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"A novel of television and murder:" Tracking back to Bill O'Reilly's very first book, which he pumped with telling bombast

Bill_O'Reilly_at_the_World_Affairs_Council_of_Philadelphia_(cropped) 7108KC7P64L

Note to readers: All of the trademark bombast and hyperbole were in place when Bill O’Reilly wrote his very first book in 1998. This one was a serial killer novel titled Those Who Trespass. And O’Reilly claimed to know where every last body was buried during his stop in Dallas to promote it. He’s since gone on to pen a long string of bestsellers, all of them in the non-fiction arena. Here’s how it all began for the recently ousted Fox News Channel personality.

This article was first published on July 2, 1998.

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Bill O’Reilly knows where the bodies are buried. This helps when your first novel’s protagonist is a vengeful TV journalist turned serial killer. “Everything in the book, except for the actual crimes, is true,” he says during a recent stop in Dallas to promote Those Who Trespass.

O’Reily, host of the Fox News Channel’s week-night The O’Reilly Factor, says television news is by and large a shark-infested cesspool. He’s been taking notes since the late 1970s, when he was a guppy in the Dallas-based WFAA-TV (Channel 8) newsroom.

“I started keeping diaries every day of what happened to me and the crazy things I saw, with an idea that someday this stuff is going to be golden . . . Diaries, diaries, diaries.”

They “piled up to the ceiling in my cellar” during O’Reilly’s careening career through ABC, CBS and the syndicated Inside Edition, which he anchored for six-and-a-half-years until March 1995. He then had six months to kill before beginning class at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Dear diary, seize the time.

“It was either go to the beach or bang out a book,” says O’Reily, who likes to get to the point quickly. “I didn’t want to do a whining, oh-it’s-a-terrible business book. I mean, guys out collecting garbage aren’t going to feel sorry for some national anchorman whining about how tough life is. So I figured I’d write a thriller.”

His resultant “novel of television and murder” is a swift, entertaining 288-page read without literary pretensions or genuflections. It’s O’Reilly’s way of sparing readers the boring details. To be or not to be . . . ah, shaddup.

“The reason I’ve been successful in every venue I’ve been in is because I speak for blue-collar America,” he says. “I think that way, I write that way. I don’t spend four pages describing the lampshade. I move it along, and people respond to that.”

By Page 7, womanizing White House correspondent Ron Costello already is breathing his last after being assaulted in a hotel room by a former colleague.

“No network can help you now,” he’s told. “You are an evil person. You hurt and use people. And now you are going to leave us in a rather painful way.”

Costello exits with a silver spoon in his mouth -- and through his brain stem. It’s a giant step beyond staring daggers.

“I’m getting standing ovations in local newsrooms around the country,” O’Reilly says. “They’re telling me to write another one quick. Kill more people! Fifty percent of people in television news management are what I call morally challenged. They will do whatever they believe they have to do to survive or prosper. And a lot of people get hurt . . . It’s like the Nazi Party. You have all these people trying to get up there so they can do whatever they wanna do. I’m not equating television executives with Nazis. But it’s the same kind of ‘I want to rule’ mentality.”

“I don’t think the business could get any more ruthless,” he adds. “Not unless Murder Inc. is going to buy a chain of television stations.”

Not that he’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull. O’Reilly admittedly has burned bridges, copped attitudes and taken his turns in the muck. Without cable, he might not have much of a job anymore. But on the fledgling Fox News Channel, his abrasive O’Reilly Factor is aftershave on a razor cut, iodine on an open wound. It works for him in times when too many interviewers come off as graduates of Namby Pamby U. That’s why O’Reilly says he told potential guest Tom Selleck to “take a walk” when he supposedly wanted to keep some subjects off limits.

“I’m not gonna sell myself out to try to get guests to come in,” he says. “That’s what’s corrupted the television news business. I don’t want to be friends with these people, all right? I’m not in the club, and they don’t want me in the club. They’d let me cut the front lawn, but they won’t invite me in for lunch. Fine.

“I don’t want to go to the Hamptons and schmooze with these people. Because then you won’t ask them the hard questions. Yeah, you’ll be able to wave your hand and get them to come over so you can interview them for 30 seconds about nothing. About zippo. But I firmly believe that my confrontational style is what people want. I never slay the guests so that they’re embarrassed. When I know I have them on the ropes, I go back to my corner. I’m not interested in destroying anybody. I am interested in getting to the truth.”

So there. O’Reilly, who dubs his show “Nightline with an attitude,” says he’ll continue to ask the questions Larry King won’t. He also tells viewers what he thinks, while Fox slaps an “Opinion” disclaimer on home screens.

“I enjoy the hell out of this,” he says. “This the best job I’ve ever had. I don’t care about protocol and I don’t have 15 ‘suits’ looking over my shoulder.”

He’s also writing a second book, this one on the world of tabloid TV. His years at Inside Edition served to prime the sump pump.

“It was like the Wild West. It was just a bunch of crazy guys running around,” he says. “I was the sane one. I mean, how frightening is that?”

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net