Who would have thought that a Bronx-born rookie cop would go on to become a successful author, giving readers an intimate look into the world of law enforcement? Vic Ferrari’s unexpected journey reveals the powerful connection between his deep love for the NYPD and his mission to share his experiences through his writing.
In this episode, you will be able to:
- Discover Vic Ferrari’s remarkable shift from NYPD detective to best-selling author.
- Acquire vital skills for overcoming obstacles and enhancing resourcefulness in law enforcement.
- Appreciate the significance of patience, adaptability, and continuous learning for successful career growth.
- Grab essential guidelines for first-time authors to effectively promote and market their books.
Vic Ferrari, a former NYPD detective turned successful author, shares his unique journey from patrolling the streets of New York City to crafting gripping novels inspired by his fascinating experiences. Growing up in the Bronx, Vic always dreamt of becoming a police officer, and he eventually achieved that goal at the age of 21. Throughout his 20-year career, Vic worked in various precincts and specialized units, honing his skills in understanding the complexities of the street and the people within it. With a wealth of knowledge and a penchant for storytelling, Vic transitioned to the world of writing, bringing readers an authentic and intriguing look at the life of an NYPD officer.
The street is for keeps. It’s got its own set of rules. The street talks to you, and you have to be able to listen and understand what’s going on. – Vic Ferrari
- Field training was not like the movies where you’re crashing up cars or getting into gun fights. There’s a lot of consequences for your actions.
- My books are a behind-the-scenes look of what goes on in different precincts and specialised units.
- We went down to the morgue, and it looked like a mechanic shop. There was eight bays and a bunch of people working on bodies.
- Becoming a member of the New York City Police Department for me was like the highlight of my life.
- When I got into writing these books, I knew a nothing about writing, and nothing about the publishing process or how to get the book to market.
- If you’re a first-time writer and you’re not skilled, you didn’t take a lot of courses – never write in chronological order. It will paralyze you.
- If you have writer’s block, stop writing, call up your friend, or somebody that you know you could talk to and say, I want to tell you a story and tell that story.
Timestamped summary of this episode:
03:24 -Field Training and First Experiences,
08:46 -Bouncing Around Precincts and Specialized Units
11:34 – NYPD’s Auto Crime Division and Becoming a Detective
12:52 – Life in the NYPD
13:59 – Transitioning to Detective Work
19:08 – Overcoming Challenges
21:34 – Pursuing Your Goals
24:21 – Tips for First-Time Writers
27:50 – Taking Small Steps to Succeed
This series is kindly supported by Squadcast –the remote recording platform which empowers podcasters by capturing high-quality audio and video conversations.
Sue Stockdale: Welcome to the podcast, Vic. It’s great to speak to you today, sue.
Vic Ferrari: Thank you so much for having me on your show. I really appreciate the opportunity.
Sue Stockdale: And was it the reality of it? Was that how you imagined it was going to be?
Vic Ferrari: No, it was a lot different. It’s one thing to see things on television and the movies. I mean, yeah, the uniforms were the same, the ranks were the same. But the biggest thing that immediately from the Police Academy and then when I was in field training was it’s not like the movies where you’re crashing up cars or getting into gunfight. There’s a lot of consequences for your actions, so you had better be right when you decide to make a decision to go forward, either arresting somebody or using force or anything like that.
Sue Stockdale: So there you are, a kid doing your pretend detecting. When you got into doing it for real, what was different?
Sue Stockdale: And is it, as we see on the TV, that you are accompanied by somebody more experienced when you’re going out in that initial period in the precinct?
Vic Ferrari: Yeah, my books are behind the scenes look of what goes on in different precincts and specialized units. The first thing I realized very early on so in the police academy, they take you to the morgue because you’re going to see death, and they want you to get used to it, and they’d rather know now if you’re going to be able to handle it than down the road if you go to pieces. So I remember in the police academy, they took 50 of us at a time, and we went down to the Manhattan Morgue, which is in Bellevue Hospital, which is a really large hospital. And I was expecting it was something like on a television show where there would be a man in a white coat and there’d be a slab and there’d be a body on there. Well, in New York, a lot of people die naturally, unnaturally. And we went down to the morgue, and it looked like a mechanic shop, like there was eight bays, and there was a bunch of people working on a bunch of bodies and like, wow, I couldn’t believe it. The smell. Everything that was going on between each bay, they had a produce scale, like when you were a kid and your mother wanted to weigh ahead of lettuce. They’re pulling organs out and dumping them in the scale and weighing it. And there’s a guy with a clipboard writing down everything, and they’re making jokes about it. I remember specifically they took some guy’s brain out, and the medical examiner goes, well, he ain’t too smart. He’s only got a 2.5 pound brain. So I also realized there’s a lot of gallows humor in the morgue.
The time I was there as a kid, there was a young man who had been shot multiple times, and the medical examiner had, like, this tool, and he’s pulling bullets out of the guy, and he’s dumping him in this metal tray. And there’s a detective hanging over his shoulder, drinking a cup of coffee and eating an Egg Mcmuffin, which for the life of me, I don’t know how this guy could eat. But anyway, the detective asks the medical examiner, what do you think? And he goes, suspicious suicide. And everybody starts laughing. I’m like, man, these guys are cool. So one of my first experiences was death. And then when you were a young patrolman, like I said, they give you the less desirable assignments. I remember one of the first DOAs I had to go to was this man died in his apartment. He fell over the coffee table, and there was a gun within arm’s reach of him, and we couldn’t figure out what it was. And then I learned the process. The detectives came. They started interviewing people on the street. And what we found out was the man deceased was working on his car. He got into an argument with his neighbor. His neighbor took his head and slammed it in the car door a couple of times and really screwed this guy up. The guy got up, went back into his house to get a gun to come down and kill the guy, and fell down and had an aneurysm. So it quickly went from a natural death in an apartment with an illegal gun to it turned out to be a homicide, and it could have been a double homicide had he been able to get that gun and come outside, he was going to kill the guy. So you learn the street is for keeps. It’s got its own set of rules. The street talks to you, and you have to be able to listen and understand what’s going on.
Sue Stockdale: And from that experience, when you were a rookie and then moving through your career, where did you go next?
Vic Ferrari: So in my 20 year career, I bounced around a lot. So my first precinct, after field training, I went to a precinct in the South Bronx. It was a burned out neighborhood. It was a dumping ground for NYPD members that had screwed up in other places and rookies. So it was a bad mix, because you had all these disgruntled veterans and wide eyed kids that want to go out and do things, and you’ve got all these old timers that are just pissed off and miserable. And there was a lot of guys there left over from the Vietnam era, and those guys played by their own set of rules. They were different kind of cats. And I just was looking around the precinct, and I’m like, oh, no, there’s no way I’m going to stay here. This place is like hotel California. You check in and you never leave. And here’s a valuable lesson. So within six or eight months, I put in for a transfer, and I remember everybody saying to me, why do you want to leave? I’m like, why do I want to leave? What, are you kidding? Look around. There’s not even a decent place to eat around here. And I bounced around a lot. I went to a borough unit, which that’s another story, because as a kid, when you’re a rookie cop, you really don’t have say in anything. You do as you’re told. I got put immediately into a drunk driving or a DUI unit, which I absolutely hated, because you’re driving around all night looking for drunks. There’s no winning dealing with a drunk driver. They either want to fight with you, they’re either going to cry, they’re either going to get sick in the car. You have to take them to the hospital, because a lot of these people have medical problems. So I hated that.
I went back to another precinct in a nicer neighborhood, and I spent 15 out of my 20 years in plain clothes because I made a lot of arrest. So in the precinct, I worked in an auto loss unit, going after stolen cars and pickpockets and robberies in progress. I made a lot of arrest. I put in for the Narcotics Division. I worked in Manhattan North Narcotics for about a year and a half doing buy and bust operations, controlled deliveries, search warrants. That wasn’t for me either. Because you’re making so many arrests, it’s almost like the fast food of the New York City Police Department. You’re going out, you’re locking up 10 to 15 drug addicts at a time. You’re mass processing them. And a lot of the people you’re locking up for selling drugs, they’re street people. Like, they’re not kingpins selling drugs to feed their habits. So a crackhead sells ten vials of crack to get a vial of crack for himself. And the same with a heroin addict, with heroin. So you’re locking up these people. They have open sores, they’re sickly, they’re coughing on you. I remember I always had a cold in Narcotics because you’re always on top of these people, searching them, et cetera. I was always afraid of getting stuck with a needle. I was terrified of getting AIDS or hepatitis C. I said, this isn’t for me. I left. I went back to a precinct, and I was always a car guy. I grew up in a neighborhood in the Bronx where there’s probably more stolen car thieves per capita than anywhere else in the country. So I knew a lot about stolen cars. I was always getting into car chases and making stolen vehicle arrests. I put in for the Auto Crime Division, and that’s where I got promoted as detective. And for ten years of my career, I was in the NYPD’s Auto Crime Division. So anything with chop shops, exporting stolen vehicles out of the country, changing vehicle identification numbers on stolen cars, identity theft, a lot of Mafia cases and organized crime cases.
Sue Stockdale: So when you were experiencing things you didn’t like and you were trying to work out perhaps what you did like, how did you stay motivated during those times?
Vic Ferrari: Well, I was just thrilled. For me for me, just becoming a member of the New York City Police Department, for me, was, like, the highlight of my life at the time. I was like, this is the greatest thing. But I also knew that the New York City Police Department, at any given time, has between 30 and 40,000 members. So chances for advancement or specialized units if you’re willing to put in the work and stay out of trouble. Now, my dad was a butcher, but if my father was a captain in the New York City Police Department, I could have went anywhere I wanted like that. I didn’t. So I knew if I wanted to get to these places, stay out of trouble, make your arrests, get good evaluations, and hopefully good things will come. It never got to that point where I was like, I made a bad career decision and police work isn’t for me. It was like, I like this restaurant, I’m having a bad meal, but that’s not going to stop me from going back to the restaurant. I’m like, all right, I know there’s something else here that I like. Plus, I mean, I had so many friends. The camaraderie, it’s a whole way of life. At least it was back then to be a member of the New York City Police Department.
Sue Stockdale: And what skills did you find that you needed most?
Vic Ferrari: Patience. You have to have patience. And I’m telling you, when you’re a member of the New York City Police Department, there’s so much going on at any given time, if you’re willing to listen and put into the work, you can learn so much from so many different people. I used to love to go down to court because there’d be cops there from other precincts where they had different conditions going on in their precinct, and I would listen to them. I was like a sponge, just like, learning things, you know what I mean? Like, I’d find the car guys and I would pick their brains. When there’d be homicide detectives there, I’d pick their brains. I just wanted to know as much as possible.
Sue Stockdale: So with that ability to take in all that information, being like a sponge there and then moving into the car division, what was the role of a detective then compared to being on the street previously? What was different about your job?
Vic Ferrari: So when you’re a uniform cop in an NYPD precinct, you have a shift. So we went to steady tours years ago. So you’re either doing four to twelve days or midnights. You usually have a steady partner. You come in, you get dressed, you have roll call. A sergeant or a lieutenant comes out and he inspects your uniforms. He gives you your assignments, what part of the precinct you’re going to be patrolling, what time your meal hour is, and whatever’s going on in the precinct, the robbery patterns or special attention to this. You make your arrest, you go down to court, you come back, and it’s rinse and repeat. It’s the same schedule. But things are always changing because no two days are like NYPD. There’s different types of detectives. So to break it down like this, you have precinct squad detectives, which is where you see on television like Lore in the Water or Barney Miller upstairs. Usually on the second or third floor of any NYPD precinct, you have a room with probably 15 to 20 detectives, and they handle everything that comes into the precinct. So patrol cop takes a report for identity theft. He fills out the report, it goes upstairs. The detective calls the woman up, brings her in. Where was the last time you used your credit card? Did anybody have access to this robberies? Patrol cop takes a robbery report, it goes upstairs. The detectives handle that.
Working in organized crime is a lot different. So New York City in the 90s, we were averaging over 150,000 stolen vehicles a year. So it was like shooting fish in the barrel. The Auto Crime Division’s mission was to take down these gangs, these organized crews that were putting in the orders and stealing in bulk. So we went after organized crime groups that ran the body shops, the junkyards, the salvage yards. We’d also lock up your garden variety car thief. But our mission was to go after the heads, take down these places, go up on wiretaps, try to get as many people as possible in the case. And sometimes while working on these cases, we would solve homicides because guys would talk on the phone or we would know a guy was involved in a homicide. So when we took the case down, we tell the guy, look, you’re going you’re going away for 2030 years. You might want to tell us about what happened up there in the Bronx last week. So when you’re in organized crime, you’re kind of at the beck and call of the bad guys. If the guys you’re working on are doing nights, you’re doing nights. If they get up early, you’re getting up early. So it was fascinating.
Sue Stockdale: So you’re very much driven by those that you’re seeking to bring justice to.
Vic Ferrari: Yeah. And you have to know as much about them as possible. Don’t take them for granted. And then once you arrest them, like I said, it’s patience. Be willing to talk to them and see what you can get out of them. That will lead to more.
Sue Stockdale: So in the role of detective, are there any other skills in addition to patience that you really need to bring to what you were doing?
Vic Ferrari: So when you’re a detective, the differences between a detective and a cop is definitely flexibility. As a detective, especially in organized crime, you’re making your own hours because it goes around what your guys are doing. So you’re not going to have a set lifestyle for six months. I could be doing midnights, and then six months from now, I could be doing four to twelve or different shifts. You have a lot more flexibility of where you can go. Like a patrol cop, if he’s leaving his area, he’s got to let everybody know where he’s going. They’re going to be looking for him. Where’d you go with us, we would just sign out. We’re going out to Brooklyn for surveillance. Take a couple of radios and check in every now and then just to make sure you’re alive, just to check in with your sergeant. And you kind of listen, boss, I’m going out to Brooklyn to check to see no problem. As a detective, there’s definitely a lot more trust, and you scrutinized more to become a detective. Does that sometimes backfire? Yeah, it does, because you’d have morons that would go off the reservation and do something stupid. But that was far and few between but there was a lot more trust between the department and detectives as far as what we could and couldn’t do.
Sue Stockdale: So given that your aim was to bring down some of those heads that were operating in this area, it sounds like it could be a pretty dangerous job that you were doing. How did your family accept your work in the police department?
Vic Ferrari: They were happy for me because between the ages of high school and before I got hired, they were like, great, you want to be a policeman? That’s great. We’re with you, but maybe you should go to college before you get hired. I didn’t want to go to college, or my dad wanted me to go into the trades. My dad was like, Listen, it’s great you’re going to become a cop, but I think you should become an electrician or a carpenter in case that doesn’t work out. And I would have none of it. Like, I knew what I wanted to do from the age of five. My parents, they were concerned, but I don’t think that they knew me as well as anyone. They weren’t particularly really nervous. My dad would always say, Be careful. I’d say, yeah, dad, don’t worry about it. I’m fine. They raised me. I mean, they knew I could take care of myself.
Sue Stockdale: And when you found you were facing a huge challenge or a difficult situation, what are the moments that stick at the front of your mind?
Vic Ferrari: I’ll give you a couple of quick stories. So one time we had a camera on a guy’s garage, and he was taking in stolen vehicles and chopping them up into parts and selling the parts. So we had a camera on there. So what we did and I’m dating myself, because this is like the VHS tapes, right? So we take the tapes out, we’re reviewing them, and we’d watch the cars go in. But it just seemed like a couple of times during the time of day, the way the sunlight was hitting, you couldn’t make out the license plate. You just couldn’t make it out. So I took the tape down. The NYPD’s got a specialized unit. Like our tech guys, I bring it down to them, and they look at it, and they’re messing around with it, and like, we can’t do anything for you. We can’t see it. And I was like, well, that sucks. And I’ll never forget my partner and I were driving back, and I said, you know who’s got a lot of toys? And he goes, what are you talking about? I says, the news media. So I drove to 57th street. I went to CBS. I knocked on the door, and I asked if I could talk to the producers from 60 Minutes. NYPD yeah, come on in. And I mean, just cold call, walk in. I’m in the 60 Minutes studio, and I’m like, Listen, I got this VHS tape. I says, can you guys do something? And they couldn’t have been, yeah. And they had just gone over to digital, which I didn’t even know what digital was at the time. And they put the tape in, and they converted to digital, and we got the license plate. So you got to never be willing to take no for an answer. And if you come to a dead end, don’t just throw your hands up and go, well, it’s a dead end. Be willing to go left or right, and you’ll get to the bottom of something.
Sue Stockdale: It’s a lovely example of being resourceful in that way, like finding a way to solve the problem, finding a way to move it forwards. Fast forward to today. How would you encourage other people to be resourceful? Because very often these days, perhaps people’s willingness to take risks and go into the unknown is a little bit more diminished. Absolutely.
Vic Ferrari: So when I got into writing these books, I knew A, nothing about writing, and B, I knew nothing about the publishing process and how to get the book to market, right? So I figured, all right, let me concentrate first on writing a book that took me a year and my bumps and bruises. Then I said to myself, okay, am I patient enough to send this manuscript out to 30, 40, 50 publishing houses and see if one of them is willing to take a chance on me? And I said, I know myself. I’m not patient. I’m not going to wait for these people’s letters. I said, I’m going to do it myself. So that I start looking at these companies that will put a book together for you. And the first thing that stood out to me is they want money up front, and they’re promising you the moon. And I’m saying that doesn’t sound right. And then I start reading the horror stories of people get a half ass book, or they don’t promote a form. So I said, I’m going to learn this process myself. And through trial and error, I figured out how to write a book, how to get it edited, how to get a nice book cover, how to get it formatted, get it uploaded into Amazon. And then I learned marketing techniques. And that’s why we’re sitting here talking to this day, because one of the greatest tools to marketing a book is podcast interviews.
Sue Stockdale: And what did get you into writing in the first place?
Vic Ferrari: When I retired. I moved down to Florida. I was bored out of my mind. And my friends and family said, you got all these wild stories. You can tell a story. Why don’t you just start writing them down? I said, I don’t know. And the more I thought about it. I said, you know what? Let me give this a shot. Let me see if I can do it. Wrote the first book, it started selling. Wrote the second book, started selling. So here I am writing my 7th book, and I’m talking to you. So it worked out for me.
Sue Stockdale: And what are your ambitions for the future then? Where do you see this writing taking you for now?
Vic Ferrari: I’m writing it’s fun, it’s enjoyable. I’m going to keep doing until A, it’s not fun anymore, or B, it’s not profitable.
Sue Stockdale: And do you have to get permission from the NYPD or do you leave people’s names anonymized yeah, no, I don’t.
Vic Ferrari: Have to get permission from the NYPD. They’re my stories. When I set out to write these books, the two things I didn’t want to do was get anybody divorced or in trouble, embarrassed. So I changed the names, the dates, the times, the locations, the ranks. Sometimes I’ll converge two stories together. So, I mean, some of it’s fiction, but a lot of it’s truth, and a lot of it is from experiences that I had.
Sue Stockdale: You’ve sounded like you’ve used that resourcefulness. That a willingness to step into the unknown in your writing based on your career and what you now do, what are your advice to our listeners if someone’s listening, thinking, oh, I’d love to write a book and I don’t know how to do it, what would you suggest for them to do?
Vic Ferrari: They want to write a book. It’s easy. And what I suggest to first time writers and I always say this, if you’re a first time writer and you’re not skilled, you didn’t take a lot of courses. Never write in chronological order. It will paralyze you. You’re going to sit there and go the beginning, and you’re just going to sit there, and it’s going to frustrate you, and you’re going to walk away from it. So you know what your story or your book is going to be about. Pick a part of that book that’s going to be enjoyable for you, that you love telling that story and go with that, and then you can build around it. You don’t have to write in chronological order. Just write different chapters, and then you can string them together like an episode of Seinfeld.
Sue Stockdale: You’re really eloquent driving. Just take the first small step is really what I’m hearing from you. Take the first small step, see where it goes.
Vic Ferrari: And if you have writer’s block with a story, right, stop writing. Call up your friend, call up your sister, somebody that you could talk to at any time about anything, and say, I want to tell you a story and tell that story. Don’t read it to them. Just tell the story of what you’re writing, and it will unlock things in your mind as you’re speaking, like, oh, I could use this word. This will make it more cohesive. This will work. So always tell the story to somebody when you have writer’s block. And another thing, before you send your book off for a copy edit, read it out loud. I have two dogs here right now, and they think I’m nuts. But what I will do is before I send that thing out, I will sit there and do like a Shakespeare in the park and read my book out loud. And I’ll go up, that doesn’t sound right. I edited it as best I could, but once you read it out loud, you’re going to be able to fix a lot of things with it. You read something so many times, your mind just says, yeah, it’s fine. But when you read it out loud, you hear it as opposed to reading it, I guess, a different type of learning.
Sue Stockdale: So Vic when you tell your story of your career out loud on podcasts like this one and you’re hearing it back, what are your reflections?
Vic Ferrari: Well, I had to get over when I first started doing these podcasts, and I started watching them, especially like the ones that go on YouTube. I was appalled because my voice to me, sounds like nails on a chalkboard. I’m like, oh my God, do I really sound like that? I was like, I cringed. Then I start watching myself on the videos, and I had no idea my face was that expressive. So that took a while for me to get used to. But I also learned a lot as far as how to do an interview and watch my be prepared for an interview, know what to say, have notes, know the person that’s interviewing you. What are they looking for? You know what I mean? If a woman’s interviewing you about a cooking show and I’m talking about police stories, it’s just not going to jive. So I guess the biggest thing I took away from it is if I’m going to write books, I have to be willing to promote it. Because you can have the greatest product in the world, but if no one knows about it, it’s not going to sell. That’s another mistake. First time writers, they write something and they walk away from it. It’s like, no, you got to keep putting CPR into this thing. You’ve got to market it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. You got to learn how to do hashtags. You got to be willing to do interviews. It’s guerrilla warfare to get your book in front of people.
Sue Stockdale: So many, many small steps that you have taken in the writing game as well as in your career. Vic, it’s been great to speak to you today. If people want to find out about your books and about you, how might they do that?
Vic Ferrari: So just go on the Amazon book section and type in my name, Vic Ferrari, like the car. All my books will come up. And if they want to get a hold of me on Twitter or Instagram, they got a question or they want to interview me, I’m at Vicferrari 50.
Sue Stockdale: Perfect. Brilliant. Thank you.
Vic Ferrari: Thank you. I just want to say thank you, sue, for the opportunity to my friends across the pond. And it was a great interview and I appreciate it.
Sound Editor: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him)
Producer: Sue Stockdale (she/her)