Wassaic resident finalist in TruTV's 'Search for the Next Great Crime Writer Contest' contest


WASSAIC - This rural hamlet is a long way from the mean streets of Manhattan. But Terrence McCauley found inspiration here to write a gangster-era crime novel that is one of five finalists in a nationwide writing contest.

McCauley submitted his novel, "Prohibition," to TruTV's (the former Court TV) "Search for the Next Great Crime Writer Contest." He has recently been named one of five finalists in the competition. The winner will be announced Feb. 4 at 10 p.m. on TruTV's "Murder by the Book."

The novel, which is set in Prohibition-era New York City in 1930, is about ex-boxer Terry Quinn, who is the bodyguard to mob leader Archie Doyle.

Doyle has been in control of the most powerful mob on the East Coast for a decade, but he begins to lose control as America enters the great Depression. Doyle devises a plan to make his mob more powerful, but the plan comes to a halt when someone tries to kill one of his top men. He sends Quinn to find out who did it.

"Quinn tries to become more than an enforcer, he tries to become a detective," McCauley said. "Which is something he doesn't think he's capable of. He needs to sniff out who is trying to end his empire."

McCauley said the book is fictional, but is based on actual events.

"I first got interested in the genre because of my parents, who were big fans of movies from the 1930s and '40s," McCauley said. "I never lost my love for those movies as I grew up, and I decided I wanted to learn more about the time period. After doing some research, I decided there was much more to the world back then than what you saw in the movies."

One thing he learned: "The widespread violence that happened during that time in Chicago didn't happen in New York City," he said. "New York was different because it was much more organized."

McCauley grew up in the Bronx, but moved to Wassaic four years ago with his wife, Rita.

"My wife is from Millbrook, so we knew about the area," he said. "We have a weakness for older homes and we found a great 1880s Victorian house on Firehouse Road. We also love the people and the community here. This is a great part of the world."

A graduate of Fordham University with a degree in political science, he made his career in economic development and government affairs. He now works for Metro-North railroad as a government community representative. He is proud to be working for the second-largest commuter railroad in the country, of course, but there is something appealing about the idea of being a published author.

The winner of TruTV's contest will be awarded a book contract with Borders and a $5,000 cash advance.

"If I don't win, I'll keep on trying to find a publisher and agent," he said. "A good writer of crime stories is like any other good writer: You have to be observant and tenacious. It's not an easy craft because it can be a lonely craft. But it's rewarding."

Authors were chosen by popular vote in the first two rounds of the competition. The first two chapters of their books were posted online and readers gave a "10" to any entries they felt were worthy of being published. Twenty-five semifinalists were chosen from the 269 novels submitted in the first round of judging.

The panel of judges for the final round is made up of three authors who have been featured on "Murder by the Books" (a series where writers tell about the true crimes that inspired their fictional bestsellers). They are Sandra Brown, Harlan Coben and David Baldacci. Also on the panel are a marketing expert and two buyers from the Borders bookstore chain.

To be your own judge, read the first two chapters from "Prohibition" online at trutv.gather.com.

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