Who can tell a detective story better than a former policeman, or a trial lawyer? Stephen Bentley has been both. He is kind enough to be our guest this a week, sharing his thoughts in a 4Q Interview and sharing an excerpt from his newest novel - Rivers of Blood.
Stephen Bentley is a former UK police Detective Sergeant and barrister (criminal trial attorney). He is now a freelance writer and an occasional contributor to Huffington Post UK on undercover policing.
His memoir 'Undercover: Operation Julie - The Inside Story' is a frank account of his undercover detective experiences during Operation Julie - an elite group of detectives who successfully investigated one of the world's largest drug rings.
Stephen also writes crime fiction in a fast-paced plot-driven style including the fictional Steve Regan Undercover Cop Series.
When he isn't writing, Stephen follows the (mis)fortunes of Liverpool Football Club from afar and relaxes on the beaches of the Philippines with his family where he now lives.
He would like you to know that he will donate a portion of all book sales royalties to the James Bulger Memorial Trust, a UK registered charity.
Website and Social Media
You may find him on Twitter as https://twitter.com/StephenBentley8
Connect with him at www.stephenbentley.info
4Q: Tell us about Steve Regan, the Undercover Cop.
SB: Before I do, may I just correct one thing. Rivers of Blood is not novel length. All three books in the series are novellas designed to tell a story at its natural length.
Regan? He is not me. You need to read one of my answers below to grasp the meaning of that. He’s British, hails from Liverpool and has that typical humor common in that city. He detests routine, paperwork and bureaucracy.
He was a regular detective before becoming an undercover agent, infiltrating OCG’s – organized crime gangs with a regular police department. His fine undercover skills bring him to the notice of a secret UK government department.
Regan drinks beer, smokes cigarettes and likes the ladies. They also like him. Owing to the nature of his work, he is unafraid to take risks and go out on a limb.
He’s nobody’s fool and recognizes one of the hazards of his work – identity confusion. The somewhat controversial title of Book 1 in the series is a nod to that state of mind but expressed graphically.
4Q:Two of your books are now available in audiobook format. Do you think listening rather than reading adds anything to the enjoyment of a book?
SB: Yes, I do have an opinion on this. My first book in the Steve Regan series was also my first fiction book. I must confess, with the benefit of hindsight, I could have started it in better fashion such as more action. Some early reader reviews justifiably did mention that. Yet, the thing is with the audiobook version, the listener seems not to be bothered by that as they are fascinated with the excellent narration of my story.
It intrigues me as it seems to be the case when we read, we “hear” our voice. Now, that inner voice may not be doing justice to the written word. But put those same words into the mouth of a professional narrator and it holds the listener’s attention.
4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote with us.
I was about six and sports crazy even then. My teacher asked a question of the class: “how many seasons of the year are there?”
I can tell you my hand was first up. The teacher said, “Stephen, what is your answer?” Proudly and confidently, I replied, “Two, Miss.”
“Two?” she queried looking puzzled, “and what may they be?”
“Football and cricket, Miss.”
The teacher belly laughed. I did not know why or understand until she said, “Good answer, but what about winter, spring, summer, and autumn (fall)?”
The penny dropped. My first real taste of embarrassment. In her wisdom, she related this story to my parents. I was reminded of it for many years at family gatherings.
4Q: Rivers of Blood is the third book in the Undercover Cop series. Tell us about the first two books.
SB: Book 1 Who The F*ck Am I? sees Regan infiltrating a worldwide drug ring. The opening mirrors my own factual experiences on Operation Julie, Britain’s biggest drug bust.
In real life and while undercover, I met a Mafia-connected gangster who involved me, the undercover cop, in a conspiracy to import huge amounts of cocaine into the UK from Bolivia via Miami.
The gangster was reported to have been dealt with by the DEA and sentenced to a 25-year prison sentence. But was he?
Moving from fact to fiction in Book 1, Regan is tempted to cross the line, go rogue as he needs money to help his mother who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
This leads him into infiltrating a South American/Miami-based cartel. Regan gets involved in one deal with a drug lord.
But is everyone who they say they are?
I wrote about my real undercover days in Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story.
Book 2, Dilemma sees Regan back and this time he’s alone and undercover in a seedy area of Thailand on the trail of a Texan expatriate, Les Watkins, the biggest drug smuggler in South East Asia.
Using himself as the bait, Regan attempts to score a $50,000 deal with the Thai mafia in an effort to get closer to his target.
As he finds himself embroiled deeper into the operation, Regan suspects Watkins may be connected to Regan's nemesis, ruthless Mafia boss Carlo Vitale, who has fled the United States following a triple bombing and assassination of three crime family heads.
Besides staying alive, Regan has other problems when he suddenly finds himself facing the worst dilemma an undercover cop can face.
Excerpt from Rivers of Blood, Book 3 Steve Regan Undercover Cop now on pre-order (release date March 1 2019)
I offered coffee. They got mugs from the kitchen and poured coffee for themselves and topped up mine. They were both relaxed. I liked that. Relaxed in manner and dress. Both wore loud Hawaiian-style shirts and blue jeans. Both sported tans befitting any true-blue Aussie. They didn’t look or act like cops. I was now also relaxed. I knew I was with good guys, professionals.
“You got the recording device?” Kenny spoke again.
“Yes, and it’s working,” I said.
“Just one thing,” said Wally.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“You think it best if you are tooled up when you meet this guy?” Wally said.
“Yeah, I do. For two reasons. One, I’m a hitman. Two, I got insurance if it all goes to shit,” I said.
Wally handed me a 9mm semi-automatic. I checked it out. There was thirteen in the clip and nothing in the chamber. I slipped the safety on and stuck it into the shoulder holster Wally gave me.
“Okay.” I said, “I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Let’s do it.”
Wally drove once more with Kenny as front passenger. I sat in the rear. We drove for about twenty minutes to a large sports stadium. He parked on the huge but empty car park.
We waited. I had a sudden thought.
“Does this fucking informant know who I am?”
“He has no idea. He doesn’t even know we are cops. That’s how we know he’s a top-class reliable informant. He reports back to his handler talking about us two as bad guys.”
“Cool!” I said.
A six-foot five-inch giant strode toward the car. “That’s him,” Wally said. I was happy I was tooled-up. This guy could be a handful if it all went down the pan.
The giant rapped on Kenny’s window with knuckles the size of golf balls. I saw the swastika tattoo on the back of his hand. Kenny hit the power button and the window slid down silently.
The giant spoke, “Let’s talk over there.” He pointed towards an old trestle table and some plastic chairs probably left there by someone who had set up a hotdog stall on the car park.
The four of us sat down. Wally spoke first, “Brad, this is the guy I was telling you about. He’s a pro and out-of-town.”
Brad looked at me and said, “Got a name?”
“I got one, thanks. All you need to know is I’m Mr. Smith. You can call me John.”
Brad said, “John Smith?”
“Yeah. You have a problem with that?”
“No, not so far.”
Brad paused before saying, “I got to check you over. Make sure you’re not wearing a wire. Okay?”
“Please yourself,” I said. Brad patted me down, checked the small of my back then said, “Drop yer pants.”
I unfastened my belt, unzipped my jeans and dropped them to my knees. “Satisfied? Or maybe you want to see my dick?”
Brad showed no emotion. He said, “Yeah, satisfied. Can’t be too sure these days. Feds everywhere.” It was hard not to smile.
Brad spoke again, “Right, you come with me. I’ll introduce you to the man who’s going to fund the contract. You two can fuck off now. Thanks for bringing him here.”
Kenny and Wally walked over to the car and drove off leaving Brad and me alone on the car park. ‘This is where the fun starts,’ I thought. I was right.
No sooner had Kenny and Wally driven off, a blue pick-up truck drove on to the car park and stopped next to us. Two skinheads jumped out. One pinned my arms back and the other shoved a bag over my head. It was black and made of cloth. It stunk of petrol. I couldn’t see a thing. Both skinheads bundled me into the rear seat of the truck. I could feel my gun removed from the holster I was wearing. I sat and didn’t make a sound. I heard someone say, “Get this fucking ute moving. Let’s go!” I knew a ‘ute’ was Strine for a utility vehicle or pick-up truck.
I reckon it was twenty minutes before we pulled up and the driver turned off the engine. I heard the rear passenger door open and I was pulled out of the truck. I still couldn’t see a thing. I heard a door opened. It sounded like a big door on industrial or retail premises unlike a house door. I heard it close behind me with a clang confirming I wasn’t in someone’s home. I could feel a hand in the small of my back; it pushed me, propelling me a few yards until I felt hands on my shoulders. I was twisted to walk in a new direction. This all reminded me of the game we used to play as kids, blindman’s bluff, but this was no game. I could smell cigarette smoke. I stumbled over something and the hands pushed me down. I was now sat on the chair that I had stumbled on a few seconds earlier. Then I could see. The black cloth bag had been whipped from my head.
I saw him sat behind a large desk. The desk was between the two of us. I guess Brad and the skinheads were stood behind me somewhere. I couldn’t see anyone except the man behind the desk. He spoke.
“Do you know who I am?” He asked.
“No idea,” I replied.
“Good. I’m told you can get rid of someone for us.”
“I can get rid of anyone you want if the price is right. That’s what I do.”
“You can call me Pat,” said the man behind the desk. He was about forty years old. He was either bald or had shaved off all his hair. It was difficult to tell which. He had a full beard that ran down to his chest but no moustache. He shaved above his upper lip. I noticed more than anything his cold, blue eyes. Pat stubbed out a cigarette into a large metal ashtray perched on top of the desk. It was next to a telephone. ‘That reminds me.’ I thought.
“Mind if I smoke?”
Pat nodded. I was relieved. I got out one cigarette from my pack and pulled out ‘Jack’s’ lighter. I pressed the small button on the base and ignited the lighter. I lit my cigarette.
This is the conversation recorded and later transcribed for evidential purposes:
Pat: “You were saying. So? what’s the right price?”
Pat: “On what?”
Me: “Is the target high or low profile?”
Pat: ‘He’s high profile. A politician we must eliminate before our country is fucking ruined.”
Me: “I don’t care about politics. It’s just work to me. But it presents more risks if he’s a politician. More risks to me, that is.”
Pat: “How much then?”
Me: “Twenty plus expenses.”
Pat: “That’s three months’ profits from our grow.”
Me: “It’s up to you. You’re hiring. Not me.”
Pat: “You’re a cool dude.”
Me: “It’s what keeps me alive.”
Pat: “How would you do it?”
Me: “I don’t know yet who you want hit.”
Pat: “Paul Carter.”
Pat: “And what?”
Me. Who is he exactly?”
Pat: “A government minister, a high-up.”
Me: “I’ll need to scope him. Get to know his movements, even when he takes a dump. Only then will I know the best way to rub him out. I take it you do want him dead?”
Pat: “Sure do. Him and all the other mother-fuckers too. They are all too soft on abbos, Vietnamese, all the other coloured immigrants. This is a white country and will always be white if we’ve got anything to do with it. White is might. White is right.”
I felt myself shudder but it didn’t show. I said, “Right. We have a deal. Twenty thousand and five expenses.”
Me: “Yeah five. Business class return, good hotel to lie low, sundry expenses. All paid by wire to my offshore account. Fifty percent down and the rest when the job’s done.”
Pat: “So that’s twenty-five total. Twelve and a half up front?”
Me: “That’s right. Here’s my card with my bank details. Get rid of it after you have paid me in full.”
Pat looked at the business card.
Pat: “John Smith?”
Me: “Yes, that’s me. If we’re finished, which we are, then maybe one of your helpers can drop me off in the city?”
Pat: “No problem. Brad, you heard the man.”
Me: “One more thing. Gun please.”
Pat handed the gun back to me and I slid it back in the shoulder holster
End of Excerpt
Universal Book Links to Rivers of Blood http://mybook.to/riversofblood
All other eBook formats at Books2Read
Thank you, Stephen, for being our guest this week. All the best with your writing.
SB It was great and I really enjoyed it, Thank you for the opportunity.