Colton Harris-Moore's mom, Pam Kohler, is pissed. She says Orcas Island-based writer Bob Friel, who authored a book about her son that was published in March, The Barefoot Bandit: The True Tale of Colton Harris-Moore, agreed to pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars for the extensive interviews she provided. But so far she hasn't seen a dime.
Friel, an award-winning travel writer and journalist with an extensive publishing history (which includes a story about the Barefoot Bandit for Outside magazine), says Kohler's claims are "ridiculous and absolutely false." He says he's never paid for an interview, noting he conducted "well over 200 interviews for my book and didn't pay anyone."
Kohler, who called Seattle Weekly yesterday out of the blue with the stated intent of letting "everybody know what a cheater [Friel] is," says she spent three months being interviewed by the author for his book. She says Friel told her "I should get between $100,000 and $300,000" for her time and the interviews, but that never happened.
"So I spent all that damn time with him and he won't return my calls or anything," Kohler says. "I spent hours and hours talking to him."
When emailed by Seattle Weekly, Friel responded within the hour.
"I never paid or offered to pay Pam Kohler for any of the interviews I did with her; not for my Outside magazine article on Colton and certainly not for my book," says Friel. "In fact, Pam Kohler told me, in front of a witness: 'You're lucky you talked to me before I started charging people.'"
Friel also disputes the amount of time Kohler says she spent being interviewed.
"The span of time over which I talked to Pam was probably three months or so, but it's grossly misleading to say that we spent three months doing interviews," says Friel. "I visited her at the trailer three or four times, but only two of those were for long -- an hour or more -- interviews. I went once simply to drop off a copy of the Outside magazine with the story in it. We also spoke on the phone, sometimes me calling her, but often her calling me to see if I had any news about Colton. I don't know how long in total I interviewed her, but it was roughly on par with the amount of time I spent interviewing at least four or five other sources for the story, and there were others that I spent even more time with."
Apparently, asking for financial compensation in return for interviews about her famous son is standard procedure for Kohler at this point. The Barefoot Bandit's mom tells Seattle Weekly she typically charges $1,000 for off-camera interviews, and $2,000 for on-camera sit downs. She says the price tag for her work with Friel is a result of the "days and days" the author spent interviewing her at her home.
For his part, Friel says he doesn't know any U.S. journalists who have paid Kohler for her time.
"Unfortunately, it looks like some foreign magazine writers and documentarians have offered her money to cooperate, but I absolutely did not and I don't know of any U.S. journalist who did," says Friel. "The only money Pam was offered or given in any connection with my writing was that Outside magazine paid her their normal usage fee (a couple hundred dollars) for usage of photos she provided."
On his Facebook page, Friel notes that his book "has been optioned by 20th Century Fox for a feature film, with Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black doing the adaptation." This fact only seems to further irritate to irritate Kohler.
Kohler says she wants the money from Friel to build a home for her and her son, saying she currently lives in a "dilapidated trailer" on Camano Island.
As far as the book she spent time helping Friel construct, Kohler tells Seattle Weekly she hasn't read it and doesn't plan to, saying "I refuse. I'm not putting any money in [Friel's] pocket." When read a description of the book available on Amazon.com over the phone, which describes Moore's hardscrabble upbringing in a family "marred by alcohol abuse," Kohler says much of it is "crap."
Friel stands by his book, adamant that all of it is properly sourced. He chalks this recent dispute up to a desperate attempt for publicity.
"Apparently [Kohler] feels it's been too long since she's had her name in the paper," he says.