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ROMANCE WRITER BLOWS 'COVER' AS MOTORCYCLE COP.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

You figure after 20 years you know a guy pretty well, John Carr says. Then one day he hands you a draft of a romance novel written by someone named Jennifer D. Ashley.

You're both retired cops working motorcycle security on movie, TV and commercial locations now, and you've been around the block a few times, so you figure it's some kind of gag.

You want Joe Wambaugh or Elmore Leonard, something with a little blood and guts, to go with your laughs. You don't want to read about the fantasies of some Southern belle named Jennifer D. Ashley.

``Bob, women's love stories are not exactly my cup of tea,'' Carr said to his buddy.

``Yeah, I know, but read it,'' Bob Wheeler said. ``You may like it.''

It's slow on the set, so you start reading ``Love Forever Lost,'' and in a couple of days you finish it.

``Well?'' Bob asked.

``I'm still not a big fan of romance novels, but I thought the writing and story were very good.''

``I wrote it,'' Bob said.

``Yeah, right,'' John said. ``And I wrote `Gone With the Wind.' ''

``No, I'm serious, I wrote it. I'm Jennifer D. Ashley.''

And that's how Bob Wheeler came out of the closet and broke the mold. Who says retired cops have to follow in Joe Wambaugh's footsteps and write cops-and-robbers stories?

Not sexy, steamy Jennifer D. Ashley, aka Bob Wheeler, a former LAPD motor officer from the Van Nuys Division, who could give Danielle Steele a run for her money.

Wheeler pens his love stories during breaks on the locations of commercials being shot around the city - sitting on the curb next to his Harley-Davidson motorcycle, writing passionate love stories in longhand with a fountain pen on a note pad.

``I know I'm there for security, but I thought I could put my brain to use, too,'' Bob was saying Monday. ``I figured there were already enough police stories out there, so why not try a women's love story?''

He began writing under a woman's name because he figured the romance novel audience wasn't ready for a retired cop riding a Harley to give them their next tearjerker.

Besides, he didn't want his wife, Denise, to know, just in case he failed. So, he took his daughter's first name, the initial of his wife's first name, and his first granddaughter's first name, and he became the romance novelist Jennifer D. Ashley.

``I wanted to surprise Denise, show her that there was a lot more to me than a Harley and a pistol hanging from my side,'' Bob said. ``I wanted to make her proud of me.''

He succeeded, said Denise, who runs a company that deals with city and county governments to get the needed permits for filmmakers to shoot commercials or movies on public streets.

``I was surprised more than shocked because, after 35 years of marriage, I knew Bob was always a romantic at heart,'' Denise said Monday.

She just didn't know how prolifically romantic he was on paper. She found that out by chance last year.

Checking on a permit, Denise called the location manager of a site where Bob and John were providing security. She asked in passing how her husband was doing.

``He said that everything was fine, that Bob was writing his book,'' she recalled. Her question to the location manager: ``What book?''

Jennifer D. Ashley's cover was blown.

``She called and pinned me into a corner,'' Bob said. ``I had to tell her about everything.''

He told Denise how he hid his first, steamy romance novel, ``Letters of Regret,'' which never found a publisher, in the garage.

How he was rejected, at last count, by 105 literary agents before he decided to take a self-publishing class at Pierce College.

How he became Jennifer D. Ashley.

Denise told him to get rid of Jennifer and use his real name. If a book is good - and Denise thinks his latest is very good - women will buy it, even if it was written by an ex-cop riding a Harley.

So that's what Bob did. ``Love Forever Lost'' by Robert Wheeler is available through Writers Club Press on www.iuniverse.com.

His buddy John Carr, who spent 28 years as a motor officer in the Foothill Division before retiring four years ago, was over at Bob's Topanga Canyon home Monday.

He wanted to read a few chapters of a new romance novel Bob's been working on called ``Beyond Yesterday.''

For a guy who doesn't like women's love stories, Carr sure was smiling a lot.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1 -- 2 -- color) Robert Wheeler, a retired motorcycle officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, works on a romance novel in longhand while doing a security job at a studio film site.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 24, 2000
Words:806
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