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Feb 15

J. E. Fishman

 

A Danger to Himself and Others (Bomb Squad NYC: Incident 1)

Tell us about what the Bomb Squad NYC series is all about:

Bomb Squad NYC is the first fictional series of any kind that sets out to portray the real world of the high-octane NYPD Bomb Squad. There are three dozen cops (and half a dozen explosive detection canines) constituting the most highly technical street squad in the police department and among its most elite. Headquartered in New York’s hottest neighborhood, they are the oldest, busiest, and most technologically sophisticated bomb squad in the world. I realize that’s a lot of superlatives, but it’s true.

The novels involve an ensemble cast of characters – from their commander, Lieutenant Joseph Capobianco, through sergeants like Sandy Kahn, detectives like Kenny Ridley, dog handlers like Cam Fowler, to the squad secretary, plus members of other units with whom they interact. Over the course of the series, these characters handle a multiplicity of bombings and bomb threats, some terrorism-related and others involving extortion, organized crime, revenge, murder, and so forth. While not every bomb is a time bomb, there’s always the danger of another explosion, ratcheting up the suspense.

Why this topic? Why the NYPD Bomb Squad?

First, I got curious about the Bomb Squad when I realized that it was headquartered down the street from my apartment in the West Village. I began to think more about what their jobs must be like – being the only ones who run in the direction of a bomb rather than away from it. It’s a fascinating part of the police world, populated by an interesting cast of characters.

I came to learn that these guys are real heroes and unlike any other squad in the police department. They’re very brave but also highly analytical. For all of the specialized high-tech equipment they possess, their most important tools are their methods and their brains. In a way, every bomb is a projection of the diabiolical mind of the bomb maker, so these guys are tasked with outthinking him.

Human beings facing off – that’s what a thriller is all about. But then the bomb tech has to go home to his or her family and set aside all the stress of the day. Return the next morning and do it all over again. That’s the stuff of real heroes, and these books honor their humanity.

Tell us about the first book in the series – how does it all begin?

The central character of A DANGER TO HIMSELF AND OTHERS is Detective Third Grade Manny Diaz, a former army EOD carrying the scars from Iraq. When veterans begin blowing themselves up in front of army recruiting stations, all of Manny’s buttons get pushed, but he sets all of that aside to solve the crime. He’s not only risking his life but also risking his sanity.

What were some challenges you came across when writing this series?

For most of its history – and especially since 9/11 – the Bomb Squad has been one of the most secretive units of the NYPD. Most of what they do never makes the papers, and their methods and techniques are closely guarded. So I knew I needed a guy inside to help me get it right.

Tell us about the technical advisers you worked with writing this series:

Back when this series was just a twinkle in my eye, I mentioned my ambition for it to a close friend who happened to have done a speaking engagement just a few weeks before at the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators. He hooked me up with Kevin Miles, who recently retired as the FBI’s longest-serving bomb tech. Kevin introduced me to Mark Torre, the current commander of the NYPD Bomb Squad. Then Mark got authorization from the department to be my technical consultant on the series.

Mark and I work closely on technical details. I wanted to get the details right, of course, but only to do so in a way that would not endanger police or the public. He also gives me a feel for how cops think and talk in general, how he and his squad in particular operate, and how they think through the kinds of circumstances they face, both personally and professionally.

Why did you decide to write the non-fiction e-book “Dynamite: A concise history of the NYPD bomb squad” to go along with the series?

As I was researching, I came to realize that no chronological history of the NYPD Bomb Squad had ever been written. Since I was doing the research anyway – albeit mostly on deep background – I thought I may as well get it down and organize it for the edification of others who might be interested.

What was your research process like when writing “Dynamite”?

I read books, combed the Internet, used newspapers and magazines, and also had Mark Torre review it. Every one of those Bomb Squad guys is a student of the squad’s history. They have an ethic of learning about all bomb-related stuff in order to stay a step ahead of the bomb makers. So Mark had a great grasp of the history and the means to fact-check me here and there. But I should emphasize that the book mostly uses secondary sources. I didn’t conduct interviews myself. But I did get most of the known facts down.

What other authors are out there are similar – basically, if readers enjoy their books, they will likely enjoy the Bomb Squad NYC series?

Well, I think of Joseph Wambagh and Ed McBain, two great writers of big-city police procedurals. But these books are different in that they focus on one squad, rather than one precinct, and they’re structured more like thrillers, where you see the bad guys more. In that way they probably will appeal to fans of James Patterson and other thriller writers.

Do you prefer ebooks, paperbacks or hardcover?

I still love the feel and perfume of a hardcover in my hand, but I do most of my reading on a Kindle Paperwhite for the convenience of it.

Are you a morning or night person?

Night.

Red wine or white?

Mostly red in the winter (or bourbon or scotch), mostly white at the shoulder season, mostly rose (or rum) in the summer. As you can see, I hardly drink.

What is your favorite line from any movie?

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here. This is the War Room.” — Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove.