“LAS VEGAS DOWN” by D.P. Conway
What’s Real, What’s Fiction, and Why?
Why did I use Angels to tell help tell the story?
The reason I did was because of the six years I had previously spent writing a 12-book million word series called “After Life” which has to do with Angels and Demons. That Angels & Demons framework helped weave together all the elements needed to tell this fictional thriller in a compelling way. It also allowed me to expound on what I believe to be true, that there is good and evil in this world, and unseen forces on either side contending with each other.
Was William Bury “Jack the Ripper?”
William Henry Bury (25 May 1859 – 24 April 1889) was suspected of being the notorious serial killer "Jack the Ripper". He was hanged for the murder of his wife Ellen in 1889, and was the last person executed in Dundee, Scotland.
The Scotland Yard detectives firmly believed that William was “The Ripper” and told the executioner right after William’s hanging: "We are quite satisfied that you have hanged Jack the Ripper. There will be no more Whitechapel crimes". And there weren't. The killings by Jack the Ripper stopped, and “The Ripper” vanishes with into history with William Bury's execution.
Who was Mrs. Marjory?
People all over Great Britain were aware of and intrigued at the murders taking place at the hands of “Jack the Ripper.” Mrs. Marjory, whose real name was Marjory Smith, rented to the Burys, and ran the shop above the Burys' Prince Street flat in Dundee, Scotland. At the trial of William Bury, Mrs. Marjory testified that in a conversation with William and Ellen Bury, she asked them "What sort of work was this you Whitechapel folk have been about, letting Jack the Ripper kill so many people?"
William Bury did not answer her, but Ellen replied, "I have a feeling Jack the Ripper is quiet now.” At the trial it was reported that before her death, Ellen also reportedly told another neighbor, "Jack the Ripper is taking a rest." Lawyers at the trial argued that Ellen's comments might indicate that she had knowledge of the Ripper's whereabouts He was only convicted of killing Ellen.
Was Mrs. Marjory’s letter real? Was Mason’s mother’s letter real?
In my first draft I had only written the letter from Mrs. Marjory warning the Paddock family about who the baby’s real father was. But one of my sons, was concerned that some people might find her letter too farfetched. So, I wrote a second letter, from Mason’s mother, refuting all of Mrs. Marjory’s wild claims. The letters provide an important moment in the story and we let the reader weigh both sides.
Why did I tie William Bury’s lineage into the story?
It happened completely by accident. In the first week of writing, my son asked, “If Benny’s father Mason was such an upstanding man and war veteran, how did Benny turnout to be such a criminal?”
I posed the question to my associate Ed. He replied, “Let’s look at Benny’s grandfather.” To which I replied, “We have no idea who he even is, and I don’t think we can find out!” To which Ed replied, “Let’s make him up.” To which I replied enthusiastically, “Let’s make him a rebel to authority!” So, we looked through historical records for a fictional grandfather, an Irishman perhaps who was unjustly hung by the British Crown during the late 1800’s. During our search, we realized that Paddock might not be an Irish name. We looked it up, and realized it was Scottish, so we turned to Scotland.
It was in this new search we discovered William Bury, the last person hung in Dundee, Scotland by the British Crown. The timing of the generations fit and so we dug deeper. The fascinating story of his trial, (see Wikipedia for all the details) along with his connection to Whitechapel, as well as the trial testimony of Mrs. Marjory, fit into the dark lineage of a killer like the Las Vegas Shooter, so we ran with it.
Was Mason the real son of William and Ellen Bury
No, he was not. Ellen had no children. Mason (real name Benjamin Sr) is in fact the Las Vegas Shooter’s real grandfather. We had to change his name to Mason because the Las Vegas Shooter’s father was also named Benjamin. (Benjamin Jr., aka Benny). It would have been confusing to have two Benjamins in the story. Mason was fictionally treated as William and Ellen’s Bury’s infant son and given over to adoption after she was murdered.
Was Benny a criminal?
Yes. He ran as a low-level mobster, bank robber, murderer, and prior to all of that ran a scam against the Army during WWII. Benny’s father Mason (Benjamin Sr.) was a decorated WWI veteran, and during WWII he worked in the Army Quarter Master Corp in Chicago. Benny stole stationary from his father Mason’s war office and used it to defraud the government of 12 stolen cars. He was convicted and spent some time in prison.
Were Roger Touhy, Paul Ricca, and Ralphy Weinberg real?
Yes, they were all real persons, mobsters and criminals operating in Chicago around the time Benny Paddock was doing the same. Did Benny know them? I am not sure, but I felt safe to assume he at least knew of them. So, I put it all together and weaved them into the story. We also included the historical events of the shooting outside the Golden Rod Ice Cream Company, and the Shedrake armored car robbery at the Buick plant in 1942.
Who was Mary Jaycox?
In the newspaper accounts of Benny’s arrest for bank robbery, there was mention of a woman who moved from Chicago to live with Benny’s family in Tucson only six months after Benny had left Chicago.
Upon reading this, I surmised that this was indeed, no family friend, and instead, a “Bonnie and Clyde” style mistress of Benny’s, and thus, the character Mary Jaycox was born. Mary’s story is told from her early days with a young Benny Paddock in Chicago.
Did Benny or his son Stephen Paddock have the Mark of Cain
Probably not. This was a fictional device pulling in the Biblical “Mark of Cain” referred to in the Book of Genesis, to help drive the plot of a cursed blood line.
Was Stephen Paddock (The Las Vegas Shooter) in danger of being “sent away” as an infant by the nuns in the maternity ward who discovered “the Mark of Cain” on his body?
This was fictional, and I dreamt it up, probably due to my having seen the movie “The Omen” with Gregory Peck one too many times as a kid.
Is the Roundup Motel still there?
It sure is, on 1503 E Benson Hwy in Tucson, though I have no idea if Benny or Mary Jaycox ever really stayed there.
Was Benny a Volunteer Special Deputy with the Pima County Sheriff’s office?
Yes, he most definitely was, all the way up to near the time he robbed the 3 banks in Phoenix.
Did Benny rob those banks?
Yes, he did, and he was caught while fleeing the robbing of the third one. They found him in Vegas, and a shootout indeed did occur where he was captured and sent to the La Tuna Federal Penitentiary. It is ironic that the city of Las Vegas is where Benny had his shootout and was nabbed by the FBI in the same city where Stephen gunned down over 600 innocent people and has so far stumped the FBI.
Was Benny’s escape route past the Ajo substation and into the Indian Reservation real?
During my research, I went to great lengths to map out possible routes for Benny to travel to get to Phoenix from Tucson. I also imagined escape routes Benny might choose, and I spent hours on google maps looking at routes and timing. The Ajo substation is a real place, along a probable path, so is the Tohono Indian Reservation, as well as his decoy route through Tonto National Forest. I also carefully looked at bank locations, and highways needed for a quick getaway. I was not sure which branches he robbed, so I zeroed in on some new branches built close to years when the robberies took place, and plotted the entire robbery, including finding the shopping plaza where Benny may have indeed swapped getaway cars.
Was Benny’s wife Irene involved?
I don’t believe she was involved in any way, yet it is impossible not to think that Irene at least had knowledge that Benny was leading a double life. I am sure she had her suspicions, but with four boys to raise, our stance in the book is that she was a somewhat typical 1950’s housewife, unable to deal with her oppressive husband, and forced to accept his wily ways to keep the family together.
Did Irene get her money back?
I am not sure Benny ever had any of her money, but I wanted to give her a feel-good moment when she took back what was rightfully and lawfully hers and got rid of Benny and his mistress at the same time.
Did Benny really escape from prison?
Yes he did, although the details are not known to me. I imagined a way he could escape from prison and imagined how he would employ Mary Jaycox to help him. Once the character Jimmy Fields arrived on the scene, it all fell into place. I added sections to this after the original writing, to create a sense of tension, doubt, and the threat of backing out into Mary Jaycox’s thoughts leading up to the big night. But it is true, that Benny did indeed escape from the La Tuna Federal Penitentiary.
Was Benny called Bingo Bruce?
Yes, he was. But it was not why you might imagine. Benny did not go around snuffing out rival mob members, yelling out as each one died, “Bingo!” Instead, he ran a bingo game after escaping from the La Tuna Federal Penitentiary, and he became known and loved by the people he was scamming, and skimming from, as Bingo Bruce.
Did Stephen kill the cats or the prostitute?
I have no real facts to base this on, other than similar patterns of abuse by other serial killers. Yet it seemed that someone as troubled as he was, may have indeed held these violent tendencies earlier in his life.
Did Stephen marry twice?
Yes, he did, and I know little about the short marriages, as they were not crucial to the story.
Was Stephen an accountant?
Yes, he was, though he was never certified.
Did Stephen really live in Mesquite Texas?
He did, and he did own the apartments mentioned in the book. The rest of the tale there is fictional, but I heard that in those days Stephen was very happy, so I can only conclude that some type of love or long sought acceptance was at the heart of this. His abrupt decision to move on from there, left me to imagine why.
Did Stephen later move to Mesquite Nevada?
He did, and the reason why he lived in a place called Mesquite twice baffles me slightly, although I imagine the happiness he had in Mesquite Texas was trying to be duplicated in Mesquite Nevada.
Was Stephen’s girlfriend in on the shooting?
I don’t believe so. I have some friends who are immigrants from the Philippines, who also frequent a dance club I go to. It was not hard for me to imagine the secret anger and a secret plot, even the gathering of guns by Stephen, being able to be kept hidden from his immigrant girlfriend. Many immigrants are unfamiliar with American nuances and ways, and may even be intimidated to ask, thus she could have stayed somewhat ignorant. I don’t believe she had any knowledge of what he was planning.
Was Theresa Mae’s story real?
In many respects it was. Theresa Mae’s story is based on the real-life upbringing of my youngest daughter, who against all the odds somehow got into country music while living in a suburb of Cleveland. Her parent’s story is indeed the story of me meeting my wife, named Mark and Marie in the book. Yes, there really was a fire, and it happened just like in the book. A week into beginning the story, my son called and said, “Dad, you know Bridget almost went to that concert.” I was in shock and spoke with her. A few days later, I realized I could most effectively write the “hope based” part of the story by relying on the emotional connection I had with her. I had found a way to develop a fictional character to help me bring hope out of the tragedy
What about Brie? Is she real?
Yes, Brie is a real person, and she is a friend of my daughter. The two traveled to Austin together in September to visit one of my sons (who we named David in the book) to see Eric Church perform. That concert was canceled, and so their trip in September, became the basis for the fictional journey of the two concert goers in my story, a trip in October to see the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.
What were Stephen’s motives?
No one will ever know why Stephen Paddock did his cowardly deed, but one thing is certain, it takes a twisted man, with a twisted mind, and hatred in his heart, and probably possessing a feeling of desperation, to commit such a crime.
How could Stephen have become so? I am not qualified to be an expert source in this, but I explored as a theme, Stephen being a passive-aggressive son, growing up in the dark shadow of his brutish criminal father. I suggest he held deep feelings of inferiority in comparison to his dad, as well as anger at being taunted by the very presence of his father’s illicit lover. These things formed the early impetus for Stephen to go off track in life.
But I also suggest things got worse, and that sexual deviancy, possibly associated with his reclusive and passive aggressive nature, was present, and may have been one of the reasons for the secrecy he held onto during his life. Finally, I looked at impotence, which could easily happen to Stephen based on his age and based on how out of shape he appeared to be in recent pictures. I also added the dynamic of desperation, by using an illness that gave him reason to think his increasingly hopeless life was going to end soon.
The scenes at the Guardian Angel Cathedral
On the Wednesday night after the shooting in Las Vegas, my associate Ed called to suggest I write this story. He had just been listening to a radio program on Sirius XM where Cardinal Tim Dolan, the Archbishop of New York was interviewing the Bishop of Las Vegas. They were talking about the massacre, and how it happened on the eve of the Feast of the Guardian Angels. The eve of special days is always important to the Church, so it was naturally connected to the tragedy. The Cathedral in Las Vegas, which sits next to the Wynn Hotel, is indeed called the Cathedral of the Guardian Angels. I had been there twice before the shooting, and so when the story called for a place to have everyone gather for the final judgment scene, it was naturally chosen.
The scenes at Sunset Park
I scoured google maps of Las Vegas, looking for a serene place to stage the scene where the victims of the concert would be reunited briefly with loved ones. This scene was meant to give them immediate consolation, and courage to understand and accept their circumstances before being ushered into Heaven. I saw Sunset Park from my maps and zoomed in and decided to use it.
Do I really believe that Heaven is like the scenes in my book?
I absolutely do, which is why I have spent six years writing the soon to be published 12-book series After Life. It’s is a moving, compelling story, but not everyone gets my vision of Heaven in it. An early reviewer scoffed at the idea of coffee in Heaven, and I think that person missed the whole concept. In my mind, Heaven is just like earth, but like it was in the beginning, a beautiful place for men and women to thrive, but thriving in a place that does not have sin. So, of course, they have all the good things life affords, including coffee, good foods, laughter, tender moments, love, and loving relationships. Imagine a world like that, and you’ve just imagined what I believe Heaven may be like.
Why did I introduce the book with a quote about Fairy Tales and Dragons from G.K. Chesterton?
There are two reasons. One is that the Las Vegas Shooter was indeed a modern-day dragon in our midst, and I believe the power of love, is stronger than hate, and will slay it, and any other modern-day dragon thrown at us.
The other reason I included the quote, is that one of the most famous modern-day fairy tales, “A Christmas Carol”, brought hope out of a dark time. In December, days after publishing, I saw the movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas.” It is the story about Charles Dicken’s writing of “A Christmas Carol”. Dickens too, imagined a collection of spirits from the beyond, helping him tell his story, and reveal an important message his generation in London needed to hear. When I learned he wrote “A Christmas Carol” in less than 4 weeks, I could not help but feel connected to Dickens, as I too had written my story in less than 4 weeks.
I believe I too have written a modern-day fairy tale of sorts, that has equal power to bring hope out of the tragedy in Las Vegas.
Why was Lynn Anderson chosen to sing the final song?
On September 1, 2009, after a particularly dark period of depression that had lasted two months, I woke up and wrote a poem called “The Resurrection”. This poem became the basis for the million-word, 12 book series. One of the songs, I fell in love with during this dark time was Lynn Anderson’s version of “Rocky Top”. That song, in a way, marked the beginning of my journey as a writer, as well as a time of personal awakening for me.
Fast forward a mere eight years, and in late October 2017, as I was finishing my story, I got the idea of having a country concert, and of course, I chose Lynn Anderson to sing “Rocky Top”. I wrote it in then listened to it play. While listening, I suddenly realized that I had come full circle. The song that was there at the very beginning of my awakening, and my journey to becoming a writer, had suddenly reappeared, unplanned, at what could say the close of my journey to becoming a writer. Why do I say the close? Because I had made it, I was putting the final touches on my first published book, and “Rocky Top”, with the joy it carries for me and so many, was there to welcome me home.
December 7, 2017