BookLife Talks with Michael O'Keefe
A sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Shot to Pieces'
Retired NYPD detective O'Keefe mined his experience to create Shot to Pieces, an authentic police procedural.
What is the story behind Shot to Pieces—what inspired you to set aside your badge as a detective with the NYPD and write a novel?I retired on disability in 2010 after getting injured in the line of duty. I would not have retired otherwise. I have always written, from the time I was in eighth grade and had a crush on my English teacher. That was my first exposure to creative writing, and I have been hooked ever since. After I retired, I kept threatening to write a book. My wife, Janet, got tired of hearing it. She bought me a laptop and told me to write the damned thing.
To what degree does Shot to Pieces draw on your real-life experiences as a detective in one of the world's toughest cities?
Shot to Pieces is largely autobiographical. I like to joke that the names have been changed to protect the guilty. The homicide at the core of the story was one of my old cases. The characters and events are all based on reality. Very little has been embellished. Because fiction enabled me to tell a greater truth than pure recollection would have, I made it a novel.
You have mentioned that Shot to Pieces is now part of the curriculum at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Saint John's University Criminal Justice Department, which seems a unique honor for a novel. How is this story relevant to teaching criminal justice? And how do you think general readers will connect to it?
Shot to Pieces has the distinction of being a painstakingly accurate police procedural and a legal thriller at the same time. Students of criminal justice can use the book as a narrative example of a homicide investigation in actual practice. General readers, who might not be as well versed in these areas, will enjoy the characters and the drama and still be able to feel the raw authenticity of the story.
What kinds of parallels, if any, have you discovered between the process of writing and the process of crime solving?
Tell us a little bit about the follow-ups that you have planned for Shot to Pieces.
I am presently seeking representation for the prequel, A Reckoning in Brooklyn, which features Paddy Durr, the main character in Shot to Pieces, as a 17-year-old in the 1970s. Paddy's mentors and protectors, Butchie and Eddie, are two detectives at war with the Mafia in Bushwick. They must battle the entrenched corruption in the NYPD and dismantle the largest narcotics distribution case in history. They uncover an insidious conspiracy involving human trafficking, pornography, and murder. If they fail, it will mean death—for them, their families, and the blighted Bushwick neighborhood that they call home. I am also at work on a sequel to Shot to Pieces, titled Burnt to a Crisp, another Paddy Durr novel.
What is the one thing you most want to tell readers, other writers, booksellers, publishers, or agents about you or your book?
My work is authentic. I lived it. The reader will sense this and connect with it immediately.