Timothy C. Richards' book, "Crooks Kill, Cops Lie," is subtitled "The True Story of the St. Louis Mobster Wars," because he has seen behind the scenes of much of the violence.
Richards, 68, a former police officer with the St. Louis Police Department intelligence division, said his career encompassed the car bombings that decimated two warring gangs and also the epidemic of diamond heists in the St. Louis area that once were the crimes of choice of gangsters.
His family left East St. Louis when he was 5 and moved to Wood River. He served in the Marine Corps and graduated from the University of Missouri. Later he would work for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
He worked with former Belleville lawyer Amiel Cueto when Cueto was in the St. Louis Police Department.
When Richards moved to the intelligence division, he spent a lot of time in surveillance of organized crime figures, often coming back across the river to East St. Louis and the topless clubs of the metro-east.
One of his favorite expressions when talking about the people who did business with organized crime figures was, "You lay down with dogs, you get fleas."
He writes about the car bombings and how they affected the gangs. He reveals how the gangsters were taken down by an informant right in the middle of their operations.
He talks about politics within the police department and how he often had doubts about some of the work he was doing.
Some of the book's characters go by actual names, but others have pseudonyms, such as Little Star, Irish Prince and my favorite, Boob. That poor officer's name was Bob but when he got a call one day from someone with a foreign accent who called him Boob, the name stuck.
Richards said many of the characters promised that if he named them they would sue.
"A lot of them were very upset," he said.
However, others were upset they were left out.
"One guy in organized crime called and was upset he was left out of a couple of cases," Richards said. "I put him in for the second edition."
Richards retired in 2005. He has written a couple of novels and is working on another non-fiction book, he said.
Publicity for the book calls it an "intimate look at what makes men in uniform tick." Richards said being a police officer used to be different and that younger officers now are less affected by what he went through.
"It was a weird way to make a living," he said.
The book is available online at Richard's website, xznark.com, or at Amazon.com.
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