A retired SWAT officer writes a novel

The author's biggest obstacle was turning the individual panels into a storyline that would carry forward a full-length novel.

The author’s biggest obstacle was turning the individual panels into a storyline that would carry forward a full-length novel.

Retired Houston Police Officer Sandy Wall has always been a storyteller. If you’ve attended one of his SWAT classes, then you’ve heard a great story or two.

To fill the long, boring days after his retirement, Sandy started writing those stories.

This process led to his publishing a novel, “The Long Road Home,” a fictionalized account of his many years with the Houston Police Department, including his obstacles as an academy cadet, his adventures as a patrol officer, time spent in prison and narcotics. , and his rise to the SWAT team.

“It really was a labor of love,” Sandy says of his writing journey that began with him typing his stories as vignettes into a computer file.

He gave the proofs to his wife, Theresa, a teacher of 23 years, to read.

“He tore them apart,” laughs Sandy. She then rewrote each story, incorporating her edits and suggestions, giving the story back to Theresa to read, until the third or fourth time, when she returned them with a smiley face on the pages.

After that three-year process, Sandy decided she needed to figure out how to connect the individual stories. She decided to fictionalize her own stories around a main character aptly named Andy Wallace.

The narrative of the stories allowed him to avoid the legality of writing a real-life book and allowed him to take creative liberties with the content. And add some stories that happened to friends and colleagues.

His biggest hurdle was turning the individual cartoons into a storyline that would carry through to a full-length novel.

“I changed some stories to fit the plot of the book,” Sandy said.

The storylines also came from Sandy’s personal life. Andy Wallace’s brother went to prison in the book and Sandy’s real brother met the same fate in real life.

Sandy’s target audience is both cops and civilians interested in reading cop stories. The book realistically portrays what officers have to face, witness and process throughout their careers.

Officers will be reminded of their stories and civilian readers will learn what it’s really like out there on the mean streets of Houston. They will see the police through the eyes of a real Houston cop. And learn about the dangers of being a SWAT operator.

As Sandy did in real life, his fictional character, Andy Wallace, puts the horrors and traumas of what a cop witnesses on the job into what Sandy calls “a box” in a remote part of his brain.

Sandy hid those horrors and didn’t want to talk about them, even when his wife asked. She didn’t want to talk about those scenes because she didn’t want to relive them. Inevitably, a reminder would ignite a memory, or someone would say something, and it would open her box. Memories would well up and again bother him.

The book’s title, “The Long Road Home,” comes from Sandy’s actual journey home each day after work. She lived well outside of Houston in the country and the drive took hours. Sandy used that long journey to make sense of what she experienced at work, keep the lid on the box in her brain, and as a buffer between her work and family life.

There were times when the box was too full.

Sandy admits he was too cocky and proud to open that box when he had to attend mandatory sessions with the department’s psychologist. Sandy often wonders if he opened the box to get away with it better. Back then, officer welfare was not in anyone’s vocabulary. The prevailing culture was to suck it up and deal with it.

In the book, Sandy has his character, Andy Wallace, experience the same emotional turmoil and struggle to keep the lid on that box that he did.

As part of the writing and rewriting process, Theresa read the chapters aloud to Sandy. Hearing the traumatic stories made Sandy cry.

It delves into how a cop deals with the aftermath of life-and-death situations, horrific and violent scenes, and being forced to use deadly force, with realism and honesty.

Sandy says, “I’m lucky I’m still here. She could have ended badly in so many ways.

“The Long Road Home” tells the reality of police work. Sharing the book with your family and friends is a great way to educate them on what you face on the job.

The book will make you laugh, cry and relive your experiences.

In a story called “The Donut Caper” Sandy tells a story about a SWAT call where officers had to wait for hours in a convenience store while hostage negotiators talked a suspect to a hostage. The SWAT team got hungry and started handing out packets of powdered sugar donuts. They therefore needed something to wash down the donuts. An officer covered Sandy (Andy) as he moved across the floor to the refrigerator to retrieve cartons of milk.

After the suspect was taken into custody, the SWAT team emerged with white powder on their face and had some explanations to give. They were guilty of going back to the store to pay for what they had consumed.

“The Long Road Home” is an excellent account of the career of a Houston police officer. Sandy writes with a fantastic narrative voice that captures the reader’s attention from the first page. “The Long Road Home” is also a historical account of the life of a Houston cop and well worth reading.

You will enjoy “The Long Road Home”. The book is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sandy Wall served as president of the Texas Tactical Police Officers Association for years. After Columbine, Sandy asked patrol officers not to wait for SWAT to arrive when responding to an active shooter. He was instrumental in developing the tactics and active marksmanship training that all officers now receive.

Copyright©2022 Barbara A. Schwartz All rights reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the author.

Watch an interview with Sandy Wall here:

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