For some, retirement offers a chance to kick back and enjoy life after working for the best part of their adult lives. For others, it provides an opportunity to forge a completely different career.
At 65, that is exactly what Ernie Lijoi Sr, aka, Eddie Pannoni did.
Ernie Lijoi Sr. spent his life fighting off criminals as a deep cover Detective and operative who, during his career as a detective, worked with many federal, local and State Police agencies.
But when retirement rolled along and with time on his hands, Ernie Lijoi Sr. decided to put his life experiences on paper and after the success of his first book “Street Business”, he went on to publish five other novels. Now he has a film, The Preyers in the works, with filming slated for 2013.
Here we catch up with Ernie Lijoi Sr. and hear his extraordinary story…
Celebzter: Please tell our readers a little about who you are
E. Lijoi Sr.:I am Italian born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. I am an Air Force Veteran and graduate of Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. I began writing at age 65, after retirement. Now at 69, I have Six books published. I have several other books committed for publication, but I am holding them for movie projects. The names are The Preyers and Delicious Poisons.
Celebzter: Was becoming a detective something you always wanted to do, or something that you fell into?
E. Lijoi Sr.: I grew up in Brooklyn, NY and never thought of becoming a Police Officer. The reason that I became a Police officer was interesting. I was driving home one day from a sales job, and I realized that without further education I could not get very far or take care of my Family, the way I wanted.
I started looking around and found that being a Police Officer was one of my options since they accepted GED diplomas in those days, from service men. There were many benefits for a young man who was not highly educated. I took the mental, physical and written tests, passed them all. After I became a police officer, I went to school under the GI bill and later graduated from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.
Celebzter: Being undercover is dangerous, were there times when you thought you were going to be busted?
E. Lijoi Sr.: There is no thrill to having to arrest your fellow man. There is satisfaction, in that you are stopping some kids or young adults from getting their hands on the poisons of the street.
As far as being arrested; I never worried about that. My worries were more along the line of being shot, stabbed or killed.
If you’re asking about being identified on the street, as a police officer, by the bad guys.
Yes, that was always in that back of my mind, but you can’t worry about it, you must have confidence in yourself and what you are doing. Your concentration must be on the job and the parameters of that particular job.
Question: Delving into the mindset of criminals is a job in itself, correct? How do you go about trying to figure them out?
E. Lijoi Sr.: Very good question; I see myself as an old wagon wheel. Each person is the hub of that wheel. From each person spans the spokes in the wheel which represent the dangers and probabilities and there are always many to each and every person. Then the outside of the wheel is the goal or finished case. Each person, each meeting, each deal has to be looked at like this wheel and everything must be taken into consideration. This wheel is your life when you are working DEEP COVER. To explain: You have Police Officers then you have Detectives who work undercover for short periods of time and specific cases, everyone knows who they are. Then you have the deep cover detective, this is the man who no one knows about, he could be standing right next to you and you would never know it. When I worked deep cover for all those years’ only four people in the world knew my real identity (besides my wife).
Q: During your extensive undercover work did you actually like any of the people who you had to turn in and arrest?
E. Lijoi Sr.: Yes, I like several of them. A person can be in a bad business and still be a good person. I am friends today with a few of the people that I write about in some of my books. I have received letters from men and women that I sent to prison, thanking me for getting them out and away from drugs.
Celebzter: You’ve published six books and now have films in the works, is writing something you always envisioned doing?
E. Lijoi Sr.: No, In 1980 Sonny Grasso and Eddie Eagan, known for THE FRENCH CONNECTION movie and book, came to see me. They wanted to write a book about me. I was forced to decline the offer because of the work that I was doing at the time. At 65 I accidentally found all of my work information and remembered what Sonny had said to me. I decided to try and write one book for something to do, to take up my time and keep my mind busy. Now, four years later, I have ten books and a movie project. It all simply happened, kind of on its own. One thing led to another.
Celebzter: What advice would you give to people who also believed they have a story to tell?
E. Lijoi Sr.: Sit down and write. A few minutes a day until the story takes on its own life. They seem to have a tendency to do that, at least with me they do.
Celebzter: With your first film slated for filming in 2013, you must feel thrilled, but also fortunate to be able to tell your tales?
E. Lijoi Sr.: All I can say is, I am having fun. If it all works out, that would be great for many people. This movie will employ several hundred people in the New York and New Jersey area. I feel that in view of the recent tragedies in those areas, this movie could be beneficial to many people. The fact that we can help, will be the greatest return of investment that we can get. In this world we must help each other, we are not alone here.
Celebzter: What makes you happy? And who inspires you?
E. Lijoi Sr.: My Dad was a navigator in the Second World War and crashed in a B-29. He pulled out the pilot and co-pilot before he fell to the ground with a broken back. I admire him for this and many other reasons. I also admire Ernest Hemmingway, in my opinion; He was a bit crazy, a bit wild and he had my name “Ernest”. He like fishing and so do i. I feel a connection to that writer. Maybe I’m just as crazy, who knows.
Celebzter: And lastly, words of advice for undercover detectives out there?
E. Lijoi Sr.: I don’t know how much advice I can give a young officer since I have been retired for many years. If I may I would like to take this opportunity to say that no one man does this type of work alone. The DEEP COVER DETECTIVE is out there, by himself, but he has back up teams available and every police officer that you see or do not see is out their helping him in many ways, even though many of them, do not even know it. I was arrested many times by police officers that did not know who I was until much later. I was always treated in a calm and respectful manner.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the police officers, both men and women for their efforts in making, their Cities, Towns and areas a safe place for all of the public.
For those who would like to see Ernie’s work, his books and movie, can be found at here: