Deputy Chief Freedland, (Ret.) Irvine Police Department (CA) had a long and action-packed law enforcement career in addition to his writing.
In “The Pepper Tree,” a Southern California landmark primarily known only to law enforcement earned a reputation for crime scenes of the most unspeakably vicious murders. Infamous serial killers had chosen this location to discard and display their victims as trophies of their horrific acts. Lieutenant Scott Hunter leads a team of detectives seeking to capture the perpetrator who targets young women and has selected this landmark to showcase his victims.
This story is a work of fiction, but the Orange County location is real. So notorious, in fact, that those officers working the graveyard shift need only radio their activity at a site bearing two words – “pepper tree,” and they are immediately dispatched a back-up officer.
As a young patrol officer, Hunter had been introduced to the “terror at the tree” on an evening when he turned his police cruiser down that dusty road separating asparagus fields and discovered a corpse hanging from a tree limb. But now, as the leader of the Robbery/Homicide team, he received that most dreaded call interrupting the stillness of the night, a body dump.
Tell us about your writing process: In my 34-year law enforcement career, I worked assignments that included SWAT, Detectives, Training Bureau, Internal Affairs, and a street-level, Narcotic Suppression Unit. I would think about the most unique cases and then start outlining a plot using other actual investigations to complement the storyline. I developed a protagonist based upon a handful of mentors from my career who exhibited strong moral character and superior technical and physical skill-sets. I included sub-plots to give readers opportunities to speculate on the primary suspect’s identity and included a romantic character that matched the protagonist in interest and intellect.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Trying to include sufficient detail in a criminal investigation to convince the reader that the story is credible without getting wrapped up in the scientific minutia can be particularly challenging. I remember working on my first novel, “Lincoln 9.” I was constantly thinking that the most cantankerous detective was looking over my shoulder, criticizing my failure to include steps 3 & 4 in my homicide investigation. As I read more crime thrillers written by successful authors, I realized that it was more important to include a few choice technical procedures and get into the characters’ minds and emotions.
What are you currently working on? I’m working on my third novel, which involves homicides and human trafficking cases that will take the characters to Japan in pursuit of suspects and victims. The first chapter begins with a graphic, contract-style hit that my department worked in conjunction with the FBI, which led investigators into the mysterious world of assassins for hire. During my years of competing in martial arts, I had the occasion to train in Japan and visited several dojos (training halls) located near some of the darker parts of society. It should provide some intrigue and texture to the pursuit of international crime syndicates in the Orient.
What is the best book you ever read? Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” was my favorite book and was a masterpiece in the preparation of a surprise ending. It is the total package: history, romance, fascinating characters, and intense suspense. Dickens has always been considered a master of developing memorable characters. But in this historical novel, he presents some of the most fascinating people whose lives are impacted by the French Revolution. Whose names are perfectly suited to their personalities.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Twenty-five years of my career involved serving in several areas of responsibility in Special Weapons and Tactics Teams (SWAT), which included Hostage Negotiator, Scout, Team Leader, and Team Commander. Our team was well-trained and well-financed. Based upon our successful operations and competition performances, the California Association of Tactical Officers sponsored our team to compete in the International SWAT Round-Up in Florida. We have had training relationships with members of SEAL Teams 3 & 5, and one of the firearms trainers for the U.S. Army’s Delta Force comes to California one weekend a year to train our team members. In each of my books, I introduce the reader to some aspect of a SWAT operation; a look behind the curtain of secrecy shrouding how SWAT operators perform. Based upon reviews, readers have found this piece of the plot an interesting addition to the fabric of the story.
When you visit my author’s website, www.davefreedland.com, you will find several photos from SWAT operations and training scenarios in which I have participated.
I would like to thank George Cramer for inviting me to share on his blog. Please take a visit to my website, and hopefully, one or more of my books will interest you. If you have a technical question, I always find time to respond.
Links: Facebook: Dave Freedland Instagram: dfreedland01