Deep in the canyons of Southern Utah lies nature’s deadliest predator: man. The location is Zion National Park, host to three million tourists each year. But unfortunately, not all of them make it out alive.
Nick Perrone is a successful executive whose wife is seven months pregnant with a child he never wanted. Wyatt Orr is a struggling Homicide Detective who joined the force after failing to save his father from an armed burglar. A camping trip seems like the perfect opportunity for these estranged friends to reconnect – and what better place than Zion? But after a heated argument, Wyatt backs out, leaving Nick to go alone.
Now Nick is missing and the authorities suspect he staged his own disappearance. But Wyatt doesn’t believe it, and finds himself en route to Utah fighting old and new demons. When he discovers Nick has been kidnapped, the pieces of an incomprehensible puzzle of human depravity and corporate greed begin falling into place. With every twist raising the stakes, it becomes a furious race against the clock. Something sinister hides behind those canyon walls, and if Wyatt can’t uncover it in time, he, Nick, his wife, and their unborn child will be forced to pay the ultimate price.
Targeted Age Group:: 28-deceased
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I’m an avid outdoorsman, with a great love for the canyons of the southwest. One of my favorite places is Zion National Park, in Southern Utah. It was ten years ago that I had a camping trip scheduled with a good friend. But at the last minute, he backed out. I decided to go alone. On Sunday, after my morning hike, I went to a nearby bar to watch the afternoon’s football game. The bar was an old, dilapidated place in the middle of nowhere, and while I was watching the game, an eerie feeling came over me. I began to wonder: what if someone, or several people came in, locked the door, shut the blinds, and took me at gunpoint? They could easily whisk me out the back, never to be seen or heard from again.
That night, I built a camp fire, pulled out a pen and paper, and sat out under the stars letting my mind answer the questions: What if …? Ten years later, I published the Executive Graveyard.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
For me, it depends on the character, as each one is different. Some of the law enforcement personnel were modeled after the real life people I interviewed while doing research. For other characters, I would sit down and make a list of character traits, both good and bad, that I wanted in a character. I would then take the list and try and mold it into a real live person in my head. Once I had that, I put pen to paper …
THE VERDICT WAS IN, but Judge Fulton Donovan Carney wasn’t ready to read it. He was too hung over, and the excessive chatter from the gallery wasn’t helping the pounding in his head. Judge Carney knew that, any minute now, he’d have to slam the gavel down several times to hush the standing-room-only crowd, and proceed with reading the verdict.
But he didn’t want to.
Yes, it would be painful for his temporal lobes. But more importantly, it would signal the end of Washington County’s most famous trial, which would also mean the end of his few precious moments in the spotlight. Tomorrow, life would return to normal. No more journalists sitting in the back composing daily reports, no more television cameras focused on his balding head, and no more reporters memorializing every word of what he believed to be brilliant rulings. No longer would the country’s top legal analysts contemplate those rulings and analyze what they meant to both the prosecution and the defense. Judge Carney had been drinking nightly since the jury began their arduous deliberations. The State of Utah v. Donald Leigh Richardson, a man accused of murdering his wife, was a small town judge’s dream come true. Unfortunately for him, the dream was about to end.
The defendant was a fifty-three-year-old entrepreneur from New Mexico who made millions off a string of strategically placed truck stops across the country. Now he was using a significant amount of that money to pay for his defense. He and his wife, Megan, had visited Southern Utah on a hiking trip but neither had returned. Megan ended up dead, while Donald landed in the county jail accused of her murder.
The prosecution argued that Donald planned the killing to perfection. He took his wife on a hike up several thousand feet, they claimed, and when no one was around, pushed her off the cliff. The defense maintained that, as is often the case, Donald hiked faster than his wife and found himself alone farther along the trail. She never caught up and the next thing he knew, she’d disappeared. Donald’s defense: she must have lost her footing and accidentally plunged to the canyon floor. His high-priced defense team had chosen to walk the ‘burden of proof’ tightrope and argue that there was insufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It was a dicey proposition. While technically true—if the prosecution cannot satisfy their burden, the defendant must be acquitted—most defense lawyers know that juries want answers, and if you’re going to claim that the prosecution is wrong, you need to show the jury what’s right.
But did they have a choice? Not without witnesses.
As the trial progressed, the prosecution delved into Donald’s past and when they opened his closet, a plethora of skeletons fell out. The result was a formidable portrait of chronic infidelity. Donald didn’t deny his missteps, but insisted he loved his wife. He took the stand and denied any involvement in her death. Looking the jury in the eye, Donald testified that the trip to Utah had been their reconciliation, as he had recently come clean. The trip was supposed to be the beginning of the rest of their lives together.
Donald’s lawyers deliberately left out the fact that Megan had also been unfaithful. They feared it would provide the jury with a motive, or that the jury might see it as an attack on Megan’s character. It was a decision they would undoubtedly second-guess for a long time if the jury went south on them. And while Donald’s story was convincing, the prosecution’s portrayal of him was equally, if not more, persuasive.
Seven men and five women took their places in the jury box while Donald sat stone-faced at the defense table. Judge Carney bent to his right and out of view of the cameras, slid open the bottom drawer, and shoved a few Advils in his mouth. Then he came back into focus, forced a slight grin, and summoned the energy to settle the courtroom.
“Quiet please,” he said into the microphone after two chops with his legal hammer, and the conversations quickly faded into a chilling silence. Judge Carney cleared his throat. “Has the jury reached a verdict?”
The foreman, a short, elderly man with bold glasses and an outfit last in style in the fifties, stood up holding their ruling. “We have, Your Honor.”
The clacking of the Bailiff’s boots filled the courtroom, as he made his way to the jury box to retrieve the paper that bore Donald Richardson’s future. Without looking at it, the Bailiff handed it to the Judge who thanked him and all but motioned for him to clear out of the picture. Millions were watching and this was Carney’s show.
“Would the defendant please rise?
Donald and his legal team rose in unison, and the attorneys buttoned their overpriced suit jackets. The Judge paused a moment for effect and then began reading. “We the jury, duly empanelled in the State of Utah v. Donald Leigh Richardson, do hereby find the defendant Donald Leigh Richardson guilty of Murder in the First Degree, for the murder of Megan Richardson.”
The Judge immediately smacked the gavel as the courtroom broke out in cheers, jeers, and various expressions of incredulity. As soon as the crowd quieted, the Judge asked each member of the jury if that was indeed their verdict.
Each confirmed that it was.
WHILE THE JUDGE POLLED the jury, a man sitting on the aisle in the back row tried to suppress a smile. The jury had bought it, a unanimous verdict. For the man with the grease-stained hands was the only one in the courtroom who really knew what happened to Megan Richardson. The jury wasn’t completely wrong. Megan had been murdered and yes, her killer was in the Courtroom.
Just not at the defense table.
About the Author:
A stand-up comic turned lawyer, Shaye Mann has found his creative voice with his new novel, the Executive Graveyard. The book, which takes place in and around the majestic canyons of Zion National Park, reveals just how far a victim of corporate greed and malfeasance will go for revenge. The Executive Graveyard is an exciting and riveting combination of Shaye’s comedic, legal, and outdoor background.
Born and raised in New York City, Shaye first discovered a love of the great outdoors in his teenage years, during a family trip to New Hampshire. The trip made a lasting impact, and in his college years, Shaye decided to spend a semester out west, where he fell in love with the Arizona desert. But Shaye also needed a creative outlet. Ultimately, Shaye returned to New York and completed college, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. There, Shaye also spent three years performing in New York comedy clubs, highlighted by a performance at the world famous Improv in Manhattan, before it closed down. Shaye likes to think that its closing had nothing to do with his performance! Regardless, Shaye was hooked on the Mountains and Canyons of the Southwest, and vowed to return at some point, on a more permanent basis.
After college, Shaye worked in the music industry, in A & R Administration for EMI/Capital Records, and then Sony Music’s Royalty Department. He used those positions to save up enough money to move out west. In 1996, Shaye relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, and spent an entire year hiking, camping, and backpacking through much of Arizona and Utah. The following year, Shaye enrolled at Loyola Law School, in Los Angeles, California. There, Shaye earned a Juris Doctorate, and began practicing law. During his last year of law school, Shaye married his wife, Naomi, who practices as a patent attorney.
In 2003, Shaye landed a position with the Phoenix law firm of Jones, Skelton and Hochuli. By day, Shaye honed his skills as a litigator, while at night Shaye honed his writing skills on The Executive Graveyard. In 2009, Shaye left Jones, Skelton to open his own practice. His goal was to have more time to focus on his writing career. The result is the Executive Graveyard, Shaye’s first novel, which he hopes will be the first of many.
Shaye and Naomi currently live in Phoenix, with their three boys, ages 12, 10, and 6.
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Link To Buy The Executive Graveyard On Amazon