Mark Mynheir is a former homicide detective whose law enforcement career has also included serving as an undercover narcotics agent and a S.W.A.T. team member. Mark has parlayed his police experiences into a successful speaking and writing career. He has written articles for Focus on the Family’s Breakaway magazine and Lookout magazine and is the also the author of five novels: Rolling Thunder, From the Belly of the Dragon, The Void, and The Night Watchman, which was a Finalist for a Christy Award, and The Corruptible. He and his family currently live in central Florida.
S.S Why did a cop become a writer?
Because I can’t sing or dance. J Actually, it’s a bit of a long story. I have learning disabilities—dyslexia and dysgraphia—which affect my reading and writing skills, so I really struggled in school. I eventually dropped out of high school and joined the Marines. After I got out of the service, I went into law enforcement. I could barely scribble through my reports, but I found ways to manage and survive. After I got saved (about five years into my career), I felt the Lord leading me to write. It seemed ridiculous because of my history and how much I hated writing. But the feeling persisted. I shared that I thought the Lord was leading me to write with my wife. She encouraged me to follow God’s prompting and go back to school.
I enrolled in the local college and had to take a year-and-a-half of preparatory classes just to bring my education level up to take credited classes. I kept writing and going to school, building my skills. Then I saw an advertisement for a Christian writer’s conference in the paper. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I went and submitted the book I was working on. I got good reviews on my novel and was hooked. I never sold that first book, but I learned a lot writing it. I kept plugging away and eventually met an agent who landed a three book deal with Multnomah Publishers. I’ve published five novels with them.
SS. As a cop, what bothers you most when you read crime/suspense fiction or watch it on TV?
Almost everything. My wife has banished me from watching crime dramas with her anymore because I’m always chattering on about how they’re doing this or that wrong, or how there’s no way they can do something, or it doesn’t work that way. But that’s the difference between entertainment and reality. While we try to be as authentic as possible—especially with our characters—our first goal as novelists is to create an entertaining and compelling story. There should be enough realism to give it the flavor of the genre, but very often you have to bend the actual process a little to move the story forward or to make it more interesting. Law enforcement, especially detective work, is often more boring and tedious than anything else. It’s been describe as 95 percent boredom interrupted by 5 percent sheer terror.
One area I think novelists, especially beginners, get it wrong is by using way too much jargon. When I read page after page of “the perp” and “the vic” mixed in with ten codes and legal terms, my head starts to spin. Like anything, sprinkling a few of these terms and expressions into each chapter is fine, but less is better. Just enough to add flavor, but not too much to spoil it.
Also, make sure to get the weapons right. It’s amazing how often I’ll read a description of a particular gun, and it’s completely wrong. Readers tend to catch that stuff.
SS. As a guy, what drives you crazy about the heroes you read, especially when they’re written by women?
I’ve read stories where the male protagonist thinks and acts in the relationship exactly like the female protagonist. There needs to be a distinction between the two. Men and women approach relationships (and just about everything else) differently, and it doesn’t come off as authentic if they’re not portrayed that way. There are several good resource books available on the differences between men and women. While we might instinctively understand the differences, it never hurts to do the research.
Also, I read a story where a police detective was about to kick in a door to go after a violent suspect, and he was thinking about his girlfriend in soft, romantic terms. Not gonna happen, if he wants to stay alive, that is. When men are preparing for or are in the middle of combat, let them get the man stuff done first, then they can go all mushy. Just my opinion.
SS. If you could change anything about the way CBA suspense and mysteries are written, what would you change?
The CBA suspense novels are top notch. The nice part of the CBA is that we address the spiritual element of crime and suspense, which rarely happens in the ABA. We can give some context to Evil.
SS. In your career as a law enforcement professional, what changes have you seen in criminal activity? What ones concern you most?
The level of violence against police officers has escalated dramatically. Whereas before a suspect might injure or kill an officer to escape, now it seems there are more and more incidents of people specifically targeting police officers. Police work is considerably more dangerous now than when I started.
SS. How does being an officer in a small town compare with serving on a city force?
A small town environment is definitely a slower pace with a lesser amount of violent calls, but you might be surprised at what officers in smaller jurisdictions have to deal with. Anywhere there’s people there’s problems. They still have to respond to domestic calls, shootings, and fights; they’re just not overwhelmed with them. Officers everywhere must be on guard at all times. You never know what the next traffic stop or “routine” call will bring. Also, in the smaller jurisdictions, backup can be a long way away. So, often times you’re on your own, which means the officer has to even be more alert.
SS. Why do most officers become cops? How does this feeling change through the years of serving?
Officers progress through roughly five emotional and psychological stages during their career: Idealism, Frustration, Disenchantment, Full-Blown Cynicism, and Acceptance. All officers go through this process to one degree or another. I truly believe that most people become police officers, at least initially, because they think they can make a difference. They want to make their communities and the world in general a better and safer place, and they’re ready to put themselves on the line to do it. They’re idealists. They want to save the world. It’s not a bad sentiment, but it tends to crash hard against reality. After a year or two on the job, they often begin to question whether they can make any difference at all, and they start down the road of the psychological stages. They can go back through the different stages as well, depending on what’s going on in their career. But there’s one stage that an officer can never recapture—Idealism. Once someone has been on the job a while, that stage and mindset are crushed and never come back. But almost every officer I know still yearns to feel it, like they were able to make a difference. An officer reaches Acceptance when he or she realizes and is satisfied with the fact they do make a difference in small, sometimes undetectable ways, but they’re not going to save the world.
SS. You are a Christian and a cop, a husband and a father. How do all these identities mesh?
Being Christian in law enforcement presents a whole lot of challenges. It can be a violent and sometimes vile world. I was a police officer for about five years before I became a Christian. When I got saved, I almost walked away from the job because I wasn’t sure I could serve God and work in that kind of environment. But God showed me that he wanted me right where I was.
We have a pretty strong contingent of Christians at our department, and we have a lot of opportunities to share the Gospel with our fellow cops, victims, and even sometimes the suspects. As Christian police officers, we can relate with other officers in a deep and personal way that outsiders (those not in law enforcement) could never do. There’s a great need for more Christians in police work.
As far as balancing being a husband, father, cop, writer and such, only God knows how that happens. I take it day by day, relying on His grace. Early on in my walk, God did impress upon me to make my commitment to Him and my family the priorities. I take a lot of pride in the cases I’ve investigated and the books I’ve written, but at the end of this life, they will matter little. How I am as a father and a husband will impact generations—for good or bad. That truth motivates me to keep faith and family at the forefront.
SS. What is your latest project, and when and where can we get hold of it?
I’m working on a couple of projects now—some fiction, some non-fiction—just waiting to see which one jumps out in front. No release dates on the immediate horizon. Two of my favorites of my titles are The Nightwatchman and The Corruptible.
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