B.C. writer, former undercover officer, pens novel based on experiences

Lawrence Ricketts released his debut novel The Third Law in June.

Larry Ricketts is a former undercover RCMP officer who uses his own experiences to write a realistic debut novel. (Photo contributed)

Vernon, B.C. — Lawrence “Larry” Ricketts took the old adage of ‘write what you know’ to heart while penning his debut novel The Third Law.

Ricketts spent 30 years working for the RCMP, 29 of which as an undercover operator.

Initially, he admits that he never considered becoming a police officer due to his small build and short stature. He described a somewhat serendipitous meeting with an RCMP recruiter which eventually landed him a spot in an RCMP training program.

“I didn’t even know I wanted to be a cop until I had a bad day at work at Woodwards department store — that’s where I worked at the time,” he said. “I was having lunch when I noticed a guy looking for a place to sit and asked him if he wanted to sit down. Turns out, the man was an RCMP recruiting officer.”

After speaking with the recruiter, Ricketts committed to attending the RCMP training program and soon found himself pegged as an informant. He admits that, with a vast theatre background, the job came quite naturally to him.

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“When I first got into the training program in 1967, I had done a lot of acting and theatre acting and I guess it showed up in my resume because I had no idea what I was in for,” said Ricketts. “They have what they call an undercover pool and that is run out of Ottawa and so if there’s a murder or a drug problem, any kind of major crime anywhere in Canada and they need a person with certain qualifications, they’ll type that into the computer and if your name pops out, they’ll ask you if you’d take on the project.”

This is where he spent most of his career — specifically in drug sections and major crimes. Starting in Ontario, he worked in Toronto drugs for eight years before moving back out west. He worked in a similar unit in Vancouver for 20 years and spent two years in Victoria doing major crime work.

“After that long, you become — not an expert by any means — but you have a pretty good handle on human behaviour and what causes people to be bad and then use that to exploit as much as you can after studying a specific target,” he said. “You look for any weakness that’s going to help you get close to them and be friendly and that’s the one thing I found. There’s always a weakness.”

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After retiring from the RCMP in 1997, he spent about ten years doing private consulting work, setting up operations and training others. Meanwhile, Ricketts began toying with the idea of writing a novel, jotting down ideas when inspiration hit.

“The job was like a 30-year course in human behaviour,” he said. “That’s how I would probably nutshell it and that’s what I used when I started writing.”

He describes his stories as a way to relive his career. “That’s what makes it fun.”

Set in the late 1990s, the book uses his own experiences, he loosely based all the characters on people he met throughout his career. Authenticity and truth, he said, are his main goal.

“The main reason for writing this was to show how fragile things are and even in bad guys, there’s a bit of good — not a whole lot but no one is totally black and no one is totally white — hence the cover” — a yin and yang symbol.

“Writing what I know saves hundreds of hours of research — especially if you want it to be truthful and accurate. My whole idea with this book was to make it as truthful as possible and make the characters as believable as possible using the people I had met and worked with and against.”

Since the book’s conception, Ricketts said it’s taken 18 years in total — though the result is almost unrecognizable to his first draft.

“By the time you’ve finished your first novel, you’ve written at least ten.”

Produced by Tellwell publishing, the final draft was released in June. Unlike large publishing houses like Harper Collins or Random House, Tellwell is a type of self-publishing platform.

“The difficulty if you aren’t a known author, the traditional publishing houses are very skeptical to take you, plus they’ve got a lineup of manuscripts from authors who are known and established,” Ricketts said. “Then you’ve got the self-publishing companies who would publish 400 blank pages if you want because you’re paying for it. Tellwell is one of the ones now where you’ve kind of got an in-between — they edit it and tell you if it’s good enough to publish.”

He said he decided on this route because they offer an honest review of the book before publishing. Though he believes this was the right decision for his debut novel, he’s hopeful his future novels will be picked up by larger publishers.

“I’ve done everything I thought I could to get it out to people and get their true feeling about it and that’s why I’m excited about it now. And with reviews from well-known writers and being approved by Indie Reader, I’m confident it’s a good book.”

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For those interested, the book synopsis allows for some valuable insight into its content: “Starting over for Paul Goldman and his family had been quiet, and peaceful, everything life should be, until one night his world was torn apart. Now, with the leader of a South American drug cartel vowing to have him killed, and the police, trying to protect him, Paul enlists the help of two former comrades from his past to help him stay alive and go after everyone responsible.”

Ricketts assures his fans that the story doesn’t end with this book. Though it has the ability to stand alone, he has already begun writing his second novel and tells this reporter that many of the same characters are also included. The Third Law is available on amazon or through Coles, Indigo and Chapters.

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The Third Law uses a yin and yang symbol to illustrate the idea that no one is “all bad” or “all good.”

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