SPS-205: Cops on the Story Beat: How to Write About Law Enforcement – with Patrick O’Donnell


The crime genre is filled with familiar tropes and character extremes: the cop on the edge, the criminal with the heart of gold. Police sergeant Patrick O’Donnell has been on the job 25 years and is now using his expertise in law enforcement to aid writers who want to bring authenticity and accuracy to their novels and avoid common mistakes and misunderstandings.

Show Notes

  • Patrick’s beginnings as a young officer and being assigned to his first post
  • Why talking to people is a police officer’s best strategy
  • On the tunnel vision that occurs in a tense situation
  • The gallows humour that is important for those in dangerous jobs
  • Dealing with the trauma of the loss of fellow officers
  • Remembering to make characters, even those who are cops, multi-dimensional
  • Keeping faith in humanity despite dealing with the worst of it at times

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

PODCAST EP 193: James mentions this SPS episode with Jerri Williams about the FBI.

WEBSITE: Patrick’s website, CopsAndWriters.com, with links to his Facebook group, which includes writers and law-enforcement professionals

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.

Patrick O’Donnell: So now, I’m just wrestling with this guy, and then I look over and I feel it, and his hand’s on my gun. I am like, “This guy wants to kill me.”

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson, and first-time author James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello, and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. It is Christmas edition, 2019. Mark and I have made an effort, haven’t we?

Mark Dawson: We have. Well, yes. You’ve got a Star Wars Christmas jumper, and I just have a Christmas jumper. Yes. I think you probably win today.

James Blatch: I win the Christmas joy award. But you’ve been to a nativity play, which is a very sweet thing to do.

Mark Dawson: Well, as we record this, yes, we have some way before Christmas, a couple of weeks, and I just got back from my daughter’s nativity play which is very lovely, as these things always are, and highlighted this year by … Freya is one of the older kids in the nativity, so she was just a sheep. A very enthusiastically singing sheep.

But the star of the show was probably Mary and Joseph, who were about four, maybe even about three. Both started crying and had to go to their parents, just leaving the donkey. So the donkey, he was a very enthusiastic dancer and singer, and an empty crib. There’s probably a message there somewhere, but it was lovely.

James Blatch: A metaphor for something. It’s quite a brave decision in your daughter’s school, where the older children take a background role and they give the four-year-olds the starring role, because that is inevitably going to lead to the sort of chaos you witnessed this afternoon.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, but it’s very charming chaos, with lots of lusty singing and yes, enthusiastic dancing. And that was just the parents, so it was lovely.

James Blatch: Good. Well, excellent. My kids are too old for nativity plays now, so I don’t get to do that anymore. We did rather enjoy it, in its day.

Before we do anything else, let me welcome to our Patreon supporters. A few have joined us recently. I’m going to do them in two batches.

I’m going to do half of them in this episode and half of them next episode, so if you don’t hear your name in this episode, you’ll hear it next week, the other side of Christmas. So I’m going to say a very warm welcome to Margo Dilt from MO, USA. That must be Missouri.

Mark Dawson: Or Montana.

James Blatch: Or Montana. I think it’s Missouri.

Mark Dawson: It is actually Montana, because I checked beforehand.

James Blatch: Oh, is it?

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: Ah.

Mark Dawson: Because I knew you would ask me, so I like to make sure I’m ready.

James Blatch: Michigan is MI, isn’t it?

Mark Dawson: Yes. MI’s Michigan.

James Blatch: So what’s Missouri, then? MS?

Mark Dawson: MS. I don’t know, yeah. Who knows?

James Blatch: Are you certain? Okay. You can go on then. We’ll get angry comments if you’re wrong.

Mark Dawson: Google was certain.

James Blatch: Oh, Google.

Mark Dawson: Of course, I may have searched incorrectly. But yeah, it seemed to be Montana.

James Blatch: Okay. So, we think Margo Dilt is in Montana. Might be Missouri. David Maxwell is Craigmore, Australia, which is a great name in Australia. Carl Artman, also welcoming you. Jim Holland, and also for this episode, welcoming Lyn Davis. And we have a few people to welcome in the next episode if you didn’t hear your name there.

You can go to patreon.com/selfpublishingformula. We’re very grateful for those of you who support the podcast, the Self-Publishing Show, in that way. And you get lots of goodies. You get lots of free training. We have an Instagram live session coming up in January, will be the next one on that platform, which we’re looking forward to.

And talking of which training, we’ve been busy in the background, have we not, Mark? In fact, as we speak, a huge batch, one by one, the advanced Facebook Ads for Authors course is being delivered out to existing students of the Advertising for Authors course as a bonus they weren’t even aware was coming, probably.

Mark Dawson: Probably not. I have been waffling on about it a little bit on webinars and things, or should I say “webinairs,” which we can mention this in a moment.

James Blatch: Yeah.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, so it’s not quite finished yet. I’m basically adding to it as we go along, so they’ve got about an hour and a half’s worth of content that we’ve edited and put live in the Teachable school, and there’ll be more coming up.

I’m looking at campaign budget optimization at the moment, which is quite a hot topic. I was doing slides for that yesterday. That’s going to be a long session, warning you now.

And what else? We’ve done some testing stuff. We’ve got some kind of keyword research in looking for targets, with interests being a bit more difficult to use these days. There are some alternatives on that score as well. So that’s gone up.

And because it’s Christmas, we also gave everyone a YouTube course as well, so that was the YouTube for Authors course that we also sent out at the same time, which is also great. So we’re getting nice emails from people saying, “That’s very kind. I didn’t know that you were going to do that.” That’s kind of how we roll.

James Blatch: That’s how we roll. It’s Christmas.

Mark Dawson: It is Christmas. And I wish we could announce what we’re working on in the background as well, but we can’t, apart from to say that it involves Amazon Ads, and our course, which is already pretty good, will be the best in the world potentially if we can pull this off.

So there’s a few moving parts, and interested people are probably listening to the podcast right now, so I’m not going to say too much more than that, but we are very excited about what might be coming in 2020.

James Blatch: We’re working hard in the background there.

We’re going to move on to our interview. Now, I have to say it’s not particularly Christmasy, this interview. Although it’s kind of Christmasy in a Die Hard sort of way. Look, Die Hard is a Christmas movie. So our interviewee today is Patrick O’Donnell.

I’ve bumped into Patrick several times at conferences and chatted to him. He’s a lovely guy, very interesting. He writes a bit of nonfiction, bit of fiction. And most significantly about Patrick, in addition to being a writer, he is a street-walking cop.

Mark Dawson: He’s a streetwalker.

James Blatch: He’s a streetwalker. Not that sort of streetwalker.

Mark Dawson: I don’t think he is.

James Blatch: He probably knows them. But he’s a uniformed cop. Actually, I think he leads teams now. And from memory, it’s Milwaukee, I think, where he is. And he’s been doing it, gosh, for most of his life. You’ll hear all of the details in the podcast interview itself in a minute.

But he is a man who grew up in the police forces, seen everything. He’s been in districts where there are shootings every day of the week, and fatal shootings every other day, I think were the stats. And that’s something he’s been dealing with.

Now, that is gold dust for people like you, in fact, Mark, who write in that kind of area to hear not just other thriller writers’ ideas of what cops are like, but somebody who themselves is in the dark blue uniform with the silver badge doing it every day.

And the interview did get a little bit into … My old sort of reporter came out of me, asked him how it felt and whether he was nervous about it. And there is a sort of slightly poetic thing hanging over, that he’s days away from retirement at the moment. So obviously, we wish him a safe last few weeks in his job.

Mark Dawson: I have two things I’ll say to that. If he’s bumped into you several times at conferences, I think you have to ask yourself if that really was a coincidence or whether you’re possibly under investigation for something. We won’t get into what that could be.

And the other thing was … Milwaukee? Yeah, whatever. I live in Salisbury, you know? So, I take his Milwaukee and raise him a Salisbury. I don’t hear any Novichok incidents being dealt with anywhere else in the world.

But no, obviously I’m being very slightly flippant there. I haven’t heard this interview, so I’m looking forward to listening to it. We might talk about this afterwards. In fact, we will talk about it afterwards, so just you remember, because I’ll forget otherwise, we’re going to talk about how I’m using the police when it comes to my new Atticus book. But with that, I’m going to do the segue today. Let’s jump to the interview.

James Blatch: Patrick O’Donnell, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show.

Patrick O’Donnell: Well, thank you so much for having me.

James Blatch: I’m really excited actually to have you on the show because we’ve chatted, it has to be said, usually over beer, quite late at night in various locations around the world.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes, we have, actually.

James Blatch: Today we are actually in Las Vegas, recording this at another writers’ conference. But just, first of all, I’m a huge fan of your dedication to writing, and your career change at the moment, which is coming toward the end of the main career that you’ve had, and it’s also gripping listening to you talk about being on the front line as a cop for so many years, and so that’s really what I want to talk a bit about that, because I think a lot of people write in this genre.

A lot of people write about the police, the FBI, and so on. And to hear some truths about the reality of it, I think would be useful today, but also I’ll talk to you about your career change as a writer. So how does that sound?

Patrick O’Donnell: Sounds grand.

James Blatch: Okay. It won’t be like one of your interrogations. It’s going to be gentle.

Patrick O’Donnell: Okay.

James Blatch: Why don’t you tell us a bit about your career in uniform?

Patrick O’Donnell: I started January 16, 1995. I went to the police academy, and I went to a large city police academy. There’s a couple of different ways here in the States that you can become a police officer. Larger cities like New York, Chicago, LA have their own police academies, and they’re usually about six months long.

And if you get a job as a police officer in a smaller jurisdiction, there’s vocational schools that have police academies, and usually a department will either pay you to go to the academy, or you put yourself through. You pay yourself.

James Blatch: What’s the split out of people who are self-funding or being paid through?

Patrick O’Donnell: You know what? It’s probably about 50/50, but that’s just a guess off the top of my head, because that’s not my world.

James Blatch: Right. How old were you at this stage?

Patrick O’Donnell: 30 years old.

James Blatch: 30?

Patrick O’Donnell: So I got on a little bit later on in life.

James Blatch: So you’d been doing other stuff until that point?

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes, sir.

James Blatch: Was the police something you always wanted to do, or was it just something that occurred to you later on?

Patrick O’Donnell: It was in the back of my head as a young person. I grew up in Chicago, and I remember the police were doing a search warrant on the house next to us, and that’s with their SWAT team. There’s two officers in our backyard with a shotgun and an M-16, that’s an automatic rifle. And they breached the door with a big ram and they’re pulling people out and there’s a big commotion.

And the house in Chicago are about that close together, so I had a front row seat and I was like, “Wow, that looks really cool. I think that’d be fun to do when I grow up.”

So I wound up going to college. I started out as a music major, but then I quickly transitioned over to sociology and my minor was criminal justice.

And what really got me going was, I did an internship with a sheriff’s department, with the Milwaukee County sheriff’s department. And that’s a bigger sheriff’s department, and I was in the mix of everything. I worked in the jail. I was on the street, and for a college kid, I thought that was fantastic.

James Blatch: Lots of ride-alongs.

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, yeah. Every day was a ride-along, unless I was in the jail. Then you’re stuck in the jail. But that was interesting to see, also.

James Blatch: So you’re 30 years old.

Did you self-fund, or did you get paid through?

Patrick O’Donnell: For big city departments like that, they pay you.

James Blatch: Okay. So you go through police academy, and was it in those … because I imagine, for some people, after the first couple of weeks, they might discover it’s not for them or this is definitely for them.

Was it for you? You thought, “I’m fitting in here”?

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, right away. I’m just like, “I really enjoy this.” Back then, it was very militaristic. You fell in for inspection every morning. You had a sergeant in front of you checking you out from the top of your head down to your shoes. If there was a piece of lint on your uniform, you got written up. Everyone’s doing pushups. So, that type of thing.

It was very structured, but there was some humor. After a while, the instructors loosened up a little bit. You got to get to know them, and the comradery was really good, because my academy class was 42 people. Usually, it’s about 60. It was just an anomaly that it was a little bit smaller. But when you have a large group of people going through a tough thing, you band together.

James Blatch: Yeah, you bond. So you go through the academy training, and at that point, the 42 of you, do you all get split up or do you stay with some of those guys?

Patrick O’Donnell: The city that I work in, there’s seven police districts and you start in one of those police districts.

James Blatch: Okay. Do you choose that one, then?

Patrick O’Donnell: No.

James Blatch: Okay.

Patrick O’Donnell: Now, these days they let the officers put in a request. That doesn’t always mean they’re going to get what they request, but that’s just our department. Every department does it differently. I wound up in one of the worst neighborhoods, the most violent neighborhood in the city.

James Blatch: And this is Milwaukee, or?

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes, it was a city in Milwaukee.

James Blatch: Okay.

Patrick O’Donnell: And the thing about it was, and I didn’t know Milwaukee. I was living in Madison at the time, and I knew how to get downtown. But yeah, they gave me the address, “Go report at district five.” And I’m like, “Okay.” I’m looking around like, “Hm. This is an interesting neighborhood.” So there was probably about 10 of us out of my academy class that got sent to that district station.

James Blatch: Tell us about in those few years, pacing the streets in district five in Milwaukee. Tell us what a day was like there.

Patrick O’Donnell: It was great. I really enjoyed it.

James Blatch: When you say, “great” …

Patrick O’Donnell: Because there was always something going on. Always. I started out on early shift, which was 4:00 in the afternoon till midnight. And you go through field training. You go through two six-week blocks of field training, and you have a field training officer that you ride with, that more or less shows you the ropes.

They teach you how to write your reports properly, officer safety issues, how to drive the car properly. What to do, “Okay, you’re in this situation. This is what you should be doing.” So you rely heavily on your FTO or your field training officer when you’re new.

James Blatch: So a little bit of streetwise-ness as well, I imagine, that they’ve picked up.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes.

James Blatch: I remember seeing some fascinating posters in the background of police stations when I was in my BBC reporting days, on things like how to anticipate an assault, and it gave some sort of key behavior indicators. Sometimes people would calm right down, just before they … because they were planning.

As a policeman standing around in a group, you’re aware of attitudes changing and stuff. And I guess this older guy is the person who’s been around the block a bit and is passing that on.

Patrick O’Donnell: Absolutely. You get good at reading people’s body language, after you’ve been through it a few times. The thousand-mile stare, that somebody is just staring right through you, you know things aren’t going to go great. He’s not very happy about going to jail tonight.

And then obvious things like people balling their fists. If they’re relaxed and you start talking to them, and they know the inevitable, the handcuffs are going to come out, they’re going to go to jail, there’s a thing called “resistive tension,” where the shoulders kind of cinch up.

They start balling up their fists and it’s like, “All right, this guy wants to fight.” Or, somebody will just start talking nonsensically to you, and they keep looking over your shoulders and they’re looking around? They’re looking for an escape route.

James Blatch: Right. So you’re all ready with your rugby tackle, or NFL tackle, or to defend yourself. Because I know some people who write in this genre will be interested in this level of detail of kind of the personal experience of that. So you’ve got somebody in front of you.

Can you tell us about any experiences where somebody has launched themselves at you?

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes. I was an FTO. I was training somebody. I had a recruit. He was a very good recruit. He worked for the sheriff’s department before he went to the city, so he had law enforcement experience, and he was just very sharp. I knew he’d be a good officer, and he’s a sergeant now, so he’s done real well for himself.

And we got sent to a boy/girl trouble, like at 6:30, 7:00 in the morning? We were working midnight to 8:00, and it was in one of the city’s projects. And we get there, and there’s a very large man arguing with his girlfriend, and the girlfriend’s mom is there and everyone’s screaming at each other. And we’re like, “All right.”

So we start talking. We separate them. And we still don’t know, actually, what we have, because somebody else called. They didn’t call the police. “Hey, everything okay?” You know, blah, blah, blah.

And I could just tell there was something wrong. I couldn’t put it into words, so I went behind him. When you search people or pat them down, I didn’t have enough to arrest this person right now, but I could do a pat-down for weapons.

So I started patting him down. I said, “Just relax, sir.” I’m behind him. I said, “I’m just going to pat you down for weapons. Do you have anything on you that you shouldn’t?”

Right away, the shoulders went up. He got real resistive. The resistive tension was going … He was shaking. He was just cinching up so hard.

And this all happened like, within two seconds, maybe. He spun around and he tried to tackle me. And then I just lowered my center of gravity because I’m not very tall. He was about 6’4″, 6’5″. He was probably a good 260. He had a prison build.

I didn’t know it, but he just got out of prison. I didn’t know it at the time. Oh yeah, he was huge. And I’m just like … so now I’m just wrestling with this guy, and then I look over and I feel it, and his hand’s on my gun. I am like, “This guy wants to kill me.”

So, your brain goes into survival mode, and you’re like, “Okay.” You go caveman. And I remember, I just lifted up underneath his chin, and I hit his head up against a mailbox. There was big metal mailboxes attached to the building.

James Blatch: So you’re outside at this time.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yeah. This is all outside. And I kept on hitting his head until his body went limp. And he was just-

James Blatch: I don’t know why I’m laughing at that.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yeah. Well, then we do our homework, and he was on parole for armed robbery and he broke his conditions of parole. He already had a hearing. He was going back to prison. So my trainee and I were the only things standing behind him and going back to prison.

James Blatch: Yeah, because he could have just shot you and gone on the run.

Patrick O’Donnell: Absolutely. And later on, they talked to him, that’s what he intended to do.

James Blatch: And just some technical details. So your gun, I am assuming, has some sort of strap over it or …

Patrick O’Donnell: Yeah, there’s different models of holsters.

James Blatch: You can’t just reach and pull a gun out of it.

Patrick O’Donnell: Right, but in prison, they actually practice this. They practice disarming police officers.

James Blatch: Good to know.

Patrick O’Donnell: And I could tell he had practice. There was one thing on his mind. It was just one of those instances where I could have done a number of things and it would have been okay. I’m just glad it turned out all right.

James Blatch: Your trainee at that point had an interesting introduction.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes, he did. I made him write all the reports, as a good field training officer should. And he did an outstanding job. He was, like I said before, he was a sheriff’s deputy. He worked in the jail, and they fight with people quite a bit in a jail surrounding, because they have no weapons. So you have to rely mostly on what you say.

90% of law enforcement is how you talk to people. I could defuse a lot of situations where somebody is up here, they’re drunk, they’re high, they’re pissed off about this, that or the other thing. But it’s all how you talk to people. But there are instances where all the talking in the world isn’t going to do anything.

James Blatch: Yeah. And just in this incident, because you’ve got the other two, like the girlfriend screaming at you at this point.

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, yeah. Yup, mom and daughter were both screaming at the top of their lungs.

James Blatch: But your focus was on …

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, I didn’t know anything else was going on. I didn’t hear them. Because when you have an adrenaline dump like that, there’s certain physiological things that happen to you. You get tunnel vision. The same thing happens if you’re chasing a car. In a squad car, you’re involved in a vehicle pursuit.

You get tunnel vision. It’s really hard to see out of the sides of your eyes. Your hearing goes way down. It’s funny, because at the end of a vehicle pursuit, most of them wind up in some kind of foot chase because the bad guy crashes or he runs out of gas, or he just pulls over and then he takes off.

I’ve secured officers’ cars, and the siren is blaring. The radio is up all the way. And they’re like, “It wasn’t up that high, Sarge.” And I’m like, “Actually, it was up all the way.” But that’s what happens to your body.

James Blatch: Yeah, that focus.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yup.

James Blatch: And afterwards, in an incident like that, obviously you’re shaken up.

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, yeah.

James Blatch: Your adrenaline’s going.

Patrick O’Donnell: Absolutely.

James Blatch: Two questions.

First of all, do you do a formal debrief after an incident like that, or does your sergeant or your commanding officer sit down with you and talk things over? Or do you sit there personally and think, “What decisions did I make? Were these good decisions?”

Patrick O’Donnell: Departments across the country are getting a little bit better at that. There should be more debriefing when it comes to a situation where you may have to take somebody’s life, because that was a deadly force issue. For me, it was like, okay.

A wagon came. He regained consciousness. We got him medical attention. Off to the hospital he went. He got a bunch of stitches and a CAT scan, and to jail he went. And go write your reports.

James Blatch: And that was that.

Patrick O’Donnell: That was that. But as a police officer, you replay these things in your head over and over, and you keep thinking to yourself, “I could have done this. I should have done that.” Like I said, you have a couple seconds to make these decisions.

James Blatch: I guess your partnership with your, in this case, a younger guy or trainee, is important as well, too.

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

James Blatch: How do you protect yourself from becoming traumatized by these things you’re experiencing?

Patrick O’Donnell: One of the things that most police officers have are a good sense of humor. And that’s not just police. It’s military. People who are in extreme situations. The more extreme the situation, the more humor there is. There’s the gallows humor. There’s all kinds of joking.

When it’s work time, it’s work time. We’ve got to be serious. But when it’s not, that’s a real good pressure relief. For me, I like to work out. Physical exercise is huge. I’m working day shift now, so it’s a lot easier to do.

People working nights, it’s difficult. You’re married, you have children. You’ve got responsibilities. It’s hard to fit in that workout, but somehow, some way, you’ve got to squeeze it in.

James Blatch: You alluded to the fact you’re still working. You’re, I think, how far from retirement is it?

Patrick O’Donnell: Two months, two days.

James Blatch: Okay. And do you still get nervous when you go out?

Are you out on patrol at the moment? Or are you in the office?

Patrick O’Donnell: I’m a street sergeant. So I’m a patrol sergeant. I supervise the police officers that are on the street. So, when something bigger occurs, I have to go. So if I have an armed robbery, sexual assault or fire, shootings, shots fired, bank robbery. Just anything big like that.

James Blatch: You go out. And do you get nervous, still?

Patrick O’Donnell: I don’t get nervous, but when the call comes over the radio, you do get a little bit of an adrenaline dump. I liken it to being on a rollercoaster. When you’re at the top and you’re going down fast, your stomach kind of … At least, it’s probably different for other people, but for me, that’s what I feel.

The last day before I went to Vegas, I got dispatched to a subject with a rifle. It’s like, 3:00 in the afternoon. I’m like, “Aw, man. I just want to go home.” So there’s a guy wearing a green sweater and a black stocking mask with, they said, an assault-type rifle. I’m like, “All right, let’s go.” So, off we went.

James Blatch: And how did that work out?

Patrick O’Donnell: Nobody there.

James Blatch: Oh. Just a report of that.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yup. There’s a lot of that.

James Blatch: People mis-see things, or somebody was genuinely there?

Patrick O’Donnell: A lot of people mis-see things, or it could be a call. Say you’re having a trouble with your wife or your husband, and they want the police to get there quicker. “Oh, he’s got a gun. He’s got a gun.” Then you get there and it’s like, “Well, sometimes he’s got a gun.” That type of thing. But you don’t know that until you get there.

James Blatch: So just to talk about guns for a little bit, because I think in Milwaukee, you said to me in one conversation we were having before, that shootings are unfortunately a fairly regular occurrence.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes. When I was new, in 1995, that was the height of what we used to call the crack wars, where it was probably about 140-150 homicides a year for a city of 600,000. And we had to close to 4-500 nonfatal shootings.

James Blatch: Wow. So that’s more than one shooting every day, on average, and a murder every couple of days.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes.

James Blatch: How often was it an occurrence where you drew your weapon?

Patrick O’Donnell: When I worked there, it was every night. Multiple times.

James Blatch: Every night?

Patrick O’Donnell: Absolutely.

James Blatch: So you were aiming your weapon at someone, shouting at them to get down, or making an arrest.

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, absolutely.

James Blatch: And are they armed sometimes?

Patrick O’Donnell: Sometimes.

James Blatch: Drawing your weapon, using it to make an arrest, that’s an awesome responsibility.

Patrick O’Donnell: It is. The first time I had somebody come at me that was armed and I didn’t know, it was the middle of winter, and there was a squad chase. They’re chasing somebody for something, and we had the perimeter, my partner and I. And that means you set up squads like in a one or two block radius, where the person got out and ran.

So, you have choke points, where hopefully you will see them when they try to run past you, that type of thing. While you have other officers “make the yards,” go through searching for the bad guy.

And it was, I don’t know, 3:00 in the morning, something like that. I was working a late shift. And this guy was just walking at me. He was walking down the middle of the street and I’m like, “Sir, get on the sidewalk.” Didn’t say a word, thousand-mile stare.

I’m like, “Sir. Get off to the sidewalk, please. You’re in the middle of the street.” And he just kept on coming at me, and I’m just like, “What the?”

I just got that really bad feeling, so I drew my gun, and I’m just like … He had his hands in his pocket. I’m like, “Get your hands out of your pocket, now.” I wasn’t sure if this is the guy that they were chasing. Like, “Get your hands out of your pockets now. Let me see your hands.”

He just shook his head, kept on coming at me. So I actually holstered my weapon and went hands-on, and the fight was on immediately. He was going for the inside of his coat. To make a long story short, I decentralized him, which meant getting him on the ground.

And my partner was smoking a cigarette and looking the other way. He didn’t even know what was going on at first. I’m like, “Tom, you want to help out here? Okay, buddy?”

So, I hook him up. I handcuff him. Then my partner comes over. We stand him up and he still hasn’t said a word. He had a .357 in a shoulder holster that he was going for, and his pockets were lined with crack cocaine.

James Blatch: Oh, so he was high? And you made that decision because he got close enough for you to do that with your hands.

Patrick O’Donnell: Right.

James Blatch: You would have probably justified in shooting him.

You don’t want to shoot somebody if you can avoid it, right? So there was an alternative for you.

Patrick O’Donnell: I would have, but it’s in everybody’s DNA not to hurt people, not to especially take another life. I’ve been the ensign commander for seven different officer-involved shootings where officers had to shoot and kill somebody, and every one of them, there’s some similarities to all of them, and one of the biggest ones is, that officer doesn’t want to do that. Their hand was pushed. They didn’t want to do it. But you have to do what you have to do sometimes. It’s unfortunate.

James Blatch: Have you ever shot anyone?

Patrick O’Donnell: No.

James Blatch: Two months, two days.

Patrick O’Donnell: That’s right. Don’t jinx me.

James Blatch: No, no, no. Touch wood. Yeah, that’s a good one. Okay.

One thing you told me just as we were reassessing the cameras is quite interesting, about the statistic about the murders in Milwaukee.

Patrick O’Donnell: Well, through the years, like I said, when I first got on, it was real bad. We were talking about 450, maybe 500 nonfatal shooting a year. About 140-150 homicides.

That has gone down. And one of the reasons the shootings have gone down, not tremendously, but the homicides have because emergency medicine has gotten much better in the last 25 years. And unfortunately, that’s a byproduct of war sometimes. Good medical trauma, medical technology comes out of this necessity.

James Blatch: War does tend to speed up inventions in all sorts of areas.

Patrick O’Donnell: It does. Just the invention of Quick Clot, I don’t know how many lives that has saved.

James Blatch: What is that?

Patrick O’Donnell: It’s either a gauze or like a gel you can put on a wound and it will coagulate the wound and it’ll slow the rate of bleeding or stop the bleeding.

James Blatch: Sort of seal it, oh, okay. Should get some of that in my back pocket.

Patrick O’Donnell: You can get it at Walgreens.

James Blatch: Perfect. You haven’t shot anyone, which is great. And I imagine your ability as a cop to read situations has played a big part in that, so that’s a great credit to you.

But you’ve probably lost some friends, I imagine, in a career that long in a city like Milwaukee?

Patrick O’Donnell: Right before I got on, an officer was shot and killed, and another one was involved in a fatal car accident. We went almost 24 years without an officer dying.

I’ve known officers that have been shot, but have survived quite a few actually. But unfortunately, we had two officers get shot and killed within six months, and another officer was involved in a fatal car accident when he was chasing a kidnapping suspect. Something happened to his squad and it rolled out of control, he was ejected and killed instantly.

James Blatch: How did you cope with that?

Patrick O’Donnell: Well, I didn’t know the officer that was in the vehicle accident. I’m very sad and I feel very bad for his family, but one of the officers that was shot and killed before was one of my guys when I worked at … It was a late power shift, 7:00 at night till 3:00 in the morning. I knew him pretty good. So that was real tough.

James Blatch: Yeah. And partly, how horrific those incidents are, are they an opportunity to learn and examine?

Are there any lessons you can take away? Is that one way of coping with it?

Patrick O’Donnell: It is. You don’t think of that immediately. You get angry. You get sad. There’s a lot of hard feelings with all that. But the police department has to keep going on. I will retire in two months, God willing, and the Milwaukee Police Department isn’t going to stop.

I was talking to another officer today, actually. One of the biggest mistakes that younger, and sometimes even cops with time on, is they fall in love with the job and they get really hurt when they find out the job doesn’t love them. It doesn’t love them back, because we’re all replaceable, and we have to be. That’s from the chief all the way down, because it can’t stop.

James Blatch: It’s service.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes.

James Blatch: Ultimately, it’s a service. You talked about that humor, and I understand that and I’ve been around the police a bit in my life and the military as well and I understand that. But suddenly, you’re going to be on the outside and you’re still going to have those memories and those occasions in your head.

How are you feeling about leaving?

Patrick O’Donnell: It’s going to be an adjustment, for sure. And I’ve been thinking about probably the last couple years, and I’ve seen how some officers have left the police department and done well, and I’ve seen some that have left and have done miserably. So I’m trying to learn from people’s mistakes.

And some of the biggest things to take away is your friend base, your little tribe, can’t be all cops, because you are going to leave.

James Blatch: You can’t lose everyone in one go.

Patrick O’Donnell: Right, exactly. So I have friends in outside interests, just like this. Nobody knows that I’m here, and when I tell them what this is, they look at me with a blank stare like, “The 20-what?”

James Blatch: “Where’s Patrick? What did you do with him?”

Patrick O’Donnell: Yeah.

James Blatch: I should say that the dramatic incidental music is not us putting this in, although it’s a great interview. It’s because in Vegas, there’s this slightly surreal show that goes on outside our window.

Patrick O’Donnell: Vegas is very good for that.

James Blatch: If people can hear that. Well, let’s segue perfectly into Patrick O’Donnell Mark Two. Well, I guess Mark Three because you were 30 when you joined the police, and here’s another career change for you.

Tell us about the writing.

Patrick O’Donnell: It’s going really well, actually. I wrote a book called Cops and Writers: From the Academy to the Street, and that’s done very well.

And then the second book is a sequel to that, Cops and Writers: Crime Scenes and Investigations. I just got the manuscript back from my editor. There’s a bunch of work that I’m going to have to do on it, and I’m hoping to have that out before the end of this year. And I’m also consulting with authors and I have a Facebook group, Cops and Writers, so it takes up a lot of my time.

James Blatch: So this is the perfect book for people writing in this genre who want to get the police right.

Patrick O’Donnell: Correct.

James Blatch: And have you included some of the personal stuff, the sort of thing I’ve been asking you about because I’m nosy?

Not just the procedures, but what it feels like to the individual and what your experience.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes. I put in there, one of the bigger mistakes is not developing a character. Your main character either is an extreme one way or the other.

Cops are people. It’s either a Martin Riggs that’s from Lethal Weapon, that’s on the edge, he’s about to explode at any second, or a real stoic, stone face that has no sense of humor, like a Joe Friday from the old Dragnets. And it’s like, it’s kind of a combination of all those things. And there’s a bunch of different personalities in the police department.

James Blatch: People are quite good when it comes to their main character, to put the flaws in, but quite often the cop who comes along, I guess, is probably one-dimensional.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yeah, and they don’t develop the story. A lot of police books, movies, either start with or early on in the story, they shoot and kill somebody. And usually it’s a detective. It’s very detective-focused, where in reality, police officers and sergeants are the ones who usually wind up shooting and killing people because they’re on the front lines.

There’s two different types of detectives. There’s a suit-and-tie detective, we call it, that goes out and investigates after everything is all done and over with. And there’s also detectives that are in specialty units that are running with the cops also, where something like that can definitely happen. But that’s a much smaller number. So they get that wrong.

And then as far as, if you are unfortunate enough where you do have to shoot, and shoot and kill somebody, there’s going to be six months to a year, you’re going to be inside. You’re not going to be outside the next day or that night, and you’re certainly not going to be investigating your own shooting. That’s not going to happen.

James Blatch: So in the UK, there’s an organization that automatically comes in, an independent body automatically comes in to investigate any police shooting.

Is that a similar setup in the States?

Patrick O’Donnell: There are separate entities that come in for a police shooting. Where I work, an outside jurisdiction will come in and investigate the shooting. The district attorney’s office will come in and investigate the shooting. Sometimes the state will come in. And they all work together.

There’s a bunch of different eyes looking at the incident, and also there’s two separate investigations that are going to occur. There’s the criminal. If you shoot and kill somebody, technically, that’s a homicide. 99.9% of the time, it’s a justifiable homicide, but it’s still a homicide and you hae to investigate it.

If you’re a police officer, the second investigation is going to be from the internal affairs department, and that’s going to be an investigation as to, “Did you follow our rules and procedures correctly, the SOP, et cetera, et cetera.” So they’re two very distinct and separate investigations.

James Blatch: Which is why you need to know those procedures. I guess that’s what you drum into your kids when they join you, don’t be found out afterwards.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes.

James Blatch: We had Jerri Williams on, a former FBI agent …

Patrick O’Donnell: I like her. She’s nice, nice.

James Blatch: She was great, and she tried to explode the myth that whenever the FBI turn up, there’s this war, a jurisdiction war. That actually, it was a much more cooperative relationship in reality.

Would you go along with that?

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes. If anything, most departments will be like, “Hey, you can have it if you want.” Because big investigations are expensive. They tie a bunch of resources up, and a lot of times, it’s like, “No, you can have that.”

I had a homicide where there was a person that was shooting somebody across the street into a different jurisdiction and the person died. So we both responded. And everyone’s like, “No, you can have it. That’s okay. You can have it.” And the other one’s like, “No, it’s yours. No, no.”

James Blatch: There’s no fight to keep it. It was a fight to give it away.

Patrick O’Donnell: As far as FBI goes, my experience, there’s joint task forces. In a big city, they’re not as hands-on as they would a smaller department, because the smaller department doesn’t have the resources or the experience, whereas with us, I don’t know. I told you about all the shootings, but we have a ton of robberies. The detectives and the officers that investigate these are professionals, and they’re very good at what they do.

So, if the FBI is involved, let’s say it’s a bank robbery, because banks are federally insured. And most bank robberies in most cities is somebody with a demand note giving them money. They’re not saying anything. And the tellers are trained just to comply, because it’s not worth somebody getting hurt over. It’s all insured anyways. And that’s the end of it.

But if it gets more dynamic, and there’s gunplay, they’re shooting guns off or if they actually shoot somebody, the FBI will respond. And also, if you have bank robbers that are going from city to city to city, they track all that. It’s like, “Okay. You know what? It’s a white male wearing a purple T-shirt.” They all have the same type of weapon, they’re saying the same thing, so this could be a crew.

James Blatch: Yeah, unless people try to deliberately exploit the jurisdictions in the county lines, as they call them. Yeah.

Patrick O’Donnell: Sure. So, the FBI would be involved. Also, human trafficking. Our sensitive crimes division works hand-in-hand with the FBI with human trafficking, because oftentimes, human trafficking goes across state borders, goes across state lines.

James Blatch: Okay. So, end of your career.

Is there a case, an incident, that you look back on that you are most pleased with?

Patrick O’Donnell: Oh, boy. I’ve had a couple of people … Well, more than a couple, that have tried to kill themselves in front of me.

I was literally on a bridge, and they demolished the bridge and they’re rebuilding it, and they didn’t put up a fence to block it. There was a bunch of cones and some barriers, but anybody could just walk by there.

And the sheriff’s department called for an assist for a man jumping off the bridge. We’re like, “Okay.” So we get there. It’s pouring rain, and it was me and another sergeant. It was probably 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. And two sheriff’s deputies are talking to this guy, and they were real close to him, and this guy had his back to the highway. This bridge was over a highway.

If he would have fell, he’d be dead. And he was probably about 6’4″, 6’5″? Good 300 pounds. Not wearing a shirt, and skinny jeans. And the first thing I’m thinking is, “There’s nothing to grab onto.” You know? I’m just like, “Oh, man.” And I’ve negotiated with suicidal people a bunch of times, and my cops have too.

And this guy was just … He wasn’t having it. Finally, the sheriff’s deputy grabs his belt underneath the fat, and now it’s tug-of-war time. And I’m like, “Oh, God.” So I got to help him out, so I jumped on my stomach and just grabbed a hold of this guy’s legs.

And at the same time, my head was over the bridge and I was looking at the traffic going by. And I was getting vertigo. I’m just like, “Oh, God. I hope I’m going to be able to hold onto this guy if he goes that way.” So it was pretty tense there for a while.

James Blatch: But you got him back.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yes.

James Blatch: And is there anything that’s happened …

Is there somebody who you just never caught? One case that’s going to bug you a little bit?

Patrick O’Donnell: No. No, because I just get it out of my head. It’s just another day and there’s going to be another one the next day. We’re a busy enough city where there’s no shortage of crime. There’s no shortage of instances of where you’re going to go and it’s stressful and you’ve got this thing, whatever it is. And it’s like, just another day.

James Blatch: You’ve spent 30 years being called out to low moments in people’s lives, extreme moments. It’s got to shake you a little bit, isn’t it? Shake your faith in humanity, as they say.

Do you keep your faith in your humanity up?

Patrick O’Donnell: It does, and it can if you let it. I don’t, or at least I try not to. My wife might say different. But you have to look, even in the worst neighborhoods …

A few years back, our city was on fire. We had a huge riot that lasted three nights, four nights? Even when they were throwing rocks and stones and bottles at us, there’s still people who come out, “Would you like a bottle of water, officer?” This is in the same neighborhoods.

Not everybody in that neighborhood is a bad person, but when you work at night, you kind of have it in your head because you got to be … First of all, you’re on your highest guard. You don’t want anything happening to yourself. But there are good people.

Once you go day shift, you kind of see a little bit of the other side of humanity. At night, most of the people we dealt with are drunk or high or whatever. People aren’t calling you when they’re having the best of their life.

But I mean, what sticks in my head, I remember one time I responded to a completed suicide. Husband and wife had a fight the night before. He got up in the morning, didn’t say a thing to his wife, went out in the garage and she heard a bang. He shot himself in the head with a shotgun. It was grisly.

So, he shoots himself in the head with a shotgun and his wife was just obviously devastated. And it was a nice summer day, and we were sitting in her backyard. She had a nice patio set, and I remember I held her hand for over an hour, and just consoled her until friends and family could come over and take over.

James Blatch: You couldn’t leave her, could you?

Patrick O’Donnell: No. Lord, no. But we still have to do an investigation, because I mean, it looked very obvious but even things that look obvious are, that’s not the way it happened.

James Blatch: Yeah. It’s a terrible real life story, but as a writer, you’re always thinking about plots where it turns out not to be what it looked like, which does happen, of course. It could have been, and you’ve got to be aware of that.

Patrick O’Donnell: It does. Right.

James Blatch: Patrick, it’s compelling talking to you. Always has been, in the chats we’ve had. I’m so pleased we got some time to sit down together and put this on tape.

Patrick O’Donnell: Thank you.

James Blatch: Tell people where they can find you, where they can find you, where they can find your instruction manuals for writers.

Patrick O’Donnell: Well, right now, I do have a website, www.copsandwriters.com. I do have the Facebook group, Cops and Writers. There’s other members of law enforcement that are on there. Lot of writers. It’s a nice little tribe. I’ve got about 950 people in that group. And I put that group together before I wrote the book, so I dug the well before I was thirsty.

James Blatch: Yeah, which is a great way of doing it.

Patrick O’Donnell: Yup.

James Blatch: Superb. Well, Patrick, first of all, I want to say thank you for your service. It’s just a couple of months ahead of your final retirement.

Patrick O’Donnell: Thank you.

James Blatch: Thank you for the time you put in on the streets where you stand between us and people who will do us harm.

Patrick O’Donnell: I appreciate that.

James Blatch: There we go. Great interview. I absolutely loved talking to Patrick, and utmost respect to someone … We do have to have respect for those people who put themselves in harm’s way for us.

We’ve just a worldwide famous incident on London Bridge, where not only policemen ran to the scene and got involved, but members of the public, armed with narwhal tusks.

Mark Dawson: We shouldn’t laugh. There’s a really funny meme going around after that. For those of you who don’t know, there was a guy, had a couple of knives and a fake suicide vest and he stabbed, killed two people on London Bridge and then ran onto the bridge and started attacking pedestrians, chased by a Polish chef from the place where he was, and other members of staff including …

James Blatch: A convicted murderer.

Mark Dawson: Two convicted murderers, at this conference about rehabilitation, basically put their own lives at risk to take this guy down.

And then there’s a funny meme. These guys were armed with a narwhal tusk, which is like a five-foot-long, I suppose, ivory tusk from … well, obviously from a narwhal, and a fire extinguisher.

And there’s a scene whereby you’ve got these guys. The fire extinguisher’s going off. The guy is prodding him with this tusk. There’s this photograph, and the caption is something about Americans getting guns … Basically, “Hold my beer,” Britain says, “I’ll get my narwhal tusk.”

James Blatch: You’ve got assault rifles. Before this incident, I wasn’t 100% sure whether a narwhal was a real thing or if it was just made up for Elf, the movie.

Mark Dawson: Yes, they are real. And then of course, the denouement of that was the police arrived. I think they were very close. It was an armed response vehicle was very close by, and these guys came out with assault rifles, and the public wouldn’t … They wouldn’t get off this guy. One of the guys was basically pinning him down, wouldn’t get off the police. The guy that managed to open his jacket to show the fake suicide vest, the police immediately pulled back.

One of the other policemen, again, risking their lives, because he could have had a bomb, yanked this member of the public off this guy, and then the next thing, he shoots him. So that’s incredible bravery, I mean that’s really remarkable from everyone really, from the pedestrians and also obviously from the police.

James Blatch: Yeah. And talking to Patrick about being in that moment, it was very interesting to hear him talking about it, because there’s footage of that. It’s not quite as gruesome as it sounds, but it’s not-

Mark Dawson: It’s quite gruesome.

James Blatch: I wouldn’t go searching for it if you have a nervous disposition. But so that policeman, first of all, the guys who are armed, they run to the scene of what, as far as they’re concerned, is somebody wearing a suicide vest. And that’s confirmed to them.

And the next thing is, they next take the decision instantly to shoot him, which is the correct thing because that’s the protocol for somebody in the middle of a public area with a suicide vest on.

But that’s still a big decision, and we still require them to, in that moment, make that decision to follow that procedure, follow that training. And that’s the sort of thing that we talked to Patrick in our interview. I was fascinated listening to him talking about that, and all due respect to them.

Mark Dawson: And that, likely, will haunt that officer. It will be something he may need to speak to someone about. Maybe not, but it wouldn’t surprise me that that kind of decision is something that he may have sleepless nights over. Entirely possible.

But now that brings me back to what I was actually pulling to, with the new Atticus book. I think I mentioned this on the podcast a while ago, because I had a … In fact, I know I did, because Neil Lancaster, who’s a detective sergeant in the Met, has been helping me a lot with the first draft of Atticus. And he told me he got quite excited when he heard his name on the podcast. And there we go, he’s getting a second shout-out right now.

James Blatch: Hello, Neil.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, Neil’s great. And also a very good writer in his own right, but he’s helped me a lot with kind of layering little bits of information and authenticity onto the police scenes that obviously I have no other experience of.

But it’s really, what I’m trying to say is to get someone like that from Patrick to Neil to other people who you might know who work in … and it doesn’t have to be police, just could be an area that you’re writing about, to have someone being able to give you the little bits of detail that you can sprinkle over.

And one of the tricks is, I think I’ve mentioned this before as well, is it’s not to have great big … talk about the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. There are certain, Neil told me … obviously I’m a lawyer as well, so I knew some of this, but Neil was explaining what you would need to do in order for evidence to be admissible in court.

And Atticus is, obviously, he’s a maverick and some of the ways he uses to find his evidence wouldn’t stand up in court. So Neil was like, “This would not work.” And so Neil would tell me how I should do it.

Now, the interesting bit there was, first of all, I couldn’t put in, “‘Well,’ Atticus says, ‘the Police and Criminal Evidence Act section 8.7, subtitle three, says that …'” You can’t do that, and you can’t kind of demonstrate how much you know about a subject.

And the real skill is, and something that I’ve had to work quite hard to get right is just to layer in just the lightest sprinkling of the information. The analogy is, it’s an iceberg. So you show the reader the tip of the iceberg, so the very smallest amount that you can to give them the impression that you know what you’re talking about.

And then beneath the surface of the water is your research. So you’re not showing all of that, because that would just completely … Well, to continue a slightly stretched metaphor, if your narrative is the Titanic-

James Blatch: It would raise the iceberg.

Mark Dawson: And you whack into the iceberg because you’re basically too much infodumping, that wouldn’t work. So there is a skill to that. But anyway, people like Patrick and Neil are gold dust for writers trying to make things as authentic as possible.

James Blatch: And I think you take about PACE there, which is the UK Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which is sort of the millstone round law enforcement officer’s necks in this country, because it’s very detailed and if you make mistakes in the very early stage of a prosecution, it comes back to haunt you very quickly in court and murderers can walk free as result of that.

So they have to get all this stuff right, and I think that’s another kind of reality which you will bring in, I’m sure, to the Atticus books, and is often missing, particularly on TV, where there’s this sort of maverickness to the way the police operate on TV quite a lot of time, even in sort of cop shows.

Where they saunter in and they grab people and they don’t read them rights, or they do read them rights and they throw them in jail, and there’s none of this, “If we make a mistake now, if we say the wrong thing, if we arrest him too early, we run out of time to question him and that would go to a judge to get permission to bring it back.”

You’ve got to build your case. People don’t realize this. In the UK, I’m sure it’s a similar system of justice in America, you arrest somebody for murder, you’ve got about 24 hours, 48 hours at a stretch, to build your case, that nine-ten months later is going to be presented in court. And you can’t add to it in a month’s time without permission, without going around corners. This is the reality of being a police officer, which is not often-

Mark Dawson: Yeah, that’s right. There’s two things on that. If you are accused of being a murderer, you’re quite pleased that PACE exists. So I wouldn’t say it’s a millstone. It’s something that you have to deal with, and it’s there to protect you and the public.

The other thing is, the interesting discussion I had with Neil was that, on the one hand, he is telling me everything that I would need to include in order to be authentic, and I’m very keen on authenticity.

But what I’m also keen on, in fact what I’m more keen on, is that the dramatic propulsion is not slowed down too much by being too authentic. And slightly further in, I am not writing a criminal textbook. I’m writing something that’s intended to be fairly disposable escapist fiction.

So it’s always a tension and a balance between realism and escapism and drama. And you’ve got to find a happy medium somewhere in the middle. I usually get it right, I think, but it is tricky sometimes.

James Blatch: Yeah. Good. Well, good luck with it. What is the timetable on Atticus now?

Mark Dawson: Well, we will have to talk about that in a separate episode, I think. I’m getting quite a lot of interest from … In fact, I just had a call with my agent before we came on, and I’ve had one party very interested in publishing it, possibly under a pseudonym for lots of different reasons.

I’ve had a six-figure offer just for the audio, which is amazing. I’m very flattered by that. I’ve had another audio offer coming in, still in the back of my mind. I think that I’ll publish it myself. As I said before, if someone offers me $600,000 for it, I might be interested in exploring that.

But I think I can probably beat that over the course of a couple of years with the series, doing it myself. And I like doing it myself. So I think at the moment it looks like it will launch on February 28th, I think, next year. So I’m starting to get the kind of ad assets ready for that now, and we can have a chat about what I do on that one.

James Blatch: Why don’t we try and do an episode on creating a new genre and creating a new marketing buzz around all that? New pen name, same pen name?

Mark Dawson: We’ll see. If I do it myself, definitely. If it’s published by somebody else, I may have to do it under a pseudonym.

James Blatch: I think you should go for “J.T. Dawson.” Barry Hutchinson’s got “J.D.”

Mark Dawson: Oh, really?

James Blatch: No, not J.D. Dawson …

Mark Dawson: J.T. Kirk.

James Blatch: J.T. Kirk, of course, yeah. J.T. Kirk is right.

Mark Dawson: J.T., yeah. No, there’s really nothing we could talk about. There’s someone else in the kind of … Barry and me and Louise Ross have been chatting about someone else who is purloining, shall we say, certain aspects of covers and series. And I think doing quite well, but it’s pretty flagrant.

James Blatch: It’s not even certain aspects, in some cases. It’s almost identical, isn’t it?

Mark Dawson: It’s pretty flagrant. I would have sued him by now, but then, I’m a cantankerous old bastard. Louise …

James Blatch: And if you want to know what we’re talking about, if you search on those authors, you’ll probably see the other books he advertises.

Mark Dawson: He’s on my books now as well, so I think he may have been a student, which is interesting. With great power comes great responsibility, and he should probably be careful. Karma is sometimes …

James Blatch: Maybe that’s another episode for us, ethics at some point.

Mark Dawson: Yes. Just below Suffolk and next … Oh, ethics. I thought you said “Essex.” Sorry, American listeners. You don’t know what I’m talking about. You can imagine it.

James Blatch: Okay, look. That is it. I want to say a big thank you to Patrick O’Donnell, and thank you for your service, Patrick, in the police force, keeping the streets safe, and-

Mark Dawson: Oh, Patrick, I just have a message for Patrick. Next time you bump into James at a conference, he’s just asked me off-camera if you could arrest him. He wants to experience the criminal justice system.

James Blatch: No, I haven’t said that. Patrick, don’t … He’ll be out of uniform anyway, next time I meet him, and safely into his writing career. We wish him the best with that.

Thank you very much. That leaves us to say, happy Christmas to everyone. Happy Hanukkah if that’s your … and happy bewildering few days off if it’s not your culture or religion at all.

Mark Dawson: Careful, James. I’m going to wrap this up before you go full partridge. So, I’ll say it. Happy Christmas from me and …

James Blatch: A happy Christmas from him. Happy Christmas.

Mark Dawson: Happy Christmas.

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