Tuesday, December 11, 2012


     When I ordered my first hard copy of The Toy Cop (which, at this writing, is on its way to Vero Beach with my fiancee), I was basically going into it with an attitude of, "I know I should've proofed this book better than I did but being an old-fashioned reader, I much prefer doing so off something that's made of paper." I knew before ordering it that, aside from CreateSpace's fuckups with the formatting (producing about a dozen blank pages), I knew there were other errors to which I had to own up. It's one thing to proof something on a digital viewer or a Word processing program and another thing entirely to proof an honest to God book with a red pen next to you.
     One of the first things that hit me when I opened up the book was the rude introduction of the story right off the bat. I guess I should've thought to write an acknowledgements page before uploading the file but since I wasn't deluding myself into thinking it was a real book brought out with a real publisher I also thought inserting one for the two or three people who'd wind up buying and reading it would be pretentious. But on reflection, I guessed it would be ungracious of me not to thank the several people who'd helped bring it into being. Plus, when opening up a book, whether it's produced by Simon & Schuster or a vanity press like CreateSpace, we've come to expect that little buffer, that small handshake or kiss before getting down to business in the prologue or Chapter One.
     So, for the one or two people a day who actually read this blog, here's a thoroughly revised version of my acknowledgements that I'd written last weekend for The Toy Cop.

Authors are fond of saying their books couldn’t have possibly been written without the help of this person or that. I suspect most of the time that’s merely traditional literary courtesy but in this case it happens to be true. When I began writing this novel in 1998, the sum total of my knowledge about crisis negotiation was gleaned from Jeffery Deaver’s, A Maiden’s Grave. It’s certainly a superb thriller, but a badly researched one, as I later learned from Fred Lanceley, former FBI crisis negotiator who’d been in more hot spots than Ebola and Hanta virus combined. Fred refused to help me until I assured him I’d be the first novelist ever to get crisis negotiation right. Through emails, corrected proofs, his own book, On-Scene Guide for Crisis Negotiators (of which he’d given me a free copy and which is now going for almost $60 on Amazon, almost $34 for the Kindle version.), and a particularly memorable night at his motel room on Cape Cod after he’d given a seminar, Fred confidently guided me through the fascinating, white knuckle world of top level crisis negotiation. He wanted to make sure that if anyone in the business had read this book, they’d say, “This guy knows his stuff.”
Former Massachusetts Governor Argeo Paul Cellucci, who lived down the street from me and whom I regularly met while he was still the state’s Chief Executive, also advised me on Constitutional points regarding the death penalty. A former state’s attorney before becoming the acting and then the elected Governor of the Bay State, Mr. Cellucci’s legal input was invaluable.
Much research went into The Toy Cop. While I was able to do the requisite study on VX nerve agent, the events of Waco, Rudy Ridge and the Omagh bombing in Ireland by myself, some things such as the piloting of helicopters needed direct input and this is where helicopter pilots George M. Semel, Arthur Jolly and especially Doug Ashworth came in. As with crisis negotiation, I was completely ignorant about makes and models of helicopters (not “choppers”), the all-important Jesus nut, what a high-powered round would do to a helicopter in flight and what exactly a pilot would do to compensate. Through their tireless help, I’d also learned the nomenclature that helicopter pilots use in their work.
Beethoven’s first drafts were so horrible, those who can read music are amazed they’d turned into the masterpieces of western culture they had become. The same is true of many of my first drafts. After I showed my original prologue to her, PJ Gray author Shirley Kennett (now writing under the nom de plume Dakota Banks) essentially rewrote the entire prologue from scratch and I had just revised and added to it. Without her expert guidance (while yet, somehow, escaping her seductive creative influence), the novel may not have been set on the right track on which it had eventually been placed. While she never acknowledged my game-changing input on her debut novel, A Perfect Evil, I’ll be bigger than Alex Kava and mention that she, too, had weighed in on the earlier drafts while awaiting publication.
Charlie Chaplin once sang a beautifully spotless version of an aria. A friend in attendance said to the great silent film comedian, “Charlie, I didn’t know you could sing!” “I can’t,” Chaplin replied, “I was imitating Caruso.” It’s one thing to have a fully-grounded working knowledge of subject matter and another entirely to merely reproduce a small percentage of that hard-won knowledge through scrupulous but shortterm, opportunistic research and literary ability. This is what novelists do, pretend to know what they’re talking about, and it requires the abovementioned experts in their own respective fields to ensure my characters give the impression they, too, know their jobs. My gratitude to these men and women is boundless. Obviously, any mistakes that remain I own.
                                                   -Robert Crawford, December 9, 2012, Hudson, MA

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