Author speeds up in retirement

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Jerry Labriola

NAUGATUCK — Retirement hasn’t slowed done local author Jerry Labriola.

The year isn’t three months old yet and the 85-year-old Naugatuck native has already published two new books.

Labriola released “The Blue Baron Mystery” and “The Saga of Hodge,” his 19th and 20th books, respectively, earlier this year.

A third book, “Spying for Keeps,” is coming out later this year.

“I’ve never done this before where I had three books in the same year,” Labriola said. “I did a lot of writing, so I am going to take a little rest now and not write a book for a month.”

Writing is not Labriola’s first career.

Labriola worked as a doctor for 35 years before his retirement more than two decades ago. He also served as state senator.

During his time in medicine, he worked as a forensic pathologist in the U.S. Navy, chief of staff of the Waterbury Hospital, and as a pediatrician.

His passion for writing was sparked during his time at Waterbury Hospital when he was asked to write an article for the Hartford Courant on the high cost of medical care.

“I guess other newspapers must have liked it. I got a lot of other requests from newspapers around the state and around New England even. I began to write articles and critiques for them,” Labriola said.

As he began to write more and for a wider audience, he began to notice a change in his style.

“I noticed creeping into my writing metaphors, similes, and references to the Bible and great works of literature, which I hadn’t been doing before. I had simply been narrating things,” Labriola said. “No longer did I want to narrate; I wanted to dramatize.”

Labriola didn’t have the time to dedicate to writing full-length novels, so he started writing short stories.

“I vowed once I retired from my medical practice I would turn to writing full-length books,” Labriola said.

Labriola collaborated with famed forensic scientist Henry Lee on a book, “Famous Crimes Revisited,” which was published in 2001.

The pair wrote three other books together before Labriola turned to writing mystery novels, a passion of his. He cited Agatha Christie as one of his favorite authors.

Labriola said his writing style has changed over the years. At first, he would use outlines to structure the book before writing but found that to be restrictive. Now, he plans the beginning and end but keeps the middle of the book “sort of muddy” to allow him to develop the plot as he goes.

“My secret is that middle part where I have the flexibility to turn to different things rather than have an outline, which I think is a mistake. To have the freedom to devise, to interpret as you go along,” Labriola said.

As his 21st book is poised to come out, Labriola has no notions of slowing down.

“I think I would be lost if I didn’t write. There is an old saying that might sound hackneyed, but is one of my favorite sayings, ‘You shouldn’t retire from something, you should retire into something.’ I think, once I retired, I didn’t want to become a couch potato. With all that background prior to my retiring with writing short stories, it was natural for me to turn to what I wanted to write. That was full-length mysteries,” Labriola said.