Retired Cop to Launch Seventh Book
By Pat Malin
John Briant retired from the New York State Police in 1982 following a distinguished 28-year career, including 10 years as a uniformed officer, four years as a station commander and the last 14 years as a BCI Investigator. Thanks to his second calling as an author, however, it’s almost as if he never hung up his uniform.
He now lives vicariously through his alter-ego “Jason Black,” a retired trooper whose dogged pursuit of the criminal element in the Adirondacks has led Briant to pen six novels in the Adirondack Detective series. His next book is due in the spring.
Q.What prompted you to become an author?
A.I always had a desire to write. When I was a kid, I used to write little poems and short stories. When I was still on the force, I wrote some short stories and they were published. One was about an escapee I helped apprehend in Lake Placid. I had my poems and short stories included in 12 anthologies even after I retired.
Q.How did you get started?
A.It had entered my mind a few years before I retired. My first book was called, “One Cop’s Story: A Life Remembered” and it was my autobiography. It was first published in 1995 and reprinted four times.
Q.Were you surprised by the reaction to your first book?
A.I was very pleased. My friend, Dick Case [columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standard] wrote a story about it when it first came out. It’s still available, but it won’t be reprinted. I saw it listed for sale on one website for $260. Apparently, I had autographed the book. It might have been the first edition, and the seller claimed I had written a letter to him.
Q.Why do all your books take place in the Adirondacks?
A. I try to have my storyline within the Blue Line [the park’s boundaries]. My wife [Marge] and I decided to retire here. The next one will also take place in the Adirondacks.
Q.Where are you from originally?
A.I was born in Theresa, outside of Watertown. In 1937, my brother, sister and I and my parents moved to Westvale in Syracuse. Later, we lived in Throopsville, outside Auburn. My father did a lot of things, running a gas station in Watertown; a salesman for Nabisco, and he operated a restaurant called the Suburban in Watertown. We also lived in Carthage. Then when my father moved to Syracuse, he worked for the government at the naval base.
Q.Did you always want a career in law enforcement?
A.No, I didn’t plan it. I graduated in 1948 from Port Byron Central School and then attended Auburn Business School. At that time, I wanted to be a teacher. I was about 17 when I first considered becoming a trooper. When I was a junior in high school, I joined the 27th Infantry Division-108th Infantry in Auburn. I trained for three summers at Camp Drum from 1947-49. I went out to Kansas City and enrolled in a radio and TV school, but I was not successful in getting a job. I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1950 and assigned to food service and radio. From September 1951 to September 1952, I was stationed in Keflavik, Iceland. I was a mess sergeant, but my training was equivalent to that of an executive chef. I was honorably discharged in August 1953. Then I went home to Auburn and my father told me about the upcoming exams for the state troopers. I remember that there were 5,000 applicants and only 125 were considered. I was one of the 50 who was hired.
Q.Where were you stationed as a trooper?
A.I reported to Division Headquarters in Albany, and then on Dec. 16, 1953, I was assigned to Troop D Headquarters in Oneida, and my starting salary was $1,600. We got an additional $4.25 a day for meals. I also worked in Pulaski, Ovid, Waterloo and Herkimer. I was the station commander at the Lafayette barracks from 1960-63. From 1953 till 1960 we all lived in the barracks. I also patrolled the Dewitt and Elbridge areas. In 1973 I transferred voluntarily to Malone and Massena. In 1976, I transferred to Lowville and spent a year there before going to Syracuse. I also trained 13 troopers during their training phase as a senior trooper. In addition, I was a speaker at many community functions. I retired in 1982 at the age of 52.
Q.What types of cases does Jason Black handle? Where do you get your ideas for the plots?
A.Jason’s investigations are very similar to the cases I worked on.