Six Questions with James Renner: Writer, Film Producer, and Investigative Journalist
James Renner keenly seeks out answers to some of the most mystifying and unexplained subjects of today. His professional, level minded, and open approach shines an inquisitive light on these varying stories, and brings their mysteries out of the shadows for others to take notice.
His excellent style of research, and manner of sharing, reminds me of a conversation found within one of his novels, The Man from Primrose Lane. When considering what to write, David (character in novel) makes comment about his possible next focus: “It’s a good story” but, “Sounds like it’s been mostly reported.” Another character in the novel responds; “It’s been reported, but it hasn’t been written.”
That’s how I see Renner’s writings; Renner takes good stories that have been merely reported and deeply researches and writes them. This, in turn, is what makes his accounts extraordinary. Let’s see what he has to say on the following Six Questions. Enjoy!
- 1Q) Challenging cases seem to lure you into their ordeals, and so it isn’t so much a surprise that The Secret’s 10 missing treasure casks captured your attention. What interests you about this armchair treasure hunt and will you tell us more about your planned upcoming documentary?
Byron Preiss buried 12 keys across the US and Canada in 1981 and there are still 10 out there to be found. How is that not the coolest thing you’ve ever heard? Anyone can find them! The hunt is still on. All you need to do is solve the puzzles in the book. In the documentary, we visit most of the remaining sites and we also get to meet Byron’s family, who give some insight into the enigmatic mind behind this strange quest.
- 2Q) Have you worked on any other armchair treasure hunts in the past? Or, now that you have researched The Secret, do you feel you might do so in the future?
Now that I’ve become obsessed with the Secret, I find myself drawn to the greatest unfound treasures in history. I would love to find Blackbeard’s lost treasure, too!
- 3Q) The novel, The Man from Primrose Lane (written by yourself), is a fascinating, twisted, sometimes disturbing, thriller, sci-fi mystery. I won’t ever wear mittens again without thinking about your book. 🙂 What compelled you to write such a story and what part was your favorite to do?
I simply wanted to write a book about a crime I could solve. After spending 10 years hunting serial killers and writing about unsolved murders, I needed some kind of closure. The Man from Primrose Lane is wish fulfillment. Also, I love the concept of time travel so I had to include some of that.
- 4Q) Another one of your books, ‘It Came from Ohio’, includes strange and unexplained tales that have been testing people’s minds for years. Which one of these stories did you find most intriguing to explore? And have you ever seen anything of similar nature to those in the book that you’ll admit to?
My favorite story from that collection is the tale of The Loveland Frog. Back in the 70’s a couple cops near Cincinnati encountered a half-man/half-frog creature on the banks of the Miami River. It sounds absurd, but I did some research and found an old legend from the Twightwee Indians who used to live there hundreds of years ago. They believed in a half-man/half-frog creature, too! Unfortunately, I’ve never seen it myself.
- 5Q) A focus of yours over the years has been the unsolved murder of Amy Mihaljevic. Do you feel the killer will ever be realized and brought to justice? Did this case encourage your investigations of other murders and serial killers? And what makes you write about these heartbreaking topics? What are your hopes with keeping these stories active?
Amy is at the center of everything I write. We were the same age when she was abducted in 1989. So it was a defining moment in my life, one where I recognized the darkness in our world for the first time. I believe her killer will be brought to justice one day. Sooner than later, hopefully. I’m still working on the case every week. As much as a journalist can.
- 6Q) Are you able to tell us some about your next novel, The Great Forgetting? Or what else might be in the mind of James Renner that we can look forward to?
The Great Forgetting (a novel) is out next year. It’s my love letter to conspiracy theories. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to share it with people. I also have a book on the Maura Murray case completed. We might see it next year, too.
Thanks to you, as well, James! It’s always wonderful chatting with people who are actively pursuing what they love and feel passionate about. It encourages us all to do the same. It is especially admirable and considerate of you in keeping the various unsolved crimes from being forgotten. I hope your continued efforts help bring closure to them.
I should have asked if you ever felt you should have been an official detective or spy, instead of a writer. That question will have to remain unanswered, and I suppose you leave us with a mystery, and probably like it that way!