February 25, 2008

Once a Racine cop, now a suspense thriller author

"In Orlando, Florida, Michael Moresby hammers his fifth victim to death outside the Beacon Tavern. The same day in Racine, Wisconsin, his twin brother, McMillan, kills his fourth in the Holiest of Holy rooms. And outside the Brewer’s Miller Park Stadium, Eric Murin’s baseball cap tumbles into the path of a careening Buick. Somewhere beyond the line of life and death, in the vastness of the cosmos, there flows a river of sensations accessible by few. Identical twins can. Seers too. And occasionally the victim of a near death experience. For Homicide Detective Dell Murrin, it is an awakening. And what he sees is terrifying..."

And so begins Racine mystery writer Rick McCluskey's first thriller, River of Sensations, published under the pseudonym Sheldon Doyle.

McCluskey is something of a mystery himself. He started out as a cop -- 23 years on the Racine Police Department, rising to sergeant and the department's Training Division supervisor. And then in 1995 he tore up his knee and was forced to retire on disability. What to do?

He started writing: human interest articles and short stories. Nothing got published. "I did learn some valuable rules when it came to writing: Never quit, always believe in yourself and edit, edit, edit. I can’t say that enough about the latter. And if you can’t be brutally honest, then have someone do it for you.

"I never quit. There was gold in them there hills, I just didn’t know how to mine it. So I tried my hand at other genres, writing whatever came to mind. I wanted to find one I felt comfortable writing, but always from a cop’s perspective. And I eventually found my niche: The suspenseful psychological crime thriller."

(Reminds me of the famous "Writing is easy" quote by novelist Gene Fowler: "All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.")

As McCluskey describes it, his first novel started out as a short story. "It just started growing, mainly because I was sitting in front of the computer and had nothing to do. It took close to six years before it didn't look like a bunch of chicken scratchings." The turning point came about three years ago, when McCluskey met Colleen Kappeler, a writing coach and editor from Kenosha who founded the Kenosha Writers' Group.

"It's wonderful to be able to meet with writers, talk about what we're doing, discuss rejections. I was sort of winging this on my own, trying to write novels. She created the writers' group, then stepped into the background and let us run it. I could never find anything like that in Racine."

Whatever the cure, and Kappeler's editing, it worked. McCluskey has finished his third novel and is now wrapping up a children's book about witches and fairies, written for his granddaughter, Michaela, that he's ready to turn over to an illustrator.

Not that being a published novelist is financially rewarding -- yet. So far, McCluskey is a self-published writer, working through www.lulu.com, which prints his books "on demand," one at a time as orders are received. He's sold about 25 so far ... OK, not very many (he bought four of those himself) but as a writer, anyway, he may be on a roll. The suspense thrillers are just pouring out.

His latest book, Betrayal for Eternity, goes off in a new direction, and he says those who've read it are most enthusiastic. It's about a young woman FBI profiler whose first case turns out to be a sociopath who starts to go after her (sounds like Silence of the Lambs up to this point). Her boss decides to hide her, so she goes home to Baraboo, WI, where her boyfriend from high school is a policeman. He has a lot of missing persons cases ... one thing leads to another and it turns out that now she has two killers coming after her. (I'm hooked, and this was before I read the first couple of chapters.)

"I don't imagine I'm going to be anything like James Patterson or Dean Koontz," McCluskey says, "but just to be able to say 'I wrote a novel' is gratifying and humbling at the same time."

And what about that pseudonym? Where did Sheldon Doyle come from? Glad you asked: It's a conflation of McCluskey's two favorite authors: Sidney Sheldon and Arthur Conan Doyle.

To learn more about the author, and read excerpts from McCluskey's novels, and some complete short stories, go to his new website, HERE.

To order the novel Betrayal for Eternity -- print is $15.95 or you can download it for just $5.50 -- go HERE.

Hat tip to ExposeKenosha.com.


  1. Why is it these retired muni employees never stay here????

  2. Not sure I know what you mean: Rick still lives in Racine.

  3. Rick is still in Racine, but he came to Kenosha and the Kenosha Writers' Group to fine tune his talent.
    For that, of course, we are grateful and proud.

  4. As golfer and an ex Johnson Park employee I remember Rick.
    Had I known that Rick was a writer wanna be I would have shown him my asortment of rejection letters. My only suggestion to Rick is that he get in touch with John Grisham, Greg Iles, Nelson DeMill or Dan Brown. These guys are more than willing to give support. Good luck Rick

  5. How about writing a murder mystery involving 4 people driving down a road, car flipping over in water, and one of the passengers dying months later.

  6. Congrats Rick, you have finally done it!! Great to hear that you reached your goal and made the dream a reality!! JNF