Thursday, January 5, 2017

Dishonored and Forgotten - The Birth of a Book




               We became writers late in life.  I’ve authored several novels and a book of short-stories.  My wife, Carolyn, writes professional self-help books about parenting and communication skills, especially for children.  We often spend time pursuing separate writing interests, sequestered in our separate offices.   Often, collaboration involved nothing more than providing the first edit of each other's work. 

                One day we decided to take a break.  It was off to Galveston (a short twenty-minute drive) for lunch at a favorite restaurant, watching the ships plow through the channel to load and unload their cargo, including the human variety from cruise ships.  Tiring of that entertainment, we strolled Galveston's historic Strand district, browsing through novelty and antique shops. 

                In one shop, filled with posters, clothes, and items Carolyn calls antiques, but I classify as junk, we found a book of short true crime stories.  It described events that occurred in Texas years ago.  Shuffling through the pages, Carolyn pointed out a story about a 1953 Houston narcotics scandal in which police officers confiscated illegal drugs, then sold them back to the drug dealers.  She was returning the book to the shelf when I realized I’d heard anecdotal accounts of this event while a young police officer in Houston.  I'd never asked questions, but witnessed older cops tell the story (with a wink and a nod) of an officer committing suicide at the police station; the implication clear to me that it was more likely a murder, possibly committed by his fellow officers.

                Fascinated, we bought the book and embarked upon an extensive journalistic research project.  There were visits to public libraries to request and copy pertinent newspaper and magazine articles from the time, requests to Stanford University for copies of a federal agent's papers (donated to the library after his death), and internet searches to discover everything possible about the case and its participants.

We developed family connections for some of the characters who were involved in the case.  My blogs about the events prompted calls from some of those family members and other interested readers.  These contacts led to interviews with the daughter-in-law of a police chief, the son of a police officer who had known those involved, the nephew of the officer (who either committed suicide or was murdered at the police station), and a great-granddaughter of the pimp and drug-dealer who testified against corrupt police.

                One day Carolyn interrupted my writing as I prepared yet another blog about the scandal to declare that was time to write a book about the case.  She suggested that, for the first time, we collaborate on the telling of the story.  Even with all our research, we soon realized there were gaping holes in the lives of the characters and in the story itself.  It would be difficult to write a true crime account of the events.  

      So what would the book be?  How does one describe a novel loosely based on actual events, but that has considerable fiction interspersed to fill in those gaps?  Eventually it was decided.  We would refer to the book as a fictionalized account of the true story of Houston's first police drug scandal.  The gestation period for our new project had begun. 

                I would complete a few chapters, after which Carolyn would more fully develop the characters and the setting.  After two preliminary edits, we recruited beta readers to review the manuscript and make suggestions. 

Finally, just this month, on January 1, 2017, OUR BOOK WAS BORN.  A New Year's baby!  We titled it Dishonored and Forgotten, in honor of the police officer who may very well have given his life for having reported the illegal activities of his fellow narcotics officers.  We hope you share our joy in the new addition to our work.



Larry and Carolyn Ferrell Watts

Larry and Carolyn are Texas authors who have teamed up as authors for the first time to write Dishonored and Forgotten.  Larry has a BA in Labor Studies and is a graduate of the renowned Harvard University Trade Union Program whose mission is to help union leaders develop problem solving skills as well as discover ways to deepen public understanding of the value and importance of labor.

Larry’s career in law enforcement began in Houston, Texas, as a police officer. He became active in police labor issues and served on the board of directors of the Houston Police Officers’ Association and the National Association of Police Associations.  He retired after 21 years and began working for a state-wide association representing law enforcement officers throughout Texas, eventually becoming the chief of staff. After 20 years, he again retired, and began his first fiction novel, The Missing Piece about an Austin police officer involved in shooting a black citizen. Within a year, Watts was asked to assist the City of Austin develop a labor relations department.  Publication of that novel was postponed for two years while he fulfilled the interesting challenge.  He has now published five works of fiction and a book of short-stories.     His experiences are fodder for and add depth to his writing.

Carolyn worked for Continental Airlines for 16 years.  She was a flight attendant scheduler early in that career and worked in Continental's Public Relations Department before returning to school to attain a BS in Psychology and an MS in School Psychology. Her professional career has spanned positions in education, a non-profit counseling center and shelter for victims of domestic violence, and a private practice that enabled her to fulfill her desire to work with couples and their children. 

Carolyn has advocated for children, parents and families for over 20 years as a counselor and specialist in school psychology.  She is certified in marriage and family relationship therapies and in advanced therapies for treating trauma, loss and PTSD.   Her training in working with trauma was valuable in 2011 when she volunteered to counsel victims and first responders during devastating wildfires in Texas.

Dishonored and Forgotten is Carolyn's first venture into historical fiction writing.  She has previously written six read-play-learn-together books for therapists and parents to use while working with children.  She presents workshops to mental health providers and parents.

Larry and Carolyn live on the Texas Gulf Coast where they spend their time writing, enjoying family and attempting to capture all that life has to offer.
                

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