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James Wagner

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James Wagner retired from the New York Police Department in 1990 with the rank of Sergeant. He worked as a private detective for ten years. He lives on Staten Island, New York, with his wife and family.  He has published two books,  “My Life in the NYPD: Jimmy the Wags” and “Jimmy the Wags: Street Stories of a Private Eye.”  Of Wagner’s first book,  Linda Ligunvic, of New York City, Wrote, “James Wagner, nicknamed "Jimmy the Wags" is a retired New York City street cop who, with the help of writer Patrick Picciarelli, also a retired cop, describes his police experiences in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 60s, 70s and 80s. It's an authentic voice that rings with the cadence of the city and the job he worked day after day, dealing with the dregs of society and everyday crime, as well as some of the major social issues of the time


His second book was reviewed by James Madison, who said, “A tough former New York City cop turned private eye now turns himself into an author in this gritty (but often humorous) account of the armed and dangerous life. James Wagner ("Wags" to just about everybody, it appears) spent 22 years at the NYPD, but apparently felt like he hadn't had enough adventure in his life. After putting out word that "Wags is for hire," he gets his first job shepherding some jet-setting Arab princes around New York for a few days, and finds himself hooked as the money and perks start to roll in. The rest of the book details Wags's rise and fall as a big-time "security consultant," from voyaging to Denmark to return a kidnapped child to his father to his entanglement with the Mob at a fancy strip club. Not all of Wags's adventures are a matter of life or death: in one memorable passage, he plays bodyguard-valet to an eccentric woman ("heir to a computer software fortune") who travels everywhere with her pet parrot perched on her shoulder and has a penchant for disengaging her prosthetic hand at inopportune moments during meals.”

According to one reader of My Life in the NYPD: Jimmy the Wags, “I picked this book up in of all places an Eckards drugstore and expected something that would keep my interest yet not be very memorable. Instead what i got was one of the finest books I have ever read period. The reason this book works so well is because Wags has no ego. No stories are present in a way to make him a hero and honesty rings throughout the entire book. The other reviewers have already mentioned the layout of the book so I will only say that this book contains stories you will never forget. I work in NYC and it is extremely interesting to read about the City in to 70s and 80s when it was cesspool.  It really makes one appreciate Guliani and the miracle he performed. If I had to draw a parallel to this book, I would compare it to the best of Wambaugh. Wags write about so many fascinating characters that each chapter is like a mini book unto itself. Very importantly, Wags finishes each story with an update on the individual and or event, so you are not left wondering what happened. All in all, the finest police writing I have ever read.”

Publisher’s Weekly said of Jimmy the Wags: Street Adventures of a Private Eye, “Written with Picciarelli (like Wagner, a former cop), these streetwise recollections have the sound of tales told from a barstool impossible to confirm (names are changed) and perhaps massaged a bit. Retired after 22 years as a New York City cop but still craving action, Wagner became a PI and found himself in some sticky situations. There were the cash-toting Saudi princes who required Wags and other bodyguards to take them eating and shopping and then asked Wags to procure hookers and cocaine (he sat out the latter task). He flew to Denmark and to Turkey to snatch kids in child-custody disputes both missions required as much fistic persuasion as derring-do. He trailed some elusive philanderers, guarded a crazed, drunken heiress and stymied an extortion attempt by wannabe wiseguys by doing his Joe Pesce imitation. Wags wound up as head of security for a high-price, mobbed-up topless bar. After he left, owing his boss a favor, he helped collect some extortion debts and found himself arrested after his co-collectors decided to rob patrons of a massage parlor. He got probation and gave up his license but still works in security. Though Wags regrets he joined the collectors, he seems proud of some other dubious activities. While these reminiscences contain a few too many hard-boiled cliché’s, they're engaging enough if you have a beer in your fist.”

My Life in the NYPD: Jimmy the Wags
James Wagner  More Info

Jimmy the Wags: Street Stories of a Private Eye
James Wagner  More Info

Another reader of My Life in the NYPD: Jimmy the Wags, “This second book by the 'Wags' is a thrilling ride through the streets of lower Manhatten with the siren going full blast. Written in a no-nonsense style, here is a book about New York that you can really get your teeth into. If you know NYC, then you know that there is little, if any, exaggeration. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction, and every one of the weird situations and perverted personalities has the ring of truth. What a great adventure it was for me, who was a teenager on the streets of New York, to read what was really going on behind the scenes, the stories you never got to read. This isn't just a book about brutality in the streets. Wagner is a cop with a heart, and had a passion for his job. Although the tone is often nostalgic, it is never overly sentimental or mawkish. Here is a beautiful kaleidoscope of the city in all its rawness. Read it and see!”

About the New York City Police Department 
There was a complete revolution in the system of public protection at this time. This was brought about by an order of his excellency, the governor, abolishing the city militia from duty as Night guards, (a Military Watch) provided the officers or Magistrates appointed a bellman and other Civil Watch, to g round the city in the night time to prevent irregularities, etc. Therefore, it was ordered by the board that four sober, honest men be appointed to keep watch in the City every night until the twenty-fifth of March, following, and that they hourly go through the several Wards of the City during the said time, in order to prevent irregularities, fire, etc. It was further resolved that the persons so appointed Bellmen and Watchmen should give security in the sum of £500 that they would well and truly execute the said offices according to such directions.

On October 17, 1698, the Mayor was again admonished to appoint four "good and honest householders," to watch from 9 P. M. to sunrise, until March 25 following. The four worthies were paid £60 a year each. They were supposed to make a round every hour, and to "proclaim the season of the weather and the hour of the night." If they met any disturbers of the peace, or persons lurking about other people's houses, they were to secure such persons until next morning, "that they may be examined by the Mayor or some of the Magistrates, and dealt with as the law directs." The Constables were at the same time ordered to give all the aid they could to the Watchmen. The Mayor, on November 2, appointed three Bellmen at a salary of $60 a year each.

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