John M. Wills

Books and blog

Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths about Police Shootings (book review)

Today’s newscasts and papers are rife with reporting on police involved shootings. Preliminary coverage seems to always be negative, insinuating that police were wrong or perhaps too quick to use deadly force. Even worse, when deadly force is employed the news is quick to opine that it was either not justified or too much force was used. We still see those insane questions from some reporters and journalists—“Why didn’t they shoot him in the arm or leg?” Insanity. Social media is the worst. Monday morning quarterbacks and cop wannabes analyze and criticize decisions that an officer has a split second to make.

In that regard, Joseph K. Loughlin and Kate Clark Flora have authored a book that is long overdue. In Shots Fired: The Misunderstandings, Misconceptions, and Myths about Police Shootings, the authors offer a clear answer as to why cops are forced to respond to situations using deadly force. They illustrate why at times even though an officer’s decision is totally justified and within the parameters of law and department policy, some are pilloried by politicians, the news, and citizens. Recall the Ferguson, Missouri incident involving Michael Brown. Officer Darren Wilson acted within the law, yet calls for his indictment sprang up before many of the facts of the case were even known to those investigating the shooting. The rationale was Brown was unarmed. However, as police officers we know that any altercation is always an armed one by virtue of the fact that we ourselves are armed, and that weapon can fall into the hands of the subject we’re involved with.

In their book, the authors present a lucid view about the reality of police-involved Shots Firedshootings. They break the book down into four sections: Myths and Misconceptions; Training and De-Escalation; Stopping the Threat; and Loss and Redemption. To bolster their claims regarding the misreporting and misconceptions about police shootings, they offer many actual cases and court rulings. One of the most important rulings comes from the Supreme Court of the United States which said, “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be viewed from the perspective of a reasonable officer at the scene, rather than with 20/20 hindsight.” And that “allowance must be made for the fact that officers are often forced to make split second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular incident.” (Graham v Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).

Shots Fired points out a misconception the general public has regarding officers’ use of force training. While training academies offer intensive firearms and judgmental training for their students, once the officer graduates and hits the street the intensity and frequency of training is greatly diminished. Many departments only require a yearly qualification with a firearm. Unless an officer is in a specialized unit like SWAT or a tactical team, enhanced or dynamic training is not available. Thus, the officer is forced to employ deadly force with very little and infrequent training. The public might wonder why this is so, and they’d be surprised to learn that it’s mostly a function of budget constraints. Yes, people, if you want a highly trained department, the only way to get that is through taxes.

It may also be useful for the public to know about fear and perceptual distortions (Chapter 11). Even though people suffer the same effects when they’re scared, e.g., being alone at night and getting lost, an auto accident, a family tragedy, they rarely equate their confused behavior with those an officer faces in a deadly force situation. Fight-or-flight instincts are triggered in everyone who confronts a threat. Cops are no different—except they cannot flee. They must stay and take control of whatever threat faces them. And they must control the situation despite the changes they experience via the autonomic nervous system. Tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, slow motion, etc., all combine to hamper the performance in a potential life and death struggle.

What many don’t realize is that some officers that have been involved in shootings carry some mental baggage with them for years. PTSD is a frequent by-product of officer-involved shootings. Officers may suffer from sleep deprivation, acute anxiety, crying, appetite loss, nightmares, and even thoughts of suicide. They worry about possible future litigation and the moral questions surrounding taking a life. Recent postings on social media allude to officers enjoying shooting people. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the flip side, lately it seems these unsubstantiated accusations have spawned a spate of ambushes on cops resulting in deaths and injuries.

Shots Fired is another of those books I must add to my personal collection. It contains much food for thought, as well as actual cases reinforcing the topics discussed. Moreover, this book is ideal for anyone who has questions about officer-involved shootings and deadly force, particularly the general public.

The Sniper Mind (a book review)

Being a former sniper, I was immediately attracted by the book’s title. I was under the impression that this book was an in depth look at what makes snipers tick. It is, however, once I began reading The Sniper Mind by David Amerland.I realized it was about much more than snipers. Although the author examines how and why snipers are so successful at their craft, he then uses their techniques and tactics to illustrate how anyone can be successful in life by using the same techniques snipers use.

David Amerland meticulously examined his subject matter for three years by studying Sniper_Mind_book_cover.5a4b612c9f8a9neuroscientific research, and by conducting interviews with more than a hundred current and former snipers. Each chapter contains a story about a sniper which serves as a segway to a cogent point regarding improving one’s own performance in life and/or business. He then asserts that the snipers’ elite performances that allow them to excel under extreme conditions can be used by anyone to improve their own skills in business, communications, relationships, and their personal lives.

There are many remarkable stories about the feats of snipers throughout the book, how they manage to complete their mission despite overwhelming odds such as long hours, hostile conditions, and lack of sleep and food. The reason they’re successful is they’ve trained their minds. Amerland contends the mind has an ability to sharpen its focus over time through training. He demonstrates, via the minds of snipers, how ordinary people can do extraordinary things, exhibit self-control, and make complex difficult decisions under the worst conditions imaginable. He then asserts that these same tactics can be utilized in personal lives and the business world.

In a vivid descriptions of the sniper’s ability to control his mind and emotions, Amerland says, “The strength and power of a fully developed sniper mind comes from the ability to harness and control feelings and emotions constructively, creating an empowering, motivational platform from what most people would be demoralized and demotivated by. It’s no mean feat. It means being able to grope into the empty space from which despair should normally spring and manage to pull out hope.”

If you’ve ever competed in sports, or been tasked with delivering an important address or presentation, you know the anxiety that accompanies such a task. The author has a section in The Sniper Mind that describes, “The Navy Seal’s List Of Mental Tricks.” SEALS endure the most rigorous of all military training and tests. They are stretched to their individual limits and beyond—sleep deprivation, hunger fear, injuries, etc. Many don’t make it, but the ones who succeed do so by using four simple steps:

·        Set Goals. As in life and the business world, everyone sets goals. However, the SEALS break down their goals into micro goals, short-term goals, and long-term goals. Thus, nothing becomes unobtainable, and they simply take things one step at a time.

·         Visualize The Outcome. Just as an athlete sees himself scoring the winning touchdown or crossing a finish line first, so also do the SEALS train themselves to “see” the outcome they are aiming for. Amerland tells us the SEALS prime their brains for success, which in turn is reflected in the attitude with which they approach each task.

·         Cheer Yourself On. This tactic is particularly useful during their infamous Hell Week. They constantly give themselves pep talks and rationalize that many have endured the same rigors before them and succeeded.

·         Self-Control. SEALS train themselves to control primitive instincts such as anger and fear. Once they are able to do that, they become more confident in their ability to adapt and overcome.

The author concludes that these four mental tricks are adaptable to the business world as well. Furthermore, “Resisting stress, developing a strong will and mental resilience, and maintaining fortitude against adversity are desirable characteristic for any person, not just a warrior.”

The Sniper Mind is a great read for anyone, whether they’re military, police, fire, or civilian. The book is set up so that each chapter describes how to develop or improve a specific skill set and explains the science behind it. At the end of each chapter is a summary of what was contained therein. The book is actually a handbook on how to become exceptional in whatever path you choose by understanding how your brain works.

Go Inside The FBI

Today I’m visiting with William Larsh who has a new book out, The FBI, They Eat Their Young.

Hi, Bill, I’ve read your book and found it interesting and intriguing since it affords readers a glimpse into the FBI most have never seen. Please give my readers a thumbnail sketch of yourself.

Sure, John, and thanks for hosting me on your blog. I was born and raised in Perry Hall, Maryland, graduated from Towson State University, Towson, Maryland, and beganBill Larsh author pic working for the FBI in 1984.  In 1987, I was appointed as a Special Agent and was assigned to several different cities throughout my career.  I retired as a Supervisory Special Agent in 2012.  I currently live in Hanover, Pennsylvania.

How did your writing journey begin?

I honed my writing skills during my long career in the FBI.  I told countless stories of my FBI experiences to other FBI agents, friends, and family, throughout my career.  Nearly everyone seemed interested and amused by more stories.  Many FBI agents said to me, “Bill, you should write a book.  The public would never believe it.”  Following retirement, I wrote the book!

Tell us a bit about your new book, The FBI, They Eat Their Young.

fbi book larshThis book is an honest and detailed memoir of an agent’s career, providing the reader with the unique and amusing story of one agent’s journey from his first day of work until his retirement.  My story, however, exposes a dark side of FBI management in a callous bureaucracy, illustrating their pettiness, vindictiveness, massive egos, and retaliatory nature.

Have you written any other books?

I published my first book in December 2016, a novel entitled “L’Archevêque” based on the true story of my ancestor, Paul L’Archevêque, a French fur trader who traded with the Shawnee Indians in the Ohio Valley in the 1700s.

What are your passions, hobbies, family?

Golfing has always been my passion.  I also enjoy traveling, working out, bicycling, watching old movies, and listening to my favorite music.  My favorite travel destination is the Highlands of Scotland, where my grandmother, Elizabeth Chisholm Larsh, was born.  My family and I enjoy visiting our Chisholm cousins in Scotland, hiking the mountains in the Highlands, and playing golf on Scottish Links courses.  I have been married for over 33 years to my wife, Cindy.  We have two grown children, Ethan, age 27, and Mary, age 26.  We also enjoy visiting our extended families that live mainly in Maryland and Pennsylvania.

What is life after retirement like?

Besides writing two books, I have been able to enjoy all my interests full-time.  I have played approximately 1,500 rounds of golf since retiring, many with my children and wife.  I have traveled to see my Chisholm cousins in Scotland four times (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) for as long as 30 days.

Any new books on the horizon?

My nephew (by marriage) has requested that I write his biography.  He is a full-blooded native Indian from Canada from the Métis Nation.  Following his birth in 1973, Canadian social workers forcibly took him away from his mother.  He has recently learned of the identity of his mother and other relatives in Canada and is participating in a class-action lawsuit filed against the Canadian government for their unconscionable policy of separating indigenous children from their families and then putting them up for adoption to white families.

Bill, thanks for visiting my blog today. I’m sure readers will find your book as fascinating as I did. Best of luck on your future endeavors. Visit Bill’s Amazon author page for more information.

Choosing Book Titles

Today, my good friend and award-winning prolific author, Marilyn Meredith, visits my blog to discuss how she comes up with titles for her novels. Having written dozens of books, she knows what she’s talking about. Tell us how you do it, Marilyn.

Thanks, John. Every author has his or her own way of doing this—but for me it’s been different for each of my books. When I started the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, the first book I wrote, Deadly Trail, was not the first book published. Deadly Omen was the one my then publisher wanted. With two books having the word deadly in them, for a few short moments I considered having the word Deadly in every title. However, I realized that would be quite limiting.

Unequally Yoked is about a problem in Tempe’s marriage to Hutch because of his Christian beliefs and her using Indian mysticism to solve crimes. This becomes an ongoing problem for them.AColdDeath-lg

The title Intervention refers to something that happens in the story. The Wing Beat is the wing beat of an owl, the harbinger of danger. I don’t think Calling the Dead needs any explanation. Judgment Fire is about fires and in one case the judgment that comes along with it. Kindred Spirits refers to Tempe and new friends she meets—but it also is in honor of the Tolowa woman I met and who gave me some great ideas for this book and became a close friend.

Dispel the Mist and Invisible Path come from Indian sayings and they fit what happens in the mysteries.

Bears With Us is both a play on words and describes what is happening when bears invade Bear Creek. Raging Water is self-explanatory.

Spirit Shapes involves a haunted house, ghosts and spirits. And yes, River Spirits is just that, spirits that come up from the river.

Seldom Traveled is also based on an Indian’s philosophy and fits the places where Tempe has to go. The latest in the series, A Cold Death can be taken two ways.

Some of these titles are what inspired the book, others came to me while I was writing. It isn’t a mysterious process to me, though some titles I know from the beginning, others come later.

For you writers out there, do you have a particular formula for creating a title?


A quick look at Marilyn’s new release: A Cold Death.

Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband answer the call for help with unruly guests visiting a closed summer camp during a huge snow storm and are trapped there along with the others. One is a murderer.

Anyone who orders any of my books from the publisher’s website:

can get 10% off by entering MP20 coupon code in the shopping cart.

This is good all the time for all my books, E-books and print books.

On Amazon:

Marilyn Meredith’s published book count is nearing 40. She is one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter of Sister in Crime. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taMe at Danas quiltught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place with many similarities to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. Webpage: Blog: and you can follow her on Facebook.

Contest: Once again I’m going to use the name of the person who comments on the most blogs on my tour for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—which may be the last in the series.

Tomorrow I’ll be here: talking about, “Lessons I Learned Along the Way.”






The Real Story About Cops

Today I’m hosting Ben Celano, author of BEAT COP, CHICAGO BLUE, Reflections of a “Street Grunt,” books one and two. As a former Chicago police officer, I enjoy reading books written by my former colleagues. Please join me as we  learn a little bit about Officer Celano and his books.

Ben, please give my readers a thumbnail sketch of yourself.

61dlBaRiisL._SX800_Thanks, John. I’m a 22 year veteran of the Chicago PD. Prior to becoming a cop I had a series of marketing jobs for major corporations. After serving in the Army from 1963 -1966, I set my sights on becoming a Chicago police officer, something that had been a life-long aspiration of mine.

I served the city of Chicago as an officer from 1982 – 2004 in one of the busiest districts in the city, working both a beat car and squadrol (prisoner transport). My entire tenure in the department was spent on the street. Along the way, I met many interesting people, some of whom I had to arrest. My stories, and the stories of the officers I worked with, are the brutal truthful reality of those experiences.

When did you begin writing and why?

My first attempts at writing occurred when I was 16-years-old. I attended a YMCA English class in night school. Our teacher asked us to write a short story, which I did, and that’s when I got the bug. After that, I dipped in and out of writing for personal enjoyment. While a police officer, I wrote articles for a local newspaper, “The Austin Weekly.”

When I retired, I wrote in fits and starts until this past year when I wrote my two books. Because I am an avid reader, I admire James A. Michener, Leon Uris, Ian Fleming, Rod Serling, Ed McBain, and Joseph Wambaugh, to name a few.

Briefly describe your books.

My books illustrate what beat cops do every day. We see a side of society that most will51--L+MvvSL never know. It is the truth of the “street” where mistakes can be deadly. The stories in both books are not sugar coated politically correct versions of the truth. Like it or not, the truth of a police officer’s job is the stark ugly reality of aberrant human behavior. These books rip off the bandage of sanitized news, and give the reader a glimpse of the festering wounds of society’s downtrodden and the police interactions with them.

Besides these books, have you published anything else?

Only the articles I wrote in “The Austin Weekly.”

41wQIfCw5rLDo you write anything besides non-fiction?

Yes, I’m working on a fictional police procedural.

Family, where you live, and any hobbies or passions?

I’ve been happily married for 32 years and live in the western suburbs of Chicago. My hobby, or  obsession  as you might say, is writing.

Any new books on the horizon?

I may possibly write a Book 3 in my Beat Cop series since some of my old comrades want me to tell their stories as well. Right now, that idea is in its embryonic stage, but who knows?

Thanks, Ben, it’s been an interesting interview, and I’m sure those who enjoy true police stories will find your books fascinating. Please let us know when your next book will be published.

Ben’s books are available on Amazon at this link:


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