Viewers tuning in to “48 Hours” on Saturday will see a new face. For some, he might be an old friend.
Maureen Maher, Erin Moriarty and Peter Van Sant, some of the CBS program’s regular correspondents, have the week off. In their place: James Patterson, the famous author behind Alex Cross and the Women’s Murder Club, telling a tale that is sure to intrigue.
In a special episode of the series, Patterson will explore the life and death of Aaron Hernandez, the New England Patriots player who was charged and convicted of killing semi-pro linebacker Odin Lloyd – and charged and acquitted in the deaths of two others – before committing suicide.
“I don’t really love to do non-fiction, but I really got sucked into this,” says Patterson, in a recent interview. He has been reporting for a new book, “All-American Murder,” on Hernandez’s story, which is due out Jan. 22 from Little Brown and Company. The Mark Gordon Company announced earlier this week that it had acquired the feature film rights.
The prolific author says he was fascinated by the case – and the circumstances that led to it. “It’s just the nature of this thing: an All-Pro football player who operated like a serial killer. If I wrote that in a novel, people would say, ‘Come on, James, you’re losing it. This one is too over the top.’ But it happened, and the trail of violence is unbelievable.”
Patterson and a “48 Hours” team examine Hernandez’ life in Bristol, Conn, and the impact the death of his father had on him. They interview Urban Meyer, his coach at the University of Florida and NFL Network correspondent Ian Rapoport, who Hernandez once suggested he would kill.
Producers of the show are willing to shake up the format once in a while, said Susan Zirinsky, the senior executive producer of “48 Hours.” “I love to open the creative envelope any chance I get,” she said.
Viewers will be drawn in by the story, she added. “I was curious about how I would feel. Is he just a thug? I really feel it’s a tragic human story. He married his sweetheart, adored his child. But there were demons.”
The report also nods to the ongoing research taking place around chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, that research suggests can be sparked by the rough nature of playing football. “This is not an indictment of the NFL,” says Zirinsky. Producers did reach out to both the League and the New England Patriots. “I think people are beginning to really try to understand it and what they need to do more work on it.”
Patterson discovered an unusual connection the football player while doing research. He visited the jail where Hernandez was held and examined his prison library records to see who his favorite authors were. The answer: James Patterson, Michael Connelly and John Grisham. The show airs Saturday night at 10 p.m.