Writers are supposed to write what they know. I write about cops. I should know something about them, I spent twenty years in the NYPD. But two decades inside that incredibly complex society buries you in more conflicting knowledge than you can imagine. The experience itself was a writer's goldmine; I have a vault full of stories to tell. Most of them are the flesh and blood truth, tales I simply must get out of my system. I do have a few stories, however, that I keep locked up until I'm positive certain people are dead.
My fourth novel, Nightbird, is a story of a cop investigating the death of a young Broadway actress and struggling not to let the weight of his own loss overwhelm him. This story is fiction, but I've watched enough cops battle inner demons while working a case. Detective Anthony Ryan is an intelligent and compassionate man, the moral center of my earlier books. In this novel he's faced with his most personal challenge, a situation where he can choose to follow the facts of the case, or his own broken heart.
Police work has only two advertised paths: the high road; and the one we're destined to see on the front page, the cop in handcuffs. The overwhelming majority of cops travel neither of these. It's complicated. Police work is all shades of gray, reading between the lines, flying by the seat of your pants. Cops spend their entire careers in the worst five minutes of other people's lives, and sometimes things happen where good, honest people desperately need your help. Every cop who has worked the streets has done things, most often out of simple human decency, that can ruin him or her. The ways of the world and the vagaries of the human heart do not always allow for a strict adherence to the rules. These stories are the ones we trot out at retirement parties after the statute of limitations has expired.
My goal is to get as close as I can to the truth of a life in blue. I'm tired of the TV and movie versions that exaggerate the gunplay and wild chases, while ignoring the funny things, the pure craziness cops see every day, as well as the unending flow of sad stories that snip away at a good cop's emotional fuse. I'm fascinated by the work of the NYPD, but I've always known that the soul of police writing is in the off-duty lives of the cops: the weird, hilarious stories they tell each other in cop bars, the way their personal and professional lives inevitably collide. My focus is on the different ways cops approach and are affected by their jobs. How does the fallout damage them, and in turn their wives, husbands, children, partners, and friends? This is what my work is all about. This is Nightbird.