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Thriller Thursday: True Crime as Inspiration

I’m very excited to welcome paranormal mystery author and true crime blogger Catie Rhodes to the blog. Catie, take it away!


Thank you, Stacy, for inviting me to appear on Twisted Minds and Dark Places. I always love your Thriller Thursdays, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to write one.

When I sat down to create the villain in my paranormal mystery, Forever Road, I drew heavily on my fascination with true crime cases. I used a total of three true crime cases for my inspiration. Today’s post is only one of them.

Barbara Bentley and John Perry

I became interested in Barbara Bentley’s story about her husband, John Perry, after seeing a true crime documentary. I made a point to read her book, A Dance with the Devil.

Barbara survived being married to a psychopath at great financial and emotional cost. As a result of her experiences with John Perry, she worked to change inequitable divorce laws and became a motivational speaker.

John Perry presented himself to Barbara as a retired Navy Rear Admiral. John claimed he was a Blue Angel, a Congressional Medal of Honor Winner, a fluent speaker of five languages, and had been the best man at Frank Sinatra’s wedding…and the list goes on. John appealed to Barbara as a sophisticated man who knew about gourmet food and expensive wine.

Even John’s family was extraordinary. He told Barbara about a father and who had been a well-known Naval officer and a grandfather who discovered the North Pole. John claimed his adult children were an astronaut and a musician.

During Barbara’s marriage to John, the couple attended Navy events as VIPs. At one of these, John was saluted by the President of the United States. According to Barbara, John would flash this ID, that had neither his name nor his picture on it, and they’d be whisked to the VIP seating. When she asked him about this ID, John alluded to the CIA, but never gave an explanation.

The mysterious ID was only one of the pieces of John that didn’t add up. It never worked out for Barbara to meet John’s super-accomplished family. And, when the couple visited John’s father’s grave, John couldn’t find it.

Then there was the money. John convinced Barbara to do things like take out a second mortgage on her house to buy a $75,000 painting. Money John was owed from supposed employers never materialized.

Barbara Takes A Stand

The stress from the debt led to disagreements and culminated with a violent incident in which John tried to kill Barbara. She later pressed charges, and John was convicted of first-degree attempted murder. He was sentenced to five years in prison but was out in one.

On her own, Barbara investigated John and learned the majority of his impressive history was a lie. John—or whoever he really was—had several known aliases and had been arrested for auto theft, credit card fraud, and passport fraud. He was under investigation by the FBI for impersonating a Naval Officer.

After Barbara got away from John, she finally tracked down his family. They had distanced themselves from John who, after a head injury, began behaving erratically.

John, once out of prison, manipulated himself into another woman’s life and got right back to his old tricks. Eventually, he died of a drug overdose. Barbara believed he caused the overdose by ingesting a combination of drugs to help him fake a heart attack. (The fake heart attack was something John pulled during his marriage to Barbara.)

If this is remotely interesting, I highly recommend Barbara’s book, A Dance with the Devil. There have also been several TV documentaries about her experiences, and there are several online sites that feature a more detailed account of the information in this blog post.

I won’t delve deeply into how John Perry’s story fits into my paranormal mystery, Forever Road. If I did, I’d give away the mystery. But I will say that my heroine, Peri Jean Mace, is up against a villain every bit as deceptive, manipulative, and conniving as John Perry.

Forever Road Cover Medium

Seeing ghosts is rough, but owing a ghost a favor flat out sucks.

My name’s Peri Jean Mace, and I’ve seen ghosts ever since I can remember. Don’t get too excited. Seeing across the veil branded me as a loony during my growing up years, and I learned to keep my yap shut about it.

Now I’m not sure I can anymore.

See, my cousin up and got herself killed the very same day I promised her a favor.  Now she’s back in spirit form and determined to make me pay. If I don’t solve her murder, she’s going to haunt me forever. Talk about the debt collector from hell.

That’s not my only problem. An obnoxiously hot cop wants to arrest my best friend for the murder.  My bigmouthed archenemy holds a clue to the killer’s identity. And there’s this mean—and ugly—woman who wants to beat me up.

None of this can turn out good.

Purchase FOREVER ROAD on Amazon

Catie Rhodes decided to turn her love of lying into writing fiction after she got fired for telling her boss the President was on the phone. It didn’t take Catie long to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. Drawing on her East Texas roots, her love of true crime, and her love of the paranormal, she writes the kind of stories she wishes the book stores sold. With her faithful Pomeranian, Cosmo, at her side, Catie relishes being that kid your mother warned you about, the one who cusses and never washes her hands after petting the dog.

Find Catie Online:

Long Roads and Dark Ends Blog




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20 comments on… “Thriller Thursday: True Crime as Inspiration”

  1. It never ceases to amaze me how many psychopaths…or even just sociopaths are out there screwing up other people’s lives. And how many women fall for them! There’s a whole other topic, isn’t there? Incredible.

    • Sometime when we’re talking privately remind me to tell you about the ones I’ve met in real life. It’s fascinating. We mostly think about Hannibal Lecter (or his ilk) when we think of psychopaths or sociopaths, but the Hannibal Lecters are the minority. It’s crazy to know they are out there…just looking for people to victimize.

    • Yes. I am sure Kass has real stats, but there are a lot more psychopaths out there than people realize. Most of them just don’t become serial killers.

      Thanks, Shannon!

  2. Pingback: The True Crime Inspiration for Forever Road’s Villain | Catie Rhodes

  3. Part of me is incredulous that Barbara was so easily duped by this man. Why didn’t she check out all his stories before they married? I guess it all comes back to trusting those you love. Great post, Stacy! Thanks for hosting Catie. 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed the story, Jolyse. One thing to remember about this story is that it was all said and done by 1995. So we are talking pre-internet days. It’s hard to remember those days when, unless you knew someone in law enforcement or were willing to hire a private investigator, you pretty much trusted your gut. However, here is a blog post Barbara herself wrote about the 13 red flags of dating!

    • You know, it is amazing how many people are duped by con artists. I don’t know if it’s human nature to want to see the best, or they are more cases of not wanting to see what’s going on because of fear. But Catie makes a great point below – pre Internet days. We tend to forget how easy we have it now in terms of getting info, etc.


  4. Isn’t this one of our real fears–that someone we think we know turns out to be someone truly heinous instead? *shudder* I didn’t know about this true crime tale when I read the book, but villains indeed are in both.

    • I’m fascinated by the idea of not knowing who you’re dealing with. Now, that’s almost impossible these days. We leave such a huge digital footprint. But just imagine…

      • There’s actually an upside to being able to reinvent yourself if you’ve really changed…but that is hard to do now.

    • Yes! I have a narcissist in my family, but thankfully I have never come across someone so awful. At least not that I know of. Thanks!

  5. My sister is intrigued by psychopathic behavior and was researching it thoroughly awhile ago due to a personal experience she had. She’d find this intriguing. Thank you.

    • I hope it can help your sister, Patti. Psychopaths are very frightening, but they are very interesting to study. Thanks for stopping by!

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