Person of the Week
Ernie Dorling: Bringing Career Experience to his Latest Novel
After moving to Old Saybrook in his first retirement, Ernie Dorling put his career in law enforcement to work teaching a criminology course at the University of New Haven. He has now put his experience to more creative use, penning the crime novel The Truth is Always Negotiable. (Photo courtesy of Ernie Dorling)
The Connecticut shoreline with its scenic coastline and quintessential New England charm has inspired generations of visitors and lifetime residents. For Ernie Dorling, a longtime Old Saybrook resident, the area was the perfect setting for his new novel, The Truth is Always Negotiable.
“A while back, I was toying with the idea to do a book that discussed about 15 issues affecting the country and give the conservative view on them and then the liberal perspective. I think there’s a lot of people who like things from both parties,” Ernie says to the Harbor News during a recent chat.
However, that book never materialized for Ernie.
“It wasn’t taking the shape I wanted it to, but I thought there was a good message in there I wanted to get out there,” Ernie explains.
That message is one that shapes his new book. Released last month, The Truth is Always Negotiable is about “Ann Banks, the first woman elected president of the United States and a member of the Independent Party, [who] harbors a dark secret” according to the book’s description. The novel weaves in a Connecticut state trooper solving a murder, a Russian organized crime member, and political issues that are pertinent to today’s climate. And the majority of the story takes place in Connecticut, including a climactic scene at The Water’s Edge in Westbrook.
“Of the story, about 85 percent of takes place right in Connecticut,” says Ernie. “In terms of setting and people, I felt Connecticut was absolutely the right way to go.”
Though the book is fiction, Ernie says the way that the real-world issues that serve as the book’s background are discussed could possibly cause people to examine the way they look at themselves.
“Hopefully it gives people some reason to think about the issues in a new way,” Ernie says of the book’s themes.
This isn’t Ernie’s first book, or even his first time writing about crime in Connecticut. Ernie has written three other books, two of them text books rooted in criminology. His 2004 book Murder: A Family Affair was about the 1994 murder in East Lyme of Buzz Clinton.
“The book was pretty successful up in this area and New England. I did two separate Discovery ID shows on that,” says Ernie.
Ernie is well versed in the subject thanks to his 30-year career in law enforcement. For years, Ernie worked with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.
“It was a very early interest for me. I was just always interested in it,” Ernie says of law enforcement.
After retiring in 2001, Ernie taught a criminology course at the University of New Haven until 2020, a career he also enjoyed.
“It was the molding and helping young people think about the profession that I liked. Letting them know that what they see on NCIS on television isn’t really what it’s like,” Ernie says, laughing.
Ernie says that his history in the field helped him craft his newest book, especially when it came time to develop the characters.
“There’s very strong women characters throughout the book. When I first started in law enforcement, the whole field was basically dealing with only white males. It’s changed dramatically for the better and I wanted to make several of the main characters women,” says Ernie.
Despite the success of some of his books, Ernie says there’s no illusions on his part of him being confused with celebrity writers like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King.
“It’s just a hobby. That’s all it is for me. It’s fun to do. You can’t do it for money or hoping for it to be on the big screen,” says Ernie when asked about his writing.
“For me the hardest part is always getting started. Then next thing you know you’re rewriting it for the eighth time and finding things you want to tweak. If you don’t like it, you won’t be able to do it at all,” says Ernie.
However, Ernie also says that eventually during the writing process the familiar urge all writers know will takeover once the ideas are flowing.
“I’ll be answering the phone saying I need to cancel dinner plans or golf because I’ve got ideas I need to get into words,” says Ernie.
Ernie originally grew up in Michigan but moved to Connecticut after he was promoted during his law enforcement career. He moved to Old Saybrook in 2001.
“The people welcomed us with open arms,” recalls Ernie.
Now that his teaching days are over, Ernie lives fulltime in Florida where he enjoys playing golf, making music, and staying active. However, he still has strong feelings for his old Connecticut stomping grounds.
“I loved the quietness of it, the great friends we made along the way, the old New England vibes of it,” says Ernie.
“I also loved the fact you could get mostly anything done with just a helpful neighbor. I wouldn’t trade my time up there for anything in the world,” adds Ernie