Dec 21, 2015 by


Practically speaking, not much—unless you get creative. Wikapedia and other Internet sources define novelette as a story ranging between 7,500 and 17,500 words. Try and sell one sometime. They’re too long for those who publish short stories and too short for a publisher who’s looking for a novella or full-length novel.

After I finished my first Sam Jenkins mystery novel, A NEW PROSPECT, and while peddling it to agents and publishers, I wrote stories for practice. Each was based on an actual incident I encountered while working as a cop in New York. And each ended up longer than the accepted short story ceiling of 7,500 words. But while the memories were fresh and my creative juices were flowing, I ended up with a bunch. So, I tried to flog them, too.

I hit a few of the mainstream mystery magazines and walked away disappointed. Each got rejected, but one acquisitions editor was kind enough to explain why. Basically, he said, “The story is good, but it’s too long.” I sighed. “Look, everybody writes stuff this length, but we can only publish one a year. So, if James Patterson sends me one and you send one, who do you think I’m going to accept?”

Nuts, I thought. Aced out by someone who didn’t need the exposure or the money. So, I began to scour the Internet for a publisher who might like longer, more detailed and developed stories—real cop fiction—a series featuring the same cast as in my novel.

I found a relatively new company whose sole mission was to produce one-hour audio books and simultaneously publish them as eBooks. Coincidentally, stories from between 8,000 and 11,000 words (those in the novelette range) translate to fifty-five to seventy minute audios—not unlike the old time one-hour radio dramas to which my mother used to listen while ironing or cooking.

I submitted what I thought was the pick of the litter and crossed my fingers. Then I received an email. I hadn’t opened a piece of correspondence with such trepidation since I found that letter from my local draft board back in 1967. But, ha, success! She (the publisher) wanted the novelette called A LABOR DAY MURDER. From there, we built a good relationship and she published eighteen more novelettes. I worked with her editors and a professional actor who read my work. I felt like I (almost) had my own TV series. Not exactly on one of the networks, or even on cable, but I had an audience and they liked the adventures of the boys and girls of Prospect PD. Then, years later, after she had accepted three more new pieces and I was waiting for the promised contracts, I received an unexpected email. “Sorry,” she said. “For personal reasons I must stop publishing new material. I won’t be sending the contracts. I’m not going out of business, but just won’t be producing anything new.”

I was back to my old dilemma: What do I do with three really good novelettes (I liked those a lot) plus the two more I had sitting in the hopper ready to send in? Head to the Internet.

After an exhaustive search—for me, because when it comes to computers, I’m a only step above clueless—I found Melange Books, LLC. They would accept submissions of novelettes and consider them for publication as eBooks. Okay, my “show” had been cancelled, but eBooks would be better than nothing.

I sent Melange a serial killer story called ANGEL OF THE LORD. The publisher liked it and asked if I had any others. I thought: Wow, a match made in heaven.

“Sure,” said I. “I just happen to have four more that have never seen a publisher’s contract.”

“Great,” said she. “Send them and we’ll see about putting them into an anthology and publish it in print and eBook.”

“Yahoo,” I said. Well, not really. But I did send them, and in April of 2015 they released FROM NEW YORK TO THE SMOKIES.

So, what’s my point? If Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, or The Strand aren’t interested in your very long stories, they can find a home. I did it the traditional way. But for those with more computer savvy than me and the ambition to self-publish, you can create audio books, eBooks, and nifty anthologies from your novelette length stories and people will buy them…thousands of them.

Now, here’s a bit of logistical reality. With audio books, MP3 downloads sell MUCH better than compact discs. I never incurred the expense of producing the CDs, but know it was considerable. So, if you’re producing your own audio books, stick with a downloadable version. You’ll find more distributors to handle it/them. And always back up your audio with a published eBook. They sell even more copies. You’ve already paid for the cover image, so use it on a second product. Then, after your series takes off, offer package deals or “bundles” of several episodes at a discount price.

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Dec 19, 2015 by

Merry Christmas 2015. I thought it was time to post an old holiday story which is based on two true incidents which I’ve composited into one. Follow Police Officers Sam & Louie as they patrol the streets of North Belloprt, NY circa 1974.

It’s a Wonderful life? A Christmas Story
By Wayne Zurl

Few people want to work a four-to-twelve shift on Christmas night.

My wife had made an early dinner the night before and we opened our presents on Christmas Eve, satisfying our holiday spirit. And working Christmas day paid double time and a half. That’s no humbug.

My partner, Louie Rodriguez, had just split up with his wife and it wasn’t his turn to have the kids.

So, he and I sat drinking Dunkin Donuts’ coffee watching the stop light at Station Road and Montauk Highway. There were no cars, much less violators lurking about on December 25th.

It was warm that year, about fifty degrees. I took the pile liner out of my leather jacket before I left home. The heat generated by the big 383 Plymouth engine and sent through the thin firewalls made the interior of the police car too warm for a jacket. We tossed them into the back seat with our brief cases.

And we drank more coffee.

“We haven’t heard shit on the radio for almost twenty minutes,” I said.

“If we could find another human being I’d run them for warrants,” Lou suggested, “just to keep the dispatcher awake.”

“Goddamn,” I said, “the things I do for money.”

Ten minutes passed and we sat in silence. Even with the caffeine slithering through my veins, I felt drowsy, barely able to hold my eyes open. The light changed once again. I felt myself beginning to drift off. Invisible east and westbound cars stopped. Similar north and southbound traffic accelerated. I blinked a few times, shook off the drowsiness, and thought I was losing my mind.

The dispatcher’s voice broke the radio silence. “Five-oh-three, unit five-zero-three. 10-17, disorderly subject. Main Street, Bellport, just east of Station. Complainant wishes to remain anonymous.”

Louie picked up the microphone. “10-4, headquarters.” He sounded like he just woke up.

I put the car into gear. I drove that night. I always drove. I turned right out of the Long Island Railroad parking lot and headed south on Station Road. Moments later at the red light at Station and Main, we spotted our disorderly subject. Less than twenty yards east of the intersection, a man sat in the doorway of a real estate office on the south side of the Street. He held a pint-sized bottle at arm’s length and, at the top of his lungs, sang The Battle Hymn of the Big Red One.

“Louis,” I said. “I am not going to arrest that bastard for public intox on Christmas night.”

“What the hell are we going to do with him?”

“I don’t know. We’ll see. But I’m not wasting an hour and a half of paperwork to give this guy a place to sleep and a free breakfast.”

I didn’t wait for the light to change as I turned left and stopped at the curb, twenty feet from our crooner.

“Spurgie,” I said, walking toward the man. “What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be somewhere celebrating Christmas?”

“That’s Sergeant Sneed to you, soldier.” He spoke seriously and then laughed and took a long pull from a bottle of Mogen-David 20/20.

“No shit, Spurgie,” Lou said, “you can’t sit here making all kinds of noise. The people are complaining.”

“Well, motha-fuck the people, private. I’m celebratin’. I’m havin’ a reunion.”

A sour smell emanated from the old man’s body. I turned my head away and took a breath before speaking.

“Spurgie,” I said, “we’ll take you wherever you want to go. But you can’t stay here.”

“Yes, I damn sure can. I’m havin’ a reunion with Brownie, Foster, Whatshisname, the B.A.R. man, and . . . I’ve got K Company with me tonight.”

I squatted down next to him. He offered me his bottle. I took the twist-off cap from his hand, capped the bottle, and stuck it into the pocket of his ragged overcoat. The wool felt like a dog too long without a bath.

“Nobody’s here except you and us, partner,” I said. “Your friends have all packed it in. They’re heading back to base camp. Let’s take a ride and find you some place to stay.”

“Goddamnit, soldier, I am K Company, 1st of the 18th. Sergeant Spurgeon Sneed, squad leader.”

“I know, Spurgie, I know. 1st of the 18th, the Big Red One. You were a good soldier—you still are, but we can’t stay here, we gotta get back and report to the C.O. Let’s go, Sarge.”

Reluctantly, he began to stand. Lou and I each took an arm—he needed help. We half walked, half dragged our man to the police car. I opened the back door.

“I swear to God, Spurgie,” Lou said, “if you puke in the back seat of my car I’ll fuckin’ kill you.”

Spurgeon laughed, sunk into the vinyl, and in ten seconds began snoring.

Lou and I looked at each other. He made a face and held his nose.

“Okay, genius,” my partner said, “what are we going to do with him if we don’t arrest him?”

“He’s got a wife. Maybe she doesn’t like him, but she’s still his wife.”

“Oh, she’ll be thrilled to see us on Christmas night.”

“Yeah, we’re just like Santa’s little elves,” I said. “Hang in there, buddy, everything’s under control.”

The normally busy street was deserted. Artificial wreaths with blinking white lights hung on every utility pole. I made a U-turn, a quick right, and took off going north. In less than a quarter mile we rolled down the windows, attempting to exorcise the smell of Spurgeon Sneed from the interior of the sector car.

“Why do you bother with him, Sam?” Lou asked.

“I feel sorry for him. He’s a genuine war hero.”

“What does that have to do with now? It’s 1974. World War Two was over almost thirty years ago. We’re veterans too, you know.”

“I do know. And that’s why you should understand,” I said. “The old guy got a silver star and a purple heart somewhere over in Europe. That K Company shit he talks about—he was the only survivor. I heard the story once, during one of his more lucid moments.”

“And you believe him?” Louis loved to act skeptical.

“I’ve seen his medals. He pawns them almost every month at Nate Levy’s hock shop,” I said.

“You should have been a social worker.”

“Up yours.”

In less than five minutes I turned onto the 600 block of Doane Avenue. We woke Spurgeon, helped him out of the car, and the three of us walked up to number 624. The old-timer seemed to have rejuvenated after his little nap. I knocked on the door.

A woman in her late-forties answered and immediately appeared less than excited to see us.

“What are you doin’ bringin’ him here?” she asked, shaking her head.

“He gives this as his address.” My answer sounded a bit lame.

“If he tol’ you he live on the moon, would you take him there?”

She had a point.

I heard Louie sigh. “Help us out here, Mrs. Sneed. Where is your husband living now?” he asked.

“My ex-husband, thank you,” she corrected him. “Last I heard he was stayin’ in that flop house down on Bay Avenue. But I don’t know for sure, I’m not his social secretary.”

A big man stepped up behind Margaret Sneed. It looked like he had decided to posture a little for his girlfriend.

“Whatchew officers doin’ bringin’ that derelict round here fo’? He and you ain’t welcome.”

I’d been about to speak when ex-Sergeant Sneed decided to stand up and protect his good name.

“Whatchew you doin’ in my house, Jesse Lester, you got-damn worthless nigger!”

“Shut up, Spurgie.” Lou began to hustle the old man down the brick steps.

Jesse started to open the screen door. I pushed it closed.

“Stay where you are, Mr. Lester. He’s leaving and you’re staying.”

He set his jaw and began flexing his shoulders. That kind of crap was wasted on me.

“No reason for you to come outside, Mr. Lester—understand?” I made it more of a command than a question.

“Officer,” Mrs. Sneed said softly, “please don’t ever bring him back here.”

I didn’t get a chance to speak before Jesse Lester stuck in his two cents.

“I catch him back here again, I’ll damn sure kill his ass.”

“Yeah, right.” I looked at Margaret Sneed. “Merry Christmas, folks.” I followed Lou and Spurgie back to the car.

“It’s nine-thirty,” Lou told me. “We missed our ring.”

“Big deal, we had an assignment.”

“You call this an assignment?”

Then we heard a voice from the back seat.

“Were y’all talkin’ ta me?”

Spurgeon, once again, seemed to be among the living. I’ve always been amazed how a drunk can regenerate and seem almost sober in a relatively short period of time.

“Give me a dollar,” I said to Louie.

“For what?”

“Just give me a damn dollar.”

He did, and I took one from my pocket.

With the two bills in my hand, I drove for a few minutes and stopped in front of Pete’s Luncheonette, a place close enough to the Bay Avenue flop house for Spurgie to walk home.

“Okay, Spurgie,” I said, “here’s two bucks. Go inside and get yourself a cup of coffee and a buttered roll. I don’t want to see you on the street again before the New Year.”

He took the two dollars, fumbled with the door handle, and exited the vehicle. Once outside, he stepped next to my window. I cranked it open again, wondering what he wanted.

“I thank ya gennelmens. Merry Christmas to y’all.” He flipped us a casual salute.

* * *

At twenty-to-twelve I parked next to the call box across from our relief point at the fire house, waiting for the midnight team to relieve us.

After dropping Spurgie off at Pete’s, we picked up several calls—two family fights, a first aid case where a young father skewered himself with a Phillips head screwdriver as he tried to assemble his son’s tricycle, and a false alarm active maternity handled by the pros from an ambulance crew.

Lou spoke on the phone with a deskman who typed a record of our calls into the blotter.

It hadn’t been an overly busy or difficult tour, but I had a headache and felt more than ready to go home. I pinched the bridge of my nose waiting for my partner to finish on the phone.

Not paying attention to much of anything, I suddenly noticed someone standing next to the car.

I cranked down the window and stared at Spurgie Sneed who looked really out of it. I assumed he had finished his pint of “Mad Dog” 20/20 and wandered up here rather than walking south on Bay Avenue to his furnished room.

He used his thumb to point at something behind him. He tried to talk, but I heard only gurgles.

“Goddamnit, Spurgie,” I said, “gimme a break. I’m ready to go home. I’m not arresting you on Christmas. Go lay down next to the fire house and the midnight guys will drive you home.”

He kept pointing behind him.

Lou finally finished with the deskman and looked to his left.

Spurgie managed to croak out, “Jesse fuckin’ Lester,” and he fell face-first onto the blacktop. An ancient garden sickle was lodged between his shoulder blades, his tattered gray herringbone overcoat soaked with blood.

Lou and I jumped out of the car. I lay two fingers over Spurgie’s neck checking for a carotid pulse. I looked at Lou and shook my head.

Former Buck Sergeant Spurgeon O. Sneed, United States Army, sole survivor of K Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Regiment, 1st Infantry Division lay dead on Dunton Avenue.

Two hours later we sat in the 5th Squad Detective’s building with Detective Angelo Ruffino processing the arrest of Jesse Lester for murder in the second degree.

Lou called Central Records to get case and arrest numbers and a record of Jesse’s priors. He tossed two sheets of paper on Angelo’s desk and walked toward the men’s room. I had just finished typing the supplementary report explaining our probable cause to believe Jesse killed Spurgeon.

“Sam,” Angelo said, “you the arresting officer on this?”

“Yeah, it’s my turn.”

He smashed the keys of an ancient Olivetti typewriter enough times to fill in my name.

“What’s your tin number?” he asked.

“Twenty-four sixty-two.”

The characters smacked the rubber roller four more times.



Smack, smack.

The radio in the Squad was set on WRIV for their forty-eight hours of Christmas music. Bing Crosby sang God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

Angelo pulled the court information from the typewriter. He paper-clipped that and the other arrest reports together and held them in my direction.

“Here you go, pal. Go see the desk sergeant, sign your name, and swear all that’s true. I’ll take Jesse over for pictures and prints.”

“Thanks, Ange, see ya around the campus.”

Louie stepped out of the men’s room and walked over.

“Let’s go next door,” I said. “I’ll sign this and we’ll have the lieutenant credit us with some overtime.”

He nodded.

The next morning Jesse Lester drove to District Court with two cops in a prisoner van, not by Santa Claus in a sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer. They, like me, were home asleep.

The End

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SHOTS FIRED, A Sam Jenkins police story

Sep 26, 2015 by

This story is posted in Other Writings, but it appears on someone’s blog and the link doesn’t always work. So, because October is approaching, I thought I’d offer a FREE short story that takes place in October 1974. Patrolmen Sam Jenkins and Lou Rodriguez get a call of shots fired on the seedy side of the precinct.

Shots Fired

I hated the place at first sight; a narrow enclosed stairway with a slight dogleg to the right, obscuring a door at the top. A bare, forty watt bulb hung above the landing, casting an eerie light over the scene. Once we started up the steps we’d be in a tunnel—sitting ducks. I looked at Louie. He looked at me. I shrugged.
“You’re the one high on the sergeant’s list,” he said. “I’ll follow you, fearless leader.”
“Nothing like an ambitious partner to make you feel secure,” I said.
He grinned.
I pushed the safety on the Remington pump shotgun to the left. A round of magnum double-oh buckshot already sat in the chamber. Louie drew his Colt Trooper and we started up the stairs.

* * *

Ten minutes earlier we were sitting in a dark spot on the eight-hundred block of Taylor Avenue. A 5th Squad detective had told me about a new felony warrant for a burglar named Glenwood Orange. Most everyone called him Pee Wee. He weighed a hundred-and-ten-pounds soaking wet.
Pee Wee wasn’t much good at hefting TVs or stereo sets, but being skinny enough to fit through the smallest window, he excelled at stealing cash, guns, and small valuable antiques. He really knew his antiques.
We waited across the street from his mother’s house, watching. Sooner or later Pee Wee would show up—he always did.
Then the dispatcher interrupted our meaningful work.
“Unit five-oh-three, five-zero-three, handle a 10-17, possible gunshot, upstairs, 752 Bellport Avenue, off Brookhaven. Complainant Mayo is in the first floor apartment.
“10-4, headquarters,” Lou said, as I hit the gas and steered our big blue and white Plymouth away from the curb. “We have back-up?”
“Negative, five-oh-three, closest car is on the other end of the precinct.”
“10-4, headquarters,” he said, and then turned to me. “Saturday night and everybody but us looks for a DWI. We end up with a gun call and nobody’s around when you need them.”
“That’s why we get the big bucks, partner.”
I made a left on Brookhaven Avenue and switched on the flashing red light. It was a short, fast drive along a main drag. When I crossed Station Road, the primary north-south route between North Bellport and another classy community called Eagle Estates, I killed the lights and slowed down, coasting up near the address the dispatcher had given us. Evil Estates, as the cops called it, occupied a piece of another precinct—someone else’s headache.
Number 752 on Bellport Avenue was a ramshackle, two-and-a-half story Victorian; senior member on a block littered with postwar cracker boxes built on fifty-by-a-hundred postage-stamp lots. All the surrounding houses looked like they had seen better days and were long overdue for their twenty year reunion with a paint brush.
The night was damp and the autumn air felt cool on my face. Everything around us looked as dark as an abandoned cemetery. Unknown vandals had shot out the corner street light earlier that week. A crescent moon cast only a ghostly glow from behind some high cloud cover.
We walked up to the front door of the complainant’s house, keeping an eye on the upstairs entrance, and an ear open for anything we could hear.
A wizened old party named Sefus Mayo answered the door. He was the owner and landlord of the place and a common fixture in the neighborhood for decades. In a hushed conversation, he told us he heard a shot or two fired in the upstairs apartment.
“Why do you think it was a shot, Mr. Mayo?” I asked. “Why not a car backfire outside or some other noise?”
He spoke in clipped, staccato sentences, with an accent I took for South Carolina mixed with too many years in New York.
“Cause I knows what a shot sounds like. I heard a damn shot, son. A .22 mebbe, nuthin’ big. Saturday-night-special be my guess.” He finished that thought with a quick and decisive nod to punctuate his last statement.
A large, gray-haired woman in a house dress sat on a couch inside the living room watching television. The theme from The Rockford Files blasted from the TV.
I took his date of birth for my field report and a pass key to open the downstairs door to the upstairs apartment. I told him to stay inside and if he heard any more gunfire to call 9-1-1 again. It was 1974, before the days of miniature portable radios. We relied a lot on good citizens to do the right thing.
Lou and I walked quietly to the door and slipped the deadbolt. I winced as the hinges creaked and remembered my mother listening to a radio show called Inner Sanctum. The sound of a creaking door kicked off that program every week.
We looked up at the dim, flyspecked light bulb hanging at the top of the stairs. What I presumed to be Caribbean music came from inside the apartment; not overly loud, but audible from the ground floor. We began our slow ascent, hoping the door remained closed until we reached the top. We walked softly, but the old boards groaned beneath our steps. I never asked Lou what he experienced, but I felt prickles go up my spine.
It was October 14th; two weeks earlier we had gone back to long-sleeved shirts and put on our ties. The tight collar annoyed me. I reached the halfway point up the stairs and I felt like I needed a drink.
At the top of the staircase we looked at each other again. Lou nodded. He stood ready at my back. I slapped the door four times.
“County police, open the door!”
Nothing. The music played on. I knocked again.
What sounded like a small caliber handgun popped behind the door.
Lou said, “Son of a bitch!”
I braced myself and hit the door with my shoulder backed by a hundred and eighty pounds of body weight. The frame cracked; the door swung inward. We rushed in, pointing our weapons at the occupants.
Six people with chairs drawn in close, sat around a cocktail table. One man held a three-dollar bottle of champagne tightly around its neck. His smile of only moments ago had turned to a look of fear. Everyone froze with their glasses held over the center of the table.

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Dec 11, 2014 by

We’ll probably never know if this is a real response from an officer at Chula Vista PD, but whoever wrote it sounds very clever.

Recently, the Chula Vista, California Police Department ran an e-mail forum with the local community (a question and answer exchange) with the topic being, “Community Policing.” One of the civilian e-mail participants posed the following question:
“I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to continually harass people and get away with it?”

From the “other side” (the law enforcement side) Sgt. Bennett, obviously a cop with a sense of humor replied:
“First of all, let me tell you this…it’s not easy. In Chula Vista, we average one cop for every 600 people.

Only about 60% of those cops are on general duty (or what you might refer to as “patrol”) where we do most of our harassing. The rest are in non-harassing departments that do not allow them contact with the day to day innocents.

At any given moment, only one-fifth of the 60% patrollers are on duty and available for harassing people while the rest are off duty.

So roughly, one cop is responsible for harassing about 5,000 residents.
When you toss in the commercial business, and tourist locations that attract people from other areas, sometimes you have a situation where a single cop is responsible for harassing 10,000 or more people a day.
Now, your average ten-hour shift runs 36,000 seconds long. This gives a cop one second to harass a person, and then only three-fourths of a second to eat a doughnut AND then find a new person to harass.

This is not an easy task. To be honest, most cops are not up to this challenge day in and day out. It is just too tiring.

What we do is utilize some tools to help us narrow down those people which we can realistically harass.
The tools available to us are as follow:
PHONE: People will call us up and point out things that cause us to focus on a person for special harassment.

“My neighbor is beating his wife” is a code phrase used often. This means we’ll come out and give somebody some special harassment.
Another popular one: “There’s a guy breaking into a house.” The harassment team is then put into action.
CARS: We have special cops assigned to harass people who drive. They like to harass the drivers of fast cars, cars with no insurance or no driver’s licenses and the like.
It’s lots of fun when you pick them out of traffic for nothing more obvious than running a red light.

Sometimes you get to really heap the harassment on when you find they have drugs in the car, they are drunk, or have an outstanding warrant on file.
RUNNERS: Some people take off running just at the sight of a police officer. Nothing is quite as satisfying as running after them like a beagle on the scent of a bunny. When you catch them you can harass them for hours to determine why they didn’t want to talk to us.
STATUTES: When we don’t have PHONES or CARS and have nothing better to do, there are actually books that give us ideas for reasons to harass folks. They are called “Statutes”; Criminal Codes, Motor Vehicle Codes, etc…They all spell out all sorts of things for which you can really mess with people.

After you read the statute, you can just drive around for a while until you find someone violating one of these listed offenses and harass them.
Just last week I saw a guy trying to steal a car. Well, there’s this book we have that says that’s not allowed. That meant I got permission to harass this guy. It’s a really cool system that we’ve set up, and it works pretty well.

We seem to have a never-ending supply of folks to harass. And we get away with it. Why? Because for the good citizens who pay the tab, we try to keep the streets safe for them, and they
pay us to “harass” some people.
Next time you are in my town, give me the old “single finger wave.” That’s another one of those codes. It means, “You can’t harass me.” It’s one of our favorites.

Hopefully sir, this has clarified to you a little bit better how we harass the good citizens of Chula Vista.
Police Harassment, Chula Vista, California style –

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Have you ever attended the funeral of a cop killed in the line of duty?

Dec 6, 2014 by

During the latter months of 2014, the police have come under much scrutiny and civil unrest has surfaced in many predominately African American communities in America.

The deaths of several black men, specifically, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, et al, have brought violence to the streets and accusations against police departments as a whole.

I have no intention of voicing an opinion on the guilt, innocence, or justification of the police officers involved in these uses of force or deadly force because I do not possess enough material and factual information to form an intelligent or educated opinion. To mouth off prematurely would be irresponsible and foolish. I do, however, want to make a statement of irrefutable fact.

One of the secondary assignments I had for a few years during my time with the Suffolk County Police Department in New York was to act as officer in charge of the funeral processions held for police officers killed in the line of duty.

Such a funeral would draw anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 uniformed officers from the metropolitan New York area and far beyond to pay respect to a fallen comrade. I was given the responsibility to assemble, move, and position these troops outside the funeral home and wait for the body to be removed to the place of burial or cremation.

One might think that thousands of seasoned police officers, men and women accustomed to witnessing more than their share of human sorrow, could stoically stand in formation and watch their deceased colleague sent to their eternal rest without a display of emotion. But I challenge anyone to hear the command to “present arms,” not close their eyes while the bugle played Taps, or shudder when the honor guard’s seven rifles fired off three volleys, then listen to a lone bagpiper play a slow version of Amazing Grace, and keep a dry eye.

After the ceremony, many of those thousands would begin their long drive home, while others would adjourn to several of the local fire houses to get quietly “anesthetized” with the beer provided by the police department.

But in the days following the unjustified murder of a police officer, never did I see a group of brother and sister officers assemble in the neighborhood of the alleged killer and claim that all those citizens were guilty of wholesale prejudice against all cops.

cop funeral 1

cop funeral 2

cop funeral 3

cop funeral 4

cop funeral 5

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Writers With Goals and a Schedule . . . Or Not

Dec 2, 2014 by

For a guy who’s spent an aggregate forty-one years in military and paramilitary organizations, I’m really not very structured as a writer.

I look at my goals in writing much the same as I looked at my operational life as a cop. Back then, I wanted to make a lot of flashy arrests, get known for producing high quality work, and do everything possible to write an almost airtight case. I knew how to testify in court and always went in having more than the requisite reasonable cause to believe the bad guy was guilty. What happened in court was the prosecutor’s worry.

As a writer, my goal is to provide an end product—a story or novel—that I’m happy with. I’m a pain in the neck about detail, so if I please me, take the reasonable suggestions an editor makes, and see the finished work as the best I could do, everything else can play out however Mother Nature, the Universe, or Fate has in mind. I write with the goal of producing something that sounds good—something smooth, with no bumps, no unanswered questions, and no extreme need for suspension of disbelief. After an editor catches any typos, nits, and the little things that need ironing out and it goes to press, I’m happy.

I do my best to promote the book, but I’m not a marketing expert. If my books don’t sell, the publisher doesn’t make money. He/she needs to put forth at least as much effort as me. I do an hour or two each day pushing the books. I spend money on virtual book tours and sending books out for review. If they don’t sell, I can still look in the mirror and be satisfied that I’ve given it my best effort.

Years ago, I didn’t call the district attorney’s office to learn about a trial verdict. The courts were a circus. Felons were allowed to plead out to passing on the right to save time and money. That wasn’t my problem and I think I might have avoided an ulcer by not asking. Today, I don’t keep tabs on the Amazon sales charts to see if I sold one or a hundred books last week. I don’t check to see if I’m number one in the category of police mystery with a one-eyed, transvestite, disabled veteran antagonist. I don’t care. I care of I get well-written, positive, and honest reviews. And I care that I don’t send something out for publication that isn’t the best I can do.

When I was a young cop, I always had bosses looking over my shoulder, but I never let them keep me from drumming up my own cases. I dug up arrests without anyone feeding them to me; just as I have to dream up ways of taking actual police incidents and transplanting them from New York to Tennessee to let my protagonist Sam Jenkins work the cases. It’s impossible for me to set a daily goal or word count minimum. When the ideas and words are flowing in my brain, I write and don’t stop until my head is empty or I’m too tired to continue. I don’t outline before writing—that’s too much like work. I rough out a book and then go back—maybe several times—to revise or “flesh out” what needs sprucing up. I once read a quote (from whom I can’t remember) that I saw as a very good line. “We don’t have to be great writers. We MUST be great rewriters.” For me, the finalizing provides great enjoyment. It’s like a cabinetmaker doing the final sanding on a piece of furniture. You keep smoothing it out until you consider it properly “spruced up.”

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