Posted on 05/26/2015 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

It shouldn’t be a surprise that former police officer Zach Fortier is now a best-selling true-crime author.

In his youth, a teacher took him aside for a few weeks to have him write stories, and during his days in law enforcement, his crime reports were prone to making supervisors laugh.

The Fussy Librarian chatted with Zach recently about life as a cop-turned-writer.

SADYE: How has writing about the harsh realities of police life affected you?

ZACH: Writing enabled me to deal with a lot of the horrific things I had both witnessed as a cop, and arrived at crime scenes after the dust (or blood) had settled. I was really surprised at how raw and completely and incredibly painful some of the cases were to recall and write about — especially those that at the time I walked through seemingly unaffected, and yet later was nearly crippled by.

As a former cop with now nearly crippling PTSD, writing has enabled me to deal a lot with the pent-up emotions and calm the inner turmoil. I am now more at peace than I can ever remember, although (as a warning) I am nowhere near normal. 

SADYE: How have former co-workers responded to your works? 

ZACH: The majority of the co-workers I kept in touch with are very positive about the books I have written. Also, as a surprise to me, they have been very well-received by other cops I did not work with and noncops. Some recognize the truth in the books and appreciate it, others not so much. 

I have had some pretty harsh feedback from cops in the books who know they are in them and remember what they did. Others I worked with are shocked that these events went on seemingly right under their noses, and they claim to be unaware.  

SADYE: For "I Am Raymond Washington" — a look into the life of the founder of the Crips gang — how did you get Washington’s friends and family to cooperate with you?

ZACH: I listened. Simple as that. I learned early on as a cop that no one — and I mean no one — truly listens. So I learned to do just that. Listen to what is said, how it is said, and what it means, both in what is said and what is not said — in other words reading between the lines and hearing the message that the person who is talking is trying to tell you. 

Early on I discovered most cops have a version already in mind of how events went down at a scene, or crime. Talk about issues outside of that vision in their heads and they shut you down. ... I learned to let people talk even if they were obviously lying. It enabled me to recognize truths, and consistent themes in an incident. ... 

So listening to Raymond Washington's family and friends was something I have been training to do for a very long time. I have to admit, though, I was stunned by what I heard. It was not at all what I had been trained to expect, and I struggled with it for some time before realizing this was who he was in their eyes.

SADYE: Which of your books do you think is your best, and which is your favorite? 

ZACH: "CurbChek — Reload" is the most accurate to my thinking of what the streets were. "StreetCreds" was by far the most difficult to write. It is brutally real for me and painful as hell to admit that it happened as it happened. 

I spent many days at the keyboard an emotional wreck. I lost a close friend — a child and "son" (in my eyes) from the streets. I had tried to look out for him and mentor him as a cop. He was murdered when I was writing it and his murder is still unsolved. It is a very painful book for me personally, much more than any of the others.

* * *

Zach’s other works include "Curbchek," "Hero to Zero" and "Landed on Black." Read more about him and contact him at his website, zachfortier.com.

Categories: Author Interview

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