Jesse Damon Interview
Jesse, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Why do you think you were chosen for the main character in a crime series?
Hadn't thought about it. Maybe 'cause you don't hear from people who live on the edge of society like I do. You know, kind of give us a voice. And Mr. Ramirez, my parole officer, told me he thought it would be a good idea if I came. Your PO says he thinks something's a good idea, if you’re smart, you do it.
Ain't much to tell. I picked up a murder conviction when I was sixteen. What you might call a defining moment in my life. So I was locked up for almost twenty years. Now I'm just trying t o make it on parole. Not be one of those recidivism statistics. You know, all those people who get caught up in the revolving door of prison/parole/back to prison. But y'know, they don't make it easy.
Did you kill somebody?
Not directly. I mean, I wasn’t the triggerman. My older brothers got me to stand lookout while they robbed a drug dealer. I thought they were just going in for a buy. But somebody shot the dealer. I was outside, so I don’t know what happened.
But you were convicted of it?
urder charges ended up in adult court if you’re fourteen or older.
Well, there’s this crime called felony murder. There’s only two questions to ask. Were you involved in felony? And did someone die as a result of the felony? Since the answers to both questions is yes, for sure I’m guilty of felony murder.
How old are you?
Thirty six. Sixteen when I go locked up, just about twenty years ago.
Where do you live? What is it about the area that drew you there?
Rothsburg. That's a small city in western Maryland, up in the hills. Used to have a lot of heavy industry in town, but now the state prison complex is the biggest employer. When I was gonna be released, I got an okay job in one of the factories still open. They get a tax break for hiring parolees. So I just stayed. No reason to go anywhere else.
What do you wish people would know about you?
Not much. Just wish everybody'd leave me alone.
In how many books are you featured?
Right now, five. Steeled for Murder, where a forklift driver at the place I work is found dead. Of course I’m the primary suspect. Then Fostering Death, when I try to go pay my last respects to Mrs. Coleman, who was my foster mother. When I decided to go, I didn’t realize she was murdered. And Buried Biker, when my some-times girlfriend Kelly is attacked. First they think maybe I did it, then they think I killed the guy who did. The Sendoff for a Snitch, and Brothers in Crime. Y’know, when you already got a murder conviction under your belt, every time somebody gets killed or something, they think maybe you done it and come looking for you.
Yeah. Abductions and Lies is almost done. After that, who knows?
Let’s talk a little about you. What is your perfect evening?
Sometimes I hang out with this lady Kelly who works in the same steel factory I do, same midnight to eight shift. She's got these two kids. Some weekends we go to her place, fix supper. I help the kids with their homework, watch TV, maybe read to them. Makes me feel like a regular guy, not just an ex-con. Then sometimes, after they're asleep, if Kelly's not been hitting the bottle too bad, we go to bed. As close to perfect as I can think of.
Do you feel you are portrayed fairly in the books?
It is what it is. Ain't nothing fair or unfair about it.
Tell us about Kelly. What drew you to her?
She don't treat me different than anybody else is the main thing. And she's all woman. I mean she's built. She works hard, like I do, so she's strong as an ox. And she got curves in all the right places. Long dark hair--I love to get my hands in it. She's the only woman I ever slept with. But she drinks too much. That’s not good for her, it’s not good for her kids, and it’s not good for me. But she’s going to AA right now.
What really pushes your buttons?
People who act like they don't trust me or are afraid of me. You don't got to like me. Just leave me alone. And I'm not gonna kill you.
What's your biggest turn on?
When I get to the door of my apartment have a key in my own hand to unlock it. I don't got to wait for someone on a control panel to hit the door to open it. And no CO's standing there, watching to make sure I don't mess up. Sometimes I just go out and walk, mile after mile, just cause I can.
What's your biggest turn off?
Parole. I got to report every week. I got to watch where I go and what I do. They can yank me in any time they feel like it, don't need no warrant or even probable cause. It sure beats being locked up, though. And for a while I was on home detention--that was worse than just parole, had to be in the apartment most of the time I wasn't working. And a lot more expensive, too. The parole fees eat up a fair amount of my paycheck.
What's your perfect day?
Any day I'm not locked up.
What's your biggest fear?
That I'm gonna get my parole violated. Prob'ly for something stupid or something I didn't do. I know damn well I only got the one shot. If I get sent back to prison, with all the backup time I got, I'll never see the street again in this life.
Why should readers be interested in your story?
I dunno. Why should they be?
KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for stories, among them working as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant, operating glass melters and related equipment in a fiberglass manufacturing facility, and supervising an inmate work crew in a large medium security state prison. These jobs, as well as work as a special education teacher in an alternative high school and a GED teacher in county detention facilities, provide most of the background for novels and short stories.