Saturday, March 01, 2008


Mike Coates is a young man going places. Yesterday he went to Bush International Airport in Houston Texas to meet two bedraggled Scottish writers halfway through a book tour.

But he's going a lot further than the airport.

A post-graduate student at the College of Criminal Justice at Sam Houston State University, he is deep into his doctorate, and at the same time acting as assistant to his mentor, Dr. Richard Ward.

It was at Dick Ward's bidding, that Mike picked me and La Patronne up at the airport, handed me the keys to Dick's brand new Chrysler Aspen - a luxury monster SUV - and took us to the university hotel in Huntsville, where he had booked us in for the duration of our stay in Texas.

Mike gets top grades, has given up his free time - holidays and weekends - to work his way into the magic inner circle of Ward devotees. To be one of that inner circle is to virtually guarantee a successful career in criminal justice, because there is no one better connected in the world than Dick Ward when it comes to domestic and international policing and the fight against terrorism.

In almost every law enforcement agency that matters around the world, there are former pupils of Dr. Richard Ward occupying prominent positions. Years ago he set up the OICJ - the Office of International Criminal Justice. In the nineties, he trained the top 500 police officers in China in the latest western policing techniques. He is a world authority on international terrorism, and during his years as Dean of the College of Criminal Justice here in Huntsville, set up the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG) - an organisation, run by students who collect open source material from around the world on violent groups, and feed it into a computer database which they designed themselves, to make connections no one ever saw before.

So successful has that been, both the FBI and CIA are clamouring for a direct info. feed from the students and their database.

Dick is something of a mentor to me, too. Without his introductions to the police in China, I would never have been able to write my China Thrillers series. His energy and imagination and pure drive are a constant inspiration.

(Dick and Michelle with daughter Sophia when they visited us in France last summer)

He always looks after us when we are in Texas, and facilitated all the research for my book, "Snakehead". Ingrate that I am, I went on to use his Texas ranch as a setting for part of the book, and he has never forgiven my detailed description of the chaos in his garage. He has spent the last eight years trying to clean it up, and insists on giving me a tour of it every time I visit.

(Huntsville is also famous for its Death House, where prisoners are strapped to a table and given a lethal injection. We visited it on a previous visit)

We are soooo happy to be here after our travails in Tucson. Tomorrow and Sunday we have some free time. Dick, and his wife Michelle, are taking us to the movies to see "Vantage Point". They have laid on a barbecue at the ranch on Sunday, and today we got a privileged insight into the arcane workings of academia, when we were admitted to a couple of presentations by students pitching for their theses.

As for the mystery of the closed doors at Clues Unlimited in Tucson, we are none the wiser. I received a call the following day from my publisher to say that "Chris" from Clues had called trying to get in touch with us. Apparently she had excused herself by saying she was sick and had closed up early.

If that was the case, one would have thought the least she might have done was give us a call (she has our email address, and all our contact information is on the website) - and leave a note on the door for her customers.

But if she was trying to get in touch with us the following day, she never did. La Patronne emailed her but we are still waiting for a reply. No apology, no explanation. Nothing.


Anonymous said...

Hi Xiong, having fun with the tour still though tired I feel. Still odd non events with Tucson, in this day and age of being in the fast lane with communications how could one not get a message out, even if it is on paper taped to a door, shoot look at me :) 24/7 in a dark studio, 3 pc's and no time to see the sun. (Though the new Notebook might change that.... doubt it)
TC to both of you.

Anonymous said...

Gee... what finely sculpted calf muscles... do you work out?