Bill Evans is a 40-year veteran of TV and radio sales and management, and now he’s a mystery writer, too. Murder at Broadcast Park, his new novel, takes place at a fictionalized Santa Barbara station where the affairs and ambitions are rampant and a beloved anchor ends up dead. Harry Jessell talks with Evans about how much truth went into the fiction.
It’s your typical small-market CBS affiliate – a general manager who sleeps with the owner, a hypocritical news director who sleeps with the intern, a general sales manager who sleeps with just about anybody, a chief engineer who thinks he knows it all, a master control operator who lives in a haze of marijuana smoke and anchors and reporters whose raw ambitions know no bounds.
Typical — until the corpse of the much-loved top anchor is discovered early one morning propped up in the anchor’s chair with a rope around its neck.
That’s the setting and the set up for Murder at Broadcast Park, a lively mystery just published by Bill Evans, who knows all there is to know about broadcasting, if not murder, from having worked in TV and radio sales and management for more than 40 years. He currently is director of sales at Cordillera’s KSBY Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo, Calif. The novel’s fictional station is in Santa Barbara.
Now afraid to go into a TV station, TVNewsCheck chose to interview Evans via email.
Of all the genres, why a whodunnit?
The whodunnit inside a TV station presented me with many options that could play out with a lot of twist and turns. It allowed for interesting, believable characters.
The novel is set in the fall of 2005. That suggests that you’ve had it in a drawer for a while. When was it written? Did you consider updating it before publishing?
I began working on the novel in 2009 when I was downsized and out of work for six months. I needed to reinvent myself and I’ve always felt I was a pretty good storyteller.
Murder at Broadcast Park is part of a trilogy. The second book Live on TV 3 Palm Springs will come out in March and is the story of how the main characters in Murder ended up together and starts 20 years earlier.
In 2010 I joined Cordillera Communications and focused on my work with them as the director of sales at KRTV in Montana. I continued to work the draft out and then re-wrote the book in 2016.
I reconnected with a very old friend from high school, Greg Fields, who I had not seen in 42 years. He just did his own publishing deal with Koehler Publishing for his book Arc of the Comet that comes out at the end of this month. Greg asked to read my book and then gave it to his publisher who then agreed to publish Murder. It’s been a whirlwind because I have four other books in the works now along with two potential movie deals being talked about.
I’d say the novel has a somewhat cynical view of broadcasters. At one point, you say they are cruel in their gossiping and criticism of each other, and hypocrisy reigns at your fictional station. Is that the way you feel or have you exaggerated some of their worst qualities for dramatic purposes?
There is always some truth in fiction, but this is a whodunnit and the villain is involved in broadcasting so that part is enhanced for dramatic purposes. In my 45 years in broadcasting I’ve certainly met and heard about some very interesting and entertaining broadcasters.
The novel digresses on a couple of occasions to tell stories about the making of a news series for sweeps and the hiring of a new anchor. How much truth is in those?
There is a lot of truth in a lot of the dialogue that takes place in Murder, and I think that is why broadcasters will love this book.
What have you learned about yourself and the business in the process of writing and publishing the book?
This process has been incredible for me. I loved the entire process, but publishing a book is as much business as it is creative. Going through the editing with book editors who really know their stuff has made me a better writer. Broadcasting is all I’ve every done. I love this business and preach my passion every chance I get. I didn’t write Murder to taint local television stations—I wrote this as a fun way to tell a story but using my 45 years of broadcasting experience to help tell the story and entertain the reader.