“Broken Trust” by W.E.B. Griffin and his son William E. Butterworth IV has many relevant themes intertwined within an action packed plot. Part of the “Badge Of Honor” series, the novel offers a lot of insight into the lives and challenges of the police. With officers being threatened all across this country this book is a very welcome read.
The plot begins when Philadelphia Homicide Sgt, Matt Payne sees a shootout while off duty. Known as “Wyatt Earp of the Main Line,” he becomes actively involved even though he is recuperating from a serious gunshot wound. He finds that there is a link between the shootout and a young socialite, Camilla Rose Morgan. When she supposedly falls to her death, Matt’s investigation ratchets up. Did she jump, fall or was she pushed? The more Matt digs, the more complications he discovers including that Camilla suffered from bi-polar disorder. He is determined to find the answers even though the Philadelphia political elite wants to throw him under the bus.
Below is an interview with William Butterworth IV.
Elise Cooper: How is your dad?
William Butterworth IV: My dad is doing what he loves best — working. He is a long way through the next book, “Curtain Of Death.”
EC: You and your dad write books that give a shout-out to so many who put their lives on the line, those in the clandestine series, the military, and the police?
WB: All these groups are sworn to protect and serve. I told dad that he was one of the first writers, in the early 1980s, to come out with a positive story on the military after the Vietnam War. I think the “Brotherhood Of War” series was so successful because finally people who deserved to be written about bought these books. Likewise, when he started the “Badge Of Honor” series about the police. He even spoke to the Philadelphia police force to tell them how much they are respected. We write about good and decent people doing an honorable job.
EC: It seems you wanted to give a shout out to the wounded warriors?
WB: My dad and I visited Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. We had Amanda, Matt’s fiancé, decide to go there for a few months to do an emergency medicine residency program. This is one of the premier places that handle burn and trauma as a result of the wars and the IEDs. My dad and I wanted to write about what we experienced when we went there: the incredible inner strength, determination, and perseverance of the patients. We were taken back by their attitude, “The harder it gets; the tougher we get.” After all, they’ve been through they still would do anything to get back to serving with their brothers and sisters in uniform. It is awe-inspiring and humbling.
EC: There are so many themes in this book, but a major one is “Broken Trust,” the title of the book?
WB: We had the Philadelphia mayor under fire because of the corruption in his office. Politicians do not spend the energy trying to solve the critical problems. Broken trust is an aspect of politicians failing our citizens. Philadelphia has so much crime and poverty. There is no hope in sight. They refer to it as “Killadelphia” for a reason.
EC: Another aspect of the book is how the police feel no one has their back?
WB: There is a scene in the book where Mayor Jerry Carlucci wants to railroad Matt for political expediency. We wanted to show how no one has their backs. Look at the real scenario that played out in Chicago. A policewoman was horribly beaten and when asked why she did not shoot the perpetrator her reply, “I did not want to be the one in the next Black Lives video.” They no longer go on instinct but feel they must think through their actions. Unfortunately, I do not see it getting better anytime soon.
EC: Through Matt’s fiancé, Amanda Law, you showed how the profession could affect relationships?
WB: Yes. In this book, Amanda writes a fake obituary to show him how she worried about his safety. We also put in how about half of the marriages end in divorce, including the line, “It takes a really special woman to put up with us. They exist. God bless ’em, but they’re really rare.” As with those in the military, spouses have to handle the stress, long absences and have them leave and wonder if they will see them again. They are in danger 24/7.
EC: There is also the fact that the police are sitting targets today?
WB: The book opens when Matt is off duty, but sees a shootout and goes after the bad guys. Even though they are off duty, the police are always on the job. They are constantly surveying. You don’t stop being that trained person because you are not on the clock. Police are trained to run toward the shots, not away from them, as we saw in Dallas.
EC: I had a good laugh when I read that scene about an unknown number. Please explain.
WB: How many of us get a call on our cell phone that says “unknown?” Then that person does not leave a message. My rule is: if I do not recognize a number, I do not answer it. I will only call back if someone leaves a message. If you answer it, you set yourself up for possible robo calls.
Once, I got an unrecognizable number where a message was actually left saying ‘This is the IRS and you are not in compliance with your taxes. You must call this number.” I decided to play it out. After I called I got a male with a foreign accent. I asked for proof that they were the IRS. After going back and forth I hung up.
So many people would call them and have their credit cards sucked dry. It is important to understand nothing is as it appears anymore. You cannot take anything at face value.
EC: You also have Camilla suffering from bi-polar disorder. Did you base it on anyone?
WB: I have Matt’s sister, Dr. Amelia, explain the disorder. She said how those with the disease “spend their whole lives knowing they’re different. They’re self-conscious about it.” I am very familiar with someone who parallels what Camilla went through. At its best, it can be controlled with medication, but at its worst, it is a horrible thing.
EC: Why the Wyatt Earp reference?
WB: A newspaper reporter gave it to Matt as an accolade, because Wyatt Earp was a very good sheriff. In an alleyway he had a gunfight with some gang members. Matt was fired upon, returned fire, and killed the felon. The following day on the front page was a photo of Matt standing over the gang member with a pistol in his hand. The headline, “Officer M. M. Payne, 23, The Wyatt Earp of the Main Line.” He is a true hero.
EC: It appears there are many unanswered questions in this book. Why?
WB: True. Camilla’s death will be addressed down the line. We wanted a realistic scenario because often time homicides go unsolved. I will say there will be a big surprise surrounding her death. Regarding what is in store for Matt, that will be tackled in the next book. Will he ride to the rescue by becoming a public servant, remain in the force, or become a lawyer/cop?
EC: This book seems like it is very realistic?
WB: I wished we lived in happier times so this could be all fiction. How do you write fiction more tragically captivating than what is happening today?