WestConn students and faculty had an exciting couple of days last week watching the Barnes & Noble book sales charts. There in the Top 100 alongside the latest bestsellers from Stephen King, James Patterson and even Kim Kardashian was "Bronx Bound," the debut novel from WCSU's own John Roche. 

"Bronx Bound" is a crime novel set in, logically enough, the Bronx. However, the book definitely has ties to Danbury. It was originally written as Roche's creative thesis for his Master of Fine Arts degree at Western Connecticut State University, where he now teaches in the Creative and Professional Writing MFA program. Roche told me that one of the reasons he went to grad school was to force himself to write the book.

"Without the 'have to' write, the book would probably have stayed something that I 'want to' write," he said.

Roche has high praise for his mentors and colleagues at WestConn.

"What drew me to teaching there is the same thing that drew me to going there for my MFA," said Roche. "It’s truly a writing community, and I think the nurturing atmosphere it offers to writers in any genre and regardless of where they’re at in their writing life or otherwise isn’t something easily found."

Roche is originally from the Bronx, and a lot of the characters in the book are based loosely on people that he knew growing up.

"The characters are in some cases composites of people I’ve known, but they’re all fictional," said Roche. "Having people ask if they’re real is a compliment, the way I see it, because that means the characters come across as believable."

The book tells the story of a young reporter who is writing a story on the murder of a guy from his neighborhood. As he uncovers more about the murder, he finds himself right in the middle of the action.

There are crooked cops, false leads and shady characters, and at one point he might even be a suspect himself. It's full of action and plenty of local color.

"Growing up in the Bronx and working there for most of my newspaper career, I love the place and the people, the unique sense of honor and loyalty and connection being from there breeds in most people," Roche told me. "I liked the idea of having a good guy/bad guy story where the lines get blurred a bit."

The story is set in the late 80's, before the age of instant information.  Today, reporting can be much more of a desk job, with plenty of information about a person available through Google.

Roche wanted to write about a time when reporters really had to get out in the streets and ask the bartenders, cab drivers and neighborhood gossips for information.

Bronx Bound is available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The reception so far has been very enthusiastic.  So is he hard at work on a sequel yet?

"I wanted to gauge the response to this book before writing a second one or a series," he said. "So far, the reviews from readers and others have been really, really positive, so it looks like I better get writing on another one."