James Ring is a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent who investigated the American La Cosa Nostra and the Sicilian Mafia in New England. Ring received the Department of Justice’s highest award as the architect of the first and only electronic interception of the La Cosa Nostra/Mafia induction ceremony of new members, including the Omerta oath.
Ring has testified in federal court as an expert witness on La Cosa Nostra and has served as a media commentator on organized crime. He participated in a series by National Public Radio analyzing the current Department of Justice Informant Guidelines. Ring served for one year on the Department of Defense advisory board, mandated by Congress, to review their civilian and military investigative capabilities. The board reviewed the growing military preference of favoring electronic intelligence gathering at the expense of human intelligence.
Ring founded a business information and investigative service within a prestigious Boston law firm where he remains today.
During the investigations into New England organized crime, Ring married a former FBI agent. They chose to live in Boston’s North End not far from the street headquarters of the La Cosa Nostra. The success of these investigations, and subsequent prosecutions, helped transform the North End into the vibrant community it is today. Both Ring and his wife continue to live in the North End. In their daily lives, they walk the neighborhood, visit friends, and frequent the diverse shops and interesting cafes within their community.
What other work have you done and how has it impacted your career?
Both of my careers were adverse influences on my desire to write fiction or nonfiction. I worked in a world where secrets were kept or client confidences were an absolute necessity. I chose to write fiction for two reasons. I could keep my secrets while avoiding censors and I could allow my world of experience and imagination to go where they wished.
My first career as an FBI agent honed my writing skills to present facts only. Personal opinions had little place in a world centered on legally admissible evidence. My second career with a large Boston law firm was successful owing to my FBI experience. Facts gathered by research or inquiry had to be presented concisely, accurately, and without emotion. Writing fiction enables me for the first time to combine my unusual and varied life experiences with an imagination not constricted by obligation.
Do you have any special time or place you like to write?
Like many who write while working at the same time, I use to steal writing time wherever and whenever I could. I find it difficult to write for short periods. Once I get rolling in a session, I do not want to stop. Early on I would write wherever I found myself when the time became available. My laptop was always with me. As soon as my circumstances changed, the first thing I did was to set up a desk in our city condo and another in our weekend home. These are now my two favorite places to write.
I am still making an effort to discipline myself into a writing schedule. I tend to start my writing session after my “to do” list is completed. I need to put my writing before that list!
Was there a mistake you made in the writing process you could share with us?
How much time do you have? Leaving mistakes behind is part of the adventure of writing. One example is now I start off each session editing what I wrote in the previous session. It starts my rhythm for the new session and puts me into the flow of my prior effort. I also end the current session with an edit of what I have just produced? Why?
Early on I believed I needed to get all my great ideas written down quickly before my faulty memory lost them forever. I intended of course go back later and “smooth” it all out. This process caused me to produce poor material. For me, it became critical to start and end the day editing. I never let bad writing (I hope) remain in my story for too long. I also discovered that I never really “lost” that great idea or turn of phrase. They always seem to come back when my fingers hit the keyboard the next time. Once I realized quality writing was essential at all times, and good ideas did not get lost, I became much more relaxed when writing.
Love your answer. LOL What is your next big writing challenge?
In Necessary Assets, I wrote into the ending material I could use to set up the sequel should one be warranted. It soon became apparent a sequel was in order using the same characters. This became clear sooner than I anticipated. After getting Necessary Assets out, I immediately started writing a childhood memoir about my Italian great grandmother and her children, my great uncles and aunt, and their impact on my character formation growing up. It is something that is in my heart, something I want to share. I think many would find it a very warm and positive read. I field tested a version on two of my grand children. They both gave it their seal of approval.
The next thing I knew my publisher was muttering about a new writer immediately changing genres, creating chaos, for some childhood story no one would care about and would have no commercial value. I told him I am sure he is correct, but I am doing it anyway.
I now find myself working on two books at once. This is something to avoid! I started the sequel thinking I had the memoir finished. However, my editor is encouraging memoir changes. She is right as always. I am following her advice. Avoid working on two books at once. Your spouse or significant other will give you strange looks and mutter strange words sotto voce.
Please give us a taste for Necessary Assets
Précis Necessary Assets
Al-Qaeda, under new leadership in Yemen, targets two US cities for dirty bomb attacks to be executed by two cells of resident US citizens. These cells are led by a bomb expert known only as The Engineer. Al-Qaeda intends to shred a fragile US economy and destroy citizen confidence in the government’s ability to protect them.
Al-Qaeda asks the Sicilian Mafia to smuggle a container into New York City. Sicilian sources believe it contains arms, explosives, and nuclear material. The Mafia agrees to the shipment but only to learn enough about the attacks to prevent them.
Mark Patrick is a retired FBI agent and old nemesis of the Mafia. He agrees to a requested meeting where he learns the Mafia has modernized to survive. His contact is a ranking member who is a young, beautiful, and intelligent woman. She explains why the Mafia wants to furnish information to the FBI, through Patrick, in order to stop Al-Qaeda. He agrees to their request. Patrick needs assistance which is provided by Liz Brennick, his wife, a former FBI agent and now a successful Boston lawyer. They code name the Mafia source Vespa to protect her identity and her gender.
The government has no intelligence regarding this Al-Qaeda threat. Patrick’s efforts come under fire by government bureaucrats, with personal control agendas, as well as by those who wish to see the constitutionally limited FBI removed from all terrorist investigations. Patrick is forced to defend himself publicly, avoid physical surveillance, and operate Vespa without disclosing her identity.
The Engineer has weapons, money, an organization, and a plan. As the investigation progresses at home and abroad, the threat level only goes up. The matter gets personal when Patrick suspects the location of one potential target.
Thank you James. Very informative and creative post. Readers, here is the buy Link from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Necessary-Assets-James-Ring