Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Welcome Author D.J. Swykert

The underlying theme in my latest book, The Death of Anyone, poses the Machiavellian question: Does the end justify the means? I developed this story around an impulsive homicide detective, Bonnie Benham, who wants to use Familial DNA, a search technique not in common use in the United States. Only two states even have a written policy regarding its use, Colorado and California.

 Bonnie is a no nonsense cop who describes herself as a blond with a badge and a gun. She has her own answer to the ethical use of Familial DNA, but the actual legality of its use will be determined in a real life courtroom in the California trial of a serial killer dubbed by the media: The Grim Sleeper.

Lonnie David Franklin, the Grim Sleeper, was caught because his son’s DNA was the closest match to DNA collected at the crime scenes in the database. Investigating Franklin’s son led them to investigate Lonnie Franklin. But there was no direct DNA evidence that linked Lonnie to the crime scene until they obtained a sample from him after his arrest. Lonnie Franklin will be the first person in the U.S. to ever stand trial based on Familial DNA evidence, and its admissibility issues in court will be thoroughly tested by defense attorneys. These are the very same issues that face Detroit Homicide Detective Bonnie Benham and form the plot of my story. 

I’m a blue collar person from Detroit. I’ve worked as a truck driver, dispatcher, logistics analyst, operations manager, and ten years as a 911 operator, which was the very best job of them all. I have a pretty straight forward style of telling a story. I write a book like you’d watch a movie and put it down on paper. 

Detroit Detective Bonnie Benham has been transferred from narcotics to homicide for using more than arresting and is working the case of a killer of adolescent girls. CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, which had not been detected on the other victims. But no suspect turns up in the FBI database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer. Homicide Detective Neil Jensen, with his own history of drug and alcohol problems understands Bonnie's frailty and the two detectives become inseparable as they track this killer of children.

I first heard about the use of Familial DNA working as a 911 operator in 2006. It came up in a conversation with officers working a case. I thought at the time it would make an interesting premise for a book. I began writing the mystery some three years later after leaving the department. I had just finished editing a first draft of The Death of Anyone in the summer 2010 when news of The Grim Sleeper’s capture in Los Angeles was released. I read with interest all the information pouring out of L.A. regarding the investigation and the problems confronting prosecutors. All of which are explored in The Death of Anyone.
DJ Swykert is a former 911 operator. His work has appeared in The Tampa Review, Detroit News, Monarch Review, Zodiac Review, Scissors& Spackle, Spittoon, Barbaric Yawp and Bull. His books include Children of the Enemy, a novel from Cambridge

Books; Alpha Wolves, a novel from Noble Publishing, and The Death of Anyone is his third novel, just released by Melange Books. You can find out more about him and how to buy his books on the blogspot: www.magicmasterminds.com, they are also available at Melange Books, Amazon and at select mystery bookstores. He is a wolf expert.

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Excerpt:

Chapter Two

Benham arrived first, no sign of Russo or Jensen. She got a table and told the maitre de to send them over when they arrived, and that there would be a third party, a Detective Lagrow. As he seated Benham, the maitre de informed her, “The show starts at about 12:30 pm. We have a couple of new dancers.
Benham screwed up her nose, gave him a curious eye. “Dancers?”
The maitre de nodded. “Yes, belly dancers. We have a new one I’m sure your friends will appreciate. She’s very good-young, friendly.”
Benham just shook her head. ”I’m sure they will,” she said as she sat.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
Whoa, the brake in her head told her. You know you, you know your history. You know what a slip can do to you. Doctors, psychologists, treatment, rehab, counselors, AA, each and every one of them flashed across her head as her mind absorbed the offer. “Just a coke, or, actually, would you just bring me a black coffee.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
Benham sipped her coffee and looked through her brief notes of the case. They were very brief, there was little to put in them. A young girl, perhaps ten, dead, strangled, almost for certain assaulted, lying in an alley for a few hours. And it had only been a few hours—Pierangeli seemed pretty sure she hadn’t been there long. She was found at around nine-thirty am, so she died maybe around eight am. She lay there, choked, defiled, beautiful, and dead, and nobody was looking for her. She had to have been taken pretty early this morning, so it’s been about five hours she’s been gone, and nobody loves her enough to miss her. Benham could feel the anger rising from within, from the source where feelings come from, from deeper but inclusive of the stomach, from the birthplace of emotion.
A hand touched her shoulder and startled her. “Me and Jensen are here, bring on the dancing girls,” Dean Russo bellowed, joyous almost, and that irritated Bonnie a little. There was nothing to be happy about this day.
“You’ll get your wish. The belly dancers will be here in a few,” Benham said, with a bit of obvious disdain that Russo picked up on.
“You picked the place.”
“Yeah, I know,” Bonnie answered, feeling a little sorry now she sounded so disapproving. “Yeah, I picked it. Didn’t think about belly dancers, but, hey, we’re here, and I love pastitio, and they have the best. Sorry if I sound pissy, it’s only because I am. Once you see the girl you won’t be dancing in the street either.”
Russo quit laughing. “How long you been in homicide, Benham?”
Bonnie could see she rubbed something, “A couple of months.”
“You were in narcotics?”
“Yeah, I was in narcotics. I was in it and it—I was narcotic.”
There was a pause. Jensen looked across at Russo, glared a little, trying to shut him up with a look. And out of the corner of his eye let Bonnie know he saw her, too. He wanted her to keep this cool.
But it was a little late, and Bonnie was a bit volatile. “You know fucking well I was in narcotics. And you fucking know why I’m in homicide. I got myself transferred out for becoming more narcotic than narc. Quit beating around the bush. What’s your point?”



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