Hey! Welcome to Jack Catchem.com. This Tuesday I have another new thing for your perusal: an interview with the mastermind behind Without Fear Or Favor. I reviewed the book a few weeks ago, and the author, Robert K. Tanenbaum, kindly responded to an interview request! (Quick note: the text is copied verbatim. I added all internet links and photos.)
An Interview with Robert K. Tanenbaum:
Jack: “I’m interested in your method of plot development for Without Fear Or Favor. As it ended up being so prescient, was the plot modeled after current events or did the two happen to coincide?”
Robert K. Tanenbaum: During my professional career, I have long been concerned and have been in courtroom combat with the ideologues who seek to destroy our values, our way of life, and our governing structure. I have always been committed to the principle that reform of our institutions occurs through the prism of due process procedures and the ballot box; not through the barrel of a gun.
Interesting to note that BADGE OF THE ASSASSIN, my first book, is a nonfiction account of the assassinations of two NYC police officers, Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini, by self-proclaimed members of the so-called Black Liberation Army. With outstanding NYPD detectives, I investigated and prosecuted the case, which resulted in two trials, each one spanning several months duration.
Accordingly, the current War on Police is mind-bendingly similar to the pathetic demagoguery and media-duplicity that existed during the BADGE era. My books are value-oriented and reflect in large measure my tenure in the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney’s Office while legendary DA Frank S. Hogan presided.
As JFK so eloquently stated in his Inaugural, “We are heirs to that great Revolution.” And I am not prepared to sit idly by to witness and permit the slow undoing of our cherished national heritage, to wit: our shared Judeo-Christian ethic and the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence – two promissory notes relied upon by every American and applied to all those within our borders.
So I have no crystal ball or prescient Ouija board. Simply, I care profoundly that before the polls pontificate and the media picks its PC-winners or losers, as if it were gospel, the facts, the trustworthy evidence, and the search for truth must be honored from the outset and determine the final verdict.
Jack: “I loved your accurate depiction of the widely varying personality traits of cops in the book. Most authors stop at stereotypes of “the young blood” and the “old war dog.” Why did you present more?”
Robert K.Tanenbaum: My mentors in the DAO tutored and guided me through the process of administering the justice system. The Hogan Office was an apolitical meritocracy (I know it’s hard to believe, especially in our government!). If it were otherwise, this maverick iconoclast would have been booted early on.
Through the process of struggling to do justice with courtroom calendars that ranged from 100-150 cases every day and coupled with 100s of grand jury presentations and handling and responsible for 35-50 homicide indictable cases, I met all kinds of cops. I was blessed to be guided by the very best detectives among New York’s finest.
Since my books reflect my experiences, I want to present the reality and personas of the varied makeup, composition of the men and women who wear blue – authenticity matters.
Jack: “The key murder occurred after some ‘warm and fuzzy’ policing of playing basketball with kids. What makes such interaction community policing instead of goofing around?”
Robert K. Tanenbaum: Precinct policy and intent and motivations of the individual officer. Also, there is in policy terms the recognition of the value of getting to know the neighborhood, the very environment of the officer’s jurisdiction.
Jack: “As a District Attorney, what do you view as the difference between a District Attorney’s Office Investigator and a Police Detective?”
Robert K. Tanenbaum: At the DAO, anywhere between 20-50 NYPD detectives were assigned to work in-house with the ADAs. Also, the Office had civilian investigators to aid in the official investigations of police corruption and organized crime. It was believed that the civilian investigators would have no conflicts investigating any rogue elements involved in NYPD during the course of those types of investigations.
Basically, there is no redundancy. Having been assigned to the Homicide Bureau after having served in the junior Bureaus including the Criminal Courts, I mostly worked with exceptional homicide detectives from whom I learned a great deal.
Jack: “I had the opportunity to pursue a career as a cop or an attorney (I was offered a spot in a police department and a law school in the same month). My choice shows my bias, but what would you advise a young person able to do both to pick?”
An extremely subjective analysis is required. For example, I only went to law school so that I could work in the Hogan Office, work my way up to the Homicide Bureau, and while there confront and convict evil, given due process hearings, guided by the rules of evidence.
God knows that the CJS desperately needs highly skilled detectives and defense attorneys, apolitical judges and competent DAs. I always welcome having, as a courtroom opponent, the most highly skilled defense attorney. We should never discount the requirement that the accused receive the best legal defense available.
I came out on the side of pursuing a career where I am in the position as an ADA to ensure that justice prevails. As you know there is no Republican or Democrat way to investigate a case and no liberal or conservative method of analyzing evidence. There is simply search for truth. To accomplish a just result, the DAO must be apolitical and engage in qualitative case analysis based upon immutable facts corroborated my admissible evidence. I was blessed to be in a DAO that was a paradigm for a Ministry of Justice. I could never serve or be a part of anything less. Finally, it is the DA who decides which cases go forward, which are designated No Lesser Plea, and which are disposed of through legitimate dispositions.
[As an aside, I need not be reminded of the corrupt DA (see Du ke lacrosse case and the pathetic Baltimore prosecutrix). They are sickening and pervert the very nature of the CJS and who we are as a people!]
“WITHOUT FEAR OR FAVOR is my first read in the series. Is your work episodic, or should I go straight to Book 1 in order to not lose the overall arc?”
All of my books are self-contained, independent presentations that do not require reading the earlier books first. However, since I love all my 32, I am grateful to anyone who chooses to read all of them!
“I adored this quote on Page 189, ‘No Mr. Mannheim… It is your blatant hostility and biases that would preclude you from sitting on any jury.’ I loved the tone and the articulate fury demonstrated by Karp. Would you mind if I paraphrase what people should be precluded from on calls for service?”
During the course of jury selection for the second trial in re BADGE cases, the actual jury selection process lasted eight weeks – still the longest in the state of New York. During my voir dire of a Mannheim-type prospective juror, the individual indicated that he was an avowed Communist-supporter. I asked for a side-bar on the record, during which time, I further probed his proclivities and biases. During the course of my questioning, he admitted that he would not believe, per se, a police officer called to testify since he was a guardian of our system.
Nevertheless, the court, in its infinite wisdom, asked him if he could be fair and impartial in this case. This savvy commie picked up on what was being asked, and affirmed he could do so. I had to use a precious preemptory challenge instead of one based on cause from the court to exclude him from the jury pool because (and I went on record) I didn’t want him to contaminate the jury pool any further; moreover, I stated it was his blatant hostilities and biases that should preclude him from sitting on any jury anywhere at anytime in America.
“You have a decorated legal career. What drew you to fiction writing?”
My first two books were nonfiction – BADGE OF THE ASSASSIN and THE PIANO TEACHER, the true story of a psychotic, sexually deviant killer. While I thought I would continue on the nonfiction path, I was concerned that I might embarrass people who I had either worked with or competed against in the courtroom setting. That was not my intention. And I am not wired in that regard. I had an incredibly talented editor/publisher who suggested that the best way to avoid that kind of situation would be to novelize my stories, which I readily agreed to do.
Readers: thanks for checking out the interview with an amazing author! If you haven’t picked the book up yet, you can order it from the publisher or Amazon (just click the link). I’m flattered, embarrassed, and GRATEFUL that Robert K. Tanenbaum took the time to respond to my query. This blogging thing can be neat. Would you be interested in more interviews in the future? Let me know in the comments below!