When it was first suggested to me that I should write my own story, I was against the idea of it. Who was I to write a memoir?
I’m nothing special—no rock star (though at one time I aspired to be one), super athlete, or war hero.
Yes, I have had the opportunity to do some things that few others ever will, and some of those things have broad appeal to the public, judging by the popularity of true crime books and shows. But still…
Writing A Memoir
The suggestion for me to write a memoir came early in my writing career, shortly after I had published my first novel, A Good Bunch of Men. When the book was more successful than I could’ve predicted, I was motivated to continue writing, and I decided to write a series.
But I needed some help since this was all new to me. I hadn’t published a book before, let alone tried selling it to people beyond my immediate reach. So I hired a marketing coach, and she had the idea that I should write a memoir. Her strategy was to get my author ranking higher on Amazon, and with some research, she had found that memoirs and autobiographies have far less competition than crime fiction.
I didn’t think about it much. I moved on, writing and publishing the sequel, Door to a Dark Room, and then a third in the series, Echo Killers. And without having to work the rankings, I found the popularity of my books on the rise. A Good Bunch of Men became an Amazon #1 Best Seller, and Echo Killers was an Amazon #1 Release. Over the next two years, I would publish three more in the series: The Color Dead, Death After Dishonor, and Unwritten Rules.
Three of the six in the series have won awards at various writing competitions, and suddenly the idea of writing a memoir started percolating again. But not because of the awards I received or for any strategy for higher ranking.
Writing From my Experiences
Because I rely on my law enforcement experiences to shape my novels, sometimes the darkness of the job seeps out through my characters. Writing those scenes has been very cathartic for me.
Interestingly, this is what led me to write. When I was diagnosed with PTSD, the shrink suggested that I write for a living, having read my response to a pre-appointment interrogatory. He said it would be a great outlet for me, a private form of treatment. Because group therapy doesn’t work for cops.
As I came to terms with who I am and what I’ve done, it occurred to me that I do have a personal story worth telling and that maybe others can benefit from reading it.
Smith shares vivid details, hard-earned insights, and stories of courage and terror, told with crisp, raw dialogue, a feeling for the drama of potentially violent confrontations, and an undercurrent of despair, despite many heartfelt tributes to cops he trusted and the mentor whose murder he had to look into.
“Undercurrent of despair.” I found that interpretation particularly poignant though I had never considered it before—at least not in any depth. But it is an accurate description, I suppose, given the first chapter which reveals that I left law enforcement as damaged goods and in a dark place. The bulk of the remaining chapters show you how I got there, but not in the way of a guided tour, more like a connect-the-dots-on-your-own game.
Smith hit his breaking point during his 143rd death investigation, in which he faced a human head hanging in a tree. From there, his bracing memoir reaches back to chart the journey to that moment: Smith reveals what he experienced during the 1992 L.A. riots, and then back further, to recount “how a dumb white boy from Newhall” became a sheriff’s deputy and then a homicide detective.
Beta Readers Feedback
“Danny R. Smith has told his story with open and raw emotion that few would be willing to share openly and with such brutal honesty. His story leaves the reader with a better understanding of the hardships that a career as a Law Enforcement Officer takes on one’s life.”
“I was at times, shocked, appalled, and repulsed by what one human being could do to another human being. I was also amazed, appreciative, and extremely respectful of those who serve so resolutely to protect others.”
“Poignant, gut-wrenching, and, at times, amusing, this is definitely an un-put-downable narrative.”
“This author pulls no punches as he lays bare the violence and horrific atrocities that took place during his career.”
A Memoir with Purpose
Cops who read Nothing Left to Prove will undoubtedly relate to my story. My hope is that it may comfort those who have also left the job scarred, and I know there are far more than just those who admit it.
I hope all others find it entertaining and enlightening. It is truly a very rare, honest view of the life of a cop.
* * *
Signed copies (paperback or hardcover) of Nothing Left to Prove can be ordered here.
You can order unsigned copies of the paperback on Amazon here, and Kindle versions will be available in a few days.
* * *
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends.