By invitation I recently spent three days at the 2019 Texas Gang Investigators Association (TGIA) Training Conference in Corpus Christi. Looking back to 2012 when I first attended their conference, TGIA has continually produced one of the premiere specialized law enforcement training conferences in our nation—and the number of attendees keeps growing! Each year the association’s dedicated board members find the best speakers and pertinent subject matter for every new and experienced person working in the trenches of gangland organized crime.
The TGIA is a non-profit organization, founded in 1991 by a small group of officers charged with the investigation of street gangs, prison gangs, organized crime and their related criminal activities. They saw the dire need for promoting better working relationships and the rapid dissemination of intelligence among everyone investigating gangs whether it be statewide, nationally, or internationally. And they moved mountains to bring TGIA to its high level of professionalism and expertise that it is today.
To the majority of the public, the word ‘gang’ evokes images of small-town punks running in groups to paint graffiti on fences and the sides of buildings. That’s the kindergarten level compared to what the members of TGIA have to work with every day. I’m talking organized crime that has nationwide and international roots; is highly orchestrated from prisons; yearly moves billions of dollars; feeds corrupt officials and has ties to just about every crime you can imagine—drugs, human trafficking and prostitution, protection rackets, murders, thefts, and the list keeps going. Organized gangs are integrated into every segment of the public’s life, and unfortunately, too many citizens turn a blind eye to gang problems because they don’t believe they are affected by it. Dealing with gangs is the dark, sewer side of life, one that is dangerous to our men and women embroiled in the fight. It’s butcherous too. Gangs don’t mind cutting heads off or murdering whole families to make a point.
As a former law enforcement officer and retired security manager of a global oil corporation, I was impressed with the security of the recent conference. To ensure no media or unauthorized personnel try to slide into the training sessions, conference credentials are checked at each door and no recordings are permitted unless advance authorization is obtained. Keeping the wrong persons out allows for straight talk to the attendees; the kind of talk that is needed.
Our country, its laws, and the very core of families and society are under attack. Murder and violence against our law enforcement personnel has been advocated as if it were some play game. But of course, those politicians promoting civil unrest are safely hidden behind their mansions’ high walls and armed guards. It’s the patrol and gang officers that have to deal with the real world every day. This is why I’m so glad to see TGIA bringing officers and judicial officials together, to work with one another and become closer. The ‘Blue Brotherhood’ is a family.
Through the years, even when I missed a conference, I have always returned to warm greetings and the long-term friendships of so many people. One case in point is ‘Joey’, a young man I’ve had the pleasure of watching grow into a remarkable teenager. He’s the son of an outstanding officer and TGIA board member and has worked alongside his father every year at the conferences. I know Joey’s parents are proud of him.
There’s always a wide selection of vendors at the conferences. This year’s training session was sponsored by Sun Coast Resources, Inc. There are government agencies (El Paso Intelligence Center and National Gang Intelligence Center) in attendance that provide 24/7 intelligence services and training materials.
One interesting agency was the Texas Correctional Industries (TCI). Christy Putnam of TCI (a department within TDCJ) showed me a full booklet of products made by the prisoners that are for sale. They make everything from furniture to clothing, and if your department needs something, it might be worth making contact with her. And there were many other vendors present too!
Of course, 10 of my 11 books were displayed and sold there (and THANK YOU to all that bought them or stopped by to talk.) New friendships were made, and I look forward to seeing everyone again in the future.
But I have to give a shout out to my long-time friend “Rocky” Dyer, retired from SAPD and now with Breaching Technologies Inc. Rocky and Bart Mora (retired ATF) were setup with an adjacent room for all energetic souls to attempt breeching a monster steel door with some of BTI’s rams and tactical tools. You have to love it when the rams have names like ‘Warhead,’ ‘Mity Mouse’ and the ‘Wasp.’ I enjoyed hearing how my Corps’ MARSOC operators always prefers to use a bit more explosives than needed to blow a door. “Semper Fi.”
My thanks to the Board of TGIA for putting on such a great training conference and all the hard work they do to make it so. It’s no easy feat to have a conference flow as smoothly as TGIA always has them perform. And special thanks to ‘the Zam’ man for allowing this old warrior to be a part of it all.
THE DAGGERMAN, a Christian historical, has been released in all ebook formats and is AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER of print copies on Amazon!
Two men born under the same star on the same night are destined to lead intertwined, yet separate paths – one to save people, the other to kill them.
Yeshua is destined to fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah to come, while Hanan fights his country’s Roman oppressors and a corrupt, ruling priesthood. This heavily political and treacherous era is steeped in the subjugation of a people that have fought for their freedom since ancient times.
The devil has left his mark on Hanan from birth, and it fits him well as he, working alongside the Sicarii, ruthlessly eliminates his country’s Roman oppressors and the corrupt priests from the Sanhedrin Council of the Second Temple. With Yeshua as Hanan’s only true friend, Hanan must protect him from the devil yet conceal his own true identity as an assassin. Torn by the treachery of the time, Hanan knows he is damned by the devil’s mark and struggles with the choice of death or redemption.
Actually, The Councilman has been released for months but I’ve been so heavily wrapped in projects that I’ve failed to promote my own book!
I know, I should be flogged for my negligence because I’ve had many people contact me to say how much they loved it. Most of its marketing has been by word-of-mouth, and fortunately, done quite well…
It was released with fanfare and a great release party—something I’ve never had with any of my other books. I must admit that signing books for your readers (especially when one was my great State Representative Ed Thompson) is an adrenaline rush that can never be matched. But receiving several photos of them proudly holding your book is fantastic. I’ve attached a few for everyone to see.
And my sincere thanks goes to my Creative Team and Battle Cry Revival who made this such a great release!
“The Councilman” is available at all major booksellers in ebook or print!
Yes, I’m a proud and happy author. My novel “Solomon’s Men” is to be published as a graphic novel in 2018, and—“The Honjo,” sequel to “Solomon’s Men,” will be released later in the year as well. This is fast becoming a stellar year for me. It’s been a long road with my writings, but the years of effort are finally proving worthwhile….
Last year was exhausting, though. Trying to finish a book; Hurricane Harvey destroying everything; the back and forth of contract negotiations, and a dozen other things—but life is good and getting better now!
Today I have permission to post some of the fantastic artwork from the graphic novel. Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to display names of the entertainment company, the artist, colorist, and writer but will do so once the graphic novel is published. They are a great team, truly talented, and my hat’s off to each for such professional work in visually bringing “Solomon’s Men” to life.
More information will be coming on “The Honjo” and the graphic novel. Be sure to check back for more news.
The first edition of Solomon’s Men went out of print but after so many requests from readers, I brought it back as a second edition in print and eBook—new cover design and a bit of polish throughout the story. Don’t worry, it is the same story but doing so allowed me to improve the text.
The second edition book cover is silver and red. That’s the one you want to purchase. The first edition has a black and red cover, and unfortunately, is still being listed as for sale even though it’s not. Booksellers, for whatever reason, continue to display the first as if it is available. This causes confusion with readers and although I’ve tried to get the first edition pulled, the booksellers will not.
Solomon’s Men, second edition, recently received a Five-Star Review from Readers Favorite. Its also won a Silver Medal from Military Writer’s of America; a great review from Midwest Review, and has a lengthy list of excellent reviews from readers on various websites.
I hope you will enjoy Solomon’s Menas much as others have. It’s available in print and eBook formats.
I was honored with an interview by the wonderful Belinda Witzenhausen, a writer, artist, Creativity Coach, and Editor in her own right. We discussed my latest book MR. CHARON, the inspiration and challenges of it as a Young Adult novel, my average writing day schedule, and wrapped it all up with a brief discussion of my soon to be released historical fiction, BLACK SUN.
As I read the interview, Catching up with Author Glenn Starkey, I wondered if new writers would be encouraged by it, inspired to continue with their individual work, and hope to one day read their own interviews. Years ago I was in such a position. Working on my first novel, filled with hope, anxiety, and stress. Whenever I read an author’s interview and saw the dramatic covers of their multiple novels, I hoped to one day be in such a position.
Granted, I have yet to win the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature or be invited to meet the Queen of England to receive her personal accolades, but I feel good about the progress I’ve made to date. I still become excited when asked for an interview. In a few months I’ll have six novels out (with great covers) in various genres. My readership is constantly increasing, and I’ve won several awards and received excellent book reviews. Along the way I’ve learned from superb writers, received their mentorships and added new friendships. My entire experience, although with its share of disappointments and fatigue, has been a fantastic journey through life that I value.
Yes, selling books and making money is the end product. Writing books is a business. But the underlying goal for me (and the majority of writers) is the sole creation of a novel that carries a reader away into a world of humor, drama, and suspense—something that I wrote which gives readers hours of entertainment. No reward is greater for me than to learn that I deprived someone of sleep because they were caught up in my novel and couldn’t lay it aside. To be told that a passage made a reader laugh or cry is exhilarating… The long, exhaustive hours of writing a novel suddenly become worthwhile.
I hope you will read the interview, as well as check out my various novels. I welcome your feedback, discussions, and especially your reviews. My readers become my friends and you add to the great experience of writing.
When I asked “Ringo” DeLeon, President of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, why he worked in a gang unit, the 26 year veteran and Sergeant from Corpus Christi P.D. never hesitated with his reply: “I hate bullies.” Short, to the point, yet prolific when given thought.
Say the word “Bully” and generally the first image that comes to mind is of a punk kid at school harassing a quiet, mild mannered kid. Bullies come in all shapes, sizes and sexes. They can be a boy or girl, young or old, man or woman, an individual or a group, from any race, and be rich or poor. Last year several incidents occurred with upper-middle-class high school girls bullying female classmates to the point that they committed suicide. They bullied because it made them feel good. Kids who enjoy bullying others are screwed up. Adults that enjoy bullying others are screwed up. That is the quick Psych 101 course synopsis.
Bullying ranges from schoolyard intimidation to spousal abuse to drug cartels’ murderous acts. Yes, drug cartels are bullies, dangerous bullies, but bullies nonetheless.
So, how does this relate to gangs? Simple. Gangs are just another level of bullies that get off on violence toward others in order to achieve their goals—and they feed off of the fears of everyone they come in contact with. Power and Control: the key essence of gangs.
Do you have gang problems in your neighborhood, community, or city? The answer is ‘yes’, only you may not be aware of the full extent of their presence. If you answered ‘no’ then you either live atop a mountain in a monastery or you keep your head buried in the sand to avoid accepting reality. Some towns and cities have gang presence more than other regions, but the problem is out there and it’s all too real.
There were 850 attendees at the Texas Gang Investigators Association (TGIA) conference held the week of June 23rd in San Antonio, Texas. The men and women came from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Their ranks varied as much as the sizes of their departments. While some attendees were from formal, dedicated gang units, others were from patrol divisions whereby you have to be the “Jack-of-All-Trades and Master of None.”
TGIA provides them with 31 continuing education hours for their state license, up to date training, and the latest intel on the evolution of gangs and cartels. The criminal world of gangs is a constantly changing environment that requires continual modification of law enforcement tactics.
TGIA honored me for the third year in a row by inviting me back to sign and sell my books, and be with my former brotherhood. It was an honor I definitely do not take lightly.
Throughout my two days at the conference I met old friends, made new friends, and happily learned I had loyal readers of my novels anxiously awaiting more. Erik Larson, the author of Lone Star Daybreak and an attendee of the conference, was present and we had a great talk about the world in general. But with each conversation held, I casually asked a question to get a general consensus: “What do you think is the main problem coming from gangs?” The basis of every answer was always related to drugs—drug cartels, drug money, drug deals, drug transport, and drug violence.
Small gangs primarily finance their growth through drug sales and consolidating territorial controls through mutually benefitting agreements with other gangs. As they grow, their operations expand into human trafficking, prostitution, robberies, fraud, home invasions, burglary, auto theft, murder and assassination contracts, alien
smuggling, extortion, and more. They recruit teenage girls through the Internet then force them into prostitution, using them locally, or trading and selling them off to other gangs across the country. Runaways are excellent targets, grabbed off the streets of major cities and most are never seen again.
How can law enforcement compete against the high flow of drug money? Cocaine alone is a $30 billion a year business. Most agencies can barely fund their principal divisions of patrol and detectives, much less specialized units such as gangs. Citizens don’t realize that the majority of law enforcement agencies in America consist of 30-50 personnel at the most, if they are fortunate to have that many. And the temptation of making more money in a few hours than you will make in a year has been the downfall of many a man and woman.
Ever heard of “narcotecture?” Cartel drug kings have so much money that like the super rich oil Arabs who make everything from gold, including their commodes, the Cartel kings have special made mausoleums constructed with imported Italian Marble, gold fixtures, and air-conditioning. Air-conditioning! For a mausoleum! These incredibly ornate tombs started the term “narcotecture.”
America is the largest consumer of drugs. Coke (not to be mistaken with the drinking kind) is a social drug used at every level of our society – government officials, businessmen, the entertainment industry, clergy, and on down to street level punks. Gangs can easily make $30-40k per day selling coke. Profit is turned so fast that it’s ridiculous.
A kilo of coke in Columbia is $2,000. By the time it gets to users in the States, it’s been cut so many times that there is easily a $100,000 profit. Combine drug money with the cash flow from other gang operations (prostitution, fraud, drug transport, and so forth), and the average citizen cannot begin to comprehend the extent of money that gangs have at their disposal.
“Everyone has a price” is the belief of gangs and cartels. Judges have been bought. Lawyers are retained by gangs. Federal agents and law enforcement at state and local levels have been caught selling out to gangs. If people in these prominent positions can be bought, then how can we expect a jobless person with a family, struggling to support them, to turn away from a high dollar offer for only a few hours work?
Unfortunately, there are still people in denial about how serious the gang problem across America is and how relationships between gangs and cartels are so heavily intertwined. America’s war on drugs is only viewed as successful by government officials with little grasps on reality or are trying to keep their jobs. The Secretary of Homeland Security testified before Congress that our borders were completely safe. Talk to the dedicated men and women in law enforcement who daily risk their lives and you’ll learn that fighting the drug war, stemming the flow of drugs, is similar to going to the beach and trying to hold back the waves of the ocean. You hold back part of one wave while the remainder simply flows around you.
All along the US border, ranchers live in daily fear of gang organized drug caravans coming across their land. South Texas Sheriffs have testified to the overwhelming problems their departments face with the increasing violence against families living along the border.
The gang problem only continues to grow. A majority of gangs outside of prison are controlled by gangs within our prisons. Gangs such as MS-13, who pride themselves on merciless revenge and cruel retributions, send enforcers to their upstart gangs throughout the states to teach them how to properly be members. Other words, how to be more vicious.
The times have definitely changed. The codes that criminals such as the old Mafia families lived by are long gone. Now gangs are comprised of younger, more restless thugs who view violence as the ultimate action. The drug cartels murdered 35,000 people in Juarez, Mexico in the last four years. Innocent people were killed and have disappeared. Decapitation became a cartel gang trademark. Stateside gangs wanting to be like the “big-boys,” have followed suit even to the point of making ‘snuff videos’ of their murders.
Do the research yourself if you still believe there isn’t a problem. In Houston, you can go to Stop Houston Gangs.org and view some of the gangs we have. It’s nothing to be proud of, but it’s reality.
Gangs are bullies. They serve no purpose in life except to further destroy our society like a cancer spreading through one’s body. They make whole communities live in fear. They steal, rob, and murder innocent people. They cost taxpayers billions of dollars yearly. And they respect nothing but further violence.
What can be done about gangs? First, understand there is a problem. Support your local law enforcement by reporting suspicious activities in your neighborhoods. Talk to your neighbors and watch out for each other.
Keep your children away from gangs as best possible by talking to your kids, letting them know they are loved and encourage their education in schools. Go to
their schools and talk to administrators about school bullies. The school boards generally flat deny that any problem exists, but when you are persistent, they will act—even if it means you must go to the media about the school board. When your kids think being “gangsta” is cool, let them know what losers “gangstas” really are. And most of all, pay attention to what your kids do on the Internet. Be a parent before being their ‘buddy.’ Don’t let your child commit suicide before you learn a problem existed.
Like “Ringo” DeLeon, I hate bullies too.
* * * *
Before I close, I wish to express my gratitude to the men and women of the Texas Gang Investigators Association for the dangerous work they daily perform on behalf of the citizens of our great state, as well as for our magnificent country. Teachers and law enforcement related personnel do not receive adequate payment for the critically important work they do, especially when compared to the frivolous mega-salaries of sports figures today.
Organizing an educational, informative conference such as the Board of T.G.I.A. does each year, is to be commended. The overall planning involved is astounding and the Board’s efforts are displayed in the quality of their conference.
Thank you, Mr. Ringo DeLeon, President of T.G.I.A., Mr. Patrick Natividad, 2nd Vice President of T.G.I.A., and Mr. Paul Zamarripa, Director, Pos.1, South Region, of T.G.I.A., for your friendship, hospitality, and my further education into the world of gangs.
And special thanks go to Mrs. Janelle Zamarippa and Mrs. Natividad for our discussions and the work I observed you tirelessly perform each day for the benefit of T.G.I.A.
AMAZON MOON is be honored as “Notable Book in the category of Page-Turners” in the Half Price Books sponsored 2013 Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Independently Published Book.
The top five books and “notable books by category,” as determined by the editors of Shelf Unbound, will receive editorial coverage in the December/January 2014 issue of Shelf Unbound.
Shelf Unbound Book Review Magazine, a 2013 Maggie Award finalist for Best Digital-Only Publicationis alsoa recipient of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Honoring Excellence Award, and reaches more than 125,000 avid readers in the U.S. and in 59 other countries around the globe.
Amazon Moon is Starkey’s fourth published novel and generating worthy acclaim for its story!
There are times when reality hits home, gives you a wake-up call, and leaves you with the realization the dirty side of life still exists even though you may have forgotten or chose to ignore it. Some people don’t have the luxury to forget. They work it every day, seemingly living it because they must. It’s their job. Such are the men and women of the T.G.I.A., Texas Gang Investigators Association.
After reading my novels, Mr. Paul Zamarripa, T.G.I.A. South Region Director, Position 1, contacted and invited me to attend their conference in San Antonio, Texas. That was quite an honor for me. Considering my former experience as a law enforcement officer, he believed it would be a good opportunity to present something different to the attendees; have me sign my books, talk with everyone, and allow them to see there can be life outside of their daily jobs which are mentally grueling.
Of course I accepted! What author wouldn’t? So for two full days I signed books, met old friends, people engaged in gang investigations and enforcement, and made new friends – one of which was Mr. Zamarripa.
Were the 750 conference attendees all cops? No. They ranged from federal agencies of all levels, constables, state, county and municipal law enforcement, and parole/probation officers to school counselors and court administration. Yes, I probably missed someone in that list of attendees. But as you can see, it takes such a spectrum of people, working hand in hand, to address today’s growing problems with gangs.
There was a time long, long ago when you said the word “gangs” and only images of leather-vested motorcycle riders and teenagers in neighborhoods with aerosol paint cans came to mind. The majority of the public never came in contact with them. Fast forward ahead and now everyone across our nation and in foreign countries is infected with a mounting crime rate rising from street thug gangs to violent drug cartel involvement. Big cities to small country towns, the types of crimes related to them seems endless: theft, burglary, drugs, rape, prostitution, kidnapping, assault, murder, and so on. And there are no barriers when it comes to age and social economic status as well. Children to adults are recruited, and the poor from slums and barrios to the college educated crowd living in well-to-do neighborhoods are brought into the fold.
What lies at the base of the gang problem? Money, economics; the list of reasons continues but those two are the meat and potatoes of the issue. And solving gang problems that have such far reaching tentacles into the criminal underworld often feels as if you are at the beach trying to hold back the waves of the ocean.
When drug cartels have enough money to recruit whole units of deserters from Mexican Army special forces units to do their violent bidding, they certainly have no qualms in hiring stateside ‘wannabe-gangstas’ or organized gangs to run dope and make hits on selected targets. Doing so keeps the cartel’s hands clean.
This is where the men and women of the T.G.I.A. come into play. They don’t just work ‘9 to 5’ and walk away at the end of the day. They live it ‘24-7’ and shift between the cruelties of the gang world and their home life, constantly struggling to maintain their sanity and a positive outlook on society. Their phones ring day and night and they are often called away for investigations while enjoying a little time with family. That’s one reason divorce rates are high in police work. While I was at the conference I listened to probation officers getting calls about parole violators, and investigators talking to patrol officers about certain ‘tats’ on a suspect.
Conferences are important for several reasons – networking, sharing intel, learning from one another – earning educational hours required by the State of Texas as part of their continuing education to retain their licenses – but to me, most of all, it gives them some down time to clear their heads, especially when you are not working undercover and feel you need to always dress the part of being a gang member. Like patrol officers and detectives working the streets, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the ‘us versus them’ syndrome whereby it’s the police against everyone outside of law enforcement because all you see is the crap side of life and wonder if anyone good is left other than another cop.
The stories these people can tell you about gang violence and activities and working the streets would make most authors’ crime novels look like kindergarten books.
Take the time to browse various websites of your local law enforcement such as Stop Houston Gangs and related associations such as the T.G.I.A. Read about the crimes gangs commit and how they operate. See for yourself how big the problems truly are. After all, the end product of their criminal acts affects your tax dollars!
What can you do to help? First, start by telling your children they are loved – and talk to them. Have conversations with them about problems they see and may be confronted with in school or in the neighborhood. Don’t wait until your children are teenagers. Start talking to them when they are much younger.
Gangs are a subject which could be studied for semesters in a classroom setting and you still wouldn’t learn all there is to know. So my hat’s off to the members of the TGIA, as well as all law enforcement related personnel, for their commitment to keeping our streets clean.
And my thanks to Mr. Paul Zamarippa for the invitation which allowed me to learn about this association.
I doubt if wars will ever end during my lifetime or even that of my grandson’s. They have existed in some form for hundreds of reasons since the first cave man led his tribe against a neighboring tribe. I doubt too if there has ever been a single year since recorded history when a war was not being fought in some location about the world.
As a writer, I read quite a bit of history during the research periods for my novels. Often I come upon the stories of little known wars now lost to time in faraway places where the reasons for battle were ridiculous. But, there are an equal number of stories where freedom against oppression was the courageous driving force and no alternative existed except to fight. Between the ridiculous and courageous reasons for the wars lie the surviving veterans, the wounded, the dead, and those family members and loved ones left to mourn.
Active duty men and women in our armed forces fulfill the need to protect us around the clock and serve wherever the need sends them, regardless of the hardships they and their families must endure. The veteran, wounded or not, looks back upon his or her military service with mixed emotions of pride at having served, remorse at the loss of friends and comrades, and must live with the memories and harsh realities of what they participated in and witnessed. As for the dead, they now rest in silence with GOD, hoping their ultimate sacrifice was not in vain.
Memorial Day has gone through many changes since its first creation as Decorations Day. Now it encompasses all military personnel, past and present, rather than only those that died. From the simple act of placing flowers upon a grave to parades in some communities, we honor our armed forces and remember in our own ways.
Until you have lost your freedom, you will never fully understand the value of it. Until you look upon the stars and stripes furling above you in the breeze, and realize the true value of your nation, you will never fully understand the sacrifices made for it.
Admiral Chester Nimitz made two famous statements. After the fierce fighting on Iwo Jima, he said, “Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
And speaking of those who died in the war in the Pacific, which may be stated for all wars, he said, “They fought together as brothers in arms; they died together and now they sleep side by side…To them, we have a solemn obligation — the obligation to ensure that their sacrifice will help make this a better and safer world in which to live.”
Wherever you are on Memorial Day or any other day, take a moment to pay tribute to all that have given of themselves from every race, creed and color, so you may now have the freedom to do as you wish. There is no glory in war, only pain and suffering. Even its victory in the end is bittersweet.
USMC, 1969-1974, Vietnam veteran
In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.