Father and Son Police Duo Write NYPD Book

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NYPDWhen Manhasset father and son duo Jon and Bernard “Bernie” Whalen decided to coauthor a book about their combined police experience, the idea seemed like a perfect match. Their book, The NYPD’s First Fifty Years: Politicians, Police Commissioners & Patrolmen detail a unique perspective of the NYPD’s history, so if you think you have read the last of your cop and crime novels, think again because you’ve never read one like this before.
“I have been a New York City cop since 1981, and a lieutenant since 1989, working at police headquarters” said coauthor Bernie Whalen, who originally went to school to become a physical education teacher. “I went to high school in Manhasset and my father taught there as well.”
Whalen’s father was also a state corrections officer, so when he found it difficult to get a teaching job in the late 1980s, Whalen followed in his father’s footsteps and accepted a position as a police officer when he got the call. But an interest in writing was still in the back of his mind.
“I took writing courses in high school and one of my teachers, Charles Murphy, instilled the spark in me to be a writer,” said Whalen, who wrote for his high school magazine and newspaper. “In college, I took writing courses, but it wasn’t until several years later that I decided to try my hand at writing a novel.”
Whalen came up with the idea for a police novel, and bounced it off his father, who liked it. That’s when the two decided to collaborate and work together.
“Our first book, Justifiable Homicide, was about the drug trade back in the ‘80s. We didn’t have too much success with the book, but we had an agent who helped us sell it to Ballantine Books for publishing,” said Whalen. “For our next book, our agent suggested a history of the police department. We weren’t able to sell it right away because 9/11 happened and other things in the police department so it just got sidelined.”
The Whalens’ book, The NYPD’s First Fifty Years: Politicians, Police Commissioners & Patrolmen, was published in 2015 by Potomac Books, spanning 15 years in the writing process. The nonfiction work looks at how the five boroughs and the police departments merge.
“We look at each mayoral administration subsequent to the end of World War II,” said Whalen of the book, which also includes pictures, charts and graphs that detail the history of New York City, crime and the police.
On writing a book with his father, Whalen said that the two have a good relationship and it worked out well.
“I did the research and writing then sent it to my dad for comments and suggestions and he added whatever he wanted,” said Whalen. “It wasn’t difficult, but we didn’t have much physical interaction because he moved upstate, but we were both in sync.”
For Whalen, it helped to write what he knew, but a love of the mystery genre was an added bonus.
“They are the best sellers because they are so intriguing, but being a police officer did help me when writing,” he said. “I could be a little bit more accurate on telling the story so even a cop would believe it, whereas sometimes stories are so outlandish. I tried to keep it reasonable.”
As an active lieutenant, it seems nearly impossible that Whalen would not only have the time to write a book, but go through the editing process as well. Nevertheless, he made time.
“I would come home from workand write from 10 p.m. until midnight,” he said. “I would think about what I was going to write about in the afternoon, go to the library during my lunch hour and do research, then when I got home I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to work on.”
No stranger to promotion, Whalen and his father have used social media among several other forms of advertising to get the word out for The NYPD’s First Fifty Years, including their website, www.bjwhalen.com, several book signings and guest speaking events.
“The book is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and through our website. It’s actually among the ‘Top 20’ books in the Amazon category of police and crime,” said Whalen, who added that word-of-mouth is also largely responsible for the book’s success. “The head of New York Secret Service read it and loved it, which is huge, and the police commissioner of New York City did the foreword.”
Now permanently bitten with the writing bug, Whalen has a number books in the works, all at different stages of completion. He is hoping to teach a course on the book at the police academy and has lecture programs scheduled at the library as well.
“You have to be persistent; you have to refine your ideas and come up with a catch that will interest an agent or a publisher,” said Whalen to aspiring writers.
Look for Whalen on the Discovery Channel in an upcoming episode of “Crimes to Remember,” where he will be narrating and talking about the book as the era and precinct where Whalen worked are related to the episode.

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