Turning Blue: A Life Beneath the Shield is the story of your life, from childhood to retirement, told with an honesty that lays bare some remarkable and sometimes scary moments in your life. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a memoir?
I lived only 25 miles from where I worked and grew up in a middle class neighbor that was so different from where I now went to work. It was definitely cultural shock for me. This was early 80’s and crack was on the scene and people were dying by the thousands. Life, in a sense, was cheap. As a young cop I often wondered why people hated me when I was on patrol. I got to see the anger in their eyes just walking down the street. I later realized they hated the uniform and what it represented. I wanted people to know that there was a person in that uniform. So I used what God gave me and used my life experiences to show that as people we are not that different, we all have struggles and lose, and that there was “A Life Beneath The Shield” and so came part of the title to my memoir.
Each chapter tells a story from your life. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?
I found it to be a very cathartic experience writing about my life. There were many difficult areas to write about. Certainly one that was hard was the passing of my mother and coming to terms with our relationship. But the most difficult was the chapter regarding 9/11. This event changed the world and the way we live. A lot of innocent people lost their life that day. But what hurts the most is that first responders are continuing dying every day and a lot more are suffering from the after effects of that day. Many are in treatment for cancer and other health issues related to 9/11. I have written a stage play based on this chapter of my book. A working title for the play is: “9/11…Never Forget…I can’t”.
You retired from the New York Police Department after 20 years. What is one common misconception you find people have about police officers and detectives?
I believe most people base their opinions of cops either on a one-time, first-hand bad experience or form their opinion from a news story, or a second or third-hand story. Cops are human beings. We make mistakes. we hurt, we bleed, we cry… more than you will ever know. There are good and bad in every profession. Priests-teachers-CEOs…you name it. Police officers are faced with life and death situations every day and only have a split second to decide a course of action. We have families and friends who we love, and who love us. It is our duty to make sure we come home safe. Believe me, no cop ever wants to fire his gun in the line of duty. The responsibility and consequences are enormous. We are truly here to serve and protect.
Are you working on another book? If so, what is it about and when will it be available?
I have written an unpublished novel titled: “Core Four”. I have written a screenplay with Erik Wolter which is currently being reviewed by some interested production companies. It is a coming of age story about four 11 year old boys. Danny’s struggles with the loss of his father (cop) to 9/11 related disease and his expectations. Danny and his 3 closest friends go on an adventure that brings them face to face with a gang of thugs and find a hero in the most unlikely person.
As a kid growing up on Long Island, I struggled with an unknown psychological need to wear a uniform and a strong desire to be a part of an organization. My search would take me through Little League, Cub Scouts, and various fraternal organizations. This desire would only be fulfilled after joining the NYPD in February of 1984.
Somewhere during my twenty-year career, I was transformed from that kid into a veteran New York City police detective. This is my evolution from a middle-class suburban kid with simple values who naively thought the “projects” were a homework assignment into a veteran detective working in some of the most unforgiving neighborhoods of New York City. With this transformation comes the ability to separate the daily exposure to the dark side of human nature from your own life-sustaining core beliefs. Many will fail to acquire this ability and fall victim to drugs, alcohol, divorce, crime, and even suicide. This is a process which I have come to call Turning Blue.
This is my story of how I dealt with life-changing experiences at home while my gun belt and uniform hung safely in my locker. In my twenty years of experience as a police officer, I can honestly say that I have been scared and feared for my life. Could you go back to work after crying yourself to sleep, reliving your partner’s screams as he lay bleeding to death in the backseat of your unmarked car, and the only thing keeping your heart in your chest was your department-issued bulletproof vest?
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To Never Know depicts the story of Steven and how he is affected by his life choices and forces beyond his control. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The story is loosely based on the time period I was in high school up until the time I reached my mid-twenties. I always wondered what life could have been like had I taken more risks when I was a teenager. I was in Florida at the time of 9/11 and right as it happened, I wondered if any of my friends or acquaintances had been affected. There was no Facebook back then so it was more difficult to keep in touch with old friends and classmates at that time. The idea became a story which I felt should be told regarding love, loss and the importance of taking risks in life. You never know when it will be too late to reach out to someone. Therefore it is so important to make good choices today and always follow your heart. As I wrote the novel, I explored the notion of reaching out to someone who lost a daughter in 9/11. I believe this storyline made the novel more powerful. I hope the reader will be moved.
Steven is an interesting and relateable character. What was the inspiration for the main character’s traits and dialogue?
This character is all me. He speaks like me and acts like me especially during the time period the book is set in. I have changed considerably in some respects but most of the dialogue and traits I carry with me to this day.
What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
The moral of the story is that we must move forward and learn from our mistakes. We will make mistakes but we can’t beat ourselves up over them. We must try to value the beauty of life and take pleasure in the little things. I have a fascination for the minor details of life. In the end of this story, lives have been transformed due to the events that took place during the course of the novel. I want people to come away with a feeling that anything is possible if you are just willing to take risks in life.
What is the next book that you are working on and when can your fans expect it to be out?
The next book is called The Separation and is a sci.fi. book. It was supposed to come out in late August but due to the passing of a friend, I couldn’t make the Booklife contest I wanted to enter so I delayed the release to late November. It will definitely come out then. Expect to be moved. It’s a very thought-provoking story.
Steven Lewis is a young man with no concrete plans for his future after school. For a short time during high school, he wanted to ask a girl named Kelly out on a date but never had the courage to do so. As his life is taken in a different direction than he had hoped, he holds on to the thought of actually getting to know Kelly. Even after several years pass, he is determined to find her again. His quest to know her leads him to a tragic discovery. When he meets her mother, Emily, his life will never be the same. This is a story of love, loss and hope. It is an unforgettable personal journey about the quest for happiness after tragedy.
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To Never Know depicts the story of Steven Lewis, and how he is affected by his life choices, his stalled inertia, and forces far beyond his control.
To Never Know, by Thomas Duffy, is a millennialist coming of age drama centered on the late adolescence and early adulthood of the main character, Steven Lewis. The story starts in 1994 in Queens, New York. Steven is in his Senior year of High School. Steven has a crush on a girl in his class, Kelly Brennan. She seems to be interested in him, finding excuses to interact by asking for his notes and a stick of gum. But he never works up the courage to ask her to Prom.
The story skips past graduation and things have changed for Steven. His life continues a downward progression: his grades are not as good at college as they were in High School, he drops out, takes some time off. He tried calling Kelly again, but he could not bring himself to talk to her.
A family friend encourages him to send Kelly a letter, so he does, on September 10, 2001. Keeping in mind that Kelly lives in New York, you can make some good guesses about where the story goes after that, but this story packs a lot more into it, as Steven’s life events continue to unfold.
This story is an exploration of millennialist worries and fears in a post-9/11 life: adulthood with its ever-increasing responsibilities, how to live a good life, intimacy, isolation, establishing one’s self-identity, and the existential fear of death. The story is deeply emotional, with conflicting emotions. The quality of writing is strong enough to convey nuanced emotions and details. There were a few copy editing issues, but none bad enough to detract from the powerful meaning of the story.
The title, To Never Know, gives some insight into the central themes within the story. There is a strain of philosophical agnosticism (not in the religious sense) that there are unknown unknowns in our lives and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. There is also the theme that there are “bells that cannot be un-rung.” Steven cannot go and have the relationship he wanted. We will never know what life would have been like if one thing would have been changed in the distant past, and we cannot know what tomorrow will bring.
This book is good, but really heavy at times. It is intended for adult audiences, and probably best understood by older millennials. There are depictions of sex, death, terrorism, and coarse language. The content of the story takes an odd twist at one point, and the end is unexpected.
Pages: 208 | ASIN: B01K7RYJB6
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