.

Wonderful guest post.

An A to Z Co-Host
Tossing It Out

mooderino said...

A very entertaining post, thanks.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

The Golden Eagle said...

Wow. It was fascinating to read about his projects involving forensics!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'll have to pick this book up for my hubby.

Stacy S. Jensen said...

These topics used to creep me out and then my sister worked in a crime lab photographing autopsies. Good luck with your latest book.

Jessica L. Foster said...

The stuff about the body farm sounds fascinating. The blurb about the book sounds cool too. Thanks for sharing.

Lindi said...

Remind me not to go to a BBQ place with you guys. :) As I was reading I kept thinking how ironic to be chatting up bones while gnawing on bones.
Then came the stabbing. Hands on research is always the best.


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