The Whole Story Behind my book, Vanished

Last night, I was reading over some of the newer reviews and comments of my novel Vanished. I noticed some understandable trepidation among a few of those who hadn’t read the book. In response, I’ve decided to write this post, explaining the origins of the book, and why I wrote it.

First, though, I wish to thank all of those who took a chance on me, readers who cracked the pages, in spite of the subject matter. I really appreciate you, and I know it couldn’t have been easy to start.

I want to clarify what is NOT in this book; rape, gore, excessive violence (yes, there is violence, but no more than any other action/thriller), injury or death to animals, pedophilia. You only need to ask someone who’s read the book, I’m confident they will attest to this.

If you asked me, ten years ago, to write a book about human trafficking, I would have declared you insane. Times, and people, change.

The truth is, initially, there was no intention of broaching the subject. I wanted to write about Haiti.

You see, my father, upon whom one of the main characters, John Webster, is loosely based, would volunteer to help build homes, churches, and other projects. I remember well, the photos showing the difficult living conditions. There were also the stories, none of which included human trafficking. There are bits and pieces in the novel that were gleaned from his experiences.

The second main character, Tyler Montgomery,  is loosely based on my brother-in-law. The pair actually did make a trip to post-earthquake Haiti, back in October of 2010. I asked if they’d be willing to make a journal of their experiences.

So, here we come to the reasons behind Vanished. Over the years, I’ve been understandably and justifiably questioned as to my choice of topic. In the early days, I always delivered a simple and pat answer about a desire promote awareness. If a problem is ignored, what hope is there to solve it?  At the time, I truly believed my answer to be complete. Cut and dried, no further explanation needed.  

I often mention that 50% of the proceeds are donated to help victims of human trafficking, which they are, and I hope I don’t sound like I’m touting my own horn. That is not my intent.

Yes, all of this is true. However, and this may sound strange, I’ve only recently come to realize it’s not the whole truth. Please let me explain.

Those who are familiar with me, know that I’ve spent the last twenty plus years working as a Correctional Officer in maximum and medium, security prisons.

The last max. was Kingston Penitentiary which opened in 1835 and closed in 2013. It’s now a tourist attraction. I was one of the last to work there. Shortly afterwards, I was transferred to a medium level prison.  

This blog is not evolving into a prison tale. My career was mentioned  because I want to help you understand where I’m coming from.  I also want to emphasize, that Hollywood, and the news, are entities that thrive on sensationalism, because it sells.  

I’ve encountered many traumatic experiences and looked into the midnight eyes of those who looked through, rather than at you. We called them dead eyes.

Fortunately, these are not the majority of inmates. There are some who’ve lead normal lives until something triggered them to act in uncharacteristic ways. What you also had, were many cases of psychological and drug addiction issues.  Oh, and yes, plenty of the inhabitants  had committed unspeakable acts of evil. I’ll spare you the details.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I’ve worked with some great staff and have had my share of laughs. I appreciated the strong bonds that developed between my peers. It’s inevitable when you place your life in someone’s hands, and they put theirs in yours.

I apologize if I’m rambling, but it was necessary to give some background into what made my brain tick, when I wrote this book.

It took a diagnosis of PTSD, months of treatment, support, and deep reflection, to unravel the ‘other’ reasons for the birth of Vanished.

I have come to grasp the fact that it was also a product of a mind that sought to survive and heal. To find a state of homeostasis and make sense of the tragic and unfathomable.

The famous line from the movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Millar and the Sergeant are discussing the personal cost of getting Ryan home. One of them says: “Someday, we might look back on this, and decide that saving Private Ryan was the once decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole Godawful, shitty mess.”

I’m not comparing myself to these brave warriors, but these are my sentiments, exactly.

The brain is extremely powerful, and I believe that it sensed something was wrong all those years ago, though my conscious mind was oblivious. It’s the frog in a boiling pot analogy. I was being cooked alive, and I didn’t even realize.               

The characters do represent, superficially, my family members. At a deeper level, they are avatars of my hope. Hope for something better, for this world, myself, and my loved ones.

Spoiler alert, Tyler struggles with mental health issues. The issue was  approached from a Stephen King angle because I grew up reading his work.

At the time, I thought it was just a nod to the famous writer, but it’s become clear that my subconscious had put out a 911 call for help. In some ways, I’m Tyler.

Right now, more than ever, the world is hurting. I don’t know your personal stories, but I can sense from many of the comments, that anxiety and a sense of hopelessness rule the day.

Let me tell, there is always hope. I want to assure you that you are not alone. I, along with many others, have been where you are. I’m on the mend, and my family is getting there, too. I cannot reiterate this enough: there is always hope.

Whenever a crisis arises, there are always those who step up and perform selfless acts. I refer to those as helpers, look around, you’ll find them, everywhere. You know what? Look in the mirror and you’ll see one up close.          

Don’t believe me? Listen, if you’ve ever retweeted a post, shared a kind word on a blog, shared a blog, hosted, bought a book, read, and reviewed, made someone laugh or provided information, beta read . . . you get the picture, then you are a helper.  

Yes, those dedicated people who work in the healthcare industry certainly fall into this category. There are so many others, unsung, and unnoticed. They go about the business of helping.

John and Tyler are much more than characters in a book, and the plot is deeper and broader than human trafficking. There is an ugly side to it, just as there is in life, but there is also a positive message. It’s about becoming a helper, doing whatever is within your capacity to  make a positive impact, even if it’s just one person.

This is the true spirit of Vanished.

At the bottom of this post, you will find two links to interviews I conducted with a couple of wonderful helpers, who stood with victims of human trafficking.

On a side note:

I am not downplaying the recent events with law enforcement that have occurred, nor am I saying that problems with racism do not exist, as they do in every environment.

I wish to point out that there are a few rotten apples among the ranks; you’ll find them in every profession; and they should be dealt with accordingly. However, it is very distressing, unfair, and illogical to paint an entire profession based on the actions of a few. Most people involved in law enforcement are decent and ordinary people. They have families and emotions, too.

I was saddened and angered, when I discovered that a certain retailer was selling tee-shirts with the detestable slogan, Blue Lives Murder. Ouch!!  

This is not only disrespectful and generally untrue, but downright inflammatory. These are the things that contribute to PTSD and suicides.

I give my readers the benefit of the doubt, as I am sure that most of you realize this. I still feel compelled to say the following: Amidst all the cries for defunding the police, please try to imagine a world where the dead eyed roam free and amok.

Sends shivers up my spine.

More about me:

Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman’s childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non.

Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this “country boy” to life in the big cities.

Drawing on his many experiences as a private investigator and later a Correctional Officer, Mark combines his unique experiences and imagination to create his stories and characters.

Purchase: iBooks

I’d love to connect with you:

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Interview Links:

A Call To Mission Work. An Interview With Madison Wicklam.

They Fight For Freedom


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Born and raised on a farm near Brockville, Ontario, Mark Bierman's childhood consisted of chores, riding horses, snowmobile races across open fields, fishing trips to a local lake, and many other outdoor adventures. He was also an avid reader of both fiction and non. Transitioning towards adulthood also meant moving from the farm and into large urban areas that introduced this country boy to life in the big cities. After a short stint as a private investigator, he moved into the role of Correctional Officer, working at both Millhaven Institution and Kingston Penitentiary, until it closed.

59 thoughts on “The Whole Story Behind my book, Vanished”

  1. this is touching… generous… fascinating… would love if you’d contribute something to my site as a sort of ‘part 2’ to your original post there…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An excellent post Mark. I didn’t know anything about you, but I I feel I know you quite well now and would be interested to read the book. My late husband was a policeman and it is a job where you can be helping people a lot of the time and they are very grateful – but that part goes unnoticed. The rank and file officers never know when they will suddenly find themselves in the middle of a riot or face danger on duty. Those who work in prisons are even less appreciated for the work they do.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad your are intersted in Vanished, and I hope you find inspiration from it. Law enforcement is a thankles job, and despite all the good its members do, its always the negative that grabs the headlines. Very discouraging. You have seconds to react in life and death situations, and then face judgement by many who have never been involved in this type of crisis. They have hours to sip their coffe and pick about everything you did. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark, I’ve been watching you and finally taking the time to learn your story. Vanished is on my radar and has been for a while. I also remember hosting you. I think I have your book or will get it if I don’t.

    There’s two sides to the idea of defunding the police. Perhaps the term to use is redirecting some of those funds and start cleaning out the really bad apples in the bunch because something clearly has to change.

    Once I have read your book, you will get a review.

    Thank you for keeping your story out there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Shirley. I hope you find some inspiration from Vanished. Yes, I agree, redirecting some funds, is a much better term, and change is needed. I know personally, that in my experience, we were expected to perform the duties of a psychologist. We were never trained for such a role. Some things are unfair for both sides. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mark, I started this wondering if there would be spoilers since I’m a third of the way through VANISHED. I’m coming back to this when I’m done to discover why you wrote this enthralling thriller.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks so much for sharing how you came to write this Mark. Human trafficking is something that’s been heavy on my heart for the last few years. I think it’s important to shine a light on things like this, as it may be one of those things that people just don’t believe happens in real life. It’s just hard to fathom that people can do such despicable things to another human being. I just downloaded your book, and I look forward to reading it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Teri, I think you’re right about the denial of these atrocities. It’s the brain’s way of protecting itself. Because of my job, I’m more aware of these types of things, unfortunatley, I found myself going the other way. I developed a lack of trust in people, even though logically, I knew that this type are the extreme minority. I thank you so much for taking the chance on my book. I appreciate you, 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing your story behind the story, Mark. As someone who works for the police department, I agree, there are bad eggs, but like you said, they come with every position. Anyone who thinks defunding the police is a solution should read Robbie’s comment above.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Totally agree, Jill. It is impossible to have a free and democratic country, without reasonable laws and enforcement. I will gladly refer any doubters to speak with Robbie, if she’s willing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jan.


  7. Mark, this is such a powerful post. I am one of those readers who approached Vanished with trepidation due to the subject matter. After reading the book, I am so glad I took the chance. And reading this post, with your reasons for writing it, and your background, make me appreciate it all the more.

    I had no clue there was a retailer selling something so despicable. What have we come to? As you said, there is always hope. My mantra and prayer is always to look to the better side of things. I have faith in humanity and people. In the helpers of the world. Thank you for such a personal, inspirational and powerful post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Mae, for your comments, and for taking the chance on Vanished. I felt that by clarifying what is not contained in this book and sharing the real message, it might encourage those who are hesitant. You have the right attitude about seeing the better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I so appreciate your journey, Mark, and respect your decision to share it. I agree with you on the whiplash effect of defunding and even the cancel cultureists. I hope we all return to reason someday. Thanks for your post.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Mark, I don’t judge a book by the reviews. When I read a book and read some reviews, I knew they missed the point of didn’t understand the book or the story behind the stories. There are all kinds of readers out there and approach the books with their own backgrounds and right or wrong interpretations. You won’t have 100% of readers who understand you or your book. I remember one author was so upset about one review misunderstood her book and have 1-star. Of course it affected the average reading but that was not just that. She asked Amazon to remove it, but Amazon didn’t.

    I appreciated your sensitivity and sharing of the background of your book, your family, and yourself. They are precious. They made who you are. I’ve tried to stop comparing and apologize who I am and what I do, but sometimes I still catch myself doing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Miriam. Thankyou so much for your kind words and support. It wasn’t so much the reviews, it was the fact that I sensed alot of reluctance to read the book (from those who hadn’t read it yet) because of the subject matter. I just wanted to asure those who were reluctant, that this book was more about the positive, than the ngeative side of things. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Why don’t you rewrite the blurb with another focus and trafficking as secondary! I rewrote the blurb for my poetry. When I first published the book, I was still very sad and the blurb was very sad. When I looked back, There are more poems on the brighter side, so I deleted a couple sentences.

        The people who haven’t read your book probably read the blurb first. 🙂


  10. I love this post, Mark. You make a lot of valid points and share your insight into your wonderful book. I admit to being hesitant reading such a subject but you never made it so uncomfortable I couldn’t read it. Having dealt with abuse as a child, I deal with the aftermath as an adult. As a result I always want to understand and find that hope. I still believe that most people are good and don’t like to get caught up in all that hate you spoke of Great post, Mark.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Denise. I am sorry to hear about the abuse in your childhood. I am glad that you seek to find the positive in life, despite it all. I thank you for taking the chance on the book, despite the subject matter. As you know, there will always be evil in this world, but there will also be good. Your books reflect this belief, as well.


  11. I have always felt that books are inspired from real life, experiences and people around us do creep in. Your story validates my point. Life is a great teacher, it molds us to live, struggle and survive. Thank you for sharing the moments that made a difference in your life.
    Vanished is a positive book despite its theme.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Thank you, Mark, for sharing so intimately. When I read a book, I look for the author, their soul, and yours was beautifully present throughout your book. As I’ve shared with you, I deal with PTSD, and I cannot be in settings where someone verbally or physically tries to control me. I’ve had plenty of therapy and with time, I’ve come to respect who I am and honor the deep compassion that has accompanied PTSD. I agree with you about the police. It saddens me terribly the kind of things that are said and done. I’m actually apprehensive around those who imagine themselves as somehow better than or worth more than others. We are all one family, and I believe we are here to become that truth.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Gwen. Yes, I thought of you when I posted this. You can understand the struggles and how real they are to those who suffer. I agree with you about the deep compassion developed when you go through something like this. This is an oversimplification, but you can look at the person and honsestly say, “I get you.” Yes, we are all one family, and spreading hate to fight hate has never worked. It would be nice if common sense ruled and a compromise could be reached. It often seems to be an “all or nothing” mentality. How about somehwere in the middle, which is a much better reflection of reality.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Hi Mark, I live in a country where the dead eyes basically roam free and our justice system is a catastrophe. There are on average 58 homicides a day in South Africa. People live in houses behind metal bars to keep criminals out. We all have electric fences, security cameras, movement sensors in our gardens and private security companies armed with AK 47s. I would never, ever stand in judgement or criticize a working policing system where criminals are removed from society and ordinary citizens have the freedom to live and work in peaceful surroundings. People who are calling for the defunding of the police and correctional offices, quite frankly, have no idea what they are saying. They should have to come and live here for a few months. You might ask why we stay if things are so bad. It’s because our sisters, nieces, nephews, parents and grandparents are here. It is difficult to leave behind your family and your homeland and I suppose we have lived in hope that things would improve. Our plan now is to leave, hopefully by mid next year. It will be another tragedy for this country as we will become another two taxpayers and skilled professionals who have felt compelled to leave to give their children a better future.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Hi Robbie, I’m sorry to hear that you have to live under those circumstances. I understand your reasons for staying and your reasons for planning to leave. You are so right, These people who are calling for defunding of the police, dare I say, are naive . They seem to go by the assumption that everyone is good. Well, sorry, that is just not the case. You cannot have a true Democracy without Laws and those to enforce them. Is it perfect? No. Does it need to have checks and balances, yes. Do officer’s every move need to be scrutinized by video by those with no training or understanding of the job? NO.

      Liked by 3 people

  14. Hi, Mark. I read Vanished, and everything you say about it is true. It’s an excellent read. I reblogged this post with this comment: I’ve read this excellent book and highly recommend it. Mark shares some deep truths and issues that affect not only himself, but many others who need to know there is hope and that they, too, are not alone. Read on. I believe this will move you as it moved me.

    I’ll be praying for you and looking forward to your next book, which I hope you’re writing.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Reblogged this on PTL Perrin Writes… and commented:
    I’ve read this excellent book and highly recommend it. Mark shares some deep truths and issues that affect not only himself, but many others who need to know there is hope and that they, too, are not alone. Read on. I believe this will move you as it moved me.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Such a brave post, Mark. I knew the story behind your book Vanished, but I also think that, as bloggers and writers, we still keep some part of ourselves private. Yet you opened up your heart in an effort to lift your book towards the sun. And for this I stand and applaud you.
    Your girls must be so proud of you – and lucky to have you as a Daddy.

    I still remember how much I enjoyed Vanished. I would recommend it to anyone.

    Best wishes 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Pat. I was always a closed book, and I built walls around myself. This is aprt of what caused the PTSD. One of the huge issues with this condition is isolation and loneliness. The feeling that you are the only one. I’m done with hiding it. I feel it is my duty to open up and make others aware that they are not alone and that there are people who are willng and can help. I thank you for being a great supporter, and appreciate you. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  17. I always find it fascinating when an author gives an insight into what inspired the book. It’s interesting how characters have been based on family and how their experiences, as well as your own at the prison, came together. I absolutely think you should toot your own horn though – 50% of proceeds to charity is incredibly generous and a wonderful thing to do, Mark. You’ve broached a very tough subject – It may not be a pretty topic when it comes to human trafficking, but it’s absolutely poignant and deserving of attention, so I think you’ve done a fantastic job at clarifying your reasoning, inspiration and why you’ve mentioned the things you have, like your career 🎉

    Caz x

    Liked by 3 people

  18. A baring of the soul, Mark. My late husband, Rick Sikes, spent fifteen years in Leavenworth Penitentiary. He arrived in Leavenworth in 1973 and it was a maximum-security prison. He had two separate sentences for armed bank robbery – one state and one federal. The total sentence combined was 75 years. Anyone who has read my first books knows the story. He never went into a bank with a gun and robbed it, but he was involved in planning the robberies. My point here is that he suffered from PTSD when he was released back out into society. We didn’t know what to call it. Sadly, I admit I got angry at him when he’d walk out of a crowded restaurant or blow up over something that seemed small to me. Looking back, I wish I would’ve had the knowledge I have now. I could have made that easier. Anyway, my friend, my point here is that your post makes one thing very clear – none of us are alone. We are all interconnected and it lifts my heart when someone has the courage to be brutally honest. I do want to say one more thing, and that is you owe no one an explanation for your book. It’s a great story!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Jan. Yes, I am familiar with Rick’s story. No one leaves prison without scars . . . inmates or staff. It’s an artificial hell created by men. At the time when he was going through it, very little was understood, That, mercifully, has changed. It’s not so much that I feel I owe an explanation for the book, I just want people to undertsand that this is not a book which glorifies or contains explicit details of the hideaous crimes. I want people to understand that its true focus is hope and helping. Together, we can make this world a better place. Thank you for your kind words. You are a pillar of support, Jan. I appreciate you. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

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