Dear Jerome

January 2020

INTERVIEW OF JACK MULLEN, AUTHOR OF DEAR JEROME…Letters From a Cop BY COP WORLD PRESS PUBLICIST. 

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME A WRITER?

JM:  AFTER I RETIRED. AS A COP. I WAS INVOLVED IN INTERESTING CASES…RUNNING INTO SO MANY COLORFUL PEOPLE—COPS INCLUDED. I DECIDED TO TAKE A FEW NOTES  SO THAT  WHEN I  RETIRED AND SWAYED BACK AND FORTH IN MY ROCKING CHAIR I COULD PLAY WITH THOSE MEMORIES. I ENDED UP WITH THREE SHOEBOXES FULL OF SCRAPS OF PAPERS.

CWP: DID THESE NOTES FORM THE BASIS FOR YOUR BOOKS?

JM: SOME OF THEM. AS I DEVELOPED AS A WRITER, I LEARNED TO MAKE FACT OUT OF FICTION AND FICTION OUT OF FACT.

CWP: HOW DID YOU HAPPEN TO BECOME A SAN DIEGO COP?

JM: I’D BEEN HONORABLY DISCHARGED FROM THE MARINES AND ENDED UP WORKING IN SALES FOR EASTMAN KODAK. I WASN’T SETTING THE WORLD ON FIRE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT WAS IN MY BLOOD. MY GRANDFATHER HAD BEEN A NEW YORK CITY COP AND MY DAD A U.S. CUSTOMS AGENT FOR FORTY-THREE YEARS. I KNEW A LOT OF THE AGENTS DAD HAD WORKED AROUND. NICE GUYS. INTERESTING.  FULL OF LIFE AND LOVE. SO, I MADE THE SWITCH.

CWP: YOUR FIRST TWO NOVELS WERE PUBLISHED BY AVON BOOKS. HOW DID THEY DIFFER FROM DEAR JEROME?

JM: THEY WERE BOTH POLICE FICTION GENRE. JIMMY BRESLIN SAID MURDER IS STILL THE MAIN EVENT, SO WRITING THEM, I PUT MY HOMICIDE DETECTIVE EXPERIENCE TO GOOD USE. BUT JEROME IS A LITERARY NOVEL. MY COP BUDDIES WOULD LAUGH ABOUT ME AND LITERARY BEING USED IN THE SAME SENTENCE.

CWP:  SO, JEROME IS A NOVEL OF LETTERS, WRITTEN BY YOUR PROTAGONIST, BILLY CONSIDE, TO HIS OLDER BROTHER JEROME IN THEIR HOMETOWN OF YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO?

JM: CORRECT. JEROME GETS OUT OF BED EVERY MORNING AND SWEATS IN THE STEEL MILLS, SUPPORTING THEIR WIDOWED MOTHER AND YOUNGER SISTER. ALL OF THE CONSIDINES WERE EXPECTED TO PUNCH A TIME CLOCK IN THE MILLS.

CWP: BUT BILLY FOUND A WAY OUT OF TOWN. ESCAPED THE DIRTY JOB THAT HAD KILLED THEIR FATHER IN ONE OF THE FREQUENT STEEL MILL ACCIDENTS…

JM: YES.  BY PLAYING PROFESSIONAL  BASEBALL, BUT WHEN EVERYBODY AGREED HE COULDN’T HIT HIS WAY OUT OF THE PIEDMONT LEAGUE, THAT WAS THAT. FEELING A FAILURE, AND FULL OF GUILT ABOUT JEROME AND YOUNGSTOWN, HE APPLIED FOR THE SAN DIEGO POLICE DEPARTMENT. HIS LETTERS TO JEROME COVER THREE DECADES.

CWP: THE NOVEL POINTS OUT HOW OUTSIDE INFLUENCES AFFECT THE LIVES OF COPS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

JM: YES. BILLY’S LETTERS EXPLAIN HOW THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT; THE VIETNAM WAR, THE COUNTERCULTURE OF THE SIXTIES AND SEVENTIES TOOK THEIR TOLL. I LIKE TO THINK THAT BILLY CONSIDINE MATURED AS AMERICA MATURED.

CWP: YOU TOLD ME THAT AT FIRST YOU WERE AFRAID JEROME WOULD HAVE A NARROW AUDIENCE.  A READERSHIP OF COPS AND THEIR FAMILIES.

JM: YES, AT FIRST. BUT AS I WROTE, THOSE FEARS VANISHED. I WOULDN’T HAVE  FINISHED THE MANUSCIPT IF I DIDN’T THINK IT HAD UNIVERSAL APPEAL.  I BELIEVE BILLY CONSIDINE IS FLAWED BUT APPEALING. HE HAS BLIND SPOTS, BUT HIS DRIVE, HIS HUMOR, HIS COMPASSION AND FOOLISH MISTAKES MAKE HIM A COMPLEX BUT LOVABLE HUMAN BEING.

CWP: A REVIEWER SAID, “YOU CAN’T HELP ROOTING FOR THE GUY. LAMENTING HIS FOLLIES, PRAYING HE’LL SEE WHAT WE SEE. THAT HE’LL WAKE UP AND DO THE RIGHT THING.” DOES HE WAKE UP?

JM: I HOPE SO. LET ME KNOW HOW IT TURNS OUT.

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