How I came to be a Writer

Published 12.5.2014 by Neal Griffin

As I meet more and more folks who write for a living, I often hear them respond to the question, “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” The answer, is typically something pretty close to, “Oh…. I always wanted to be a writer; there was never a doubt.” They go on to tell of short stories they wrote before they walked. Of newspapers they published in grade school that reported on all the gossip around the neighborhood. I have no similar story. Nothing quite so quaint. But I do have a story of sorts.

WhCover of the book The New Centurions by Joseph Wambaughen I was about ten years old, I got a hold of The New Centurions by Joe Wambaugh, but it wasn’t easy. Mrs. Haas, the local librarian declared it an adult novel and invoked some sort of informal censorship, refusing to allow me to check it out. I can’t remember exactly how I got around her, but it probably involved help from my dad who would never have tolerated such behavior from a librarian, but I did eventually beat the system. I read the stories of the LAPD. I went on patrol with Officers Serge Duran and Roy Fehler. I crossed paths with prostitutes and gang members. I experienced the mundane family squabbles and the tragic officer shootings. By the time I was done I knew two things for certain. Mrs. Haas was right: The New Centurions is an adult novel completely inappropriate for a ten year old (Sorry Dad); and, there was no doubt what I would do for a living. I simply had to be a cop. My course was set.

After a tour in the Marines (after all, Joe W. had been a Marine) I landed a job in police work. In fact, I was in the Police Academy the day after my discharge.

Benefit-compSo what does that have to do with becoming a writer? Nothing really. It wasn’t until many years later that I came to realize the joy of writing. The power of telling the tale. After growing tired of listening to yet another night of “police stories” my wife finally said to me, “With all the stories you have about being a cop, why don’t you write a book?”   She said it like a dare so I took her up on it.   Turned out, I kind of liked this writing thing. I warmed up to the idea of an outlet I could use to convey what I know to the reality of police work. The good, the not so good and yeah; the downright ugly underbelly.

Benefit of the Doubt is my first novel. It is meant to entertain as well as to give the reader pause. I hope it will create an opportunity for all of us to discuss some of our pre-conceived notions and assumptions about the courageous men and women who police America.