Berkley-Penguin will publish ‘ShadowMan’

There are a few moments in a book’s life that are special for authors. One is when a box of finished books arrives on the front porch. Another is when you see somebody reading your book on a plane or in a park. And then there’s the moment when you know your next book is definitely going to happen.

This week, we reached an agreement with Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin-Random House, to publish my next true crime, “ShadowMan: An Elusive Psycho and the Birth of the FBI’s Profilers.” Set in 1970s Montana, it tells the story of a freakishly sadistic serial killer who evaded frustrated federal agents until they sought help from two colleagues who believed that crime-scene evidence could be a window into the psychology, behavior, and biography of invisible criminals. They hoped it might provide a new tool for investigators—many of whom were dubious about this new “voodoo”—and they called it “profiling.”

So this book is not only about a series of grisly crimes in and around a small Montana town, but it documents an historic moment in modern criminology. I have already explored the places where “ShadowMan” happened—including the killer’s home— and talked to more than 100 people who were there at the time, as well as getting access to the FBI’s entire case file of 8,600 documents through the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Among my sources is one of the FBI’s two original profilers, now retired in Virginia.

And along the way, we have discovered several cold cases dating back to the early 1970s that might also be the work of our elusive killer. New forensic examinations are under way now.

Berkley’s Executive Editor Tracy Bernstein bought “ShadowMan,” which was represented by literary agent Linda Konner of Manhattan’s Linda Konner Agency. No publication date has been set, but late 2020 or early 2021 are possible.

The agreement will be announced during my appearance this weekend at the Oklahoma Book Festival in Oklahoma City. Berkley also published the mass-market paperback edition of my first novel “Angel Fire” in 2000.

“A lot of people write true crime, but Ron Franscell is a real writer,” New York Times bestselling author Gregg Olsen said about early drafts of “ShadowMan.” “He stands nearly alone in his ability to render a narrative that not only propels the reader into turning the pages, but to make them pause to consider the lasting impact of crime on people touched by evil. Ron keeps everything unblinkingly real but with sensitivity and an undisputed gift for storytelling.”

As “ShadowMan” news arrives, we will post it here and in social media. In the meantime, starting clearing your To Be Read pile … you won’t want any distractions.