Ken Lang is a seasoned detective and true crime author. His book Walking Among the Dead is available in paperback and on Kindle. Keep up with him on Twitter @detkenlang.
Ken shares more about his faith and discusses police shows, why we kill, and his latest book. Read part one here.
Have you ever wanted to quit and find another line of work?
Yes… after 22 years of working as a police officer/detective, I must admit that the crime and violence have worn on me.
Recently, while recovering from a medical procedure that incapacitated me for 6 weeks, I got a taste of working from home. During that time I was able to finish my first book and work on getting it published. I must say that I really enjoyed working from home and being with the family more.
On the other hand, I have reached 20 years of service with my current agency and am eligible to retire on a 50% retirement. Considering I am only 43 years in age, I am looking to change directions in my career. Perhaps when I finish my Master’s degree I will teach criminal justice courses in a college setting. But with all the book ideas that I’ve come up with, I must confess that sitting on my deck and writing is awfully inviting.
Have you lost faith in people?
Not at all! If anything, my experiences in the police department have re-enforced my belief in people and that good does conquer evil.
Why do we kill each other?
This seems to be an area that shifts with time. When I first started in law enforcement in 1989, domestic murders were very common. Today, most murders involve drug or gang activity; drug dealers getting ripped off or gang members seeking revenge. I have found through many interviews and interrogations that most of these people murder because it gives them a higher status in their circle of influence. Where they come from, killing is esteemed and respected.
How has your job served to convince you of the sanctity of life?
Given my faith, I have always had a deep conviction regarding the sanctity of life. Through my job as a homicide detective, those beliefs have been re-enforced, especially after seeing the senseless murders of young people who never really had a chance at life.
Or has your experience taught you more about the existence of evil in the world?
One of the things that I remember from my days in the police academy is that we as police officers deal with the 2-3% of the population that is criminally active. The remaining 97-98% are law abiding citizens.
My experience has taught me that as a society we have become more violent towards each other than we were just 20 years ago.
Is it harder to believe that God is good?
No, not at all. Though I don’t always see the greater good at the end, I am often taken back to the scriptures in Romans 8:28 where Paul writes “and we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” As a detective, and as a believer, I have seen this truth stand firm throughout my career.
What are the darkest places you have been? Would you say that God is with you in the dark?
Without question, each of the homicide scenes where I’ve been in attendance has been a dark place. To stand within such a crime scene, scrutinizing every detail about how someone came to their demise by another’s hand, is perhaps one of the darkest places on this earth. And yet, I could still feel His presence enveloped me insomuch that my fears dissipated, enabling me to accomplish the task at hand.
In one case, we were looking for a suspect late at night. Several detectives entered the suspect’s home looking for the culprit. While I cleared the downstairs, two other detectives cleared the upstairs. We came up empty. As the others were questioning the occupant of the residence, I wandered upstairs, concerned about a handgun a fellow detective told me was lying on a bureau in the master bedroom. I looked around, saw the loaded .357 revolver lying where it had been described, and went back downstairs. But I believe that the Holy Spirit prompted me to return upstairs and I began rechecking the rooms, alone.
I searched every room and found nothing. As I exited the master bedroom and entered the hallway I opened the linen closet doors. They were quite narrow, almost too small for anyone to climb into. However, with this closet situated close to the unsecured handgun, I gave it a thorough search. When I grabbed a blanket lying on the top shelf, something moved. Adrenalin shot through my body and I quickly had the blanket square in my gun sights. I began yelling orders, challenging the subject to get down, keep his hands up, or I would shoot. The suspect surrendered and we all walked away wondering how none of us were shot. I knew that God’s hand of protection was over us all.
To shift gears a bit, are there any good police shows on TV?
Believe it or not, I don’t watch the cop shows – it’s like watching work. I did get hooked on the “Homicide: Life on the Streets” TV series, only because it was based in Baltimore.
I have heard that the HBO series, “The Wire”, is about as realistic as it gets. From the few episodes of “CSI” and other prime-time cop shows I watched, I became frustrated at the lack of realism…
Of all time, which shows best represent the actual day-to-day life of a homicide detective?
“The First 48”, “Homicide Life on the Street”, and “Forensic Files”…which featured one of my cases in the episode “Dollars & Sense.”
Do homicide detectives talk about the deep mysteries of the universe or is there not enough time for that?
Actually, during our downtime, we’re usually talking NFL Football, MLB Baseball, and sports in general.
Tell me about your new book, Walking Among the Dead.
In 2009, according to the FBI UCR report, 15,241 people were murdered in the United States. As a detective investigating murder, it is quite disheartening to see the names and faces of those lost transformed into a yearend statistic, a simple number. Walking Among the Dead is a book that remembers the lives of the victims and the men and women who worked tirelessly to seek justice for those who have perished. Someone needs to tell their stories of how they died and how our authorities work around the clock, day in and day out, year after year, to find the killers and render justice.
Walking Among the Dead isn’t your typical ‘true crime’ book. In fact, it is something quite different and unlike anything out on the market right now as it transports the reader into the murder scene and through the investigation, much like I experienced it as one of the investigating detectives. Many readers of my book find that they can’t put it down because “I felt like I was right there.”
What made you decide to write this? Was it something you wanted to do for a long time before?
Actually, yes. I remember during my first week in the Homicide Unit one of the detective’s made an off the cuff comment about writing a book. The idea planted in my head and stuck with me. As I began to understand how devastating this crime was on families and the communities in which they happened, I became incensed by how we, as a society, reduce these lost lives to a mere statistic. I also appreciated how hard and diligent homicide detectives work in searching for killers.
The book actually came about through a chance meeting I had with a local writing professional, John Riddle. John is an author and ghostwriter from Bear, DE. We met while I was volunteering at a storytelling conference at my church where he was a guest speaker. I approached him to inquire about making extra income writing online content for law enforcement websites. He asked about my work experience. When I shared that I had investigated rapes, robberies, and murders for the past 15 years, he urged me to consider writing true crime.
So, I sat down at my laptop and knocked out my first homicide investigation in two chapters. John provided direction in regards to the format. We decided that writing a true crime book in a novel format was a unique approach that might catch the attention of an agent or publisher. When I finished chapters 1 and 2, I submitted them to John for review – he was astounded at my writing capability and urged me to finish the book.
John Riddle is a rather prominent figure in the writing industry. He has written nearly 30 books and has lectured along with best selling authors including Tom Clancy, James Patterson, and Stephen King, to name a few.
While finishing my book, John took the liberty to contact a bestselling author (who he refused to name) and floated a portion of my manuscript by him. This unnamed author was “very impressed” and expects to see my books become a staple in the true crime genre.
Since self-publishing Walking Among the Dead, it has captured the attention of many true crime readers… and has also attracted the attention of Red Willow Digital Press, who signed me on as an author this past May. Being impressed with Walking Among the Dead, they agreed to publish my next two books, which are sequels to Walking Among the Dead.
What other projects do you have in the works?
I am currently editing the sequel, Standing In Deaths‘ Shadow, and am halfway through writing the rough draft to the third and final book of this series, Death Comes Uninvited.
Upon completion of the homicide series, I plan to write a crime novel based in Baltimore, Maryland. A detective, whose partner is killed in the line of duty, must find the killer in a corrupt judicial system while holding the fragments of his family together.
What else is there that people should know about you?
I am married, have three children, and enjoy camping, hunting, fishing, writing, and thrive on history. I reside in North East, Maryland. Click here to read first part of the interview.