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He doesn't look like a lunatic. Crisply dressed and coifed, his blue eyes smile quickly -- though not for our cameras -- and his graying-blond hair stays neatly placed. He is, he tells me, a son of the south and this is verified by his voice: as close to clipped as a southern accent gets. An educated voice, certainly. But one that is, nonetheless, punctuated by the region that spawned him. He does not wear a white suit, but if he did it wouldn't look strange. In short, he doesn't look or sound at all like someone hatching a plot or grinding an ax, though looks can be deceiving.
If half of the things Michael Sullivan is saying are true, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal starts to look like a children's sandbox creation. Interesting for a while, but more crumble than substance. If it's not true, it still seems likely that Sullivan is going to sell a lot of books.
"I want to go on record as saying I am not planning on committing suicide," Sullivan says earnestly. "I plan to live a long, long time."
My interview with Sullivan did not go at all as planned. I arrived expecting to speak with the author of an interesting new suspense novel. I planned to talk to him about his writing process and perhaps his life, interests and favorite pets. The last thing I'd anticipated was being led down a dark path of conspiracy featuring some of the largest characters in international politics: especially some of those who (ahem) have been getting a lot of press in recent months.
I had, of course, noticed some more than fleeting similarities between one of Blood Trail's major characters and a certain former governor from Arkansas. This I put down to the richness of fiction and the fact that Sullivan is a native of that state.
However, it would seem that Sullivan's interest runs less to literature than it does to high level machinations: at least in this instance. With some passion Sullivan spoke at length about what led him to write Blood Trail.
The fictional work focuses on two men from Arkansas. Robert Davis Prescott has been groomed almost from birth to take a place in American history. David Farr is the Vietnam Vet whose son is stricken with AIDS from a blood transfusion given to him in Canada. Farr wants to find out who is responsible, and is somewhat surprised when the trail -- the Blood Trail, if you will -- leads back to his home state and eventually to the White House and Prescott.
Sullivan -- though it's not the writer's real name, and he's not talking -- is a doctor who says he was a medical practitioner for the Arkansas prison system between 1982 and, "off and on, to the present time." He says that he knew that blood was being drawn from sick and infected Arkansas prisoners but he didn't know where the blood was being sold and distributed. In 1995, says Sullivan, he learned about infections and death in Canada, where the Arkansas blood had ended up. Sullivan says he became determined to find out more. The result of that research, says Sullivan, is in the novel Blood Trail. A story that while it's almost unbelievable, Sullivan says only begins to scratch the surface of the truth.
Linda Richards: So is Bob Prescott's resemblance to Bill Clinton unintentional ?
Michael Sullivan: I had certain information when I started the book. Actually, not very much. I worked in the system. I knew they were taking blood from very sick people. I knew the group was basically corrupt. And it wasn't until years later that I realized that they didn't have a way to clean up. It was not until 1995 and the initial Krever investigation was kicked off that one article appeared in the Associated Press that said that tainted blood in Canada had been taken from Arkansas prisoners. And I said, 'God Almighty!' because I'd forgotten about it. I was in it. I knew certain things. You know, it was like this huge guilt rush hit me because I hadn't investigated it. That's not my specialty. I just assumed mistakenly that they had a way to manufacture some kind of clean product.
Suddenly I remembered how Clinton had stood in and protected the HMA [Health Management Associates] through everything. Because they'd come under fire not because of plasma but because they hired drug addicts and they hired guys that had lost their medical licenses and several other things, especially dealing with narcotics. They'd come under fire from the media. Clinton had protected and in fact ensured that they received a renewed contract when faced with all this. And I thought, 'There's some kind of scheme here,' you know? And so I was afraid, to be honest with you, to go and do an investigation at that time because I'm too public and I knew I'd be exposed and I knew I'd never get a book written.
Where were you ?
I was still in Arkansas. I had a private medical practice outside of the prison. I was only doing the prison work as a sub-contractor.
I naively thought, I'll write this book and then some real smart reporter will grab it and go, 'Oh my god! Some of this must be true. I need to investigate this.' And then he would do all the work. And I could just sit back and be Mike Sullivan. So, that didn't happen. And we were forced into either dropping the story or coming out and pushing and gathering our own information.
I have one investigator working with me. He's one brave guy. He's gone in the face of the Arkansas power people and slowly but surely gotten this information. One of the documents was one in an investigation done by an independent firm in Berkeley, California in 1986 about the prison medical system. We knew that they had done it, and we knew kind of what the summary was, but we couldn't get our hands on the document because the group's building burnt down in 1990 and all the microfiche and everything was ruined. The only people that had documents were Bill Clinton and his group of prison appointees and his board of directors. Finally we found what was probably the only existing copy in one of the state legislator's garages. We asked him to look through all of his old papers and he found it. And man it is powerful.
I gotta tell you, this is not the conversation I expected to be having with you. It's interesting because we're talking about a novel. But we're kind of not...
It's hard to understand the chronology of it. Chronologically it was absolutely a novel. In the book I kill people right and left and I take political-type characters and I manifest all sorts of things on them. Using a lot of fantasy. The thing that's incredible to me is that afterwards the things we'd learned fit in almost perfectly with the story and -- even more fantastic -- I swear, we never anticipated that.
Maggie Gallagher, the woman that's a writer for the New York Post, she hasn't even read the book. She read a story about the book in the Ottawa Citizen and all of a sudden she remembers an incident that happened two days after Vincent Foster was killed that ties perfectly to the book. And all of a sudden she's off on this tangent. Well, I made all that up. We were just trying to be inventive, I thought, 'Well, this will be great. I'll tie this character in and kind of relate to this Foster story.' And now she says it's true. That indeed an informant called up to the White House offices and said that Foster was killed because he knew too much about tainted blood. I was the one most surprised of anyone. I mean, who would have ever dreamed? My only relationship with Foster, I met him one time. I saw him all the time. He and I had one very intense conversation about the prison and the blood procedure there, years ago. So I guess that was on my mind and I wove that into the story. Now a national level reporter has said, 'How did this guy know about this?' Well I didn't know about it.
Are you afraid? Are you afraid for your life?
Well, we weren't especially. I talked with my family. They knew all the evidence. They all voted to go ahead. And just like the main character in the story -- David -- who dropped everything to go seek out who had infected his son, they want me to do the same thing. So our strategy is, if we get enough publicity we'll be safe. Hopefully that'll happen. It seems like it's going to. Just in the last few days we've had national level TV news programs that have called and are interested in the story.
But yeah, I'm terrified, to tell you the truth. Put yourself in my position. The power groups I'm going up against. The only advantage is that now the general population of Canada and the United States knows a little bit about the character of the administration. Even though they really don't condemn him so far, they know his capability of lie and deceit and deny. I'll stand on that. I'll stand on my character, he can stand on his and we'll see who's standing at the end.
You said you're collecting more evidence. Why is that?
Well, look at it this way. There were a lot of people who fit into that system back then who are still alive, that know portions of the story much better than I do. They know intricate parts of it. As soon as this story breaks, our hope is they still have a conscience and if they know, hell: Americans don't know of the contaminated blood source. They just don't know. So, as it's exposed hopefully they'll -- like they already have -- start calling in and telling us their portion of the story.
For instance, the inmates that were the donors? I had no idea when I wrote this that they were as much victims as the end users because the HMA was using dirty needles over and over to collect the blood. So they cross-contaminated all those inmates. And these guys -- because of our investigation I've just found out in the last month -- that many of them have already had liver transplants. A bunch of them have already died. Several of them are in intensive care units right now. And a whole group of them -- I've just found out -- they're contaminated with HIV and Hepatitis C. So they're preparing to file a class action suit against the administration of the state of Arkansas, the department of corrections, and all of the people involved in this thing. That's a bigger story than we could have created on our own. They're doing it. And there's no statute of limitations for murder. And there's no statute of limitations when you've just discovered that you're hurt from a certain cause.
This happened in the mid 1980s? Early 80s?
Yeah. They started the blood contract in 1978 when Clinton became governor. They continued right up until he went to the White House. The really important part to Canadians is this: the Krever Commission tells us in 1982 there was one incident that some contaminated blood was identified from Arkansas and everybody went, 'Oh my God. We didn't know we were taking it from prisons. Oh my God, we didn't know it was coming from the States. We'll never do it again.'
Krever says they never were supposed to have it in the first place. And he says they were not supposed to destroy all these documents for the Red Cross, so this cover up is obvious. And certainly from 1982 forward you would suppose that no more blood was received from prisons, right? I mean you assume that. It was against the law, and they'd exposed it and no one was going to do it again. We have the head of HMA, the president of HMA telling us in 1984 and again in 1986 that he can not find any place else in the world to sell it, except Canada. Who's lying? Krever's Inquiry? Or this president who would have no reason to tell anyone he was selling it to Canada. But see, no one back in 86 thought that this would be looked at 12 years later from this angle.
Well, it's a really good story. The book is really well written and you're probably hearing comparisons to a lot of the best in the genre.
We've gotten good reviews, and I'm pretty proud of that because this is my first attempt. And all I thought that would carry it was the story. It's such a fantastic story. And Canadians must be sitting there going, 'God Almighty: this guy's really gone out on a limb to tie Clinton and all we've heard about Clinton to all we've heard about the blood plasma story.'
I know! Because it's like, Arkansas and... I mean, there's not even a thin attempt at veiling it.
But, wait a minute: why am I the only one that's made the connection? The Canadians knew from the very beginning it was Arkansas prison blood and they knew it was during his term of government. I expected everyone -- when I read that article -- but there was not a single editorial. Not a single article that appeared after that making the obvious connections.
Blood Trail is published on a fairly small imprint, yet it's doing quite well.
Well, there's a story there, too. I had extremely good connections to several of the big publishers: I won't name names, but the biggest. When I finished the manuscript I took it to them. As a group, they all said, 'Wow! Well written. Nice story. Wow. We don't know what the hell we're going to do with it.' I didn't understand what they were talking about, and yet now that we've done what we had to do with a very brave little publisher out of Ottawa, Illinois there was probably no other way to do it, except that. Because they would have never been able to put all of this together that we have. It would have been too risky for them.
Is this Jameson's biggest ever book? This seems like a big commercial push for a small publisher.
We don't know yet. They had a big book back in the 80s called On A Clear Day You Can See General Motors. It was a slam on General Motor's upper echelon centered around DeLorean. John DeLorean.
So Jameson likes to take a few risks?
Yeah. That's why I went there.
Forgive a naive question but, if everybody knew about the tainted blood, why would they allow it to go on?
You mean the people doing it?
And the people receiving it.
These fractionators were running out of blood. They'd been closed down in east Africa and Haiti because of AIDS. And so they had a very quiet and very strongly controlled audience of politicians that kept it open. When you step back and see it from that standpoint, you understand how it could all happen.
You know for instance -- I'll bet you don't -- the blood companies, the big money people went to every state in the United States that had blood shield laws passed prior to this. And in 46 of 50 states they had blood shield laws passed.
So prior to this, that would be...?
Late 70s, mainly. Now that protected them from any product liability associated with a plasma product so that no one could sue them. And to this day that has inoculated them from liability suits from the states. So why would you do that? Why would spend the vast amount of money to do that when you're totally innocent.
This is a corrupt medical operation. They'd already been shut down in 1982 by the FDA for all kinds of reasons. Mainly, the FDA says you're taking hot blood and you're shipping it. That's pretty obvious, right? You're draining your donors to a near-death situation. Like Dracula. You have inmates doing all the procedures. You have inmates falsifying records so that other inmates can give who should never be allowed to donate. I'm telling you verbatim what's in the report. There were six issues all together. So they shut them down. The board of prison with its director are all appointed by Bill Clinton, personally. They go before the board they say, 'We've been shut down.' Guess what the discussion was about? Not whether we clean this up or figure a new way to do business or ensure the safety of our product. It's, let's open up under a new name, under a new charter to the FDA as soon as possible. We've got the minutes from the meeting. They did this not once, but three times. Now, are they interested in anyone's well-being? They're only interested in the millions of dollars brought in. It's incredible.
Why didn't you do it as a non-fiction book? Why did you decide to do it as fiction?
At the time, in 1995 when I read this article, I decided I was going to do something. I didn't know all of this. I didn't have all of it. I didn't know how much I could find. But I knew enough that I could assume certain things. And I said: okay. And I tried a couple of times. If I start going into these state offices and asking all these questions, I'm going to get exposed, the book will never get finished and the story will be covered up.
So my wife said, 'What would you do if one of our sons had been infected and you knew what you know?' That's what I would have done.
So you're David?
Kinda. I got a whole bunch of kids.
Is there any threat of law suits? Do you think? Or any possibility of law suits?
Well, I hope not. But, yeah. The interesting thing is we really, truly wrote it as a work of fiction. It does have some obvious things to certain people in the media nowadays. But people are going to have to stand on their own credibility sooner or later.
As a piece of fiction it provides you with some protection from law suits, doesn't it?
I hope so. Yeah.
There are some real strong similarities, though.
And you haven't made a whole lot of bones about keeping it close to the time.
You know what, I didn't even attempt to. It is kind of chronological to a lot of things, but it's not exact. Arkansas is just a big small town. We all run into each other all the time. Like I said in the book, there are just a few people who control all the positions and money and if you travel in those circles sooner or later you meet these people all the time.
I didn't think anyone could condemn me for writing what I know about. Which is what I did.
The other good thing is I'm a lifelong resident of the state and I'm also the son of a state policeman. Does that sound like something from the book? I know a lot of these people, and a lot of these people that were connected with the Clinton power structure are now very pissed off because he has absolutely ruined the state's credibility. And so he doesn't have the structure he used to have.
So you're collecting more resource material. Are you doing another book? Or, what is that for?
We're turning everything over to the RCMP and the FBI. That's for them, because I want to be done with it. Other than promoting this book. But after you've gathered evidence if you have evidence about the commission of a felony you're required by law to make it available to the legal authorities.
Have you done any pictures yet? Have you been on TV or anything?
Yeah. Several times.
Maybe you want to stop that.
When lots of people that are involved in this read the story, they'll know who wrote it. I put enough of myself in there. I never intended to completely hide it.
I'll tell you a bizarre thing that happened among all the other bizarre things. We finished the manuscript and it was ready to go to the printer. And we had to change the name of Prescott's daughter. You know what the original name was that we had for her? The name in the book is Nicole, right? That was changed at the last minute to Nicole. The original name in January was Monica. As God is my witness. And of course everyone associated with my tight group of friends goes, 'You're like clairvoyant!' But it just seemed like a good name. So we could not leave that, that would be too funny.
Are you working on any other books?
I'm writing two other books right now. They have nothing to do with this. And yet already we've had three or four groups come and ask me to write the story about the story. A non-fiction account of how I wrote the novel and then all of this. I don't know if it's in me to do that. I'm real burned out on it. I've been doing this for almost two years now. My family is wrung out over it.
Go interview these victims. It'll change your life. I dare you. Go interview someone that has hemophilia -- a really bad disease in itself -- and through no fault of their own they're born with genetic aberration. And they're required to inject themselves with this Factor-8. Their life is already difficult enough, and because of greedy people they get infected with HIV. They develop AIDS and now they're taking 40 pills a day, they're on constant IV antibiotics, they're taking oral medication to kill the fungus that grows in their mouth. Their life is absolutely decimated. And then they find out they've got Hepatitis-C, so they have to go on Interferon which makes them sick all of the time. And their liver gets so big that they can't lie down and sleep anymore because it pushes up against their heart and lungs and they can't breathe. So they're reduced to spending the rest of their lives sleeping sitting up.
These people are as destroyed as anyone I've seen on the battlefield, in third world countries or anywhere else. If they had any means to start out with, they go through that money immediately. So they don't have funds for liver transplants. They're completely at the mercy of whatever public assistance there is. You go see these people, and then you will stick your neck out. It really changed my life. And when I tell my wife, she just falls apart. She just can't believe that people that we grew up with, people that I worked for, people that I've known all my life were capable of this. That all the evidence points to the fact that they were.
A lot of people have thought to associate us with some vast right wing conspiracy. And this Republican agenda. In fact I was accused by a reporter of being part of that group. And I said, 'Well, exactly what do you base that on?' And he said, 'Well, obviously, you're flying all over Canada last minute. That costs a lot of money, right?' And I said, 'Well it sure does. Because I can't plan anything more than a day ahead of time.' And he went on and on about, 'Well you're doing this, staying in hotels and that costs a lot of money.' And he said, 'I'd imagine someone behind your publisher is putting up a lot of money.' And I said, 'Oh really. Do you want some evidence on that?' And he said, 'Well, I suppose.' And I said, 'Well, let me tell you, I'll make this available to you. You go to my CPA and you can look at every expense I've had in the last five years. What you'll find is in the last 20 years I've traveled about four times a year as a medical missionary. I've financed it myself. I don't tell anybody about it, it's just the thing that I do. For me. I do it for me. And this year, this has taken the place of that. And I funded every single penny when I travel. These expenses. Is part of what I normally spend for my mission trip. I'm spending it for this because I think it's important and I'm not part of any political party. No one has contacted me.
This is as close to a personal vendetta on my part as you'll ever get. Because I have a daughter that I adopted when I was a missionary in Korea who is now 16 and who in 1991 contacted a disease very similar to Leukemia. She had to undergo vast amounts of transfusions and went into remission because we did a spleenectomy on her. Now five years later, six years later she's come up with a new disease -- an auto immune disease -- and now we realize it may be the result of the blood products she received. And all of this has come back on me in a way I can't ignore.
It's kinda like God's going, 'Listen to me now! You gotta tell this story.'
So all of that's behind what I'm doing. Not any political agenda.
Tell me about the timing of the release of this book. In some ways, it seems pretty calculated.
To be honest with you, we couldn't have chosen any worse time in American history to break our story.
Why. I would think it would be a really good time.
You know when we sent out the stuff [PR materials] to the American press, not one response. And when our people in New York called up to follow up, 'Did you get it? Did you read it?' And they got, 'Well, we got it but we haven't read it because,' it all had to do with Clinton and Lewinsky. That's all anyone wanted to hear about.
This story would be a lot more palatable to the American audience if we said -- I tried this on a reporter once, before I told him anything about the story I said, 'If I could prove or convince you that the sitting governor of Arkansas who later became the President had direct control over a scheme that ultimately caused the direct death of one person, how big a story would that be?'
He said, 'God almighty. That would be the biggest story in the American presidency. There's never been anything like that. All we've had are rumors about sexual liaisons and rumors about special deals that were cut, but not the direct death of one person.' And I said, 'Okay: multiply that by about 400,000.' When you do that it goes shoomp. They can't get a handle on it. They think it's just too fantastic. We're talking about genocide. Think about that idea.
So you're working on two new novels?
One is based on kind of a popular and ingenious young actor and brat packer who got himself in a lot of trouble. But I don't want to say any names.
That could be a bunch.
Good. I'm glad you said that. But I'm having a blast with it. It's got a lot better plot than this one has.
But the reviews have been good for Blood Trail?
Yup. So far. But I'm new to all this. And the publishing business the craziest business I've ever been in in my life. | October 1998