Author James L'Etoile spoke to us about his career in law enforcement, which provided him access to a large number of interesting personal stories to be used as inspiration for his mystery novels.  He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations.

Jim got his start in writing when he was in the probation department and was charged with writing pre-sentence reports for the judge.  Those were basically crime stories.  The judge wanted certain key sentences in there to convey Jim's opinion on what type of sentence was warranted.  The defense attorneys were tough critics and would pounce on any mistakes. 

Jim convinced us that the Sacramento area is an excellent area for producing actual crimes and, hence, inspiration for his crime novels.  Notorious serial killers from the general area include: the Golden State killer, Dorothea Puente, Roger Kibbe, and George and Charlene Gallego, and several more.  In fact, the Gallego couple dumped one of their victims on nearby Bass Lake Road.  Jim heard quite a few crime stories from inmates when he was an associate warden at a maximum-security prison.

Each novel for Jim is about a year-long project before passing it off to an agent, considering: the research, writing and re-writing in response to his own reviews and comments from friends and editors.  Jim likes to develop and bring the "total package" of a person to the story. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River -The Other Side of Paradise.  Jim recommends buying them from a local independent bookstore like "Face In a Book" on Town Center Blvd. in EDH.  His next book, coming out soon, is Black Label.  I really admire writers, and it was great to hear Jim tell us about his journey towards and his becoming a successful mystery novel author.