JOHN SCHEMBRA – Veteran – Mentor – Friend – Award-Winning Author

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in 1969, I was drafted into the U.S. Army.  After basic training and military police school, I spent a year with the 557th M.P. Company at Long Binh, South Vietnam, in 1970. Upon completing my military service, I joined the Pleasant Hill Police Department. I retired in 2001 as a Sergeant after 30 years of service.  I was then hired as the lead Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructor for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office.  I have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration through California State University.

My writing career began when another Sergeant at the police department, a fellow Vietnam veteran, and I swapped stories of our experiences in Vietnam.  The other members of the department would listen and began to encourage me to write down my stories.  They said it would make a good book.  So, taking heed of their advice, I started my first novel.  After two years, I began shopping for a publisher, choosing to go the small press route.  I was lucky enough to be accepted for publishing by Writers Exchange, and the Vince Torelli series was born with the publishing of M.P., A Novel of Vietnam.  

I continued my writing endeavors with my second book, relying on my 30 years of police experience for authenticity. I used the same main character as in M.P., Vince Torelli, now 25 years older and a homicide inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. I have written five books in the Inspector Torelli series, one stand-alone thriller with a paranormal element and a demonic possession horror story. I am currently hard at work on my ninth book, the first in the Detective Sergeant Louisa (Louie) Princeton, Richmond County Sheriff’s Dept, Georgia series.

All my life, I have been an avid reader.  I remember my mother taking my brother and me to the local library every two weeks so we could check out books.  Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes, and I have always admired authors who could spin a good tale.  As such, I get much more pleasure from hearing a reader say they enjoyed one of my books than the royalties from the sale.  By the way, my favorite author is Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I want to thank George for having me as a guest on his wonderful blog. He is an accomplished, award-winning author in his own right, and I am proud to call him my friend.

People often ask me what my favorite thing about writing is. I answer unequivocally—researching places, events, and the history of the locations where the stories take place. By making Vince Torelli a San Francisco PD homicide inspector, it is easy, and exceeding interesting, to research scene locations, like the 19th-century tunnels under the city utilized by the killer in The List, to landmarks like Mt. Davidson, where the climax of Blood Debt takes place, to extensive research into demonic possession and exorcism for An Echo of Lies. I have to say- that was VERY frightening!

When I’ve changed locations to places out of the San Francisco Bay Area and California— as I did in several of my books—to Tennessee, Atlanta, Augusta, Northern California, South Carolina, and others, it sparked my research gene to find real places—hotels, restaurants, streets, highways, etc. Most key scenes in the five Vince Torelli books are in those places. Even in my Vietnam book, a work of fiction based in part on some of my personal experiences, takes place in real places, and all the military units—American, South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese are actual units that were operating in the area at the time. Using real places, streets, and buildings in my books, I think, adds a touch of realism for the readers. I have received several comments that they recognized certain places and liked it very much. It adds a visual reference to the scene and drama being played out as they read.

As a fun thing, I’ve used the address of my childhood home in one of my books and the name and address of my best friend, a big fan of my books, in another, and knowing my friend will be reading the book, I didn’t tell him what I had done. I gave him a copy and awaited his phone call when he got to where he was mentioned. I also have dedicated a couple of my books to special people in my life, living and deceased. That is special to their families and me.

So, can you tell how much I enjoy writing?

In closing, If I could advise any aspiring writers, there would be two things. First—sit your butt down and write, write, write—the basic mantra for writers.

Second, have fun doing it! It will make your writing more enjoyable and the finished product better!

Please take a moment to visit my website—currently being updated— where the first chapters of some of my books are posted, along with a couple of short stories. And thanks for taking the time to read this.

www.jschembra.com

Follow me at my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100023497601286

12 Comments

  1. Deven Greene

    Thanks for sharing your interesting story, John. It was very inspiring. You have many accomplishments in addition to your writing. I really enjoy your books and urge anyone who hasn’t read them to pick some up!

    Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’ve several of John’s book and enjoyed them very much. Not only is John a great writer he never hesitates to help other writers. As a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, John has given me many tips to help my writing and he made a great president as well.

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Thanks for the kind comments, Joe. Much appreciated, my friend.

      Reply
  3. Dave Wolf

    I first became acquainted with John when he reviewed my novel “Probable Cause for Vengeance” several years ago. Since then, I have read several of his books, beginning with “MP, A Novel of Vietnam”, also the Vince Torelli mystery series and most recently, “Sin Eater”. All are excellent reading and keep you eagerly turning the pages. He writes from experience and the way he tells the stories, puts you right there with the characters. John is an accomplished author and I look forward to reading many more of his captivating stories!

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Glad you have enjoyed my books, Dave. I really like getting comments like yours, and thanks for your support.

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    I’ve been honored to know John for several years and can attest that he’s an exceptionally talented writer. I’ve read many of his books and I’ve enjoyed them all. He exemplifies the very best in what makes America so great. John, thanks for your service, both military and in civilian law enforcement. Stay safe, brother

    Reply
  5. Mysti Berry

    You’re a natural-born storyteller, John! Thanks so much for all you’ve given to the writing community!!!!

    Reply
  6. Nicholas Chiarkas

    Impressive story and excellent books. Welcome home, brother.

    Reply
  7. John Taylor

    Great guy & writer. Write a best seller, John!

    Reply
  8. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This was an inspiring post, John and George. John, I love the researching bit too.

    Reply
  9. Lisa Towles

    John, Thank you for your Service and your series sounds wonderful 🙂

    Reply
  10. Camille Minichino

    What an impressive life of service, John. Thank you for all of that, and for sharing your stories through your fiction. And thanks, George, for highlighting a fellow author.

    Reply

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Beach Bum – Biker – Sailor – Cop – PI – Author

The heading is my life in a nutshell. It’s my birthday, so I’m taking a break from the usual routine to tell you a little bit about me and answer two questions posed by fellow authors—who tried to stump me—they failed.

If you don’t already know, I’m an enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California. Combining police, private investigator, and corporate experience, I have about forty years of investigative experience. Earning a BA – History from California State University – Hayward took me a dozen years of poor scholarship. Nearly four decades later, I returned to school at Las Positas College. I took a break to earn an MFA-Creative Writing Program from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, before finishing an AA in English from Las Positas.

I was fortunate to conduct and manage thousands of investigations throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. After forced retirement, I kept my investigative skills honed by volunteering as an investigator at the San Leandro, California, Police Department.

I want to begin with a shout-out to an incredible mentor, Ramona Ausubel. Ramona was one of my mentors at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a fantastic author, and her latest novel THE LAST ANIMAL is the People Magazine Book of the Week. PRE-ORDER NOW!

Besides writing, my passion was long-distance motorcycle riding on my 2001 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic—my first scooter was a 1959 or 60 Honda 50 (I got stopped for drag racing on it). My sixty-year biker life ended last year when an accident left me with several broken bones—it wasn’t the first time.

Shelley Riley asks: What inspired you first to start telling tall tales? I’m not one of those who has been writing all their life. I was about to turn sixty-seven when the most incredible place I ever worked, PALM, was bought out, and the layoffs began. I ran security and investigations and got advance notice of pending layoffs. Near the end, my name came through.

Feeling strong and unprepared to retire, I began an unsuccessful job search. I learned all about age discrimination. I had sworn never to enter a Senior Center until a writing class was offered. I falsely believed it would help my stellar resume, so I signed up.

To my surprise, it was a fiction writing class. Amazingly, I fell in love with writing and gave up looking for any other type of work. I have two stand-alone novels, and Book One in the New Liberty – A Hector Miguel Navarro series comes out in a few weeks.

Michael A. Black asks: Your writing of dialogue in your books is fresh and realistic, yet it also moves the story along. What tips would you give to other writers for writing convincing and authentic dialogue? I learned early on that I had to leave out the normal jibber-jabber that occurs in our everyday conversations. However, dialogue has to seem natural and to the point, adding to the plot and character development. When I began writing, I included a lot of unnecessary chit-chat. With rewriting and the help of Critters, I started writing more explicit dialogue—there has to be a reason. I ask myself: Why am I writing this? I cut, reevaluate, and rewrite if the conversation is unclear or without purpose. Occasionally, the dialogue seems to wander. When this happens, I’m laying the groundwork for a future event or character development of someone not in the conversation.

I try to add a touch of humor at least once in each chapter, helping humanize my characters.

May will be busy as New Liberty is released, and I will be doing readings and book signings. I hope you can join me at one or more events.

1. 5/9/2023 – New Liberty release – available for pre-order
2. 5/10/2023 – I will moderate the Upstate South Carolin Sisters-in-Crime Mystery Book Club. Michael A. Black with be discussing Chimes at Midnight.
3. 5/13/2023 – Las Positas College Literary Festival – Book signing with local and indigenous authors. Tommy Orange is the keynote speaker. It’s FREE!
4. 5/18/2023 – Barnes & Noble, El Cerrito, 6:00 – 7:330 – Book signing with Lisa Towles
5. 5/20/2023 – NorCal Spring Author Showcase, Orinda Books, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – I will read and sign
6. 5/272023 Barnes & Noble, Dublin – 1:00 – 3:00 Book signing.
7. 5/28/2023 – Barnes & Nobel, Walnut Creek – 2:00 – 4:00 p.m Book signing

You can find me at:
Email:gdcramer@outlook.com
Facebook
LinkedIn

Groups:
California Writers Club – Mt. Diablo
Crime Writers of Color
Sisters-in-Crime – NorCal
Sisters-in-Crime – Colorado
Sisters-in-Crime – Coastal Cruisers
Mystery Writers of America – NorCal

If you can, pop over to Lois Winston’s blog. Her guest today has the initials: GDC.

Links for my books:
The Mona Lisa Sisters
Robbers and Cops
New Liberty -Book 1 in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series

 

15 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    George,
    Your schedule looks exciting and busy. Good to see you skipped the author persona for a special birthday as a beach bum.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      It is good to be visiting the beach. I watched surfers in their wet suits yesterday. We young and foolish ones wore bathing suits, nor did we have tethers. I never learned to swim, so I rode the waves back in or treaded water.

      Reply
  2. Steve Simpson

    Hi George !
    Happy Birthday !
    Thank you for being the person you are ! I have certainly enjoyed the times shared on the rides you organized and coordinated. Your kindness, warm personality and enthusiasm has always given me a sense of inclusion and friendship. I truly appreciate you, and all the joy and wisdom give freely to your friends !
    Thank you, have a Wonderful Birthday !

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Hi Steve,
      I always got more from our riders than I could ever give. Thanks for the kind words.
      Take Care & Stay Safe

      Reply
  3. John Bluck

    George,
    You helped me a lot with my writing. I’m very grateful. Your books are wonderful. Cheers!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thank you John, especially for the support you have directed my way.

      Reply
  4. Glenda F Carroll

    It is a pleasure to read about you and your writing habits.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Glenda. You just might be much more interesting.

      Reply
      • McMahon Jim

        Congratulations on your success!

        Reply
        • George Cramer

          Thanks, Jim. It’s been a while. Stay Safe

          Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Happy birthday, George and thanks for answering my question about your dialogue writing skills. Your biography reads like a novel in itself. Your indomitable spirit is inspiring, as is your writing talent. You remind me of a real life Travis McGee. I’m looking forward to the release of New Liberty. Thanks for all you do to help other writers. Stay strong,

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks to you, Big Mike, for all that you do to help your brother and sister writers. Take Care & Stay Safe.

      Reply
  6. Karen A Phillips

    Fun to learn more about you, George! Happy Birthday! And I have to ask, did you ride your motorcycle sans helmet?

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      What happened? I coulda sworn I responded to you with thanks.

      I didn’t own a helmet until I was about 30 and strapped ’em on the back when I was in states without helmet laws. I was glad that I had one on when I went down a few times. I was especially happy when I went down in Oregon and got a life flight to the hospital.

      Reply

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David R. Evans USMC 2113468 – Thank You For Your Service

The last post here was a fictional account of a soldier returning from the Vietnam War. This post is a letter written by a Vietnam War Veteran. I have not changed a single word.

While going through my diary I ran across a letter I wrote shortly after returning from Vietnam and thought it might be of interest to some who would take the time to read it or not. Let me know what you think.

 

I am a Marine and from the day I entered boot camp in 1964 I was taught that Marines are fearless.  From the moment I landed in Danang Vietnam in October of 1967 I feared for my life. Can I put a date on incidents that increased that fear no not really. The memories of my thirteen months in Vietnam are locked away in my mind. On occasion when I am asked to remember those days I do so with reluctance.

My first thought of dying was probably in November of 1967 when the sirens went off and I heard the screaming sound of rockets overhead and the explosions of 120mm rockets as they impacted on the flight line. I grabbed my rifle and helmet and ran for the bunkers on the flight line in the revetments. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to run that fast. With my fellow Marines we dashed the hundred yards to the bunkers as rockets landed all around us. When the rockets struck the shrapnel flew around us, it was pieces of fiery gold metal, and somehow we ran faster. On one occasion a rocket struck an aircraft ahead of me and the explosion knocked me back. I dodged to the right and angled to the bunker away from the exploding A-6.

These attacks occurred on an irregular basis throughout my tour.

On one occasion when I ran for my position at the bunker at the entrance to our hangars a rocket struck the aviation fuel tank 29 yards from the command bunker and the tank exploded and burned all night long. The sides of the tank seemed to melt as the tank collapsed. I remember seeing a man on a bicycle pedaling by as if the devil himself was chasing him. We laughed at the time but I thought afterwards how I emphasized with the man and felt his fear.

On a weekly basis I would travel to the Air Force’s side of Danang’s airfield and I saw the open sided sheds that were 15’ high and filled with shiny aluminum caskets. They were the dead waiting to be transported back home. That sight still haunts me as I think of the 50,000 men killed in a futile war.

I remember hearing that a truce was declared between the North Vietnamese and the US only no one told the Viet Cong. They kept on attacking. In January of 1968 during Vietnam’s Tet or New Years the Viet Cong began a massive assault on South Vietnam. We heard they had overrun Hue and several other Marine bases. Our turn came shortly after. The rocket attacks intensified, on one occasion the  rockets struck all around as we were in the chow hall. I dropped my utensils and ran for the nearest bunker. I tripped on the wooden sidewalks leading to the bunker, falling face down and splitting my lip when my teeth smashed through my lip. My partners scooped me up and carried me to the bunker and later to the medical center where the Corpsman stitched my lip . I remember him saying “Your mouth is dirtier than your asshole!” When he saw the startled look on my face he said there were more germs on my lips than on my anus

My friends joked that I should get Purple Heart for being injured during combat. I thought of all the Marines out in the jungles being wounded and killed by bullets and booby traps and thought my injury paled in comparison to their traumas.

One night during a rocket attack a missile struck the bomb dump at the end of the runway and blew down dozens of our tin roof screen sided huts. There was  a mushroom cloud rising into the sky and I thought they had finally gone the final step and dropped an Atomic bomb on us and I would surely die a horrible death from the radiation. Shortly after they hit the Flare dump in the same area and I saw the most spectacular fireworks show I had ever seen. We were standing on the top of our bunker between our huts photographing the explosion dressed in our underwear, a flak jacket and helmet when the First Sergeant came up to us and told us to get our ass’s inside the bunker. Shrapnel was whizzing all about us piercing the side of our hut and the sandbags of our bunker. I still have pieces of shrapnel as a reminder of how close I came to being maimed or killed.

When the Viet Cong over ran the base we ran to our bunkers on top of the revetments and began shooting at the black pajama clad Viet Cong as they ran down the run way caring satchel bombs to throw under our aircraft. Suddenly bullets started striking the metal below our sand bags. We discovered it wasn’t the Viet Cong shooting at us, it was the Air force. I thought that it would be a hell of a thing to be killed by “friendly fire.”

Speaking of “friendly fire” shortly after Martin Luther King was killed back in the States a black soldier went berserk and began firing a M-79 grenade launcher into our living area scaring the hell out of me and every other Marine in the area. Fortunately he was captured before he could complete his revenge attack on the “white people” who had assassinated his hero. Was I scared, hell yes I was scared every day I was “in country.”

The last thirty days were the worst. Rumor had it that more men were killed in the month before they rotated back then any other day of their tour.  The happiest day of my life was when the plane carrying me home lifted off the runway in December of 1968. When I flew over the San Francisco bay to land at the SF airport a lady commented on how muddy the water was and I said “yes it is but it’s my home and I’m so glad to be back here alive and not in a silver box!”

My first wife can testify to my lingering fears; when a siren would go off and I would jump out of bed and run for the door. She caught me and held me till the fear and shaking stopped. My second wife can tell you how movies about the war in Vietnam would ignite those old fears so bad that she wouldn’t allow me to watch those films.

I was in Country during the intense spraying of “Agent Orange” to defoliate the jungles to expose the trails and hiding spots of the Viet Cong. Did this cause the degenerative nerve disease Multiple Sclerosis? I don’t know and I don’t think my Neurologist Doctor Joanna Cooper can say for certain. The cause of MS is still unknown but the possibility is there.

I returned to the States in December of 1968 and was advised I would get an early out in December instead of May 1969. I was still credited with a full four years of service. I received a letter from Sgt Major at Treasure island advising me that Marine Corp in its infinite wisdom promoted me to Staff Sergeant, added a metal and then invited me to Treasure Island to accept the stripes and ribbon. I declined seeing an re-enlistment pitch coming.

David R. Evans USMC 2113468
David R. Evans-6580
USMC 1964-1968 Semper Fi
OPD-1969-1995

 

7 Comments

  1. Wanda

    So glad that you made it home safely. One of my brothers enlisted in the Army. He was 19 years old at the time. Like you said, the last month is when more guys don’t make it. In my brother’s case, he came home but with multiple bullets still in his body. He was left for dead by the Viet Congs. He had a bullet in his groin, shoulder and behind his left ear. I can’t remember where he was operated on but he had a scar from shoulder to shoulder, about 2 inches wide and an inch deep. The one behind his ear, they couldn’t operate on because it was too close to his brain. Apparently, the body’s way of protecting itself is it formed a capsule over the bullet. Fast forward 30 years, he was out hunting and he heard something snap. He went to the hospital and they did x-rays and found shrapnel free foating at the base of his spine. Surgeons in our area did not know how to deal with his injury and he refused to go to the VA. His usual headache was a severe headache one afternoon, he asked his wife if his life insurance was paid and asked her to take him to the ER. He walked into the hospital, told the doctor what was going on. They sent him for a Cat Scan and when he came out he was in a coma. The shrapnel deteriorated his brain stem. They put him on life support and all of us siblings took a week to convince her that my brother wouldn’t want to be kept alive like that. He told us repeatedly that He didn’t want that. He lived a few more hours after he was taken off life support. So, even though he was given 30 more years life, the Vietnam War eventually took his life.

    Reply
  2. Violet Moore

    David,

    I wish I could have been there to welcome you home.

    Reply
  3. L. Todd

    Welcome home, David. So glad you made it.

    Reply
  4. Wanda Dean

    David, When reading your horrifying account of your time in Vietnam, living a
    tortured life, I just kept wondering how you emotionally survived it all!…I don’t know
    what it takes, but you have done it! For young men to go through such an unbelievable event day after day after day of “running for your life”,for your country, and then coming home to folks that didn’t understand or care, when you needed at least a thank you, or a kind word of what you went through, makes the healing process, just even that more difficult if not impossible. I just want to thank You for all you did for me, and for our country! And I thank you for sharing your story that is so important for us to know. I hope you are doing very well. I care!!!

    Reply
  5. George Cramer

    You might add a message I sent to a fellow Marine about “Coming Home.”

    “Johnny,
    About two years ago, I was sitting in a restaurant and had one of my many USMC hats on when a tall guy dressed in motorcycle chaps & a vest with USMC & Vietnam patches on them. He pointed to my cap and said, “you in ‘Nam?” When I said yes, he said, “Welcome Home.” That was the first time in 40 years that someone uttered those words. This was completely opposite to my reception at the Oakland Airport on returning from Vietnam in 1968. Here I was met with cries of “baby killer” and spit.”

    David R. Evans-6580
    USMC 1964-1968 Semper Fi
    OPD-1969-1995

    Reply
  6. Dan Oates

    I’m glad you made it, Dave. I was a member of the Amtrak unit at T.I. they probably wanted you to re-up with. I have a couple of friends who relate similar experiences, one who is fighting his third bought of Agent Orange-related Cancer. I was a member of the Amtrak unit at T.I from 63-69 and feel lucky to this day I was not called up. A few years after discharge, I too, joined the cops for the next 30 years. Five in Ontario and 25 at San Mateo Co. Sheriffs. I hope you are well and safely retired, you have given enough.

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Glad you made it back, Dave. Semper Fi and thank you for your service. You exemplify the best of us. It’s because of men like you that our country remains free.

    Reply

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NICK CHIARKAS – Veteran – Police Officer – Attorney – Author

Nick Chiarkas grew up in the Al Smith housing projects in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When he was in the fourth grade, his mother was told by the principal of PS-1 that “Nick was unlikely to ever complete high school, so you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, Nick became a writer, with a few stops along the way: a U.S. Army Paratrooper; a New York City Police Officer; the Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. On the way, he picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University, a Law Degree from Temple University; and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. How many mothers are told their child is hopeless? How many kids with potential simply surrender to desperation? That’s why Nick wrote “Weepers”—for them.

 

Weepers: The murder of an undercover cop in a New York City Housing Project in 1957 has unexpected ties to the unsolved disappearance of a young father walking home in those same Projects with his son, Angelo, on Christmas Eve 1951. The only witness to the cop killing is Angelo, now 13, as he was on his way to set fire to a grocery store at 2:00 am. The killers saw him. These events forge a union between a priest, a Mafia boss, a police detective, and Angelo, a gang member. In Weepers, we see that if you drop a rock into the East River, the ripples will go all the way to Italy. In the end, Weepers shows us that the courage of the underdog—despite fear and moral ambiguity—will conquer intimidation.

Awards for Weepers:

• Firebird Grand Prize Best Book Award (2022)
• Best Mystery Novel for 2017 the John E Weaver Excellent Reads Award by Earthshine. https://www.speakuptalkradio.com/nick-chiarkas-firebird-book-award-winner/
• Award Winner – Best Novel of 2016 by the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA)
• Award for Best Book Award by Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA)
• Award for Best Young Adult Novel for 2016 by Bookvana
• Award for Best Crossover (Mystery & Young Adult) Best Books Award for 2017
• Award for Best Young Adult Coming-of-Age by Readers’ Favorite for 2018

Nunzio‘s Way: Nunzio drifted back to his childhood there on the Lower East Side. The narrow, trash-lined streets and alleys weaved together decaying brownstone tenements with common toilets—one per floor. Alone at ten years old, after his mother died, he learned to survive in one of the most notorious neighborhoods in the city. He shoveled coal and guarded the produce stored there by the ships docked off South Street to pay for living in the cellar at 57 Canon Street. After school, Nunzio mostly walked the streets. He recalled the putrid smell of decomposing cats and dogs covered with a trembling blanket of insects, rats, and things he didn’t recognize. And lying in the gutter against the sidewalk on Pike Street was a horse, with old and fresh whip wounds, shrouded in a cloak of flying and crawling insects. Only three years later, at the ripe age of thirteen, Nunzio killed his first man, a hulking longshoreman people called “the bear.” His life and the lives of four of his friends changed forever. Plenty of other horrors and hardships confronted him throughout his life, but when he closed his eyes, Nunzio saw the horse.

“Nunzio’s Way” In 1960, Declan Arden, an ambitious New York City lawyer, asked his boyhood friend and client, Nunzio Sabino, the most powerful organized crime boss of his time, to help him win the election for mayor. Nunzio agrees to help Declan, telling him, “In this city, you can have anything you want if you kill the right four people.” In Italy, after killing a top member of the Gomorra, Heather Potter, arrives in New York City seeking vengeance on the people who murdered her family. Those people include Nunzio Sabino and Mac Pastamadeo. Mac is the father of Angelo, the leader of the Weepers gang.

NICK’S FAVORITE WORKSPACE

Five fun facts most people don’t know about me (Nick Chiarkas)

  1. I received the Law Enforcement Commendation Medal from the Sons of the American Revolution, and I received the Equal Justice Medal from the Legal Aid Society – These two awards are not in conflict but in harmony. I believe that no one is above the law’s enforcement nor below its protection.
  2. I raised my two oldest children mostly as a single dad – just the three of us. They taught me a lot.
  3. I was one of a handful of NYPD cops sent to Woodstock in 1969 to provide security – it was incredible.
  4. While in an Army hospital, I received a very kind letter from J.D. Salinger.
  5. I was in the movie The Anderson Tapes (Starring: Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, and Christopher Walken).

Available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, University of Wisconsin Bookstore, Mystery to Me, other local independent bookstores, and from the publisher.

8 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview, Nick! You should be sooo proud of your accomplishments. A true inspiration…. continued success!

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Oh my goodness. From your mother’s low expectations to a stunning career. As a police officer tasked with security at Woodstock, could you define “incredible?”

    Congratulations on a stellar career, and George, I hope you’re enjoying your road trip! Be careful out there.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Nick, you seem to me a contradiction, but a steadfast believer in the law. Even with all of its faults, I too, believe in the law. Justice can come in many forms. Your experiences are amazing and it is obvious you have worked hard. Not that I am anybody of importance, but you have convinced me to read your books Thank you for sharing your well deserved awards and your resume of law enforcement.

    Reply
  4. Nick Chiarkas

    Thank you, Mike, I truly appreciate your generous words, my friend.

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Meredith

    Great interview! What a history–amazing!
    That teacher had no idea about you.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Thanks for your kind words, Marilyn. They are most appreciated, my friend.

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Wow, what a life story! Hearing all that Nick has accomplished is an inspiration to us all. He’s the stuff that true heroes are made of–a true self-made man.

    Reply

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JOHN BLUCK – Crime and Sci-Fi Novelist and Storyteller

The title of his latest book is Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales: Crime and Sci-fi Short Stories.

John G. Bluck is the author of five books, some in the crime/mystery genre and others science fiction. He worked for thirty years for NASA and retired as a public affairs officer. Prior to that, he was the daytime crime reporter/photographer for WMAL-TV (now WJLA) in Washington, D.C. During the Vietnam War, Bluck was an Army journalist at Ft. Lewis, Washington.

Another of his recent books, Death in the Holler, earned praise in a BookLife review printed in the January 11, 2021, issue of Publishers Weekly magazine. “For Southern murder mystery fans, this whodunit and its heart-of-gold protagonist will hit a bullseye. Murder, gangs, and black-market marijuana run rampant in this testosterone-filled thriller. . . . Bluck’s mystery keeps readers quickly flipping the pages with short, fast-moving chapters.”

Tell us about your most recent book. My latest book is Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales. It’s a collection of sixteen crime and science fiction short stories; some are strictly fictional crime stories. Others are solely in the science fiction genre. Many of the yarns combine both crime and sci-fi genres. Florida Grand Theft was released on October 4. The first image below is for the paperback and the second is for the eBool.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

I began writing a couple of the stories as long as fifteen years ago when I was working at NASA. Over the years, I edited and revised them numerous times. One of those stories is the “DNA of History.” In it, ant-sized extraterrestrials visit a young boy, affecting his entire life. A second sci-fi story that I began developing a long time ago is “Adventures in Time.” In this story, an astronaut transmits a message as his ship careens toward a black hole.

I dreamed up other stories only months ago. That’s obvious when you read one of them, “Big Brother’s Bracelets,” which is related to the current pandemic and Covid-19. In this story, a feuding couple has to adjust their lives.

In the first story in the book, “Florida Grand Theft,” a young woman short of money tells how she’s tempted to steal a purse. In “Death by Snub Nose,” a hobo is accused of murder. These are among the crime and sci-fi stories I wrote recently, as is “Buzz.” Buzz is a robotic bee who’s an undercover agent.

Why do you write in more than one genre? I spent much of my life in a career path that’s linked to both crime and science-fiction. When I was in the army, I wrote news stories for an army newspaper and read army news on a couple of local radio stations.

After that, I worked a few years in Washington, D.C., as the television daytime crime cinematographer for WMAL-TV (now WJLA). I mainly covered homicides and bank robberies. Naturally, I covered other stories, too, including sports, politics, and even Watergate. I was in a pool of about six or seven still and motion picture photographers who filmed the submission of President Nixon’s letter of resignation.

Then NASA hired me to be a documentary producer. I saw many fascinating things at NASA that were true, but which might as well have been science fiction. I saw huge rocket engines; walked under the Space Shuttle; peered through telescopes, and wandered through laboratories, machine shops, wind tunnels, as well as many other locations.

When I explored NASA and filmed news for TV, I met many kinds of people. Whether they were in bad or happy situations, they taught me about human nature. Covering news “on the scene” in city streets and later working in science and engineering environments gave me a myriad of potential story ideas related to both crime and science.

How do you create your characters? Lately, I’ve been consulting a psychology book to try to shape some of my characters’ personalities so that they are vastly different from each other. This can lead to conflict and drama.

I don’t try to dictate what a character will do all of the time. I like to put characters with different personality traits into the same room or location. I begin to write dialogue rapidly. I permit the characters to talk, to say what they want. This is hard to describe, but it’s as if they wake up and begin to speak. I simply type what they’re saying. That’s why I say I don’t try to make the characters do or say what I want them to say.

However, there are times when something specific has to happen—a climax, a turning point. Then I might dictate that a tree will fall, a ship will sink, or a fire will erupt. The characters then have to react to the situation based on who they are and their personalities, which I have assigned to them. Sometimes, that personality changes when a character starts to act and come alive. I’ve found that if I “listen” to my characters, rather than try to shape them too much, the people who populate my books are more realistic, more human.

Do you outline, or do you write as you go? When I design a novel (plot it), I like to outline “sort of.” That is, I use the Act I, Act II, and Act III format.  I know where the climax is supposed to be. I write the beginning and the end first and perhaps the climax, and then I fill in the middle of the story. Each scene is like a bubble or a block. I note what “should” happen in a scene.

But as I go along, I let the characters have a lot of freedom, and they may take me off on a tangent. Also, sometimes when I’m writing, a character will just pop up. This is where the “sort of” comes into my writing process. I then have to decide if an unexpected path taken by a character is good or is merely a diversion that takes the story too far off course.

I like to work in this hybrid—mostly planned—but freewheeling kind of a way.

What’s your next book going to be about? Its potential title is Murder at NASA. Luke Ryder, the protagonist of my last mystery novel, Death in the Holler, is called into work undercover to solve a cold-case killing at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where I worked last at the agency. I’m quite familiar with the Ames campus, which some Hollywood producers have called a great location to make a movie. I doubt that Ames would ever be the set for a major movie, but the place has so many good locations for me to use in a novel. I’m almost salivating; I’m ready to completely plot my ideas and turn the characters loose at Ames.

How do our readers contact you?

Readers can message me through my website: http://www.bluckart.com.

They can visit my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnGBluckSciFi.

My Twitter page is located at: https://twitter.com/JohnBluck1.

Readers can sign up for my e-mail list by visiting: http://eepurl.com/cJh_pP.

6 Comments

  1. Mar Preston

    I could use a few Florida stories now as Canada grows cold. You’ve had an interesting life and been drawn into some good situations to write about.

    Reply
    • John G. Bluck

      Hello Mar,
      Thanks for finding my stories of interest as winter approaches. Though the first story in “Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales” is set in the sunshine state, there are other stories that take place in the greater Chicago area, northern California, Cleveland, New York and Naples, Italy…. so I hope you also find the stories set in these other locations interesting enough to warm up your imagination. (Many are places where I’ve visited or lived.) Of course, I haven’t been to outer space and a few other locations on which I focus in a few of the yarns.
      But my ultimate goal is to entertain. I hope you enjoy the sixteen stories in the volume.

      Reply
  2. John Schembra

    Interesting background- I can see it would lead to some intruiging plots. I will look you up to find out more about your books!

    Reply
    • John Bluck

      Thank you, John. I appreciate it that you’ll check out some of my books. Cheers, John G. Bluck

      Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    John Blunk is a masterful writer. I read his Death in the Holler and enjoyed it immensely. I’m delighted that Luke Ryder is heading to NASA for another adventure. I ordered his new short story collection, too. I love stories set in Florida. Good luck, John.

    Reply
    • John Bluck

      Thanks, Michael. I also enjoy your books. I’m looking forward to read one of your latest books, “Chimes at Midnight.”

      Reply

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