Why the Police Kill

In my recent book (Lemoncella Cocktail) the protagonist (Patrick Carter) reports having heard some policemen commenting on a recent killing. The conversation runs as follows.

Why the media doesn’t explain clearly what the prescribed procedure is for us to follow? Once we free our gun from the holster, we do so to kill. And we aim at the head—the hostile party can wear a protective vest of some sort—and it’s three shots and a round of three. That’s the rule.” “I know,” had replied his friend, “It’s all fault of the movies. They get a policeman intimidate an opponent by pointing his gun at him and hope that the bad guy will surrender. People believe that it’s what we should do. But if we did, there would be more police killed than criminals.” Patrick remembered asking to repeat what was, and they did, adding that those rules were almost the same around the world. “Basically, once you get the gun out, you do so to kill.”

I remember two instances describing the procedure one should follow while carrying a gun. When a friend of mine became a widow, she went to apply for a pistol permit. She had been a good shooter at the target range and felt that carrying a weapon would make her feel protected. Before she could get an application form, the officer in charge wanted to ask her a few questions. One was: “Where would you carry the gun?” My friend answered “In my purse.”

The officer had no hesitation in replying, “It would be totally useless. By the time you fish your gun out, you would be held up if not beaten or killed. The weapon has to be readily accessible, and there should be no hesitation in using it, otherwise it becomes an extra weapon in the hands of the opponent.”

The second instance is the one of a security guard who had passed all theoretical exams and had to face the practical test. In the room where this was taking place, the officer in charge of testing him entered with a knife over his shoulder in the gesture of throwing it. The student didn’t move and therefore flunked the exam.

When there is danger to the life of a policeman or of other people, the police are instructed to shoot—and to shoot to kill. The weapon is used to kill, not to intimidate a subject. It should be aimed at the head, and fired more than once.

The movies depict the use of weapons by officials in a completely different way: ON GUARD, IT IS FICTION!


Chapter 35: An Excerpt From My Book

Patrick Carter closed the desk computer the task force had lent him temporarily. He’d worked on the grade 12 math course all afternoon, and now he felt he was entitled to some form of rec- reation. He couldn’t think of anything of the kind. He should go out looking for work. If he couldn’t find a bartending job, he should try assistant cook. He liked cooking, he wasn’t bad at it, and he could learn more.

When his phone rang, he prayed it wasn’t Justin. The boy was distressed by the constant presence of an agent in the house and the lack of freedom; if he was invited to a friend’s house, somebody went with him. Patrick would have liked to go see him, but he didn’t want to defy Des Pres’s order. He understood that, to some degree, he constituted a danger to Justin and his grandmother. If they decided to eliminate him as a dangerous witness to the attempt at Samantha’s life, the criminals wouldn’t care if they had to kill a couple more people. So it was with some reluctance that he opened his cell.

It was Emy. “Hi, Patrick. I was wondering if you were free tonight.”

“I’m free, but I can’t go out with you. Express order of Mr. Des Pres.”

“But you don’t work for him. You’re free as a bird.”

“I gave him my word. The man is under a lot of pressure, and it seems that he got even more pressure from higher-ups because of my presence.”

“I see.” She was silent for a moment. “But we can talk on the phone, right—or is it also forbidden?”

“No, we can talk. Actually I’m very happy you called. I finished five lessons on an online course, and I was thinking of what to do next. I needed a break. Do you have Skype on your computer? We could talk and see one another. My personal cell is very basic. Doesn’t have any of the fancy stuff.”

“My computer belongs to the task force. I can’t use it for frivolous things.”

“Well, we can talk to each other about our likes and dislikes. I’d like to know you better, emy.” He heard a giggle.

“I like dark-haired men. I like to dance—I really love to dance—and I like flicks with a love story.”

“I like science fiction movies, and I watch a lot of sports.” “Like most men. How do you like your girls?”
“Beautiful and nice.”
There was another giggle, and then she asked, “Have you ever been in love?”

“Hmm. Yes, a couple of times.” He really didn’t want to explain what had happened, because he didn’t want to divulge his very personal stories to a woman with whom he had no chance.

“I’ve been in love many times,” emy said as an invitation to open up. “First, there was this football player—it was in high school. We went together for more than a year, and he gave me his nice ring.” She sighed. “When my father saw it, he asked a lot of questions; then he gave me a sermon about how dangerous it was to date so young and with a man who had no future.” She paused. “To be in sports was almost a sin for him. I don’t know what happened, but the boy dropped me. He had no problem finding another girl.”

“And you didn’t get another boyfriend?”

“Not until later, when I was already in college. I was in love, but it didn’t work out. But now tell me about yourself.”

“I was in second year of high school, and there was this fine girl: not too tall, blonde with blue eyes. She came to all my games; I played in several sports. I felt I was melting when she looked at me. I think she felt the same.”

“Then what happened?”

“The family got wind of my past. The school principal called me in and told me to stop dating her; he also called my foster parents to be sure I’d follow orders. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t play well for almost two months. I missed her looking and smiling at me.”

Advice for new authors

Advice for new authors

First of all I am going to pass on the obvious:

  • Read a lot
  • Write a lot

Then there is the advice Mark Coker gives in one of the manuals he makes available for free (in Smashwords.com):

  • Study the work of authors in the same field you want to write

Another suggestion I found useful is to give the manuscript to a friend-author and search her/his advice; this doesn’t mean that you have to follow what she/he says; only that you have to ponder the criticism thrown at you. Your friend may have found an error (thank and correct right away). In the case she/he wants to change your story, your plot or the reactions of your personas…be careful. You, the author, is the one in charge: it is your story!

  • Submit your novel to competitions; the judges are quite competent and often offer free comments. I list some of the best: NIEA (National Indie Excellence Award), Global Ebook Awards, Five Star Dragonfly Book Awards
  • Competent reviewing is also very useful: Midwest Book Review does it for free and has an excellent reputation.

Analysis of a bestseller

A few years ago I offered a successful seminar, called “Learn from the Masters” in which I analyze in graphics from, the essential components of bestsellers. An example is the anatomy of Rick Mofina’s “Six Seconds”: Several stories run in parallel, often interlacing.


Mountie Daniel Graham risks his job to solve a murder that hit close to home…the next blog offers a graphic representation of my analysis.

In fiction, we distinguish three essential blocks: the beginning, the major event and the ending. Of course, the start has to ignite the reader’s interest, so at times is referred to as the dynamite stick; its function, however must have a prolonged effect. Figuratively speaking, its conflagration had to leave some burning embers; you can resort to them if or when the story suffers a sudden stop. Example: did you use a killing as your dynamite stick? If yes, introduce an unwanted witness, somebody who should not be there but who, unexpectedly has lingered around the premises. He may come handy, later on…

In the middle, you should place the extraordinary event that leaves dramatic consequences.

The ending, naturally, should answer all the questions that you have raised at the beginning.

Here is what happens in Six Seconds in big blocks (I would not hint at the ending, of course)

The beginning consists of two major concurrent events (the dynamite sticks):

• A woman plots a sophisticated terrorist attack
• A mother spares no efforts to find his kidnapped nine-year-old son

The middle: The pope’s imminent visit.

Children of a school choir who have been chosen to sing for the pope; they will receive a rosary from the hands of the Holy Father. (Time: six seconds)
Due to personal reasons Mountie Daniel Graham doesn’t care much about his job and this allows him to challenge his superior’s orders beyond normal police procedures

Relevant fact: The US National Security Agency, with its advanced technology in signal intelligence keeps the skies under constant surveillance
Another relevant fact: Special fabric incorporating explosive and micro-receptors are woven and shaped into fancy clothing—thus constituting a potential, above-suspicion and hardly-detectable weapon that can be ignited from any point of the earth.

THE BIG CONFLICT: the explosive is ignited

The end is a kaleidoscope of actions that keeps the reader glued to his seat.
By analyzing closely a successful novel, one can appreciate (and maybe absorb) some of its structure and style.


Choosing a title for my new book

I never choose the title of my book too early. In a way, I let the title pop up by itself as I develop the story. Here it is how it went for “Lemoncella Cocktail.”

The protagonist is a bartender, so he is in the position of experimenting with new drinks and cocktails. He wants to please the girl he is interested in, so he concentrates on inventing a drink for women—not too strong with a delicate flavor.

Now, of course I am no expert… First, my experience with alcoholic drinks is minimal, so I had to resort to the help of my sweet sister who frequently visits me from Italy. Second, vodka is one of the best mixes since it seems to enhance the flavor of a drink, without overpowering it.

cropped-lemoncellaI was familiar with the traditional limoncello made in Italy, using peelings of lemons, sugar and water, with the optional addition of alcohol. I went to buy some of the liqueurs available on the Ontario market (where my story takes place) paying attention to the lemon flavor. I found Rossi D’Asiago Limoncello and Sophia’s Lemoncella.

The mixture we came up with was very pleasant to the palate, but we felt that it could stand a bit more kick. The next time, when we met in Italy, we thought of using the juice of a chinotto.lemoncella

A few drops of this fruit made our creation distinctive, if I can use this word. Chinotti are small oranges of bitter taste, frequently used as flavoring agents in Italian aperitifs. We were satisfied with the taste… and so was my protagonist, Patrick Carter.

The name of the cocktail popped up, and this author thought it could be an attractive title for the novel.