What’s the deal with your pen name? Is the book, A Good Bunch of Men, about you and your partner? How did you start writing?
As my readership grows, I realize there are many who do not know me personally and might be interested in the backstory.
As is the case with life, we never know just where the journey might take us.
When, How, and Why (I started writing)
In December, 2004 I retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after just over 21 years of service. I had not anticipated doing so, and while trying to start my second career, I found myself with plenty of time on my hands. I have always enjoyed writing, so I wrote short stories and a few articles. One of my articles was published in a magazine, and they actually paid me for it!
Being the type who is always searching for a new challenge, I decided to write a book. How difficult could it be?
So I did, and then I attended a writer’s conference where I presented my masterfully scribed first book to both an agent and a publisher. It turns out it isn’t so easy to write a book after all, and the reviews of my work made it clear I had a lot to learn. (There is quite a difference between writing police reports and writing creative prose.)
They say you need to write a book to learn how to write a book. So I essentially scrapped the first book and began a second with my newly acquired knowledge of writing.
This next effort would be a novel about two homicide detectives. They would be life-long partners and best friends. They would be tough, smart, funny, flawed, compassionate, serious, and also complex. At least one of them would have to be handsome and charming, because isn’t one always?
I had just the two in mind.
Nom de Plume (The Pen Name)
I wanted to use a pen name, if for no other reason than anonymity (paranoid cop stuff). In a brilliant display of my creative genius, I looked no further than the names of the two characters in my book, Dickie and Floyd. (A lot of thought went into that!)
“Pretty Boy Floyd” is what I called my friend and partner back in our early patrol days at Firestone Station. It fit him like a glove, so it caught on quickly and stuck with him through the years. To this day my (now adult) children call him, “Uncle Floyd.”
Floyd, in turn, began calling me Dickie, though I can’t remember exactly when and nobody seems to know why. A friend recently inquired, so I went directly to the source: “Hey Floyd, why do you call me, ‘Dickie’?”
His response: “Who the f*#& knows?”
The title came from a Floyd-ism. He coined the phrase and often used it, thusly: “Dickie, we are a good bunch of men.” Seemed like a good title to me.
Floyd read my book as it was written, chapter by chapter, usually when he was stuck on the desk or otherwise bored. He loved it, as did the handful of others who read it at the time. But life went on, I started a business and discovered a love of horses, so there was little time for writing.
I had finished my first real book, closed the file, and didn’t touch it for a very long time.
Life is Full of Surprises
Fast forward about a decade: Floyd was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. We had stayed close throughout the years, talking by phone almost daily. He came up to Idaho a couple of times for hunting trips. We would get together whenever I returned to L.A. and tell lies while drinking a few (or so) beers.
When he got sick, we were taking a break, meaning we had had a spat and weren’t speaking for a few months. I was devastated when I heard he was sick, so I reached out and we moved beyond any trivial matters that had existed. Much like brothers, or married couples, we may have the occasional fight, but we always unite when it matters.
Over the next two years I would make many trips to see my partner and encourage him to keep up the fight. They had given him six months to live, but he never believed them. None of us did. If anyone could defy the odds, it was Floyd.
During a visit early this year, Floyd asked what I ever did with the book. “Our book?” I asked, having always referred to it that way. Yes, was the answer. I told him I hadn’t done anything with it, and asked why he wondered. He said he’d been thinking about it, and would like for Maria (an angel who came into his life at the perfect time) and his family to be able to read it. I said, well, shit, partner, let me finish it, polish it, and publish it. I’m not going to send them a PDF.
Over the next six months I basically rewrote the book, and with the help of a good friend and my daughters, it was edited, polished, and prepared to be published. And finally, with much trepidation, I hit the ‘Send’ button in August, 2017.
The Cover of A Good Bunch of Men
The cover photo was taken at a cemetery in Los Angeles as Floyd and I oversaw an exhumation. On one of our murder cases, we had reason to believe an item of evidence would be found in the casket. We obtained a court order to exhume the body, and a search warrant to recover the evidence. The photograph was taken by one of our favorite crime scene technicians, Susan Garcia.
Now Here We Are
Floyd has won another fight (I’ve never seen him lose one). The cancer is in remission, and he is recovering in remarkable fashion. He never gave up hope and he refused to quit, but that is no surprise to any of us who know and love him.
I had dedicated the book to Floyd because without his inspiration, I don’t think I would have ever bothered to finish and publish it. The unexpected consequence was my renewed love of writing.
I recently finished the first draft of a second book (well, technically a third). I also have started writing a sequel to A Good Bunch of Men, which I had been reluctant to do for a variety of reasons. I write a weekly blog with stories of true crime and more. I’m also writing outside the crime genre, and I’m currently waiting to see if a cowboy story I wrote is accepted by a magazine. (Sign up for email notifications to learn more about that!)
As for me, personally, I finally reached the point where I am able to say to myself and anyone who will listen, I am a writer.