Picks and Pans Review: Talking With...

updated 04/18/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/18/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>Bill Branon


"THIS BOOK WROTE ITSELF," SAYS BILL Branon, 56, who retired in 1985. "I'd get up at 3 a.m., pick a few characters out of the air and say, 'Okay, folks, we're going to La Paz today,' and the words would just start popping." Branon's anti-IRS plot, however, bubbled up from his deep fury over how the agency ''harassed'-his youngest son, Mark, now 30. In the early '80s, Mark spent two years in prison on weapons-and drug-possession charges. "He deserved what he got," says his father, "but when he'd served his lime and was trying to start a small landscaping business, the IRS came down the pike, saying he owed them money. It just got my hair up, and I started writing."

Branon decided to publish Let Us Prey himself after the first publisher he approached asked him to soften its tone. Using a do-it-yourself guide, he tracked down printers and distributors, spent $7,200 on the first 5,000 copies, then published more editions with the profits. "I even shot the cover myself in my garage," says Branon, who got IRS permission to burn a 1040 form for a photograph and inadvertenlly set his garage door on fire.

Favorable reviews brought a six-figure offer from HarperCollins. Hollywood has also expressed interest, says Branon, who lives in Encinitas, Calif., with his wife, Lolly, and their mult Wiley ("a cross between a Doberman and an exorcist"). Taxes, of course, have taken a big bite out of his earnings. With 40 percent going to the feds, 10 percent to the slate and 7.5 percent to social security, Branon says he has been left with just about enough to upgrade a '79 Plymouth to a '93 Olds.

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