In 1978, at the ripe age of 18, author Mark Langan made history by becoming the youngest police officer ever hired by the Omaha Police Department. During his 26 years on the force, you can imagine the stories and experiences he garnered.
“From the time I can remember I wanted to be a police officer,” Langan, the son of a U.S. Marshal, shared with us. “I watched in awe as Omaha Police cruisers drove up and down 30th Street with rotating lights and sirens wailing.”
He retired in 2004. Armed with a scrapbook and unshakable memories, Langan seized his second calling: writing. He authored Busting Bad Guys: My True Crime Stories of Bookies, Drug Dealers and Ladies of the Night, in which he recounts his many harrowing on-the-job experiences as an undercover narcotics cop. This book is the vehicle in which Langan could relay his experiences to his family.
Promotional rounds for the 2014 release included a stop at Omaha Public Library’s annual Author Fair in February. Months after the book’s release and subsequent success, Langan carved time out of his packed schedule to talk about Omaha, how his book came to fruition, and life after becoming an author.
1.) How would you describe Omaha?
Frequently ranked as one of the most affordable places to live, with highly ranked schools and a thriving nightlife scene, Omaha appears as Heaven on Earth to many. However, as with any large urban city, Omaha has its share of poverty, crime, and hopelessness in parts of the city largely ignored by city leaders for generations.
2.) You’ve had various articles published on a variety of topics, but article writing is not like book writing. What ignited your interest to write and publish a book?
During my 26-year career with the Omaha Police Department, I was frequently asked to tell “cop stories” at family functions and social gatherings. Partiers formed circles around me wanting to hear my exploits catching armed robbers and chasing stolen vehicles.
My dad, the retired lawman, told me early in my police career to keep scrapbooks. [He said] “Someday you will be glad you saved this stuff.” Well, he was right. I used my scrapbooks to form the outline for the book. The newspaper articles, pictures, police reports, and commendations helped jog my memory.
For years people told me to write a book. The idea seemed daunting at first, but after I started writing a few chapters it was liked the dam burst open and the stories started to flow. It only took me six months to write the entire transcript. There were many stories I left out, so I tried to pick the most bizarre, funny, dangerous, and gut-wrenching stories I experienced during my police career.
3.) You’ve experienced some harrowing on-the-job experiences. Was it difficult to recount some of your memories in Busting Bad Guys?
For me, writing Busting Bad Guys was a cathartic experience. The book allowed demons tormenting my mind for 10 years after retirement to escape and wreak havoc elsewhere.
Only after retirement, and writing Busting Bad Guys, have I come to terms with how dangerous my job was. More importantly, I am thankful an officer was not seriously hurt during hundreds of high-risk operations I supervised involving armed drug dealers and gang members.
The thread of Busting Bad Guys centers on a deadly encounter I had with a suspect during a botched drug deal. There’s a chapter towards the end of book detailing a meeting I had with a close family member of the man killed in the 2002 shootout. This encounter took place years after the shooting occurred. Readers will find it fascinating how we dealt with the death of her father much differently, while still forming a respectful relationship that continued long after our first meeting.
4.) Which five (separate) words describe Mark Langan?
Driven, Intense, Confident, Thankful, Proud.
5.) Decorated career, published author, vice president of field operations for the Nebraska Humane Society post-retirement… What’s next for you?
I’m already writing new stories based on the release of Busting Bad Guys. Many people that I arrested during my police days have approached me at book signings or simply on the street and asked in an excited tone “am I in the book?” Most are disappointed when I say no.
I plan on promoting the book for the foreseeable future, possibly start a blog, and seeing where the journey takes me.
Thank you to Mark Langan for answering our questions. The author will visit four OPL locations in September 2014; make plans to hear and meet the author in person and get your book signed!