Showing posts with label New Orleans homicide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Orleans homicide. Show all posts

20 December 2019

Homicide Stays With You


by O'Neil De Noux

It was the worst of times. The nearly three years I spent as a Homicide Detective was the worst of times but it was the best work I ever did. As the lead detective of 15 murder cases, with the help of my fellow detectives, I solved every case. In Homicide, you don't work alone, which is what I do as a writer.

Homicide is a permanent assignment, as final as death. You can move on to other work – in or out of law enforcement – but you will always be a homicide detective with a different view of life. You remember the bodies, the blood, the carnage, the guy-retching feeling when you arrive at a murder scene. You remember the victims more than you remember the killers because you connect with the victim if you're any good at detective work. You become their avenging angel. You are responsible for getting the person who did this.

Family members grieve and others are shocked but you have work to do. Homicide is forever.

It is personal. I always brushed the hand of each victim at their autopsy. Let them know someone was there, someone who would catch who did this to them.

I'll share some pictures now of the men and women who I worked with at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office Homicide Division in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

JPSO Christmas Party. Left to right.
Back row: Joe Morton, Eddie Beckendorf, Steve Buras, Pat Rooney, Bob Masson, Marco Nuzzolillo
Middle row: Omalee Gordon, Dennis Gordon, Susie Miller, Russell Hidding,
Front row: Tom Gorman and me


My first Homicide partner Marco Nuzzolillo on my left and our sergeant Bob Masson on my right. Marco taught me so much. He was the best detective I've ever known. Bob Masson was the best supervisor I ever worked for. We were a team. A couple Italian-Americans and a white boy. No, we never shot anyone, never beat up anyone. We killed a lot of ball point pens. Good writing brought good convictions.


At Barry Wood's wedding:
Left to right: Curtis Snow, me, Pat Rooney, Barry Wood, Steve Buras
In front: Russell "Hollywood" Hidding who was in love with his hair.


Detective Barry Wood and me during the canvass of the Shoe Town Murder, Jefferson Highway, Metairie, Louisiana, 1981. This extensive canvass produced a witness with information which led us to the murderers. I fictionalized this case in my novel NEW ORLEANS HOMICIDE. I moved it into the city because who wants to read about Metairie.


My father was a homicide detective.

On the left, O'Neil P. De Noux, Sr., at the crime scene of the Maguerite Kitchen Murder, Gretna, Louisiana, 1967. Other detectives pictured: Arthur Theode in the background, Sam Chirchirillo, Eli Lyons. My father caught the killer.


My father bending over with a speed graphic camera as he photographed a murder scene when he was a CID Agent with the US Army in South Korea, 1954. He solved that case as well.


Homicide stays with you. It doesn't haunt. It just reminds you of past evils and the way we faced them.

My youth is gone now. My health declining with age. I have had some success as a writer – not a lot.

But nothing can take away what we did those long nights and days when there was so much blood and guys like me and my partners chased down murderers. There is so much junk in this world, so much pain but damn, it's good to be alive.

Happy New Year, everyone.

09 March 2018

Just the instrument


by
O'Neil De Noux

2:46 a.m., and I lift my fingers from the keyboard and look at what I've just written on the screen in front of me and realize it's a pretty good paragraph, almost eloquent. Did I write this? Eloquent? We'll see if it makes the cut to stay in the book. I've cut lots of stuff I thought eloquent at first.

The characters keep moving and talking and I stay along with them, typing it out and wonder how many people are going to read this and if they do, will they think of me. No. Why? Because I'm not important. The story is important. The people in it are important. The feelings brought to the reader are important. I'm just the instrument. It flows through me but I'm not important and that's how it should be.

Plot is important, especially in a mystery story. Moving without a plot is like walking through swamp water where your feet can easily bog down and you have to struggle to get moving again. Having said that, I've written stories after creating characters and a situation and not plotting the story and it worked.  It was hard work, but it worked. Writing fiction is confusing work. There are no rules. Except getting it written.

When I wrote my historical novel BATTLE KISS, I knew the Americans would win the Battle of New Orleans. What I didn't know was how the villians (The British) were so heroic and faced incredible hardships to end up on that battlefield only to get slaughtered. I found a starting point, knew how the battle would turn out, created characters and let them lead me through it all.


I've done the same thing with mysteries, often changing the plot as I go through it, dropping in a body or two. What I don't write well are formula stories. Wish I could as they seem to sell.

Like many other writers, sometimes I'm focused like a laser and everything falls into place. Sometimes I have no idea what the hell I'm doing. The odd thing, when writing a novel especially, is to let it simmer when it seems like you're stuck. Daydream about the story when you're away from the computer. EVERY time I've done this - it comes to me. The solution. Why? Because I'm the instrument. The device that gets it done. A novel is a living creature struggling to be born.


In SAINT LOLITA I knew I needed one thing to make it different from other books in the series. Put most of the action away from New Orleans and see how my recurring character LaStanza does away from home. Big problem at first as I researched which Caribbean island to set the story. I'd been to some islands but did not know enough about any island and internet research bogged me down. Hey, it's a novel. Fiction. So I created the island of SAINT LOLITA which lies 76 miles west of Grenada. The novel struggled through my limited intelligence to live. But it's alive. And the Lolita joke worked well.


I knew HOLD ME, BABE would be about a lost song. I gave it to New Orleans Private Eye Lucien Caye and let him go with it. Other characters peeked in, some became important, some not so but the book came together and was nominated for a SHAMUS Award. Same with THE LONG COLD. I'd worked a couple cold cases when I was a homicide detective. What if I had LaStanza work a 30-year-old unsolved murder of someone he went to school with? THE LONG COLD was also nominated for a SHAMUS so someone must have liked reading it.



Sometimes the instrument works like a laser - sharp and focused. Sometimes it gets stuck in mud. Sometimes it doesn't know what the hell it's doing. But it gets done. The short story, the novel, comes together and it's a great feeling re-reading later and thinking - Did I write this?

That's all I have today.

www.oneildenoux.com

06 October 2017

More About Inspirations



by O'Neil De Noux

I started writing in high school and in college, nothing publishable. When I became a road deputy (patrol officer), I took note of what I observed and felt. Notes I'd use to inspire stories. When I became a homicide detective, I knew - this is what I should write about. While my first two novels were not inspired by real cases, the anecdotes in the books were. The small stories and the way the characters talked and thought.

My third novel BLUE ORLEANS is based on a real case we worked. Not only a whodunit, it was a whoisit as it started with a dumped body. Didn't take long to identify the victim as a New Orleans drug dealer, which led to his family and friends, which led to the solution of the case. I jazzed it up in the novel, put in a little sex and violence, created a femme fatale.

   LaStanza Novels 3, 4, 5

My fourth novel CRESCENT CITY KILLS is a telling of another dumped body case, the case of two young New Orleans women executed on the river batture (land between the levee and the water's edge, in this case the Mississippi River). In real life, the murders occurred in Jefferson Parish. In my book, I moved them back to New Orleans were my recurring character NOPD Homicide Detective Dino LaStanza could work it. Condensing the 13-month investigation wasn't hard but pacing the novel was difficult.

Those books also had strong ancillary plots - LaStanza's personal life. But I was fortunate to have a framework. Real cases.

The inspiration of my fifth novel, THE BIG SHOW, came from a phone call from Harlan Ellison who said he had an idea for LaStanza. He gave me flashes of an opening scene and suggested I run with it. I did. All he asked was for me to put an acknowledgement: Thanks Uncle Harlan. Which I did. I made up the rest of the story. Inspiration from a phone call.


The third novel in my Lucien Caye Private Eye series - HOLD ME, BABE (which was a finalist for this year's SHAMUS Award for BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK PRIVATE EYE NOVEL) - was inspired by a conversation with my literary agent Joe Hartlaub (who is also an agent for musicians). He relayed an emotional story about a lost song. I got caught up in the emotion and was inspired.



Hurricanes are inspiring. Look at the flood of Hurricane Katrina-inspired books. I waited eight years before penning CITY OF SECRETS, a story triggered by the haunting poem "Eternal Return" by James Sallis. Sometimes you just have to let an idea ferment.

We writers get inspiration from a lot of sources. The night my wife walked into my home office with a catalog (either a Victoria's Secret or Frederick's of Hollywood catalog) and showed me a new product - the kissable cleavage bra. I made note of what she said, then wrote a story "Kissable Cleavage" that's been published three times. Sorry, don't have a picture of the brassiere to share.

Sometimes it's the little things, sometimes the big ones. Whatever causes emotion in a writer can cause emotion in a reader if well written.

That's all for now.

www.oneildenoux.com



16 June 2017

The Purple Side of Blue


by
O'Neil De Noux

Shell shock is what they called it during the wars of the 20th Century when combatants who survived shelling suffered serious psychological effects. Today it is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We all know it effects police officers and other first responders as well. It comes in many shades.



When I was a homicide detective We experienced what we call 'the purple side of blue' - a bruising of a police officer's psyche after repetitive exposure to extreme violence perpetrated on others. It effects police officers and their families. It is another brutal, lingering residue of the job.

I cannot even list all the horrendous things we witnessed - from infants beaten to death to children shot in drive-by shootings to stabbings to mass killings. It cannot be forgotten. Some try to numb the effects with alcohol or sex or whatever. It makes officers vengeful and their families stunned as the officer morphs from the smiling rookie who came out of the academy with visions of saving lives and catching criminals into a sulking individual with demons crawling inside their mind, reminding them of what they've witnessed. Again. And again.

Every cop I know who has been in law enforcement a while suffers the purple side of blue. Every one. Some more than others.

I've written about the subject, illustrating it in my police procedurals, rather than telling about it. Probably why my most realistic homicide novel, GRIM REAPER, has the word 'fuck' in it 344 times in a 208 page book. You see, on my first day as a homicide detective, my partner Marco Nuzzolillo (best detective I ever worked with) took me to witness 10 autopsies of murder victims. From that bloody day, I worked case after case where a human died at the hands of another human.

Not long ago, I was asked by a deer-hunter friend if I was a hunter.
"I used to be."
"Did you hunt deer?"
"No. I hunted humans."
Pause.
"I hunted humans who killed humans."

I am old now and have an excellent memory. I recall, with unfailing clarity my childhood days weilding wooden swords made by my father as we were the knights of the round table, days swimming in Lake Garda, nights chasing lightning bugs, getting into watermelon fights, looking at girls differently as I grew up, wondering why I noticed their lips and the flow of long hair and their smooth jawline and soft necks. I recall every broken heart, every scintillating thrill of love, recall the births of my children. I remember the bad times too, the failures in life we all experience, but we concentrate on the good times, don't we?

Sometimes, in the middle of remembering a day at the old zoo with a pretty girl, I can see her face and the beauty of that summer day and how I felt. Then I get a tap on my shoulder and turn to see it is nighttime and the bodies of two teen-aged girls lie next to the muddy Mississippi, their hands tied behind them, bullet holes in the back of their heads and I see their autopsies in flashes. I remember brushing a finger over their wrists, touching them, connecting with them, secretly telling each who I was. I was the man who was going to catch who did this.

My partners and I solved that murder case. Took 13 months, but we did. Closure? Not for me. I still see those young, dead faces under the harsh light in the autopsy room. Snapshots of carnage. Closure? Yeah. Right.

A better writer once wrote:
"Never send to know for whom the bells tolls; It tolls for thee." John Donne

Damn, this article is depressing. It is a wonder we can stand it all. Maybe that is what makes us human. We can stand anything.

www.oneildenoux.com