I recently published my first novel, The Testing Point. It’s a crime story set in the Greater Boston area, and although it’s a work of fiction, most of it draws from life. My dad was a Boston police officer who worked the night shift. He would come home at about 7 o’clock each morning at a time when I would be getting ready to go off to high school. The morning routine would begin with his saying, “Want a cup of coffee?” This was the signal that it was time for the two of us to sit at the table and discuss all that had transpired on the streets while I was sleeping safely in my bed.
Although my father’s tales alone could provide fodder for a good crime novel, I had other wellsprings to tap as well. For instance, one of my jobs during my teen years was to manage the desk at a Boston motel. It was mob owned, and many of the regular customers were “connected”. The motel’s lounge could get wild, with its wise guys, hookers, and bar hoppers. I started out as the under-aged desk clerk and auditor who illegally worked the midnight-to-eight shift. In this capacity, I was also the night manager. This made for some interesting situations. For instance, I was the manager of the lounge, but too young to enter. The bartender, a by-the-book kind of guy, would bring complaining patrons out to me at the desk so that I could resolve problems and disputes. It was exciting work for a teenager. I learned a lot about how to think on my feet, interact with all kinds of people, and have some fun in the midst of chaos and anarchy.
My neighborhood was also an area known for its tough streets, but also for its thriving organized crime community. Growing up, I always thought my life was typical. I considered my childhood to be idyllic. Translated that means, “the bullets always missed me.” My wife once asked me, “How many murderers do you know?” I answered, “Define murderer.” To which she responded, “That is not how a normal person answers that question.” Confused, I asked her, “How does a normal person answer that?” “None,” she responded without hesitation. I’ve since come to believe that she may be right.
Not everything that happens in my novel happened to me or even to my father. Many of the events that take place in the pages of The Testing Point happened to friends or acquaintances who told me their tales, and a good percentage of the book came entirely from my imagination. And there are still a lot of stories that I can’t tell in a work of fiction, because if I were to include them in my book, nobody would believe them.
Strangely enough, I could probably include them in a non-fiction work, because I would be saying explicitly, “These things really happened.”
It’s interesting that what kept me from writing this book for a long time was my unwillingness to tell stories that would impinge on the privacy of others. One night, I was sitting at a pub, telling stories to some of my friends. As they often did, they attempted to coax me into writing the stories down on paper. I pointed out the privacy issue. “Well, just fictionalize it,” one of my friends responded. I don’t know why the thought hadn’t occurred to me before, but it hadn’t. That night, I began to write my novel. I’m glad I did, because I’ve had so much fun putting all those stories into one coherent adventure, and telling it my way.
The Testing Point
Author: Eric Collins
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 17, 2012)
About the book:
When a prostitute is murdered in a seedy motel room, and an eyewitness points his finger at a cop, it seems an open and shut case. But rookie officer Ben Grasso isn't buying the official story and undertakes his own unsanctioned investigation. Fellow officer Dina Greenbaum learns of her partner's dangerous investigation and, despite lessons from her past that should have warned her away, she decides to help. Fighting organized crime, police corruption, and their own demons, the partners find they can't tell friends from foe, and that they may have started something they can't finish.