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An Interview with Author Anita Dickason

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Award-winning author Anita Dickason is a twenty-two-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department. She served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics detective, advanced accident investigator, SWAT tactical officer, and the first female sniper on the Dallas SWAT team.


Law Enforcement Professional Achievement Award—The Texas House of Representatives

Officer of the Year—Texas Women in Law Enforcement

Officer of the Year—International Association of Women in Police

Runner-up Officer of the Year—Dallas Police Department

Officer of the Month—Dallas Police Department

Multiple Police Commendations, Certificates of Merit, and citizen/business commendations from the Dallas Police Department and the Dallas community.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

My Tori Winters Mystery Series was a risky genre shift from crime thrillers to cozy mysteries. The writing style is entirely different. My thrillers focus on the crime and how the characters solve it. My mystery series focuses on the characters and how the crime affects them. It started when I received an article from a friend about a poker chip found during the renovation of a museum in Arlington, Texas. During the 1930s and 40s, the location had been used as a gambling casino by Benny Binion, a crime lord who controlled the illegal gambling syndicate in Dallas. The chip had been used in his casino. The long and short became how I could turn that poker chip into a story. As I developed the details, I realized a crime thriller would not work. The book had to be a cozy-style mystery, one where I could move the plot into modern times. The first book in the series is Deadly Keepsakes, which is based on the poker chip. The theme of using the poker chips carried over to Murder’s Legacy, becoming another significant mystery within the story.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Through the process of writing numerous books, I have learned titles are an ongoing dilemma. Typically, I won’t have a title until I am well into the manuscript. A phrase or a particular word sparks an idea for the title. Still, it doesn’t mean it is one I can use. Not only does the title need to convey a sense of what the book is about, but there is another consideration: How often has the title been used? An overused title can affect the search algorithms on retail sites like Amazon. Coming up with a unique title isn’t an easy process. While I had designed the cover early on for Murder’s Legacy, I didn’t have a workable title until the book was nearly complete. Oh, I came up with several. Postscript to Murder, Shrouds of Time, Deadly Postscript, Buried Relics, and Vintage Murder are just a few of the discarded titles.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

The characters are the best part of writing. It’s amazing how they seem to take on their own life. My lead protagonist, Tori Winters, is a hospice nurse with an incredible talent as a pianist. The house she inherits includes a baby grand piano. Another fun aspect of writing this series was adding unique antiques to the mix. The piano is one. In the series, I used “Clair de Lune,” William Tell Overture, the theme song for The Lone Ranger, Rhapsody in Blue, and “Unchained Melody.”

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

Research is a significant component of my writing. My plots are complicated. The locations are varied, involving multiple law enforcement agencies and world events. The time spent researching elements and scenes for my books far exceeds the time spent writing the book. For example, in Murder’s Legacy, I have a short paragraph describing the demolition of a building and the equipment used. I spent an hour watching a video of a house being demolished so that I could accurately portray the scene. In Operation Navajo, an FBI Tracker novel, I spent hours researching the Navajo Code Talkers in World War II and the code they used—a code that was never broken. In the book, I wrote a code based on their code. At the end of my stories, I add a section, “The Story Behind the Fiction,” describing the real-life events that inspired the book.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

My law enforcement career was my second career. I spent nearly twenty years in the telecommunication and data industry working for the Bell System, Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), and Electronic Data Systems (EDS). At age forty-three, I took a leap of faith, quitting a financially lucrative career to follow my dream of becoming a police officer. At the time, I was the oldest woman to graduate from the Dallas Police Academy, when most officers my age were thinking about retiring. I may still hold that dubious honor. It was a decision I have never regretted.

Who/what made you want to write?

After retiring from the Dallas Police Department, writing wasn’t even on my radar. Instead, I started a business in accident reconstruction. In 2013, everything changed the day I received a phone call from a California producer who had found my website. A new reality show dealing with unsolved crimes was in the works. The first episode dealt with the death of a witness to the Kennedy assassination. That fateful day, Lee Bowers Jr. was in a railroad tower overlooking Dealey Plaza. Three years later, in 1966, Bowers was killed when his car struck a bridge just south of a small Texas town not far from Dallas. Over the years, Bowers’ death was added to the conspiracy theories of untimely deaths of witnesses. Bowers had been killed because of what he saw on the day of the assassination.

For the new TV show, the producer wanted an accident investigator to talk about the accident. At first, I said no. The film date was in three weeks, and I wasn’t about to go before a camera and talk about an accident I knew nothing about. The producer asked if I would at least look at their material. I said yes. That “yes” was about to turn my life into a new direction, though I didn’t know it then.

The packet of documents included a video clip from a 1992 Geraldo Rivera show dealing with the same topic, Lee Bowers’ death. In the video, a man stood on a highway pointing to a bridge where Bowers had been killed. The producer planned to use the same location and even had permits from the highway department to shut down one side of the freeway during the filming. It only took a few minutes to realize everyone had the wrong location. The highway didn’t even exist in 1966. As I would soon discover, the state didn’t buy the land for the highway expansion until after Bowers was killed. In 1966, the highway was a narrow two-lane county road. Now, they had my attention. Could I find the right location?

I took on the project that ultimately led to my cold case reconstruction of Bowers’ accident and a book, JFK Assassination Eyewitness: Rush to Conspiracy: The Real Facts of Lee Bowers’ Death. The book jumpstarted a new career. I liked writing a whole lot more than accident reconstruction. Ten years later, I’ve written eight fictional books; number nine is in the works. Writing opened doors and brought people into my life that I never imagined was possible for someone who had retired. It’s never too late to start.

Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art/forms that influenced you?

My favorite characters are Sherlock Holmes and Perry Mason. I’ve read every one of Agatha Christie’s books. Deciding on a genre, crime thrillers, wasn’t much of a stretch when I combined my love of mysteries and my extensive law enforcement experience and knowledge. I write about what I know, cops and crime. In my debut novel, Sentinels of the Night, I created an intriguing FBI unit, the elite of the elite, Trackers. I used a common writing technique involving a group of characters, though a different agent takes center stage in each book. I genuinely enjoy this writing style as it lets me develop the characters’ personalities from book to book, even though each Tracker novel is a standalone.

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