Bruce Robert Coffin here, welcoming you to the new year with a bit of retrospective insight. I am now three and a half novels into my relationship with Detective Sergeant John Byron, Sergeant Diane Joyner, and the rest of the fictional 109 team. With any luck, that half will become the fourth and the saga will continue. And as hard as it is for me to believe, this year marks my seventh retired from policing.
One of the most unexpected things about writing this series has been the memories I’ve dredged up. I’m not sure whether any writer fully realizes how much of their own history they’ll be required to revisit when beginning a novel, especially a fictional one. Reliving the experiences, sometimes humorous, sometimes painful, but often traumatic, that help shape our characters and bring them to life on the page are an integral part of storytelling. Throughout the course of this series I’ve thrown Byron and Joyner into many frustrating, and sometimes dangerous, situations in order to illustrate what police officers in this country go through on a daily basis.
The job is like that. Long periods of extreme boredom followed by moments of adrenaline pumping, heart racing action and terror. Perhaps even forced to make a life or death decision, knowing that the wrong choice might well come at the ultimate price for you, or another. These moments are imprinted on the mind of every police officer where they will remain forever, constantly effecting the way we look at every situation, every person, and every relationship, even long after leaving the job. The lessons learned become ingrained into our very being. We never entirely let our guard down. Even simple things like positioning ourselves where we can observe the door, back to the wall, monitoring the comings and goings of patrons in public places. Constantly on the lookout for conflict, violence, or suspicious activity. We tend to notice things that others don’t see, things that put us on edge.
In writing the Detective Byron series I have dipped repeatedly into the well of personal experience. Some of these moments are my own, while others were borrowed from friends and co-workers and then sculpted to fit Byron’s story. My goal at the beginning was to set this series apart by incorporating as much reality as possible. Of course the stories are meant to entertain first and foremost, but I also want the reader to feel what we feel, fear what we fear, and struggle with those things that all cops struggle with.
Having written and published three Detective Byron novels, I now know how deep the well is. I’ve dipped the bucket repeatedly in search of those moments I wish to share with the reader. Usually I find exactly what I’m searching for, but sometimes even I am surprised by what I discover lurking in the depths. Things I’d long since forgotten about come bobbing to the surface, accompanied by emotions that I wish to share with the reader.
Byron and Joyner wear the invisible scars of all police officers. Fancy a peek?