Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and served 20 years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York – as well as the nation. For 13 of those years, Mr. Zurl served as a section commander supervising investigators.
Wayne Zurl is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and also served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. After retiring from the Suffolk County PD, Mr. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.
Twelve of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. His first full-length novel, A New Prospect, was named best mystery at the 2011 Indie Book Awards. His latest novel is titled A Leprechaun’s Lement.
Readers can learn more about Wayne Zurl and his work by visiting his website.
Could you please tell us a bit about your book? The story? The characters?
A Leprechaun’s Lement is the second full-length Sam Jenkins mystery published. Jenkins is a retired New York detective lieutenant who began a second career as police chief in the small Smoky Mountain city of Prospect, Tennessee.
Readers often see disclaimers on the frontispiece of books stating to this effect: “Any similarity to an actual event or any real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” Don’t believe it here. The story is fictionalized and embellished, but based on an actual case I investigated in the mid-1980s.
I think the dust jacket summary will give everyone a good idea what takes place:
“A stipulation of the Patriot Act gave Chief Sam Jenkins an easy job; investigate all the civilians working for the Prospect Police Department. But what looked like a routine chore to the gritty ex-New York detective, turned into a nightmare. Preliminary inquiries reveal a middle-aged employee didn’t exist prior to 1975.
“Murray McGuire spent the second half of his life repairing office equipment for the small city of Prospect, Tennessee, but the police can’t find a trace of the first half.
“After uncovering nothing but dead ends during the background investigation and frustrations running at flood level, Jenkins finds his subject lying face down in a Smoky Mountain creek bed—murdered assassination-style.
“By calling in favors from old friends and new acquaintances, the chief enlists help from a local FBI agent, a deputy director of the CIA, British intelligence services, and the Irish Garda to learn the man’s real identity and uncover the trail of an international killer seeking revenge in the Great Smoky Mountains.”
How did you come up with the title and how much say did you have on the cover design?
I won’t spoil any surprises by mentioning that the first antagonist Sam Jenkins meets, Murray McGuire, had Irish roots. Physically, the diminutive Murray reminded Sam of a “slightly larger than usual leprechaun.” And I’ve made no secret of Murray’s eventual demise—it’s a grisly one. The mystery is who killed him and why.
I rarely spend time trying to conjure up ideas for the cover art on my books. If an inspiration hits me, I tell the publisher. In this case he asked me first, and I immediately thought of a traditionally dressed leprechaun lying in a woodland stream would do a lot to explain the title. He liked the idea and his artist came up with what you see.
Do you have a favorite line or excerpt that you would like to share from your book?
I think the short prelude says a lot and leaves important questions in a reader’s mind. I worked on this a long time and intended to make a potential book buyer say, “What the hell is he talking about? Sounds interesting.”
“I think about the little guy often. Murray McGuire looked like a leprechaun. He played darts like a pub champion and drank stout like a soccer star. If you worked for the city of Prospect and found problems with a piece of office equipment, Murray would work tirelessly to remedy your troubles.
“But after I interviewed him for thirty minutes, I could have cheerfully strangled the little bastard.
“Thanks to Murray, I’ll always look over my shoulder with a modicum of trepidation. I have dreams about a beautiful redhead I could do without. And I remember an incident best forgotten every time I see a turkey buzzard.
“For days, I thought of Murray as the man who didn’t exist.”
What are some of your favorite ways to promote your work?
I like traditional book signings or an event where I talk to a crowd for a half hour or so, explaining the characters in my series and why I write about them.
Many times, aspiring authors attend and are interested in learning how to get published. Their questions provide a chance for good dialogue.
But there are only so many brick and mortar bookshops or other venues within a reasonable distance to make these ventures economically sound.
I also like virtual book tours because they’re almost as interactive. I’m sure I shouldn’t say this, but I hate Internet marketing and self-promotion on Facebook, Twitter, and similar sites. I’m not a computer guy. Before I bought a PC, I hadn’t worked on a computer since they were seven feet tall.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I begin all my books or stories the old-fashioned way—with a lined pad and a purloined motel ballpoint pen. After spending time in a wingback chair writing, I’ll do a first edit and red-line any corrections, deletions or additions. Then I transpose everything to a Word document and proofread it again. My wife and sister are my second echelon editors, so I print a copy and let them go at it.
People ask if I outline a story before I begin writing. I haven’t yet. All that preliminary organization is too much like work.
Most of my stuff is based on incidents I’m familiar with from my years in the police department. I get an idea and just go with it. The only time I keep notes is if a timeline is crucial to the story. Then, I’ll keep track of the days and the hours.
What are some ways that you like to relax?
The quickest infusion of relaxation comes with my absence on the Internet. All the Facebook writer’s/reader’s group emails and Twitter business takes up lots of time and creates pressure. When my wife and I travel, I sometimes take a laptop, but rarely do any usual business.
Travel is our prominent form of entertainment, but we’re not “lay on the beach and read” kind of people. Occasionally, we need a few days rest after a typical vacation.
What author/s do you think are overlooked in the writing/reading world today?
I read many of the best selling authors who don’t stretch my suspension of disbelief too far. Many famous names do, and so, I scrap them. I like Robert B. Parker, James Lee Burke, Nelson DeMille, Joseph Wambaugh, Bernard Cornwell, Robert Crais, Michael Connolly, Lauren Estleman, and a few others. I think George Peleconos is a very good writer who doesn’t get the credit or following he deserves. His black PI, Derek Strange, covers the funkier side of Washington DC. Peleconos does a fine job of adding an authentic Ebonics dialect to his dialogue, allowing us middleclass white folks to hear firsthand how typical gang bangers and drug dealers speak. And his stories are well crafted.
What author would you most like to meet and why?
This has always been a toss up for me. But now that Robert B. Parker has passed away, I’d like to sit down and have a beer with James Lee Burke. I think his books are excellent and I’d like to see what makes him tick.
What is something about yourself that would come as a surprise to many people?
There are several things. I know how to decorate Estonian-style Easter eggs. I have a great recipe for homemade pickled ginger, and because of my great uncle Harry, a Native American of the Turtle Clan, I’ve saved countless Carolina box turtles trying to cross the roads in east Tennessee.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to share with readers?
A new full-length Sam Jenkins novel, Heroes & Lovers is scheduled for release by Iconic Publishing in September. Here’s the dust jacket summary:
“Sam Jenkins might say, “Falling in love is like catching a cold. It’s infectious and involuntary. Just don’t sneeze on any innocent people.” But Sam doesn’t always follow his common sense philosophy.
“Becoming infatuated with a married policeman and getting kidnapped never made TV reporter Rachel Williamson’s list of things to do before Christmas. But helping her friend, Sam Jenkins, the ex-New York detective and now police chief in Prospect, Tennessee, with a fraud investigation would get her an exclusive story. It all sounded exciting and made her station manager happy.
Sam’s investigation put Rachel in the wrong place at the wrong time and her abduction by a mentally disturbed fan, ruined several days of her life.
“When Jenkins learns Rachel has gone missing, he cancels holiday leaves, mobilizes the personnel at Prospect PD, and enlists his friends from the FBI to help find her.
During the early stages of the investigation, Sam develops several promising leads, but as they begin to fizzle, his prime suspect drops off the planet and all the resources of the FBI aren’t helping.
After a lucky break and a little old-fashioned pressure on an informant produce an important clue, the chief leads his team deep into the Smoky Mountains to rescue his friend. But after Rachel is once again safe at home, he finds their problems are far from over.
Additionally, I just heard the proof recording of my novelette, The Great Smokey Mountain Bank Job, that’s on the coming soon list at Mind Wings Audio. That will also be published in eBook format.
Then there’s another novel I’m editing and revising, Pigeon River Blues, I’ll be sending to Iconic when they’re ready to read. Here’s the gist of the story:
Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.
This time, the ex-New York detective turned Tennessee police chief was minding his own business when the mayor asked him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star who’s returned to her hometown of Prospect and received threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.
C.J. Profitt was rich and famous and ready to tell the world about her alternative lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hated.
Reluctantly, Jenkins takes on the job of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit.
Jenkins also hires a down-on-his-luck retired detective as a clerk-typist at Prospect PD and finds himself thrown back years in time with old Army acquaintances who factor into a complicated plot of attempted murder by poisoning, blowing up a music hall at the Dollywood theme park, and other general insurrection on Sam’s “peaceful side of the Smokies.”