"Webb’s dark tale of a clash of cultures is emotionally draining and intellectually challenging."
"Betty Webb is a smart, sharp and savvy writer whose sensational Lena Jones series entertains, enlightens and educates. Webb's best yet, DESERT CUT is a harrowing, gut-wrenching read; thought-provoking and spiked with social outrage, it will remain with you a long time." Julia Spencer-Fleming, Edgar finalist and author of ALL MORTAL FLESH
"Mysteries don’t get more hard-hitting than this. Betty Webb is a first-rate investigative journalistwho has taken on one of the most controversial topics I can imagine. Fiction and reality intersectin a devastating way. Readers will be talking about DESERT CUT for a long time to come." David Morrell, New York Times best-selling author of THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE and CREEPERS.
The story behind DESERT CUT
I’m thrilled that the new Lena Jones mystery published by Poisoned Pen Press is getting such positive attention -- especially considering its volatile socio-political subject matter. Not only did I write about a dark, real-life subject, but I did so while my family and friends begged me not to. They feared the risks were too great -- and maybe they are. But how could I turn away from the subject and the riveting, heart-pounding mystery that goes along with it? No, this isn't "just another book" about undocumented workers sneaking over the U.S./Mexico border -- DESERT CUT isn't about that at all.
If you thought my account of modern-day polygamy in Desert Wives was shocking, it was kindergarten stuff compared to the material in DESERT CUT. Thanks to Desert Wives and some other books that came after it, people now know polygamy is practiced in small, isolated compounds in the U.S. But few people -- mainly physicians and social workers -- know that the procedure I describe in DESERT CUT is being practiced in the U.S. today, albeit secretly. It emerged approximately 3,000 years ago in the area now known as Saudi Arabia, quickly spread to the rest of the Middle East, then dove south into sub-Saharan Africa. Since I don't like secrets, the Author's Note in DESERT CUT lists every country where it continues to be practiced. The list is nothing short of shocking.
Politically touchy, yes. But first and foremost, DESERT CUT is a mystery. And what a mystery! Fans are already asking me how I came up with such a twisty plot. That’s easy to answer; I write for (and read) the newspapers! That’s where each one of my books on polygamy, spousal abuse, racist video games, and desert land-grabs originated -- the daily newspapers. About ten years ago I noticed a rash of oddly-written newspaper accounts of court cases involving child abuse. I say "oddly-written" because the exact kind of child abuse was never described, only hinted at. As a long-time journalist, that un-journalistic delicacy caught my attention, so I began investigating. What I discovered horrified me.
Knowing that there’s no point in writing a mere socio-political rant -- that would be boring, both for me to write and you to read -- I inserted this procedure into the middle of what the critics are calling "Webb’s best mystery to date." If you haven’t read DESERT CUT yet, you’ll find a little Western history in the guise of Geronimo, some vicious modern-day in-fighting as Lena navigates the cut-throat production meetings of Hollywood, you'll visit a small town with a big secret, and yes, you'll meet a few more girls on the run from their arranged marriages in an Arizona polygamy cult. But it's Lena's shocking discovery about her own past that has so many readers talking.
Now back to the touchy socio-political aspects of DESERT CUT. As I said earlier, the procedure described in my new book is still being practiced. In the Middle East, in Africa -- and now in the U.S., although our State Department is doing everything possible to cover it up. The government has its own reasons to keep this problem quiet, and the savvy readers of DESERT CUT will be able to figure it out.
I was greatly heartened by the spontaneous eruption of outrage when Desert Wives was published. So many of you wrote to me and asked what you could do to join the fight against polygamy. Your calls to the Arizona attorney general, and your letters to the governors of Arizona and Utah had everything to do with the eventual capture, trial and conviction of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. Nothing could have been accomplished without YOU.
Perhaps it’s time we work together again, this time to stamp out the horrific practice I wrote about in DESERT CUT. One voice -- my own -- simply isn’t enough. It will take a thousand voices, maybe even millions, to make our government face up to this problem, as well as the other governments where this practice is commonplace. It's been done before. Recently, a Saudi woman -- the victim of a vicious gang rape -- was sentenced to jail and 200 lashes. Her crime? Being alone with a man. Only the outrage of the world's citizens kept the Saudi government from carrying out that sentence.
So maybe we can do this, too. Maybe our outrage can stop the practice I've revealed in DESERT CUT. Maybe it's time. Write me and let me know what you think.
For more information about DESERT CUT and other Lena Jones mysteries, check my website.
It's at www.bettywebb-mystery.com
When I'm in your area, please drop by and visit. Your continued support means everything to me. I will be posting some of your letters and comments on this blog. I hope we talk soon.
P.S. As an added gift to you, the reader, scroll down to the end of this blog (but take some time to read the interviews with some terrific mystery authors), and see pictures of the great Sonoran Desert near my house.