New Kensington author telling it like it is
In his first novel, Dennis Marsili hopes to entertain readers with a dramatic police tale and leave them with a new appreciation for law-enforcement officers and the challenges they face.
The New Kensington resident and Vandergrift native draws on a depth of real-life experience in "Excessive Forces: A Pittsburgh Police Thriller" set on the streets of Pittsburgh.
He will discuss it in a program and book signing at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Alle-Kiski Historical Society's Heritage Museum in Tarentum; and from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 4 at Bradley's Book Outlet at the Shops at Station Square, South Side.
The Kiski Area High School and Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate retired last August after 29 years as a police officer, the last 26 as a member of New Kensington's department.
The former detective, who has a master degree in criminology, says finally holding his book, a four-year work in progress, is a point of great pride and a source of anxiety as to how it will be received.
So far, so good.
"Non-police readers are saying that they come away shocked at some of the difficulties that they never knew police officers had to contend with," he says. "My fellow officers are expressing their appreciation for drawing attention to aspects of their jobs that the public normally never sees."
The book has been described as a vivid portrayal of the intensity of how police officers relate to one another -- with some situations triggering fierce loyalty and others -- bitter and sometimes irrevocable contempt.
One of his protagonists falls into the depths of despair when a single mistake in the heat of action is twisted by a dishonest, but politically connected, detective. Lines are drawn as a small group of cops battle to clear the name of their friend and colleague. Their fight is against lies, political corruption and time as the disgraced officer descends deeper into depression.
A motivating force behind the book for Marsili was to underscore what he calls "the dirty little secret of policing ... the greatest threat to the lives of U.S. law enforcement officers, one more dangerous than• being killed by a violent felon."
That, he says, is police suicide.
Marsili says it is estimated that 400 police officers kill themselves each year -- compared to 150 who die from felonious assault. "I would like readers to appreciate the real processes that police officers use to do their jobs and solve crimes, and to become aware of the emotional toll that police work takes on our officers," he says.
Marsili writes for the Police Forum, a publication of the national Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences; and the Pittsburgh Law Enforcement Examiner, providing police-related issues and criminal-prevention information. He teaches part-time as a police instructor for IUP's Criminal Justice Training Center and is a research assistant for the Pennsylvania Criminal Law Bulletin.
"His book has so much to offer," says William Hill, vice president of the Alle-Kiski Valley Historical Society. "This is not like TV. Even the best movies don't capture the reality of this book. His speaking presentation is much like his book. He starts quickly and holds you captivated. He is a gifted writer and speaker. I think that anyone who appreciates the men and women who protect us would be interested in attending."
Marsili is in the early stages of a nonfiction book about the history of organized crime in the New Kensington area and is asking for anyone who can share information, even anonymously, to contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org , or phone him at 724-212-5110.
"I am looking for background about what New Kensington was like during the that mid-century time period," he says.
What: Book signing of 'Excessive Forces: A Pittsburgh Police Thriller'
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Alle-Kiski Valley Historical Society Heritage Museum, 224 E. Seventh Ave., Tarentum
Details: 724-224-7666 or www.akvhs.org