Let's give a warm welcome to Wayne Zurl, author of A New Prospect. Please check out his website, and let me know what you think of it when you are done.
1. Please tell readers about your current book.
A NEW PROSPECT follows Sam Jenkins, a retired New York detective lieutenant when he hires on as chief of police in Prospect, Tennessee, a small city in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Sam’s first day on the job provides him with a homicide to solve. Cecil Lovejoy, a wealthy real estate developer is stabbed to death at the annual British car show.
The investigation quickly nets the chief more suspects than he ever wanted. Plus, the victim’s politically powerful widow throws a monkey wrench at the case by requesting state detectives lead the investigation. Does she doubt Jenkins’ ability or think he’s too good at his job?
The story not only shows the reader how the protagonist solves a murder in the face of political corruption, but how he uses rather unconventional means to accomplish that goal and satisfy his personal need for justice.
Other issues are also addressed: Can a middle-aged man come out of retirement and effectively lead a small law enforcement agency and can a life-long northerner, who relocates to the south, function professionally in an unfamiliar culture?
I wrote the book using authentic language and knowledge of police procedures I gained from twenty years of supervisory and investigative experience with the Suffolk County Police Department in New York.
2. Who or what inspires your writing?
I admit having more memory than imagination. After working as a police officer in New York, I have lots of interesting stories to retell. I like to take basic story ideas from cases I worked, supervised, or knew about and embellish them, fictionalize everything, and transplant them to Tennessee. To paraphrase Jack Webb at the ending of an episode of DRAGNET, “Only the names are changed to protect the guilty.”
You used the word inspire. It’s not unusual for me to get inspiration (from who-knows-what) while I’m writing one thing and send myself off on another project. Several of my novelettes were born like that.
3. When did you know you would be a writer?
After I retired and moved to Tennessee, I volunteered at a state park and wrote publicity for their living history program. Those articles were published in magazines dealing with historical reenacting. I wrote other pieces dealing with Colonial American history and the fiction of James Fenimore Cooper—twenty-six in all. When I began losing enthusiasm for non-fiction, I thought about fiction. Using the author’s maxim of write about what you know, I decided to take a retired New York cop and make him a police chief in Tennessee. I could cover two bases with that idea. Getting the fiction published was more effort than I envisioned.
4. How long did it take you to write your first novel?
That’s almost impossible to answer because of how disjointed the process was. When I started on A NEW PROSPECT I knew very little about what a publisher in this new millennium wanted to see in a police mystery from a new writer. Initially, my story was too short. Then I started with too much back-story on the main character. After refining it twice, I needed to get the “dead body” closer to the opening chapter. So, because I ended up with a few products I mistakenly thought were finished, it took me a long time. I began writing in early 2006. I received a contract to publish it in August, 2010.
5. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I believe I’m over the most difficult thing about writing I experienced. When I began writing fiction, I wrote almost like a police report, covering every possible detail. A “book doctor” taught me about “arrive late – leave early.”
It took me a long time to grasp that concept and get into a lean, minimum amount of words mode. In real life, a cop would get crucified in court if he or she left so much to the reader’s imagination. But in fiction, less is more. I like writing that way and pay serious attention the way Robert B. Parker did it. He was the master of the style.
6. Do you have any writing rituals?
Rituals? I’m kind of loose with my work ethic. I sit in a wing-back chair with a legal pad and pen and go at it. If it’s after 4 p.m. and a literary inspiration strikes me, I usually have a drink on the lamp table next to my chair. Once I get my basic thoughts on paper, I type it as a Word document and then start proof reading. I don’t outline first—that’s too much like work. If my story has a critical timeline which has to be followed carefully to maintain continuity, I keep an outline of days and even hours. Generally, though, I just get an idea and wing it.
7. Have you written any thing else?
Besides A NEW PROSPECT which is available in print and various eBook formats, I’ve written eight novelettes that are available as audio books and eBooks. I have a second novel from the Sam Jenkins series ready to go. It’s called A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and is based on the most bizarre investigation I ever supervised. I hope the readers will believe it.
8. Any advice to aspiring writers?
That’s easy. NEVER GIVE UP! Before you embark on your project, know what the industry is currently looking for. Query every agent who handles your genre. If you strike out there, submit to any publisher who will deal with you directly. If that fails and you still believe in your book, investigate self-publishing. I know a few good writers who have done that and they have produced excellent novels. In any case, be ready to do some shameless self-promotion and intensive post-publication marketing. Books do not sell themselves.
9. Who is your favorite Author?
Narrowing it down to only one is difficult. I admire several for different reasons.
James Lee Burke for his ability with descriptions of people and places. He’s brilliant; poetic. Robert B. Parker for being able to tell a story in a minimum number of words. Nelson DeMille for having an almost endless supply of quality smart-ass dialogue from his character, Detective John Corey. And Bernard Cornwell for his ability to write historical fiction and especially a battle scene. When I finish a few of the action chapters he wrote, I need a double martini.
10. What is your favorite book?
Another tough question to give a single answer. I guess most of Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe novels or any one from his Saxon Tales series.
11. What are you currently reading?
HELL TO PAY by George Pelecanos. My former partner recommended it. He says Pelecanos is a bad-ass.
12. How do readers find out more about you?
I have a website that covers my biography and offers a lot of information about Sam Jenkins and all the currently available books. I also provide links to any published review, interview, or endorsement, a promotional video for A NEW PROSPECT, photos of the area where the stories take place, a chronology of the stories for people who like to read them in the order of occurrence, and even a section I can ad to myself. I call it a diary. I have a mental block about saying I have a blog. It makes me think I need medication.
A Note From the Author:
To sum it up, I think anyone who wants to read an authentic police novel, written by an ex-cop who has assembled a cast of realistic, quirky characters and allows a middle-aged guy to be the hero should buy A NEW PROSPECT. It was named best mystery and won an Indie at the 2011 Independent Publisher’s Book Awards.
Sorry, no vampires, zombies, or teenage werewolves—only a good old-fashioned murder solved by old-fashioned police work.
Sam Jenkins never thought about being a fish out of water during the twenty years he spent solving crimes in New York. But things change, and after retiring to Tennessee, he gets that feeling. Jenkins becomes a cop again and is thrown headlong into a murder investigation and a steaming kettle of fish, down-home style. The victim, Cecil Lovejoy, couldn't have deserved it more. His death was the inexorable result of years misspent and appears to be no great loss, except the prime suspect is Sam's personal friend. Jenkins' abilities are attacked when Lovejoy's influential widow urges politicians to reassign the case to state investigators. Feeling like "a pork chop at a bar mitzvah in his new workplace, Sam suspects something isn't kosher when the family tries to force him out of the picture. In true Jenkins style, Sam turns common police practice on its ear to insure an innocent man doesn't fall prey to an imperfect system and the guilty party receives appropriate justice. A NEW PROSPECT takes the reader through a New South resolutely clinging to its past and traditional way of keeping family business strictly within the family.
Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Purchase at Amazon