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Friday, November 30, 2012

Heroes & Lovers: A Sam Jenkins Mystery by Wayne Zurl (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

In association with Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews welcomes Wayne Zurl, author of Heroes & Lovers: A Sam Jenkins Mystery!

Author Guest Post

My Theory on Suspension of Disbelief
By: Wayne Zurl

It's simple. Get the little details right and you can stretch the big issues.

Most readers of police mysteries are pretty savvy when it comes to technicalities. Run into an active-duty or retired cop and you have a real critic on your hands.

So, on what must we focus our attention? I used the word above: Technicalities - physical and procedural technicalities. And there can be many. Here are a few possibilities to open up the thought process. 

If you're writing about an established police department, know a lot about them. When you describe an officer, be accurate. Don't say, "The New York state trooper took off his service cap and ran a hand through his sandy hair," when New York troopers wear wide brim Stetsons. 

Find out what the badges look like in the department your story revolves around. Then you can accurately say, "[New York] Detective Sam Jenkins showed the witness his gold shield." In San Francisco they use gold stars. LAPD have large two-tone ovals.

Many mystery fans know their firearms. If you don't, find a technical advisor to help you. Many years ago, I read all of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. A glaring mistake Fleming made remains with me today. In one story, he gave Bond a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson Centennial revolver with a five inch barrel. Ian's problem: The gun was never made with a five inch barrel.

In Up Country, Nelson DeMille's second novel featuring Army Criminal Investigator, Paul Brenner, DeMille mentions the South Vietnamese flag being yellow, red, and green. The flag was actually yellow with four red stripes. He confused the flag colors with the Vietnamese campaign ribbon issued to all US troops serving there during the war. He also spoke of a local beer he called Ba-Ba-Ba. Vietnam vets howled over that one. A French beer brewed in the Republic of Vietnam, 33, was was called Bamiba by American GIs - a corruption of ba mui ba, Vietnamese for thirty-three, certainly not Ba-Ba-Ba, as in black sheep. Shame on Nelson's fact checker. 

I know you get the idea relative to physical technicalities. Now we have procedural standards. Here are a few examples:

Contrary to popular belief on TV and in Hollywood, crime scene investigators or evidence technicians do not  assume responsibility for investigating the felony scenes they process. They assist the squad detectives - provide them with the scientific forensic information they find. It would be logistically impossible for CSIs to deal with the highly technical services available today and do the gumshoe work, too. It's been decades since detectives have had to do their own photography and dust for prints much less all the other scientific work. 

Regardless of what we see on most of the Law & Order reruns, cops don't arrest felons, drop them into a district attorney's lap, and then get sent out to establish a concrete reason to justify the arrest and seek an indictment. Good cops MUST have the proper level of proof BEFORE saying, "You're under arrest, humpo."

My favorite television ADA, Jack McCoy, often possessed only "Reasonable Suspicion" when he told Ed Green and Lenny Briscoe, "Pick him up." In the real world they were often one bottle short of a six pack. The Laws of Arrest say you must have "Probable Cause to Believe" prior to snapping the cuffs on a defendant. 

The same applies to search warrants. Cops can't blithely send their comrade to a judge looking for a warrant to toss a thug's apartment. Just as in the Laws of Arrest, we're encumbered by that pesky US Constitution. In this case, the 4th Amendment, which states: Only upon probable cause shall a warrant be granted to search a person or premises [for the item(s) thought to be on the person or in the place to be searched]. Practically speaking, that probable cause business (sometimes called reasonable cause to believe) can put a crimp in a detective's forward motion. But the talent needed to establish the necessary PCTB is what separates Andy Sipowitz from Barney Fife. 

I look at this issue just as I looked at the things the police officers I supervised had to consider back in the 1970s. I told them, "Keep your hair cut, and your leather gear shiny. That stuff will keep the boss happy so when you do something questionable, he won't remember you as the non-conformist with the sloppy appearance."

If we, as writers, get the little things correct, and our readers don't lose focus on the story while bitching about messed up technicalities, they'll cut us some slack with the big issues that fall under the usual purview of suspension of disbelief. 

About The Author

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Fourteen (14) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A New Prospect, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards and First Runner-up from all commercial fiction at the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Awards. A second novel, A Leprechaun's Lament, is available in print and eBook.

His latest book in the Sam Jenkins mystery series is Heroes & Lovers.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series click on You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and even see photos of the area where the stories take place.

Wayne Zurl ~ Heroes & Lovers ~ Virtual Book Tour Page ~ Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Heroes & Lovers Book Trailer

Book Review

Heroes & Lovers by Wayne Zurl
Publisher: Iconic Publishing
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Format: Paperback - 254 pages
ISBN: 0985138890
Genre: Police - Crime - Mystery Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Heroes & Lovers

Disclaimer: I have received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours.

Book Description:

Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold. It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.”

Getting kidnapped and becoming infatuated with a married policeman never made Knoxville TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas.

Helping her friend, Sam Jenkins, the ex-New York detective and now police chief in Prospect, Tennessee, with a fraud investigation sounded exciting and would get her an exclusive story.

But Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.

When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing he mobilizes all personnel at Prospect PD and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.

During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.

After a lucky break and a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produce an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend. But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.

Book Excerpt:

The last thing I wanted to do just before Christmas was tangle with a creep like Elrod Swaggerty. Unfortunately, a policeman gets little choice of what or who gets dumped onto his lap. Our motto is, “To protect and serve.” Humbug.

At quarter-to-eleven on Monday morning, December 18th, I heard an angry voice in the reception area.

“Now looka here, missy. I wanna see the head man and I want him now. And y’all need ta lock up that no-account, thievin’ sum-bich! Ya hear me?”

Calling Sergeant Bettye Lambert missy sounded like a bad idea. I decided to intervene so I wouldn’t find an injured hillbilly in the lobby of my police station.

Years of experience has taught me the best thing to do in a situation like that would be walk in on the conversation and do nothing until the tide changed.

I stopped ten feet from Bettye’s desk. The complainant, a local specimen, who looked to be somewhere between forty-five and his mid-fifties, wasn’t alone. A woman around thirty stood in the shadow of the older man. She held a four- or five-year-old girl by the hand. None of the three looked like they bought their clothes in Parisian’s, but they seemed clean and healthy, and were probably in need of legal assistance.

I folded my arms across my chest and began my stoic Chief Pontiac impersonation, trying to look just this side of downright mean.

“Sir, we have every intention of takin’ your complaint and helpin’ you the best we can.” Bettye can usually sooth the nastiest characters with only a few words.

The man stood in front of her desk scowling, hands on hips. His salt-and-pepper hair looked like someone trimmed it with a hedge clipper.

I think Bettye sensed my presence. She turned and looked at me, but said nothing and let me do my thing. I thought my act started well. The man stopped talking and the young woman, who had yet to speak, stared at me with anticipation. I tried to look like Grumpy, the seventh dwarf. The suspense was killing me. I wondered what the others thought.

So, I decided to break the silence. “Good morning. I’m Chief Jenkins and I’d be happy to listen to your complaint—if we can do it like civilized gentlemen.” I nearly growled and he blinked first. “Sergeant, would you do the honors?”

Bettye gave a sigh. “Chief, this is Mr. Bunker and his daughter, Lorene. They’ve had a problem with a local auto repair shop. Mr. Bunker thinks it may be a criminal matter.”

Outside our doors, in the lobby of the Prospect municipal building, the colored lights on a tall Christmas tree twinkled in no particular order. The recessed ceiling lamps had been dimmed a little and the marble halls looked cozy.

“Okay, I’d like to hear about it.” I nodded at the two adults. “Mr. Bunker, Miss Lorene, I’ll try to help if I can. Let’s go into my office and sit down. But first, Lorene, will you introduce me to the young lady here?”

Lorene looked too thin. She wore tight jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Her mousy brown hair hung straight and below her shoulders. She smiled, looked toward who I thought was her daughter, and spoke in a sing-song, Smoky Mountain accent. “This is Tonya. Tonya, say hello to the po-leece-man.”

Tonya lowered her eyes and remained quiet. I got down on one knee, tilted my head, tried to look friendly—something not always easy for me, and extended my hand. She looked tiny with long dark hair surrounding a doll-like face. Her red dress, white socks, and Little Lulu shoes seemed like clothing from another age.

“Hello, Miss Tonya. My name is Sam. I think your momma and papaw might have a problem. Would you like me to fix it?”

Little Tonya invoked her right to remain silent. I shrugged and smiled, thinking big girls responded favorably to a smile, why not a little kid. She hugged her mother’s thigh, but finally said, “Yes, sir.”

“Okay, I can do that. But first we need to be friends. Can we shake hands?”

She maintained a death grip on her mom’s leg, but extended her right hand toward mine. I took the little paw between my thumb and forefinger and gave a gentle shake.

“Good. Now we’re buddies,” I said.

Tonya gave me ten percent of a full-size smile. A little progress seemed better than none.

Mr. Bunker and Lorene sat in the two arm chairs in front of my desk. I carried a side chair around front and placed it close to Lorene so Tonya could sit with her mom.

“Now, Mr. Bunker,” I said, “I know you’ve already told the sergeant your story, but can I hear it again?”

Bunker clicked his teeth several times before giving me a concise story. “Lorene had took her Taurus to Smoky Mountain Transmissions fer a check-up. The car’d been actin’ funny and I guessed the bands were a-slippin’. She dropped the car off on Monday, got it back on Wednesday afternoon.”

He paused to shake his head in apparent disgust.

“Had ta give seven-hunnert-fifty dollar. Man said he had ta re-build the transmission.” He stopped again and looked at me.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “I’m guessing there’s something else?”

“Yes, sir, there is. My son, Leroy, he looked at the car. Leroy had took him some classes on auto re-pair in hi-skoo. Leroy says ain’t nobody never even touched that transmission a’tall.”

“Does the car drive better now, Lorene?” I asked.

“Yes, sir, it does.”

Tonya looked at me with big brown eyes while she twisted strands of hair around her fingers. I winked. She smiled.

“Mr. Bunker, what’s your first name?” I asked.

Bunker pulled his head back a few inches, looked at me for a long moment. “Alvin.”

“May I call you Alvin, sir?”

Bunker scowled again looking a little distrustful.

“Shore, I don’ care if ya do.”

“Okay, Alvin, let me tell you what I think. I think seven hundred and fifty dollars is a lot of money. Maybe that’s how much it costs to rebuild a transmission. I don’t know.”

Alvin’s scowl deepened the crevices between his eyebrows.

“If this repairman never worked on the car, like your son thinks, but only topped off the fluid and charged Lorene for an expensive job, that would be a crime.”

Alvin’s face brightened a little.

“If it’s okay with you and Lorene, I’d like our mechanic to take a look at the car. He knows a lot more about transmissions than I ever will. You have the car here now?”

“Yes, sir, we do,” he said.

“Okay. You parked out back?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Our garage is in back of the parking lot. Let’s get your car on a lift and have the mechanic take a look.”

We walked half way to the garage in silence before Alvin Bunker spoke. “They’s a bunch o’ Jenkinses here in Blount County, but you shore don’t sound like you’re from Tennessee.”

“I’m from New York.”

“Our church took us on a bus trip to New York City once,” Lorene said.

“Big place, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Lord have mercy, yes,” she said. “And Biz-zy!”

“You with the po-leece up there?” Alvin asked.

“For twenty years. I worked on Long Island, retired, and moved down here.”

“Lord have mercy. Y’all musta seen a lot.”

My Book Review:

For sixty year old Prospect, Tennessee Police Chief Sam Jenkins, a fraud investigation at a local auto repair shop is anything but typical for the ex-New York Detective crime fighter. Sams offers his favorite TV news reporter, Rachel Williamson, an exclusive story about the fraud case, but his investigation puts Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time when she is kidnapped and her cameraman is assaulted. Determined to find Rachel, Sam mobilizes his personnel at the Prospect PD and enlists the help from some friends in the FBI to help find her ... only to discover that not only is there a fraud investigation and a kidnapping he has to deal with but also a very active local drug trade as well.

Every once in a while a really good crime / police mystery comes along that just grabs your attention and doesn't let go until the end, and that is what Heroes & Lovers has done for me! This is the first Sam Jenkins Mystery novel that I have read, but it will not be the last. Author Wayne Zurl weaves an intriguing tale that is just a plain good ol' fashion mystery that could only be told by a person with years of prior police experience. The story is told in the first person narrative by the main character, Sam Jenkins, who takes the reader along for the ride on his latest investigation adventure. I really enjoyed the author's writing style: the mixture of humor, intrigue and romantic drama engages the reader, while the story has enough twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing what will happen next. With rich descriptions and details of the Great Smoky Mountains and rural Tennessee setting and dialect, to Sam's sarcastic personality and the witty banter between the characters, Heroes & Lovers is an entertaining story that crime/police mystery fans will thoroughly enjoy.

The author has created a realistic cast of characters who are well developed and easy for the reader to relate to. As a fan of Southern fiction, I absolutely loved the use of the local dialect. The authenticity of the language and descriptions of the local townspeople transports the reader to Prospect, Tennessee, where you feel like you are among the townspeople. Sam Jenkins is a real man with flaws but has a heart of gold. He has a witty personality, he's tough, smart and knows how to charm the ladies. He's a man that knows how to solve mysteries and takes the criminal justice system seriously. I really enjoyed the secondary cast of characters, especially Rachel and Sam's loving wife Katherine. The witty banter/dialogue and engaging interactions between the characters make Heroes & Lovers an entertaining mystery novel that you won't be able to put down! I look forward to following Sam on his next adventure!

RATING: 5 STARS ***** 


  1. Hi Kathleen,
    Hey, tomorrow is only December 1st and I've already gotten my Christmas present. Many thanks for that glowing review. I'm glad you enjoyed the story and like Sam and his bunch of regulars at Prospect PD.
    And thanks for inviting me to your blog to pitch my theory of suspension of disbelief.
    Happy holidays to you and your fans.

    1. Hi Wayne, thank you for the opportunity to read, review and host your virtual book tour event. I've become a Sam Jenkins fan. Happy Holidays to you and your family. :)