Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Joe Broadmeadow author of Collision Course and Silenced Justice both Josh Williams Novels, and Spirit of the Trail. Joe is retired with the rank of Captain from the East Providence, Rhode Island Police Department after twenty years. He was assigned to various divisions within the department including Commander of Investigative Services and he also worked in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force as well as on special assignment to the FBI Drug Task Force.
Norm: Good day Joe and thanks for participating in our interview.
How did you get started in writing? What keeps you going? As a follow up, Did you read any special books on how to write?
Joe: Thank you, Norm, for this opportunity to speak with you. I have been writing since I was in Junior High School. I was fortunate to have a number of teachers that encouraged me to write, and more importantly, work at improving my writing.
I also love to read. For as long as I can remember, reading has been an integral part of my life. I average a book or so every day. I am a firm believer that to write well you have to read as much as you can. Reading is the best way to learn about good writing and bad writing.
I have read a number of books about writing. If I had to pick one I’d say Stephen King’s book On Writing is one of the best. Ironically, I don’t particularly care for the type of books King writes, but he is a great craftsman.
Norm: Why do we like to read crime novels and do they have a particular form?
Joe: I think reading crime novels is the literary version of looking at a car wreck. Bad things intrigue us. I think everyone at one time or another has wondered if they could commit a crime. The brilliant robbery, the great heist, or perhaps even the perfect murder. For most of us, it is the closest one can get to an actual crime scene.
As to form, I think the form is secondary to the story. I mean, there is a crime, an investigation, sometimes an arrest or other conclusion to the story. Since it really is true that there is “nothing new under the sun” it falls on the author to make the characters interesting and believable and to make the story plausible. Nothing ruins a crime novel faster for me than when an author paints an unrealistic scenario to end the story.
Having spent 20 years as a police officer, working with all levels of law enforcement, the reality of crime and the criminal justice system is often misconstrued.
Norm: Are you a plot or character writer?
Joe: Character, character, character. As I said, writing crime novels there isn’t very much unexplored territory. It’s the people in the story, how they interact with each other, their actions and thoughts, that make a great novel.
When I read a book, I usually enjoy the ones that give me a character to love and admire as well as one to despise. That is great writing. When people talk to me about characters in my books, and refer to them by their first names, then I know I’ve written something well.
Norm: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Joe: This is more of a practical problem, rather than creative, but I have to force myself to write and not edit at the same time. Spelling and grammar errors make me crazy. If I see one I cannot help myself. I have to fix it.
Norm: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a writer?
Joe: I think in my haste and anticipation of publishing my first novel, Collision Course, I did not use enough external readers to help me edit. I have since gone back and re-edited the book, fixing the glaring errors, but I took an entirely different approach with the second novel, Silenced Justice.
I have a number of friends who are willing to read and edit with a very critical eye. I think some of them are still recovering from the influences of the grammar rigidity of the nuns from their Catholic school. One of them uses red highlight to mark the errors. The only thing missing is the ruler on the knuckles, but I bet they would do that, given the chance. It is a form of therapy for them and helpful to me.
Norm: In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how much is too much?
Joe: Liberties within a story is often necessary to advance the story line. In crime novels, if one is writing a story about a crime in today’s age, not taking time to understand the state of forensic technology, or how the courtroom and the law really work, diminishes the story in my eyes. The same goes for a historical crime novel. If you introduce DNA evidence into a Sherlock Holmes case you’ve lost me as a reader.
I recently reviewed a novel that opens with a courtroom scene. The novel was well-written, the story compelling, the characters likeable (and hateable if that is a word) but the courtroom scenes that opened the book and continued throughout the novel were awful.
Norm: What served as the primary inspirations for each of your novels?
Joe: For the first two novels, Collision Course and Silenced Justice, the main character, Josh Williams, confronts the issue of racism and racial profiling within the story.
My tenure within the department began in the late 1970’s. I saw the tail end of the anti-war movement and the race riots of the 1960’s. Racism among officers that I worked with was rampant and insidious. I wanted to expose the underlying nature of this attitude within what was an almost exclusively white profession yet also show that things are changing, albeit slowly and not without resistance.
Norm: Did you write your novels to express something you believe or was it just for entertainment?
Joe: As I said, my goal was to open a discussion about racism but also to portray a more human side of law enforcement. I think that a novel can both entertain and force people to think about difficult issues.
Norm: How much of you is in your novels and how much of your career in law enforcement has influenced your writing? As a follow up, are some or all of the characters in your novels based on people you know or met?
Joe: My time as a police officer exposed me to things that most people could never even imagine. I believe every writer brings his or her life experience into his or her writing.
It is funny, whenever I run into someone from my department, East Providence, or someone in Law Enforcement that I worked with, they all have ideas about whom the characters really are.
None of my characters are based on one person. They are a blend of the many people I met in my career. Some of the best people I met on the job were those that I arrested and some of the worst were those that wore a uniform. But overall, most of the officers and agents I worked with were dedicated and human.
I would add that most of the people I arrested were just humans as well;; few were truly evil. Although, there are those in the world that are truly evil.
I hope to expand beyond that genre. I am now working on a Young Adult novel involving Wizards and Dragons but with a local Rhode Island twist. Challenge myself a bit. I also have a collection of short stories in development.
Norm: Can you share a little of Silenced Justice and Collision Course with us?
Joe: Of course. First, here’s a selection from Collision Course.
June 22, 2006: United States Attorney Robert Collucci stood on the courthouse stairs addressing the media.
Coming on the heels of his announcing his candidacy for the United States Senate, Collucci was reveling in the media attention.
“My office sought and obtained an indictment of East Providence Police Sergeant Joshua Williams on Civil Rights violations while acting under color of law,” pausing to enjoy the effect.
“I secured the assistance of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division in seeking this indictment. This office assumed responsibility from the Rhode Island Department of the Attorney General insuring the matter would receive its proper attention.”
The implication was not lost on the reporters.
“As long as I am the US Attorney, we will continue to fight for Justice for everyone. This pattern of racial profiling and civil rights violations by police officers will not be tolerated.”
Collucci, looking directly into the cameras, continued. “The evidence in this matter is clear and convincing. The Government will prove that the defendant, Sergeant Joshua Williams, acting under color of law, executed Anthony Machado for the simple reason of being a black man.”
Pointing at the courthouse, “Inside this building, Justice for Anthony Machado is at hand. My platform in this office, and in all my future endeavors, will be Justice for everyone. Thank you.”
The reporters shouted questions; Collucci smiled and waved them off.
Josh Williams, sat in the office of his attorney, Harrison “Hawk” Bennett, watching the news feed.
“Can you believe this?”
“Believe it, my boy? I am counting on it.” Reaching for the remote, he switched off the TV. “Collucci is an arrogant, self-centered, manipulative bastard, and those are his good characteristics. Not to worry, I am going to use those very traits to bury that son-of-a-bitch.”
And from Silenced Justice
Motion in her rear-view mirror drew Keira's attention. The rising sun behind her made it difficult to see, but she sensed the bike was still following her. ‘Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you,’ Josh's voice echoed in her mind.
The sun disappeared behind a cloud; she caught a glimpse of the bike. The passenger was no longer wearing a helmet.
Pushing the Bluetooth button, she said, "Call Josh."
"Contact not found," came the response.
"Josh, dammit, call Josh," the tone and tempo of her voice rising.
"For help, say help. For more options..."
Flicking the command button off, she fumbled with the phone and brought up her favorites list, pushing the call button.
"Miss me already?" Josh answered, his voice coming over the hands-free connection.
"Always, my dear," she said. "Look, I know this is nothing, but I think there's a motorcycle following me."
"Where are you?"
"Just left Dunkin' Donuts at the Seekonk line."
"Okay listen, I am not too far behind you. Drive to the police station. Don't stop for lights. Just look and go. If it's nothing they won't stay with you."
"I'm not going to run any red lights, Josh. You've made me psycho over nothing."
"Keira,” Josh replied, "you noticed them, your instincts are good, and you're driving my truck. Humor me. If it's nothing, it's nothing."
"Okay, okay," she answered.
"And stay on the phone with me; I'm heading your way. I'll call the station on my portable, see if there's a cruiser nearby."
Keira came to the light at Route 44 and Arcade Avenue; she stopped as the light changed to red. Glancing in the mirror, she saw the bike still behind her, two cars between them. She wondered about the passenger no longer wearing a helmet.
"Where are you?" Josh asked. "Sergeant Armstrong is sitting on 44 at the Rhode Island line. After you pass him, drive to the station."
"I am at the light at Arcade Avenue, there's a big truck in front of me. I can't get by. And Josh…."
"What, Keira?” Josh asked.
"The passenger took off his helmet, the driver kept his on. Weird, huh?" Keira said. "Just the driver has a helmet on."
"Where's the bike now?"
"Back a ways, two cars between us. Josh, forget it. I'm fine."
"I'm sure you are, just humor me a bit until you get to the city. Armstrong will stop the bike."
As the light changed, Keira started to move. Glancing in the side view mirror, she saw the bike pass the cars, moving to catch up to her.
Then, she saw the gun.
"Oh my God," Keira screamed. "Josh, there's a gun, he's got a gun."
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and our novels?
I publish a BLOG with a variety of topics.
I welcome any questions or comments. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Norm: What is next for Joe Broadmeadow?
Joe: As I mentioned, I have a Young Adult novel in development called Saving the Last Dragon. It will be out in December of this year.
After that, I have outlines for a new Josh Williams novel as well as a spinoff novel about the Attorney in the books, Harrison “Hawk” Bennett.
My next venture after that is working on an unfinished Science Fiction manuscript called S.E.E.D.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Joe: I think you covered the main topics very well. If I had to come up with something I’d like to answer it would be “What has been the reaction of readers to your writing?”
Overall, the reaction has been great. Like any author, you cringe when you get bad review. While I have been fortunate not to have too many. However, out of the 5 of 6 thousand copies of my books in circulation, there have been a few.
I take solace by reading some of the bad reviews people like Stephen King, James Lee Burke, or John Grisham get. Not that I am comparing myself to them (yet) but it just reassures me that no one can write a book that pleases everyone.
In some of the more critical reviews, I have learned something. I tell everyone to write a review, good, bad, or indifferent. Honest reviews are always helpful, if sometimes painful.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors
Joe: Thank you