Jack Miller, Born to Law Enforcement
John Miller, more commonly known as Jack is another member who I've met through the PSWA Conference.
Marilyn: We begin the interview with what I ask nearly everyone, will you tell me about your background?
Jack: I was born into the job. My dad was a Michigan State Police trooper from 1924 until 1949. I think Law enforcement and investigations are in my blood. I have never had second thoughts about doing anything else. I enlisted in the Army to be a MP.
Then for personal reasons I enlisted in the US Air Force to be an Air policeman. I did that job for seven years then applied to be a special agent with the Office of Special Investigations. I was selected and did criminal and counter-intelligence investigations for ten years.
I retired as a Senior Master Sergeant in 1975 and went to work with the Las Vegas District Attorneys office. We ran surveillances on organized crime figure Tony Spilotro and his gang.
After two years I saw an opening with the Nevada State Gaming Control Board. It too was a sworn law enforcement position. I enforced the gaming laws on casino owners, employees and players, investigating complaints and arresting cheaters. I became the Boards expert witness and testified at many trials of casino cheaters. After eleven years of that, I retired. I started my own business, casino security consulting, and it was feast or famine so I retired for a third time.
Marilyn: At what point did you start writing?
Jack: It was during the early part of 1991 when my wife took ill. She was being treated for depression, probably because of me. The medication she was taking made her very sedate. I felt I needed to be home to take care of her. She would sit in an easy chair and stare at the TV, mostly soap operas. I watched as well.
When I saw characters who never went to school yet had jobs like corporation President or CEO, and every year each show had a marriage billed as the wedding to end all weddings, and that every female actress married and divorced every male actor in the show at least twice, I decided that I needed to do something to keep my grey matter from becoming mush.
During my time in the Air Force, I had been involved with some sensitive investigations. Naturally my wife and kids, three of them, would ask what I did and I could not tell them then. I decided I would write memoirs. At page 150 I realized that almost half of the memoir was about one counter-espionage case I ran.
I hit delete a lot and restarted. After three years of writing, deleting, changing, adding and editing, I thought I'd produced the next best seller in the United States and just knew I was going to be in the same category as Dale Brown and John Grisham.
I sent the manuscript off to a publisher and received my first of several rejection letters. Dejectedly, I was watching TV one morning feeling sorry for myself and on one of the morning shows, a man was talking about his company named First Books and how it would publish unknown authors. I sent my book off to them and was told how much it would cost me to get it published. I was not prepared for that, but if I didn’t do it I was going to deprive the world of that next best seller. About two grand later, I had in my hands my paper child and the new responsibilities of marketing and advertising. Something a cop’s life did not prepare me for.
Marilyn: And that bring me right into my next question, what kind of promotion works best for you?
Jack: I have tried all the usual things, the book signings, the appearances and have sold books. Not very many, not what I thought I would. I was certain they would stand in line just to talk to me and give me money for a signed book.
Yes, I was disappointed many times. I was on speaker panels telling others what not to do or at least what to look out for so they would not make the same mistakes I did. And, I sold some books.
Then I figured out what was wrong. There was no advertising for the events. I will not do a book signing at any location now unless the location tells me what type of advertising they will do, how often and where. I have placed my books in several gift shops giving them 40% of the cover price. I guess that is pretty much standard.
My best marketing gimmick is this. I prepared power point shows on espionage, cheating, and how the mob stole from Las Vegas casinos. I do presentations to small organizations which are hungry for speakers. I just learned something about that too. I tell the president of the group that I will only speak if the president announces that signed books are available and he buys one.
Marilyn: Tell me something about your other books.
Jack: I have a total of five. One, All Crooks Welcome, tells the story of the first long term undercover police sting. It happened in Las Vegas and I was part of it. When the dust settled we convicted 105 thieves and prostitutes. Doesn’t sound like much but it was 100% of those we charged. That one is traditionally published.
Cold War Warrior is my first, which I pulled from First Books and republished it as a self-published book. It is the story of an airman approached by the Soviets to be a spy and does so after he notifies OSI and is approved to be an asset for us. We controlled what he gave the Soviets.
The next is titled Cold War Defector and is a sequel to Warrior. In this self published book, the Soviet case officer is caught. He is convinced to be a spy in place. He is instrumental in identifying a man who wants to commit treason against the US.
My third book, Master Cheat was self-published but contained many typographic errors. So many it was an embarrassment to me. I pulled it and had it re-edited and it is at the printers. I am considering taking the proof to a traditional publisher. It is not a documentary but it is not fiction either. It reveals how casino cheats organize, target, and cheat all casino games. I use characters whi are really composites of actual cheats. Some of the scams detailed are current methods.
The last book is The Medal. It is about a soldier who is in competition with life for a specific medal. One most soldiers receive, the Good Conduct Medal. However, it seems that every time he could be qualified something happens.
My books can be purchased through my web site, http://www.retafsa.com. When ordered each book is individually signed and shipping is flat rate. Buy one or ten, shipping is $5.
Marilyn: How did you find out about PSWA?
Jack" I belong to several writing groups. One is Wednesday Warrior Writers. We meet on the first and third Wednesday of every month. We are not a writing group but rather a group of friends with two common interests. We are all former military or former law enforcement or involved in some way with enforcing regulations and we write. One of the members happens to be Keith Bettinger, author of Fighting Crime with Some Day and Lenny. Another is Dennis Griffin, author of several novels and three documentaries one of which is titled The Battle for Las Vegas. It is the story of Tony Spilotro. Both of these authors are not only friends but also members of PSWA. Thus, I became a member as well.
Marilyn: What is next for you?
Jack: My next project is about three quarters of the way through the writing phase, the easy part. While in the Air Force, I was assigned to be in charge of security at two radar sites. One was in Canada and one in Arizona. Each site had about 150 airmen and officers assigned. Radar sites were usually located on some mountain top away from civilization. Many were isolated, meaning the airman could not bring their families. Many were classified as remote tours, meaning if you brought your family you might have to live on the economy because housing was not available on station. If you were alone the tour would last 13 months. If you brought your family the tour might be three years. Naturally, most airmen could not afford to live in towns located 30 or more miles from the duty place so they were unaccompanied for those long 13 months. There was a lot of drinking that went on because every site had a club. Very few became alcoholics because they involved themselves with other things, sports and card games being common. The other pastime they had was playing jokes on each other. I am trying to document some of the shenanigans they did to keep from becoming alcoholics or going stir crazy, yet still doing their jobs, keeping us safe. If it hadn’t been for them, we easily could have gone from the Cold /war we were in, to a shooting war, one which probably only a few may have lived through.
Marilyn: Is there anything you would like to share with my blog readers.
Jack: Just a word of advice to any aspiring author. Once you finish your manuscript, edit it. Then have a friend edit it. Make those changes you agree with and edit it yourself again. Then send it out to a professional editor and when they get done make those changes and edit your editor. Trust no one 100%. When you put your name on your work, have every reason to be proud.
Marilyn: I agree the editing process is very important. Thank you, Jack, for telling us so much about yourself and your work.
Remember, you can meet Jack at the next PSWA conference: http://www.publicsafetywriter.com