From the badge, to the book, to Bayne

Former cop and new author Dennis Marsili autographs copies of his novel “Excessive Forces, A Pittsburgh Police Thriller” for some of those who attended his presentation at Bayne Library in Bellevue last week: from left, Mary Witul of Kilbuck, Paulette Welch of Bellevue, Georgette and Angelo Taranto of Emsworth. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen Order an 8x10 print of this photo for $15 (+tax & shipping if necessary). Call 412-766-6679 or e-mail the.citizen@verizon.net.

Best-selling author John Irving once observed, "A writer uses what experience he or she has…"

Dennis Marsili, speaking last week at Bayne Library where he promoted "Excessive Forces, A Pittsburgh Police Thriller," the first novel of what he hopes will be a prolific second career, has followed Irving's advice.

Writing his novel in spare time over the past four years, he has drawn upon nearly 30 years of police work that included 11 years as a detective sergeant to pen his police thriller set in the fictional Pittsburgh Metropolitan Police Department.

Marsili said that while the work is fiction, readers will identify with familiar local references to buildings, bridges, even the weather and the "Pittsburghese" included in the dialogue.

The author draws upon his career experiences to construct a plot that he promises will give readers "…a good look at police procedures."

Police procedures as well as police problems that the public rarely sees, such as unrest among fellow officers. A central conflict in the novel concerns two police officers who have a feud that spirals out of control until one officer frames another for homicide.
Some of the content -- a police chase described early in the novel -- reflects personal experience. Marsili spoke of how he once was in pursuit of an individual being sought for a parole violation.

"He ran into an alley and I saw him pulling something out from his back. It was a handgun. He fired at me and I fired back and I kept on firing. Even in the midst of high stress. I resorted to my training, and that was so beneficial to my surviving."

In addition to the action scenes, the book has a twofold message.

First, it's about intrapersonal relationships in police departments. "Police tend to be Type A personalities," Marsili said, "and that can be positive or negative. On the bad side, they can be so competitive that feuds are common. But on the positive side, officers will risk their careers to back each other up."

The novel also speaks of a big problem in police departments -- suicide. Marsili said that it's estimated that this tragedy occurs nearly 400 times per year -- a figure reported in a 2007 "USA Today" article -- versus 150 officer deaths per year as a result of criminal assault.

But what qualified Marsili to switch from badge to book?

The answer traces to a lifetime of experiences that includes working on his master's degree in criminology.

"I wrote so many research papers when earning that degree. It was intensive writing."

Add to that a strong reading habit, coupled with his practice of journaling that "…started when I began my career in police work."

Now retired from the New Kensington police force, Marsili works part-time at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Police Academy and writes for Examiner.com, a Pittsburgh law enforcement Web site. He also serves as a research assistant for a criminal law bulletin published monthly to keep officers up-to-date on criminal law code.

Readers may purchase "Excessive Force," published by World Association Publishers, through Amazon.com.


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