John Bray, New PSWA Member

Marilyn: This is an introduction to one of the Public Safety Writers Association's newer member, John Bray. John, tell us a bit about yourself.

John: I joined PSWA sometime last fall. I have been lurking, as it were, reading all the e-mails and occasionally taking advantage of some of the suggestions and insights.

I was sworn into the New York City Police Department in May of 1959 and was assigned to a Queens precinct after the Academy. After about two years, I wangled a transfer to a new unit called the Tactical Patrol Force. We worked in all the high crime areas in the City, both in uniform and civilian clothes.

When I graduated from John Jay College and got admitted to law school, I transferred back to a quiet command in Queens. I got promoted to sergeant in 1966 and was sent to the Manhattan precinct that covers Chinatown and Little Italy. That was an adventure. The sergeants’ “club” arranged for my (ahem) transfer to a Queens precinct for reasons we won’t discuss here.

After I graduated from law school and passed the bar I was assigned to a new unit then called the Criminal Justice Liaison Division, where I was promoted to lieutenant and put in charge of the court liaison unit.

From there I was recruited into the Department Advocate’s Office which prosecuted internal disciplinary transgressions in the Department Trial Room. After 17 years I took a vested interest retirement (17/40ths, instead of the full 20/40ths) and left to practice criminal defense and family court law.

Marilyn: How did you find out about PSWA?

John: I found an e-mail on the yahoo/crimewriters site which suggested the PSWA, so I joined after reading the materials on the website.

Marilyn: When did you start writing?

John: After I retired from the practice of law in New York, we moved to Williamsburg, VA. So many people who have heard my stories suggested I write them down. I first intended to just leave them to posterity but found a correspondence course in short story writing and began to believe I might have some little ability to reduce my anecdotes to readable story form.

Marilyn: I believe you mentioned a novel, will you tell my readers something about it?

John: My first novel, THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY MADIGAN, is awaiting publication by BeWrite Books of Lancashire, England. It is still on their “coming soon” queue. It is a story about a teen-age orphan who enlists in the Union Army in 1862 and is wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. During his convalescence and while on guard duty he disrupts an assassination attempt on a member of the cabinet in Washington and is co-opted by the National Detective Service to uncover the ring responsible. It then becomes a law enforcement/counterespionage story.

A visit to the Fredericksburg Memorial Battle Site and National Cemetery was the inspiration for the novel. My second full manuscript, THE BAITED TRAP, is under consideration by another small publisher. It is a more contemporary police procedural set in the 1970’s and is based on real characters and events I dealt with in the Advocate’s Office.

Marilyn: And what do you do for fun?

John: My idea of fun might be a little different. I attend classes at William and Mary’s Christopher Wren Association, A Program for Lifelong Learning. I belong to the Chesapeake Bay Writers Club. (In February I will probably be elected to the presidency, since I’m running unopposed.)

The Emerson Society, a group of retired men meet once month for dinner and a member reads an original essay about a topic he chooses. I belong to a writing critique group, run an open mic program at Barnes and Noble once a month and every once in a while we get to visit some of our 29 grandchildren.

We read and watch rented movies at home. And, oh, I write every once in a while, now agonizing over my third manuscript, which is also based on a wild story about the theft of 100 kilos of heroin by narcotics detectives from the Police Property Clerk’s Office (true event).

Marilyn: When were you first published?

John: My first published short story appeared in the first edition of an e-zine, (yes. India.) That was “The Sergeant’s Club”, an adventure about the inner workings of some of my colleagues in a precinct.

A fantasy story, “The Dragon’s Redemption”, appeared in; published a story about a stalker entitled “The Voyeur” for which they paid the handsome sum of $20.

“Scalped”, an on-line publication accepted another story but it’s not for mixed company and written under a pen name. I have submitted a police short story to the Christopher Newport University writing contest and a science fiction story to a themed contest run by Sci-Fi e-zine.

I have some other stories written and asked Keith Bettinger to send me his listing of possible publications

Marilyn: Thanks, John, that was interesting. Do let me know when the book comes out and we'll do some promo for it.


Thanks for the interesting interview, Marilyn, and the chance to get to know John better.

John, you have quite a background with NYPD. I'm sure you plenty of stories to write about!

Best wishes on all of your writing endeavors, John ~ and a warm welcome to PSWA.
Rosanne Dingli said…
That was a wonderful interview, Marilyn. John is one of my stablemates at BeWrite Books, and I'm looking forward to his book's launch. The cover looks fantastic. I think John is an inspiration to those who come to writing in mid-life, and reap the benefits of experience in other fields.

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