Leonard Territo — a retired criminology professor and textbook author — really never expected to write a novel, or contemplated the idea of his book possibly being turned into a television crime series.
But now, an agent working for the former Saint Leo University and University of South Florida (USF) professor, is pitching the series in Los Angeles and Canada.
“They shotgun this stuff out, to see who’s interested,” said Territo, who lives in Land O’ Lakes.
“I would say right now that the LA project looks more promising than Canada. Since the LA people now have asked her (his representative) to write a pilot and an eight-week series, they’re probably more serious,” he said. So, she is going to develop it and submit it.
The series is based on a novel called “Ivory Tower Cop,” co-authored by Territo and George Kirkham, another widely known retired criminology professor.
If it gets developed, it will be called “Roth,” based on the book’s main character. That’s because the title “Ivory Tower Cop” was considered to be too long, Territo said.
“Ivory Tower Cop” is a suspense thriller inspired by the true story of Kirkham’s experience of leaving academia to work as a street cop.
It’s also loosely based on a serial rapist whose crimes created terror in Omaha, Nebraska, said Territo, who first learned about that case by reading a story published in a Tampa newspaper.
Territo and Kirkham, who became friends after meeting at a criminology conference, decided to join forces to write the novel.
They traveled to Nebraska to interview the investigators involved in the Omaha serial rapist case.
Territo said working with Kirkham was the perfect collaboration.
“He’s the creative writer and I’m the technician,” he said.
Territo provided the technical details of the crime scene, while Kirkham brought it to life.
“It was a perfect combination. I had skills that he didn’t; he had skills that I didn’t,” he said.
It took about 15 years from the time the idea came up for the novel, to its actual publication.
Territo said the reason it took so long to publish is because they didn’t have an agent. Ultimately, Territo reached out to someone he knew at Carolina Academic Press to work out a deal for publication, which occurred in 2009.
Obviously, considerable time has passed since then — which was long before the George Floyd incident.
To give the potential television series a more contemporary feel, Territo said, “we decided to tack on additional layers to Ivory Tower Cop, for the TV version, not for the book.”
The new material involves a retired police chief who comes from Chicago to work in Miami, and when he arrives there’s a scandal brewing involving a coverup of the death of a young black man who died as a result of excessive force.
While waiting to see what happens with the TV crime series, Territo is collaborating on a nonfiction work called “Ted Bundy: The Invisible Monster.”
The book is based on murders that Bundy committed in Tallahassee.
Territo was chief deputy in the sheriff’s office there, where Bundy was arrested.
The Land O’ Lakes man said he was involved in some of the strategizing in the early stages of the investigation.
Before he became a professor, Territo worked for the Tampa Police Department (TPD), holding various roles, include the investigation of rape and robbery cases.
That front line experience provides greater insight regarding the impact of crime, than is attainable from reviewing cases involving criminal behavior, Territo said.
“When you work with these victims — the survivors of felonious assaults or rape cases — it is very, very different than looking at that as simply a cold statistic on a paper, or reading a report.
“(With a report) You don’t see the emotion in their face. You don’t hear the trembling in their voice. You don’t see the injury. It’s a whole different dimension,” he said.
His shift from law enforcement to academia was financially motivated, he said.
He found out he could double his salary by leaving his job at TPD to go to work for St. Petersburg Junior College, and he didn’t hesitate.
While working at the junior college, he became an adjunct at USF, and then joined the USF faculty. After retiring from USF, he was bored and was encouraged by friends at Saint Leo University to join the faculty there.
“About six or seven years ago, I was working at Saint Leo, and I was doing a lot of stuff on sex trafficking and had written a number of books on sex trafficking, and was teaching a course on sex trafficking,” he said.
The university was contacted by someone at The Hilton Foundation that was seeking a Catholic University that had faculty members who had academic expertise in human trafficking because they wanted to develop classes for nuns in five African countries who were dealing with people who had been trafficked.
“I collaborated with the Vatican in Rome,” Territo said, regarding the project. He recalled talking to an Irish woman who impressed him because of her keen awareness of the horrible things that happen to people who are trafficked.
After the initial grant, the program was expanded to 17 African countries, Territo said, but he was no longer involved at that point.
Published December 07, 2022