By George Ebey
Author Rick Reed has also been known as Sergeant Rick Reed. With over twenty years experience as a police detective, his career has allowed him to take part in several high-profile criminal cases, including that of a gruesome serial killer who claimed fourteen victims. This story was the subject for his highly praised true-crime book, Blood Trail.
Now retired, Mr. Reed divides his time between teaching Criminal Justice and writing thrillers.
His most recent thriller, The Cruelest Cut, has been described by author Greg Olsen as, “A jaw-dropping thriller that dares you to turn the page.”
The story features Detective Jack Murphy of the Evansville, Indiana police department whose latest case will represent both a professional challenge and a personal threat. The first victim is attacked in her home; tied to her bed and forced to watch every unspeakable act of cruelty. The second murder is even more twisted. But what’s most shocking to Detective Murphy is the fact that both victims are connected him. Now, as two brothers with vicious criminal records set out to take their revenge on him, Murphy will come to realize just how personal the threat will be, and just how great a price he will have to pay.
I recently had the privilege of corresponding with Mr. Reed who had some fascinating insight into the plight of the writer / crime fighter.
Your previous book, Blood Trail, was an acclaimed true-crime story. What inspired you to decide to write a fictional thriller this time out?
My book, Blood Trail, was about a serial killer named Joseph Weldon Brown. My investigation of that case lasted three years, and took a great toll on my time and life because I was the detective who caught him and had close personal relationships with all the characters in the book. I had pretty much decided not to ever write true-crime again by the time I had finished that story. Not because it isn’t a good and worthy genre but simply because it causes me to relive past horrors.
On the other hand, I’ve always loved a thriller or mystery and in a fiction work I can kill people all day and not a drop of real blood is shed. Writing fiction is an escape from the realities of the world. It allows your mind to roam freely, to listen to your characters, and allow them to create their own personalities and circumstances. In true-crime you are restricted to a set of facts.
You have an extensive background in law enforcement. How did that help you to develop this story?
I was a sociology major in college and have always been fascinated by the study of society, community and people. Police work requires two major talents: being able to read people, and being able to articulate events accurately. During my career in law enforcement I produced enough paperwork to write a dozen books. That means that my well of personal experience will never run dry. I also had the advantage of being a detective, a sergeant, a handwriting expert, hostage/crisis negotiator and eventually commander of the Internal Affairs Unit. The last job was by far the scariest position I ever held, but it brought me closer to the people that were really in need of support by their police department.
As a detective, I always listened closely to people in every case or situation in which I was involved. In some cases I have been able to keep my notes and cassette tapes of these conversations. I still write my books while I’m in very public places because it gives me a solid connection to life, and that reality finds its way into my characters. In creating “The Cruelest Cut” I merely had to give the story line over to the characters and let them run with the ball. Much of my writing may suggest events that have happened or may happen in the future based on current events, but in the end it is all fiction.
Tell us about your main character, Detective Jack Murphy. Are there any autobiographical elements to him or is he an entirely fictional creation?
Sorry, he doesn’t play well with the media, so I’ll answer for him. Jack Murphy is the kind of detective I always wanted to be if I didn’t have to worry about the little things like “being fired, suspended, shot or sued on a daily basis.” He is the kind of detective you would want to be investigating the case (unless you are the bad guy, of course.) There’s an old tag-line, “women love him, men want to be him.” That pretty much describes Jack.
We do share some traits. For example, we are both very articulate and have a love of Scotch and Guinness. We are both in good physical shape, but I’m better looking because Jack has been injured a few times. A big difference is that Jack lives alone, while I live with a Jack Russell dog named Belle, and my two black cats, Hannibal and Clarice. Jack never worries about police policy or orders or budget constraints, while I had to live within some very strict procedural guidelines while I was a cop. So, while we do have some things in common, I have to admit, Jack is way cooler.
A recent write-up said that elements of this story will remind readers of “Psycho.” Do you draw inspiration from films such as “Psycho” or the like? If so, can you discuss some of those works and how they’ve influenced you?
I have to admit that I’ve probably watched every thriller, suspense and horror movie ever made, but I don’t try to incorporate any of these ideas into my writing. Any resemblance to these movies is purely coincidental, but it makes me proud to be placed into those categories.
During my career as a detective I caught an actual serial killer and spent three years interviewing him and investigating his claims. During one of these interview sessions I asked him to explain in detail “how” he strangled a particular victim. This killer came out of his chair and grabbed me by the throat, yelling, “I grabbed her just like this.” (Clean underpants anyone?)
If you follow my upcoming series of Jack Murphy thrillers, you will probably see some other similarities to the above mentioned films, but I am not at liberty to give away the plot, so you will have to wait until the next release in 2011. One thing I can promise, is there will be more Jack Murphy to come, and I know the books will be a thrill ride. I get goose bumps when I write them, and I’m not an easy person to scare.
What’s next for you?
I’m actually working on several projects. At present I’m under deadline for the second Jack Murphy thriller, and it will be released in October, 2011. I’m also submitting a murder/mystery/comedy play to the International Mystery Writer Festival that is held in Owensboro, Kentucky, for next years event in June. I’m writing a dinner/theater play for Ivy Tech Community College, in Evansville, Indiana, where I teach Criminal Justice. I’m also working with Ivy Tech’s Theater class and have provided them with a play that they use for their final project (a murder-mystery, of course.) And I’m working on an Interview textbook for law enforcement that I hope to finish in the near future. Yes, I live with a laptop in front of me.