Acts of Violence — 2022 Edition

Violence

-Ben Keller

For my submission on this edition of our blog, I’m sharing a post I wrote in February 2018 because, sadly, it’s more relevant than ever.  Another round of deadly mass shootings, also in a school, and another frustrating lack of a clear path to any meaningful reduction of these horrible events.

I share my philosophy as a security practitioner, someone charged with making people safer.  The underlying philosophy hasn’t changed, but I do want to repeat a call here I’ve made in other venues.  Whether you advocate for other tactics to combat this problem, I think one thing we must create as a society is a mechanism for voicing concerns.  In almost every single case, someone who went on to commit a mass casualty event had demonstrated concerning behaviors before they became violent.  They threatened their family.  They cheered on other mass murderers.  They fantasized about shooting others.  They may have come to the attention of law enforcement, school leaders, or other authorities.  But in most of these cases, nothing happened.

I know it’s easy to judge in hindsight, but it seems unacceptable to me that we see someone who is actively — and visibly — on the slide to violence, there’s not a clear path for us to report it.  It’s a slippery slope, and we should be mindful of restricting someone’s freedom without due process.  But as someone who has built threat assessment models for private organizations, I can assure you it is possible to have a risk- and behavior-based model of escalating response.

It wouldn’t be an easy thing to create, but it can be done.  In my lifetime, the 911 system didn’t exist, and now everyone knows what number to call in an emergency.  Most people know about the Heimlich Maneuver, and there are posters reiterating it at many restaurants.  More recently, automatic external  defibrillators are more common, along with simple guidance on how to use them.  My point is that for other predictable, urgent threats to human life, we’ve found uniform ways to identify and escalate the risk.  Dead kids should warrant at least that same level of effort.

I present to you below my original post:

It was a week dominated by violence.

The February 14 school shooting in Florida was a tragic, horrific event.  And with it came the frustration that always accompanies these incidents:  what can we do to stop these things from happening?  Then, a few days later, a thousand miles away, another tragedy occurred.  A woman was killed in her home in a domestic dispute.  This death didn’t make the national news, and out of respect for her and her family’s privacy, I won’t go into detail about this crime.  But suffice it to say that due to the circumstances of her passing, I was in a position to know a lot of the details about her untimely demise.  The same question occurred to me:  what more could have been done to have prevented this from happening?

Both events occurred when a man with a troubled past chose to commit a violent act.  Both killers had displayed “red flags” in the immediate past, and both had come to the attention of local law enforcement multiple times in connection to their threats of violence.  In both circumstances, there was a chance for some sort of preventative action to have been taken, but those opportunities were missed or otherwise not taken advantage of.  One crime involved a gun, the other a knife and a man’s bare hands, but the end result to their victims were equally permanent.

Regular visitors here know that I work in the field of investigations and security consulting.  A large part of what I do is assessing security risks for offices and residences around the world, and recommending strategies to mitigate those risks.  Any violent crime, especially a mass shooting like in Florida, is often considered the worst-case scenario among my peers; the ultimate expression of what we try to prevent.

But there’s the rub.  A dirty little secret in our industry is that no measure is fool proof.  If you were ask me what technology or practice could guarantee such a violent act would never happen, I would have to tell you that no such measure exists.  There are best practices to be sure, and business and organizations have a legal and moral duty of care to take reasonable steps to provide a safe and secure environment.  But it is my grim belief that nothing can absolutely prevent a dedicated person intent on committing violence.

So what are we to do?  Throw up our hands and resign ourselves to this fate?  When children are being murdered, we cannot allow that to be an option.  I am studiously avoiding the political aspects of this subject.  I understand and appreciate the passionate feelings that people from all political stripes bring to the table.  But as a person who has worked in this arena for decades and who has twice been declared by the court an expert, I will tell you there are no easy answers.  Most of the recommendations I make in the course of my work are highly customized to the specific site, and in that approach, no blanket solution would be a fit for all circumstances.

Instead of commenting on specific strategies that have been suggested in the public arena, I thought instead I would contribute to the debate by sharing the thought process security professionals use when considering risk mitigation measures. I claim no authorship of these, as they are general principles known throughout the industry, and as such a source is difficult to cite.  But each of these principles should be a part of any security program designed to prevent or mitigate this type of violence:

  • DETER – Through design or highly visible security measures, make the site an unattractive target to the potential bad actor.  (Effective fences, rigorous access control, uniformed patrols around the perimeter, etc.)
  • DETECT – Through human or technological means, create the ability to monitor the site and provide for prompt detection of dangerous activity or other risk conditions.  (Alarms, gunshot detection, roving patrols, etc.)
  • DELAY – Once a security breach has occurred, create obstacles to slow the bad actor’s progress.  (Building design, central lockdown technology, secure, lockable doors, etc.)
  • DEFEND – Strengthen internal spaces and/or assets to better withstand attack.  (Bullet resistant safe rooms, fortified barriers, body armor, etc)
  • DESTROY – Identify and eliminate the threat

When you consider these principles, you can compare them to some of the suggestions being made in the public debate, and evaluate how they may or may not contribute to an effective reduction in risk.  As I’ve said, there is not an easy solution, nor is a “one size fits all” approach advisable.  But as a citizen, a security professional, but most of all as a father, I refuse to accept that there’s nothing we can do.  I urge our leaders to take meaningful action that will actually help prevent or at least reduce the impact of these tragedies.  Despite the fiery rhetoric from all corners, I don’t believe the person with a different opinion from mine wants innocents to be killed.  I think we can all agree that we want to do something to curtail this violence.

So let’s do something!

–Ben Keller

PTSD in Policing: A Story of Survival

By Brian Thiem:

Retired Oakland P.D. Lieutenant Rachael Van Sloten is one of the strongest women I know. When I was retired and working on my first novel, I reached out to Rachael, then working as a detective sergeant in Homicide, to help me create an authentic woman homicide detective character. She’s remained one of my most trusted beta readers, one I can trust to ensure my female characters are realistic and my stories hold together.

I first met Rachael in the mid-1990s when I was a lieutenant at Oakland PD and a watch commander on the swing shift. One evening, after having completed the field training program, she reported to my lineup briefing for her assignment as a beat cop. My first thought was wondering if this cute, little, blonde woman had what it takes to survive as a cop on the streets of Oakland.

As the watch commander, I was a worrier. The evening shift had around a hundred officers and a dozen sergeants, about half of them working any given day. And I worried about every one of them. I normally ended my briefings with the immortal admonishment of that old, crusty sergeant on Hill Street Blues, “Be careful out there.”

I knew every officer at OPD was exceptionally qualified. Only 2% of those who apply are hired. Many are weeded out in the academy, and more don’t make it through the field training program. I learned Rachael was a graduate of University of California (Berkeley), a school that only accepts the best, and she held a black belt in martial arts. Despite my initial concerns, her sergeants reported she was smart and tough and did a great job.

A while later, Rachael found herself in a fight for her life. The following is in her words.

On this day 25 years ago, 11-24-97, I was working patrol in west Oakland, when an officer put out he was about to do a car stop for a minor traffic violation. I responded to assist. Within seconds, the vehicle took off and crashed into a driveway and the driver fled on foot. I took a perimeter position.

My life changed that night—from wide-eyed rookie officer to fighting for my life. Twenty-five years later and I can remember every moment of that incident. I can describe details for you but not what was going through my head nor what my body was feeling. I remember those feelings vividly, but it’s too difficult to describe.

The suspect jumped out from over a fence where I was standing. Other officers believed he was running in a different direction. I tried to put it out but couldn’t broadcast over the emergency traffic on our outdated radios.

I had him controlled—I thought—but the tables turned quickly. He was a very experienced fighter. He had fought the police on many prior occasions, I learned later.

One second I was standing, the next second he had body slammed me to the ground, ripped my radio mic off my shoulder so I couldn’t call for help, kicked me in my face, shattering my nose, and kicked me multiple times in my ribs as he stood over me. Then he went for my gun, which was now holstered and thankfully secured with the snaps. I had holstered my weapon when I saw he was unarmed, and I was switching to a less lethal tool. That was the moment when he attacked me. Was that a mistake? Probably.

I remember thinking, this is just a fight. Then I felt the tug on the grip of my gun and heard the security snaps on my holster snap open. That was when, deep inside me, I knew he was going to try to kill me. This was not just another fight—this was a fight for my life. I had seen these fights on police videos where the officer is getting beat and screaming for his life. They are horrible to watch. I was about to experience it. This man was not armed, and I was about to die. He was winning this fight, and if he won, I would be dead.

But only if he succeeded in getting my gun. I knew I could survive broken bones but not a gunshot to my head. I had been taught gun retention in the academy, and somehow in the middle of all this, my body remembered what to do. I knew I had to hold onto the holster where the snaps were, and I squeezed around the holster so the man could not rock my gun back and pull up. He was trying so hard to do that. But I held on. I held on as he lifted me off the ground by the grip of my own gun as he tried to get it from the holster. I held on as he slammed me into the cement over and over again, chipping a bone in my shoulder. I held on as he kicked me over and over again, damaging some of my ribs.

I held on while he spoke to the crowd of citizens who surrounded us. He kept saying, “Don’t hurt me, officer! Don’t hurt me,” as he beat on me and tried to get my gun. It made no sense. He was playing for the crowd, and they cheered him on. They yelled as I fought to survive, “Kill her, go on kill her.”  Those words still echo in my head. Why was no one helping me—a 100 lb., 5’2” woman? It was because I wore the uniform. I was new to the job. They did not know me. I hadn’t earned their respect yet, so I guess in their minds, I was not worth saving. Even worse and sadly, in their minds, I was worth killing.

At one point, I rolled over my radio mic which was underneath me. I heard it broadcast my screams for help. And yes, I screamed for help. I remember screaming, “Get off me.” I remember screaming other officers’ names. Hoping they would hear me and come help. No one heard me. No one helped me. They didn’t know where I was. When I rolled over the mic again, I yelled “I’m north of you, he’s trying to get my gun.” This fight continued for 3.5 to 4 minutes. It felt like it would never end. I wasn’t sure I would survive, but I wouldn’t let go of the holster. He kept trying to get the gun. Later on, we would learn he had cut his hand when he jumped over the fence, and his bloody prints were on the security straps of my holster and his bloody palm print on my gun grip.

 I couldn’t grab for other weapons—my baton or pepper spray—because if I let go of my holster, he would have my gun, and I would be dead. I did what I had to do. I bit him. Gross, yes, but when you think you are about to die, you do what you need to survive. I remember that I just kept biting at him. That was my only weapon I could use without letting go of my holster. Somehow that worked. He took off running.

The adrenaline was so strong, I got up and chased after him. I was an officer and that was my job. A lieutenant approached me, got me to take a breath, got me focused again. Other officers arrived. They set up a perimeter and ultimately caught him. We arrested him without incident (without injury). I went to the hospital and that is when I realized I was badly hurt. The adrenaline had helped me survive, but when it left my system, the emotions, the pain of what just happened hit hard. I was told not to cry. I did not cry—I bottled it up—shoved it deep down.

Rachel’s nose was shattered, and she had surgery that week. Most rookie officers would’ve reassessed their decision to become a police officer, but it never occurred to Rachel to quit. She returned to work a month later. She later had surgery on her shoulder, as a bone fragment had shifted, causing her shoulder to lock up. She ended up with four surgeries on her nose, and to this day still can’t breathe right. She had three surgeries on her shoulder, and many more on other parts of her body from other injuries and the wear and tear of the job.

She never told anyone back then how scared she was. She never told anyone about the nightmares. She just pretended everything was okay and continued to work. She was later promoted to sergeant, and I remember how proud of her I was when I saw the photo of her and her family at her promotion ceremony.

She went on to work Homicide, where she saw more death and misery than any person should have to in a lifetime. She handled the murder of four Oakland officers who were killed in the line of duty during one tragic incident, a mass shooting where seven people died, an artist warehouse fire that killed thirty-six, and scores of other horrendous incidents.

In 2014, Rachael was diagnosed with cumulative PTSD. Although Oakland PD had a peer support unit and a free and totally confidential professional counseling service, there remained a stigma over seeking help, but she found help on her own. She again returned to work and eventually was promoted to lieutenant. She retired last year.

Rachael and I have spoken many times about PTSD among law enforcement officers. All departments need to do more for their officers. She is not alone in still thinking about the traumatic experiences she had experienced. The things we experience affect us. They change us. And all too often, they destroy us. How police organizations treat their officers after traumatic incidents affect them. Police departments can do better.

Talking about it can help. Telling our stories to others show them they are not alone in feeling the way they do. And, as Rachael says, “Letting people know there is light on the other side of the darkness can help.”

Rachael is doing well today in retirement. She’s supported by a loving husband and parents, three wonderful children, and many friends. My first impression of her nearly three decades ago as that cute, little, blonde rookie was so very wrong. She’s one of the toughest, fiercest, strongest women I know. And she’s a survivor.

Interview of Novelist Rich Zahradnik

Please join me in welcoming award-winning New York based crime novelist Rich Zahradnik to the blog. Occasionally, we at Murder Books will interview a favorite author in order to help get the word out about a great new book. And it just so happens that Rich’s latest thriller, The Bone Records, was released on November 1st. Having had the honor of reading an advanced copy, I can tell you it is fabulous.

Rich Zahradnik

Rich spent twenty-seven years as a journalist. During that time, he worked as a reporter and an editor—both online and in print media—holding editorial positions at CNN, Bloomberg News, AOL, and The Hollywood Reporter. Rich uses those twenty-seven years to inform his award-winning novels. Currently, Rich provides guidance to the Pelham Examiner, the first community newspaper in the State of New York managed, edited, reported, and written by people under the age of eighteen!

Shamus Award Winner

In addition to winning the prestigious Shamus Award for Best Paperback Private Eye Novel for Lights Out Summer, Rich has also received three independent press awards for the first three books in his Coleridge Taylor mystery series. A Black Sail was named best mystery in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Drop Dead Punk received the gold medal for mystery ebook in the 2016 IPPY Awards. And Last Words won the bronze medal for mystery ebook in the 2015 IPPYs, and an honorable mention for mystery in the Foreword Reviews competition.

First off, Rich, congratulations on your latest release, and welcome to the blog.

Thank you for having me, Bruce!

  1. One of the things I really enjoyed about The Bone Records was the setting. What inspired you to set your mystery novel in and around Coney Island?

The idea for the book started with the bone records, which were bootlegs of American rock ‘n’ roll songs cut from X-rays in the Soviet Union from 1945-1963. I loved the idea of including bone records in a story, but I didn’t want to set the book in the Soviet Union in, say, 1962. In Brooklyn, several neighborhoods are called Little Odessa because of the large proportion of Russian immigrants that live there. Older immigrants living in these neighborhoods—Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend—would know about the discs, so I set the novel there. It helped that I’m a huge Coney Island fan, with many visits over the years.

  • I very much enjoyed your protagonist, Grigg Orlov. Where did the inspiration for Orlov originate?

I wanted an outsider in an insular community. Grigg’s father came from Russia and his mother Jamaica, which pretty much does the trick with the Russians in his neighborhood, given the racism in that community. He tried to become cop, but his knee was permanently injured when he was jumped by white supremacists at the police academy. That gives him just enough knowledge of police procedure to make him dangerous, but also shows—I hope—that seeking justice—rather than vengeance—is a part of him before his father is murdered. 

  • Coming as you have from a long and storied career in the field of reporting and editing, did you find the transition to fiction author difficult?

Yes, I did. My first failed manuscript failed because I tried to be too accurate, to be a journalist rather than a storyteller. There’s a huge difference between accuracy and the truth. You and I have talked about how this idea applied when you became a novelist after your career as a detective sergeant. You have to use what you know to create the world, but at some point, you have to diverge from how things actually work to create a page-turner of a story. It’s dicey.

  • Prior to The Bone Records you wrote an award-winning four book series. Is The Bone Records strictly a standalone or might this be the start of a new series?

I started out thinking it was a standalone because I wanted one of those on my resume. But I really started to like Grigg Orlov and can see a way to continue his career as some kind of private investigator if the book does well enough.

  • After writing Coleridge Taylor for four books, did you find it difficult to acclimate to an entirely new cast of characters? 

By about the third book in the Taylor series, I knew so much about my main characters that the writing then did become easier—though never easy—because I’d made so many decisions about those people. So yes, creating the new cast and making decisions about each character for the first time was more work than my last couple of Taylor novels.

  • Every novel presents its own unique challenges (at least mine have). Were there any obstacles you faced when writing The Bone Records? 

I’m not sure your blog’s server is big enough for this list. More seriously, switching from a newspaper reporter as protagonist to, in essence, an amateur—the son of the victim though one who may soon be the next victim—required I work a lot harder on motivation for his actions. Keeping him believably in the game when it’s not his job as it would be with a reporter—and with the NYPD and FBI involved with far more capability to solve a crime—required thinking, planning, writing and rewriting. Grigg knows a lot less than he should to take on the case and so I had to find ways to give him assistance that made sense in the story.

Another challenge was the novel’s timing. It takes place in the six weeks before the 2016 election. I have a subplot about that, and my characters can’t help but notice news of what’s going on in one of the wildest presidential campaigns in history. The key for me was to make this work in the story without it seeming a political thriller. The Bone Records is a hard-boiled mystery that takes place in that place and time.

  • Do you have any words of wisdom to share with others who might be thinking about wading into the deep end of the literary pool? 

Writers write. Don’t say, “I have an idea for a story.” Sit down and write. As much time as you can afford as many days as you can afford. Writers revise. Some of what I consider the best decisions I’ve made in my books came during revision. They call it a first draft for a reason. Writers read. Read in the genre you’re writing in and read outside it. Read read read.

  • Is there anything you did early on in your novel writing career that, now armed with hindsight, you would have done differently?

As I mentioned above, had I been thinking more about what’s true, rather than creating an accurate depiction of the journalism business, I might have gotten going further faster with a first novel that worked. Because after that, I lost years in workshops trying to become a literary novelist—which I am not. About 120,000 words worth of false starts until Last Words, the first Coleridge Taylor book, came along.

  • Which authors would you credit with having had the greatest influence on your writing? 

Michael Connelly (for everything), Derek Raymond (for really bringing the black to noir) and Tony Hillerman (for making setting a character in each of his books in a way that is intrinsic to the mood).

  1. I’ve read many different mystery/thriller series over the years and, for me, keeping the characters fresh and interesting over the long haul seems to be a major consideration in maintaining readership. What’s your secret?

I think the main characters need to change in ways that fit with who they are, and more importantly, by learning from life’s experiences. If a character is going to change her mind or attitude about something, you need to either build up to that by planting little things earlier in the story or have a believable life shock cause an emotional reaction and a cognitive rethink. I’ve changed life experiences in my series—Taylor’s newspaper goes out of business in book two—used some romance, which can have ups and downs, though at least in that series, I kept him with the same person from book two on. For me, anyone aside from the hero can die—except the dog, readers won’t forgive you—and that brings change, which I hope keeps it interesting.

  1. You’ve had success as a novelist, a reporter, and an editor. Is there one career that has brought you the most joy? Or do you find them equally gratifying?

Definitely novelist. Don’t get me wrong. I love getting scoops and still do when the Pelham Examiner wins them, but at my core I am a teller of stories who just took some time to get here.

  1. What can readers expect to see next? Are you working on any other projects? Is there a movie in the works?

I’ve started a new novel called Ghost Paper. I wanted to write a story that dealt with the 2,500 newspapers that have gone under since 2004 in America. I’m telling that story through the murder of one newspaper. It’s also a conventional murder mystery, of course. People die too.

Rich, thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with our readers. Best of luck with your new book, The Bone Records!

Rich Zahradnik is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.


To learn more about Rich, visit his web site at http://www.richzahradnik.com.

Rich Zahradnik was interviewed for Murder Books by Bruce Robert Coffin.

The Klan with a Plan

In 1925, Indiana had the nation’s largest chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan was a force in state politics and the Indiana chapter of the “Invisible Empire” aspired to wield its power on the national scene.

D.C. Stephenson ran the Indiana chapter of the KKK. In 1923, he had been elected the Grand Dragon. He proudly wore the orange robes of his office. He held himself out as, among other things, a Prohibitionist, an advisor to U.S. presidents, and a defender of Protestant womanhood. He plotted to make himself the most powerful man in Indiana.

To achieve the goal, he used the power of the Invisible Empire to elect a slate of candidates to local and state offices. In 1924, the Klan helped Ed Jackson win the governorship of Indiana. With Indiana’s senator in ill health, Stephenson expected Governor Jackson to appoint him to the United States Senate. The future looked bright for the Grand Dragon.

Public Domain

Stephenson also pushed a bill through the Indiana legislature requiring all schools to teach a course on diet and nutrition. Only one textbook met all the legislative requirements, One Hundred Years of Health, written under his name by Madge Oberholtzer. The mandatory sales to schools would make Stephenson rich as well as powerful.

On March 15th, 1925, Oberholtzer received a call. Stephenson was leaving for Chicago and needed to see her. He sent a bodyguard, Ed Gentry, to collect her. At his home, an intoxicated Stephenson insisted Madge join him on the trip to Chicago. She refused, but Stephenson would not accept the answer. He insisted she drink and forced her onto the train.

Soon after leaving the station, Stephenson attacked her. His assault included biting her until she bled. When the train arrived in Hammond, Indiana, Gentry, the bodyguard, pulled her from the train. He and Stephenson led her to a hotel where Stephenson registered them under the name, Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Morgan.

Madge recovered from the assault sufficiently to ask to be taken to a drugstore. There, she secretly purchased bichloride of mercury tablets. The tablets were ordinarily used as a treatment for syphilis. Although metallic mercury will pass through the human body, mercury bichloride is absorbed into the bloodstream. It damages the kidneys and intestinal tract. Back at the hotel, Madge swallowed six tablets. She soon became ill, vomiting blood and writhing in pain. Madge refused to go to the hospital. Stephenson required an agreed story before seeking medical help. The men instead loaded her into a car and drove her back to Indianapolis. After more delay, and following a promise to say nothing, the men brought Madge Oberholtzer home.

 A doctor examined Madge in her bed. She had bruises on her cheek, chest, stomach, legs, and ankles. The skin on her breast was torn. Her tests showed kidney failure. On March 28th, the doctor told Madge that she had no likelihood of recovery. Following the news, she dictated a statement to a family friend and attorney, Asa Smith. She reported all that had happened to her. She read, corrected, and signed the statement. On April 14th, 1925, Madge Oberholtzer died.

Although Stephenson expressed confidence that a powerful man such as he could never be indicted, the world was changing. Press reports of the rape shocked and angered the public. Stephenson soon faced a murder charge. Also indicted were Gentry and Ed Klinck, another Stephenson bodyguard.

D.C. Stephenson

 Chief among the prosecution’s problems was establishing the exact cause of death. The autopsy reported that Madge died of “mercurial poisoning, self-inflicted.” A jury’s determination of suicide would acquit the defendants. The prosecution thus needed to pin its case on the rape and the infection from the bites. The government also hoped to prove that the suicide attempt would be a reasonably foreseeable result stemming from the duress of the rape and kidnapping.

The prosecution’s key evidence came from Madge Oberholtzer’s dying declaration.

 Ordinarily, an out-of-court statement is inadmissible in criminal court. The defendant has a right to cross-examine the accuser, so the condemning evidence must come firsthand from the witness stand. Sometimes, however, evidence is believed to be so inherently trustworthy that it is admissible even if cannot be cross-examined. A dying declaration is one example. We believe, as a society, that someone would not lie with his or her expiring breath.

In my experience, a dying declaration is just that, the last gasps of a victim lying in a field, an ambulance, or an ER bed. They are rare in criminal law. A multiple-page affidavit dictated to a lawyer strains the inherent qualities that make a dying declaration trustworthy.

But as noted earlier, the times were changing in Indiana. Public opinion swung against the Klan as the press reported Madge’s rape and death details. Stephenson’s opponents within the Klan amplified the news to take down a rival. At the trial, the judge admitted the dying declaration into evidence.

In her statement, Madge reported that she took the poison to save her mother from disgrace. Stephenson would only take her to the hospital, she dictated, if she would claim to be his wife and claim to have taken the poison by mistake. Madge refused.

At trial, the government presented medical evidence that the delay in seeking treatment and the infections from the assaults to her flesh took her life. The prosecutor’s experts testified that Madge would likely have survived the poison if her body hadn’t been weakened by infection. Had she received prompt care, they also forecast survival. The defense disputed the science.

The jury deliberated four hours before acquitting Gentry and Klinck. On November 14th, 1925, they convicted Stephenson of murder. He received a life sentence.

From the Indiana State Prison, Stephenson awaited a pardon from Governor Ed Jackson, the man he had helped elect to office. D.C. Stephenson discovered a hard lesson about politics. The world had changed. He no longer controlled the state. The governor issued no pardon.

In July 1927, as payback for not getting the pardon, Stephenson sent the Indianapolis Times the names of Indiana politicians who had been on the Klan’s payroll. Governor Jackson’s name headed the list. The information led to the indictment of Jackson and others.

Odd as it sounds to our ears, the Klan built an image as a champion of morality, honor, and patriotism. The trial and the ensuing counterattack destroyed that myth. The Indiana Klan’s power as a political force waned. As mentioned earlier, prosecutors rarely get to offer into evidence a dying declaration. Finally, we think of the scientific “battle of the experts” as a feature of modern trials, not part of a 1920’s murder case. However, both sides stacked experts testifying about the cause of Madge Oberholtzer’s death.

For the law, the science, and the swinging pendulum of politics that make the case interesting, the trial of D.C. Stephenson is November’s Trial of the Month.

Mark Thielman

In the Know

-Ben Keller

Happy Halloween!  As I write this, it’s the last day of October in a year that has been hurtling by.  And as I considered what my contribution to our Murder-Books blog would be, I considered our motto, claiming we produce crime fiction from “those who know.”  Obviously, the intended meaning behind that phrase is that all of the writers on this blog have real-world experiences in the worlds of policing, investigations, the courts and the law that inform our writing.  But we’ve also expanded that theme here, sharing with you an inside view of little known aspects of our world.

I love learning little-known things.  Perhaps that had something to do with my becoming an investigator:  a desire to know the truth, or the hidden.  In less lofty terms, I think it also has something to do with my love of trivia.  Of obscure histories.  Of the obscure.  An unanswered question makes my brain itch, and it gives me an inordinate amount of satisfaction to have the answer, no matter how pointless the original question was! 

So, in that vein, I thought I’d share with you some lesser known sources of knowledge in the world around us.  May they bring you the same pedantic satisfaction they’ve brought to me:

  • There is method to the madness of our highway transportation system.  Many people know that odd-numbered highways generally go north-south, and even-numbered freeways go east-west.  But it goes deeper with exit numbers corresponding to the nearest mile markers, how loops and spurs are numbered based on the highway they serve, down to the color of the signs changing based on the type of information they’re providing.
  • The reflective “bumps” embedded in the pavement of most roads tell a story as well.  Yes, they help delineate the boundaries of your lane, but they also confirm you’re going the right direction (when you see the white side).  If you’re seeing the red side, you’re going the wrong way!  And a blue one indicates the location of a fire hydrant.  Some “rumble strips” are etched in a cluster of thirteen to subconsciously warn the driver of an upcoming dangerous intersection.
  • This my escape people who drive the same car every day, but for people who find themselves in a rental car or other unfamiliar vehicle, the arrow next to the gas pump icon on the dashboard can be a life saver.  It indicates what side the car’s gas tank inlet is.
  • Next time you’re in an elevator, the floor marked with a star is the one that has the main ground-level exit.
  • Corporate logos are rife with hidden imagery, some of my favorites are the arrow in the FedEx logo, fast food Wendy’s collar spells the word “mom,” and the Google logo references the famed Golden Ratio.
  • Our technology is a trove of hidden symbols.  The circle-and-line symbol on most power buttons is straight from binary language.  The Bluetooth symbol is an amalgamation of two Danish runes.  And the USB symbol evokes Neptune’s trident.
  • The notorious red Solo cup helps you mix your drink.  The grooves inside can measure a one-ounce shot, a five-ounce wine pour, or a 12-ounce beer.
  • The plastic tabs often found holding closed a bag of bread come in different colors.  Each color aligns with the day it was baked, helping you pick the freshest option.
  • The circular dent found on the side of a gallon jug of milk is meant to expand in the chemical process of going bad.  The dent bulging outward is a sign to pick a different jug.

I’d like to close on a more serious note.  This is the last day of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s a great opportunity to share another lesser-known sign that can save a life.  As the pandemic forced a mass work-from-home experiment for our country, it had a terrible impact on those for whom home is not always a safe place.  In response to that, a hand signal arose for those who wanted to ask for help from abuse at home.  Please review this signal below and share it.  Most importantly, if you see this signal being displayed to you, know what it means and how to help.  This is knowledge that can help save someone at risk.

A Bite of the Big Apple

by Isabella Maldonado

I’m not a native New Yorker. Not even a transplant. In fact, I had only visited NYC a handful of times when the bright idea occurred to me to set my new series there. After all, it’s our nation’s most populous city and there’s always a lot going on. Plus, I had fallen in love with the city.

What could go wrong?

Plenty.

In the past, I’ve set my books in cities I’m very familiar with. That doesn’t buy me a pass from conducting research, but it shaves off several hundred hours of serious online deep dives and rabbit holes.

Upon reviewing the first draft of the new novel, one of my editors pointed out that since millions of people live in or visit New York City, chances were high that even the tiniest errors would be detected and called out. Yikes.

Time to hop on a plane and do some serious boots-on-the-ground research. In addition, I needed native guides to set me straight. It turns out that even the most innocuous details that would be obvious to a New Yorker had pitfalls for my plot.

Here’s an example: I had toyed with the idea that someone could dispose of a body in a dumpster. My native New Yorker friends instantly put the kibosh on that:

“There are no dumpsters in the city.”

“What are you talking about? What do you all do with your garbage?”

“We bag it and put it on the sidewalk.”

“That’s insane. How does anyone use the sidewalks?”

“The bags are picked up on a schedule. Besides, how could anyone use the sidewalks if they were clogged with gigantic dumpsters 24/7?”

I heaved a sigh and deleted the part of the plot that involved a dumpster. Next, I came up with a new idea that involved an abduction in the bowels of a subterranean parking garage. Again, the notion was met with a verbal smackdown:

“There aren’t any parking garages like that in the city.”

“You’re kidding. Where does everyone park their cars? It’s not like they have houses with driveways.”

“They either park on the street in front of their building, or they use a multi-level garage where you drop off your car and the attendant parks it for you.”

“You have to use the attendant?”

“Yep. The cars are stacked in cubicles so they have to park them. You can’t be in a hurry to get your car when you get there. That’s why a lot of people don’t own cars. They use public transportation, taxis, or they walk.”

I had to completely rework the plot to have the abduction take place in New Jersey (after a drive through the Holland Tunnel).

Creating an atmospheric read involves honoring the locale by putting in the work. For me, that meant personally walking and riding through every place I planned to use. It also meant finding workarounds used by actual residents or scrapping my ideas in favor of something that would fit.

I took video of the place where I set the opening chase scene as I walked it, narrating the whole time. That included describing my surroundings while I went into the subway and through the turnstiles. Fortunately, New Yorkers are too busy to pay attention to a kooky lady holding her cell phone up and talking to herself.

I also stood outside the FBI field office at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, fondly known as “26 Fed” by those who work there, to get firsthand information about the building (for example, employees enter through the side of the building while visitors use the front). My FBI contact assured me that my behavior in recording and photographing the premises would have gotten me noticed by those inside. Fortunately, I’m sure if they ID’ed me using their high-tech gadgetry and did a background check, they quickly discovered that I’m just a harmless writer and not a threat to national security.

I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to do research. There’s nothing like being there and taking in the sights, smells, pace, sounds, and feel of a locale. Each venue has its own vibe, and capturing it for the reader is a tough job. Now, if I can just figure out how to get one of my detectives to Paris, Venice, or Rio de Janeiro…

Do you have a favorite series or book that transports you to a different place?

INTERVIEW WITH CAMERON TROST, OF BLACK BEACON BOOKS

by Roger Johns

Please join me in welcoming Cameron Trost to the blog today. Cameron is the mastermind behind Black Beacon Books, a very interesting independent publishing house that offers readers quality fiction, in a number of genres, including crime fiction. And, as a publisher of anthologies, Black Beacon is a market for those of us with a penchant for writing short stories.

MB: Cameron, thank you for joining us, today. Please tell us a little bit about the mission of Black Beacon Books.

CT: Black Beacon Books is an independent publishing house and our mission is to bring original and gripping mystery, suspense, horror, and post-apocalyptic fiction to the reader through themed anthologies, such as “Shelter from the Storm”, and genre-specific anthologies, like “The Black Beacon Book of Mystery”. We aim to give you fiction that isn’t formulaic and predictable, as well as quality writing and editing. We believe readers deserve great stories at an affordable price, and although Black Beacon Books is currently a labour of love, the ultimate aim is to become the leading force in the indie revolution. Can we do it? Absolutely—but only with our steadfast readers by our side.

MB: Black Beacon’s Alfred Hitchcock-themed anthology—A Hint of Hitchcock—comes out this month. What inspired you to assemble an anthology based on the works of Alfred Hitchcock?

CT: Mystery and suspense fans the world over revel in Alfred Hitchcock’s ground-breaking films—many of which are based on short stories and novels—as well as the dozens of anthologies he edited. Last year, I decided Black Beacon Books needed to release a suspense anthology in 2022 and that it needed a theme that would get every suspense fan sitting on the edge of his metaphorical seat. That name immediately came to mind…HITCHCOCK, the master of suspense. As a fan of his work—aren’t we all?—I thought it would be great to put together an anthology of stories inspired by his films. No sooner had the idea occurred to me than I told myself it wasn’t really all that original…right? There must be dozens of books like that on the market…right? Wrong! After a few minutes of research online, looking for short story anthologies inspired by Hitchcock, I quickly realised there were none, or at least, none readily available. So, as you can imagine, I took that as I sign. Without getting carried away with myself, I basically decided Alfie was sending me a message from the other side, telling me I had to make this happen. Fair enough? And so here we are; “A Hint of Hitchcock” is about to hatch…oops, bird reference!

MB: Tell us a bit about your own books.

CT: I’ve published two novels and three collections (you can check them out at camerontrost.com), I have one post-apocalyptic novel nearing completion, two mystery novels in the works, and I always have two or three short stories on the back burner. If I stopped publishing anthologies, I’d finish them faster! My writing is atmospheric, mysterious, quirky, and sometimes rather disturbing. If you happen to be an armchair detective—as I suspect most followers of this blog are—my collection of the first four Oscar Tremont puzzles is definitely the best secret doorway to step through in order to discover my mysterious world. Oh, and by the way, I love feedback and reviews, so feel free to get in touch on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and just about everywhere else.

MB: Who are some of your favorite suspense writers?

CT: It’s always hard to narrow it down to a handful of names when it comes to listing favourite writers, and—like myself—many authors whose work I love don’t limit themselves to one particular genre, or their work might bridge genres. The first point I should make is that I only publish stories I truly enjoy in Black Beacon Books anthologies (yes, that’s meant as a compliment) and so each contributor is on my long list of writers I admire. If, however, I have to name one suspense writer whose fiction has left me floored on numerous occasions, it would have to be Ruth Rendell. In many ways, I think she mastered the British domestic suspense story. Likewise, JG Ballard, although not generally associated with “suspense” as a genre, is one of my favourites, and I consider his novel “High-Rise” to be one of the most suspenseful works of fiction I’ve ever read. One more for the road, and to bring it back to Hitchcock and a writer who inspired one of his films, I insist that any fan of suspenseful fiction absolutely has to read Patricia Highsmith’s short story, “The Snail-Watcher”. It may not be the stereotype of suspense, but suspense it is!

MB: What’s coming next from Black Beacon?

CT: Big things! Worldwide success! But more specifically, our next anthology, “Tales from the Ruins”, is already being edited and will be released early next year—stay tuned for more details. It will be our first post-apocalyptic anthology and it’s going to be entertaining but also bloody scary. After that “The Second Black Beacon Book of Mystery” will get those cogs turning in the minds of all you would-be sleuths. We’re taking submissions for that one until the end of October…Halloween deadline. You’d best make room on your TBR pile because the gripping tales are coming at you hard and fast from Black Beacon Books. Visit us now, if you dare, at blackbeaconbooks.com

Cameron, thanks again, for taking time to give our readers a look into the very interesting world of Black Beacon Books. And thanks for the tips on Ballard and Highsmith. I’m a fan of both writers, so I’ll put the stories you mention on my TBR list.

Cameron Trost is an author of mystery and suspense fiction best known for his puzzles featuring Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable. He has published two novels, “Letterbox” and “The Tunnel Runner”, and three collections, “Oscar Tremont, Investigator of the Strange and Inexplicable”, “Hoffman’s Creeper and Other Disturbing Tales”, and “The Animal Inside”. He runs the independent press, Black Beacon Books, and is a lifetime member of the Australian Crime Writers Association. Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Cameron lives with his wife and two sons near Guérande in southern Brittany, between the rugged coast and treacherous marshlands. Visit him at: camerontrost.com

by  Roger Johns

Did they really happen? What were they really like?

There are those who insist those bygone days may be old, but they weren’t really as good as we remember them. Most of this claimed misapprehension is attributed to either inaccurate memory or selective memory or both. Until we can get our hands on the tapes, however, we’ll never know for sure whether we’re remembering things as they really happened or if we’re weeding out and/or reshaping the bad so that things (or we) seem better than they (we) were.

It’s also possible that a rosy view of the past could be matter of an individual’s judgment of the whole as opposed to some selective/inexact memory of the parts—an acknowledgement that the bad was there, but that it was outweighed by the good. To the extent this is true, individual disposition likely plays a role in how these judgments come out.

It may also be that those who insist the old days weren’t all that good are discounting an individual’s particularized life experience in favor of society’s collective experience of the times in question. To the extent this is true, whose ox was being gored surely plays a role. Throw in the factual inaccuracies and presentational vagaries of recorded history (both public and personal), and disentangling how we recall the past from the facts of the past becomes difficult, if not impossible. It also becomes an anvil upon which powerful literature is forged. Which is the reason behind my ruminations on the subject, in the first place.

In a recent interview I did for the release of the “A Hint of Hitchcock” anthology (containing one of my short stories) from Black Beacon Books, (a little shameless self-promotion, there) I was asked who, besides Hitchcock, were my favorite movie directors. That was easy for me: Mark Romaneck. He directed “Never Let Me Go” which was based on the book of the same name by the Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro.

The book is not normally considered crime fiction, but to my way of thinking, it most certainly is. In fact, it puts the idea of crime, itself, at the center of a fiction that illustrates, among many things, the human capacity for joy and hope, despite the foreknowledge of a looming, inescapable, dismal fate. And, it illustrates equally well the human capacity for cruelty and misery, despite the foreknowledge of a looming, inescapable, comfortable fate. It also examine how social and interpersonal forces shape our perceptions and reactions to the past and our expectations for the future. It’s a complex story that’s rarely far from my mind, and the haunting, chilling images from the movie have cast a more or less permanent spell over my thinking about how I view the past (mine, and that of the world I live in) and what it means (to me, and my fellow humans). It also serves as a constant reminder of the power of stories.

Unlike an individual’s subjective experience of the past, the words on the page or the images on the film are an objective record of what happened—fictional though they may be. We may argue over what the chronicled events mean, but the concretizing effect of putting words on the page or images on film makes it difficult to dispute what literally took place. This use of the fictional to more clearly understand the factual is an amazing process—an almost magical tool that enables us to see the past through many different eyes. So much great fiction, in general, and great crime fiction, in particular, depends on this device.

I’m always on the lookout for new examples. If you have a favorite piece of crime fiction that is grounded on differences in how the characters remember or understand and use the past, please leave a comment and let me know.

ROGER JOHNS is a former corporate attorney, a retired college professor, and the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries, Dark River Rising and River of Secrets. He is the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective·Mystery Category), a two-time Finalist for Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion Award, and runner-up for the 2019 Frank Yerby Fiction Award. His short fiction has been, or will soon be, published by Saturday Evening Post, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Dark City Crime & Mystery Magazine, After Dinner Conversation, A Hint of Hitchcock (from Black Beacon Books), and JOURN-E: The Journal of Imaginative Literature. Roger’s articles and interviews about writing and career management for new authors appear in Southern Literary Review, Writer Unboxed, Career Authors, and Southern Writers Magazine. Please visit him at: http://www.rogerjohnsbooks.com.

My Life of Crime

As an author, one of the best compliments you can receive from a reader is they really appreciated the way you “Got into the heads” of the characters, especially the criminals. Since I write thrillers and procedurals, there’s no shortage of bad guys doing bad things. The follow up question is usually something like, where did that familiarity with the criminal mind come from? While I point to my nearly thirty years immersed in that world, I know, deep down, that my understanding of the criminal world comes from something much darker…

I was a criminal

Sort of. Let me explain.

One position I held in my prison career was outside the walls in a regular office building in downtown Sacramento. During the respite from the cellblock without the chance of having urine tossed at you when you walked down the tier, I joined a commuter vanpool to make the hour and a half drive into the city. The van was ecologically friendly and allowed me to catch up on reading during the trip.

The problem was the vanpool driver was a bit of an officious jerk. As a minor functionary in a state department where he counted fruit flies in agricultural samples, he ran the vanpool like his own personal rolling gulag. Among his rules were no music, no talking, and we had a schedule to keep, so there would be no waiting for you at your stop. If you weren’t there for the evening pickup, he would not wait. I wrote the last point off as bluster until one evening he pulled away when a woman was a half a block away from her designated stop.

We yelled, “There she is!” as we spotted her running to the street corner. He didn’t care and drove off. This happened more than once, abandoning riders in the city, miles from home.

One evening, a meeting in the Governor’s office ran late. I’m watching the clock like a kid in high school waiting for the bell. It wasn’t like I could stop the meeting and say, “Sorry, gotta go.” When the meeting ended, I had less than two minutes to make it to my designated street corner for pickup, so I started hoofing it.

I’m less than half a block away and a white commuter van pulled to the curb. I speed up my pace and as I’m almost there, the van pulls away. I’m waving, trying to get the driver’s attention. He’s not so much as tapping the brakes.

A car pulls to the curb, and the driver lowers the window. “That your van?” After I told him it was, he told me to hop in. He explained he’d been in a vanpool before and knew what missing the connection was like. He stepped on the gas and shot down the street after the van.

I told him where the next stop was and the way he was shooting in and around traffic we could get to that pickup spot before the van. This guy nodded and channeled his inner Starsky & Hutch and overtaking the van. He drove alongside the white beast for another block. He’d honked his horn trying to get the driver’s attention, but nothing. The windows were blacked out, so I couldn’t see if the other passengers were signaling him to stop.

I explained how this jerk didn’t wait when passengers ran late. He tightened his grip on the wheel and told me to hang on.

In a move my rescuer must have practiced on a video game, he shot past the van and slid his car diagonally in front of the van, forcing the driver to slam on the brakes and stop the runaway commuter van. I was getting on this van.

I thanked my champion, hopped from his car, and trotted to the van.

The faces peering out from the van’s front windshield bore all the marking of shock, surprise, with a bit of fear mixed in for good measure, especially from the driver. Good.

Except for the fact this wasn’t my van. I didn’t know any of the people staring out at me. The people I’d just carjacked. I took down the wrong van.

I waved to my rescuer, and he drove off. Then a tossed a casual “Hi there,” to the confused van driver and my kidnapping victims. I shouldered my messenger bag and strode on past the van, never turning back.

A block ahead, I spotted my van pulled to the curb, waiting at my designated stop. So, I trotted to the van and climbed aboard. Never mentioning my crime spree to the occupants.

So, when readers say I’ve captured the criminal mind. I thank them, and they are content to believe it comes from my time working in and around the convict population. But you and I know, it comes from something a little more personal—when I resorted to carjacking a van full of commuters.

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been twice nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery and Best Thriller, as well as The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include Dead Drop, Black Label, At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River. L’Etoile’s Black Label garnered a Silver Falchion Award for the Best Book by an Attending Author at the 2022 Killer Nashville Conference. Look for The Devil You Know in the summer of 2023. You can find out more at www.jamesletoile.com 

The Peanut Butter Theory of Police Staffing

By Brian Thiem

Years ago, when I was working Homicide in Oakland, the department initiated another reorganization to address rising crime amid budget cutbacks. They moved units and responsibilities around and shifted resources from one part of the city to another. They decentralized investigations to make detectives accountable to neighborhoods and later moved all investigations back under a centralized investigative command structure for greater efficiency.

One of our homicide investigators was especially profound one day as we all sat around with our morning coffee working out the problems of the department, the law enforcement profession, and the world. He introduced, in an especially philosophical manner (we homicide detectives were deep thinkers about the human condition and society’s ills), the peanut butter theory of police staffing. It goes like this—if you are given a big gob of peanut butter and a loaf of bread, you can either slather all the peanut butter on one slice of bread, or smear a little bit on a dozen slices. But no matter how you spread the peanut butter, it doesn’t change the amount of peanut butter you have.

In press conferences around the country, we hear police chiefs and local politicians during crime surges announce that they will increase police patrols. Working cops cringe when they hear that. Do regular citizens really think police departments have a bunch of police officers sitting around the station doing nothing, just waiting for a crime spree so they can put on a uniform and go to work?

For a multitude of reason, which I won’t get into here, most police departments today are understrength, and most law enforcement professionals recognize the authorized (budgeted) strength of most departments is insufficient to meet the needs of their communities.

So, when police chiefs “increase patrols,” I always wonder where the officers are coming from. Sometimes, patrol officers are shifted from one part of the city to another. For instance, a few officers might be pulled from every police district and sent to District 5 to address the rash of violent crimes plaguing that area. Although that might help the immediate crime problem in District 5, the rest of the city is now shorthanded. They are not able to handle the calls for service in a timely manner and do little or no preventative patrol. Thus, crime increases there. It becomes like a game of whack-a-mole, where crime pops up in the districts with fewer police, and officers are pulled from other areas to address that, and the process continues in a never-ending battle. Remember, there is a limited amount of peanut butter.

Other times police chiefs announce officers are “pulled from the building” and put back in uniform to address the rising crime. Few departments today have sworn officers doing clerical work—those positions were civilianized decades ago. Therefore, the chief might pull detectives and put them back in uniform, which means some cases will never be investigated, leaving suspects unidentified and at large to continue to burglarize houses and cars, or to rob, rape, and murder citizens.

Or in-service training might be cancelled or postponed—critical training on hot-button topics such as handling mentally ill subjects, force de-escalation, active shooter response, or racial bias. Most of the police misconduct instances we see on the nightly news can be attributed, at least in part, to inadequate training, and policing experts agree that officers need more training, not less. Whenever officers are moved to patrol from other units, some important police functions will not be accomplished. And in the long-term, the communities suffer.

There’s no simple (or cheap) fix to dealing with rising crime, but “increasing patrols” or “pulling officers from headquarters” is not a long-term solution. That’s because, no matter how you spread the peanut butter between the slices of bread, it does not change the amount of peanut butter.

Change Your Thinking

As a writer I am always on the lookout for inspirational stories. You know the type. Stories that keep us tethered to our computers as we incessantly bang out one thousand words a day on—what we hope will be—the next great American novel.

The other day a short video appeared on my Book of Faces feed. No, not the one with the cute kittens. This one was an interview of one of my favorite actors, Michael Keaton. The crux of the interview was the way his outlook changed for the positive the day he realized that going to auditions wasn’t about chasing a job. He described the act of preparing then driving to a twenty minute, or even three minute, audition as the job. The fact that he had been called to come audition was the job, he simply needed to accept it. Once he embraced the idea, he began showing up to the auditions ready to work, instead of looking for work. I watched the clip several times and it struck a chord in me. I realized that the same mindset applies to writers.

When I first began writing in earnest, after a thirty year absence, my only goal was to write complete a novel. As I drew nearer to that goal, my sights shifted to the next Holy Grail of writing. Publication. As if only through publication could I truly call myself a writer. Hindsight has taught me that I was misguided in my thinking. The truth is that the publishing business and the writing business have little in common. I think this where most of us fall into the trap of setting our expectations too high.

As writers, we should have only one goal, to tell the best story we are capable of telling. Period. Anything beyond that is entirely out of our control. The sooner we accept this, the more satisfied we will be with our writing. Much like the epiphany experienced by Mr. Keaton, if we already think of ourselves as writers, then querying, submitting, or even agent speed dating, merely become part of our job.

If you are writing each day—working toward that first finished draft of a short story, or a novel, and improving all the time—then you’re not chasing the job. You already have it. What you are chasing now is a chance to be seen, to be read, and maybe even some recognition for your talent. In short, the icing on the cake. And as I can attest, if you truly are a writer, you’ll never stop chasing it.

Did you find yourself nodding in agreement as you read this blog? If so, congratulations. You are a writer.

Write on!

Bruce Robert Coffin for Murder Books.

http://www.brucerobertcoffin.com