Meet Jerry Aylward
Jerry Aylward is a retired detective with thirty-two years of service with the Nassau County Police Department. He served another ten years in federal law enforcement with the United States Department of Homeland Security as a criminal investigator with OCSO (Office of the Chief Security Officer) at a high-level government research facility. Jerry has a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from NYIT and is a New York State–licensed private investigator. Jerry authored: Francis “Two Gun” Crowley’s Killings in New York City & Long Island, and a pictorial history of the Nassau County Police Department. Jerry’s first novel “The Scarlet Oak” was published in July of 2022.
Jerry’s genre has been mainly local history and true crime. With his new novel, The Scarlet Oak, he throws a twist of murder, spies, and spirits into an American Revolution mystery that takes place in Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Nassau County.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author?
It wasn’t so much of wanting to become an author, as it was wanting to fill a gap in local history, the author part just happened to be part of it, or should I say, the start of it. The history being specifically of the Nassau County Police Department, with its history in serving the citizen of Nassau County, NY. Most residence of Nassau County known very little history of their police department, as do many of the police officers. So, I set off on a task to make a pictorial history book of the police department.
Do you have a favorite author who inspired you to write?
I’ve always enjoy reading the classics, like Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee, Twain, and Dickens, even T.S. Eliot, there are so many great writers. But if I had to narrow it down to which authors actually inspired me to write, I’d have to say it’s a mixed blend of many of them. Styles, voice, and storylines are what hold the reader’s attention, the classics have it all.
How did your police background and career as a private investigator help you when writing your books?
My police background is very useful in so many ways. But my core is being an inquisitive individual to begin with. For my way of thinking: If you’re not inquisitive, you’ll never see the full picture, if you can’t see the full picture, you’re not going to get the full story, and we all need the full story, weather real or imagined. My police training has also provided me with identifying certain opportunities and methods on how to formulate questions, however it didn’t train me on what questions to ask, that’s where the inquisitive part comes in. As for the private investigator side, well that’s nothing more of the civilian end of asking inquisitive questions. Both sides are enormously helpful in writing, both fiction and nonfiction.
How did you research the facts of the case for Francis "Two Gun" Crowley's Killings in New York City & Long Island, considering it took place in 1931?
The research for my true crime story was extensive, it started with filing countless Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to multiple law enforcement agencies from Bangor Maine to Riverhead, NY and four out of the five boroughs of New York City’s court system along with the Police Department. I began my research at a starting point in the late 1800’s with a genealogy search and it didn’t end until the book was published. I searched archived police and court documents from multiple jurisdictions, as well as corresponding with Albany and the New York State Department of Corrections, up to and including visits to Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. Compiling names, dates, and records of the six hundred and fourteen state mandated executions at that facility. The photos in the book are actual archived photos from many different sources. Some I obtained from Law Enforcement agencies, others from John J College in Manhattan, Sing Sing Prison, Nassau County Museum, and many are from the 1931 homicide crime scene itself. And finally, to the resting places of all the characters that played a role in the brutal murder of the Patrolman Fred S. Hirsch, Nassau County Police Department’s first murdered police officer.
How long did the process take from idea to publication for Francis "Two Gun" Crowley's Killings in New York City & Long Island? Were there any bumps in the road that occurred while drafting the book?
After kicking around fragments of ideas about this project for many years, I finally decided to start the necessary research to write the untold story of NCPD Patrolman Fred S. Hirsch. Which took a few years. There are always bumps, some small, others monumental. Even though the murder occurred over 90 years ago there were challenges in obtaining pertinent and sensitive police related information from a certain law enforcement agency that was for the most part historically uncooperative, but it wasn’t impossible. That being said, I have to knowledge that I did receive some very rewarding and useful information from many people along the way. Some of those people being sincere and dedicated law enforcement professionals, who provided me with rare, archived documents and photos that have never been made available to the public. I also made many new and valued friendships along the way, some of whom I’ve mentioned in the acknowledgement page of the book.
Your book, Nassau County Police Department, is a complete pictorial of the NCPD from its inception in 1925 to 2019 with captions. Please explain where you obtained all the photos and what kind of permission did you need, if any, to include them? How did you decide which photos to include and which ones to leave out?
I started my quest for old Nassau County police photos with an advertisement in the Nassau County Police Benevolent Associations newsletter. Then I researched archived photos within the Nassau County Museum Photo files. I also dug into the photo archives of newspapers going back 95 years. The Nassau County Police Departments Museum was also very helpful in providing period photos. Over a few years, I gathered thousands of photos, from all over. Some from museums, newspapers, retired police officers, even from the families of deceased police officers. After sorting through all the photos relevant to certain time periods during the growth and development of the department, I picked ones that I thought would tell the story. After digitizing all the photos, I added captions. I obtained approval from all the photo contributors prior to publishing.
Please tell us how you went about finding representation for your nonfiction books.
For both of my Nonfiction books, I sought out relative publishers in the genre of my story line. Nonfiction publishing is for the most part different than fiction, in that a nonfiction author will seek representation from a publisher prior to writing his story, through an outlined proposal. If the publisher accepts your proposal, they will offer you a book contract, then you write the book.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I guess one of the most surprising things I’ve learned or realized was from the research and writing my nonfiction books, which are essentially local history stories, is crime and violence are a cultural phenomenon, there here to stay.
You’ve authored nonfiction books about local history and true crime, but you now have a new fiction novel titled, The Scarlet Oak. It’s an intriguing tale of murder, spies, and spirits. Can you share a brief synopsis?
The Scarlet Oak is a murder mystery that takes place in the quiet hamlet of Oyster Bay, Long Island. Faced with no forensic evidence to support his suspicions of a double murder, other than a hardened cop’s intuition, Finn embarks on an unsanctioned homicide investigation that soon exposes a long but skeptic thread of unexplained deaths dating back two-hundred and thirty-eight years from one particular house in Oyster Bay’s village. Mixing with an enigmatic and beguiling apparition of a young woman residing in the same Revolutionary home of all his victims. Finn is mysteriously drawn back into the American Revolution to find the cryptic motive for the unexplained deaths associated with the house, while becoming entangled in General Washington’s covert Culper spy network.
What prompted you to branch out into the mystery fiction genre?
I enjoy history, and mystery. Being a retired police detective, I thought it would be interesting to combined both elements to spin a story of murder, spies, and spirits.
Authors don’t usually pull character names out of a hat; they choose them with care. Tell us how you chose the names for your main characters, Finn and Sally Townsend, and how you picked the name for the estate of J. Barrington Cook IV.
So, for Finn’s character you’ll have to read the book, no spoilers here. As for Sally Townsend, well, she’s a real person who did live in Oyster Bay, in the house set in the story line, only back in 1780. I just thought the name J Barrington Cook IV was a posh sounding name, so I created a character who owns a lavish estate called the House of Fredrick, which was the real family name of Britain’s King George III, the reigning monarch of the invading army in the American Revolution.
How has writing fiction differed from writing nonfiction for you?
The Scarlet Oak required plenty of research, however I played with history a little which was kind of nice, adding my own spin on things.
What advice can you give to aspiring authors?
I must steal a line from Stephen King here: when he said any aspiring author should read, read, and read. When your finished reading, read some more.
To learn more about Jerry Alyward or to purchase his books, visit: