What Motivates a SWAT Commander to Write a Novel?
You’ve written articles for trade magazines related to special weapons and tactics teams. What prompted you to venture into the world of fiction?
The stories involving SWAT incidents or homicides are fascinating tales that probe into what motivates individuals to commit violent acts. I found that when I attended social events related to my wife’s business, a co-worker would ask about my work, and soon others were drawn into the conversation. I felt that exploring the minds of the participants of these events would be more creative, and even more interesting and challenging to pursue.
Do you have any schooling or other experiences in writing?
During my first two years of college I majored in English; but when it was time to begin taking upper division courses, I decided to switch to political science. I was interested in government service, and a poli-sci major allowed you to specialize in public administration. In order to promote to lieutenant with the Irvine Police Department, it was required that candidates attain a master’s degree. Pepperdine’s program involved a thesis, that I completed which analyzed the crime prevention program the department used as a means of community outreach.
When I promoted to commander, I wrote a weekly column in a magazine circulated to one of the country’s largest homeowners’ associations. The column was entitled, “Commander’s Corner,” and addressed crime prevention, legal updates, and police/community relations. An interesting by-product of my articles was the community’s outreach to me. My photo accompanied the columns, and eating at restaurants in uniform frequently generated greetings and conversations from residents who recognized me. It was unnerving at first, not knowing if I was being approached by criminals, crazies, or citizens requesting I sign off on their equipment violation citations.
What does the title of your book, Lincoln 9, mean?
The main character, Scott Hunter, rose to the rank of lieutenant in charge of Investigations. His radio call sign is based on the phonetic alphabet, and his seniority. The letter, “L,” stands for lieutenant, but for radio clarity it is pronounced “Lincoln,” and he is ninth in seniority within the rank of lieutenant.
How long did it take you to write the book?
The manuscript took approximately two years, and just under one year to publish. Over the course of my 34-year law enforcement career, I would use day-timer calendars for scheduling, but would also use them for recording significant events. I would jot down cryptic phrases such as, “SWAT call-out Topeka,” to memorialize incidents and their locations to assist my memory for court testimony, and for topics to develop for the book.
Are you Lincoln 9?
No, I gave Scott Hunter several of my experiences, but I also provided him with characteristics from other members within the SWAT community with whom I have worked. He, like all of the characters, is a composite. I tried to provide some separation from my background by having him graduate from the University of Southern California (USC). Anyone who knows me recognizes that I’m a diehard Bruin fan, having graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and Bruin / Trojan rivalry runs deep.
I did have an Alfred Hitchcock moment toward the beginning of the story. Hitchcock would often appear in the background of a scene, performing some menial function like dusting a painting as the butler. I’m the officer involved in the traffic collision on the freeway that ends up in a full length cast from his hip to his ankle from his injuries. That actually happened, and I did, in fact, attend the funeral of the first homicide victim.
Where did you find the character, Ashley Horton, Hunter’s romantic interest?
Halfway through the manuscript, my wife recommended that I add romance to the story to appeal to a broader audience. I’ve been married for over forty years, so dating was an endeavor from my distant past. However, during my rounds as a command officer, I would walk through the Records and Communications Bureaus, which were generally staffed with female employees, and I would pay attention to the conversations. Ashley’s first name came from the last name of a girl I first met in Junior High School, and her last name shall remain a mystery so as not to spoil the storyline.
Your story takes place in “America’s Safest City,” Irvine, California. Did you ever think that there would be enough crime material to write, considering the lack of criminal activity?
Irvine is a unique place on this planet. I once had a reporter call me in the watch commander’s office while conducting her usual crime update for the County. She jokingly asked, “Anything to report from the only beige city in Orange County?” Irvine has taken many innovative steps to reduce the vulnerability to crime. They’ve designed streets with numerous cul-de-sacs rather than grids, to make rapid egress from neighborhoods difficult for criminals. The environmental design for homes is geared toward preventing easy access and concealment. There’s an officer at every high school, and uniformed men and women teaching drug abuse prevention to scores of kids at the elementary school level. However, as mentioned in the book, the few crimes against persons that occur are violent events that leave graphic scenes. Several serial killers have either perpetrated their crimes in Irvine, or left their victims there. Even the traffic collisions have been spectacular pictures of carnage. There has been no shortage of writing material, or headlines of unusual crimes that would fit nicely into a novel format.
Do you have plans for another book?
Several characters in Lincoln 9 will appear in the next novel that will pick up where the last chapter ended. It will involve the crime of homicide, and provide the same level of suspense.