Dishonored and Forgotten: Larry and Carolyn Watts
Every police officer is considered to be someone to uphold the law and protect the people in the cities, towns or countries they live in. But, like in any profession there are those that circumvent the law, tend to create their own rules and follow the world in their own way at the expense of others. Within the Texas Police Department during the 1950’s there were many upheavals in leadership, narcotics scandals and even a death rules as a suicide. The deceased officer was shot twice in the heart and had a nasty laceration on his head. Ruling his death a suicide but was it as we will soon learn. As second officer as the story is told was sent to prison for selling heroin to those he arrested. Martin Billnitzer is at the heart of his novel as his nephew Jason opens the story with a discussion with his father who is quite ill. Making him promise to find out after 50 years what really happened to his uncle to clear his name is at the heart of this novel Dishonored and Forgotten. Bill Pool was a police officer who reported the possibility of a narcotics scandal to federal authorities taking down his own career. Both Martin and Bill’s careers were destroyed, cut short and their service was considered dishonorable and their lives, their good works and both men were forgotten. Using interviews, articles from newspapers about the scandal, books about some of those involved and federal narcotics agent’s personal papers, the authors researched from Stanford University libraries, the story is brought to life for readers to decide who is guilty, who was framed and who was wrongly dishonored and forgotten.
Jason, a retired officer named Buck Nichols and another member of his family, join forces to discuss, go over files, read interviews and hear Buck’s retelling of how he came into vice, the rules outlined by those involved and the dangers going undercover into to seediest, and most dirty areas in Houston. Dealing with drug dealers, prostitutes, bookies and other criminals these men in the newly created Vice Squad had to undergo whatever was required.
The conversation centered around when Nichols met Martin and his demeanor as being college educated even though he was not. He presented a very intelligent front and along with someone referred to as the Professor the team was created but the rules were unorthodox as we are privy to the men in charge and how one man, the Chief of Police was brought down by the underhandedness of so many others.
Where gaps in the story existed after our research, we added fictional accounts of what may have happened. However, the names of most participants are real and much of the story is factual. Italicized quotes from documents were taken directly from letters, notes, or newspaper articles with the exception of the quotes reported from a recording by George White of Dr. Julius McBride and his wife, which are fictional.
The story is told by a retired officer, Buck Nichols, who is one of the few fictional characters in the book. However, the story he tells is derived from research, with missing information being created by . Where gaps in the story existed after our research, we added fictional accounts of what may have happened. However, the names of most participants are real and much of the story is factual. Italicized quotes from documents were taken directly from letters, notes, or newspaper articles with the exception of the quotes reported from a recording by George White of Dr. Julius McBride and his wife, which are fictional.
The story is told by a retired officer, Buck Nichols, who is one of the few fictional characters in the book. However, the story he tells is derived from research, with missing information being created by the authors’ imagination as to what might have occurred all those years ago.
When we began the research for our novel recounting the events that occurred during Houston, Texas’ first narcotics scandal that occurred in 1953, we, of course, had no idea that one of the most dominant story lines in local and national news would become the sometimes violent interaction between police and citizens. Many of these stories are captured on video, then posted to social media sites, rerun on local and national news, and then become fodder for news talk radio and television shows.
There are the stories, such as the shooting of police officers in Dallas, in which the officers are victims who are viciously attacked. There are also those less complimentary stories, in which officers are caught on camera abusing or sometimes taking the lives of citizens. Interest groups have been formed and rhetoric spouted to support the political positions of those on both sides of the issue. There’s Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, slogans such as Pro Black isn’t Anti-White and Support our Police. In fact, except for the recent presidential election, no issue has come close to dominating the national attention that has been generated by police interaction with the public in the last few years.
If you are of a certain age, you’ve probably heard your peers make statements concerning the declining morals and ethics of our society. In fact, every generation believes theirs may be the last to exhibit the character that prevents the downfall of civilization. We often forget that there is nothing new under the sun. When we read accounts of elections more than a hundred years ago, we find examples similar to the nastiness we experienced in 2016’s presidential election and the accounts of citizen clashes with police during the 1960’s had similarities to today’s events.
And so it is with the historical events surrounding the story recounted in book, Dishonored and Forgotten. As you’ll find when you read the book, officers then were not more or less ethical and citizens were not any more likely to turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of police officers. In this story, citizens made accusations, officers committed crimes, and government agencies engaged in fierce turf battles. An officer was shot to death, either by his own hand, as the Houston Police Department declared, or by the hand of a fellow officer caught with his hand in a package of heroin, as a federal agent proclaimed publicly at the time.
There was one harbinger of events to come as it relates to the current use of advanced technology to record and publicize the actions of police officers and citizens as they encounter one another in tense situations. During interviews in 1954, that federal agent mentioned above, used a reel to reel, wire audio recorder to memorialize interviews he conducted with police officers. He would use one of these taped interviews as evidence of his ethics, when challenged by local officials. None of those involved is likely to have imagined how such technology would influence the discussion of police-community relations in the 21st century.
death was ruled a suicide. Another officer was sent to prison for selling heroin back to those he arrested. A captain was fired and a police chief lost his job. Dr. Julius McBride went to prison for supplying that police chief with codeine illegally. High profile federal narcotics agent George White came to Houston and challenged the locals, including the police chief, city attorney, mayor, district attorney and every officer he thought was dirty.
With all of the controversial police issues in the news these days, it’s especially encouraging to read a book by a seasoned police officer who still believes that effective law enforcement is possible. I’d like to introduce you to author Larry Watts and his co-author for this book, Carolyn Ferrell Watts. They’ve worked together to create a historical crime novel that is fiction but based on true events. It’s called Dishonored and Forgotten and was released January 2, 2017.
In 1953 the Houston Police Department was enmeshed in a narcotics scandal, its first. Before it was over, a detective was dead of two gunshot wounds to the heart. It was ruled a suicide. A federal agent came to town to investigate, sending two other people to prison. The police chief lost his job, a captain was fired and the department was in turmoil. This is a fictional account of those events and more.
A few years ago, while browsing through shops with my wife, Carolyn, in Galveston’s Strand District, I found a book of short stories about several Texas crimes and criminals. One account was of a Houston police narcotics scandal that occurred in 1953. As a young officer in 1967 I had heard anecdotal accounts of these events, including stories of an officer being murdered at the central police station and the death being ruled a suicide. The stories
were vague, some involved a captain of police being shot, others of the captain shooting another officer. As a rookie cop, I didn’t ask questions, but I never forgot the stories. The book I found in Galveston years later, prompted Carolyn and me to take a journey of research and writing, the end result of which is our latest book, Dishonored and ForgottenOur digging eventually led to a treasure trove of information on the case which was housed at Stanford University in California. The lead federal investigator on the Houston case had archived and retained records related to his work, including the Houston scandal. The file contained personal letters from officers involved in the case, documents generated by federal government employees, and even a crime scene photo of Detective Martin Billnitzer, lying dead on the floor of the Houston police station. When that investigator, George White, died, his widow had donated his papers to the university.I spent days in Houston’s library system, reviewing old newspaper articles and searching the internet where I made contact with a family member of the officer who was killed. Our digging eventually led to a treasure trove of information on the case which was housed at Stanford University in California. The lead federal investigator on the Houston case had archived and retained records related to his work, including the Houston scandal. The file contained personal letters from officers involved in the case, documents generated by federal government employees, and even a crime scene photo of Detective Martin Billnitzer, lying dead on the floor of the Houston police station. When that investigator, George White, died, his widow had donated his papers to the university.I interviewed the daughter-in-law of the then police chief, relatives of officers who were involved or were working at the Houston Police Department at the time, and others. As a result of these blog stories, we were eventually contacted by a great-niece of the drug dealer and pimp who played a major role in the downfall of a police chief, sending a police officer and a doctor to prison, and pulling the curtain back on real problems within the police department.