If you follow my blog, then you probably know I was a Secret Service agent. If you’ve read any of my books, then you probably know I haven’t really written anything related to the Secret Service. This is completely intentional, as I’ve always been uncomfortable with mixing business with pleasure – or, at least, THAT business with book business.
However, a few years ago I was having lunch with fellow author Tom Sweterlitch (The Gone World, Tomorrow and Tomorrow) at a five-star restaurant in New York City (it was actually bad Chinese food in the basement of Grand Central Station) when my usually mild-mannered friend chastised me for not incorporating more of my background into my works of fiction. Although I was reluctant, I did take his advice to heart and now we are a few months away from the release of Record Scratch. Of course I was cautious as to what to include in the novel, but it turns out it wasn’t difficult to use my training and knowledge and not disclose anything sensitive.
While the protagonist of Record Scratch isn’t a Secret Service agent, he does become entangled in one of the agency’s investigations. Better yet, it’s the kind of investigation I enjoyed working the most – counterfeit currency.
Most people associate the United States Secret Service (USSS) with protecting the President, Vice-President and their families. However, the original mission of the USSS was to combat counterfeit currency which was a major threat to the economy at the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865. In fact, the USSS did not fully take on presidential protection responsibilities until 1901. Even today, the agency is the United State’s primary enforcement entity in regards to counterfeit currency and coordinates such investigations both domestically and overseas. The quality of counterfeit “notes” (paper money is technically referred to as Federal Reserve Notes) varies greatly. Some notes reproduced on home computers are quite bad while counterfeit notes created with offset printers (a rarity) can be good. The currency “paper” is unique, as it isn’t really paper, but is actually a cotton/linen mix – sort of like blue jeans. And of course there are security features built into U.S. currency and those features are updated every few years.
If you want to be a complete currency dork (like me), you can learn about the various security features here: https://www.uscurrency.gov/denominations
These days, most high-quality counterfeit notes come from Peru. It used to be Colombia, but the Colombian government got on board with cracking down on the manufacturers. Unfortunately, this resulted in the illicit operations picking up and moving next door. Vice News did an entire special on the counterfeit underworld in Lima and it’s fascinating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4RoZrtBijRY
There are a variety of methods in which counterfeiters work the system. To get around the problem of obtaining actual currency paper, they will sometimes bleach $1 bills and reprint higher denominations on the paper. They will use creative means in an effort to replicate the effects of color-shifting ink. They will… well, watch the Vice News video. It’s impressive and labor intensive. Depending on the quality of the product and the marketplace, counterfeit currency will fetch a price of about twenty cents on the dollar. So, a manufacturer selling $1000 in counterfeit notes may sell that product for $200 in genuine currency. The purchaser of the counterfeit notes may then go out on the street and pass the currency at various unsuspecting retailers by making small purchases and then they get genuine currency in return as change. I’m oversimplifying the process to some extent, but that’s essentially how it works on a small scale.
So get ready for Record Scratch! It involves music and money. (scratch… money… get it?) It’s set for Release in October, but can be preordered directly from the publisher now and the deal on it is amazing.
In conclusion, I leave you with an extremely young Willem Dafoe manufacturing counterfeit currency while wearing a kimono… or something.
J.J. Hensley is the author of RESOLVE, a Thriller Award finalist which is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, Measure Twice, Chalk’s Outline, Bolt Action Remedy, Record Scratch, and other works. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
“There are two types of men you must fear in this world: Men who have everything to lose—and men like me.”
It’s a case Trevor Galloway doesn’t want. It’s certainly a case he doesn’t need. The client—the sister of a murdered musician—seems a bit off. She expects Galloway to not only solve her brother’s homicide, but recover a vinyl record she believes could ruin his reputation. Galloway knows he should walk away. He should simply reach over the desk, give back the envelope of cash that he admittedly needs, and walk away. However, when the client closes the meeting by putting a gun under her chin and pulling the trigger, his sense of obligation drags him down a path he may not be ready to travel.
A story divided into twelve songs from Jimmy Spartan’s final album.
Praise for RECORD SCRATCH:
“Record Scratch shocks you out of your ordinary groove. Sometimes witty, other times haunting, but when the needle jumps the track, the body count screams.” —Marc E. Fitch, author of Paradise Burns and Dirty Water
“In Record Scratch, Hensley, a former secret service agent, gifts us with a bounty of goods: a solid mystery, a damaged but relatable main character—one you root for, and swift plotting that weaves a compelling, compulsive tale of music and death and the demons carried by those in law enforcement. Bring me more Trevor!” —Shannon Kirk, international bestselling author of Method 15/33
“J.J. Hensley’s Record Scratch is a tersely written and tightly plotted gem, featuring one of the most unique protagonists around, Trevor Galloway, a man who has a way of getting himself into and out of trouble at an alarming rate. The book is action-packed with a dash of mordant wit, and I can’t wait to read more in this intense, engaging series.” —David Bell, USA Today bestselling author of Somebody’s Daughter
“J.J. Hensley’s tale of a stoic PI investigating the murder of a has-been rock star is equal parts classic whodunnit and gritty noir, peppered with high-octane action scenes that will leave you breathless. Record Scratch is like a throat punch: powerful, shocking, and unapologetic, but the surprising poignant ending will stay with you a long after you’ve finished the book. This is a thriller that crackles from the first page to the last.” —Jennifer Hillier, author of Jar of Hearts
BOLT ACTION REMEDY
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.
Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.
In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.
Cyprus Keller wants a future.
Jackson Channing has a past.
Robert Chalk has a rifle and a mission. Kill Cyprus Keller and anyone who gets in his way.
An addict is killing Pittsburgh city officials, but Homicide Detective Jackson Channing has his own addiction.
In the Pittsburgh Marathon, more than 18,000 people will participate. 4,500 people will attempt to cover the full 26.2 miles. Over 200 of the participants will quit, realizing it just wasn’t their day. More than 100 will get injured and require medical treatment. One man is going to be murdered. When Dr. Cyprus Keller lines up to start the race, he knows a man is going to die for one simple reason. He’s going to kill him.
And look for my short story FOUR DAYS FOREVER in the LEGACY anthology