It’s not unusual for me to cry at the end of a movie. But it’s totally unlike me to cry at the end of a book. How did Glenn Starkey move me so much with his historical fiction novel, Black Sun? Was it the series of bloodcurdling events presented so clearly in this novel, based on the years leading up to and including the Mexican Revolution from 1910 – 1920?
Was it the characters Glenn Starkey brought to life in his protagonist Arnulfo (later known as Indio), his dearest friend and mentor, Chamaco, and the non-fictional, notorious Pancho Villa? Was it their love and loyalty to each other, along with their camaraderie and mescal-fuelled humor that touched me so deeply? Or was it perhaps their willingness to die for their country in the hopes of freeing its ravaged and poor inhabitants from a rotten dictatorship? Near the end of Black Sun, when Arnulfo’s heart broke as his faithful horse, Cha Cha, fell forward onto a rifle spear and died, my heart broke too as I reflected on the senseless and massive loss of lives Glenn Starkey depicted in Black Sun.
It was Glenn Starkey’s ability to capture humanity at its worst and at its very best that touched me so deeply. It was his incredible skill as a writer that moved me to tears. Where some authors write a great story you can’t put down, Glenn Starkey weaves a richly coloured tapestry and breathes life into every thread of the story. Every sentence, every paragraph, every description, and every character matters. Black Sun is near impossible to put down, but when you finally do, you know you’ll never forget the story and its characters.
Perhaps the explanation for that lies in the author’s own words. Glenn Starkey states in the afterword that for him, “writing this novel was a great exploration of thought.” It is that for the reader too. He states further that the writing reaffirmed his “belief in family bonds and the importance of not allowing foolishness and petty squabbles to drive wedges between family members.” You cannot come away from Black Sun without reflecting on how that theme was evident in all the relationships in this book: Arnulfo with his parents, with Myra, his first love, with Chamaco, Pancho, the Yaqui Indian leader, and even his horse, Cha Cha.
Black Sun provokes the reader to think about our perceptions of others: so many of the “baddies” in this book are really the “goodies” and vice versa. Pancho Villa was a devil to some, a hero to others. It is obvious that Glenn Starkey has thoroughly researched the history of all the key figures, along with times, dates and events in the Mexican Revolution. In fact, he states on his website that Black Sun took years to write because the more he dug into the history, the more he found to research. And he brings all of it together in one block-buster of a book. Book reviews are supposed to be objective, but I don’t apologize for the subjectivity of this review. You see, historical fiction is one of my last choices when it comes to reading a book. That’s why I still can’t believe how much I loved Black Sun. This is one to put at the top of your “must-read” list. You won’t be disappointed.
And a personal note to me was added to the review by Ms. Viga Boland:
Glenn, I’m in total awe of your writing skill, your attention to detail, your ability to capture and keep a reader interested, and your strength in creating such believable characters. As I’ve said in my review, you brought me to tears; no book has ever touched me that way. And even more astonishing to me is you got me to read a genre I would never have touched otherwise. In a word, you are amazing. Thank you for reminding me how a great author writes.
It is a review such as this that every author hopes for after enduring long hours of writing into so many late nights. To emotionally move a reader as I was moved while writing the novel, is truly a priceless reward.
I hope everyone will enjoy BLACK SUN. You may also enjoy my article on this site entitled “My Journey with Black Sun” …
The link to the Readers Favorite review page is: https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/black-sun
Through the years I’ve attended many a conference. Some were required training while others I requested due to their specialized subject matter. It wasn’t until my June 28th attendance at the weeklong Texas Gang Investigator’s Association (TGIA) Conference in San Antonio, Texas, that I came to fully appreciate the extent of intense effort it takes behind the scenes to produce an outstanding conference.
This year I was honored with another invitation to return and sign my novels for the 800+ law enforcement related attendees. Yes, it was great to talk “books” with everyone, but it afforded me the opportunity to again visit with many who have become close friends. And each year, new friendships are made. That’s one of the many wonders in law enforcement—once you’ve been a cop, you’re never out of the family.
I watched the TGIA board members and volunteers (I’d try to name all but am afraid I would miss one) constantly in motion. They registered hundreds of people, checked class schedules, ensured supplies were available, ferried people to and from the airport, verified evening events were all in order, and a thousand other matters. Behind the scenes was hectic, yet for the attendees, the conference was seamless. The speakers ranged from federal to local enforcement departments and provided useful, valuable information, not the type of “smoke-up-the-posterior” talks that many self-proclaimed speaking experts feed audiences to impress themselves.
One of the many excellent actions I observed was the security provided for each training session. Everyone’s badge was read and verified with a scanner before entering a class. This afforded the opportunity of a truthful exchange of critical data the officers could use upon their return home.
If TGIA members haven’t thanked their board for the great conference, then they should. Members definitely received their money’s worth in training, and the ability to network with fellow professionals was priceless.
But this wasn’t a light-hearted conference. It dealt with violent crimes and pathetic criminals who have little concern for humanity… and it underscored the dangers law enforcement daily confront such as the July 7th tragedy in Dallas where police officers were senselessly killed and wounded while protecting angry demonstrators who protested against law enforcement.
While our news media daily focuses on ratings and biased political reports, the underworld of organized gangs flows like a raging river—a river with little regard for whom it drowns. Organized gang crimes touch everyone everywhere, and yet it is ignored because most people still think of ‘gangs’ as those wannabe-bad-boys who spray graffiti on fences and buildings. Well, ‘gangs’ graduated long ago into the big-boy realm of crime and the public has failed to keep pace with the knowledge.
For security reasons I don’t use the full or real names of gang investigators I interview, and I certainly will not write about classified ops currently in progress by law enforcement. But, at the recent TGIA conference, I was fortunate to talk with several remarkable people in this investigative field. For all of their experience and involvements, you’d suppose they probably look like Rambo, Navy SEALS, or Marine Force Recon ready for battle… but they don’t. Instead, they are calm, quiet individuals you might walk past everyday in a store, never giving thought to their involvement in the gang world. Yet they are fully aware of you, your actions and analyzing you against their mental database of suspects.
“Johnny” is one of those men. When “Paul” recommended that I talk to his mentor about gangs, from all he had said, I expected to meet an almost larger than life man. He was known to be a virtual walking encyclopedia on gangs, and he had moved through the ranks of patrol, detective, special ops, multiple state and federal task forces, to his present position with a district attorney. So when this short, average built, soft-spoken, courteous man walked up and introduced himself, I was stunned. Not for long, though.
Once we sat and began to talk, my respect for Johnny grew… and kept growing throughout our entire discussion. He represented the thousands of men and women that work tirelessly behind the scenes, without public notice or want of gratitude, in a filthy world that most citizens only see by watching action movies in a theater. Gang names, histories, rivalries, underworld criminal activities and statewide networks rolled out of him faster than I could take notes.
The Mexican Mafia “Mexikanemi” was always at the top of the list. A ruthless organized gang with its own rules and constitution, Mexikanemi’s creation follows just about everything Aztec. The gang rules are simple: a member may not be an informant, or rat; a member must not be a coward; the ‘Eme’ (M=13th letter of alphabet which represents the gang) comes first, even before your own family; membership is for life, and it’s mandatory to assault/kill all dropouts. There’s more, but I believe you understand the essence of the rules.
When it’s beneficial gangs form alliances for their activities: drugs, extortion, human trafficking, murder, etc. They cross state and international lines without regard, and their reach is from the streets to prisons to crooked lawyers, law enforcement personnel, and officials on their payrolls. Yes, it’s sickening to consider how many cops and federal agents have been apprehended in past years for “being on the take” and assisting the gangs and cartels—but the millions of dollars flowing like a waterfall before a thirsty man, is truly the devil’s temptation.
“Johnny, in your career, you’ve seen a lot of bad things. Is there anything specific that bothered you the most?” I asked, expecting him to sit back in his chair and think a while.
“Seeing children be brought into the prisons to visit their fathers,” he replied without hesitation. “When we were doing special ops in the prisons, I saw women bringing their children with them while they visited their husbands or boyfriends. Same thing when the men brought kids to visit their mothers.”
I was prepared for an answer about decapitated heads or battered women forced into sexual slavery, but children in prison visitation rooms wasn’t on my radar.
“Why that of all things?”
“Because the cycle is never broken. The kids grow up accepting violence, crime and prison as a way of life. It’s what their parents did so nothing is wrong. They’re indoctrinated into the criminal world as children and some will never break the way they think.”
“So the chain will never be broken. Gangs will always be around?” I understood his point.
“We can slow their activities, but never fully stop them. Street gangs are ruled from prisons across the nation. They live and die by violence. Street gangs, prison gangs, cartels… one keeps the other going. There are a few people that break out and turn good, but they’re the exception to the rule.”
“Did you ever worry about retaliation to your family?” I asked, thinking about the newer Italian mob members who followed none of the old rules.
“No. I never had a problem in what I’ll call ‘the old days.’ These guys live by respect and odd codes of honor even though it’s violent. I treated them with respect when I arrested them. Disrespect only created further problems. In the old days it was easy to have a professional sort of respect toward one another. They knew I was chasing them and I knew they were running. When I caught them, they knew the game was up. I arrested them in a professional manner and they never gave me problems… I still see a lot of the ‘old’ guys. But the new breed of gang members doesn’t necessarily conduct themselves like that. They will do anything. The more vicious they can be, the more they like it.”
And for the remainder of our discussion, I sat wondering how this quiet-natured, friendly guy had managed to retain his sanity after years of working in life’s sewer. Johnny will probably retire in a few more years. It’s a shame to think of the vast knowledge that will leave law enforcement with him.
“Rocky,” on the other hand, was friendly because he knew I had been a cop, but I don’t believe I’d want to know he was chasing me. He reminded me of an old wolf in a forest that knew all the tricks of the trade to hunt down his prey. Like Johnny, Rocky knew the gangs, their affiliations, tactics and crimes… seemingly everything. From conversations with others, I knew what he said was true. He wasn’t trying to blow smoke or pound his chest so to speak. While we talked, he casually kept watch on everyone around us. I liked that. It reminded me of an old veteran officer’s saying about remaining alert so you could remain alive. No cop’s ever been shot by a pair of empty hands.
“What’s the biggest drug problem?”
“Methamphetamines,” Rocky replied immediately.
“Meth is giving everyone problems. Heroin has always been around,” he said, and proceeded to break meth down by quantity, costs, stepping it, and its migration by gangs and cartels throughout the lands.
All I could do was sit and shake my head at the monumental logistics required to move drugs throughout Europe, bypass certain cartels, and move the drugs back into the US. And along with that operation came human trafficking, murders, and a score of other activities.
I liked Rocky. Hell, I liked everyone at the TGIA conference I came into contact with. These were the men and women who were putting their lives on the line. They stand on the beach, trying to hold back the ocean waves of crime even though it seems useless. But they are still trying because they want to protect people, even those who demonstrate against them and use high political offices to further bias against them.
TGIA membership consists of people from different levels of the judicial system; local, state and federal officers, prison officers, probation officers, judges, etc. They work hand in hand to investigate, prosecute, and control the gangs with all the related crimes. Most of the men and women will never be known for what they do. They do their jobs in a shadow world and try to go home safely at night to their families. What they see each day weighs heavily upon them, yet they try to maintain a semblance of sanity in the belief that there are still good people worth protecting in this infested world.
The “Blue Line” across this nation is made of thousands of outstanding people. Yes, there are a few bad apples but when the numbers are counted; the bad apples are a mere fraction of a percentage of all the good cops.
My thanks go out to the men and women of the Blue who protect us daily.
Readers often ask authors where ideas come from for their novels. It’s a good question and one even I’ve asked of my author friends. For me, BLACK SUN was born from old stories about bandits, revolutionaries, and Indian war parties my maternal grandfather used to tell me; curiosity about his life while growing up in the violent devastation and corruption of old Mexico, and last, my interest in history.
Every novel I write begins as an entertaining story for readers, then at some point, I find myself delving deeper into the research because the book has taken life and I’m compelled to learn more. Such was the case with my novel Amazon Moon in which the maltreatment of the indigenous tribes in the Amazon jungle became one of the prime focuses within the book when initially it was to be the setting.
BLACK SUN truly took years to write. I’ve heard other authors say the same of their works and now I understand how that can be. Normally, a year and a half is my standard length of time to write a novel: a half year to kick it around in my head and do research, and a year to pound the keyboard into the wee hours of the night. Yes, there are those wizards of the written word that say they turn out a book in three months, and I’m happy for them if they can—but I’m not one.
So, armed with a few of my grandfather’s old stories swirling in my head, I began to ask my family questions about him. Little was known. He rarely spoke of his early years and everyone accepted his silence. He may have grown angry when no one believed him, or whatever may be the case, but he said almost nothing about his youth and parents. My other problem was that the related people who had tidbits of information were dead, dying, or didn’t want to reveal much. When you dig around in family histories you are treading on fragile ground. Hidden scars might be revealed or old wounds reopened.
I had come to believe that it was almost too late in life to gather anything credible then a saving grace arose when one of my aunts spoke of her genealogical work on the family tree. From her research I was able to glean trivia, birthdays, baptismal dates, birthplaces, residential locations, and official data from government records. Overlaying all of the family information on a historical timeline of Mexico, I matched family
dates and history. My thousand-piece puzzle was gradually coming together. From there I dug into the individual history of small towns, people, battles, government officials, etc., and unfolded more tragedy than I wished to know. Then the story I needed to write revealed itself to me.
Every story has to have a variety of characters, one aspect of writing that can drive an author to the brink of insanity to create. I had no such problems. Research on the key players of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 soon reached a point where I wondered if anyone would find them believable. Take Pancho Villa for example. While some called him a hero, others claimed he was nothing more than a thief and murderer. A crack shot, one moment he might draw his pistol and without remorse, shoot a man. The next, Villa might be emotionally moved and openly weep. A renown womanizer, he cared little for money and never held a desire to be the President of Mexico, always informing others that such a position required an educated man which he was not. The stories, whether true or fabricated, go on and on and are the foundation of many debates over Pancho Villa.
Francisco Madero, who called for the revolution against President Diaz, was a short, frail man with a bird-like voice that grew squeaky and high-pitched when he was angered, and irritating to everyone’s ears. He talked to ‘spirits’ who counseled him on actions to take, and in the end, violently died as almost every major player in the revolution did.
Most people believe the Mexican Revolution was nothing more than Pancho Villa fighting against President Diaz yet there is far more to the story than that. I also found a number of contradictions in the lives of the people which made it difficult to write a true portrayal of the times. The Spanish were hated for their brutal conquest and control of the country, yet after they were run out of the country, the rich, fair-skinned Mexican upper-class treated their own poor countrymen equally bad, looking down on them because of their darker skin. No education was provided and working in the fields was all a peasant was believed capable of. Native Indians were considered the lowest of creatures, expendable slave labor only. At one time a bounty was paid for Indian ears. That was eventually stopped when too many dark ears of peasants were brought in and declared to come from Indians.
Unemployment, government corruption, distrust of government officials, racism, alcoholism, drug addiction, and other social problems were as problematic in old Mexico as currently exist today in America. Chinese immigrants came by the thousands to Mexico and the citizens of Mexico complained they were taking away their jobs, creating a high rate of unemployment. Government corruption was the norm and no one trusted government officials to protect anyone except themselves. The fair-skinned Mexicans looked down upon the darker skinned peasants without true reason. Pulque, a cheap drink, and peyote and marijuana, prevalent hallucinatory plants, gave rise to alcoholism and drug addiction. With no jobs, the only thing left to do was get high or get drunk. Murder, rape and torture were commonplace. Roving bands of bandits were accepted as either thieves or protectors against the government soldiers. Few, if any of the people, were left untouched by the events leading up to the revolution yet the poor kept love alive in their families and persevered in life, holding on to what little happiness they could find.
BLACK SUN is a fictional account of my grandfather in his youth, but the everyday life of the people and the historical events, bandits, politicians, and birth of the revolution are all taken from interviews and countless research papers, diaries, personal journals, and books as I could find. Almost every character was researched so I could have authenticity about their actions, mannerisms, and demise in life.
Of course there will be debates from readers about who was truly good or bad in real life, but such discussions will always exist. At least I know that after reading BLACK SUN, people will have a realistic understanding of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, how it came about, and who were the participants in the civil war.
It’s a shame such a beautiful country as Mexico, rich in resources, culture, and great people, has had such a tragic history up to this very day. Until the government corruption, drug cartels, and high crime rate are brought under control, Mexico will always remain on the verge of another civil war.
I hope you will enjoy BLACK SUN. I look forward to your comments and thoughts on the book.
Glenn Starkey’s Mr. Charon is set in the quiet town of Thornton, Texas, 1962, where best friends Eddie, Andy, Cooper, Caleb and Herschel are trying to find some jobs in the summer. Old Mr. Nesbitt agrees to pay the boys $50 a week for yard work, cleaning, scraping and painting; a hefty pay for the teenagers. However, Nesbitt give them a stern and creepy warning – stay away from the barn.
The friendship between the boys takes me back to some classics such as the coming-of-age film Stand by Me, but with the element of paranormal. It’s easy to relate to them, and I instantly rooted for Eddie, and Andy who has a tough life to deal with at home. Everything goes well for the boys and even the old hermit Nesbitt himself, who becomes friends with his young helpers. Unfortunately, Eddie’s curiosity gets the better of him one day as he sneaks into the barn, despite Nesbitt’s repeated warnings. He finds an Ouija board in a trunk and, from that moment on, everything changes.
Revenge outweighs rationale when Eddie and Andy decide to right the wrongs in their lives and use the Ouija board, giving the demon named Mr. Charon the opportunity to wreak havoc in Thornton. Can the boys save their hometown? The suspense will keep readers on edge. One of the evident appeals of Mr. Charon is Starkey’s descriptive prose. It gives vivid pictures of the surroundings and moves the story flawlessly, which also contributes to the plot’s deft execution. The classic good versus evil theme mixed with love, hate, and redemption makes Mr. Charon a great read.
“Mr. Charon” is available at all major online booksellers in eBook, softcover, and hardcover. For autographed print versions, contact the author.
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.
“Mr. Charon” is a Young Adult, paranormal thriller that all ages will enjoy…
In the dying town of Thornton, Texas, in the summer of 1962, five teenage boys have their fates forever entwined. Though all friends, their home lives are disturbingly different. Eddie has an abusive father, while Andy is the child of a single mother with debts too high for money alone to pay. They decide to right what they consider wrong in their lives.
A long forgotten Ouija board in a deserted barn becomes their answer. Together, they call upon a spirit but could never have expected the appearance of Mr. Charon, a demon who comes to haunt their small town with the help of his evil pets. Terror is unleashed upon Thornton, and although Eddie and Andy are to blame, their friends agree to help.
Mr. Charon has been released, and somehow, the boys must find a way to send him back to Hell and end the horror that has overtaken their fellow townsfolk. Good and evil collide as they fight not only for their own lives, but also for the souls of the entire community. Too late, the five boys have learned that where demons roam, no one is safe.
“Mr. Charon” will be available in eBook, softcover and hardcover formats. As of today, it’s released as an eBook on KOBO and Apple iBooks, and on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in softcover and hardcover formats. The eBook format will be coming as well. In the immediate future, all three formats will be available for order at every major online book seller and bookstore.
Check out the “Mr. Charon” page on this site for excerpts of the novel. And stop by to click the “Like” button on my
FB Author Page. I appreciate you visiting and checking out my books. Feel free to write to me through my Contact page on this site.
This year I was again honored with an invitation to sign my novels at the Texas Gang Investigators Association Annual Conference (TGIA) held in Corpus Christi, Texas. It’s truly an author’s dream to have 853 attendees, plus families, guests, and speakers stop at your table to talk, purchase books for the first time—or return to buy more. This experience makes the long hours of writing worth every minute, especially when someone comes to tell you how much they enjoyed your novels.
Through the years I’ve become friends with many of the men and women at this conference. My respect for all they endure from their work, the public, personal sacrifices they and their families make, as well as their dedication to duty, only continues to grow. Having been an officer, I know it’s a low paid, thankless profession with the media, politicians, and segments of the public anxious to crucify you, and slow to ascertain the truth. But these men and women of TGIA, ranging from patrol officers, investigators, prosecutors, judges, and probation officers, plus a hundred other county, state, and federal criminal justice positions are doing the dirty work few in our society would ever consider. Not only are they protecting us at home, but a majority of these men and women are veterans and served in our military.
While there I met many interesting people, learned of an excellent non-profit organization that helps children, and was further educated about the evils infecting our society. As a veteran (Semper Fi!) and former law enforcement, I believed I’d seen or heard about the worst that man can do to man—yet talking with these folks still remains an eye-opener for me.
The non-profit organization is 10-7 Outdoors, a group of sincere, dedicated law enforcement officers who organize and manage hunting and fishing trips for children of law enforcement personnel who have paid the ultimate sacrifice or have been seriously injured in the line of duty. John Barrett Story, six years old, was taken on his first fishing venture by this organization. His father, Craig Story, was killed on duty as a motorcycle officer for the City of Arlington, Texas. Aside from catching five fish, John was treated like royalty and given much needed love and support. There are other children’s stories as well, but I can’t list them all. Go to the 10-7 Outdoors website and give a donation of any kind to support this fine group of people in their efforts to provide love and encouragement to the children of men and women who gave all for us. Every penny donated to 10-7 Outdoors goes toward helping the children, not to pay some administrator’s high-priced salary, as is often the case in other non-profit organizations.
Every year I’m amazed at the quality of speakers the TGIA conference has for its members. This year was no different. Attendees crammed the room to listen to them, and when a grand ballroom is filled with 853+ people, you know the speaker is top of the line. One such speaker I was privileged to meet was Ann M. Carrizales.
Ann and her beautiful daughter, 11 years old MiKayla Rae, stopped by to discuss my novels. We had a wonderful conversation because Ann, aside from being intelligent and attractive, always wears a smile, has a heartwarming personality, speaks in a positive manner, and makes you feel as if you’ve been friends for years. As we talked, I realized she was the officer I’d seen in the past on Houston and national news channels. While on patrol for the Stafford Police Department, she made a suspicious vehicle traffic stop in the early morning hours of October 26, 2013. Three members of a violent gang with ties to MS-13 were in the car. One of the men shot her twice—once in the face and once in the chest—then sped away. Wounded, she returned fire, gave pursuit, radioed information and followed them through two counties until they bailed out of the car in a Houston residential area and assisting officers could continue the hunt. Only then did she allow herself to be medically treated.
Ann was one of the TGIA speakers who had a packed house when she gave her outstanding motivational talk on “Officer Survival, Staying in the Fight to Win.” Her ‘Never Quit’ mindset is amazing to say the least. To learn more about this outstanding lady and the volume of awards she has received, perform a Google search on Ann M. Carrizales or stop by her website. And in the future, look for the release of her inspirational books on unleashing your never quit, winning warrior mindset. She’s also available as a motivational speaker for corporate and public groups.
At the conference every year I discuss the latest gang trends with the TGIA Board of Directors, speakers, and members. From these talks I always write an article to inform and educate the public about what is happening in their communities—often in their very own neighborhoods. Unfortunately, a majority of people think gang problems are thugs spray-painting graffiti on fences and buildings, and doing petty crimes. This year I asked what the latest trend in gang activity is and the immediate response was ‘Human Trafficking.’
Gangs are a contagious, deadly disease that has spread across international borders and into the United States, infecting prisons, every state and major city, down to Small Town, USA. Yes, even your community whether you believe it or not.
The reasons why people join gangs is a social study within itself that has been debated for years. Libraries are filled with books written on the subject. One misconception John Q. Citizen always has about gangs is that they are composed of basically illiterate, low-intelligence people. Granted, 99% of gang members may not have attended a four-year university like you, your son and daughter, but they’ve earned their PhD’s and graduated from the University of Criminal Life on the streets and in prisons. Their constantly changing methods of operation are what keep law enforcement working overtime to decipher.
In past years they remained fiercely independent of one another, but today, they’ve discovered that temporarily setting aside differences and uniting their efforts in organized manners helps further their criminal pursuits. The unification orders flow from the prisons to the big city gangs, and then acting as an umbrella, the big city gangs expand their activities to include the smaller gangs. Murder, protection rackets, robberies, drugs, human trafficking—the list goes on and becomes mind boggling because there seems to be no end to their enterprises. And as an additional note, Asian gangs are among the toughest for law enforcement to infiltrate and combat due to language, culture, and lack of police resources in this avenue. As in the majority of cases, law enforcement finds themselves reactive rather than proactive because of constant gang evolution.
Human trafficking is nothing new. It’s been around for centuries in one form or another. Let’s say you are a present day gang leader. You want to make money and in the process, want the lowest losses and penalties. Professional hits, robberies, drug running, etc., all have stiff laws and penalties if you are caught. But presently, human trafficking does not. Through trafficking, you can remain fairly safe while those at the lowest levels of the crime (the pimps and slaves) take the risks and suffer the consequences if the police bust through the door.
Human trafficking isn’t only about sex. It involves forced labor as well; indentured servitude, slaves of a sort in that a person, man or woman, can never pay off their debts to their keepers in order to be released. Like the sex slave, the indentured servant is a prisoner, often kept under the harshest conditions and methods so they do not escape. They come from domestic and foreign settings even though the public generally believes they are strictly foreigners. You’ve probably seen these victims of human trafficking and not realized them as such because they will never speak out and live in fear. They are forced to work as maids, in construction, cafes, nail salons, and other businesses where they may blend quietly. (No, not everyone working as maids, in construction, nail salons, etc., are slaves.) At the end of the workday, they are returned to a house or location and locked in, often with dozens of other slaves.
This is the basic foundation of human trafficking for forced labor. It is far wider in range and more in-depth than this brief writing. But human trafficking in the sex trade has become the latest trend for quick monetary gains, extreme profits, and holds the least potential of arrests to upper level gang leaders. In one case I learned of, a prostitute earned enough money within two weeks for her pimp to pay cash for a new Mercedes.
What is needed? First, a woman or child, from juvenile age to adult (age has no limit in this), from America or another country, who is either kidnapped, a runaway, from a dysfunctional setting, abused, mentally confused, or extremely gullible. The second thing needed is the pimp or mouth (this may be man or woman) that convinces the slave through coercion, drugs, or physical force that everything will be fine if they do what is told. The mouth then gets the word out on the streets that fresh products are available, lines up the places of prostitution, meetings, and orders the women to accept the johns (clients). The women are also forced to work in places such as strip clubs, dancing and prostituting themselves.
After the mouth, comes the strong arm; the person that verbally abuses, physically beats, rapes, and enforces the rules with the sex slaves through whatever means necessary to ensure compliance. Whether a child or adult, sex slaves are treated with less importance than cattle. They are cut with knives, burned with cigarettes, mutilated, and branded to depict their owner’s trademarks. They are bought, sold, and traded from one gang to another, one city to another, or one state to another. Trading from city to city keeps fresh product available for clients. There’s always a renewable resource when it comes to the product.
Branding is popular. Owners enjoy tattooing their names or logos on their slaves. This could be a nickname such as “King Daddy” placed across the slave’s chest or a large barcode (yes, like on products you buy at a store) on their necks and arms. The pimp and the strong arm are often one and the same.
So the pimp has his products, the slaves are prostituted, money is flowing—and if the police bust the operation, then it is the slaves that are arrested and charged with minimal offenses such as prostitution. Maybe the pimp gets caught, but the strings are cut at this point and the gang leaders are clear. A fine, maybe some jail time occurs, but nothing compared to drug trafficking charges and their penalties. Say the word “Prostitute” and a woman (or a man too) walking the streets in skimpy clothes comes to mind. In this day and age, social media heavily comes into play. Pimps don’t have to jeopardize their operations by putting slaves out on the streets. They use a variety of common, local websites to advertise their products even though they know law enforcement monitors them once the back-pages are discovered.
It was noon on a weekday in Corpus Christi when I interviewed Miss X (the true name shall remain undisclosed), a member of TGIA. She showed me how easy it was, at that very moment, to locate a prostitute if I were a John. Miss X pulled her cellphone out, typed in the name of a local website, went through its pages, and BAM, there were 22 sex listings offering whatever I desired. Of course a telephone number had to be called to make the appointment, but after reading the somewhat coded listings, there was no doubt as to what was being offered. Miss X could even tell by the ad wording which was gang organized. Once appointments are made, the meeting places could be any hotel, motel, or neighborhood house in the city, and the meeting places change constantly.
This is all one side of the problem, but what happens when the sex slaves are ‘used up’ and can no longer perform for whatever reason? They are dumped on a street or murdered, and the pimp goes in search of more products. The few slaves that manage to escape or are freed through police arrests are then confronted with vast challenges of reestablishing their lives after some of the most horrid mental and physical abuse a person could endure.
I’ve only lightly touched upon the problem of human trafficking. With so much profit involved, there’s still the process of laundering the money. That’s where crooked lawyers and business fronts such as smoke shops and others come into play.
For non-law enforcement readers of this article, I hope you will continue to read and learn more about gang related problems. It’s happening in your communities and often in your very neighborhood. Support your local police departments by talking with them and reporting suspicious activity. The Houston Gang Task Force is a great resource of knowledge. For law enforcement personnel reading this article, if you are not a member of the Texas Gang Investigators Association, (TGIA), then I recommend you become one. Your department may not have the budget for a formal gang unit, but you as an individual can become one for them and start being their subject matter expert. The networking and knowledge available to you in TGIA is priceless. If I were still an officer, I would be a member.
My thanks go to this valuable organization’s membership for all they do each day. My gratitude goes to every board member for making this one of the best law enforcement conferences known, and inviting me to be a part of it. Of course I’ll miss a name, but I wish the best to my friends: Janelle, Paul, Sandra, Patrick, Joey, Rhonda, Rocky, Bear, Ringo, Jabari, Cara, Andy, Robert, John, Ann, and more.
“Year of the Ram” is now released in ebook and available at all major online booksellers! (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, iBookstore, Gardners, etc.)
Set against the backdrop of a savage war, “Year of the Ram” is an epic novel of a man torn between allegiance to his father, the struggle to save their nation against the onslaught of a massive greed-ridden army, and the discovery of a son he never knew had been born.
A gripping tale of love that reaches beyond the grave; of savage warfare, of domination, treachery, and brutal accomplishments that were written into the history of a nation with the blood of its victims. A tale of one man’s battle to regain the love of his son.
Aside from battling the flu, allergies, and miserable weather like everyone else, I’ve maintained a busy schedule these past seven months. I completed the writing of my YA novel, Mr. Charon, edited the work until I grew cross-eyed, and then fought off anxiety attacks while beta readers reviewed it. Along with my volunteer activities to assist children with their reading skills at an elementary school in my community, I was asked to coach a Second Grade Creative Writing Team for their participation in UIL (University Interscholastic League) competition. And this was all followed with a fantastic literature project in which AP (Advanced Progress) high school seniors reviewed my novel, Mr. Charon, and provided their insights on the young adult book.
Looking back, I realize how valuable those experiences were to me (regardless of the long hours and anxieties.) Mr. Charon is now off to the editor and publisher for their reviews, the second graders bravely stepped forward and took part in the UIL competition, and the AP high school students renewed my faith in the existence of intelligence during the teen years. Their candid reviews were excellent feedback for an author.
While I cannot speak much about my YA novel, Mr. Charon, because it must undergo further trials and await an official public debut, I can say that the book was received exceptionally well by all ‘test’ audiences and I’m eager for its release.
With regard to my reading and mentoring volunteer work and Creative Writing coaching with elementary children, I reaped many rewards. The children’s smiles alone are worth their weight in gold. This is my fifth year of volunteering to work with elementary school children. It affords me the opportunity to be involved with our educational process (to a degree) both as an observer and participant. I’m able to interface with sincerely dedicated and wonderful teachers who struggle within the constraints of low pay, restricted resources, and increasing testing and educational demands on their time. But most of all, I’m hopefully touching at least one child in a way that will spur them on to be far more than they ever dreamed possible in their lives.
As for the AP high school students—well, I was truly impressed. They took the literature project seriously, wrote their reviews with thought, and expressed their opinions with maturity (often far more than I’ve seen in reviews of various authors’ works on social media outlets.) During my recent morning talk with the students and their teacher, I observed the positive connection and educated environment between them, and how such supported their individual growths. That was accomplished through love, dedication, and the professionalism of their teacher.
When I returned to being a novelist after a career in security management, I never realized how many personal rewards I would receive or the doors that would be opened to me because of it. And I purposely left teachers unnamed in this writing for fear of overlooking someone, but I’m confident they will know I’m speaking about them if they read this.
Pay it forward. I’m a strong proponent of volunteering in your community to help others. Everyone has a talent they can share. It’s simply a matter of finding a spot in the world where your skills and kindness can best be applied. At the elementary school where I volunteer, I’m only one of many.
In hindsight, I want to apologize to my own teachers of long ago for the misery I dealt them while a student. I’m sure I was responsible for many of them needing therapy, developing a drinking problem or drug dependence. But, to the one that said I would never accomplish anything in my life—I proved you wrong many times over….
Earlier in the year I submitted Amazon Moon to the Military Writers Society of America for a review. The months passed and when I’d almost forgotten about it, I received a great review.
One of the things about submitting the request for review was that it would also be entered in the 2014 MWSA Conference writing contest to be held later in the year. Time marched on and I forgot about it also being entered in the contest. One day I received notification of Amazon Moon being a Finalist in the Thriller/Mystery category. Of course the conference was still months away, and I knew it was packed to the gills with great authors, so I crossed my fingers and waited.
The waiting proved worthwhile! I was notified that Amazon Moon won the Bronze Medal Award in Thriller/Mystery for the 2014 MWSA Conference. So, after performing my happy dance reserved for such special occasions, I spent the remainder of the day relishing that wonderful feeling authors get when their work has achieved formal recognition. Two days later, separate from the writing contest, I received a surprise review on Amazon from the founder of Military Writers Society of America. Needless to say, I immediately broke into another happy dance that would have put Michael Jackson to shame! Sorry, but I have to post it:
5.0 out of 5 stars Rambo on Steroids!
By W. H. McDonald Jr. “The American Authors Association”
Wow – I do not know how to start – this novel was truly a ride through lots of scary and emotional stuff that was delivered so skillfully by the author Glenn Starkey. Not sure if this is truly a war story or a sic-fi story but the two cross over into great entertainment. This would be one incredible action movie for sure! “Amazon Moon” is deeply layered in emotions and themes of both revenge and redemption. The human elements of his characters are sharply focused but layered as well.
The book is a true epic journey – from childhood, manhood in the war, betrayals, death, destruction, jail, and finally an opportunity for redemption and a new life – but it all comes with a heavy price. The war elements of the book are like Rambo on steroids but when the story switches gears to the jungles of South America it takes on an evil sci-fi world of devils and evil – then this book really begins to rock and roll.There is no one else writing these kinds of stories – this is a 100% an original tale.
If you are a fan of either military or sic-fi genres then it will work for you – it is not a book for the faint of heart looking for a soft leisurely reading experience – this will be an emotional workout for any reader!
H. McDonald Jr.
Founder of The Military Writers Society of America
& The American Authors Association
Every writer knows the importance of his or her work being recognized and appreciated. It is the true pay we receive for all the long, lonely hours spent pounding away at a keyboard in hopes of creating a worthy story to entertain our readers. And once we complete one project, we are already beginning another—with the same doubts and hopes as before.
Saying thank you to all my loyal readers doesn’t seem to be enough, but understand that I am truly appreciative of everyone who reads my novels.