NAUGATUCK — Dr. Jerry Labriola hasn’t stopped writing prescriptions since he retired 14 years ago. Only now, he prescribes thrillers.
The Naugatuck native has written 11 books in those 14 years, with his latest mystery novel, “Scent of Danger,” set to hit bookstores in June.
Labriola’s venture into writing wasn’t one the former borough pediatrician undertook on a whim. Rather, Labriola’s writing prowess is the result of a natural progression that ran its course throughout his life.
“It’s sort of an evolution,” Labriola said how he got into writing. “I didn’t just say I’m going to write a book.”
“Scent of Danger” follows American international treasure hunter Paul D’Arneau as he investigates the theft of a secret, ages-old perfume formula.
D’Arneau’s investigation takes him to Europe and the Middle East as he begins to unravel the mystery behind the stolen formula and its connection to bioterrorism.
“Scent of Danger” blends together forensic science, mystery and history—interests of Labriola that were cultivated at a young age.
As a young man, Labriola explained he read a lot of mysteries, some of which involved forensic science, and history books, including the complete works of Winston Churchill.
“This developed my interest in books and I said, ‘I was going to write someday,’” Labriola said.
Someday came in no time, Labriola said, as he soon began to write short stories.
“I just felt that I could create,” he said. “I tried it in short stories and I liked it.”
Many of the short stories Labriola wrote involved forensic science, a field he was first exposed to during his time in the U.S. Navy.
While he was in the service, Labriola explained, he was stationed at a civilian base and befriended the local coroner and medical examiner. Labriola spent his spare time working with his new friend and became engrossed in forensic pathology.
Years later that passion coupled with his writing talents manifested itself when another friend made Labriola a proposal.
That friend was the renowned forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee and the offer was to coauthor books about famous criminal cases. Together, Lee and Labriola wrote four non-fiction books about forensic science in high-profile criminal cases including the O.J. Simpson and JonBenet Ramsey cases.
The leap from writing short stories in his free time to publishing novels and non-fiction books with a famous scientist was a jump that would take years of refining his style for Labriola to make.
That maturation process started in the pages of newspapers.
As chief of staff at Waterbury Hospital in the 1970s, Labriola said he was asked by a major newspaper to write an article on the high cost of medicine. Before he knew it other newspapers, including the New York Times, were asking him to contribute.
As the years past, Labriola continued as a contributor to newspapers only the topic had changed from medicine to politics—an arena Labriola is very familiar with having served one term in the state Senate and making runs at a few of the state’s high ranking political seats including governor.
In his political writings, Labriola said, he found his style had matured to the point where he was weaving metaphors and similes effortlessly into his writing and began using symbolism. Labriola then took refining his writing style a step further by studying with writers and taking courses and seminars on writing.
“I didn’t just accidentally write a book. I prepared for it and it was an utter failure the first time,” Labriola said.
Labriola’s first two books never made their way to bookstore.
“The first two weren’t published because they were so bad,” he said. “I consider them my practice.”
Labriola didn’t give up however, and cannibalized parts of his first two failed books in subsequent novels.
“The tip is, don’t throw anything away you write, just save it because you never know,” Labriola offered as advice to prospective writers.
“Scent of Danger” will be released on June 1.
The release marks another step in Labriola’s literary evolution, which, as far as he’s concerned, will continue for years to come.
“I hope to keep writing as long as I make sense and as long as people find them entertaining,” Labriola said.