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20-time Emmy Award winner Robert Cawley threads through ‘Components of Murder’

Courtesy of Robert Cawley

Robert Cawley may not be an investigative reporter himself, but some might say the Columbus native and 20-time Emmy Award winner has a knack for writing about someone who is.

Cawley’s book “Components of Murder,” which was released in 2005 and centers on investigative reporter Gene McLain and the cases he solved, was re-released last month.

Calling McLain one of the most aggressive reporters in the United States, Cawley said, “McLain was born to be a homicide reporter.”

Cawley met McLain while directing the TV show “Special Assignment.”

“We met and decided to do an unusual thing – copy the crime as it happened. We shot on the locations of the crimes and used the real killers,” Cawley said. “He didn’t believe in perfect crime. He believed that crime is like a ball of yarn. Somewhere, you can pull a thread. Then you will find the criminal, and he always did.”

Cawley said McLain’s sense of justice and intensity was appealing to him.

“He had no desire for money. He had no desire for fame. His only desire to the world was justice,” Cawley said, raising his voice. “If you are guilty, he will follow you to the ends of the earth.”

Cawley said working with McLain on the TV series led him to become a “real” writer.

“I hated writing,” Cawley said. “That wasn’t my thing. I got more into writing when I got to meet McLain in Arizona.”

Now credited as a production executive, creator, producer, director and writer, the bulk of Cawley’s career has been set in the TV and film industry, where he got his start writing.

Cawley’s first writing job was for an OSU student who needed a 15-minute skit for a TV show. Cawley ended up having his own radio show on WOSU called “Piano Reveries.”

He has since worked on shows such as 20th Century Fox’s “The Juliet Prowse Spectacular,” NBC’s “The Faith of Our Children,” which won five local Emmy Awards, NBC News’ “Chet Huntley Reports” and the 1982 feature film “Butterfly,” starring Orson Welles and nominated for three Golden Globe Awards.

Cawley’s interest in TV and film trickled into a teaching career when he began instructing TV production and direction courses at Columbia College Hollywood, University of Southern California, OSU, where he was a consultant to the College of Arts, and now at the College of Southern Nevada.

Beyond the classroom, Cawley has recently had more of a stake in writing novels rather than TV scripts. He said “Components of Murder” is more than just a story of crime.

“It is not only a crime story but also a love story between (McLain) and his wife, Blondie,” Cawley said.

Cawley said love is a very important factor in the story because without his wife’s support, McLain wouldn’t be able to have such a successful career.

“She was with him 100 percent of the way.” Cawley said. “Even when they were about to lose their home and he was about to lose his job, she never left him. She stuck with him. She was a very pretty lady, a blonde with a pretty smile.”

Cawley said he thinks his books are more interesting because he sticks to the facts of the cases without exaggerating or adding fiction to them.

“(The story is) absolutely, 100 percent true,” Cawley said. “It shows exactly how (the cases) happened. Step by step.”

Angelic Sagraves, a first-year in philosophy, said the truth behind the story makes it sound interesting.

“I love crime shows like ’60 Minutes’ because it’s true stories and they are good reporters,” Sagraves said. “They make us listen. I guess this book will be like that.”

Jen Wasemann, a graduate student in science education, said Cawley’s book seems interesting.

“It sounds like it hits home a little more, since it’s real,” Wasemann said. “With the details, I can feel close to the person and his life.”

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