Shortly after World War Two I was born in Brooklyn, New York. Although I never wanted to leave a community with such an efficient trolley system, I had little to say in my parents’ decision to pick up and move to Long Island where I grew up.
Like most American males of the baby-boomer generation, I spent my adolescence
wanting to be a cowboy, soldier, or policeman. Those aspirations were not based on any
intellectual reasoning, but rather on what I saw in movies and later on television. The Vietnam War and subsequent years in the Army Reserves satisfied my need to play soldier.
After returning to the US and separating from active duty, the New York State Employment Service told me I possessed no marketable civilian skills. So I became a cop and spent twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. That was as close to military life as I could find. Now that I’m retired from the police service, I still like the cowboy idea, but I doubt my lower back could take too many hours in the saddle.
In 1992 my wife, Barbara, and I relocated to the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. After building a new home on five acres of what was once the Revolutionary War land grant given to a man named Josiah Gamble, I found myself
with little to do except tend a garden. Not an exciting existence for a guy who had spent
most of his days supervising police investigators. So I volunteered at the Fort Loudoun
State Park and wrote publicity articles showcasing their living history program. Those
stories led to other magazine articles about colonial American history and later, the
fiction of James Fenimore Cooper. Ten years and twenty-six published articles later, I
wanted to try writing fiction. And based on the writer’s maxim of write what you know, I
chose to begin a series of police mysteries about a retired New York detective who took a job as police chief in rural Tennessee.
Getting my first book published involved a difficult four-year journey where, along
the way, I wrote shorter novelette-length stories for practice. Those Sam Jenkins mysteries were of a length I found virtually unsellable to mainstream magazines. But luckily, I ran into a publisher looking for 8,000-to-11,000-word fiction destined to become 55-to-70-minute “commuter” audio books, read by professional actors. They were also simultaneously published as eBooks. I have seven currently in production and two more under contract for the near future. In January 2011, my full-length novel, A New Prospect, was traditionally published, and in May it was named best mystery at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. A second novel featuring Sam Jenkins and all the girls and boys from Prospect, Tennessee, A Leprechaun’s Lament, is scheduled for publication shortly.
Through the wonderful world of social networking, I've had the opportunity
to connect with Wayne. In our many fun messages back and forth
I discovered something we have in common. When I found this out
I patiently waited several months, but it was worth the wait,
to be able to finally create this quick surprise video.
Wayne, this ones' for you...
~ ~ ~
EXCERPT FROM A NEW PROSPECT:
I dressed in gray slacks, a blue-and-white plaid shirt and my blue blazer. It was
time to interview the grieving widow…
I pulled off the blacktop road and stopped in front of two tall black-iron gates.
A stanchion stood to my left with a key-pad for residents and honored guests who
knew the secret numbers to open the portals automatically. A button next to a speaker
allowed tradesmen and guys like me to announce our presence. I pushed the button and in a few moments a male voice answered my hail…
Pearl Lovejoy looked around my age…The home and her appearance made me think that you could indeed be both too rich and too thin. I would have bet a pension check she was anorexic. Her clothes looked too flashy for someone her age—expensive, but ostentatious. She hung enough gold on her fingers, wrists, neck, and ears to make Mr. T jealous…
“Mrs. Lovejoy,” I said, “please accept my condolences. I’m sorry for your loss.”
I looked from Pearl to Juanita to Randy, and ended up looking at Fatso. “I hope you
don’t mind a few questions.”
Pearl didn’t offer to shake hands. She immediately sat on a wide, ornate sofa
without commenting. I returned to the chair I previously occupied and felt as welcome
as a root canal.
“What business was your husband in?” I asked. “Or was he retired?”
“My husband still worked,” she said, exuding haughtiness unequaled in my recent experience. “He was the most successful land developer in Blount County. He also owned a large and highly successful construction company.”
I guess she thought the old reprobate was successful. “Has he had any recent problems with anyone? Problems that may have precipitated a heated argument that ended up this way?”
“My husband had problems with no one, thank you very much.”
Only two questions and she sounded impatient. I just looked at her for a long moment.
Without prompting, she continued. “I know of no one Cecil would consider an enemy, and surely no one would ever mean him any harm or harbor any ill feelings towards him.”
I wondered if we were talking about the same Cecil Lovejoy. I only knew him for thirty minutes and I wanted to drop him down an elevator shaft. Hell, there are people out there who harbor ill feelings against Santa Claus. Surely someone took issue with Cecil’s lousy personality. I didn’t buy her answer and thought rephrasing the question may convey my disbelief. “Someone murdered your husband, Mrs. Lovejoy. Please think carefully. Did he ever mention anyone he encountered—in business perhaps—who held a grudge over something—anything? Was he ever sued, or . . . I don’t know . . . Did he ever tell you he had a serious argument with someone?”
Her annoyance manifested itself with a condescending response to my question, one meant to put me in my place. Pearl made a sweeping gesture with her hand, taking in the overstated room and asked, “Do you think, sir, that all this could possibly indicate that anyone out there would do anything but admire and respect my poor, dear, dead husband? Do you, sir?”
I heard the question, but I didn’t answer. Either Pearl wallowed deeply in the first stage of grief or she told me a fib. Her rationale just didn’t hold water. Her attitude went past the point of wearing thin.
She then surprised me by saying, “Chief, I frankly can’t understand why you are askin’ me all these questions when you will be turnin’ this case over to the state bureau of investigation.”
“I believe someone has misinformed you, Mrs. Lovejoy. The officers from the Prospect Police Department and I will be conducting the investigation.”
“I am sure, Chief,” she said, shaking her head slightly and breaking a condescending smile, “that you are a nice man and you mean well, but surely you don’t wish to tell me you think y’all can do as good a job as a large state agency.”
“Yes, ma’am, I certainly do mean that. I have twenty years experience with a large police department, thirteen of those years as a detective supervisor. I can assure you we’ll do a first-rate job investigating the death of your husband. And we have the help of the county’s medical examiner and forensics people. In a small city like Prospect, a crime like this should be resolved very quickly.”
So there you old bat.
Apparently my sales pitch didn’t inspire much confidence. Mrs. Lovejoy rose without further comment, held out a bony hand, and said, “Thank you for your time, Mr. Jenkins.” She then turned and left the room, leaving me blatantly pissed off.
LINKS FOR WAYNE:
My website: http://www.waynezurlbooks.net
Amazon page: Amazon.com: Wayne Zurl: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle http://amzn.to/t33aYZ
Barnes & Noble page: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl
You Tube promotional trailer, A NEW PROSPECT: http://bit.ly/tReveG