Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after working for 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.
Prior to his police career, Zurl served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves.
In 2006 he began writing crime fiction. Seven of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A New Prospect, traditionally published by Black Rose Writing, debuted in January 2011.
Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Connect with Wayne at Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/waynezurl or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001483038544.
A New Prospect begins the story of Sam Jenkins, a retired New York detective, as he assumes the role of police chief in Prospect, Tennessee.
The book cover summary tells the basic story.
“Sam Jenkins never thought about being a fish out of water during the twenty years he spent solving crimes in New York. But things change, and after retiring to Tennessee, he gets that feeling. Jenkins becomes a cop again and is thrown headlong into a murder investigation and a steaming kettle of fish, down-home style.
The victim, Cecil Lovejoy, couldn’t have deserved it more. His death was the inexorable result of years misspent and appears to be no great loss, except the prime suspect is Sam’s personal friend.
Jenkins’ abilities are attacked when Lovejoy’s influential widow urges politicians to reassign the case to state investigators.
Feeling like “a pork chop at a bar mitzvah” in his new workplace, Sam suspects something isn’t kosher when the family tries to force him out of the picture.
In true Jenkins style, Sam turns common police practice on its ear to insure an innocent man doesn’t fall prey to an imperfect system and the guilty party receives appropriate justice.
A New Prospect takes the reader through a New South resolutely clinging to its past and traditional way of keeping family business strictly within the family.”
The story not only shows the reader how the protagonist solves a murder in the face of political corruption, but how he uses rather unconventional means to accomplish that goal and satisfy his personal need for justice.
Other issues are also addressed: Can a middle-aged man come out of retirement and effectively lead a small law enforcement agency and can a life-long northerner who relocates to the south function professionally in an unfamiliar culture?
The book is written using authentic language and knowledge of police procedures I gained from twenty years of supervisory and investigative experience.
Can you tell us who or what was the inspiration behind your book?
I got the basic idea for taking a hot-shot detective from a big department and making him a chief in a small rural town after reading Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone novel, Night Passage. But rather than make my protagonist a defrocked, mildly disgraced detective, I wanted him to be retired and reluctantly taking on a new career as a remedy for his mid-life crisis. As a retired cop I can relate to that. I’d have him be a New Yorker who relocated to Tennessee. That sounds familiar to me, too.
The vast majority of readers who buy mysteries are over fifty. I thought they could identify with my hero who sometimes experiences those personal issues that come with age. And anyone who has retired and relocated from north to south to make their pensions go further will understand how culture shock can influence daily life. I remembered movies like Robin & Marian and more recently, Red, where “experienced” characters still function well in a young person’s world.
Is this your first published book and if so, can you tell us your experiences in finding a publisher for it?
A New Prospect is my first full-length, traditionally published novel. While I was trying to sell it, I wrote and sold eight novelettes using all the same characters to a publisher who wanted stories of 8,000 to 11,000 words to create fifty-five to seventy minute audio books. Most of those were published first so, A New Prospect is actually the prequel to all the Sam Jenkins mysteries.
I began peddling my novel the conventional way—sending query letters to agents expressing an interest in police/detective/crime stories. I found no takers. So, I made a list of all publishers willing to accept submissions directly from a writer. I had experienced so many rejections, I promised myself to take the first reasonable contract offered. The process was long and difficult, but I was thrilled when I received that “greetings” letter from Reagan Rothe of Black Rose Writing.
How has Black Rose Writing been to work with?
So far Reagan Rothe has been very supportive. Initially he sent me a press kit outlining the post-publication marketing strategy and several leads to follow to obtain reviews. I followed the suggestions, but pursued other avenues, too. After I contracted with a publicist to take me on a virtual book tour, Reagan has been great about sending out more review copies and doing whatever is necessary to promote the book. When I told him A New Prospect was named best mystery at the 2011 Independent Publisher’ Book Awards, I think he was as happy as me. He’s younger than I am. He said, “Awesome!”
Do you have an agent?
Can you tell us how long it took you to write your book and also how long it took from the time Black Rose Writing sent the contract and the time it was released?
I began writing the book in early 2006. After finishing one version and learning it had to be longer and somewhat revised in format, I worked with a “book doctor” and did major revisions. I posted it on an on-line writer’s workshop to get additional opinions and did more rewriting. I received a contract from BRW August 8, 2010. The book was released January 20, 2011
Do you have any words of inspiration from other writers who would like to be wearing your shoes?
That’s easy. NEVER GIVE UP! Before you embark on your project, know what the industry is currently looking for. Query every agent who handles your genre. If you strike out there, submit to any publisher who will deal with you directly. If that fails and you still believe in your book, investigate self-publishing. I know a few good writers who have done that and they have produced excellent novels. In any case, be ready to do some shameless self-promotion and intensive post-publication marketing. Books do not sell themselves.
I understand that you are touring with Pump Up Your Book Promotion in June and July via a virtual book tour. Can you tell us all why you chose a virtual book tour to promote your book online?
I had arranged for quite a few local (and not so local) personal appearances and book signings. But logistically from a cost versus return standpoint, you don’t get a great deal of exposure or bang for your buck that way. I’d spend two to three hours trying to generate interest in me and my book and sell from five to fifteen copies. I expected more, but have been told that’s not a bad result. Being a technological dinosaur I was only a step above clueless about finding all the reviewers and bloggers and other media people necessary for a successful on-line blitz, but I know enough to recognize the potential outreach of a virtual tour. Dorothy Thompson showed me what I could expect for my money and even before my tour started she began promoting me and the book through the social media. I compared other publicists and found her service reasonably priced.
What’s next for you?
I’ll continue to write novelettes for audio/eBooks and I want to sell the sequel to A New Prospect. It’s called A Leprechaun’s Lament, a story based on a case I supervised back in the 1980s; probably one of the most bizarre investigations I can remember.
Thank you for this interview, Wayne. Can you tell us how we can find out more about you and your new book?
I have a web site: www.waynezurlbooks.net. On it you’ll find links to my Facebook and Twitter pages, links to other sites I belong to, summaries of all my books, a chronology of stories for those who like to read things in order of occurrence, links to reviews and interviews, photos of the area where the stories take place, and even a diary (I have a mental block about saying I have a blog. It sounds like I need something surgically removed.) where I post a few thoughts, short stories, and outtakes from the books.