15 November 2011

Greetings From The Jersey Shore

Jersey ShoreThe title of this posting should give you a clue as to where I live, though I fear it may also induce acute nausea in those of you who have been exposed to the reality television version of this area.  It can get bad here during the heady summer months, but perhaps not that bad.  In any event, there are those of us who find the Shore (not beach or coast or seaside) a very fine place to live.  It also gave me a career, after the army, of rounding up and knuckling down on the hi-jinks and high spirits of such as the "Jersey Shore" crowd when they crossed the line.  This could be satisfying.
I didn't start out to be policeman; it just worked out that way.  In fact, I'm not even from the Garden State, but from that very close relative somewhat to the south, Georgia.  However, the die was cast when I met and married my own Jersey Girl, who could not be less like... Pookie, is it?  Honestly...Pookie?  I ask ya?  Had that unlikely scenario occurred; instead of writing this today I would probably be serving a very long sentence in a very small room.  However, I struck lucky, and Robin and I have been together for most of our lives.  But it was she that got me here.

For nearly seven years I dragged her and the kids across the states and over to Europe as part of my stint in the army.  For those of you who have spent any time in the military with a family, you'll know what I mean when I say it was hard...very hard.  So with the kids still young we made the decision to get out and I further agreed to her wish to be close to her parents.  It seemed the least I could do. 

But even that I couldn't quite get right--I couldn't find work in the area where her parents lived and we were fast running out of money!  A friend of mine who lived  in South Jersey (the natives make a very big deal about the distinction between north and south here) called me and invited me to visit and look for work at the 'Shore'.  I did, and walked into a job as a cop.  I say walked in, but in reality I competed against a pool of several hundred (mostly locals) and came out as one of two who were sent on to the Police Academy.  It was a miracle--the last of my army paychecks had just run out and we were saved!  And it was more of a miracle than I even realized at the time.  I found I loved police work and that I had somehow landed in just the right place for me and my family.  We even bought a house (a very tiny house, but a house); life was getting good.

The police profession treated me well, and Robin went on to get a full time position as a kindergarten teacher, where she still is.  To this day I have little kids run up to me, point, and say, "You're Mrs. Dean's husband!"  Like that's some big deal.  Before my retirement I would point at my badge and answer, "Oh yeah, well I'm also the police chief around here!"  This usually elicited a second and more emphatic exclamation of, "You're Mrs. Dean's husband!"  Alright already...I get it...don't you have parents?

Somewhere along the road I was taking some college courses and found myself in an arts appreciation class (mandatory, don't you know) and my final project was to produce a work of art.  "Art?" says I.  "I can't draw."  "What can you do?" says the professor with a small challenging smile.  He had seen my kind before.  "Uh..." thinking hard...thinking very hard.  "Maybe I could write something," I offer.  His expression shifted over to one of subtle doubt.  "Okay," says he.  I did, and produced my first story.  Not surprisingly, it was about a patrolman at the Jersey Shore, and in this tale, one attempting to apprehend a particularly violent burglar.  I drew the details from a case I had worked.  The prof liked it and said I should submit it to a magazine, which I did, and "The See-Through Man" (1990) became my first published story with Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and also the beginning of a long and satisfying relationship with that august publication...except for the fact that sometimes my stories are turned down.  I don't like to say 'rejected' because that sounds so unsatisfyingBut I don't want to dwell on that here...maybe later...in a more tearful posting (bring hankies).

So now I am retired, and find myself joining the assembled company of SleuthSayers and friends.  Some of the staff writers here I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting through Criminal Brief; others I have met while out and about in our small world.  I hope to provide some useful service by my scribblings, if only to amuse you ("What...I amuse you?") or at the very least, not to embarrass myself or others.  But if I don't manage it, just turn the page (figuratively in this case) and move on, as this is the judgement and sentencing that all writers must bear if they fail to keep up their end of the bargain.

So with that, "I'll catch youse later (as they say around here)."


  1. Welcome, David! We're honored to have you with us.

  2. Remember that Elizabeth, Neil, David, and Leigh (and many other fine writers) are eligible for Ellery Queen's Readers Choice Award. You can find ballots in the December 2011 issue.

  3. Great to have you on board(walk), David. As you know, I am a Jersey boy myself, born in Plainfield (north central) and spending every summer as a kid in Point Pleasant (north end of the Shore... my backyard was the Canal).

    I actually wrote a story about the big distinction people in that tiny state make between the north and the south. "The Federal Case" was published in AHMM back in the 1990s.

    Folks, I think David's story "Erin's Journal" was one of the best stories of 2009. I look forward to his next, and to many happy blogs.

  4. Welcome, David. My granddaughters live right off Exit 8A on the NJ Turnpike. Is that North or South Jersey or is there a separate Middle? Oh, yeah, the chauffeur and the nanny (aka my son and daughter-in-law) live there too.

  5. Thanks for the warm welcome everyone; it's nice to be here.

    Rob and I e-met over a kind comment he made about "Erin's Journal" on the EQMM website. It was then I discovered he was a Jersey boy. Now I always think of him when I'm writing one of my Father Gregory/Chief Hall stories which are always set at 'The Shore', and hoping he will approve.

    The issue of a 'Central Jersey' flares into life from time to time, Liz, but does not carry the heat of the north/south division. I have to admit; having spent some time in both regions, that I do find a distinct geographic and cultural difference between the two.

    Identifying one's specific home turf by an exit is also a peculiar Jersey characteristic. My wife does that. We are Exit 10 on the Garden State Parkway. I will consult with her as to the location of Exit 8A on the Turnpike. She will know, and be both surprised, and dissapointed, that I do not. My indoctrination has been a slow and laborious process.

    Thanks also to Velma for both the welcome and the plug.

  6. David, good to have you here.
    I was born in Atlantic City in the year they made steel pennies, but left at the age of six months and didn't make it back until 1966 when the Army sent me to Ft. Monmouth, so my knowledge of New Jersey is scant. For six months, we rented an apartment in an old house in Long Branch just across the street from the ocean.

  7. Hey David! Welcome to Tuesdays! Glad to have you here for many reasons, only one of them selfish (Ahh. I got this week off.)

    Ahh, Avalon. I was in Avalon for a spring weekend back during college with a bunch of friends. So this was late 60s. We went all over the place trying to find a park to barbecue our dinner. All of them said no fires allowed. Finally one of my friends, Frank DeMarco (a blogger himself, and the nephew of the guy who donated his cabin to us for the weekend) got angry under the collar and stormed in to the Avalon police department, found the chief of police standing behind the desk, and demanded that he cook our dinner. Instead he nicely directed us to a park that DID allow open flames. When I told you this story at the 2008 EQMM cocktail party you looked very relieved when you found out that it was before your stint in Avalon.

    Anyway, welcome again!

  8. Welcome, David -- great post. As I've told Liz Zelvin, I spent many months in NJ over the years, during my IBM career. Most of my stays were in the Princeton/Dayton area, not the shore, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visits there. It was always surprising to this southern boy how beautiful a state NJ is.

    I look forward to many more of your columns.

  9. Thanks R.T., Dale, and John!

    R.T., I once won 700 American dollars in A.C.! I thought I owned that town, brother! Ah, how the croupiers must have chuckled at the rube from Georgia. Over the years they've won it all back and more, I'm sure. The important thing, I tell myself, is that Donald Trump make a living.

    Dale, I think that worried expression on my face was concern at the possible outcome of your story. I feared that the encounter might have ended in violence. You see, in the days before my enlightened reign they sometimes did...or so I have heard...through unreliable sources, of course.

    I'm with you, John. New Jersey is one of the best kept secrets in the eastern U.S. Except for the very ugly strip of Turnpike that runs from Philly to NYC it really is a lovely place. But, unfortunately, that stretch of road is what most folks see of Jersey as they motor through. Like you, both my dad and older brother loved their visits here and were very surprised at what they found.

  10. David -- Violence might have been a possibility. Back then my hair was below my shoulders! -- Dale

  11. David,
    I've tried to comment off and on all day. Gonna try it now as Anonymous. Enjoyed your introduction, and I guessed you were originally a southern boy.

  12. Hey, Jersey Shore (the actual shore not the show) New York City loves you. Grand memories!


  13. I have said many times that the difference between New Jersey and Connecticut is that the highways in NJ go through the worst parts and in CT they go through the best. Therefore people from other parts of the country get completely different viewpoints of the states...

    (On 'tother hand Connecticut doesn't have the same history of political corruption that makes the Garden State so famous.)

    Old night club joke: "Anyone here from Jersey? What exit?"

  14. David

    I'm a bit late because of various stuff, but I wanted to add my voice to the paean of welcome.

  15. Just the other day I was thinking about "Eddie And The Cruisers" the great flick filmed (partly) in the Garden State which (I am told) captures NJ in the '60's perfectly!


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