Meet Joseph B. Haggerty Sr.

This photo is when Joe won a prize in the Public Safety Writers Association's writing contest last July.

Marilyn: I asked about Joe's background and this is the answer--frankly I'm truly impressed.

    I was born in Washington, D.C.  I’m married with six kids (5 boys and a girl).  I have eleven grandchildren.
  • I was a D.C. police officer for 35 years ( 3 yrs in uniform, 24 as a vice detective and 8 years as an instructor at the police academy).
  • In the mid 80’s I was chosen to be a senior investigator with U.S. Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography.
  • I am now with Office of the Inspector General for Amtrak as a Special Agent doing investigations.
  • I’ve sworn in a deputy U.S. Marshall six times (twice with Amtrak, once with the FBI,  twice with U.S. Attorney’s office and once for the U.S. Attorney General.
  • I’ve a been a guest lecturer on Prostitution and Pornography and the sexual exploitation of children at most of the major colleges in the Washington Metropolitan area and for the U.S. State Department, U.S. Postal Service and the National Center Missing and Exploited Children.
  • I was honored with an award “Heroes of the Heart” from the organization “Children of the Night,” for rescuing children from prostitution.

Marilyn: When did you know you wanted to write?

Joe: In my younger years I was a movie buff.  I didn’t read much.  I used to make up movies in my head and cast my fellow co-workers in the various roles.  My darling wife got me into reading a lot more.  Two book really influenced me toward writing.  One was “The Stand,” by Stephen King.  He created such great characters in that book.  I’m not a big King fan, but the characters he created in “The Stand” were fantastic.  Another book I read called “Cathedral,” by Nelson DeMille was excellent.  The flow of the story and the characters were so enjoyable and exciting.  I’ve read all of Joseph Wambaugh’s books and I just felt like I could do that.    

My biggest hang-up with writing was I was so afraid that no one would want to read what I wrote.  I began by writing poetry.  It was well received, I started writing some short stories and articles for our Union paper, “Simulcast.”  I got a lot of positive feedback so I decided to try and write a novel.  I was working two jobs, but one them afforded me some time to write.  I was so fed up with the Hollywood representations of prostitution and pimps, I wanted to write what the street was really like.  I started three times, but could never get past the second chapter.  Then one night everything just fell into place and I knew exactly where I wanted to go and how to get there.  It took me over a year to write “Shame,” and it was all in long hand.  Twenty-two years later, “Shame: The Story of a Pimp” was published.

Marilyn: What book are you working on now?

Joe: I just finished my second book, which is tentatively titled “Pimp-El,” which stand for pimp eliminators.  It’s about two private investigators, who specialize in finding juvenile runaways.  If the child has been victimized by a child predator, the investigators offer the family an extra service that will guarantee that their child will not return to the predator.  It tells the story of how the investigators locate these children, how they eliminate the predators and how the various police departments try to identified who is doing these eliminations.  I’m still in the process of trying to locate a interested publisher.

I am about to start my third book, which will be about a male prostitute who becomes a professional informant for various police department across the country.  This is based on a real person, who was a source of mine and has passed away, but it will be fiction.

I also have another novella that I’m thinking about expanding into a novel.  It’s about four young women who got involved with a pimp and the subsequent trial that they all testified.  This too is based on a real case, but again I will write it as fiction.  I’m changing a lot of what happened to them because I feel to write what really happened would just further the exploitation they suffered.

Marilyn: What inspired you to write what it is you are or have written?

Joe: Hollywood and television have portrayed prostitution in a light that is so far from the truth that I just could not say or do something.  The daily amount of violence, the sexual exploitation of children, the control these pimps have over these women is so misrepresented by movies and TV.  The psychological damage that is done to these children is tremendous.  The Stockholm Syndrome the Battered Woman Syndrome, these are everyday occurrences within prostitution, not to mention torture and slavery.  Charles Manson was arrested for pimping in Denver, Colorado, and you saw the kind of control he exercised over is followers. 

When I was doing these types of cases, I had to fight tooth and nail with the U.S. Attorney’s office to get them to prosecute pimp cases.  The policy in the U.S. Attorney’s office for the District of Columbia was they wanted at least two victims before they would open a Grand Jury investigation or more forward on a prosecution. 

I interviewed well over 5 thousand prostitutes that came through D.C.  I didn’t try to arrest them, I tried to convince them that if they had trouble on the street with customers or pimps they could come to the police, specifically my partner and I.  In doing this and identifying the pimps and their habits and modus operandi, I learned a great deal about the culture of prostitution in the United States.

Marilyn: What are your writing habits?

Joe: I try to carry a notebook with me wherever I go.  When I have down time, I observe where I am and if it’s an interesting setting or one that I think I could use in a story then I write as complete a description of the setting as possible.  Frequently I get idea for a story, usually a short story or I am prompted by the writers’ group I belong to.  We have contests on various types of writing.

Before I start a story whether it’s short story or a novel I want to know in my head where I want to go.  I may not always get there the way I had originally planned, which is part of the fun of writing.  Sometimes you go where the writing takes you and it’s not always where you thought you would go.

I also don’t worry about punctuation or grammar when I’m into a story.  After I’ve got the story down and am satisfied with the beginning and the end, I’ll go back and make the necessary corrections and make sure the middle has the proper flow and that I didn’t get ahead of myself or create the same character twice.

Marilyn: What is most important in your life?

Joe: I will be 65 years old in a couple of weeks and I hope to retire for good in another year.  I just want my wife and I to have a comfortable retirement and to be able to help my kids and grandchildren if they need it. 

I hope to be writing on a full time basis and to have a publisher who will be a good listener, an open mind and great marketing skills.

Marilyn: What are your writing goals?

Joe: I want to find a publisher that will be interested in the kind of books I write.  I want to get more education on writing and expend on the topics I write about.

Marilyn: What do you do for fun?

I still like to watch old movies, football and baseball.  I am a scrabble nut.  I play at least one game a night against the computer.  I love to travel, but I’m more interested in seeing parts of the United States that I haven’t seen than Europe or Asia.

Joe: What brought you to join PSWA?

Joe: Quintin Peterson told me about PSWA.  Quintin is a fellow police officer from DC and when I checked PSWA out, I was so excited.  I thoroughly enjoyed being at the Las Vegas conference last year, even though I got very sick and missed one whole day of the conference.  I fully intend to attend this year’s conference and maybe I’ll have my second book available by then. 
Marilyn I want to thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog.  Hopefully I can get a picture to you, but I have been having trouble with my computer lately and had to do a recovery on it.  As a result I lost, photographs and some programs to download pictures.  I am on Facebook and my picture is there, if anyone is really interested, but I would suggest they come to this years conference and see all of us in person.  

Marilyn: I found this photo of Joe on my computer from last year's conference. And I echo what he has said, the PSWA conference is great. Check it out at

Thank you Joe, for this great interview and what a great job you've done.



WS Gager said…
Joe: What an interesting life. I am so intrigued by the information on the prostitutes and pimps. I hope to pick up a copy of the latest book and read about what it is really like!
W.S. Gager

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