In Part I of this series, I introduced you Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was the inspiration for the Dr. Scott James Thriller Series. In Part II, I talked a little about how the TV Series, The Fugitive, probably influenced Sam Sheppard's famous court case, when he was acquitted of murdering his wife. In this last part, we look at the movie of the same name, and how it helped to shape my thriller series.
The movie version of The Fugitive came out in August, 1993. Harrison Ford was Sam Sheppard in the film, but, like the TV series, he was called "Richard Kimble." Regardless of the name change, it was the same scenario: A innocent doctor is convicted of murdering his wife, a travesty that has you rooting for him from the very beginning.
The movie was a blockbuster, nominated for seven Oscars, winning the best actor award for Tommy Lee Jones, who played the police detective, Phillip Gerard, the man who relentlessly hunts down Kimble.
When the movie premiered, the Sam Sheppard case was history to all but the ardent court fans who awaited the civil court proceeding. Though Sam Sheppard's guilty verdict was thrown out as a result of his re-trial (see The Real Fugitive, Part I), there was in fact a third, little- known civil case that was brought to court long after Sheppard died.
The same brilliant attorney who had defended Sheppard during his second trial, F. Lee Bailey, used DNA evidence to gain him a “not guilty” decision in this civil case.
But for the movie, the original case was revisited, and the story of an innocent man fighting to prove his innocence still captured the hearts of audiences.
The movie was action intensive, with Kimble always just one step away from capture. The movie also did a good job of bringing in the aspect of a "police procedural," much in the same vein of NCIS or Law and Order, where the detectives use sophisticated techniques to locate their fugitive. But, as in the series, it was the action that thrilled me.
I've tried to re-create this in The Dr. Scott James Thriller series: A good doctor, hounded by not only his ISIS nemesis, Omar Farok, but by law enforcement officials, people like Tommy Lee Jones and Barry Morse, who want him in jail. Dr. James needs his freedom to prove his innocence, as well as capture the ISIS leader who wants him and his friend, Elizabeth Keyes, dead.
Dr. James' numerous attempts to enlist the CIA, FBI, and local law enforcement, always flop. Like Richard Kimble, he is the only person who can change his fate. Elizabeth Keyes, a computer savvy ally, is his only helper. But he digs such deep holes that I, as a writer, have the toughest of times getting him out. You see that in the books, which don't always end on a happy note.
I didn't design the fugitive issue as I outlined these books. Scott James started out as a really brilliant doctor, but he puts himself in such knot-headed circumstances that I can't always shake him free, so he ends up on the run. But like The Fugitive, I am entertained by the not-always-smart directions he chooses, and the wild schemes he must go through to save himself. If you think he's in over his ears in The Encryption Game, just wait til you see the mess he's leaped into in The Vatican Game.
Hope you enjoyed reading the history of Dr. Sam Sheppard/Dr. Richard Kimble/Dr. Scott James as much as I did writing it.