Tom Clancy was an insurance broker before he ever wrote his first nationally acclaimed novel. John Grisham was a lawyer and a legislator before he ever became a best-selling author. Without question, the one thing they both have in common is their remarkable abilities to write fiction. Oddly enough, the other glaring commonality was that neither ever wore a badge and gun to work. So, what does that mean? It means they never witnessed the daily horrific sites crime brings to a man or woman in blue during a typical day on the job. Nope, they put together their masterful New York Times best-sellers from the comfort of their homes, using their amazing creative minds and writing talents to guide them, neither of which would ever haunt them or keep them awake at night. The reality is police work is a job with lifelong effects, wrought with a parade of emotions, high-definition dreams, sleepless nights and the purest post-traumatic stress disorder imaginable. So, I say release your experiences and show your friends, family, strangers or whoever you want the road you have traveled.
From the time a recruit graduates from a police academy, he or she becomes a writer. There’s no getting around that. We document everything from a stolen bicycle to a complex murder conspiracy investigation. But as we were all taught: Just the facts, ma’am. A police report is no place to insert how pissed off you got, how sad you felt or any other passions the case may have stirred. As an aspiring author, those rules go out the window, and hence the therapy begins.
How many of us have heard someone say, or have been that person who said, I ought to write a book? Well, I was that person, and I did. In 2021, I released the first two novels in my crime fiction series, Silent Blue Tears: Voice of the Victims and Silent Blue Tears: Strong Women Unite on Amazon.
Refusing to rely on online sales alone, like a thief selling jewelry from the trunk of a car, I aggressively peddled my books from the back seat of my truck, in the American Police Beat magazine and in stores willing to support a local hungry author. My novels are meant for anyone who enjoys crime fiction crafted from the mind of a true homicide detective. These works were crafted to appeal to both law enforcement and readers who can grin and bear the awful tragedies crime hands out, along with creative investigative techniques employed by determined men and women. Though fiction, both of my novels derived from actual cases I handled as a homicide detective or from experiences unique to our profession (PTSD), coupled with the daunting clouds that haunt police officers and the humor only they understand.
Preparing for the journey
If you choose to go down this arduous, mind-challenging path, it is imperative to do a few things. First, get the right equipment. Second, immerse yourself in some training and decide if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. Your equipment may include a whiteboard to jot down notes and ideas and, of course, a laptop so you can write whenever and wherever you can. Oddly enough, you never know when the urge will arise and having a laptop makes it that much easier to get your complete thoughts on paper. Training, on the other hand, can take many forms. There are college credit and noncredit courses on writing, along with forums and conferences specific to developing plots, creating twists and much more. Another excellent training method I highly recommend is by reading renowned authors like James Patterson, John Gresham and Joseph Wambaugh, the latter being the only real cop. Fiction versus nonfiction? Your choice. I’ll tell you from experience it’s a lot less legalese involved in fiction. After all, as it states on the front of any fiction novel, “any similarities are purely coincidental.” However, I do prefer to change the names of suspects and victims for a host of reasons.
The inside look
It’s my belief that people see the same thing over and over on television about police work. Rarely do they ever get to see what really happens. My suggestion is to give your readers an inside look. Tell it like it is and release your experiences. Surprisingly, I found it very therapeutic just to put my experience on paper, especially if your work includes your inner feelings, which leads me into the next area of creative fiction writing.
God, judge and jury
As law enforcement officers, we rarely get to influence a case to the point where we can control the outcome to the most finite detail. Well, the cool part about fiction writing is you can. Yes, you can play God. I found this very pleasing when I was told by a very influential Hollywood agent who enjoyed reading my first novel when it was in a nonfiction format. Though he called it a “page-turner,” he said it could be better if I were to “add more drama, more violence and more twist.” Just when I thought I was done, it was back to the drawing board. Now I had to dive into an entire fiction re-write, which I had never done, and boy was that cool. I was now in a place where there was no reason for a case to get mundane or drag on. Nope, not anymore. The sky was the limit and a perfect time to inject poetic justice wherever I wanted, letting justice in its truest sense prevail.
A blue education
The next benefit of releasing your experiences is twofold. Not every police or deputy lands in a homicide unit or becomes tasked with investigating a murder. Having never been in those shoes, fellow colleagues don’t appreciate the impact such a job can have on a brother or sister in blue. I have found that my novels have served as tools to educate those in blue, which has been very enlightening for me. The second area where I found my work beneficial is teaching our family members about what their loved one in blue may be experiencing and how and when to communicate with them. This topic alone could be an entirely separate article, but I have found that my work has enriched people’s minds, including my own family, as to some of the emotions this job has a tendency to bring to the surface.