Showing posts with label grim reaper. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grim reaper. Show all posts

22 March 2019

Staying a Writer

by O'Neil De Noux

"The trick is not becoming a writer. The trick is staying a writer." Harlan Ellison.

So true. So true. I've seen it more than once.

In 1988, when my first book (GRIM REAPER) was published, it debuted with a book by another New Orleans writer, a younger man with plenty promise, the critics declared. The same critics praised my book for its hyper-realistic depiction of police work, albeit the cops in my book drank too much coffee and used too much profanity. Never been in a police station. Obviously.

The young writer was Tony Buchsbaum and he wrote a good novel called TOTAL ECLIPSE, which deserved praise. According to, it is the only book Tony wrote. I remember him lamenting the fact his book was not a bestseller and the lack of a large advance for a follow-up book.

He seemed to fade away. Never heard about him again.

Not long after, a fellow named Seth Morgan was released from prison and wrote a book called HOME BOY. He became the toast of the New Orleans media and literary society. An ex-con who  wrote a good book. Only problem – he was jerk. Met him at a signing and he was loud, crude, rude, and bragged about being on cocaine. One night, he crashed his motorcycle into the steel railing of the Saint Claude Avenue bridge over the Industrial Canal. He took his girlfriend with him. He was a jerk. No, he didn't fade away. He killed himself and an innocent person in an horrific crash.

Sheila Bosworth wrote two excellent novels - ALMOST INNOCENT and SLOW POISON. Have not heard anything from her since the early 1990s.

Other local writers faded away from writing over the years. Some ran out of gas. Some bemoaned the writing life, the depressing business side of writing.

One who did not and inspired me is Valerie Martin, whom I met when she was between publishers. She told me to never stop writing, no matter how your career is going. It was not long before she linked up with a new publisher and her new book came out – MARY REILLY, nominated for the World Fantasy Best Novel Award and nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel. It was made into a movie.

I met Kate Wilhelm when I lived in Oregon and she was nice enough to ask about my writing. One thing she said was to keep writing and hone your craft. It is your craft.

We writers know the desire comes from within. We just cannot let the world put out that fire in us.

One of our cats helping me work

That's all for now.

16 June 2017

The Purple Side of Blue

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."
"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.