Author: Michael E. Benson
Page count: 332
Genre: Crime Thriller
Price: $1.99 in digital formats $14.95 in print
If Michael E. Benson’s first novel, Openers, reads more like a true crime story than a work of fiction it is because much of what he has written actually happened. Michael has taken events from his own forty-year career in law enforcement and those of his many colleagues and has woven them seamlessly together to create this intense novel.
Michael writes from experience. In his own career he conducted investigations at four different levels: federal, state, local and private. Along the way, he earned a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Arts degree in American History. He recently retired from teaching Criminal Justice at Longview Community College where both police officers and pre-service law enforcement students benefited from his expertise in criminal investigations. Until recently, Michael was also a partner in an antique store known as Log Cabin Antiques. He is an able restorer of antiques and has an affinity with all things made of wood.
Michael, with his wife Barbara and his dog Danny Boy, spend the summer months at home in Lone Jack, Missouri. In the winter he may be found in Harlingen, Texas, fishing the waters of the Laguna Madre.
Tell us about your book:
The book focuses on the search for a serial killer of women in the Kansas City area. It is based upon true events although the facts have been altered dramatically to make it a work of fiction. It is written, partially, in the style common to the “true crime” genre. It is also a study of the personalities and lives of the men and women who search for killers among us. Frank Petrovic is a veteran detective who has worked in vice, theft, sex crimes, robbery, burglary and the general assignment unit but has never worked in homicide. Shortly before his retirement he is assigned to that unit and paired with Maria de Leon, a fiery Latina with a chip on her shoulder who believes she has something to prove. Frank and Maria are assigned to work the cold cases of a serial killer in order to keep the case files current and to be at the center of the investigation if he should strike again. As they work the cases a pattern begins to emerge that had been overlooked previously.
How long did it take to write the book?
It took about a year of writing and revising.
What inspired you to write the book?
I got sick and tired of reading stories written by people who hadn’t a clue about what a real investigation involved. I wanted to write a story that was accurate in its detail and at the same time interesting.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
Research? Yes, of course! Years spent investigating crimes. Years spent earning a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice. Months attending post-graduate workshops and seminars on every type of crime imaginable. Hours spent watching autopsies. Teaching Criminal Investigation, both basic and advanced, to pre-service students and police officers for more than twenty-five years. Keeping current on all the latest developments and techniques. I didn’t get my information and knowledge of the subject from Wikipedia or from reading “true crime” stories.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Where can we go to buy your book?
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Inknbeans.com My publisher made me say that.
Excerpt from book:
Among the extra officers assigned to the Bump and Run Bandits were Frank Petrovic and his partner, Howard Thurman.
The commander of the General Assignment Unit volunteered their services and ordered them to report to Robbery Division for temporary duty. It was a welcome change for Frank, who enjoyed variety, but not for Howard. With less than a week to go until his retirement, he wanted to coast. He certainly did not want anyone shooting at him. A waistline that had grown from thirty-two to forty-two inches during his thirty year tenure would be too convenient a target, and he knew it.
They had been together seven years, much to everyone’s relief. Howard was a good detective, but he lacked imagination. He was the kind of dependable partner most investigators dream of, but he was slow and slovenly in his appearance. He did not own a necktie unmarked by condiments or food. And his trousers and dress shirts were at least one size too small because he refused to shop at the Big and Tall Men’s Store or buy anything tailored. Too expensive and extravagant in his view. Given his eating habits, Frank admitted he was probably right.
Francis Anton Petrovic, who signed his name “F. Petrovic” and answered only to “Frank,” was his opposite. Tall and lean, he dressed neatly and was fastidious in his eating habits, but his constant, nit-picking preoccupation with insignificant details drove people mad. If you put Frank in a position where he had to interview a witness, it was rumored, you might as well plan on staying the night. His descriptions of suspects often included the color of their shoelaces and belt. Everyone knew these claims to be wild exaggerations, of course, but they had a basis in fact.
Frank Petrovic believed that to truly understand a thing you had to tear it apart down to the tiniest nut, bolt and screw, then reconstruct it. It was what he did best, what he had done most of his life, and no one was better at it.
Unfortunately, it was a skill not often put to use in the General Assignment Unit where he had been for the past seven years, or in the Crimes Against Property Unit where he spent eight years before coming to G.A.U. It wasn’t needed in Vice where he hassled pimps, prostitutes, gays and gamblers for three years, and his dog, Jock, didn’t appreciate it during the four years they served in the K-9 unit. Nor was it much used on the streets he patrolled for five years as a district officer.
For the most part, people who did not know him well thought he was a little dense, and Frank appeared not to mind. It made things easier and people felt more comfortable around him if they believed he was a step too slow. Those who looked past the rumors and speculation found a man who grasped the larger view of most things almost immediately, usually faster than his contemptuous colleagues.
He believed his particular skills would be respected in Homicide, but the opportunity to join that elite group had always been denied him. On several occasions, his request for transfer seemed all but certain, but something always seemed to get in the way: a temporary budget cut; a sudden increase in some other type of crime that required his expertise; too much pressure from certain segments of the community to increase minority representation. Now, three years away from mandatory retirement, his chances for reassignment to Homicide seemed slim. Still, he turned in a request for transfer every month just in case they should suddenly reclassify Croatians as an oppressed minority.
It was nearly seven o’clock on a mild Friday evening in May. A faint breeze played through the budding leaves of a dogwood tree and Frank, who was driving that night, killed the fan inside the car and rolled down his window. Howard was savoring the last of three freebie chili dogs from a diner on Troost. The radio was nearly silent, and it occurred to both of them that an air of expectancy had suddenly electrified the atmosphere and set every nerve on edge.
They were in the parking lot of Donnelly’s, a Catholic
book store on Troost. The Bump and Run Bandits had not worked in three days, a new record for them. Earlier, at the station, Frank had spent an hour studying the pin map they were using to plot the location of the robberies. Most of the pins were south and west of the original bump and run and they had not operated on Troost since the first day. He decided, finally, that Troost between 54th Street and 85th Street would be logical. After such a long hiatus between jobs, it would be like starting over.
None of the higher ranking officers responsible for
assigning the unit locations shared his belief. In fact, they reasoned, Troost would be the last place the Bandits would strike. It was too crowded. For that reason, when they created the deployment schedule the Troost assignment went to Howard and Frank, the over-the-hill gang.
“Damn,” Howard muttered as a drop of grease rolled off the end of a bun and landed on his tie. He brushed it away with a napkin, making the stain even larger. “Ruined my tie.”
“You ruined that tie six years ago, Howard,” Frank laughed. “Just change the oil in it and maybe it’ll go a few more months.”