Thriller author Mark Myhneir—ex-Marine, real-life homicide detective, narcotics officer, and SWAT officer during 23 years in law enforcement—has earned praise and endorsements from many leading thriller writers.
Mark Mynheir belongs to that rarified group of talented writers who have also made careers as professional policemen. Like Joseph Wambaugh and select few other members of that elite group, Mark Mynheir writes from both professional experience and a razor-sharp vision that easily exercises all the best nuances of classic detective fiction. Mark has served as a narcotics agent, a S.W.A.T. team member, and a homicide detective. His biography follows below.
Mark Mynheir’s forthcoming thriller is The Corruptible, which is the second novel in the series headlining ex-homicide cop and now private eye Ray Quinn (Random House/Multnomah Books, April 2011). Ray Quinn, a tough, brilliant private detective with a quick wit and cynical perspective on life, takes the detective thriller to its darkest and deadliest corners in a searing entertainment that will linger in your memory like a gunpowder burn.
In The Corruptible (Ray Quinn Series, Book 2), Private detective Ray Quinn, a former police officer, is a man battling alcoholism and striving to find himself after a catastrophic injury. He’s been hired to chase down a disgraced ex-cop who turns up dead. Quinn is surrounded by a colorful cast of characters, including a flirty secretary with ulterior motives.
The world first met Ray Quinn in The Night Watchman (Ray Quinn Series, Book 1) (Random House/Multnomah Books, April 2009). Eleven months ago, Ray Quinn was a tough, quick-witted Orlando homicide detective at the top of his game–until a barrage of bullets ended his career…and his partner’s life. Now medically retired with a painful handicap, Ray battles the haunting guilt for his partner’s death. Numbing the pain with alcohol and attitude, Ray takes a job as a night watchman at a swanky Orlando condo. A pastor and an exotic dancer die in an apparent murder-suicide, with tantalizing clues to the ambush that killed his partner and fiancé Trisha and left Ray shattered. This propels Ray out of the shadows and into that garish, noir limelight that still carries a classic black and white flavor.
Mark Mynheir is also the author of three Truth Chasers thrillers starring Florida cop Tim Porter. Like Ray Quinn, the heroes of Truth Chasers are troubled but heroic cops whose marriages are failing, whose children get themselves into terrible trouble, and whose world is filled with corrupt and dangerous people including Tim Porter’s police chief. Those thrillers are Rolling Thunder, From the Belly of the Dragon, and The Void. (Random House/Multnomah Books).
Mark, is Ray Quinn in any way autobiographical? Is he composite of policemen you may have known?
Ray’s an amalgamation of many police officers I’ve known over the years. The traits and skills that make a person a good police officer don’t always translate into making him/her a nice or compassionate human being, but they do make for compelling and charismatic characters. Like any character, though, Ray has just a splash of my personality—mainly the sarcasm. I’m working on that.
Your cops seem troubled, dark, cynical—and yet you write from a strong Christian perspective. Where do the two roads intersect?
Unfortunately, a lot of cops are troubled, dark, and cynical. They might not start out that way, but after a few years on the job—dealing with constant violence, death, and suffering—even the most sincere officer can have his spirit seared and hardened. Writing from the Christian perspective, I wouldn’t be honest and accurate if I didn’t explore these realities. For a detective to plow through a gruesome case and not consider the nature of evil, questions of morality, or the possibility of redemption doesn’t ring true either. It’s human nature to struggle these basic life questions when faced with horrific events. Having a spiritual and philosophical dimension to the stories adds depth and realism.
One of the remarkable strengths of the detective thriller is that it pits a professional seeker who is often also a personal seeker (in search of himself, in search of fundamental truths, in search of true love, in search of peace, stability, and justice) against a world of mystery. The personal mysteries and the world’s enigmas combine with the strange and often terribly violent and dishonest actions of fictional characters. Ray Quinn seems like a classic, larger-than-life P.I. who could hold his own with the men created by Marlowe or MacDonald. Can you summarize the philosophical Ray Quinn for us?
Ray’s a black and white guy. He was abandoned as a child and raised in the Florida Foster Care system. Moving from home to home forced him to develop a hard, fighter’s attitude towards life. While Ray’s tenacity in battling criminals and righting wrongs is admirable, it’s also his Achilles’ heal. Procedural lines and legal hoops tend to serve as guidelines rather than rules. His quick temper and lust for vengeance often hamstrings his best intentions. Ray was happily agnostic, not too concerned about God or anything else. The shooting changed everything for him. Now he’s not just chasing the bad guys, he’s trying to figure out the complex questions of his existence and greater purpose.
Where or how does the real-life Mark Mynheir stand in the shadows behind Ray Quinn, as a seeker on both personal and literary levels? How have your personal experiences, including as a cop, shaped and influenced your fictional detectives?
Almost every piece of dialogue, plot, and action has been shaped by something I’ve seen or done. I’ve changed situations and names, tailoring them for the stories, but just about everything comes from a case I’ve investigated. Early on in my career, I became fascinated with the other officers I worked with. Cops can be some of the most interesting and compelling people around, that is, once you get past the hardened exteriors and into the depths of their psyches. They’ve given me a lifetime of material.
What are your literary and film influences? What are the outside ingredients in film and literature that went into creating Ray Quinn? Music? Theater?
I’m a rather eclectic reader—some Christian novels, secular, mainstream, and the classics. I loved 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbird. I enjoy Michael Connelly, too.
Ray Quinn, though, is a John Wayne junkie. John Wayne is his role model and father figure of sorts—tough, with a strong moral code, right and wrong, heroes and villains and not a lot in-between. My dad was a Duke aficionado. I do believe we watched every John Wayne film ever made when I was growing up. It was a staple of the Mynheir home. That tidbit was a nod to my dad, and it worked well with Ray Quinn’s persona.
What are the internal ingredients that Mark Mynheir brought from his own life to create Ray Quinn?
My main contribution to Ray Quinn’s personality is sarcasm and a disturbed sense of humor. I’m trying to temper that in my personal life, and so is Ray. I don’t think either of us is succeeding.
In the Ray Quinn series, Ray loses his career, his health, and his fiancé. Can you elaborate, and tell us how this creates a major part of the character and story arc for the series?
I always wondered what would happen if I—like Ray—lost everything. How would I react? Would I hold tight to my faith and find a new direction for my life? Or would I spiral out of control into despair? So out of those questions, I created Ray’s character, asking myself what this kind of tragedy would look like for a cynical cop who had no faith in anything except in himself. Before his shooting, Ray was a guy who had his world wired. He was a top homicide detective, preparing to marry the love of his life, physically strong and vibrant, cocky and arrogant, and then in an instant he loses everything he valued most. In essence, his very life was stolen from him. Now he has the choice to rebuild his life in his new normal, as a handicapped ex-cop, or succumb to an existence of hopelessness. There is a wide range of possibilities for a character like Ray.
Speaking of story arc, where do you go from here? Will we see more of Ray Quinn soon? Where do you suspect he’s going, or do you not quite know yet? What’s the creative process like for you?
Ray’s not done yet. He still has a long way to go, although I’m on sure where he’ll end up. We’ll figure it out together.
As far as the creative process, when I start my novels, I have a loose outline and then I begin writing. The first draft is all creative, working out the plot and character elements. I don’t do too much editing there because it interrupts the flow. Once I have that draft finished, I build the characters and story through the 2nd, 3rd . . . and 15th rewrites.
Tell us how your private religious convictions shape your writing, in addition to your thoughts in question (2) above. Did your religious convictions help guide you through your anguish regarding what must have seemed like a long, troubling mystery to you—why am I different? Why couldn’t I read and write properly? Why did I struggle so painfully? How did I finally end up being not just a writer, but a very talented one? And we must assume that your talent was latent all those years—or do you think, like Saul, you were suddenly knocked off a horse and made this dramatic change?
My faith intertwines and enlightens all of my writing. I don’t think you can separate your worldview from the stories you write—no matter your faith or lack of. Somehow, it will seep onto the page. The trick is not to bludgeon your readers over the head with your beliefs, but to probe the tough and complex issues, ask questions, and let the reader come to the conclusions.
I was not a Christian growing up, so when I struggled with reading, writing, and school work in general, I had no faith to hold onto. Instead, I reverted to being the class clown. That didn’t endear me to my teachers and school administration, I can assure you. I eventually failed out of school and joined the Marines. It wasn’t until after I became a Christian that I felt the longing to write and tell stories. There wasn’t a bright light or a voice from Heaven. Just a growing desire to write. Then I began the long process of going back to school, upgrading my education, and learning how to deal with the disabilities.
How did you find yourself in the Marine Corps? Was it, as the military is for many young people, a tough and challenging experience, often personally difficult, but resulting in a more structured sense of self? Did this experience help you in life?
I was a seventeen-year-old high school dropout who thought he was a tough guy; the Marines seemed like a logical choice. I had no idea what I was in for. They adjusted my snarky little attitude rather quickly, but it was one of the best decisions I ever made. If you survive four years in the Marines, you can accomplish anything. It gave me the discipline and the can-do attitude to take up writing and do the hard work to get published. I am forever grateful for my time in the Corps.
Tell us about Florida, which seems to figure prominently in your fiction. You know, Joseph Wambaugh is associated with Southern California and particularly Los Angeles. He set a standard—would you agree? Can you see yourself as an inheritor, sort of a Right Coast Wambaugh? Or do you want to smash molds and fashion something entirely new?
I love writing about Florida because not only is it my home, but we seem to have a disproportionate amount of serial killers and bizarre occurrences here—very fertile ground for a writer.
Walking in Wambaugh’s path wouldn’t be the worst thing to ever happen to me. He’s a terrific writer who broke new ground on how cops are portrayed in novels and on television. I don’t try to write like Wambaugh or anyone else for that matter; that doesn’t work and won’t be authentic to the readers. As a storyteller, you have to keep your own voice and style.
I would certainly love to be a trailblazer, smash molds, create new genres, sell more books than Dan Brown, and all those kinds of things. But I’ll worry about that stuff later. Right now, I’m just trying to write the best novels that I can. I leave everything else up to God.
You took years to discover your writing gift on a road that led you through discouragement paved with the difficulties of severe dyslexia and dysgraphia. Some authors deal with depression and ADD. We should no longer view these problems as shameful, but as sources of pride and accomplishment when someone like yourself so clearly rises far above them. What were the main milestones in your journey? In fact, how did these problems deepen your humanity and your feelings about both your fellow humans and the characters in your novels?
Those early years of school were painful and frustrating; it was rough being the only kid in class who couldn’t seem to grasp the basics. But once I got diagnosed as an adult, I understood the problem and why I failed so miserably. I was able then to start with a clean slate, compensate, and adjust to my weaknesses. From there, I started building my education level, and so grew my love of reading and storytelling. I knew then I wanted to write novels. I spent many years in classes, reading books on writing, and attending writers’ conferences.
My struggle with learning disabilities has also softened my heart to others experiencing the same problems and gave me the realization that God has hardwired everyone in unique and amazing ways. When I speak at schools, I always try to encourage students with LD to ignore the voices that tell them they can’t succeed. There are too many examples of famous people who’ve pushed passed the disabilities—Albert Einstein comes to mind. In The Night Watchman, Crevis Creighton, Ray Quinn’s sidekick, is dyslexic, and I enjoy making his endeavor to pass the police exam a subplot of the story. I felt many people could identify with it.
I use my educational experiences to tell others that writing is a skill, and skills can be learned and honed. Sure, some people are naturally born with more skill than others, but if you’re serious as a writer, you can always get better, study, and grow. It’s all about the journey.
More about The Corruptible
Ex-homicide detective Ray Quinn never had glamorous thoughts of the life of a private investigator—but being cornered in a bathroom stall by the enraged philandering husband of a client? That’s something he could live without. Retired from homicide and living with a painful disability, Ray’s options are limited. Stick to the job, keep impetuous sidekick Crevis alive, and spend quiet evenings with trusted pal Jim Beam, that’s about the best he can hope for.
As a new client emerges, Ray finds himself in an impossibly large boardroom holding a check with enough zeros to finally lift him from his financial pit. The job seems easy enough: find Logan Ramsey, an ex-cop turned security officer who’s taken off with sensitive corporate information. But few things are easy in Ray’s world, regardless of the amount of zeros in the check.
In what should be an open-and-shut case, Ray stumbles across Logan Ramsey in a seedy motel room. Only Ray wasn’t the first to find him. Now Logan’s dead, the client’s information is nowhere to be found, and Ray’s employer is less than forthcoming with the details. Suddenly the line between the good guys and bad guys isn’t so clear. With a foot in both worlds and an illuminating look at an unhappy ending that could well be his own, which will Ray choose?
Mark Mynheir was born and raised on the east coast of Central Florida. Like most boys growing up, Mark enjoyed sports, mainly football and martial arts.
In 1983, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and went through basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina. After serving four years in the Marines, Mark changed gears and pursued a career in law enforcement.
During his career as a police officer, Mark has worked as a narcotics agent, a S.W.A.T. team member, and a homicide detective.
Over seventeen years ago, during a health crisis involving his oldest son, Mark gave his life to Jesus Christ. Shortly after his conversion, he felt God leading him in a new direction: writing.
Now he balances dual careers as a police officer and novelist. Mark is married to the love of his life and has three fantastic children, and they all currently reside in Central Florida.