We’re thrilled to have here today Sam Jenkins from Wayne Zurl’s new police mystery, A Leprechaun’s Lament. Sam is a Retired New York detective now Chief of Police of Prospect, Tennessee. It is a pleasure to have him with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so for this interview, Chief Jenkins. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
Please, call me Sam, everyone does. (Interviewer smiles; Sam continues.) When Wayne spoke to me about writing the story of this Murray McGuire affair, I worried about readers believing it really could happen that way. Contrary to what a publisher’s legal team may want you to believe, this story is based on and actual incident, something I investigated twenty-five years ago. And let me set the record straight—these characters were based on real people. The story was fictionalized, but much of the dialogue is just as I heard it; I still have a good memory. I read the ending. I came out smelling like a rose.
Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?
Wayne and I share a lot of common history . . . and personal traits—the Army, the same police department in New York, common likes and dislikes. I guess cops our age can’t be too different. So, if he painted a less than glowing portrait of me, he’d be putting himself (so to speak) into the shadows. He’d never do that; the man’s an ego maniac. I’m satisfied.
What do you believe is your strongest trait?
I’ve got to combine a few things to come up with a strong state of being. Let’s call it a super trait. On the down side of this, I’m stubborn. But for the sake of painting that heroic picture, lets say I’m tenacious. I’m also unconventional. I learned that in the Army. If the tried and true direct approach doesn’t work, turn it backwards or upside down and try it that way. And many people called me “annoyingly honest.” You won’t find me behaving like a weasel when a politician asks me to turn my back on what I believe to be the right thing. All this helps me solve problems and crimes in beautiful downtown Prospect. And I said Zurl is an egomaniac.
One word: Impatient. It can get a cop into trouble. And it almost does when Sergeant Bettye Lambert and I go out to make the big arrest. I won’t say any more, it would spoil the book’s punch line.
Do you have a love interest in the book?
Same one in each book or story—my wife, Kate. Sure, some people might grit their teeth when I flirt with a few of the women I meet. But that’s just me and part of being a cop. I talk—never strayed in all our years of marriage. As a detective, you have to flatter people to get favors or information. Schmaltz is part of the job. Who likes a guy that behaves as if he’s got a broomstick stuck . . . You get the idea. Often the women I flirt with are good people—they deserve to hear something nice.
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?
I narrowed the suspects down to two and honestly couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Then I caught a break, had a hunch, experienced Divine intervention—call it what you’d like, and a new friend provided the information I needed to tie up the loose ends. Like those cliché’s? I sounded like Philip Marlowe.
In today’s world, only 36% of the homicides are cleared by arrest. I want a higher clearance rate.
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?
Sergeant Stan Rose and I ran into a little troll of a guy named Tony Dubois. He’s the chief of security at a local college who couldn’t find his way out of a convertible if the top was up. He’s an ineffectual cop-wannabe who doesn’t know it. He should change careers and sell timeshares.
How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?
I love it. Wayne died a great job summing up not only how I felt after this ordeal, but in portraying how guys like me feel about their lives in general and experiences. Things happen—good things and bad ones. You learn to live with them and move on. Or you end up checking into that motel with rubber walls.
What words of wisdom would you give your author if s/he decided to write another book with you in it?
He’d better write another book with me in it. I like series mysteries and there is no reason to stop now. We can’t tolerate laziness, can we? If I run out of stories upon which to base the fiction, I’d suggest Wayne start digging up some of his old cases and put my name on them. I won’t let him off the hook easily.
Thank you for this interview, Sam. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?
You bet. A third full-length novel called HEROES & LOVERS is scheduled for release in September. Wayne’s got four more novelettes under contract to be produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. The next one up is called THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN BANK JOB. I like that one. I get to solve a forty-three year old robbery-homicide. And then there’s this thing he’s doing revisions on called PIGEON RIVER BLUES. I like the title. In it, I get tossed into the world of country and western music when I act as bodyguard for a beautiful singer who receives hate mail and death threats.
A stipulation of the Patriot Act gave Chief Sam Jenkins an easy job; investigate all the civilians working for the Prospect Police Department. But what looked like a routine chore to the gritty ex-New York detective, turned into a nightmare. Preliminary inquiries reveal a middle-aged employee didn’t exist prior to 1975.
Murray McGuire spent the second half of his life repairing office equipment for the small city of Prospect, Tennessee, but the police can’t find a trace of the first half.
After uncovering nothing but dead ends during the background investigation and frustrations running at flood level, Jenkins finds his subject lying face down in a Smoky Mountain creek bed—murdered assassination-style.
By calling in favors from old friends and new acquaintances, the chief enlists help from a local FBI agent, a deputy director of the CIA, British intelligence services, and the Irish Garda to learn the man’s real identity and uncover the trail of an international killer seeking revenge in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after 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. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Twelve (12) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards. A new novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT, is on the coming soon list at Iconic Publishing and will be available in print and eBook in April 2012.
For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and even see photos of the area where the stories take place.