In a semi-professional sense I used to write non-fiction magazine articles that corresponded with a volunteer job I took after retiring from my police job. After ten years of that and the onset of a burned-out feeling, I needed a creative outlet. I thought I’d try writing fiction. Even if I never sold anything, stacking up manuscripts made more sense than trying to find a place to put model airplanes or oil paintings.
Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be? I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?
I believe everyone’s concept (or dream) of being a writer is banging away on a typewriter in some furnished room in Paris or on the veranda of some garden spot overlooking a beautiful body of water and then adjourning to a local gin mill after hours to socialize with others of similar pursuits. Then after publication, you take a rest and when the inspiration hits you beginning the process all over again. The publisher’s marketing people take care of selling your books, make bookings and travel arrangements for your traditional book signings, and your life is fun and simple. After coming down from Cloud Nine, we know that that dream is complete hogwash. After you write your version of the great American novel, you become all too familiar with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and any of the modern electronic social media venues necessary to peddle your books.
But if you like to see what you’ve written in print and hear a few kind individuals who take their valuable time to positively review what you’ve done, you feel good about the venture.
Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?
For my first novel, A NEW PROSPECT, which was published in 2011, I began the traditional process of looking for an agent. I received so many rejections, I considered changing my deodorant. These came from people who never read one word of my book. Then I looked for any publisher who would accept submissions directly from a writer and I promised myself to accept the first reasonable contract offered. I was lucky enough to find someone willing to take a chance on me and Sam Jenkins. Just before getting the novel under contract, I found a publisher looking for novelette-length stories destined to be produced as one-hour audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. I remained with her from just shortly after she opened her doors in 2008 until she stopped taking new work in 2014. That amounted to twenty novelettes from the series.
What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry (e.g. rejections, the long wait, etc.)
Most agents never write more than, “Sorry, not for us,” when they reject your idea. One nitwit had the courtesy to write back with a suggestion. His words of wisdom were: “Your main character, a sixty-year-old retired New York cop who takes a chief’s job in Tennessee, just isn’t trendy. If you consider making him a young vampire private eye from Orange County who fights crime in a Batman-like, vigilante style, I think it would fly. Get back to me and we might do something.” At that point, I gave up on finding an agent.
What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?
I hate how the world has changed. No more stickball, no trips to the beach as a family during those summer vacations from school, no old-fashioned kids playing with their friends. Too much texting and farting about with cell phones.
About The Anthology Collection
Title: From New York To The Smokies
Author: Wayne Zurl
Series: 5 Book Anthology Collection from the Sam Jenkins Mystery Series
Publisher: Melange Books, LLC
Publication Date: April 16, 2015
Format: Paperback - 163 pages / eBook / PDF
Genre: Mystery / Police Procedural
Buy The Anthology Collection:
Author Wayne Zurl is back with his popular Sam Jenkins Mysteries Series. From New York To The Smokies is a 5 book anthology collection from the Sam Jenkins Mysteries Series!
THE BOAT TO PRISON
Seventeen-year-old Sam Jenkins is busy fishing and falling in love with a girl named Kate. But with a father involved with the union and a divorced mother, Sam often finds himself acting like the adult of the family. During a fishing trip off Long Island, Sam overhears a conversation involving dangerous plans that can land his dad in jail. To keep his father out of prison, Sam teams up with detectives from the county’s rackets bureau and enlists the help of two friends to pull off an operation far beyond their usual high school curriculum.
Police community Service Aide Liz Lopez should be in fine spirits—she’s in line for a promotion to police officer and a raise. But her sullen demeanor tells her boss, Lieutenant Sam Jenkins, that Liz is anything but happy. Jenkins begins an unofficial investigation to find out what’s going on. The detective learns of a bizarre home life and a dark secret Liz keeps under wraps. FAVORS is a story of how the police take care of their own—in an honest and compassionate way.
ANGEL OF THE LORD
A killer is on the loose in Prospect, Tennessee. He strikes repeatedly, each time leaving a cryptic message for the police to find. By the time a fifth body turns up, Police Chief Sam Jenkins is under pressure—either solve the murders or bring in outside help. But the chief’s ego won’t allow others to work his cases. And at the eleventh hour he tracks down a prime suspect, but death is only seconds away for the next victim.
MASSACRE AT BIG BEAR CREEK
A misunderstanding between hunters rapidly escalates into a battle not seen in Southern Appalachia since the Hatfield and McCoy feud. As bodies pile up faster than evidence, Sam Jenkins and the officers of Prospect PD scour the remote hills and valleys of East Tennessee and North Carolina to solve a case that reads more like an old west adventure than a modern police drama.
ODE TO WILLIE JOE
Prospect, Tennessee Police Chief Sam Jenkins receives two reports of UFO sightings in three days. The gritty ex-New York detective doesn’t believe in coincidence…or space aliens, but he can’t find anything to explain a glowing spaceship and little green men—until he sends Sergeant Stan Rose and Officer Junior Huskey to Campbell’s Woods. They call in a startling discovery, and the investigation begins.
From ANGEL OF THE LORD
The rain never stopped. From early June through late August, it poured or drizzled almost every day. I thought if I stood still too long I might begin to mold. It reminded me of the monsoons in Southeast Asia.
Drops of rain falling from the brim of my cap were exceeded only by the young woman’s tears.
“When did you see the boy last?” I asked.
“Right after breakfast. He went into the living room to watch TV, and I started doing laundry in the basement.”
“And when you came upstairs he was gone?”
More tears rolled over her cheeks as she stood there, wringing her hands. “Yes.”
“Was your door locked?”
“Lord have mercy, no.”
“Is your son’s rain jacket here?”
She shrugged and cried a little more.
“Let’s look,” I suggested.
We walked to the mud room off the kitchen. A small hooded jacket hung on one of the five pegs over an antique wooden chair not six feet from the back door. A small pair of bright blue rubber Wellingtons sat on the floor.
“You call for him outside?”
“Of course. I ran all around.”
Without the puffy eyes and fear scarring her face, Emily Suttles would have been an attractive brunette.
“And then you called 9-1-1?”
“What was he watching?”
“I don’t know. He knows how to work the TV.”
“You turn it off?”
“One of the policemen did.”
“Let’s take a look.”
She stared at me as if I had two heads. “Why?”
Back in the living room, Emily picked up the remote control and turned on a flat screen about the size of a stretch van. The American Movie Classics channel came on playing a scene from Halloween 4.
“Did you or the cops look through the house?” I asked.
“Yes, of course.”
“Slowly or quick?”
“Quick. I was frantic.”
“Let’s try again. Where’s Elijah’s room?”
“Upstairs.” Emily began to look impatient. “I know he’s not there.”
We walked upstairs anyway. I looked under the bed. Nothing. The boy’s mother called his name. More nothing. I opened the closet. Huddled in the left corner, leaning against the wall, four-year-old Elijah Suttles slept peacefully, a small flashlight in his right hand. I shook his knee.
“Hey, partner, you doing okay in here?”
He opened his eyes, blinked rapidly, and looked frightened.
“Take it easy, son. I’m a policeman. Your mom couldn’t find you and asked for some help.”
“Jesus have mercy, Elijah,” his mother said, “you ‘bout scared me half ta death. You come out here right now, young man.”
“Go slow, Mrs. Suttles. He probably had a good reason to hide in here. Didn’t you, son?”
The little boy nodded, but still looked scared.
“Something happen on the TV?”
“Ready to come out now?”
The boy stuck out a hand, and I pulled. Once on his feet, he scrambled to his mother and locked onto her leg, mumbling an apology.
“Some of these slasher movies scare me, too,” I said. “He just ran from the killer on the screen. Wasn’t a bad idea.”
Emily Suttles hugged her son, looked at me, and said, “Thank you.”
“I’ll call the three officers and let them know your son’s safe.”
I switched on the ignition in my unmarked Crown Victoria and keyed the microphone. “Prospect-one to headquarters and all units. The missing child has been found. Resume patrol. Five-twelve, close out the call at 1015 hours.”
PO Johnny Rutledge acknowledged. “10-4, Prospect-one.”
“Five-oh-nine, I copy that,” Billy Puckett said.
After a long moment of silence, Sergeant Bettye Lambert, our desk officer, broke in. “Unit 513, five-one-three, do you copy?”
“Anyone know 513’s 10-35?” I asked.
“Joey was goin’ house ta house, east end o’ the street,” Puckett said.
“I’m probably the closest,” I said. “I’ll check.”
Just as I shifted into reverse, PO Joey Gillespie spoke on the radio.
“513 ta Prospect-one. Boss, ya gonna need ta see this. 1175 Benny Stillwell Road, obvious 10-5.”
10-5 is our brevity code for a homicide.
* * * *
Two men lay face down on the kitchen floor. One with a shaved head made it easy to see the small caliber bullet hole at the base of his skull—a .25 perhaps or more likely a .22. Blood trickled from the wound down past his right ear, over a thick neck, and onto the Mexican tile floor. The other victim’s blood oozed to his left. Funny, the little details you notice at the scene of a murder.
“You call crime scene and the ME?” I asked.
“Yessir, had Miss Bettye do it right after I called ya.”
I nodded and looked around the kitchen of a relatively new and expensive home. “Big house.”
Joey Gillespie nodded.
“At least 4,000 square feet,” I guessed. “And quality. These guys had bucks.”
He nodded again and looked a little queasy.
“The air hasn’t come on recently. In this humidity blood tends to stink quicker. Smell bother you?”
“Yessir, I ain’t used ta this.”
“Nobody gets used to it, kid. You just learn to ignore it.”
“You search the rest of the house?”
“Jest looked on the first floor ta see if there was anybody here.”
“Nosir. On a slab.”
“Let’s go upstairs.”
I drew my old Smith & Wesson from the holster on my right hip, and Joey pulled out his .40 caliber Glock.
“Look around, and pay attention. Don’t watch me. There’s probably no one here, but we’ll do this by the numbers.”
“Yessir. I’m right behind ya.”
We made a quick sweep of the first floor, opening all the closets before ascending the stairs. The landing above left us in a hallway with what looked like four bedrooms, two baths and two closet doors. We found nothing in the guest johns or closets. A lack of personal property in three of the bedrooms led me to believe they were set also aside for guests. We looked further in the master suite and discovered two closets holding clothing for two different people.
“I guess the two guys slept t’gether,” Joey said.
“Not strange, just a minority.”
Two car doors slammed out front.
“Let’s see who’s here,” I suggested.
Jackie Shuman and David Sparks, crime scene investigators from the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, had arrived and stood in the foyer holding cameras and forensic kits. Moments later, Deputy Medical Examiner Morris Rappaport and his assistant Earl Ogle pulled up in the morgue wagon.
“How’d ya find these two?” Jackie asked of no one in particular.
“I’s checkin’ the neighborhood for a missin’ child,” Joey said. “Got no answer here, but there was two cars in the driveway and the garage was closed. Figgered someone’s home, so I walked ‘round back and seen them layin’ here on the floor.”
“Nice wheels out there,” David said.
“Audi S7 and an F-Type Jag,” I said. “Pushing a hundred grand apiece.”
“And they’re relatively new, right?” Morris asked.
“The Jag’s new, and the Audi’s not far behind.”
“With these two sporty drivers, why do you suppose there’s an oil spot on the concrete driveway?”
“Good question, Mo,” I said. “Something for our ace evidence technicians to explore.”
“We’ll git’er done,” Jackie said.
“And take pictures of this table top. Someone ruined a nice antique.”
Jackie looked closer at the numbers someone crudely scratched into the mellow wood finish.
“Thirteen thirteen,” he said. “Wonder what that means?”
“Two unlucky numbers,” Morris said.
“Two unlucky guys,” I said. “Has to mean something. Finding out will keep me from playing in the traffic.”
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE
About The Author
Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Twenty (20) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been published as eBooks and many produced as audio books. Zurl has won Eric Hoffer and Indie Book Awards, and was named a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award.
His full-length novels are: A NEW PROSPECT, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, HEROES & LOVERS, and PIGEON RIVER BLUES.
His full-length novels are: A NEW PROSPECT, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, HEROES & LOVERS, and PIGEON RIVER BLUES.
The all new FROM NEW YORK TO THE SMOKIES, an anthology of five Sam Jenkins mysteries is available in print and eBook, published by Melange Books, LLC.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You may read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.
Connect with Wayne Zurl: