NAUGATUCK — On a visit to France several years ago with his wife, Lois, Jerry Labriola looked down on the beaches of Normandy — the site of the Allied invasion in June 1944 — and over the bunkers used by the Nazis to try and repel the Allied forces that litter the beach still. Nearby, gravestones marked the final resting place of thousands of American soldiers.
The visit stirred emotions in Labriola.
“I remember saying, ‘Lois, I’ve got to write about this,’” recalled Labriola, an 85-year-old Naugatuck resident.
Labriola, a former forensic pathologist in the U.S. Navy, pediatrician and politician who now pens mystery novels, did just that.
Labriola’s latest book, “Spying for Keeps,” was released in June through Strong Books. The historical mystery novel follows the character of Jim Hunter, an undercover agent who assists the Allied forces in their assault on Normandy and is later hired to track down criminals in the aftermath of World War II.
Writing mystery novels isn’t anything new for Labriola, whose interest in the genre was sparked by such authors as Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie and Rex Stout. “Spying for Keeps” is the 19th book Labriola has written — the first four were co-authored with renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee and focused on high profile criminal cases.
“Spying for Keeps” does mark a first in Labriola’s writing career, though. It’s the third of three books he wrote in a nine-month period.
Labriola, an early riser in the morning, said he starts writing at about 5 a.m. and typically stops at around lunchtime or a little after. Then, last September, those days become longer, and rather than writing six days a week, Labriola was writing every day as he became more wrapped up in his work.
“I just had the desire; I’m not exactly sure why except I was enjoying it more than I usually did, to write longer,” he said.
First came “The Blue Baron Mystery,” followed by “The Saga of Hodge,” and finally “Spying for Keeps.” Each took about three months to write, Labriola said. They were all published this year.
“I didn’t say, ‘OK, I’m going to write three books.’ I didn’t know how many I would write quickly, but I was determined to write more quickly because I had the energy at the time and I had the ideas in my mind,” he said.
Labriola said he never had two books going at the same time, but he had ideas for each book and would often write notes to himself. One of the problems with an idea in writing, he said, is as he gets up in years they are easier to forget.
“I had the ideas in my mind,” he said. “I knew what all three were going to be about.”
Labriola gave himself three weeks off after finishing “Spying for Keeps” before starting on his next book, “Discovery.” While he doesn’t think he will ever write three books in nine months again, writing will remain part of his life, he said, “because otherwise I become a coach potato.”