Welcome to Cilla McCain's Newsletter!
The stories of military true crime that come my way are astounding. The investigative failures are something to behold. You’ve rarely seen such crap, I guarantee it. Investigators will slap any excuse for the death on the paperwork, for God only knows what reason. Or better yet, leave a case in a permanent “open” status so they don’t have to provide information via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. I know of serious cases left “open” for more than a decade. Think about that.
As much as I’d like, I cannot write about all the cases. But there’s also another problem: Military crime is buried by a military justice system gone awry. When this happens, an investigation takes donkey’s years to complete and even then there’s no satisfying ending. (Yeah, I know how pessimistic this sounds. But before anyone judge’s me, this is 16 years of experience talking.) Answering the question of who, what, where, when, why, and how - can be purgatory. I have two military true crime projects underway and I am a co-founder of Military Families for Justice. I do all of this in my spare time when I am not ghostwriting for clients and trying, occasionally, to have a personal life.
There are many people interested in my next two books about the murders of Col. Philip Shue, USA, and Col. Mike Stahlman, USMC. So much so that I’ve been verbally attacked because the projects are taking a long time to finish. If those people only knew what it’s like. What is unseen are all the unanswered questions and the hoops a writer must jump through to consider a book complete. And I have to question everything. It’s hard work. Alas, I try to take solace knowing that some of the best writers in the world have spent more than a decade finishing a book. John Grisham once said he would never write another nonfiction book because “it’s too much work.” But I’m on a mission.
I’ve spent years building the all-important platform writers are told to build by the so-called experts. In the process, I became immersed in this strange world of military true crime. So much so that it’s played a role in delaying the completion of my books. The writer in me is in constant battle with my advocate spirit.
I sincerely want to help bereaved military families and I’ve been at it a long time. In doing so, I helped write a petition to Congress calling for a Bill of Rights for Bereaved Military Families. I’ve met with my U.S. Senator, talked about it on national television, you name it. At this writing, not one member of the Senate or Congress has followed through to sponsor this Bill despite receiving over 796,000 letters asking them to do so. It’s sickening. They will latch on to a “message bill” for high-profile cases specific to one type of crime in an effort to take advantage of the spotlight. But when that spotlight dims, they usually do too. But something like the Bill of Rights for Bereaved Military Families - an all-encompassing measure that will actually help overhaul the way military criminal investigations are carried out - causes them to tuck their tails and hide. Like I said, my advocate spirit is always battling the writer in me for my time.
To make things murkier, publishing is in a constant state of change these days. It’s hard to get a decent advance to fund writing a book. Unless, of course, you are the great Stephen King and a few others. I suppose it would help if I wrote stories that an entire system of government would rather not be told. (The DoD has long, smothering arms my friends.)
Despite not having a map, I’ve decided I have no choice but to reinvent the wheel and forge a fresh path. With this in mind, I am excited to join the Substack platform to share inside information on my current projects and provide a peek into this writer’s world. I hope you will subscribe, share with friends, ask questions and join me on this journey.
Coming next: I will provide book updates for the Col. Mike Stahlman and Col. Philip Shue murder cases. Also, I’ll be discussing the podcast episode created for River City Charlie about the tragic death of Brandon Caserta. With Caserta, an investigation found that leadership at Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28 in Norfolk, Virginia, “contributed” to his decision to take his own life.
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In the meantime, tell your friends!