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Book Nook: 'Death as a Living - Investigating Murder in the American Heartland' by Doyle Burke and Lou Grieco

'Death as a Living - Investigating Murder in the American Heartland' by Doyle Burke and Lou Grieco

Vick Mickunas' interview with Doyle Burke.

Occasionally someone will ask me, "Vick, how do you make arrangements to interview authors?" Well, I'll say, "There are lots of different ways that it can happen." The most common method is also the easiest; the in-house publicists at publishing houses will contact me and I can arrange the interviews through them. But there are lots of other ways. For instance, authors will often contact me directly. Then there are the referrals.

Here's how one happened recently: I interviewed Tom Harley Campbell last year for his book Satan's Choir. That novel was set in Dayton and it features a homicide detective named Burke. Well, apparently there really was a homicide detective in Dayton named Burke and Harley contacted me to tell me that the real life detective had just published a book. I thought that was a very cool way to discover a new book written by someone in our area who also had a fascinating job. I got the book. We had a great time talking about it on the radio. Then I reviewed it for the Cox Ohio newspapers. Here's my review:

Doyle Burke was with the Dayton Police Department for almost three decades. Now semi-retired, he's still digging into their files of cold cases. Some of those unsolved murders are ones he originally investigated years ago.

Burke has published a compelling memoir, 'Death as a Living - Investigating Murder in the American Heartland.' His co-author on this project is long-time Dayton Daily News reporter Lou Grieco. When he was writing stories for this newspaper Grieco covered some of the cases Burke discusses in their book.

In a recent interview on my radio program Burke recalled how his crime fighting odyssey began. He was working at Kroger. An officer asked him if he would like to ride along in the patrol car. That experience convinced him to pursue a law enforcement career.

It takes a determined kind of individual to do this type of work.

He became a uniformed officer in Dayton. He was at the scene of a slaying when homicide detectives arrived. Instantly he was in awe. They were impeccably dressed and projected such a presence. That's when he knew he had to try to become one of them.

Over the next 22 years he was involved in some fascinating yet deeply disturbing cases. In this book he describes how they solved some of the most notorious crimes perpetrated in Dayton during that period.

Investigative procedures were not quite like the ones depicted in crime novels and on TV shows. Burke explains how cases unfolded: the initial call to the scene, the techniques for gathering evidence, and the questioning of witnesses and potential suspects. Their final goals: to obtain confessions, solve crimes, and see the execution of justice.

It takes a determined kind of individual to do this type of work. The author's longevity at the job is not typical. One murder victim answered an advertisement. His desires for weird sexual stimulation lured him to his own demise. Another victim was an infant. The mother did it. Doyle walked past the murder weapon at least fifty times without realizing - it was right there in plain sight. Those devices are rarely used for murders.

This reviewer was intrigued by a confession Burke obtained after a suspect complimented him on the ring he was wearing. Burke has a skull collection. Not real ones, he assured me. He had found this ring at a local pawn shop. It has a skull on it. The suspect wanted to know, does Burke worship Satan?

The police are actually permitted to lie to suspects during questioning. They rarely do so because it can always backfire. In this instance Burke lied and replied that yes, he was a devil worshipper. Before that they had gotten nowhere in interrogating that man. Once the man heard Burke's little fib he readily admitted to killing his elderly neighbors. But he claimed he had blacked out while he was doing it. Burke got that confession but it was what he calls a lie-fession. He didn't believe the blackout part. He's certain their killer was fully aware of exactly what he did. That's just one of the many stunning cases in this captivating book.

The Book Nook on WYSO is presented by the Greene County Public Library with additional support from Washington-Centerville Public LibraryClark County Public LibraryDayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.