top of page

The backstory of the book, “Back from the Deep”

by Doug Horner

We recovered a drowning victim from the Boise River in 1983, and had volunteered for other searches using our whitewater jet boats. At that time, we could only search for victims that had surfaced. After acquiring our side scan sonar in 2000, which was customized for deep water searching, it revolutionized our search efforts and greatly increased chances of recovering victims.


We began receiving inquiries in 2004 from film producers to do documentaries or film series on the drowning victim search and recovery. For reasons I will not get into, we declined more than two dozen inquiries. We did allow a writer with the New Yorker to interview us and attend a search in Northern Idaho in 2006. His article was published in Harper’s Magazine in 2007.

In December, 2016, Doug Horner, an independent writer living in Calgary, AB, wrote to ask if we would allow him to write a book about our work. We told him we wanted the book to focus on the families we have helped and not on us, personally. He met us in the Boise area In January, 2017. Sandy was skeptical and had no interest in having a book written about us. I was less reluctant and eventually convinced her we should at least pursue it.


After several hundred hours of phone interviews spanning the next 30 months, Doug Horner had a very good article published in The Guardian, in January, 2020. Later in 2020, a literary agent contacted us about the possibility of having someone write a book about our work. I told her, as I did all the TV producers, any book should be about the families we help and not about us, personally. Then I introduced Doug to her and he eventually got a book deal through the agent. During his negotiations for the contract, Doug asked if we wanted any monetary compensation for our time as well as the story. We told him no! Nothing at all for our time, story or book sales.

Following hundreds of hours of telephone interviews, as well as attending a few searches with us and some of the families we helped, Doug finally submitted his work to the publisher in mid-2023. In September, he sent us a PDF review copy of BACK FROM THE DEEP. I assumed he sent it for us to review and suggest technical corrections. However, when I read the first few chapters and discovered he had breached my trust in him, I wrote to him about various subjects in the book that I specifically told him were not to be included in the book. He replied:

“Hey Gene,

I did not mean to give you the impression this is a fact check. That's a regrettable mistake about the boom. Those kinds of changes unfortunately cannot be changed at this point. I just wanted to let you know that any spelling mistakes you read will be caught by the proof reader.”

Assuming there was no way to make any changes, we left on a search without reading more of the book. When we returned, I began reading again. Unfortunately, to our dismay, Doug Horner had included EVERYTHING in BACK FROM THE DEEP
that we told him not to! This time I came unglued, and emailed even more comments and asked that he make the changes or I would go public with our displeasure with his breach of trust as well as making several errors in parts of the book. Even though he had said, “Those kinds of changes unfortunately cannot be changed at this point.”, he did agree to make a few minor changes in the discussion of our reluctance to take the COVID 19 vaccine.


He was very premature in his criticism, as our scientific and pre-med undergraduate work, told us this was not a true vaccine which had never been tested for long term effects. Guess what? Our early decision has been vindicated by recent analysis of the discovery of very harmful, long term complications, including death, caused by the vaccine.

After he asked me to send him a “friend request” on Facebook, I reluctantly agreed, knowing he was polar opposite in political and social views. He never once reacted nor commented on anything he read there, but chose to hide between the covers of the book in fact-checking as well as criticizing our conservative views, writing, “Every once in a while, someone they have helped on a search tries to debate him on a charged topic like gun rights or abortion. I understand the impulse. They’re trying to resolve the gap between the sensitive and conscientious person who found the body of their lost loved one and the strident social conservative they meet later online.”


First of all, none of the families we have helped have tried to debate the topics of gun control or abortion. I asked him if he thought only politically liberal people could be “sensitive and conscientious” enough to recover drowning victims. He never replied.

Doug Horner seemed to have been so fascinated with my social media posts, he titled an entire chapter “UNFRIENDED ON FACEBOOK”! Yet he did not indicate who un-friended whom! When a new friend’s true colors show up, I do very quickly get rid of them as I don’t need people like that for friends. BTW, I asked him, “How does it feel to be on the famous “un-friended list” now? No reply!

I have no idea what inspired Doug Horner to include this in BACK FROM THE DEEP: “I wondered if there wasn’t something else going on, maybe a political motivation, that he and Sandy didn’t want to get into with each new person they met up here in Canada.” I certainly did not understand what that means and I doubt any readers will either. It is just another one of his ways of disregarding my admonition of keeping politics out of this story. I think it goes more toward making readers question just where he is coming from rather than adding anything to the story about us. Maybe more virtue signaling?

None of the other personal attacks on our political views, our social media posts, financial matters, medical/health issues, nor personal lives were corrected or removed. He explains, “I remember early in 2021 or maybe even late 2020 talking to you about the 2020 presidential election. I think we also exchanged a few emails about it. After that back and forth, I think you said you didn’t think politics would be a good fit in the book. And I agreed that it wasn’t essential. But my feeling about that changed.”


I never said, “…[I] didn’t think politics would be a good fit in the book.” I specifically told him not to include anything about politics. I expected him to honor that, as I felt he did not have the prerogative to change his mind as he wrote earlier. In an email, I asked him, “Getting back to your breach of trust. You said you changed your mind. If Leanne (his girlfriend) told you “No sex for the next week” and you decided that you never agreed with her, was it okay for you to “change your mind” and jump on her anyway? Yes, it is the same thing you did to us! Think about it, maybe it will prevent you getting yourself into trouble again in the future.” He never answered!

In another email, he wrote, “I understand that you might still decide to publicly protest the way you feel like I treated you and Sandy while writing this book. That would no doubt hurt the prospects of the book and my reputation as a journalist. It would also be a really unfortunate end to this journey we have been on together.”

Doug Horner, you own whatever misfortune befalls you because of betraying that trust. Your audience will know the truth of what you did and that is all on you, not us. In addition, your lack of trustworthiness will follow you in your future work.

There is way more to the story, but if you don’t cancel your pre-publication purchase of BACK FROM THE DEEP (like some have already done), at least you will know the story behind the book.

bottom of page