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Please welcome indie author Wayne Zurl

Author Bio:

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. Wayne left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Fifteen (15) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. Ten (10) of these novelettes are now available in print under the titles of A MURDER IN KNOXVILLE and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries and REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Wayne’s first full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards, chosen as 1st Runner-Up from all Commercial Fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards, and was a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His other novels are: A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT and HEROES & LOVERS.

Book title:  HEROES & LOVERS

Brief Synopsis:

Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold.  It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.”  

Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas.  

Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins, the ex-New York detective and now police chief in Prospect, Tennessee, with a fraud investigation sounded exciting and would get her an exclusive story.  

But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.

When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing he mobilizes all personnel at Prospect PD and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.

During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.

After a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produces an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend.  But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.


What do you do to relax when you are not writing?

My wife and I travel a lot, and with travel, for me, comes photography. I learned the finer points taking pictures at crime scenes. Compared to dead bodies, nature and landscape photography is quiet pleasant.

We’ve also gotten back to fishing after a more than thirty year hiatus. But in my old age, I’ve become a softie; I release most of what we catch.

What, or who, inspired you to become a writer?

I’ve been writing reports all of my adult working life. When I retried, I devoted ten years to non-fiction magazine articles and had moderate success getting twenty-six published. When I ran out of steam in that area, I still needed a creative outlet. I’d been reading a lot of Robert B. Parker’s books and liked his spare and snappy style. His first Jesse Stone novel, NIGHT PASSAGE, inspired me to create a character like Stone, a former big town detective who becomes a small town police chief. I had been a cop and Parker hadn’t. How hard could it be?

Current work

What or who inspired you to write your current novel?

As with most of my books and stories, HEROES & LOVERS is a composite of actual incidents—cases I investigated, supervised, or just knew a lot about; I add a few vignettes, and roll them into one piece of fiction. I’ll explain more, three questions down the line.

Tell us three interesting facts about your book which is not covered in the synopsis.

1)  Sam’s restored 1967 Austin-Healey 3000 MkII was the last model year imported into the United States from Great Britain. In October 1966, the car cost $3,700. Today, this most collectible of the big Healeys can fetch $65,000 or more when in number one condition.

2) I’ve afforded the Smoky Mountain region of East Tennessee full character status. Local Tennesseans seem to love hearing about Sam Jenkins driving on roads they travel, eating in restaurants they frequent, and seeing things they see every day. HEROES & LOVERS is a mystery and sort of a travelogue as well.

3) Readers learn more about Sam Jenkins’ past military service and how a Vietnam veteran (Jenkins) mentally connects with his prime suspect (an Iraq war veteran) and resolves a situation in which he’s become too personally involved.

What research did you need to do for this book?

Really, very little. If ever I encounter a need for up-to-the-minute forensics, I call a friend at the sheriff’s office and see what’s being done in the 21st century. All the rest of my protagonist’s police methods come from the age of the dinosaur—I’m quite familiar with that.

Are any elements/characters of your book based on real life experiences or people you’ve met/known?

HEROES & LOVERS begins with a sting operation to catch a dishonest auto mechanic—that’s the type of thing cops do all the time. It was fun showing how easy it is to build a case and arrest one of those idiots. But the main focus of the story centres on the subsequent abduction of Sam’s friend Rachel Williamson. That’s based on the assault and attempted rape of a woman I worked with. I changed it to a kidnapping to drag out the tension a little further, but keep the intensity and the cop’s personal investment in the investigation. The informant, Pikey Dillard, is a characterization of so many of the snitches I knew. She’s unlikable, you want to smack her, but she’s a cool character who provides Sam with plenty of openings to get sarcastically humorous.

Tell us a little about your current work-in-progress.

I’m only a few days away from completing the final edits and revisions to another full-length Sam Jenkins mystery called PIGEON RIVER BLUES. I hope the book jacket summary adequately tells the story:

Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.

The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.

C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.

The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.

Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate.  

During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

Writing/publication process

What process did you adopt from inception through to the finished book?

For a guy who has worked in military and para-military occupations for much of his life, I’m really a rather disorganized writer. I write when the other necessities of life aren’t getting in the way—unless I feel a great infusion of ideas I think will make for good reading. Then I find time to get my thoughts down in print. At my age, those good ideas could be forgotten all too soon.

What do you need (or not need) around you whilst writing?

Quiet is best. I can’t write while listening to music. I may want to sing along. All my stories begin life handwritten on a lined pad with me usually sitting in a wingback chair in the living room. Depending on the time of day, a drink on the lamp table is always welcome.

I don’t outline—that’s too much like work. When I get an idea, I just go with it and after my thoughts are on paper, I go back and spruce up any shortcoming or add the necessities like descriptions or other “fleshy” items.

How easy did you find it getting a publisher?

For this I’ll go back to my first book, A NEW PROSPECT. Like many writers new to the publishing industry, I harboured the misconception that you just hire a literary agent like you choose a plumber. So, I enlisted professional help constructing a good query letter and began sending it out in batches of a dozen at a time. After many rejections, I began to wonder if my deodorant had failed. After I gave up on agents, I wrote to any publisher who would accept submissions directly from an author and I jumped on the first reasonable contract offered. I began writing A NEW PROSPECT during the summer of 2006 and saw it published in January 2011.

In 2011, I’d been posting chapters of a novelette called THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAIN BANK JOB (something destined for a company that produces audio books and simultaneously publishes them as eBooks) on an on-line writer’s workshop monitored by a different publisher who became interested in my story. He wrote and asked if I’d like to see this and other stories in print. We opened a dialogue and he offered to publish two collections of five novelettes each.

I wasn’t happy with the editing at the publisher who handled A NEW PROSPECT, so I asked if my new publisher would be interested in reading a completed manuscript for my second novel, A LEPRECHAUN’S LAMENT. He read it, liked it, and sent me a third contract. After that, came HEROES & LOVERS.

What were the three biggest challenges you faced when writing your book?

1) The transition from writing police reports to police fiction was difficult.    I had to learn that every minute detail, things necessary in a good prosecution worksheet, wasn’t necessary in a good story. I had to adopt the arrive late, leave early style and let some things develop in the reader’s imagination. It took a while, but I think I’m getting the hang of being a minimalist.

2) Most of my working life was full of tension and conflict. I AM NOT A FAN. To me, the best example of a police procedural would be watching a detective go from point A to Z flawlessly—a piece of professional artwork. But few readers think my way. They like tension and conflict. They want to grit their teeth while the hero is making a big mistake. So, while I’m fictionalizing and embellishing my real life memories, I may have to add some tension or conflict where they didn’t actually exist to create better popular fiction.

3) Reading my handwriting when taking my finished manuscript from pad to Word document.

Every author seems to suffer with writer’s block at some point. How do you overcome it?

I usually open a bottle of wine, get two glasses, and ask my wife for an idea. She’s pretty good at stimulating my brain.

What single piece of advice would you give to any aspiring writer?

If you truly believe in your book and can objectively say it’s a superior piece of work that should be in print, NEVER GIVE UP. There is either a publisher out there who will recognize that or you should pursue the self-publishing route and be proud of your achievement.


What genre does your book fall into?

A police mystery with a pinch of thriller.

How did you get interested in this specific genre?

I’m cashing in on the old author’s maxim of write what you know. I know criminal investigation and after twenty years in Tennessee, I’m very familiar with the Great Smoky Mountains.

You as a reader

Which three authors have inspired you the most, and why?

1) I’ve mentioned the late Robert B. Parker before and he deserves a spot here. I believe in his philosophy of tell your story in the fewest possible words. He did a good job and I keep trying.

2) James Lee Burke can write descriptions of people, places, and events like few others can—truly poetic. He also has an uncanny ability of getting his readers into the psyche of his characters that I find incredible. I look at many successful writers and say I can emulate them. Burke is so good and so complex, I doubt I could ever duplicate his style

3) Joseph Wambaugh has successfully written police procedurals for more than forty years. I like how he takes assorted and seemingly unrelated “slices of police life” and weaves them into a cogent story. I’m a pain in the ass when it comes to police details and technicalities. Wambaugh, a former cop, gets all the details right and creates quirky, memorable, and fun characters.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I read a lot of YA focused biographies of Early American characters, but my favourite was an adult novel. Today it might be called creative non-fiction or a fictionalized account of an actual incident. Kenneth Roberts’ book NORTHWEST PASSAGE grabbed me as few other stories had. It told the story of Major Robert Rogers who established the famous Rogers’ Rangers for the British Army during the third French & Indian War (also known as the Seven Years War) in 18th century North America.

What is the best book you’ve read in the last 12 months?

Something I’ve just reread, JOLIE BLON’S BOUNCE by James Lee Burke.

What was the last book you recommended to a friend, and why did you think it was worthy of recommendation?

I told my sister about James Lee Burke’s latest, CREOLE BELLE. It’s the sequel to GLASS RAINBOW, a book she enjoyed. Everything Burke does is top-shelf and this one answered a dangling question left over from the previous book.

Kindle (or other e-reader) or paperback, and why?

I don’t own an eReader and am not sure I’ll ever buy one. I like the feel of a real book; I have all my life. But I’m not very good for the economy. I buy most of what I own at library book sales or used book stores.

Hollywood is calling

You’ve had the call from Hollywood and they want your opinion on who should play the leading roles in the film based upon your book. Who would you choose, and why?

Sam Jenkins: Mark Harmon. It’s tough finding a sixty-year-old actor still good-looking enough to attract the ladies. And Mark does a good job with police work on his series, NCIS. I assume he could put on a slight New York accent and portray the sharpest real cop around.

Kate Jenkins, Sam’s wife of many years: Patricia Richardson. I loved the way she played Tim Allen’s wife on HOME IMPROVEMENT. Like Kate, she’s attractive, smart and always ready with a clever remark. But she’ll have to let a little gray hair show.

Special Agent Ralph Oliveri: Michael Imperioli. I needed the quintessential Italian-American cop for this ex-New Yorker. Imperioli is a fine actor who does all the right facial expressions at the right time.

Rachel Williamson: Sasha Alexander has all the right stuff to play the beautiful news anchor at WNXX TV in Knoxville and friend of Chief Sam Jenkins. And I’ve been in love with her for years. But if Sasha wants the job, she’ll have to go back to her natural dark brown hair.

Sgt. Bettye Lambert. This book is littered with pretty and smart women and Bettye is a top example. I’d like to see Canadian actress, Jessica Steen play her—she’s got the perfect look for a hot female cop.

Sgt. Stanley Rose: Henry Simmons. Stan is a big, tough, and smart street cop. Henry was impressive and realistic as Det. Baldwin Jones on NYPD BLUE.

The film of your book is now going to need a soundtrack. Which musician(s) would you want to write and play it?

Gangstagrass. They did a great job with the theme for Justified, a series also set in southern Appalachia. The woman who produced the video trailer for HEROES & LOVERS found music similar, but a little toned down that I think is great, too.


Drink – Single-malt whisky. For summer, the lighter Glenfiddich. For winter, the smoky, peaty flavoured Laphroaigh

Meal – I love all kinds of ethnic food, but if pressed into choosing only one, I’d say anything Mediterranean. Specifically: A Greek chicken we make marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, and garlic, served with a pilaf and oven roasted vegetables.

Holiday destination – I’m not much of a sun and sand person, a tossup between Scotland and Alaska.

TV programme – I’m hopelessly torn between NCIS, Justified, and the British cop show (via Netflix) New Tricks, where the old guys get all the glory.

Film – The last film that really grabbed me was War Horse. The Artist was also a great movie, but my all time favourite is Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose.

Method of travel – I used to like to fly, but now with such poor service from the airlines and the Transportation Security Administration’s feeble attempts at keeping us safe through optimum hassle, I’ll go with automobile. I can control my life—unless there’s an accident on the Interstate. Of course the drive from Tennessee to Scotland might present a problem, too.

Sport – My wife likes (American) Football, and in Tennessee, it’s almost a religion. So, I watch with her. As a kid, I was a pretty good baseball player and avid fan, but promised myself never to watch another major league game after the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1957. I felt betrayed.

How can people connect with you?




Where can readers find your book?

Barnes & Noble

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