Surviving Dirty John
My True Story of Love, Lies, and Murder
by Debra Newell; M. William Phelps
This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Pub Date 31 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 02 Nov 2021
Debra Newell is nothing if not a survivor. By the time she met John Michael Meehan online, she lived through a near-fatal childhood illness, an attempted rape in her 20s, the traumatic death of her sister at the hands of her brother-in-law, four failed marriages, and a litany of dating disasters. But despite those tragedies, she seemed to have it all: adoring children, a successful business, a fabulous penthouse apartment.
But there was something missing: the blinding, all-consuming love she first read about to occupy her time in her childhood sickbed. And she thought she found it with John Meehan.
More than a tabloid-ready true-crime expose, Debra’s story is one of trauma, denial, and deception. But it is also a relatable, inspirational, and hopeful story of forgiveness and, most of all, love. The lengths to which a woman will go to find—and keep—love; the boundaries children and parents cross to protect and save the people they love; the love one must find for oneself; and the ways the illusion of love can be used to manipulate and hurt.
Told in Debra’s words with the help of New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps, this book is filled with exclusive stories about Debra and her family, previously unpublished photos, and the unvarnished, unapologetic, and unbelievable reality of Surviving Dirty John.
“Debra Newell’s journey, her tale of survival, and her openness in sharing her
story, is awe inspiring. By helping the world better understand the twisted manipulative
power of coercive control, she is helping us all to identify it. By sharing her
story, she has created a pathway for communication in a corridor that has for too
long been dimly lit.”
“Debra is a true survivor. You may think you know her story, but you don’t—and
you should. This really could happen to anyone. Coercive control has many guises
and faces and is much more common than you think. This book may just save
—Laura Richards, criminal behavioral analyst, coercive control and stalking expert, formerly with New Scotland Yard
“God bless Debbie Newell, my fellow warrior in the fight against the silent and
shame-fueled epidemic of intimate partner violence/domestic violence. God bless
you, Debbie, for writing Surviving Dirty John and not being shamed into silence
by half-truths and mischaracterizations of your hellish journey with the monster,
John Meehan. God bless you for having the strength to survive and become more
than a victim, more than a survivor. By having the courage to share your real story
in Surviving Dirty John, you are saving many lives and stopping much suffering. I
am so proud to call you friend! Well done, Debbie and M. William Phelps!”
—Robin McGraw, author and founder of When Georgia Smiled Foundation
“Debra’s book is a must-read for anyone who has experienced trauma in their
life, has loved someone who has experienced trauma, or is in the helping professions
working to heal trauma with clients. Her honest and gripping account of her
experiences and her inspiring story of recovery will help empower and educate all
people about the impact of coercive control and impart important lessons about
how to overcome extreme adversities.”
—Dr. Judy Ho, clinical and forensic neuropsychologist, tenured professor, and author of Stop Self-Sabotage
“In her book Surviving Dirty John, Debra Newell has bared her soul to the world,
providing intimate details to help other women learn from her experiences and
avoid the horror of being manipulated and abused by a partner. Debra has shown
us that searching for love can be a dangerous game and we need to always have our
eyes wide open and trust our instincts. I have seen the dangers and pitfalls that
are out there myself and have written about them as well. This book is both eye-opening
and empowering and is a must-read for all women in the dating scene.”
—Tonia DeCosimo, president and editor in chief of P.O.W.E.R and P.O.W.E.R. Magazine, and author of Single and Not Settling: A Journey of Surviving the Dating World
Debra is available for in-person book signings, speaking engagements, and readings in Los Angeles, CA and Las Vegas, NV. She is also available for virtual events and interviews nationwide.
Please contact the marketer if you're interested!
Average rating from 91 members
My thoughts: This was a riveting read all the way through, especially the end part. Some of you may know the story from the dramatization of it shown on TV. That’s not the real story. This is what happened according to the woman who lived it, told in her own words and written by M. William Phelps, my favorite true crime author and guru. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Debra Newell, and the publisher.
Surviving Dirty John by Debra Newell with William Phelps is a terrifying yet inspirational story that is also a very relatable one. It is Debra's own story, with photographs, not the Bravo TV version, of what really happened between her and "Dirty John" Meehan. It is an honest and riveting account of the traumas she survived in her life including a serious illness, an attempted rape, a sister who was murdered, four failed marriages and ultimately her manipulation and abuse at the hands of Meehan. She is, above all else, a survivor. To the casual observer, it seemed like Debra was living the perfect life. She had a successful business, a beautiful home to live in, beautiful children and plenty of money. What more could she want? Well, she wanted the man of her dreams but instead got John Meehan, the man that nightmares are made of. Her story is one that will shock you and leave you shaking your head, but it is one that you should read for yourself or for a loved one to recognize the warning signs of deceit, danger and manipulation that Debra missed. I recommend this book. Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review. This review is being posted immediately to my GoodReads account and will be posted on Amazon and Barnes and Noble upon the book's publication.
The story of John Meehan when it broke a few years ago was fascinating, I listened to the pod casts and watched the netflix series and the real life tale sounded like so many fiction books I have read, it was hard to believe that this was real life. In this book, Debra Newell talks again about the monster who invaded her and her Family's life and the impact of the media attention that her story had on her life and her future. The book eloquently explained by Debra, explores the tale in granular detail of her survival and highlights Debra's commitment and love for her Children and Family and how she will go to any length to protect them all. A real life story of what it means to be a survivor and how happy endings don't always happen quickly, or even in an obvious way.
I recently rewatched season one of Dirty John and listened to the podcast, so when I saw that Debra Newell had written a book, I had to request it. Surviving Dirty John is very well-written and hard to put down. Learning about coercive control and reading about the things Debra went through in her life before meeting John helped me understand why she stayed with him as long as she did, and I was infuriated by the fact that no matter how many times Debra asked the police to do something about John, she got no help from them (which unfortunately seems to be pretty common in cases of domestic violence, stalking, etc.). John Meehan put Debra and her family through hell, and I'm really glad that they all survived and that John will never be able to hurt anyone ever again. I recommend this book to everyone...not only is it a fascinating read, but it also educates you on the warning signs you should look out for in a relationship (though after reading this book, I might decide to just stay single for the rest of my life). Debra Newell was brave to tell her story, and I admire her for using her experience with John Meehan to try to educate and help people. Thanks to NetGalley and BenBella Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review Surviving Dirty John. : )
to begin, I have heard of the podcast and wanted to watch the Bravo TV show, but I never got around to it. I kind of knew what had happened due to the above media, but didn't know the entire story. With growing horror, I felt the fear that the author felt. I thought that the author tried to do everything right when she realized what kind of monster John was. I think that the author really laid out why she stayed with John, how John tricked her, spied on her, lied to her, etc. After reading the book, I could NOT understand how people would ever BLAME her. She had her reasons and I agree with what she was saying. This is such a heartfelt book and so terrifying. I am really glad that the author wrote it, sorry that she had to go through with it. questions I had...did the author ever go through John's storage unit? How did Ben and Liz react to Terras attack? Overall, a book that needs to be read by people who need to recognize abuse, domestic violence, and family violence. Thank you to the publisher and to Netgalley for allowing me this ARC in exchange for this honest review.
I was already familiar with the story as I had seen the tv show, but reading this book was so much more interesting! Debra Newell is a warrior, a survivor! The writing of this book was phenomenal and really took me into her story! I'm so grateful to have been approved for this book, as I've been invested in this story since I first heard about it. I highly recommend this book to everyone who's either heard about this story before, or who is a fellow true crime lover like myself,. Thank you so much to NetGalley and the author for providing me with an eARC, in return for an honest review.
Surviving Dirty John by Debra Newell I have really struggled while reading this book as I have had some very strong reactions to this book. I almost put it down on numerous occasions because I felt very judgemental regarding Debra Newell's choices. I am glad I kept reading as my opinions have changed completely after finishing this book. I am honestly appalled at the lack of help Newell and her family received from law enforcement, the courts and the judgment they received after John died. I believe most people have heard the “dramatized” version of Dirty John but not the unvarnished truth. This book is for those who want to understand what it is like to live with a person this devious and demented. Dirty John is so horrifying that it is almost unfathomable that it is a true story, yet unfortunately, it is all too true. I do recommend this book; however, be forewarned there will be a number of triggers for abuse survivors.. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher and Netgalley.
I was so interested in this after watching the shows based of this on Nexflix ( I think) I love true crime and this didn’t disappoint.
First, I want to thank Debra Newell, BenBella Books and NetGalley for providing me with this book so I may bring you this review!! WOW!! I truly commend Debra Newell for opening up her heart and soul and tell you in her own words her side of Surviving Dirty John My True Story about Love, Lies and Murder. If you are anything like me and LOVE all things true crime then you have probably seen her story on the small screen for NetFlix and other media outlets. However, that was what Hollywood wanted you to see! It was not the true full blown story of what happened. If you are looking for an easy read this is not one of them. Debra would like to dedicate this book to all the female victims’ voices silenced and unheard; my beautiful, supportive children; and my sister, Cindi Ambrose Vickers, who was taken away from us far too soon Sometimes—just sometimes—cupid’s dart. Surviving Dirty John gives us readers an inside look of how sick this monster really was!! My mind was literally blown at most of the stuff I was reading. My heart just broke for Debra who was choosing to put up with his garbage!! After reading this book I don’t think I could ever trust anyone off a dating site. However, this book is way more than just telling us the story of Dirty John. It is the heartbreaking story of the devastating effects that domestic violence can have on a couple. Debra shares with her readers beautiful pictures of the past with her children, her family, life with John, etc. It is a nice personal touch to the book in my opinion. This book is packed with educational facts and resources for her readers or anyone else put in this situation. What Debra went through was a pure nightmare that no woman should have had to go through. There is no doubt in my mind that this experience has made her so much stronger than she had ever been before.
Wow! Five stars, highly recommend. After watching the Netflix series, which I was disappointed to learn was a highly sensationalised version of Debra's story, I was keen to read her version. Debra has had countless (?5) marriages and seems to get married very quickly, jumping from relationship to relationship, and you can't help questioning why she does not learn from her mistakes, and why she is so quick to love again. She is clearly a loving person who wears her heart on her sleeve, and despite how frustrating it is to her of her making the same mistakes again and again, she has some very endearing qualities. This was truly a fascinating read, and the pace of Debra's account was fast enough to keep me riveted, but slow enough that she able to share plenty of details about her life and story. I would definitely recommend this for anyone that has seen the Netflix series.
I personally so can relate to Debra’s story. All the h*•l she went through. Yes people will and do say why didn’t you just leave. What they don’t understand is. That’s easier said then done. The bottom line is you as a person. Has to want to leave and or have had enough. Then it will dawn on you, sadly sometimes something tragic has to happen. Before you finally have had enough. Debra you are one incredible lady. Once you finally realized what was up. You took measures and found your way out. I love that you gave jobs to others who are in need.
Thank you to Debra Newell, BenBella Books, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from Surviving Dirty John by Debra Newell with William Phelps. //Content warning: abuse, murder, assault, blood, death, drugs, addiction// --- // Quick Review // 5/5 Stars Surviving Dirty John is a novel of survival, in which Debra Newell bares her soul to the reader in order to share her side of the story. The abuse and trauma that she suffered at the hands of John Meehan is written precisely in a 324 page novel of fact. --- "We think we are immune to the horrific stories of bloodshed and extreme violence we see on television. We think evil visits only the person next door. We think that simply meeting another human being for a casual coffee date, or a dinner we hope could evolve into a relationship and maybe even love, is never going to turn around and serve as a catalyst for violence. And yet it happens every single day in this country." --- // Other Information // Publisher: BenBella Books Page Count: 324 pages Release Date: August 31, 2021 Series: None Genre: Non-fiction, True crime --- // Book Description (via Goodreads) // Now that articles, podcasts, newsmagazines, and miniseries have had their sensationalistic say, Debra Newell, the one woman who truly knows what it was like to survive “Dirty John” Meehan shares the full story—the reality—with the world for the first time. Debra Newell is nothing if not a survivor. By the time she met John Michael Meehan online, she lived through a near-fatal childhood illness, an attempted rape in her 20s, the traumatic death of her sister at the hands of her brother-in-law, four failed marriages, and a litany of dating disasters. But despite those tragedies, she seemed to have it all: adoring children, a successful business, a fabulous penthouse apartment. But there was something missing: the blinding, all-consuming love she first read about to occupy her time in her childhood sickbed. And she thought she found it with John Meehan. More than a tabloid-ready true-crime expose, Debra’s story is one of trauma, denial, and deception. But it is also a relatable, inspirational, and hopeful story of forgiveness and, most of all, love. The lengths to which a woman will go to find—and keep—love; the boundaries children and parents cross to protect and save the people they love; the love one must find for oneself; and the ways the illusion of love can be used to manipulate and hurt. Told in Debra’s words with the help of New York Times bestselling author M. William Phelps, this book is filled with exclusive stories about Debra and her family, previously unpublished photos, and the unvarnished, unapologetic, and unbelievable reality of Surviving Dirty John. --- // Review // I can only begin this review with saying how stunned I am at the misinformation and dramatization of survivor's stories in the media. As Newell herself points out at multiple points in Surviving Dirty John, we as a society need to do better in supporting victims, rather than placing the blame of the victimizer's abusive behavior upon them. The epidemic of abuse (mainly upon women) in this country is unacceptable and is telling of how we react to those who cry out for help. Debra Newell writes: "I was screaming out to law enforcement. Providing evidence. We all knew John was about to strike. Where and when was anybody's guess. He was planning to fulfill his need for revenge. The torching of my Jag was a direct warning. And he got away with it." Also: "Whenever a woman comes forward and talks about abuse and is judged, the tacit message she hears is: If you tell your story, your behavior and your past will be the lens through which your present circumstances are viewed - you will be judged harshly and humiliated." I have to commend Debra Newell for how she has used her horrendous experience to fuel her determination to change this country for the benefit of abuse and assault survivors. We need to do better as a society. I also give credit to Debra Newell for using her voice to spread information regarding coercive control. Previous to reading Surviving Dirty John, I felt I had a decent grapple on abuse and abusers. However, I had never even heard of coercive control. This ignorance to abuse had made me and many others vulnerable. Now, Debra's novel has shielded me. Here is a quick definition of coercive control, thanks to Laura Richards, whose site I encourage you all to visit here: "Coercive control is a strategic pattern of behavior designed to exploit, control, create dependency, and dominate. The victim's everyday existence is micromanaged and her space for action, as well as potential as a human being, is limited and controlled by the abuser. If any of this rings true to you, please seek help from someone you trust. I read Surviving Dirty John in one day; I could not put it down. I could not believe that someone could do something like this to another human being. The novel is a solid 5/5 Stars, and one of my favorite true crime books that I have read so far. I'd like to finish this review with a badass quote from Debra Newell herself: "My passion now is to expose and help brings about awareness of what I and others view as a worldwide epidemic affecting millions of people, many of whom do not even realize what is occurring in their lives until it's far too late. This is my fight. Getting people to understand coercive control and providing a safe way out for women trapped in abusive - even deadly - situations and relationships. Reaching these women is the silver lining within the horror my family and I endured and, thank God, lived through. Educating women about the warning signs of being controlled, as well as the dangers of online dating and what they should be looking out for, is my life's work." I highly recommend reading this novel, even if you think you know the whole story. You don't, you really don't.
John Meehan was a predator. He picked his prey and groomed them. He wormed his way into every aspect of their lives and left them believing everything he said and did. He was a master manipulator, a pathological liar and a psychopath. In 2014 he sets his sights on Debbie Newell, an extremely successful woman, the owner of a multi-million dollar company. Debbie had a record of picking the wrong man. With a history of abuse, she still believed in love. She came across naive, but John knew exactly what buttons to push, and while it would be easy to vilify Debbie, we did not walk in her shoes. We did not live or witness the coercive control (CC) he used on her. “CC is more sophisticated than brainwashing. CC is a strategic pattern of behavior designed to exploit, control, create dependency, and dominate. Dirty John is a story of love, deceit, denial, revenge, ruin, and ultimately survival”. Debbie Newell was a victim and Surviving Dirty John is her story,
What a story! It could have happened to anyone. This was very well written and it was obvious from the accounts that it was not as easy to write as one would think. I am grateful the author shared her story with us and survived. Definitely a must read.
I've listened to several podcasts, watched the tv series and I really enjoyed getting more info from the book! Glad to have had the chance to read and review this book!!!
An interesting real life account of what Debra Newell went through with her psychopath husband “Dirty John”. Alongside the story of what went on between them it also gives an interesting insight into her previous relationships and family history and encourages any women going through any even slightly similar relationships to get the help they need. Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Possible educational settings: Forensic, psychology, mass media portrayal, interpersonal communications. Would add this in to class curriculum in late undergrad/graduate school. Thank you to NetGalley for a free eARC copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. This case became popular just as I was starting grad school for forensic psychology-- I ate up everything in the media, but always felt that <i>something</i> was missing. Yes, the podcast and tv show portray parts very accurately, but Debrah's voice as a victim turned survivor gets lost. It was hard for me not to judge Debra based on the media's portrayal-- and I am fully trained in and aware of coercive control, personality disorders, domestic violence, and how it all relates to the law. I am so glad I read this book, because <b>all</b> victims and survivors should be able to talk about their experience.
I first learned of this case from the hit podcast. I was immediately sucked in and was telling everyone to listen to it. I am so happy that Debra Newell decided to put her experience into words so that she could take control of any narrative and explain why she stayed. It was awesome and very well done.
Coercive control is new terminology to me, but I have a better understanding of this concept after reading Debra Newell's account of her own frightening experiences in Surviving Dirty John. I am afraid that many of us have friends or family members who have fallen victim to coercive control. The author has done an admirable job of sharing her own story in the hopes of educating others who find themselves in similar circumstances. Thanks to NetGalley and BenBella books for the opportunity to read and review this book.
I watched the Netflix series and when I saw there was a book, I had to read it! I was incredibly moved by these retale of these shocking events! I would definitely recommend to true crime fans
First off, I have to admit that I was no stranger to this story. Being a true crime buff, I followed it on TV when it was first put together as the Dirty John series. Debra Newell is one hell of a strong woman and a true survivor. If you are unfamiliar with the Dirty John series/story, it is based off of “Dirty John” Meehan, who was a master manipulator, and con artist. What I Liked/Loved: -First, my utmost respect to Debra Newell. It takes a strong person to experience, let alone live to tell about such a situation. It takes an even stronger person to talk about for the world to hear, to bring awareness. -The fact that this was culminated by the words of the survivor. It talked about her life before John, and obviously her life with John. Television distorts things in such a way that you get two sides of a story in true crime instances typically. This fully covers tidbits that TV would surpass, things you cannot get in “two hour TV special”. -The realization of just how evil this guy was! It really makes you question to what degree you can trust people. It’s actually a scary concept to digest…to understand the lengths John went to in order to manipulate women. -Most important though, this book brings awareness to toxic relationships, manipulative tendencies, and domestic violence. This book helps to give women a voice. ✨Rating✨ ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 A special thank you to BenBella Books and NetGalley for this eARC! Surviving Dirty John is out August 31st!
Having seen the mini series on TV, I was curious to read Debra Newell's account of her marriage to John Meehan. This true story is intriguing. It made me wonder why Debra would stay with this man, but then love came into it and she was in love. She met John on a dating site. He seemed the perfect man, well spoken and a doctor. Debra herself was a business woman who was financially secure, she just needed a man in her life. Early on, John was perfect. He doted on Debra and spoiled her as much as she did him.. This story will raise so many questions why Debra did the things she thought she had to, but as the saying goes...until you have walked in my shoes. Thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.
A couple of years ago, I listened to to the Dirty John podcast. Having grown up in Orange County and having known more than a few people like Debra Newell and her daughters, I was totally drawn in to the story of the uber-rich woman who had made tons of money as an interior designer and was apparently raising her daughters to be the same kind of woman she was: focused on appearance and dollar value in everything from clothes and car to homes, and always — ALWAYS having a man. Debra had survived a terrible childhood, with more sickness and violence than anyone should need to endure. And I truly admire her ability to rise above all that and become a strong, successful businesswoman. Surviving Dirty John is her story — and more. Despite her strength in business and the ability to thrive in the nasty social climate in the wealthy areas of Orange County, Debra couldn’t seem to succeed at love (four failed marriages). She finally decided to try the online route, and that’s where she met John Meehan. Having seen the photos, I can see why someone for whom appearance is so important would be attracted: he was a good-looking guy, and was (he said) an anesthesiologist. VERY quickly, she was in love and totally involved with him — something her daughters didn’t quite get. And seriously, there were more red flags than I could imagine: he showed up with dirty fingernails, wearing dirty scrubs, and didn’t seem to have an actual work schedule. Don’t want to give anything away for anyone who doesn’t know the story, although I will say that the book will be a stunner even for those who know what happened and how it all ended. But just know that even if you know the story, have heard the podcast and/or seen the miniseries or read the stories in the LA Times, there is a lot that is new in the book. I will admit I was quite annoyed by Debra AND her daughters. Despite that, I was even more annoyed by the authorities who blew off the various attempts to get help once Debra resolved to cut all ties with DJ. I admire anyone willing to be so vulnerable and tell the world EVERYTHING about some of the stupidest choices imaginable. I also admire Terra, the dog-loving eventual heroine of the story. And I REALLY admire the other daughter (real name Jacquelyn) who listened to her little voice that told her that their mother was being fleeced by a con man. It’s a great story, and reads like fiction — but it is totally real and will be must reading for fans of true crime and stories about Real Housewives-type relationships. Co-authored by M. William Phelps, it is entertaining AF and I highly recommend it. Not literature, but REALLY entertaining. Five stars, and thanks to BenBella Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for this honest review. And seriously, I hope Debra has a good therapist and has read the book Why Do I Think I Am Nothing Without A Man?
Dirty John. Wow, hooked on this story. There is something so completely gripping about this kind of nightmarish online dating scenario. A person cunning enough to mold them self into ‘the perfect partner’. A man who ticks all the right boxes. Good looking and charming, check. Great career and financial stability, check. Loving and attentive, check. I enjoyed the Netflix show and, although Debra Newell says she was hurt by the portrayal of her, I didn’t think Connie Britton’s character made her look ‘stupid’ or gullible, I saw manipulation at it’s finest. How could you even fathom all this? Everything is clear in hindsight. After reading her first-hand account, I am even more horrified by the events than I was after watching the show. What I appreciated most in her account was the upfront honesty regarding her own error in judgement and the harm her children suffered because of it. But she is also a victim and a survivor. She is very open about her background and events in the past with her family which was equally as shocking as the Dirty John situation. I’m sure this traumatized her and contributed considerably to the ‘love and forgiveness’ of people that truly did not deserve it. I appreciated the way she set the scene, describing how he made her feel at that time, while also providing her ‘in hindsight’ lightbulb moments of how, looking back, something in that picture was not quite right. I found this riveting. The most frightening aspect of the book was the way in which it highlighted the lack of support from police and the legal system regarding domestic violence, stalking, and escalating abuse, as well as non-violent forms of abuse. It explores the concept of coercive control and expert Laura Richards- who has featured in many British crime documentaries over the years- is a voice of knowledge and expertise and her insight on the Dirty John case was highly interesting and important. I found this book to be well written, engaging, thought provoking and shocking. I haven’t been able to put it down and I think it was a story that needed to be told. 5 stars.
After watching the miniseries I thought I knew this story but I was wrong! As a lover of all things true crime, I was absolutely desperate to get my hands on this book. Debra tells her story with such frankness and honesty, and I am truly grateful to be able to hear it from her point of view. A wonderful book and an inspiring story of survival, which I have continued to think about long after the final page.
I believe that ALL WOMEN need to read Ms. Newell's story. Too often, people point fingers until they end up in a situation like hers. Whether you can identify manipulation or not, you need to brush up on this knowledge. Control can sneak up on you. I felt that this was a blueprint to protect myself and know what to look out for. A reminder. What a brave and courageous woman who raised brave and courageous kids!