911 – The Bronx Bulletin and Court Report

E.W. Count Makes Crime Pay

BY CHRIS RYAN

Ellen Count would have to say she’s seen good come out of crime. After all, she was inspired to write her first novel after being a crime victim herself.

After reporting the crime and following it up, Count, a fashion journalist at the time, found herself intrigued with the workings of the New York Police Department. She followed her instincts and pursued a fuller picture of life in the NYPD. “The Hundred Percent Squad” is the impressive result.

At a recent meeting of the New York City, Westchester, Putnam Shields, a police fraternal organization that honored Count for her book earlier this year, the novelist raffled off copies of “The Hundred Percent Squad and talked up it’s latest development.

Published in hardcover last fall, the tight, well- paced novel has just hit paperback and shows promise of doing very well.

John Westerman, a Freeport, Long Island cop turned successful author of “High Crime,” “Exit Wounds” and the forthcoming “Sweet Deal” believes Count’s novel hits the mark. He’s in a position to know, his “Exit Wounds” has just been optioned by “Lethal Weapon” producer Joel Silver for Warner Brothers.

It’s very realistic,” Westerman said. “Ellen spent a lot of time with the squad. She’s got the language down, the smell of the street, the desperation of the criminals. She did a good job.” Westerman said he was also impressed that a woman was able to penetrate the male-dominated world of police work so thoroughly. “For better or worse, this is usually a very closed community,” he said.

The story pits Lieutenant Andy Flynn, commanding officer of a Manhattan homicide squad going for its third consecutive year of solving one hundred percent of its cases, against drug lord Dennis Kelly “Irish” Viera for the soul of a youth called Salsa.

Irish Viera’s organization is linked with two grisly unsolved murders that Flynn is determined to solve before his squad’s New Year’s Eve deadline. More than unit pride is on the line here, Salsa’s life hangs in the balance.

The writing is seasoned lightly, perhaps too lightly, with the kind of swearing New York cops are known for, but that is more than adequately compensated for via colorful, dead-on ch

The pace is fast and on the inside the characters speak familiarly with each other, referring to one another by different names at different times as cohorts are apt to do, and in the process keeping the reader on his/her toes.

There is spice, both personal and crime- related, but Count never caters to baser interests. Everything serves the story and serves it well.

Perhaps this is because the story is so worth telling. In a genre too easily overdone, Count’s rendition is refreshing, the writing keeps one reading, and the ending satisfies.

Count says she is now proposing a sequel with the working title being “The Squad.” While many of the characters who appear in “The One Hundred Percent Squad” reappear, Count says she didn’t what to repeat the same story.

“Flynn is transferred against his will to another squad – just what he needs,” she says. “And has to solve a very high-profile homicide.”

Count researched the special squad that serves as the basis of the new book much the way she researched her first novel – by diving into the thick of things.

For “The Hundred Percent Squad,” Count rode with Manhattan homicide detectives for about a year. She’s pursuing that kind of scrutiny again. “I’ve had to learn the new squad’s workings, start all over,” she says.

But Count seems to love the work. “The more I get into police work the better it is for me, and for the book,” she says. “There is something about detective work, especially, that has you always on an emotional edge.”

The author says she is aware of the mountains of paperwork that comes with the job, and portrays that as well as the action, but says “life and death issues are the basis of their work. People don’t go to cops unless they are in trouble.”

Count says seeing her book come to fruition has been very exciting. “I was out of copies and had to get some (to raffle off at the Shields meeting), so I stopped at the Barnes and Noble at Grand Central station, and there my book was, stacked right alongside the Joseph Wambaughs!”

“I used to be in fashion writing,” she says. “This sure beats hemlines!”

Count’s novel “The Hundred Percent Squad” is available in bookstores now.