Forget gumshoes: Lieutenant co-writes romance
edited: Monday, September 09, 2002
By Jim Howell
Posted: Thursday, September 05, 2002
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Dallas sheriff's official, friend get 'Emerald Reflections' published
By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News
Former Los Angeles police Officer Joseph Wambaugh is famous for his fictionalized novels about the grimy world of street cops. Dallas County Sheriff's Department Lt. Jim Howell hopes he may some day be famous for his romantic story lines.
Lt. Howell and longtime friend Barbara Carraway recently had published the romance novel Emerald Reflections, about a Dallasite who finds love in Maine.
"I don't know if I'm a romantic or not, but I've always liked that sort of thing, listening to lyrics of songs to get ideas," Lt. Howell said. "If I knew I could make a living writing, I would do that."
Co-workers have been both supportive and amused at his venture.
"I thought it was funny," said Sgt. Don Rowe. "I asked him why didn't he write about crime scenes. That's what he knows. I didn't think he'd finish it."
Lt. Howell oversees the physical-evidence section, which investigates homicides and other crimes. His unit often is called to assist smaller departments in Dallas and surrounding counties.
The lieutenant's wife, Charlene Howell, said she wasn't surprised that her husband co-wrote a romance novel.
"He's very romantic, always full of surprises," she said. "He's just that kind of guy."
Sgt. Rowe, who has been friends with the Howells for 16 years, and his wife, Eva, read Emerald Reflections before publication. The Rowes said the descriptions of Maine's beauty – lighthouses, old home and beaches – let them picture the setting.
Lt. Howell and Ms. Carraway have known each other since grade school but lost touch after graduation from Garland High in the early '70s.
They met again eight years ago on the bus to work in downtown Dallas. As they renewed their friendship, they began talking of writing and vacations to Maine. Lt. Howell and his wife spent their 25th anniversary in Belfast, Maine.
From there, the idea of writing a book together took shape.
Ms. Carraway described herself as the "idea person" of the duo.
"I always say I'm a woman of few words," said Ms. Carraway, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency. "I'd write a few sentences, and I'd give it to Jim and two sentences became a paragraph."
In Emerald Reflections, primary character Casey Tompkins travels to Maine on vacation, hoping to shake her writer's block and feelings about a recent breakup. While staying at a bed-and-breakfast, she meets a man who could help her move on.
In the story, Casey discovers letters detailing the relationship of a couple in the 1800s, an aspect of the story the authors wish they had developed further.
For a Valentine's Day gift to his wife, Lt. Howell wrote a note from the male character in the letters from the book. He wrote about how the man saved and saved his money to buy the female character an emerald pendant.
Mrs. Howell's gift was an emerald and pearl pin with a matching bracelet. "They weren't real," she said, but added she treasures the jewelry as priceless.
Lt. Howell read the story aloud to his wife as he and Ms. Carraway finished it.
The story, Sgt. Rowe said, was romantic without being explicit.
"It was something my son or daughter could read," he said. "But it had enough innuendo to keep an adult interested."
Much of the scenery in the book – rocky beaches and descriptions of the bed-and-breakfast – are taken from the trips.
They gave the female character a Dallas connection because "people either hate or love Texas." They also liked the contrast of hot, flat Texas to cool, coastal Maine.
"We could identify with both places," Ms. Carraway said.
Publish America in Baltimore, a company they found through the Internet, published the book. Unlike some companies that require writers to pay a fee, the company required no money. They print copies of the book as it is ordered from readers through Internet companies.
They are already at work on a second novel, a mystery using the Dallas County Sheriff's Department as a backdrop. The main character, like Lt. Howell, works in the physical-evidence section. The character is retired but haunted by a case from 1987 that he never solved. When the killer begins taking more lives, the detective wants back on the case.
Ms. Carraway and Lt. Howell say hope their second book is longer. Emerald Reflections is 141 pages. They also said they learned when to use more and less description.
Being published is more important than how many books they sell, they said. They won't know until February – when they receive their first royalty checks – how many copies were sold.
"People will say, 'He's a published author.' I think it sounds neat," Lt. Howell said. "It's like being a millionaire."