Southeastern detective wins national writing award
Contact: Christina Chapple
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HAMMOND – Already honored as a law enforcement officer, Southeastern Louisiana University Police Department Detective O’Neil De Noux can now also add an award for writing to his collection of kudos.
De Noux, who has had a 20-year career as a novelist and short story writer, has been awarded the Private Eye Writers of America’s prestigious SHAMUS Award for Best Short Story 2007. The annual award recognizes outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. The awards were announced late last month at Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in Anchorage, Alaska, on Sept. 28.
De Noux won the award for “The Heart Has Reasons,” a short story set in 1940s New Orleans featuring one of his four recurring fictional characters, private eye and womanizer extraordinaire Lucien Caye. The story appeared in the September 2006 issue of “Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.”
“I was stunned,” De Noux said. “I am very proud to be honored by my peers.”
De Noux has been writing professionally since 1988. Although he has published in virtually every genre from children’s literature to romance to science fiction, most of his novels and stories are about policemen and private eyes. He knows the professions well, since both have been his “day job.”
De Noux’s law enforcement career includes service with the Jefferson Parish and St. Bernard Parish sheriff’s offices. He has also been a private investigator, U.S. Army combat photographer, criminal intelligence analyst, newspaper writer, magazine editor, computer graphics designer and creative writing instructor.
“Hemingway said you should write about what you know,” said De Noux. “When I became a detective with Jefferson Parish and then a homicide detective, that’s what I did.”
De Noux’s writing has earned the appreciation of critics and fans alike, including his law enforcement colleagues, who praise his realistic dialogue and accurate portrayal of police procedures.
De Noux’s novels include “Grim Reaper,” “The Big Kiss,” “Blue Orleans,” “Crescent City Kills” and “The Big Show.” His more than 200 short stories have appeared in publications throughout the world and have been collected in anthologies such as “Hollow Point/The Mystery of Rochelle Marais” and “LaStanza: New Orleans Police Stories,” which received an “A” rating from Entertainment Weekly Magazine. He adapted one of the LaStanza stories, “Waiting for Alaina,” into a screenplay, which was filmed in New Orleans and broadcast on local TV in 2001.
Currently, O’Neil De Noux has two original short stories -- “Guilty of Dust and Sin” and “Maria’s Hand” -- available on Amazon Shorts and stories forthcoming in “Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine” and “Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine,” as well as several anthologies.
“Publisher’s Weekly” said of his writing, “Former homicide detective De Noux turns out an engaging, fast-paced collection of stories …The author knows his stuff when it comes to the Big Easy.”
As a police officer, De Noux received seven commendations for solving difficult murder cases. In 1981, he was named Homicide Detective of The Year for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office. In 1989, he was proclaimed an expert witness on the homicide crime scene in Criminal District Court in New Orleans.
De Noux joined the UPD in 2006 after a post-Katrina relocation of his family from Kenner to the north shore. While his previous law enforcement experience was both tough and rewarding, “I’m proud of it, but I don’t miss the work,” he said. “This is an ideal job for me at this point in my career and my life. Working at a university – this is a lot nicer!”
Adhering to his “write about what you know” maxim, he said he has added a fifth recurring character to his fictional repertoire -- a university police officer.
“He’s unpublished because I just wrote the story,” De Noux said, grinning. “He’s set in a ‘mythical south Louisiana university’ that I’m calling Cajun State University.”
De Noux said his new college cop will star in stories that have a lighter touch than the gritty, hardnosed fiction drawing from his homicide experience. Instead, he said he will use as inspiration “some of the humorous things that happen” on the job at a university police department.
“One of the stories I wrote is about our missing Christmas tree,” De Noux said, referring to the true-life incident in which the Southeastern holiday tree in Friendship Circle went missing. “Of course, I fictionalized the whole thing!”
De Noux said one of the most enjoyable aspects of his Southeastern job is working with students. “I enjoy working around kids,” he said. “As police officers, we’re here to help them. Somebody sent their child here and I’m here to help them.”
As an extension of that, De Noux said he also enjoys being in the classroom and has taught creative writing and mystery writing courses at the University of New Orleans, Delgado Community College and McNeese State University. Although his status as a classified employee precludes his teaching at Southeastern, he said he would be happy to be a guest lecturer in English or creative writing classes.
“Writing is a craft,” De Noux said. “I have been very fortunate, very lucky to work with good editors.” He said he was also lucky to be “taken under the wing by a couple of really good writers,” Harlan Ellison and George Alec Effinger. His own personal favorite author is mystery writer Elmore Leonard.
His advice to aspiring young writers is “Learn the craft and don’t give up,” De Noux said. “Ray Bradbury said we all have 100,000 bad words in us – get it out of the way and get to the good stuff. Write and write and write until you get to the good stuff.”