House of Mystery Radio/Inside Writing



Matt Birkbeck is an award-winning investigative journalist and critically acclaimed author.

Birkbeck's latest book, FINDING SHARON (Summerville 2018) is the sequel to his international bestseller "A BEAUTIFUL CHILD" (Berkley/Penguin 2004), which tells the remarkable, tragic story of Sharon Marshall, a brilliant young woman who was kidnapped as a toddler by Franklin Delano Floyd, a convicted felon, fugitive, and pedophile who raised her as his daughter while traveling the country using stolen identities. Birkbeck spent six hours in a Florida prison in 2003 interviewing Floyd, who had just been sentenced to death for torturing and murdering a Tampa woman. In FINDING SHARON, he tells the final chapters, including the discovery of Sharon's true identity.

His previous books including "The Quiet Don" (Berkley/Penguin 2013), which tells the remarkable story of Mafia kingpin Russell Bufalino, who built a vast organized crime empire in the decades between Prohibition and the Carter presidency and whose power and influence reached the highest levels of government. Once described by a U.S. Senate subcommittee as "one of the most ruthless and powerful leaders of the Mafia in the United States," Bufalino's legacy left a culture of corruption that continues to this day.

Birkbeck also authored "Deconstructing Sammy: Music, Money, Madness, and the Mob" (Amistad/Harper Collins 2008), which tells the riveting story of Sammy Davis Jr. and the efforts to resolve his millions in debts and restore his legacy following his death in 1990. The New York Times Book Review called Deconstructing Sammy "Gripping" and "Sensational," and the Los Angeles Times called it "Epic."

Birkbeck's A Deadley Secret (Berkley/Putnam 2002 and 2015), explores the investigation into Robert Durst, the heir to a New York real estate fortune accused of killing his wife and two others. The Durst story exploded in March 2015 with the airing of HBO's The Jinx, in which Durst admitted to "killing them all." Following his arrest for murder, police searched his Houston condo where they found two copies of A Deadly Secret. Penguin re-released an updated version of the book in April 2015. The book was turned into the Lifetime TV movie "The Lost Wife of Robert Durst," which aired in November 2017.

Birkbeck is also the coauthor of Till Death Do Us Part (Atria/Simon & Schuster) in 2006 with Dr. Robi Ludwig, a noted psychologist who appears regularly on The Today Show and Larry King Live.

Birkbeck has written for the New York Times, Reader's Digest, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, Boston Magazine, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He is currently a senior writer at Harrison Scott Publications, covering Wall Street and financial regulatory issues in Washington, D.C.

More Episodes


The Real Mr. Big - Jesus Ruiz-Henao & Ron Chepesiuk

Born in 1960,Jesus Ruiz Henao grew up poor, but wanted to be rich like the drug dealers he saw growing up in the cocaine-producing region of Colombia’s Valle of the Cauca. To realize his ambition, Ruiz Henao moved to London, United Kingdom, in 1985. There he and his wife settled in the quiet suburb of Hendon, where he held down mundane but respectable cleaning and bus driving jobs. At least to outward appearances …Actually, Ruiz Henao kept a low profile while he built a wide-ranging drug distribution network that extended from Colombia to Spain and Europe and to the United Kingdom. For years, he stayed one step ahead of law enforcement, making more than a billion pounds over a ten-year period.However, it was a riskybusiness with law enforcement on one side and ruthless competitors on the other. By the summer of 2003, Ruiz Henao decided to get out of the drug business. But he finally made the one mistake that would get him caught. It cost him a 17-year prison sentence, with more tacked on when he tried to make one last deal from behind prison walls.THE REAL MR. BIG,co-written by Ruiz Henao with bestselling author Ron Chepisiuk, is the story of how an ambitious Colombian immigrant set up a sophisticated drug trafficking enterprise that earned him law enforcement’s description as “the Pablo Escobar of British drug trafficking.”From the Book:Ruiz Henao: “After reflecting a long time, I decided to get out of the business. The police were on to me. I spoke to my boss Sergio in Colombia and my friends there, telling them that I was getting out because of the heat that was on me.”He paid off his closest associates and thanked them for working for him. He took a nice holiday in the Caribbean, and when he returned, he hoped to relax and enjoy his retirement.“I made millions of pounds in the drug trade, but money had become less important to me. I had worked hard to make the money, but now the most important thing in my life was to spend time with my wife, son, and daughter. My pursuit of money cost me a good part of my life. Money can make you crazy and do stupid things. When I first started in the drug business, my goal was to make a million pounds, and I did. So l said to myself: ‘I am going to carry on until I make ten million pounds.’ I made that amount. At that point, I could buy a mansion, a yacht, pretty well anything, but I said to myself: ‘Why stop now?’ I then made fifty million pounds.“At that point, I wanted to say to myself: ‘Enough.’I had more money than I could ever possibly spend, and it was becoming a headache handling it. I could get out of the drug trade easily. I didn’t have real enemies, so I couldleave the drug trade and not be an easy target for anybody.“I had no idea that Fernando Carranza Reyes had become a police informant, but I kept noticing that I was being followed by different cars. The next day, I called my brother-in-law Mario to meet me in a park near Baker Street. As we normally did when we traveled to a meeting point, we used public transportation.”As Mario got off at the bus stop, a female brushed him and planted a microphone in his jacket. When we met, we started to walk around the park and talk about many things, unaware that the British police were watching and listening to everything we were doing. I said to Mario: ‘Listen, Mario, at the end of the day, I don’t worry about the millions of pounds we have lost. That’s easy to recover. But the last thing I want to do is to go to prison.’ Information from that conversation became one of the strongest pieces of evidence against me in court.“After we were done talking, we went to a car dealership to buy a car. That’s when we noticed a van with a lot of antennas following us. We immediately knew it was the police, so we went back to our homes.“My boss and friends accepted my leaving the drug business, but some of my contacts in Spain started to put pressure on me, telling me that it was an excuse because I didn’t want to work with them anymore. Some of them started threatening me, saying that they would do whatever necessary to get me killed. They warned me never to change telephone numbers or to leave them without any contact. They called me every day. The police managed to identify my numbers and intercept and record all the calls they made to me.“I told Beto, Wilmar, and Tito that I was out of the business and to lose all contact with me because I was under police radar. Beto and Wilmar listened to me and stayed out of the cocaine business, but Tito continued in the business with a Spanish contact. One day, while he was meeting the Spaniard and unloading fifty kilos of cocaine from a lorry into his car, Tito was arrested. He was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. I was totally unaware of Tito’s drug business at the time, but later it was all linked and used as evidence in my court case.”Jesus had stopped drug dealing. He felt he had exited at the right time. But then he made a stupid mistake.THE REAL MR. BIG: How A Refugee Became The UK's Most Notorious Cocaine Kingpin • WildBlue Press