When I was writing my debut thriller, Harvester of Sorrow, I spent a great deal of time developing my protagonist, police detective Ezekiel Marrs. In fact, the character had several names in earlier drafts before I settled on "Ezekiel Marrs," and that name solidified the character in my mind. Other writers undoubtedly know what I mean and how that works. Characters often develop themselves.
Harvester of Sorrow is the first in a planned series (I'm drafting the sequel now), so I had to make sure Zeke was a solid character with enough flexibility to grow and change as the following books are published. In Harvester, Zeke becomes involved in a bizarre series of events in the small city of New Warfield. With his fellow police officers, he must determine how these events relate before they can stop the seemingly endless death and destruction. As the danger and suspense escalate, Zeke and his team find themselves facing two of the most vicious adversaries they've ever encountered.
Fellow writer Phil Giunta, who is thoroughly familiar with suspense and horror fiction, interviewed Zeke for his blog back when the book was released. I've reposted it here. I think it's an excellent introduction to the character!
Detective Marrs, what led you to a career in law enforcement?
Well, I come from a family of first responders. My father was a firefighter, and my mother was an EMT. Several of my uncles were police officers. Being a cop seemed like a natural progression to me. I guess it's in the genes. I've always wanted to be a detective, to be involved with investigations and solving crimes. Nothing against street cops, and I certainly did my stint there. You can't be an effective detective without first spending time in a patrol car and dealing one-on-one with people on the street and in their neighborhoods. But wearing a shield and being an investigator, that's where I belong.
What are the most challenging aspects of working as a detective in New Warfield, the town where you were born and raised?
As far as working in my hometown, I wouldn't have it any other way. My challenge is to be a normal, average citizen, someone with no "police ego" like many people assume cops have. I'm here for the people—my neighbors, the local business owners, all my friends and family. Many I've known for years, some even decades. New Warfield is, and always will be, my home. Sure, I'm a police officer. And my neighbor owns a deli. My brother-in-law sells aluminum siding. The lady across the street grooms pets. In truth, we're no different. I must always keep this in mind, especially when I'm on the job.
Want to know what challenges me the most? The cold cases are the worst and the most frustrating. Like the case I just finished. Even though we cracked the case and took the criminals off the streets, we still haven't identified—in fact, haven't found—all the bodies they left behind. You never win a cold case. There will always be residual emotions, usually sorrow and guilt, even after we solve a crime. It never really ends, you know.
You just closed a dangerous case involving the vodoun religion and ritual murder. Have you ever worked a case in the past involving religion, spirituality, or the occult? If so, can you tell us about it?
Occult, no. Religion, not so much. And definitely not vodoun. The Edouard LeBorg case was beyond anything I've had to face in the past. Drugs, kidnapping, murder, voodoo, and two of the vilest criminals I've ever encountered. I've never been in a more dangerous situation.
Spirituality, though? That impacts many criminal cases. I often wonder about the spiritual aspects of my job. I know that sounds odd coming from a cop, right? But as a police officer, you often see things that make you question your beliefs. When you see the body of a child, naked and left to the elements, deep in the forest of a state park, you wonder if God exists. How could a supreme being permit such an abomination, such cruelty? But, at other times, you see someone saved from a deadly situation, a situation that should have led to the person's death. I can only explain it as a miracle. Some things are inexplicable, but they hint at a balance in the universe. At least, that's what I believe.
Are you working on any difficult cases now, high-profile or otherwise, that you are allowed to discuss?
I rarely deal with arson cases, but there seems to be a serial arsonist in the city and there are suspicious deaths involved. I haven't been pulled into the investigation yet. Police detectives rarely get involved in arson cases unless criminal intent is suspected, but it appears the recent fires may be more than mere arson. I don't know yet. Right now, I'm focusing on the paperwork after the LeBorg case.
As a husband and father, how do you balance work and home life? How successful are you at shielding your wife and children from the often harsh and grisly aspects of your work?
Separating the job from home life always presents a challenge. You must leave the job at the door. But, of course, Nikki, my wife, worries endlessly and always wants to know everything I do. I never lie to her about my work, but I also try not to go into much detail. I deliberately leave things out when talking with her. She doesn't need to know the horrifying situations I often face.
My two girls, they're so young that I don't think they really know what Daddy does. My focus remains on the positives of police work, and there are numerous instances where I help people, far outweighing the negative aspects. They like to hear me tell them stories about where the good guys win. But, like my last case, dealing with the kidnapping and murders of children? I just had to push that out of my mind when I was with my girls. And now I have a baby son, the essence of innocence. I will protect him from the uglier side of my work as well.