Monday, May 21, 2012

True Story Behind Character Burke Hill

I have always been a fan of  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's nonsense writing. Better known as Lewis Carroll, he was, of course, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. In the latter book he wrote a whimsical poem titled Jabberwocky, It features a dragon-like monster and includes the line "Beware the Jabberwock, my son." It seemed a great title for a book about a sinister plot called Operation Jabberwock.

For the main character, I turned to a man I had met back in the sixties when I was editor of Nashville Magazine. He was a close friend of one of my colleagues and I got to know him pretty well. He was an ex-FBI agent with a fascinating story to tell. I did a long interview with him, and we talked about writing a non-fiction book. Then he had second thoughts about doing it as a true story. The statute of limitations hadn't run out on some of the things he had done.

According to his story, and my colleague vouched for his authenticity, he had gone to Washington out of high school and worked as a clerk at FBI Headquarters while getting an accounting degree. His job included taking documents to Hoover's home, and he became closely associated with the director. He attended the FBI Academy after graduation and worked as a field agent. He was later tapped by Hoover to be a member of his Goon Squad, a select group of agents who carried out sometimes illegal acts for the director. According to my guy, some of it involved cases outside the U.S. Their files were kept in a segregated safe known as the "T Files."

Hoover had always been bugged by the FBI's inability to infiltrate La Cosa Nostra, as he called the Mafia. When he and his assistant came up with a plan, they chose my agent for the task. He was told to resign from the FBI, commit a few crimes to establish his bona fides, and work to get in with the mob in Las Vegas. Only the director and Assistant Director Bill Sullivan would know the real story. But after months of trying, he never managed to get connected. When he came back to Washington, Hoover refused to talk to him, calling him a failure. After that, the FBI harassed his efforts to get another job until he finally fled to the Alaskan oil fields.

All of this is covered in the background of my character, Burke Hill. I lost contact with the ex-agent before we got to the point of putting anything on paper. I learned he died several years ago. It makes for quite a story. You can check out Burke Hill and Beware the Jabberwock at

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