Book brings ’48 murders to life

In 2012, Scott Fields published a novel based on the Niebel murders committed by Robert Daniels and John West, with the primary action set in Mansfield. He previously had written several other books, but “The Mansfield Killers” has outsold all the others.

“Writing has always been a hobby for me. It has been something I do in my spare time,” he explained in a recent email.

A native of La Rue, Fields earned a degree from Ohio University and worked for 30 years managing retail stores in the Detroit area. Even before retirement, he began a second career as a writer in 1996. Now living in Mansfield with his wife, the author said he was just a child when the murders occurred, and he learned about the crime by chance.

“I was at a book signing and taking a break. I heard someone talking about what happened in Mansfield in 1948 and something went nuts in my head,” Fields said. “The next day, I was at the library copying the newspaper articles about those two guys. …”

Although he typically writes about 400 words per day, Fields said his pace increased to 4,000 to 6,000 words daily.

“Obsessed,” he said, he visited the existing sites related to the crimes and interviewed people who remembered the Niebel murders. True crime forms the framework for the story, and Fields uses the real names of people and places. Fictional conversations have been added to flesh out the story. Local historian Mark Steinmetz said he was a bit disappointed only a few of the 250 pages cover events in Seneca County, even though the local crimes led to the capture of the pair.

The sisters of James Smith, Ruth Ludwig and Helen Miller, also have read Fields book. Oct. 20, they were able to speak to the author and his wife at the museum in Tiffin. Fields said he enjoyed talking with the the ladies and was impressed with the exhibit Hoffert had put together.

About two months ago, Forbidden Tears Productions in Waldron, Arkansas, contacted Fields about adapting “The Mansfield Killers” for a motion picture. An Aug. 9 article in the Mansfield News Journal said some of the filming was expected to take place at the now-vacant prison in Mansfield.

Steinmetz said the movie script by David Stewart can be found online. Otherwise, Fields said the company has shared few details with him. The director has told him filming is to start next year with expected release in 2019. Even so, Fields “can live with” the lack of knowledge.

“I saw my first movie when I was about 10 years old, and thought at the time I would love to have been the one who wrote that story. Sixty years later and here I am,” he said.

Now the author of 15 books, Fields is to return to the Seneca County Museum 2-4 p.m. Saturday to sign and sell copies of his book, “The Mansfield Killings.” It is the first of his books to be made into a motion picture. The soft cover book also is available through online book sellers.