Summer Reading From a Gay, Black Milwaukee Cop
It’s high summer. And what better way to while away the hours on Bradford Beach than to lose oneself in a sexy romance novel? I’d suggest Cuffed by Milwaukee author Jermel Wilder. It’s about “A lawful cop, a lawless lover,” as the trailer goes.
The title Cuffed is more than a double entendre. Beyond the obvious reference to restraints, “cuffed” is urban slang for being intimately and inescapably involved. One might ponder an even broader interpretation—as in that inexplicable and unavoidable emotional and physical chemistry that turns the impossible mix of oil and water into one as seemingly natural as Hennessy and ice. Here the unlikely elective affinities are a gay, black Milwaukee cop, Kwame King, and a drug dealer, Braz Galarza. Following the writer’s mantra, “Write what you know,” the 30-year-old author does precisely that. Wilder is a gay, black Milwaukee cop.
There’s a formula for the genre. But Wilder manages to finesse the classic man-meets-man romance, melding imagination with his true blue life experiences. In this case, it was his guarding of a prisoner in a hospital. “He told me his life story. It dawned on me everyone has a story. People pretty much see a criminal as a criminal and a cop as a cop. I took our conversation and turned it into a love story to show we are all people. We all have a past and present. It explores the minds of the people involved.” The result is an action- and sex-packed page turner. But, beyond that, the psychological and social dynamics provide insights into conflicted heroes, conflicted villains, urban lives, motherhood and male-on-male love. Set in Milwaukee, locations and seasons are recognizable. The action takes place mainly on urban streets but spills into the Latin barrio and white suburbs. For some readers, the situations may be all too familiar. For others they’ll be enlightening.
A Rufus King High School graduate, Wilder began writing in second grade. He wrote stories in his notebook that included classmates so they would read them. “Writing provides an escape from reality but also creates a reality and brings things to life,” Wilder says. He published his first novel, Season Sistahs in 2013. Cuffed appeared last March. Both are self-published. An avid reader, Wilder confesses he hasn’t read many romance novels. “It’s funny, when it comes to writing overall, I never wrote a love story. People love love and I wanted to make Cuffed a love story. Everyone is turned on by something forbidden. That’s what it is. I wanted to go beyond the typical. The characters know who they are and have to cross moral lines by dealing with each other. When it comes to love, there are uncertainties,” Wilder explains.
By contrast, his career in law enforcement didn’t begin as passionately. After graduating high school Wilder became a police aide and that guaranteed him a spot in the police academy. “I am a bit of a super hero geek so it fit me well,” Wilder admits.
Cuffed is available through jrwilder.com and at Outwords Books. An author’s reading may be in the offing there as well.