The Story Behind the Story, Part 2

Original Paperback Cover

By Lois Winston 

I began my writing career penning romance and romantic suspense before I segued into mystery. These early novels hold a special place in my heart because two of them were my first published books. They also represented the beginning of what would become a trademark of sorts for my books, whether romance or mystery, and that is my use of actual events as source material for my plots. I thought I’d devote some of my monthly spots on The Stiletto Gang this year telling you how some real-life events influenced my writing.

 

Back in October, I wrote a blog post about how an acquaintance’s not-so-perfect marriage led to my writing career and played a role in the development of Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, my first novel and second published book. The plot of that book was also influenced by a news story unfolding at the time in a Philadelphia suburb not far from where I lived.

 

On April 29, 1997, Stephanie Rabinowitz, a twenty-nine-year-old wife, part-time attorney, and mother of a one-year-old, was found strangled in her bathtub. Her husband Craig at first claimed someone had broken into their home and murdered Stephanie.

 

The police weren’t buying it. They discovered Craig had massive debts, had cheated friends out of nearly a quarter million dollars, that his career as a latex glove salesman was bogus, and that he was racking up more than two thousand dollars a week at Delilah’s Den, a “gentleman’s club.” He also frequented prostitutes and bought $8500 worth of furniture for one of the Delilah’s Den dancers.

 

Although Stephanie earned only about $33,000 a year for her part-time legal work, the couple had $300,000 worth of mortgages on their home, which was valued at only $230,000 and credit card debt of $100,000.

 

Craig had also taken out a $1.8 million dollar life insurance policy on his wife. Confronted with the staggering evidence against him, Craig Rabinowitz pleaded guilty the day his trial was set to begin.

Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception is not about the Rabinowitz case. In some ways, Karl Pollack, Anastasia’s deceased husband in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, has more in common with Craig Rabinowitz than does Phillip Wadsworth, the deceased husband in Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception. However, the Rabinowitz case did get me thinking about…well, love, lies, and deception. But mostly lies and deception, and I ran with it, incorporating some aspects of the case as well as what I knew of the systemic Philadelphia political corruption of the time.

I’m currently writing the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, and for the first time in one of my novels, I’m incorporating an actual unsolved crime that has fascinated me for more than thirty years. Stay tuned.

~*~

USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.

 

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3 replies
  1. Susan Oleksiw
    Susan Oleksiw says:

    Agatha Christie said she got some of her ideas from the newspapers. We lived in Philadelphia in the 1970s and 1980s, when the papers were full of stories that belonged in noir fiction. Good post.

    Reply
  2. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    I'm fascinated by the "truth is stranger than fiction" aspect of writing mysteries. Also, my Detective Parrott mystery series is set in Brandywine Valley, outside of Philadelphia, so our books may have a few other things in common.

    Reply

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