GLENN: 888-727-BECK, 888-727-BECK. Welcome to the program. We have Doug Preston on with us. He's the author of many best selling books. His newest is The Monster of Florence and I have to tell you, Doug, I haven't read it yet. I have it on my stack on the table and the guys in on my staff that have read it said, Glenn, buckle up. This is not a fiction book. This is a real life murderer, serial killer in Italy and one of the most brutal murderers of all time, right?
PRESTON: That's right. He was The Monster of Florence. He killed people in the Tuscan hills for 11 years.
GLENN: But it wasn't that he just killed people. This is the guy that they think that Hannibal Lecter was based on?
PRESTON: That's right. In Hannibal, Harris tells a little bit about The Monster of Florence, fictionalizes it. Otherwise the story hasn't been told in English.
GLENN: So what is the story?
PRESTON: Well, the way I discovered the story was I moved to Florence with my family. We always had this dream about living in Italy and I rented a beautiful 14th century villa in the hills outside the city and then I discovered that the olive Grove right outside the villa had been the scene of one of the most horrific double killings in Italian history and because I'm a writer of thrillers, I was more intrigued and dismayed and so I looked into it and discovered The Monster of Florence.
GLENN: And what did he do?
PRESTON: Well, between 1974 and 1985 he would stalk and kill lovers in parked cars in the hills of Florence and then he would perform a very ritualistic mutilation of the woman that was extremely disturbing. And he's never been identified. He's still at-large.
GLENN: Okay. So you go, you go over to Italy and you're renting this villa and you hear about this. And then you team up with a journalist over in Italy, right?
PRESTON: That's right. I looked up the fella who covered the crime in the local paper and he told me the story. I thought, this is incredible. And so the two of us got together. We decided we would try to find out the truth, we would try to identify The Monster of Florence and he had all kinds of information, you know, that, going back years.
GLENN: But then the police come to pick him up and you.
PRESTON: That's right. I'll never forget. One day I left my apartment. I was walking down the street to get my wife a cappuccino for her morning coffee and my cell phone rang and this voice said, is this Mr. Preston? And I said, yes. And he said, well, this is the police. Don't move. We are coming to you right now. And they came and they picked me up. They hauled me into an interrogation. They accused me of heinous crimes, of being an accessory to murder, of being -- planting false evidence and doing all kinds of other things.
GLENN: Wait, wait, wait, wait. So how did that happen? Why did they think that you were a suspect?
PRESTON: What happened was when Mario and I started looking into this case, we came to very different conclusions of the police. The police thought there was a satanic sect, that it was a group of noblemen who were killing these women in order to obtain body parts for black masses. Well, Mario and I --
GLENN: Holy cow.
PRESTON: I know, it's incredible.
GLENN: Wait, wait. These -- I'm not looking for the blood. Give me as much information as you can without, you know, vomiting on what the guy did, what -- he was taking organs from people?
PRESTON: He did. He took organs from the women, and the police's theory was that they were using these organs as the blasphemous wafer in these black masses. Now, that may sound crazy to us Americans, but in Italy this sort of theory is believed. People believe it.
GLENN: So they were taking the body parts, a group of noblemen would take the body parts and make them into the anti- Eucharist, if you will.
GLENN: And serve them -- do these masses exist over there?
PRESTON: No, they don't. This is a crazy theory. I mean, there's no evidence for it. But, let's put it this way. There may be crazy people who do that in Italy or elsewhere but in this particular case there's absolutely no evidence for it. And when Mario Spezi and I started investigating, we uncovered a report that had been prepared for the Italians by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the famous behavioral science unit, a psychological profile of The Monster of Florence that said this is a lone psychopathic serial killer. Now, they suppressed this report because it didn't fit their theories. Well, we took this report and we identified a person using this information and we went to his house at night, at 10:00 at night, knocked on his door. He let us in and we interviewed him. At the end of the interview we asked him, are you The Monster of Florence. I'm afraid I can't -- I can't tell you what he said on national radio.
GLENN: Wait, wait, wait, wait.
PRESTON: It was terrifying.
GLENN: Why do you even bring that up? Is it in the book?
PRESTON: It is in the book, yes.
GLENN: You've got to be able to tell us a little bit of what he said. You can't just --
PRESTON: Well, I'll --
GLENN: "Yes, and so he had the secret to the universe and..." well, I've got to stop there.
GLENN: He said, I'm not The Monster of Florence, I like making love to women who are alive. But in this very chilling interview, he dropped information. It was almost like he was teasing us, Glenn. It was an amazing thing. He was smiling and charming. He had great charisma. He was almost -- he reminded me of young Robert DeNiro, extraordinary person. Always smiling, even when he saw the drift of the questions were zeroing in on him and he never lost his cool. And he played with us. He toyed with us. And he dropped information about the murders that only the killer could have known, stuff that was in the medical examiner's report that was never published in the papers.
GLENN: So then how did the police decide that you guys were the killers?
PRESTON: Well, we threatened to undo, overturn 10 or 20 years of investigation and many millions of dollars spent and make them look like fools. And so they came after us hammer and tongs. First they searched Mario's house. They took away all our -- we were writing a book about The Monster of Florence, this book. They took away his computer, all his notes, everything. The only way he was able to save some material was he put a computer diskette down into his pants when they arrived. And then they interrogated me and they indicted me. They didn't just threaten me but they actually indicted me for very serious felonies and basically told me to leave Italy. And I did. I mean, I was scared to death. I left the next day with my family.
GLENN: What was your wife's reaction to all of this? I mean, here you are, you are doing some investigation or writing a book and you could go to jail forever. Was your family ever in any danger?
PRESTON: Well, my wife's reaction was as you might expect. She was, you know, Doug, what do you think you are doing? Here we moved to Italy to live our dream under the Tuscan sun and what have you got yourself involved in? You're way over your head. And, you know, there was some truth in that. And she was also worried about our children. They were 5 and 6 years old when we moved there. But I became obsessed like Mario, my partner, was obsessed with finding the truth, uncovering this killer. And it draws you in. It's like a treasure hunt. You keep thinking the next hole you dig is going to strike.