Thursday, October 22, 2009

Perception of Truth

James O. Born

This is a post I made for the Lipstick Chronicles a month ago. TLC is one of my favorite blogs and the women oevr there rock!

Here it is verbatim:

I appreciate the invitation to blog once again at the Lipstick Chronicles. I’m a fan of each of the contributors and when Elaine Viets asked me back, I jumped at the chance. The last time I wrote a piece for the Chronicles, it concerned buying lacrosse equipment for my daughter and suffering the prejudice of the Sports Authority clerk who couldn't believe cute little girl could be involved in such a rough sport. I can assure you, from my career in law enforcement, that women are just as capable of drawing blood as men.

Perceptions are exactly what I want to talk about today.

I've written five crime novels under the name James O. Born. Because I have spent much of my life involved in law enforcement, people perceived the novels as being autobiographical when, in fact, they were anti-biographical. The novels contained all the quips and quick action that I wish I had taken in real life but the books were simply novels. I made the procedure and interactions between cops as realistic as possible but the plots were largely from my imagination. In magazine interviews or even casual conversations at Bouchercon, I could rarely convince people that the stories were made up.

A couple of months ago I published my first science fiction novel. It's called The Human Disguise and it's under the pen name of James O'Neal. Several crime fiction friends and bookstore owners asked me why I did something so different. The real answer is that it is not that different. In fact, the police procedure and tactics in The Human Disguise is quite a bit more realistic than many of the popular TV shows about crime today. I've yet to find a cop who didn't think The Human Disguise was more realistic than CSI.

Disguise follows detective Tom Wilner as he tries to piece together a gangland shooting in southern Florida twenty years in the future. That's the storyline. It's the setting and subplots, which set it apart from crime stories. Like many cops, his personal life is a mess. And one of the men he’s investigating has hooked up with Wilner’s estranged wife. In real life today no cop would be allowed to investigate someone who had stolen his wife. But in the future, when manpower a short and resources almost nonexistent, the boss tells Wilner, "we don't have time for conflicts of interest. Find out who did the shooting and why, then close the case." And that's what adds a wrinkle to the story.

As a native Floridian, I looked at the way things were when I was growing up in the 1960s, how Florida looked when I moved away in the 1980s and how it looks today, then simply extrapolated the changes to the next generation. I took into account possible pandemics, the effect of terrorism, floundering economies and a few other more fanciful possibilities.

Although I completed the book three years ago, a few of my projections are starting to emerge. In The Human Disguise, Florida's tax structure has crumbled, forcing all the public safety services to be combined into one agency called the Unified Police Force or UPF. Several different pandemics have swept the globe and Florida is depopulated to the point of near wasteland. A report recently came out that showed Florida's population decreasing for the first time in fifty years. That was just a lucky guess.

I've been a fan of science fiction since I could first read. A story is as real and believable as the author makes it. I wanted more of a challenge than just writing about the things I hear other cops say. So I embarked on this new adventure to write something completely different than anything I had tried before. What I found is no matter how unusual you try to make things, somehow the world and society catches up to the point that it's no longer science fiction.

The truth is largely a matter of perception.


  1. William Watson10/22/2009 7:20 AM

    I love your predictions. They are right on the money.

    Our tax system is archaic with no form of income tax.

    Libraries are feeling the pain now.

  2. James O. Born10/22/2009 9:42 AM

    Sorry i was late posting.

    Thanks for the nod, William.


  3. Dear Nostradamus:
    What stocks should I buy now?

  4. Why are you cheating on the Naked Authors?

    Go Gators!

  5. Yes, why are you cheating on Naked Authors and with those Book Tarts no less. I must watch you more closely, Mr. Born.