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Here’s how I came to write my novel SHOSHANA, about a Mossad agent on a mission to hunt down a Ukrainian war criminal and avenge her parents’ suffering at his hands.

Since childhood I’ve been immersed in the arts: oil portraits, jazz saxophone, and fiction. In the 70’s, I went to Fairfield University. In the sophomore Honors Seminar I met professor Morris Grossman, a brilliant teacher, philosopher, and classical pianist. From our first cup of coffee in ’71, he became my lifelong mentor and dear friend. I took all of his available classes, including my favorite, the philosophy of Aesthetics. Morris was also one of the two professors in the Junior Year Honors Seminar. Over the decades, he taught me about the plight of Jews throughout history. He was confirmed bachelor and a terrific human being. Unfortunately, he passed away on December 14, 2012, at the ripe old age of 90, although you’d never guess his age if you talked to him. He called himself my rabbi, and me, his mensch.

With a Bachelor’s degree in English, I needed “a real job,” and I spotted a “Police Officer” ad in affluent Westport. How hard could that be? I’d always been drawn to public service. Within six years I was promoted to Detective, and did criminal investigations, and an  undercover stint in State Police Auto Theft Task Force.

As a portrait artist in a police suit, learning how to draw suspect sketches was a natural fit for me. I mastered the technique with the Artists’ Unit at NYPD, and did them statewide. My boss, however, thought that every sketch I did looked alike, and broke my balls relentlessly about it. Since the murder of Officer Daniel Wasson, Milford Police Dept., I’ve tried to do at least one oil portrait of a slain officer each year, as a private gift to their families. My boss didn’t think those looked the same.

Since I left the police in 2000, I operate my own Private Investigations business, Barrett Investigations, LLC. I also do security for the most wonderful family on EARTH: The Mitchells, who own and operate five stores: Mitchells (Westport), Richards (Greenwich), Marsh’s (Huntington, Long Island), and two Wilkes-Bashford stores (San Francisco and Palo Alto). That family, fronted by brothers Jack and Bill Mitchell, have been pillars of support to me, and I doubt I’d be writing novels if it wasn’t for their encouragement and support. And, incidentally, you can’t find higher quality clothing or jewelry anywhere else in the United States.

So back to Morris: he led me to study the Holocaust, and I became well aware of the pitiful record of the U.S. government in locating war criminals who’d resettled here – the Justice Department didn’t even open the Office of Special Investigations until 1976.

The idea behind SHOSHANA was to dramatize a personal quest by a child of Survivors for vengeance and justice. I was able to interweave my vast experience in investigations with the art of portraiture – Shoshana needs police artist Artie Donnelly to update the face of the Ukrainian war criminal who’s hiding at the Jersey shore. After he does and age-progression drawing (it’s set in 1990, before super computers), all hell breaks loose. The message I tried to get across is that all of humanity should agonize over the Holocaust and do something about it whenever the chance arises, so that it never happens again.

I hope a lot of people give Shoshana a try.

  1. Paul Mazzeo03-29-15

    Hi Mike,
    What an exciting career. Cannot wait to read your book. I went to some of the same schools as you, was not as academic, and was in Thomas’s class, Patrick was a few years back.
    The last time I saw you was in the Fairfield U. cafeteria and we had coffee with Dr. Myers. I remember how kind you were to him, getting him a refill.
    Yesterday my wife showed me her favorite store website. Mitchell’s.
    What a small and interestingly connected world. I told her about you, your writing and your connection to them.
    Wishing you continued success,
    Paul Mazzeo

  2. Flo C08-16-15

    Just about finish with Shoshana- a great read, interesting to the point it is difficult to put down. Looking forward to the second book starring Artie Donnelly.


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