What do you do when you suddenly don’t have anything to do? I found myself in that position upon my retirement in 1994. I had been in law enforcement and investigations for twenty years and went to work every day. I actually looked forward to it. And then came that morning when I realized I had absolutely nothing to do.
Some guys in that position would find a lot of things to do around the house, like repairing stuff or making improvements. Unfortunately, I learned several years prior that I’m no handyman. As Clint Eastwood said in one of his Dirty Harry movies, “a man has to know his limitations.” When it came to that kind of stuff, I knew mine.
I tried golf, but was so horrible at it that I had to quit before I harmed myself or others. A couple of other ideas didn’t work out either. I didn’t have a job and couldn’t find a hobby that suited me. I knew I had to find something to occupy my mind or I’d go nuts. But what?
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My salvation came when an assistant medical examiner I’d met during my last major investigation, contacted me. He said he was going to write a manuscript about the county morgue titled Forensic Affair. It would be a fact-based fiction and he wanted me to know that my character’s name was going to be Ronald MacDonald because it would get some laughs from the readers. He asked if I’d review the manuscript when he finished and give him an opinion. I said I would.
I wasn’t enthused about the Ronald MacDonald thing or the title. A lot of bad things had gone on at the morgue — including body stealing and necrophilia. I hoped he wasn’t going to write the story as a comedy.
When he sent me his work I was appalled. It wasn’t fact-based and was about things that were greatly embellished or didn’t happen at all. I told the guy as gently as possible that I thought the story was lacking if it was supposed to be a realistic account of what went on. I didn’t say it to him, but I hoped the manuscript would never be published. It wasn’t.
I started thinking about the investigation and how weird it had been. Body stealing? Previously when I heard those words I thought of the horror movies I watched as a kid with Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi sneaking around a cemetery at night digging up fresh cadavers. But in the 1990s?
The chief medical examiner was doing it, though, and the statute was still on the books. In addition he was illegally taking tissue from the bodies for medical research and falsifying the records. It was a story worth telling and I decided to give it a try.
My fictionalized account titled The Morgue was published in 1996. Most readers enjoyed the tale written by someone they considered had a great imagination, because, after all, they knew there was no way those kinds of things could take place in a county morgue in this day and age. Yeah, right.
Anyway, that got me started and fifteen books later I’m still at it and still learning. I enjoy my second career. The only thing is I never seem to have enough time to get all the things done I want to do. How things have changed.