A SLICE OF VICE
Daytona Beach News-Journal
Copyright: 2006, The News-Journal Corp.
Date: Sunday, March 30, 2008
Edition: The Daily Journal
Story Byline: AUDREY PARENTE - STAFF WRITER
Story Headline: Slice of Vice
Misfits crash onto pages of ex-cop’s recent novel.
NEW SMYRNA BEACH — Two policemen sipped coffee at a traffic light when a nude male body crashed through the windshield onto the dashboard.
“Boy, I bet that had to hurt,” one policeman commented to another as the glass-imbedded torso crawled toward the hood.
The incident wasn’t a bad joke but a true story from the Miami Police Department, when Michael “Mike” Berish of New Smyrna Beach was a beat cop. Berish used the incident in a short story in his new book “Reflections From the Pit.” The author shared the tale recently with ex-policemen, detectives and murder-mystery authors at Sleuthfest, a convention for Mystery Writers of America at Deerfield Beach.
On April 26, Berish will be among 14 Volusia County authors signing books at New Smyrna Beach Regional Library.
“My work contains all these quirky characters and misfits,” Berish said in an interview at his oceanfront New Smyrna Beach home. The retired Miami vice detective’s book is a fiction short-story collection based on fact, but he is no ordinary vice cop.
During the Reagan era, Berish helped shut down pornography stores plaguing Miami, like “the strip off Biscayne Boulevard that had problems with hookers, hotels and porno theaters,” he said.
Berish testified at Attorney General Edwin Meese’s pornography hearings, and earned a chapter in Nobile and Nadler’s book: “United States of America vs. Sex.”
He worked 1,000 cases and had “an unparalleled success record,” said retired FBI agent Bill Kelly of Miami. “There were 23 adult porno stores in operation, and Mike was successful in getting 20 of them closed,” Kelly said. A few years ago, Kelly showed Berish’s work to a close friend — the late E. Howard Hunt, CIA agent under President Nixon who was caught in the Watergate scandal. Hunt later authored more than 40 books. “I used to see Hunt twice a week and gave him one of Mike’s short stories and he reviewed it,” Kelly said. He told Berish the review’s content but kept the reviewer secret until Hunt died in January 2007. Hunt said: “That fellow has a real talent for writing a story. That’s excellent work.”
Another claim-to-fame for Berish is the Don Johnson character “Sonny Crockett” in the 1980's Miami Vice TV series. Producers came to Berish six months before filming. “They interviewed real vice cops and wrote down different things. At that time, I had stubble growth on my face,” Berish said. He wore a rumpled sport coat and T-shirt and “told them a patrolman has to look neat because of regulations, but you can’t send a guy like that into the pit.” He explained “the pit” was a nickname for the area teeming with vice, pornography and problems — the reason he chose it for his book title.
Berish never shied from controversy and the book delves into a subject he said plagued the Miami Police Department — promotion by affirmative action.
Dave Collis of Ponce Inlet, a retired Miami Beach police lieutenant, knew about the problem. “The last chapter I found very interesting because he hits on affirmative action,” Collis said. “I should have left as a captain, but due to affirmative action — the first minority on the list is promoted even if they are 77th — so I left as a lieutenant.” Collis said he recognized some of Berish’s characters.
“A lot of it is true but he changed the names because these people did exist,” Collis said, such as “a gambler on homicide, who got in trouble for it eventually but is dead now.”
Another was “the guy he found sitting in the chair dead.” Berish said he “fooled with the circumstances” but in truth, the dead man was found sunning in a backyard lawn chair after being dead for three days.