“When I met this guy I couldn’t believe his name and I asked my Uncle Moe, ‘Don’t people make fun of him because of his name?’ And my uncle said, ‘No.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, his friends must be very nice that they don’t make fun of it.’”
Over the course of researching his books, Dezenhall, who in 2002 co-produced a Discovery Channel documentary on organized crime, said he’s also gone back and interviewed a variety of gangsters.
“I’m far more comfortable around organized crime figures than I am around Hollywood people,” he laughs.
Nevertheless, Dezenhall maintains that despite regularly being mistaken for real world individuals, his fictional characters are wholly “a combination of composites and fabrications.”
“People desperately want to believe they are based on people,” he says, noting that a former hit man in the Federal Witness Protection Program who had killed 25 people phoned him one day to inquire whether he had served as the template for a particular character.
“I said to him, ‘Do you want it to be based on you?’”
But in all seriousness, Dezenhall says, “We’re not talking about everyday contact with people. I’m not a total badass who deals with these people on a regular basis.” After all, the Justice Department is “a former client.” And Dezenhall is also quick to highlight the fact that “about five minutes” after he obtained Meyer Lansky’s diaries, from which he later published excerpts, from the infamous gangster’s granddaughter (who, by the way, threw a book party for Dezenhall after the publication of his first novel), “the FBI was in my house ... at my request,” to review the materials.
As the head of one of the nation’s top crisis management firms, Dezenhall, like Eastman, also knows something about controversy.
His firm, Dezenhall Resources, is known for its “reputed” aggressive tactics when it comes to defending its predominantly corporate clients (the firm also handles the occasional celebrity scandal) — including employing former intelligence and law enforcement officials to investigate the opposition.
“Being controversial can be lonely and the fact is I spend my career in very divisive fights where one side is the natural enemy of another,” he says. “We are not talking about PR firms who do catered events for trade association members who are coming to Washington for the first time.”
Moreover, Dezenhall asserts that the lengths he will go to on behalf of clients has been wildly inflated by opponents.
“The whole intelligence community thing has been exaggerated by activist groups who don’t like our firm. We did have several clients who came up against a terrorist organization and a gangland cartel, and we did bring in former intelligence and law enforcement,” he says, adding that in one of those cases his firm was aiming to counteract individuals who had “blown up a house with a 12-year-old child in it.” (Fortunately, the child lived, he says.)
Given Dezenhall’s potent brew of unorthodox experience and fertile imagination has he ever considered making the transition to full-time wordsmith?
“Absolutely,” he says. “But there are a lot of things I fantasize about that don’t happen, including Charlize Theron.”
Still, Dezenhall’s creative output shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.