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 produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl’s first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and HEROES & LOVERS. A fourth novel, PIGEON RIVER BLUES, is under contract to be published in the near future.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.
Depends on the season and the weather. Summer: Tanqueray and tonic. Winter, temperate weather: Glenfiddich single-malt whisky. On cold damp funky days: Laphroiag.
I love all kinds of ethnic foods, but if you must pin me down: Mediterranean—Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern.
Another tossup. Scotland or Alaska.
TV show –
We only watch 2 or 3 network shows a week, otherwise it’s Netflix. How about NCIS on Tuesday and if PBS is running a good Masterpiece Mystery on Sunday, that one?
Based solely on the storyline, The Magnificent Seven.
Current book title:
HEROES & LOVERS
Brief synopsis of your book:
Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold. It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.”
Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas.
Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins, the ex-New York detective and now police chief in Prospect, Tennessee, with a fraud investigation sounded exciting and would get her an exclusive story.
But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed man, ruined several days of her life.
When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing he mobilizes all personnel at Prospect PD and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.
During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.
After a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produces an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend. But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.
What was the inspiration for your novel?
Like most of my novels and novelettes, HEROES & LOVERS is based on actual incidents I encountered in New York. I transplant them to East Tennessee and let Sam Jenkins do all the work. Rachel Williamson’s abduction was inspired by the assault and attempted rape of a young woman who worked in our department as a secretary. I changed it to a kidnapping to prolong the tension and draw out the ultimate resolution. That wasn’t my case, but many people volunteered to work on their own time until a suspect was arrested. It was a great illustration for why not to mess with a member of the police family.
Please share three interesting facts about your book which are not covered in the synopsis.
1) HEROES & LOVERS is actually four separate and independent real life cases which after melded together became one story.
2) Any relationship between a police officer and reporter (and also an FBI agent) is most unusual. I like things to be nice in my books, so Sam becomes friends with Rachel and Ralph Oliveri, and on occasion they work closely.
3) Sam’s 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 is worth about half as much as many of the homes in the Prospect, Tennessee area.
Do you have a favourite character from your current novel?
This shows just how fickle and indecisive I can be. I like three. Sam’s wife, Kate Jenkins, Sergeant Bettye Lambert, and TV reporter, Rachel Williamson. These women have it all. They’re good-looking, smart, professionally successful . . . and they know how to manipulate Sam.
If you could pick any well known or famous author to review your book who would you pick and why?
If he were still alive, I’d pick Robert B. Parker because my books most resemble his minimalist style and integrate the ever-present humor in a cop’s life with the often horrific incidents they work with daily. Parker taught creative writing. I was a cop. I think he could have sharpened my writing and in recompense, I could have given him a few technical pointers to pass on to Spenser or Jesse Stone. Now that he’s gone, I’d pick James Lee Burke. I love his novels, but our styles are very different. His work is much more cerebral than mine. But he’s also a college professor, so I’d like to tap into his brain for those pointers.
What, or who, inspired you to write?
Let’s go back to Robert B. Parker. When I read his first Jesse Stone novel, NIGHT PASSAGE, I liked the concept of a big town detective becoming a small town police chief. I thought if he could take an LAPD cop and transplant him into a coastal Massachusetts town, (Parker lived in Massachusetts) why couldn’t I take a retired New York detective and make him a chief in rural Tennessee? I could cover two of the things with which I was familiar and cash in on the ‘write what you know’ maxim.
Did you do any research for your most recent book?
For HEROES & LOVERS, no. I previously mentioned using a few cases I dealt with in New York. Sam Jenkins is what NY cops call a dinosaur, he’s been around since the tail end of the wild and woolly days and does things the old-fashioned way that I know. That’s what makes him unique in a young person’s profession. The Smoky Mountain region where I now live provides another key element to the story. I’ve been here long enough to get the civics and local geography down pat. If I need a tip on current methods of forensic investigation, I call a friend who’s a crime scene investigator in the county sheriff’s office.
What genre does your book fall into?
A solid police procedural with a pinch of thriller that’s just this side of hard-boiled detective.
Which genres do you enjoy reading?
Realistic police mysteries, old-fashioned detective stories, and historical fiction.
What is the first book you remember reading that affected how you thought or felt about something?
Kenneth Roberts’ NORTHWEST PASSAGE, the story of Major Robert Rogers. I first read it as a boy because I was always fascinated with colonial American history and I knew the area where it took place. Later, as a young man, I read it again because I saw so many parallels between the 18th century French & Indian War and the Vietnam War. The Army issued a copy of ROGERS’ RULES FOR RANGING to soldiers during their orientation to Vietnam. They were written in 1755.
Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?
1) Someone gave me a copy of James Lee Burke’s BLACK CHERRY BLUES and started me reading mysteries. I’ll always place Burke on my list of favorites and admit I’ll never be as technically as good as he, because my mind doesn’t work in the directions his does. Burke can describe people, places and events with pure poetry. He can also take you into a character’s head in psychological and philosophical ways that I admire.
2) I mentioned Robert B. Parker twice before. I like everything he wrote—Spenser, Jesse Stone, Sonny Randal, and the other non-series novels. His strong point is an easy-going, minimalist style. From him, I’ve gotten the urge to tell my stories in the fewest possible words. He did that quite well. I’m working on it.
3) I’ve read every piece of fiction and several of the non-fiction books from Joseph Wambaugh. He’s excellent with police procedurals because he’s an ex-cop. He gets the details right and doesn’t pander to expected formulas. His books aren’t for the action junkie who likes the unrealistic, over-the-top, fantasy police novels some bestselling authors peddle. Joe writes interesting, compelling, and real police stories.
Have you ever had a book you enjoy re-reading?
I’ve read NORTHWEST PASSAGE three times. It’s remarkably accurate for a piece of fiction. I’ve read that his publisher and editor considered Kenneth Roberts a pain-in-the-ass because, regardless of deadlines, he wouldn’t submit something unless he was satisfied that he’d covered all the historic facts and technicalities thoroughly and realistically.
Do you read a book, while you are writing a book?
Always. When I finish one, I start another.
How many books have you written? Which book is your favourite and why?
I have four complete full-length novels,(three have been published and one is in the second round of edits) two-and-a-half more roughed out, twenty novelettes that are under contract and are either being published or coming soon, and one novelette I just completed that’s almost ready to submit.
I should like A NEW PROSPECT best because it was the first, but I’ll say number two, A LEPRECHAUN’s LAMENT, because it tells the sorry of the most bizarre and frustrating case I investigated in twenty years. I didn’t write that first because I doubted if anyone would believe it could really happen. But the basic story is fact and even the dialogue is pretty accurate. Only, Bridget, the beautiful Irish girl came from my overly active imagination.
Is there anything that helps get you in the mood to write?
When I first began writing fiction in 2006, I’d get ideas at the strangest times; I’d wake up at 3:00 in the morning with what I thought was a super idea, or I’d be doing 70 MPH on an Interstate and something would remind me of a case that would make a good story. As soon as I could get to a pad and pen I’d start writing. Now the motivation is not as strong and I can’t hold my enthusiasm as long. I write for a couple hours and move on to something else. I write when the right words are in my head. And I don’t feel bad that I’ve become less eager and as driven as before because I read that Robert B. Parker only wrote one chapter a day and then he puttered around with other things.
What were three challenges you faced when writing your book?
1) Learn the 21st century format demanded by publishers and the current crop of readers. I was horribly out of date. When I finished the first draft of A NEW PROSPECT, I hired a book doctor to evaluate my manuscript. He gave me good news and bad news. He liked my style and writing voice, but he said, “This would be a hit in 1985. For today, you need to completely re-format the story.” So, I jumped through hoops to get my message across in a style a publisher would look at.
2) Keep my stories from looking like police reports. That book doctor taught me how to breeze past all the copious details necessary in something that may end up in court, but that might put a casual reader to sleep.
3) With a completed manuscript in hand, I began the long road toward traditional publishing—agents and query letters, rejections, publishers willing to accept submissions directly from an author, rejections, the first reasonable contract from a publisher willing to take a chance on me and Sam Jenkins and all the boys and girls from Prospect, Tennessee.
What lessons have you learned as an aspiring writer?
Arrive late and leave early. I’ve learned not to crowd a story or slow it down with too many facts or ‘information dumps’ as some people call them or overly long descriptions and lead-ins to a new scene. It’s not necessary to chronicle your character’s every movement en route to the next bit of important action. I’d rather leave a few things to the reader’s imagination. That way, they can, in essence, personalize the novel. Drop a reader into an ongoing situation and then take them elsewhere without much preamble or postscript. Tell your story in the fewest possible words.
Do you have any tricks, outlines, or methods that help you overcome writer’s block?
I’m lucky not to experience the traditional writer’s block. Because I rely on real life incidents to form my basic storylines, I start out with something that only needs to be fictionalized and embellished. Sometimes I struggle with how to transplant a New York case into the totally different culture of Southern Appalachia. Generally, my wife is the greatest source of good ideas and it only costs me a smile and bottle of wine to get her help. And she knows I’ll take her to lunch whenever the royalty checks come in.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned, either in the self-publishing or traditional publisher, route?
The publishing business is not for real. What I should say is, the traditional publishing business is not about great writing or marvellous literature. Self-publishing may be different because writers tend to choose what they print without interference from the people who are fronting the money. They have more control over their destiny.
As an award-winning veteran writer told me, “You don’t have to be good, you just have to be marketable.”
I’m often disappointed with some of the bestselling books I read. Occasionally, I toss them aside before I finish a hundred pages. I’ll only invest so much of my suspension of disbelief before I lose interest or become annoyed. I need a plausible story. Too many authors sacrifice reality for trendiness. This is where I argue with success.
What is your favourite thing about being an author?
I enjoy meeting people at traditional ‘sit-down-and-smile-for-the-customer’ book signings for three reasons. I’m a hopeless people watcher, I like to talk about myself and my books, and since, for twenty years, I was fairly successful at wrangling confessions out of felons, I have a good chance of talking someone into buying my books.
When people know that you’re an author, what is your least favourite question that they ask you?
More often I hear statements rather than questions. When I was a cop, I used to hate when people told me about the time they received a traffic ticket and were convinced they’d gotten sandbagged by the uniformed cop because he/she had to fill a quota. 99% of the time they were guilty, but just wouldn’t admit it. It didn’t take long before I stopped telling people I met I was a cop. Instead, I said I worked in pest control. It wasn’t too far off the mark.
I’m no longer a cop and I don’t grit my teeth quite as hard, but I wish people wouldn’t expect me to go over the moon when they tell me something about their lives and say, “You should write a book about that.” Only another writer knows the necessity for the ‘extreme inspiration’ or the ‘inspired connection’ it takes before you can jump through the hoops it takes to bring a story to life on paper.
How can people connect with you?
Where can readers find your book?
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/waynezurl
B&N author page: http://barnesandnoble.com/s/wayne-zurl
Mind Wings Audio author page: http://mindwingsaudio.com/?s=wayne+zurl
Most recent novel, HEROES & LOVERS
Amazon direct link: http://www.amazon.com/Heroes-Lovers-Wayne-Zurl/dp/0985138890/ref=sr_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346682245&sr=1-16&keywords=wayne+zurl
A few of the other awesome books by