Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Paul DiStefano's Behind Criminal Minds

Still smiling although I've been glued to my  computer!
Happy 2012 everyone!  I personally have a fabulous feeling about this new year. I'm juggling four, yes that's 4, writing projects and two are coming down the home stretch for having soon-to-be-announced release dates. Never Say Perfect is in final, final, final editing stage, and 7 Easy Steps to Memoir Writing is just awaiting cover design. I've been spending hours upon hours fiddling with formatting--something I've never done before, but didn't feel that I was incapable of learning some new skills for my publishing operation, so I plugged away at it.  I was gathering information from a variety of sources, and it finally all came together. I think God was feeling sorry for me when He saw from Above that I was ready to flip out. Fortunately, I made good notes when I found what actually worked to produce the desired results, so my next formatting job will be far easier.

I want to wish all of my writing friends a wonderful, adventurous new year filled with much success, blessings and favor!

Speaking of my writing friends, I recently had the opportunity to interview Paul DiStefano, author of Behind Criminal Minds . Let me give you a little background first.  It wasn't until I moved to the Albany, New York area in 1970 that I began to hear a great deal about organized crime families. Growing up in Southern California, I was truly unaware of this arena of life--either because I was simply never exposed to hearing or reading about it or because I was actually oblivious and self-absorbed in my own little world.

Once I discovered that there was this very real element of organized crime in existence, I became fascinated with it and would read most anything I could get my hands on regarding the topic. So it was with great interest that I came across a newspaper article about a book entitled Behind Criminal Minds by Paul DiStefano, a former NYPD officer and detective. I could hardly wait to order it on my Nook, and it proved to be intriguing reading material.

Paul was gracious enough to allow me to interview him, and I have to be honest with you--I could have talked with him for hours. I hated to end the conversation, but figured that I had kept him on the telephone long enough.

After watching the Donnie Brasco Story about Joe Pistone, the FBI agent who infiltrated the Mafia as "Donnie the Jeweler," Paul came to the conclusion that he had encountered many similar experiences and that he should also write a book. Attempting to find a publisher, however, ended in multiple roadblocks.

Following his retirement from the police department, he became Head of Security for L'Oreal in New York and kept a notebook in his pocket. For three years, he jotted down notes and ideas about the topics he wanted to cover in his book and then finally put it all together.

Faced with the fact that the traditional publishers only seemed to be interested in contracting with celebrities, he tried to reason with them by suggesting, "Well, if you publish my book, then I WILL be a celebrity!" He said they didn't buy this seemingly logical reasoning.

He researched and located Xlibris to self-publish his book when the manuscript had reached its final stages of completion. At this point, his working title was Not Your Ordinary Day at the Office. His editor recommended changing the title to How to Commit the Perfect Crime. After giving this some consideration, he decided that it wasn't his goal to teach criminals how to get away with crimes and made certain that his manuscript was slanted more toward his personal experiences in New York City law enforcement. Another recommended title was Death Under a Magnifying Glass, which he found rather distasteful, but was agreeable to the change to Behind Criminal Minds.

Paul explains in his book that police work can make you cold and heartless.When asked how long it took him after retirement to feel as though he was once again emotionally balanced, he replied, "About five to seven years. It wore on me. I didn't know how close I was to a nervous breakdown. Today they have a psychology unit to help them. Twelve years in a homicide unit where you go every day into a negative situation just wears you down. There was never a happy situation--only in the respect of catching who did it, but it was always such a tragedy--lives ruined. And it wasn't easy to get along with the brass--the boss--there were personality conflicts that made it really tough."

He didn't hesitate to mention specific names in his book. I wondered if that worried him once the book was published and out there for everyone to read. "I only worried about one guy, and I didn't use his real name in the book. I called him The Candy Man. He said he would get me for my part in his arrest, but he got 55 years. I figured when he gets out, what would be our method of confrontation? Dueling canes? I'd be 96 and he'd be 88!"

"I was an excellent interrogator and interviewer. I found it pretty easy to flip people. I was a good actor and a great liar. Things are always changing though. About the time I was retiring, they started a profiling unit, and you go to a specific school for this specialty."

Considering that there are no second chances when your life is constantly on the line, I couldn't imagine how Paul dealt with that day in and day out. He explained, "You had to put it out of your mind or you'd go crazy. As a detective, you're wearing a suit and it's not as risky as being on patrol. You're coming in after the crime. But there is an accumulation of everything related to what we saw and experienced, and it took its toll. I began to have no feelings--nothing fazed me any more. And toward the end, I literally began to get shaky when I knew it was time to report for work. I honestly didn't know why. Then I began to realize I couldn't do this any longer. I had to get off this job."

Regarding any advice to other writers about the do's and don'ts of publishing, Paul offered, "Don't expect that you can easily get a publisher. Self-publish, and don't expect it to be a big money maker!"

Will we be seeing future books from Paul DiStefano? He thought for a second and replied, "I could write about the years when I was Head of Security at L'Oreal or when I worked in the Attorney General's office. I also worked as a private investigator for some top defense attorneys and had some dealings with the John Gotti case. I might just have more books to write. I'd also be happy to do some consulting for television producers because I've lived it. I know what it's all about. That could possibly happen in the future."

Something I really appreciated about Behind Criminal Minds, besides getting up close and personal through the eyes of an undercover officer, was that it wasn't written with a plethora of foul language. So many times,  books and movies on the topic of law enforcement are peppered with language that actually detracts from my enjoyment of the story. My husband, Fred, always says, "Well, that's the way they talk. That's real life." But I get so offended by this and find it so unnecessary, it's hard for me to gain anything positive out of the movie or book. Paul's book tells the stories and his memories without the use of polluted language. Now, I must say that there were a couple of chapters about working prostitution duty that were rather boldly descriptive and contained elements of crudeness, but it was easy to understand why these stories had to be written in this manner. According to the author, "I really made an effort to clean it up unless it was a direct quote."

I loved some of the titles of the chapters in his book: The $85 Million Heist That Almost Got Me Killed, Moonlighting Working for the Mob, Good and Bad Times at the 1st Precinct, The Ultimate Assignment: Homicide Detective, and The Dead Speak from Beyond the Grave. There are several more fascinating chapters, but these are just examples of his straight forward topics.

So if you've ever been mildly curious about the inner workings of the New York City Police Department and organized crime, this is one intriguing tell-it-like-it-is book to devour! Paul DiStefano tells the stories as though he is talking to a friend, and as the book is nearing the conclusion he says, "I don't know about other cops, but I can tell you for sure, I function better with a heart than without one."

Behind Criminal Minds is available on-line through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or you can purchase it directly from the author.  Contact him at 843-215-0785 or by email at While you're in touch with him, how about encouraging him to write another book?

Blessings until next time!