Please welcome the masterful Wayne Zurl to our blogspot.
Q. Thanks for joining us, Wayne. I’ve read quite a few of your books over recent months but really want to thank you for not only contributing to our police charity anthology here in the UK but also thank you for your avid support in social media as well. It is appreciated. I wonder if you could tell us a little of your background? Where do you live? What leads you to write and why you supported our charity drive?
A. I lived in New York for forty-six years before I retired from the Suffolk County police department on Long Island. Our precincts began about fifteen miles from New York City’s jurisdiction. I always referred to Long Island as the Los Angeles of the east—a megalopolis. You would never know where one community ended and another began. Prior to the police department, I served on active duty in the Army and remained in the reserves. Now I live in rural Appalachia—a very culturally and physically different area than from where I grew up. Long Island was flat and surrounded by beaches. In East Tennessee, we’re in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Every cop reading this knows a big part of police work is or was writing. Paperwork and reports make a PD go around, regardless of where you work. And some of us take it more seriously than others. After I retired, I volunteered at a Tennessee state park. One of my jobs was helping the rangers keep the French & Indian War (7 Years War) British and French re-enactors from getting carried away and bayoneting each other during the battle scenarios. But more often I wrote publicity for their living history program. That led to selling non-fiction magazine articles—twenty-six in ten years. When I couldn’t dream up any new and thrilling things to say about 18th century Tennessee, I handed the reins over to someone else. But I thought getting paid for writing was pretty cool . . . and I needed a creative outlet. So, I decided to try fiction. I was lucky to tie up with a couple of publishers who handled my full-length novels and the shorter novelettes.
When you told me about your project supporting COPS, I liked the idea. Why not donate a story that might help raise money for the families of police officers killed in the line of duty? When I first had something published, I donated my royalties to the Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund during the time they were building a memorial in Washington DC. Every day I read a lot about authors supporting authors. I like the idea of cops supporting cops and their families.
Q. I’m fascinated by your character ‘Sam Jenkins’ – How did you select the name and character? Is he based on a real person or a product of your imagination? And what can you tell us about Sam?
A. The real Sam Jenkins was my maternal grandfather—a very interesting character in his own right, but certainly not a cop. Sam was born just after the turn of the 20th century and spent most of his life as a truck driver—originally an actual teamster, wrangling a dray team for the Schaeffer Brewery in Brooklyn. When the US Congress invoked “Prohibition,” Sam didn’t abandon his career in the alcoholic beverage industry. He became a bootlegger. And since he and his brother made clandestine runs up to the border and brought back truckloads of Canadian Whisky, I guess he also qualified as a smuggler. He always rationalized his involvement with factions of the Capone crime family because Prohibition was an unpopular law.
Now, how about the fictional Sam? To make my life easier and cash in on writing what I know, Sam’s career runs a rough parallel with mine. I never intended the books to be autobiographical sketches, but as you know, any cop who worked a crowded and busy area retired with a healthy collection of war stories. My idea was to take a retired New York detective lieutenant, give him a second career as a Tennessee police chief, and simply transplant old New York cases to his (and mine) new home. Since police work is rarely a thrill a minute, fiction allowed me to embellish reality to make it more readable if not necessarily more gritty.
So, our boy, Sam the younger, began his professional life as a uniformed patrolman, graduated to a general service squad detective, a detective sergeant in the organized crime rackets bureau, and finally a lieutenant in the special investigations section working directly for the police commissioner. More recently and in another world, he leads the twelve troops of Prospect PD in the touristy town of the same name. If you believe what I write, you’ll think Prospect, Tennessee has a homicide rate which exceeds that in Detroit.
Q. Looking through your growing collection of novels one might just wonder where to start. Which books or characters would you single out as good place to begin with?
A. As I mentioned before, I’ve written two sets of stories, all featuring the same characters and same venue. A NEW PROSPECT kicks everything off. Sam comes out of retirement and reluctantly takes on a new career as the chief of a small department with no detectives. Readers can meet the lovely (soon to be sergeant) Bettye Lambert, The former LAPD street crime cop, (and another soon-to-be sergeant) Stanley Rose, Sam’s wife Kate, his friend and fellow ex-New Yorker, FBI Special Agent Ralph Oliveri, and TV news anchor, Rachel Williamson. That first adventure is followed by A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT which straddles the line of a police procedural and thriller by getting a wee bit international. Next up is HEROES & LOVERS which precedes the most recent, PIGEON RIVER BLUES. These are all stand alone books, but those who like to follow character development might wish to read them in that order.
The novelettes are another story—they can be read in any order. But for those readers who want to see if I got any better with practice, the chronology is shown here: http://www.waynezurlbooks.net/chronology/
Q. Are you writing on anything new at the moment?
A. It would be more correct to say I’m rewriting. After the release of PIGEON RIVER BLUES, my publisher announced that he was going out of the traditional publishing business. That left me sitting with two finished novels and no one to publish them. I had intended to participate in a couple of virtual book tours for PIGEON RIVER BLUES and then get serious about finding a new press, but as fate would have it, someone introduced me to a pair of agents who liked the first fifty pages of A TOUCH OF MORNING CALM, a story about Korean organized crime. When the agents requested the full manuscript, I spent time sprucing up the draft. After reading it, they asked if I had anything else completed so they could try and sell a publisher on a two or three book contract deal. I just finished my final edits on A CAN OF WORMS, in which I composite two old cases and tell the story of a police officer being accused of a prior rape. I’ve got my fingers crossed, hoping they have success when the acquisitions editors return from their traditional August vacations.
Q. Do you have a particular writing regime such as days or times to write and do you have an office where you escape to in order to work?
A. For a guy who spent a collective forty-one years in military and paramilitary organizations, I’m pretty loose when it comes to a writer’s work structure. When the ideas are flowing, I write. For the last several weeks the vegetable garden was yielding. So, I harvested and we cooked. As you’re reading this, we’ll be fishing for salmon and lake trout in a large bay off Lake Michigan. Then I’ll start writing again. I share a computer room with my wife, but generally, I do my writing with a pad and pen, sitting in a wingback chair in our living room—occasionally with a selected seasonal beverage placed on the lamp table on my right. When I have a rough draft completed, I transpose it to a Word document. I do that myself because like any good squad dick, I can still type at a blistering thirty words per minute and no one else can read my handwriting.
Q. What tips would you give to a writer trying to break into the industry?
A. The best practical advice I can offer a new writer isn’t my original thought. I learned this reading an interview with Robert B. Parker. When asked why his books were so popular, Parker gave a simple answer, “Because they sound good.” Most of my novelettes were written for audio books and had to sound good when read by an actor. So, I knew exactly what Bob Parker meant.
Here’s my recommendation on how to produce a world-class piece of work. When you think your story, novelette, novella, novel, or epic is finished, when you truly believe you’ve found and corrected all the typos and nits and it’s ready to sell, go back and read it aloud to yourself. Pretend you’re the star of your own audio book. Read it slowly and professionally as an actor would. Then, ask yourself, does it sound good? Do all the paragraphs smoothly transcend to the next? Does each sentence contain the right number of syllables? Does each word flow into the next without conflict? Does it have a pleasing rhythm? Basically, does it sing to you? For a guy who doesn’t dance very well, I have a great need for rhythm in my writing. If you notice any “bumps,” go back and rewrite it. Smooth everything out. If something bothers you now, it will annoy the hell out of you in the future and someone else will probably notice it, too.
With that accomplished, you’re finished, right? No. Now you’re ready to hand it off to an editor or proof-reader—whomever you can afford. A second pair of eyes is essential for ANY writer.
Q. When not writing what hobbies or interests would you like to tell us about?
A. I’ve already mentioned my interest in fishing. Living on Long Island allowed me to do that often. Now, if I want that “big water” experience, we go to the coast for the saltwater species or the Great Lakes for salmon, brown trout, lake trout, or steelhead. We also like to travel and have been to your United Kingdom thirteen times. When I retired I could honestly tell people I knew the roads in Scotland, Wales, the Lake District, and Yorkshire better than I knew Tennessee. With travel comes photography—something I learned by photographing dead bodies. Landscapes and wildlife are more enjoyable subjects.
Q. Thank you for joining us. May we wish you well in the future.
A. Thank you, Paul. I’ve enjoyed my return visit to your blog and the opportunity to meet your new fans. Thank you again for the opportunity to contribute a story (PAPER TRAIL) to your first anthology 'UNCUFFED' to benefit COPS. I’m looking forward to being part of the holiday collection you’re planning.
The Christmas Anthology
featuring Wayne Zurl
and a team of police writers from the United States and the United Kingdom
Readers, to find out more about Wayne’s books you can follow the links provided or click on his book titles in the carousels to the right of your screen. These take you to the UK amazon store. You can also join him on social media at the following links
Author website: http://www.waynezurlbooks.net
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/waynezurl
B&;N author page: http://barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl
Mind Wings Audio author page: http://mindwingsaudio.com/?s=wayne+zurl
Independent Author Network page: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/wayne-zurl.html