I got a text from my youngest son the other day, bringing me up to speed on his adventures in the police academy
“Got punched in the face today. Failed to block a left hook. It was awesome.”
That’s my boy.
Of course, his mother wanted to know the name and badge number of the recruit who hit her baby, but his words brought a tear of nostalgia to my eye.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in his boots, attending a regional academy in Texas with officers from a dozen different departments. At twenty-two I couldn’t grow the middle of my mustache, but I tried anyway because cops had mustaches—and I was a dead ringer from Opie Taylor without one.
When my son tells me about his day of firearms training and shows me how he’s put so many rounds through his Glock over a two-week period that he’s had to superglue the wound on his trigger finger closed, I’m transported back to dirt berm in the rural pasture, avoiding rattlesnakes and stepping over cow patties as we advanced on our targets.
When he shows me a new move he’s learned in defensive tactics or a certain handcuffing technique, I envision the ginormous dude who will spin on him someday and bark (or slur or slobber or scream), “You’re just a @*%#& cop! I think I’ll take your gun and…” Anyway, you get the idea. Thankfully for the folks my son will have to arrest, this new generation of lawdog has Tasers where we only had big honkin’ metal flashlights for the in-between times not covered by open hand or resorting to our sidearm.
When he tells me about the naiveté of some new recruits, I remember a freshly graduated Highway Patrolman and a Texas Ranger. The two of them walked behind my captain, the Trooper sergeant, and me. It was daybreak and we were all on our way to breakfast. Unbeknownst to us, the Ranger asked to see the new Trooper’s revolver, saying something like: “Is that one of the new 586s they’re issuing at the Academy?” Now, an old salt knows you don’t go handing your sidearm off to someone else in the middle of town—but this kid was new, and it was a Texas Ranger doing the asking. Innocent as a lamb, the young Trooper handed his revolver over so the Ranger could take a look. The Ranger, always a joker, fired a round into the grass, then, quick a wink, passed the gun back to the astonished Trooper. When we all turned, we saw the flushed Trooper holding a smoking Smith and Wesson, a big divot in the courthouse lawn, and a twinkle in the Ranger’s eye.
Poor kid. He learned an important lesson that day.
I just returned from Boucheron, a conference for Mystery and Thriller writers. Great fun, it afforded me the opportunity to associate with incredibly talented and successful authors. I could name drop here but the list is just too long. There were a handful of former law enforcement officers in attendance, and oddly enough, we all tended to gravitate toward one another, sometimes without even knowing each other’s background. Call it radar for like-minded thinkers. All of us having either retired or quit to write fulltime, we sat for hours telling tales, cussing the system, and reminiscing about favorite partners who’d had our backs during the toughest of times. Often, we’d each end up staring into space, locked in thought about some past adventure or nightmare that would never make it into a war story.
You certainly don’t have to have a law enforcement background to write about gunfights, fistfights and evil men—but it doesn’t hurt.
As luck would have it, there was an international motorcycle show next door to the conference. Since my characters are often found on the back of a bike, I snuck away from the author panel discussions and belly-up-to-the-bar chats long enough to walk around the show and do some research.
Along with the BMWs, Ducatis, Triumphs and Harleys, there were, of course hundreds of vendors. A college-age kid pointed to the Maui Jim sunglasses resting on top of my head and asked if he could demonstrate his lens-cleaning product. Happy to get free stuff, I handed them over. He was a nice guy, chatting about motorcycles and all the famous writers next door while he cleaned—one lens. He gave back the glasses and let me look at the world as I had been seeing it, along side the new world through the clean side. I handed the glasses back to him for the rest of the cleaning and asked if he would please take my money.
One of the most important things they teach at any law enforcement academy is clarity—seeing things as they truly are rather than the way we wish they were. My son stopped by the other day to talk to me about his officer survival class. When he parroted back that little truism, I knew he was going to be okay.It’s astonishing to watch the kid who used to run around in those little baby gowns, pin on a badge and strap on a pistol. It will be two years next month since I’ve hung up my own badge—and there’s not a day that goes my that I don’t miss it. Don’t get me wrong. I love this writing life. But the people I met in my former life—both heroic and heinous—all inform my writing to one level or another. My knees are achier these days, I need trifocals if I want to be able to see the computer and the front sight of my pistol, and the ring finger of my right hand feels like someone attacked it with a ballpeen hammer—but when my son regales me with stories about ground-fighting, arm bars and shoot-and-move exercises, I forget about getting old, remember the way it was—and put it in a story.
Marc Cameron is a retired Chief Deputy US Marshal and 29-year law enforcement veteran. His short stories have appeared in BOYS’ LIFE Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. He's published eleven novels, six of them Westerns.
TIME OF ATTACK fourth in his USA Today Bestselling Jericho Quinn Thriller series, is the newest release from Kensington February of 2014. DAY ZERO will hit the shelves February 2015.
Marc lives in Alaska with his beautiful bride and BMW motorcycle.
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