Friday, December 16, 2011

Jambalaya Justice Book Launch Party

I am finally having the book launch party for Jambalaya Justice, Saturday, December 17, at our bar, the Last Stand, 424 Destrehan in Harvey, LA. I say finally because the book was actually out in July, although we had it pulled once for some minor issues and re-issued. A few copies went out with the "issues", but I wanted to wait until the final version was out in hard copy and Kindle to officially launch the book.

Time kind of got away from me, as it has a habit of doing. I try to figure out where all the hours of the day go, and I can't seem to do it. I do keep busy with my youngest daughter's school as PTO president. Very busy. I also spend much of time on what I call my "job-job", criminal appeals for clients I get appointed to represent. Then I write legal articles every week for a publisher on Helium.

Oh, and did I forget to mention I write books? Not to mention have two kids, a husband, a cat, a dog, and some fish. Now I think I see where all the time goes, although I think I work on too schizophrenic of a level to categorize the time spent or put it on a chart.

I'm working on Chocolate City Justice right now. The third in the Crescent City Mystery Series will take Ryan, my protag, directly through hurricane Katrina. It kind of brings back bad memories, writing the book, but when I see how far we've come since then, it does tend to make me feel a little bit better. At least we don't have those post-Katrina flies the size of birds any longer. (My cup-still half full.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Today, special guest and fellow PSWA member Bob Doerr, author of ANOTHER COLORADO KILL (and 3 other novels, with another on the way in 2012), joins me and explains why he chooses to write fiction. Bob has had a fascinating career in criminal investigations and counterintelligence in the military, which would explain why his books are so authentic and how he is able to come up with the ideas for his novels. He now writes full-time, which I greatly admire (and perhaps envy a little!)


by Bob Doerr

As an author of four fiction books,I’ve often been asked if I ever plan on writing a nonfiction book. It’s a simple question that I can give a simple answer to. Yes, I would like to. However, there really is a lot more to it, and that reality I find somewhat intimidating.

In fact, I’ve had fellow authors, more successful than me, come up to me and say, “I write nonfiction. I don’t think I could ever come up with enough ideas to write fiction. I’m sure that I would get writer’s block on every page. It’s so much easier to write nonfiction.”

I hear them, and I want to believe them, but are they really just playing with me? I remember a high school teacher once admonishing me about the history paper I had submitted as part of a test. “Bob, anybody can make up stuff. I expect my students to do a little studying and write about what did happen.” The sad part is that I had studied.

Maybe, making things up simply comes natural for me. I remember one autumn day driving through Maryland with my wife and five year old daughter. “Look at those leaves,” I told my daughter. “All those colors are caused by little elves that come out at night and paint the leaves when the weather turns cold.”

“Daddy, I thought it had something to do with chlorophyll.” No lie, that’s exactly what she said. It floored me, but she explained her first grade teacher had explained the photosynthesis process that same day in school.

Writing book length non-fiction and making it interesting to read has got to be really difficult. I admire those that can do it. The research, documentation, organization, and everything else that goes into writing a nonfiction book infers hard work. I mean isn’t it easier to blame it on the elves than to learn the real science?

I enjoy reading nonfiction and there are a lot of real stories out there that interest me and beg to be told. I have a couple in mind and hope to get to them some day, but in the meantime, I’ll stay focused in my world of make believe, sinister plots, murder and mayhem. Oh, it’s so much easier!


Bob Doerr grew up in a military family, graduated from the Air Force Academy, and thenhad a twenty eight year career of his own in the Air Force. It was a life style that exposed him to the people and cultures of numerous countries in Asia, Europe and to most of these United States.

Bob specialized in criminal investigations and counterintelligence gaining significant insight to the worlds of crime, espionage and terrorism. His field of work brought him into close contact and coordination with the investigative and security agencies of many different countries and with the FBI and CIA. This background has helped Bob develop the fictional plots and characters in his books.

His education credits include a Masters in International Relations from Creighton University. Bob is now a full time author, with four mystery/thrillers already published and a fifth to be released in the fall, 2012. Two of his books, Cold Winter’s Kill and Loose Ends Kill, were selected as finalists for the Eric Hoffer Award. Loose Ends Kill was also awarded the 2011 Silver medal for Fiction/mystery by the Military Writers Society of America. He lives in Garden Ridge, Texas, with Leigh, his wife of 38 years.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Emerging Novelists

I'm excited today to be featured on Emerging Novelists, a site that features, well, emerging novelists. It sounds so much better than unknown author or something like that. The interview is at and the background info is at

Interviews are a part of promotion, and it's difficult sometimes to know how much of your personal life to reveal to strangers. On one hand, you want to be interesting, so you want to make sure you mention those things that will make readers want to read your books, but you also don't want to put your entire life on display for the world to see.

Fortunately, the most interesting things about me are public record. No, I don't have any convictions, although that certainly would make me seem more interesting. But I was in a serious head-on collision with a drunk driver, something people find notable. I also own a bar in the metro N.O. area, which sounds a whole lot more interesting than it is, although it does provide ideas for some pretty interesting characters.

So while I didn't reveal any deep, dark secrets, hopefully I provided enough personal and background information to draw a reader's attention.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Interview on Morgen Bailey's Blog

An interview for Jambalaya Justice is up at Morgan Bailey's blog at
Morgan Bailey is an extremely nice person and an excellent interviewer. She has a way of making an interview spring from the page and not sound so, well, interview-ish. I have not yet had the chance to read any of her writer, but hope to soon.

There is also an excerpt from the third in the series, Chocolate City Justice, which is in progress.

On to another topic, my contest winner, Pamela Briggs, who won the naming of a character in Jambalaya Justice (she picked a stripper), and who I now consider a friend, visited me in New Orleans a few weeks back and I have to say we had a fantastic time.

I was a little nervous not knowing what to expect, wondering if she would run out of our bar screaming, thinking we were insane. I don't know is she thinks we're crazy or not, but she didn't run out and we had a great time talking about family, mysteries, reading, and our rival football teams. It's amazing how much you can have in common with someone you've never met who lives all the way across the country. I can't wait for her and her husband two come visit us again. (And Pam, I finally got my copies of Jambalaya Justice with the new cover, so I'll be sending out your copy soon if you're reading this!)

Now I am busy working on promoting, as well as writing Chocolate City Justice, working on my cases for my "job-job", writing legal articles for my other "job-job", and doing what I need to as president of my youngest daughter's school co-op (similar to PTA or PTO.)

I can always sleep when I'm dead.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


What Was It Like When…?

I enjoy studying history. I watch the history channel, read the tomes of Stephen Ambrose, and love to read historical novels. I am a baby boomer, a member of the generation that came to be when our heroes returned from World War II.

When I read about the attack on Pearl Harbor I wonder what went through the minds of the American public as they heard the news that the American Military had been attacked. I wondered what it was like to be suddenly pulled into a war. My mother can still tell me stories about rationing, food and gas coupons, and friends going off to war. Every community has a memorial to those friends and heroes who did not return.

The war of my generation was a long and protracted one. It too has many heroes that are now growing gray. It was not like World War II. It had been around for years, and slowly swallowed up the youth of the United States. Our veterans were not treated with the respect they deserved. The Viet Nam war did not answer for our generation the question, what was it like when Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Now we have our answer. On September 11, 2001, terrorists stole our aging innocence. On that day, America was plunged into a new war; probably different than any other it has ever fought. This time our military was not the only target. Symbols of American pride were destroyed. Along with the twin towers went thousands of civilians working in many different occupations, while they tried to secure the American dream. Stolen from us along with all those civilians are the heroes of the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department the Port Authority Police Department and the military and civilian personnel at the Pentagon, who went
into the burning buildings to rescue people while others were fleeing for their lives.

In the history of law enforcement and fire fighting, losses of these staggering proportions have never been seen before. The losses from this horrific event took more lives than those lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Baby Boomers, who wanted to know what it was like when Pearl Harbor was attacked and America was plunged into war, now have their answer. The "other" generation can tell you where they were on December 7, 1941. Many generations can tell you where they were when they received the news that President John F. Kennedy was killed, and now we all will remember where we were on September 11, 2001. We now know what it was like when the United States was attacked and plunged into war. It has happened to us. May God Bless America!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Jambalaya Justice is finally available through,, independent book stores, and other websites where books are sold. I will also have some available int he near future from my website, but have to get my computer guy (translation, brother-in-law) to add the info to sell through Paypal. It's supposed to be easy to do, but for some reason I couldn't get it accomplished on the Gumbo Justice website and had to get him to do it for me. But that's what family is for, right?

In any event, I was pleased to see it is finally out, although it is not yet available on Kindle or Nook, but hope it would be soon. I saw today purely through luck that someone has already done a really nice review of the book.

Soon, I will be re-organizing my blog to include guest bloggers, interviews and book reviews, and am continuing to work on the third in the Crescent City Mystery Series, Chocolate City Justice, which is a little darker as it opens as Katrina approaches and follows the various characters through the hurricane.

And of course I'll be getting word of Jambalaya Justice out there. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Blogger Marilyn Meredith

Today, I have mystery writer and good friend Marilyn Meredith guest blogging. Marilyn writes two different and distinct mystery series, the Deputy Tempe Crabtree Mysteries and the Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery Series. Today, she tells us about the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, and the difficulty in determining a sub-genre. Today is also Marilyn's birthday, so happy birthday Marilyn and thanks for joining us!!!

So, What Sub-Genre Should My Mysteries Fall Under?

This is a question I’ve pondered for a long time and frankly, I don’t really have an answer.

There are the straight mysteries (and I don’t mean as opposed to ones with gay detectives though I don’t have any gay detectives and so far not even any gay characters) and these are the ones where there is a puzzle to solve and it’s pretty straight forward. The clues are there for both the reader and the sleuth to find.

Remember, the sleuth can be most anyone these days from a cook to a Werewolf, a ghost or a vampire. In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, the sleuth obviously is a deputy. She’s much more than that though, she’s a wife to a minister, a mother of a college age son, and she’s Native American.

Since she’s a deputy maybe my books should fall into the police procedural genre. Maybe, but in Tulare county, California, where the book is set (though Bear Creek where Tempe is the resident deputy is a fictional mountain community in Tulare county) the deputies are also deputy coroners though if there’s a violent crime, detectives would investigate. (Now how do you like that run-on sentence? My critique group would scream.)

My latest book, Bears With Us, is more about what goes on in Tempe’s life, both private and in her job as a deputy. Like most people in law-enforcement, she has a lot going on every day. When bears invade Bear Creek, Tempe has her hands full. Not only is she chasing bears off the school grounds, out of people’s houses, and other places, she’s called to a home where a teen has committed suicide. The parents’ strange behavior piques her curiosity. A prominent female citizen makes a complaint against Tempe and her husband. An old romance comes to light, and a woman with dementia is missing from her home.

This story doesn’t fit in any of the mystery sub-genres. Usually people think of them as cozies since I don’t use bad language and I shut the bedroom door, but once in awhile some pretty gory things happen.

What I suppose I’ll do is wait until people have had a chance to read Bears With Us and let me know what sub-genre they think it should fall in.

Bears With Us can be ordered directly from the publisher and all the usual places.

Marilyn Meredith

Bio: Marilyn is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jambalaya Justice

Information on Jambalaya Justice, which is at the publishers now, due for a summer release:

The murder of a hooker in a New Orleans crackhouse is destined to become another unsolved homicide until prosecutor Ryan Murphy takes an interest in the case. Ryan has a connection to the victim and won’t back down until the murder is solved, even if it means she has to go undercover as a hooker herself and keep her fingers crossed that her detective boyfriend, Shep, won’t find out. She’s also juggling her Strike Force cases, including the prosecution of a mobster murderer, a nasty domestic violence, and the armed robbery of Big Who’s strip club. Not to mention a home invader she prosecuted is off of probation and might be following her. Being an outspoken pit bull of a prosecutor makes life dangerous enough for Ryan; trying to find a killer and hiding it from the one person who can protect her may end up being deadly.

Shep is on a secret quest of his own, investigating the identity theft of Ryan’s former best friend, Edie, who is presumed dead. As he delves further into the case, he begins to question whether Edie may still be alive and out to harm Ryan. Ordered by his captain, Ryan's father, to keep the investigation quiet, Shep not only has to lie to Ryan, but find a way to protect her from harm she doesn’t know exists. He'll also have to figure out what to do if Ryan ends up discovering the truth, because secrets have a way of getting out.

Set against the backdrop of pre-Katrina New Orleans, Jambalaya Justice is the second in the Crescent City Mystery Series, which eventually follows Ryan through Hurricane Katrina and into the strange new world of post-Katrina New Orleans.

The third in the series, Chocolate City Justice, is in progress.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Jambalaya Justice

Just as I am finished editing Jambalaya Justice, the second in the Crescent City Mystery Series and follow up to Gumbo Justice, I saw on the news that one of the New Orleans police officers originally convicted in relation to a police-Katrina murder has had his conviction overturned and has been granted a new trial. The feds are reviewing the federal judge's decision to determine if they will re-try him or not.

I have blogged about this particular murder before. There were five officers, some rank, allegedly involved. During the aftermath of Katrina, when the police had set up makeshift district offices, a rookie sharpshooter was accused of shooting a civilian who was attempting to approach the office. Two other officers were accused of taking his body from his brother and another individual who were attempting to save him, and burning it. Another officer was accused of writing and filing a false police report and then lying to federal agents about it, and finally, a rank was accused off intentionally not tying the three separate incidents together and realizing it was a scheme to cover a murder. The sharpshooter was convicted, as was one of the officers who burned the body. The officer accused of the cover up for filing a false report was the third convicted, and the one whose conviction has now been overturned.

The last guy happens to be a friend of mine. His wife and I were assistant district attorneys together in the late 1990's. He was a police officer even then, which is how they met, and he actually arrested my brother-in-law once for possession of marijuana. Travis, the officer, always seemed to me to be a straight shooter who played by the rules. He certainly didn't offer any leeway for my brother-in-law after finding out who he was.

When Travis was convicted, I was upset. I could only imagine what his wife was going through, and while I could picture Travis following an order someone gave him, I couldn't imagine him intentionally doing something on his own like hiding the truth about a murder. But I wasn't there, and Katrina was an unprecedented event and I can't swear as to how anybody will act under those type of conditions.

When he was first convicted, I had to believe everything would work out. I am an appellate public defender now, an officer of the court, and probably lean a little hard on making sure individuals' rights are not violated. It's been my job for the past 11 years, so it's ingrained in me at this point.

In Travis' case, he has maintained from the beginning that he assisted a ranking female officer with the writing of the report, and the factual basis was not his own, but hers. She testified for the prosecution, changing her testimony more than once. She was caught in several lies, and given complete immunity as far as the murder. Immediately after her testimony, she took early retirement from the NOPD, for which she was still employed. One of the biggest issues was the original report that she wrote. She claimed the original report was altered by Travis, but for some reason she had not kept a copy of that original report. Soon after the trial, one of the acquitted officers submitted what he said was the original police report written by the female rank, which shows the report eventually submitted was not altered by Travis. The prosecution tried to argue the report was a fake, but offered no proof to that. The judge found that if the original police report had been provided to the jury, the jury would have acquitted Travis, which is the standard for newly discovered evidence. While the rank who eventually provided the report may have been holding out on providing the report, perhaps fearful he would be convicted and would need the report to get a new trial himself, his failure to provide the report, for whatever reason, was not the fault of Travis. Obviously, if Travis would have had access to the smoking gun that would have exonerated him, he would have used it at trial.

It so happens my mystery series revolves around a prosecutor and the dysfunction of the New Orleans criminal justice system, that somehow usually ends up rendering justice if not necessarily fairness or what is right. Obviously, the two concepts are not the same. Justice requires a trial without legal errors, not one that ultimately results in the guilty getting convicted and the innocent going free, although those should be desired results. The belief that only those, and all of those, who deserve punishment are punished, is childish. The law doesn't require perfection. It only requires that nobody cheats or makes a mistake during the process.

So seeing that two of the individuals involved were convicted and their convictions upheld, two others were acquitted by the jury, and one was convicted and his conviction set aside, all I can think is that the premise and theme behind my Crescent City Mystery Series is correct, that things maybe eventually do work out the way they are supposed to, even if sometimes they need a little help.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Blog Talk Radio Show

Monday, April 11, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. CST, I am participating in a Blog Talk interview at, with Sylvia Dickey Smith. The focus of the interview is writing strong female characters, and I will be talking about writing Ryan Murphy, my protagonist from Gumbo Justice, and the soon to be released Jambalaya Justice.

The interview is thirty minutes long, and you can call in to chat or ask a question at 1-347-843-4128. (Not a toll-free number.) If you miss the interview, it will be played twelve hours later, and then archived so you can listen to it whenever you would like.

I have been interviewed on t.v. before, not as a writer, but as a parent, and I HATE the way I sound in a recording-- like a ten-year-old boy. I had to think long and hard and push myself to decide to do this interview because of that, but in the end I thought the topic was so interesting, strong women, that I couldn't stand to pass it up. (I don't believe I am nearly as strong as Ryan, who would have signed up without a moment's hesitation. Of course, her voice is prettier than mine.)

In any event, it should be interesting.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Guest Blogger Marilyn Meredith

I have a very special guest today, Marilyn Meredith, author the Rocky Bluff Police Department Mystery Series--which she writes as F.M. Meredith-- and thirty other novels, including the Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series. Marilyn is blogging today about her newest in the Rocky Bluff PD series, Angel Lost.

I was fortunate enough to read an advance reader copy of Angel Lost and have to say it is a must read. In Angel Lost, Marilyn creates the perfect blend of action and suspense against the backdrop of a small, close-knit community, with a dose of supernatural thrown in for good measure. Reading the Rocky Bluff series is like catching up with old friends, and Angel Lost does not disappoint. While you do not have to read the books in order to follow the story, I would definitely recommend reading all of them, because they’re all that good.


How many of you have pulled tricks on your family or friends on April Fool’s Day? When my kids were little they delighted in trying to fool me. Sometimes what they thought was funny was a bit on the scary side—like screaming and telling me someone was hurt. It’s a wonder I survived raising five kids and then a couple of grandkids later on in life.

I’m not trying to fool anyone with this post; however I may fool some readers with my latest book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, Angel Lost. Though there are definitely crimes in this latest edition, there is something missing. You’ll have to read it to find out what.

If someone picks up Angel Lost thinking it is a religious book, they’ll be disappointed. Yes, there is an angel in the book and a smattering of religion, because some of the characters are religious—but that’s not what the book is about. It’s about how people react to unusual things that happen in the town of Rocky Bluff and to the people who live and work there.

What about the angel in the title you may ask. There is an angel—but not in the sense you might expect. The title has a double meaning. Authors sometimes have a difficult time coming up with an appropriate title, but in my opinion, this one is a perfect fit.

Angel Lost is one of those books that I had great time writing. Because I know my characters well, I knew what would happen if I put one in jeopardy. To be honest, I almost always put someone in jeopardy because that’s the challenge, finding out how everyone is going to feel and what actions he or she will take.

And those are my April Fools thoughts.

F. M. Meredith a.k.a. Marilyn Meredith

Bio: F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of nearly thirty published novels. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is Angel Lost. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Internet chapter , Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

Angel Lost Blurb:

As plans for her perfect wedding fill her mind, Officer Stacey Wilbur is sent out to trap a flasher, the new hire realizes Rocky Bluff P.D. is not the answer to his problems, Abel Navarro’s can’t concentrate on the job because of worry about his mother, Officer Gordon Butler has his usual upsets, the sudden appearance of an angel in the window of a furniture store captures everyone’s imagination and causes problems for RBPD, and then the worst possible happens—will Stacey and Doug’s wedding take place?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jambalaya Justice

Jambalaya Justice is complete! The moment arrived Saturday night, at 8:26. I remember the exact moment because my kids were waiting for me to watch the new Zack and Cody movie (Suite Life on Deck something something on Disney). We had DVR'd it, so we could skip the commercials and were going to start watching at 7:30. At that time, my youngest was wrapped up in Build-A-Bear online and couldn't be disturbed. At 8:00 she was ready, but I was so near the end of Jambalaya Justice I told her to give me a few more minutes, and there it was! I haven't felt that good about finishing something in a really long time. Both of my girls even noticed my good mood.

The only bad part was that the DVR glitched and even though it showed it was taping the movie, it wasn't, and my youngest was devastated for about five seconds. Fortunately, Disney plays those things over and over so we will get another chance in the next week to watch it together.

I emailed my publisher yesterday to let her know my good news, and I think she was as excited as I was. She has waited patiently for quite a while, and it felt good to be able to type that email. I am editing right now, although part of the reason I take so long to write is because I continuously edit, so hopefully I won't have to do too much more before sending it to her. It is a big longer than Gumbo Justice, and I am a little nervous, hoping those who enjoyed Gumbo Justice will like Jambalaya Justice as much.

So hopefully it won't be too long before I have the date Jambalaya Justice is on Oak Tree's release schedule, and will let everyone know as soon as I do. I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Things I learn while editing

I am finally nearly finished Jambalaya Justice, the followup to Gumbo Justice, and am editing, first for continuity, to make sure I haven't changed a name or left out anything important. I follow a pretty strict outline, so the first is probably a lot more likely to happen than the second, but I do end up changing some things, so making sure I don't change something later in the novel that makes a difference to something I wrote earlier is still important.

I caught a few issues, the main one being my propensity to use "S" names. I had already used a lot of "S" names in Gumbo Justice, and obviously I couldn't change the names of those characters now. But I found myself gravitating to "S" names again, so I had to go through the manuscript and change some names of key characters. It's difficult, because you already see the person as that name, but if I have to change a name, I always try to come up with a name that I think fits the character just as well. Occasionally, I'll find a more common name that I've accidentally used more than once for peripheral characters or someone that doesn't appear "on screen" but is mentioned, and a lot of times I can just remove the name and it doesn't matter.

One thing that I had to change shows up in the first third of the book, which was written last year, and it was a nasty comment made by Ryan's nemesis, Kellie Leblanc. Kellie was making fun of Ryan's big butt when she bent over, and made a remark about Ryan's big moon in the sky causing a tsunami in Japan. I am so glad the book took longer to write than I had thought, or that comment would have been in there, and history would not have changed. So that comment would have been in the book when the real tsunami happened, and I would have felt horrible.

It did make me realize that an offhand comment by a character in a book can end up being much more than that. At the time I originally wrote it, there hadn't been a tsunami in Japan for a long time, but I knew that it was a place that did have tsunamis. I guess I could have used Hawaii or even the west coast, but it would have still been as bad after what's happened now. It's making me go back through the manuscript and check out any other sarcastic comments to make sure they don't have the potential to blow up in my face.

I remember for September 11 there had been a movie about to be released and it either had a scene about someone blowing up the twin towers or something to that effect, and either the producers took the scene out or scrapped the whole movie. I don't recall now, but I remember at the time it was a big deal.

I guess the lesson is we're responsible for everything our characters say, even those characters who are jerks. I guess there's a line to be considered, though, for instance, say someone is writing about an assassination, and after the book is published a real assassination of the same or a similar person occurs. Does that mean no one should ever write about assassinations for entertainment? Lots of thrillers, especially political thrillers, focus on assassinations or attempted assassination.

Ultimately, I think if you are writing about something that could happen, and it's something horrendous, as long as it's something integral to your plot, you go with it. Otherwise, we'd never write about anything. On other hand, if it's something trite like a character's mean attempt at humor, it might be better to go another way. I did change the line, and it still gets Kellie's meanness across without, I think, possibly offending the world.

Next, I am editing to cut the story down, because it's a little longer than I want it to be, but hopefully that will go faster.

Friday, February 18, 2011

NiFtY interview by Beth Hull

Beth Hull has graciously interviewed me at her website, The interview opens with a short blurb about the second in the Crescent City Mystery series, Jambalaya Justice, which is nearing completion. Finally!!!!

The interview also mentions my tortured path to publication, and hopefully other writers who are struggling to find an agent or a publisher will be encouraged by my story. If my tale was a fairy tale, it would most definitely be one the Grimm Brothers wrote.

My mantra is, What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. That, and my husband's newest warning to me, Don't announce your plans to God.

If you stop by the interview, please leave a comment.

Holli Castillo
Jambalaya Justice coming 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Death of an Inspiration

Anthony "Tony" Cannatella at one time was the police captain of the Sixth District in New Orleans. He wore other hats during his tenure with the department, rising even higher through the ranks, but his role as the captain of the Sixth is what is important to me because he inspired the creation of one of the characters in Gumbo Justice, Ryan Murphy's father, Captain Kelly Murphy, who, coincidentally, is also the captain of the Sixth District in New Orleans.

Anthony Cannatella retired in 2008, and died this past December from cancer. It was a shock to me, and I took it kind of hard. Whenever I saw him on t.v., I literally thought of him as my character.

I had never actually met the real man, never had a conversation with him, never even had the opportunity to call him as a witness on any of my cases. But when I first began writing Gumbo Justice and began creating Ryan's father, Tony Cannatella's face was the one that appeared in my mind.

I didn't know enough about his personality that I was worried people might think the character was based on him, but the more I read about him the more it seems they are similar.
I've read that Tony had a quick temper, came from a family of cops, and was a family man, all of which describes Kelly to at "T." I know he was good at his job, and from all accounts was a non-nonsense type of person, but someone who could be trusted.

I think Kelly Murphy has a darker side than Tony Cannatella possessed, as fictional characters need a little more "umph," in my opinion, to sustain a reader's interest. We need good guys in real life, in novels we need layers of conflict, a little of the devil on the left shoulder constantly battling the guardian angel on the right, something not so easily achieved with guys who are too good.

Captain Kelly Murphy sprung into my mind after seeing the real man and hearing how spoke and the sound of his voice. Captain Murphy evolved as I pictured how I thought the real man would act based upon how he looked and the way he sounded.

I'll never know if I got it right, I suppose, and it's a shame the real man will never know what a great character he inspired.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Last Hurricane Katrina Case

Having written about Hurricane Katrina in the past, I felt a need to take a break from working on Jambalaya Justice to write about the verdicts of the last prosecution for crimes committed by police officers during Katrina. The trial wrapped up a few weeks ago in Eastern District Court in New Orleans, and I have been putting off writing about it because things did not end up favorably for a friend who was charged in the case, and it has been difficult for me to assimilate.

Initially, the D.A. refused to prosecute the various cases in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, because the grand jury in New Orleans refused to indict the officers involved in the most serious case, the Danziger Bridge shootings. Thus, the U.S. Attorney, Jim Letten, charged the officers in federal court, the Eastern District Court in New Orleans, with what are civil rights violations, but the convictions have the same type of sentencing ranges as criminal charges. The feds prosecuted NOPD officers not only for the famous Danziger shooting, where all of the defendants eventually pled guilty, but also for several other crimes during Katrina.

The last case, which I believe is the only one that actually went to trial, involved the shooting death of Henry Glover. Glover was out with his brother after Katrina, apparently looking for supplies. He was shot by NOPD Officer Warren, who was keeping guard from a makeshift temporary police station at a school. (Warren was found guilty of manslaughter as opposed to murder.)

A few minutes later, Glover's brother and another man drove a bleeding Glover to another makeshift station and were met by Officer McRae, who felt for a pulse, realized Glover was dead, and ordered his brother and the good Samaritan to leave.

The good Samaritan testified that he and Glover's brother were beaten by Officer McRae and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, but apparently the jurors weren't convinced because they found both men not guilty on those particular charges. Glover's brother, for reasons unknown, did not testify at all at trial.

McRae directed another officer, who didn't know Glover's body was inside the car, to drive it to the levee behind the station. McRae then set the car on fire with a flare gun. He testified Scheuermann did not know what he was going to do, but Scheuermann, who was the ranking officer, watched and did nothing to stop him after he did it. McRae was found guilty of 2 civil rights violations, one of those for burning Glover's body. Scheuermann was found not guilty on all counts.

Weeks later, Lt. Travis McCabe participated in the writing of a police report that cleared the other officers of wrongdoing. Another officer in charge of writing the report testified against McCabe, stating that the parts of the report clearing the officers was not her work. She also admitted she lied to a grand jury about the events and could not produce a copy of what she claims was her original report. She took early retirement immediately after testifying, and was not charged with anything in exchange for her testimony. McCabe was found guilty of lying to a grand jury and falsifying a police report.

Finally, Lt. Italiano was charged with obstruction for the subsequent cover up, the government's theory being that he did not adequately investigate the link between the shooting of an unknown man and the burning of Glover's body. He was also found not guilty.

It's a set of complicated circumstances, and the defense for Warren and McRae relied heavily upon the Katrina factor as justification for their actions. Warren testified he was in fear of his life and afterward did not know that he had hit anyone, and the NOPD had been advised to, "shoot the looters." Indeed, our own governor went on television and advised somewhat the same thing. McRae testified as to the death and devastation he had already seen, including seeing dead babies and people floating along the streets, and said he couldn't stand the thought of a body rotting that close to where they were located. It was noted by the prosecution that he did not burn any of the other dead bodies he saw.

McCabe testified that the officer in charge of writing the report asked him to help, and he assisted her, and that was the end of it. He still maintains what he told to the grand jury. The officer who testified against him contradicted herself more than once during trial, but a jury finds what a jury finds. McCabe has asked for a new trial, which will be heard February 24, but new trials are rare and the motion is more procedural than anything.

I know both Dwayne Scheuermann and Travis McCabe. I worked with both of them when I was a prosecutor at the D.A.'s Office, and Travis married a fellow prosecutor I was pretty good friends with, who also, coincidentally, went to school with my husband. Travis also arrested my brother in law once during my tenure as a prosecutor for possession of marijuana, and my experience with Travis and his wife, Juliet, is that they are both rule followers to an extreme.

Granted, people never fail to surprise me, and who knows what one might be capable of given an extreme situation, but of all the police officers I know, and I know many, I am the most surprised that Travis would do something like this. I still have my doubts, but the jury has spoken, and that's what our justice system is about.

Which brings me to the Glover family. I am sorry for their loss, and I know how I would feel if something like that happened to someone in my family. The difference is that something like that wouldn't happen to my family, at least not during a hurricane, because I insisted my entire family evacuate. My husband had planned to stay behind, and I specifically told him that if it got as bad as what the forecasters predicted, it could be weeks before supplies were available, and if he stayed behind and had to loot for supplies at the end of a few days, and the police ended up shooting or arresting him, he had only himself to blame. I made my mother evacuate with me as well. If we could not have afforded a hotel, or if we couldn't have found a hotel, as that was a huge problem, I had decided we would either stay at a shelter or, if worse came to worse, we would just drive to the Alabama or Texas Welcome Center and hang out, with my kids, my mom, and my husband, until we figured something out.

My theory, right or wrong, has always been that people who evacuate don't end up getting shot by New Orleans police. Period. Argue morality or ethics or law all you want, or the fact that police shootings shouldn't be a factor in your decision to evacuate or not, but at the end of the day, the evacuees won't have an NOPD bullet in them.

People have their own reasons for staying put, I guess, the least of all being that most people thought we were going to dodge this one, so I really can't fault the Glovers for doing what a hundred thousand other people did. The thing that truly bothers me about the Glovers, however, is that they are bitter against the entire criminal justice system, insisting that all five of the officers should have been convicted and should do life in prison, missing the one point that I can accept. In America, the jury gets to decide who did it and who didn't do it. Joe Public is in no position to say someone is guilty of a crime after a jury has made a decision to acquit. Can juries be wrong? Of course they can. The theory is it is better for a hundred guilty men to go free than one innocent man be punished, but if nothing else the use of DNA has shown that innocent people go to jail all the time. (Louisiana, New Orleans in particular, has had to release people from death row after DNA evidence proved they were innocent of the murder and/or rapes they were convicted of, Louisiana having the death penalty for certain types of rapes.)

But still, while I grieve for Travis and Juliet that Travis got convicted of something I refuse to believe he did, and he not only will lose his job but end up with a possible 25 years in federal prison, in the end, once the jury convicts, a person is guilty. People can't rely on the criminal justice system only when it turns out the way they wanted it to.

It's an imperfect system, but it's the best one available, and people who truly don't like it can always move along to one of those countries that doesn't have a jury system. I say good luck with that one.

While the rest of the country is probably thinking that New Orleans should be getting over Katrina by now, more than five years after the storm, there are still many more steps to be taken to complete the recovery process.

Perhaps finishing off the last of the "police Katrina" cases is one more step in that direction. It's difficult to move forward while still looking back, and if the juries on the various cases didn't return the verdicts I wanted them to, at least I can say the verdicts brought this city a sense of closure.