Friday, January 24, 2020

Jack Davis, Author of A Sense of Justice

Jack Davis is a retired Special Agent of the United States Secret Service, spending nine of his twenty-seven years working as a field agent, including three in the New York Field Office.

He did back to back permanent protective details (Former President Reagan and President Clinton) from 1993-1999, including two years on the Counter Assault Team (CAT).

After being assigned to Secret Service headquarters in late 1999, he was promoted and took over the agency’s multi-national Electronic Crimes Special Agent Program.  He served as the Secret Service representative to the G8 High-Tech Crimes Sub-Group and the APEC Cybercrime Subcommittee. 

After 9/11, he was detailed to the newly formed Department of Homeland Security and helped stand up the National Cyber Security Division. In that capacity he assisted in briefings to congress and the White House. 

In 2005 he came back to the Secret Service proper as an Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge for the Vice President’s Detail.

In 2006 he was selected to supervise the Counter Assault program. 

Finally, in 2008, he was again assigned to headquarters and served as the Chief Information Security Officer.

He retired in 2011. A Sense of Justice is his first novel. 

One Bite at a Time: Jack, welcome to the blog. We have shared origins, both self-publishing our first books, but I’ll get to that later. Let’s start by you telling everyone a little about A Sense of Justice.

Jack Davis: Dana, thanks for having me.

A Sense of Justice is a combination police procedural/thriller…I hope.  It revolves around three main characters.

PJ Morley, a Secret Service agent out of the New York Field Office who is in charge of the NY Electronic Crimes Task Force. The agents in his squad are responsible for tracking down criminals – domestic and foreign – through the anonymizing entrails of the internet.

Alvaro Lopez is a mid-level Latin Kings Gang leader from Mexico City. He is desperately trying to find a way out of gang life to protect his wife and young family.  

The third major character is a sadistic serial killer who has been using the internet to ply his grisly trade for over a decade. He is methodical and has developed a nearly flawless system to execute his macabre vocation.

The three stories intersect when Morley is contacted by a former lover and requested to unofficially “look into” the hacking of a pharmaceutical company. The case that could have significant negative consequences for a high-ranking congressperson if news of his association with the company were to get into the press.

So, with an emphasis on speed, and working outside the normal law enforcement and Secret Service channels, Morley and the NY ECTF set off in pursuit of a world class computer criminal, never realizing the true monster that awaits them on the other end of the line.

OBAAT: You’re a retired federal law enforcement agent. How much of your experience went inti the book?

JD: I spent 27 years as a Secret Service Agent and a tremendous amount of the book is based on incidents that either happened to me, or other agents that I worked with.

A portion of the main plot is based on a case I worked in 1992 out of San Jose, CA. I was investigating a case involving the use of false ID to pass counterfeit checks; both primary Secret Service jurisdictions.

The suspects, two guys and two girls, mid 20s, were traveling up the coast of California passing the checks at various malls and high-end stores. If memory serves, they started in Santa Barbara, then went to Monterey or Carmel, then Santa Cruz. That was where they stopped, and I lost track of them.

I had some good leads, and I was able to tie the guys to multiple false IDs and tens of thousands of dollars of fraud in the various cities. The problem was, I didn’t have real names for any of the group.

Once I’d gotten my case together, I went across the hall and talked with my local FBI counterpart. He called me back all excited later that day, he had a match. The primary suspect, was a hitman out of LA. The Bureau had a warrant out for the guy for attempted murder and a bunch of other violations.

Here I was looking at this crew, for false Id and passing counterfeit checks, generally perpetrated by non-violent criminals, and he was a murderer, and his buddy was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon. It was a stark reminder to me that no investigation is routine. 

The primary suspect was arrested by the Bureau for attempted murder et al. my charges were lumped into the charging document.

He eventually flipped on the guy in Vegas who had hired him and received I think 10 years in federal prison.   

OBAAT: This being your first book, I’m assuming it was also your first time working with an editor. What was that experience like? Don’t feel obligated to give the editor’s name, but by all means do so if you want to show some love.
JD: Yes it was my first experience with editors. Like most authors, I had multiple people look at the manuscript over the time that I was writing. From writing group members to beta readers to friends, yourself included, there were a ton of people who provided assistance. I won’t go into the names for fear of leaving someone out. They were of tremendous help in making the final product better.

In terms of a professional editor, I was fortunate enough to have Chris Rhatigan do my final edits. He was phenomenally helpful and easy to work with. I’d recommend him highly.

OBAAT: I was lucky to have Chris as the editor of several of my books for Down & Out. Was there anything in particular that he suggested, or caught, that made you sort of smack yourself upside the head and think, “Wow, thanks?” Or was it more of a general smoothing out of things?

JD: Chris has an eye for detail, and in numerous places showed where I had, for instance: changed a street name, used to vs too, or spelled a name differently in various places in the manuscript. In addition, he corrected tense, punctuation and other grammar errors too many times to count. So, while I can’t say there were any, “smack my forehead, Wow,” moments, Chris did give me dozens of, “Ohhhh yeah, I have to change that,” suggestions. Having him in the process made the book infinitely better.

OBAAT: What did you expect from the self-publishing process? Was it easier than you thought, harder, or about you expected?

JD: That’s a good question. While I was going through the process, I would have said it was incredibly painful. Now that I am on the other side, I can see that much of my pain was self-inflicted.

I used Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Like just about anything else, once you get used to the program it makes sense. All-in-all I am happy with the process and product.

OBAAT: And now for the classic final interview question: What’s next?

JD: That’s easy. Most of America, and the world for that matter, sees the Secret Service as the guys standing around the president with sunglasses and talking into our sleeves. So, while my first book discussed the investigative aspect of the Secret Service mission, my next book, also fiction, will address protection.

I was fortunate enough to have been on three permanent protective details (Former President Reagan, President Clinton and as a supervisor Vice President Cheney) and hundreds of temporary protective assignments/details, mostly foreign dignitaries or candidate nominee details. So my next book will draw on those experiences.   

Friday, January 17, 2020

Will You Still Need Me, Will You Still Feed Me?

To mark the event of my completion of another year of getting up every day, let’s see where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Year 64
Not as much got done as usual, or as I’d hoped. There were good reasons—it’s not like I sat around jacking my thumbs all year—but it’s a shorter list than usual.
  • I finished no books, though one dropped in January. (Ten-Seven, average Amazon rating 4.7. Order yours today.)
  • Three short stories published in anthologies: “Tarentum Bridge” in Down to the River; “Stand-up Guy” in the Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity Conference 2020 Anthology; “Noir at the Bar Fight” in Dark Yonder.
  • No readings, though I was invited to the Northern Virginia Noir at the Bar but had to leave early due to illness.
  • A panel at Bouchercon and three panels at the aforementioned C3 conference.

Plan for Year 65
  • Penns River 6, “Pushing Water” drops in May. (Though it’s available for pre-order now, hint hint.)
  • The work-in-progress, volume 6 in the Penns River series, should be finished by the end of March.
  • Copious notes exist for Penns River 7, working title “Officer Involved.”
  • Return to a short story I had high hopes for early in the year and never had time to get back to.
  • Tactically retreat on the Western. I got about 20,000 words in and realized it’s a mess. What had started out as a relatively short and simple story keeps presenting other things to be considered. I need to take a step back and decide what this book is going to be about, what to include, what not to include, and if I envision it as the start of a series.
  • I have a start for a revenge-based Western short story I’m enthusiastic about.
  • I have an idea and notes for another departure for me: a straight up high-concept thriller, sort of a Six Days of the Condor meets Mission Impossible with possible bits of Atomic Blonde thrown in.
  • A couple of Nick Forte PI ideas are nagging at me. I need to do some development work to see which to proceed with, and how.
  • Bring into some kind of narrative form the notes I took from a series of lectures I found online by David Milch.

That last may be the most important, at least in terms of long-lasting significance. I have pages of typed notes from Milch’s talks and interviews that have led me to rethink my entire approach to writing. (More than that, but this is a writing blog so we’ll stick with that.) Not that anyone cares what I think I’ve learned from Milch but I need to better organize these ideas in my head and writing them down is the best way for me to do that, so I might as well share them to see if I can provoked a discussion from which I can learn even more.

That’s probably the big thing I’m hoping for from year 65: learn more. Get better. Improve. Not just as a writer. I’m closer to the end than to the beginning now and I’m more aware all the time of the things I wish I had been more thoughtful about. I want to work on those. Keep me honest.