DJ Swykert is the author of The Death of Anyone; here is a link to his website:
Q: What is The Death of Anyone about?
A: Detective Bonnie Benham has been transferred from narcotics to homicide for using more than arresting and is working the case of a killer of adolescent girls. CSI collects DNA evidence from the scene of the latest victim, but no match turns up in the database. Due to the notoriety of the crimes a task force is put together with Bonnie as the lead detective, and she implores the D.A. to use an as yet unapproved type of a DNA Search in an effort to identify the killer. Homicide Detective Neil Jensen, with his own history of drug and alcohol problems, understands Bonnie, and the two become inseparable as they track the killer.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
A: I became familiar with Familial DNA searches while still working in 911 and thought it would be a great story idea, detectives using an unapproved DNA search to catch a killer, then being unable to prosecute him.
Q: What exactly is Familial DNA searching?
A: When there is no match in the database for a DNA profile found at the crime scene, you search the database to find the closest match to the profile, and investigate persons connected to that profile. The technique is not in common use in the U.S., only two states have a policy regarding its use, California and Colorado. LAPD used the technique to catch serial killer, Lonnie David Franklin, dubbed by the media: The Grim Sleeper. Five years later, because of potential violations to his Fourth Amendment rights, Franklin’s trial has yet to begin.
Q: What kind of research did you do for your book?
A: I heard about Familial DNA searches from a CSI in our department. I wrote a first draft of a novel using the technique at the beginning of 2010. In early summer of 2010 LAPD caught the Grim Sleeper using the technique. I’ve followed the case via the internet and journalists writing about it ever since. There’s even a website now on the case.
Q: Who are some of your literary influences and how can we see those influences in the book?
A: I’m a Hemingway fan, I like his spare yet powerful prose. I try to keep my writing direct and to the point. I think the biggest flaw a writer can make is to be misunderstood.
Q: What makes your characters worth reading about?
A: I try to keep my characters like real people, imperfect, yet honest. And most people are a little flawed but honest. The exceptions are why we need police departments.
Q: How does the experience of having worked as a 911 operator influence your work?
A: It brought me into contact with a lot of different kinds of people. There’s no place with a wider spectrum of humanity than a police station at three am on a Friday night.
Q: What was the most memorable 911 call you ever received?
A: A dozen naked men running down a major highway and the only car in the area had a lone female officer behind the wheel. I gave her the call, she took off in hot pursuit, and arrested six of them and transported them to jail. I still laugh when I think about her driving to the jail with a carload of naked men.
Q: What are the elements of a good crime novel?
A: The same ingredients as any other novel, interesting characters in an intriguing conflict.
Q: Based on her personality, if Bonnie couldn’t be a cop, what profession would she have?
A: Perhaps a marriage counselor. An occupation that dealt with helping people.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.