A familiar setting for Lowell cop’s urban fantasy novels – Lowell Sun

LOWELL — Jack Cullen is a fourth-generation Lowell Police lieutenant with 25 years on the job, a veteran of both the Air Force and Army, and an attorney, but he completely lacks the ability to forge magical weapons to help fight paranormal terrorists.

And that’s where ex-cop Mike Brennan, of Llewellyn, Massachusetts, has Cullen beat.

Luckily for Cullen, he created Brennan, and in doing so added award-winning science fiction author to his life’s list of achievements.

Cullen, who lives in New Hampshire with his family, has now published two books since 2019. First was “Runes of Steel,” which made the Amazon Best Seller list for Occult Horror and won a first place award for Paranormal Fiction in the 2019 Chanticleer International Book Awards.

  • Jack Cullen’s first novel, “Runes of Steel.” SUN/John Love

  • Writer Jack Cullen works on his third book in his home office. In the foreground is his first book “Runes of Steel.” SUN/JOHN LOVE

  • The first two lines of writer Jack Cullen’s first book, “Runes of Steel.” SUN/JOHN LOVE

  • Lowell Police Lt. Jack Cullen chats with faculty of the Morey Elementary School about the police presence in the area as police were searching for an alleged murderer in the area in 2017. Sun file photo/John Love

  • Writer Jack Cullen in his offce at his New Hampshire home showing off his first book “Runes of Steel.” He has written two books and is working on his third. Cullen is also a Lowell Police lieutenant and a practicing attorney. SUN/JOHN LOVE

  • Then-Officer Jack Cullen stands at the front desk of the Lowell Police Centralville Precinct in 2007. Cullen, now a lieutenant and working attorney, has penned two urban fantasy novels. Sun file photo/Julia Malakie

  • Lowell Police Lt. Jack Cullen chats with faculty of the Morey Elementary School about the police presence in the area as police were searching for an alleged murderer in the area in 2017. Sun file photo/John Love



The second book, “Runes of Blood,” came out earlier this year as an e-book, but isn’t in print yet. Both are part of his Recollections of a Rune Knight series, which he expects to be at least five books.

Cullen describes the work as “urban fantasy.”

“It’s a cross between Brooklyn 99 and Harry Potter,” he says.

The books are set in Llewellyn — spelled like the street atop Christian Hill — and it is no accident that Llewellyn is a former mill town with a lot of bridges crossing a river.

“But when you cross the bridges the image changes, and the mills become a wizard town,” Cullen said.

In the first book, the ex-cop Brennan returns to help police after Llewellyn is hit by a terrorist attack. In the second book, a serial killer strikes. The third, which Cullen is already writing, will be a murder mystery.

A voracious reader for all of his life, Cullen wants each book in the series to touch on a different genre.

Cullen grew up reading every book he could, but especially liked science fiction, fantasy and crime novels.

He said he knew he couldn’t write a procedural crime novel, as it would be too close to what he actually does at work, where he is currently a detective lieutenant in the Family Services Unit, which handles domestic violence, child abuse and other sensitive cases.

“I go home and I don’t want TV shows,” Cullen said. “I watch other stuff. I read a ton.”

He also created a protagonist who is a lot more interested in teamwork than most.

“You watch all these shows like ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Rambo’ and they’re all these loners, so I wanted to show a character who has a strong support system,” Cullen said. “He’s married. He has family and friends, and he relies on all of them to accomplish his goal instead of just riding off into the sunset at the end of it.”

Brennan has the ability to forge magical weapons that he shares with others to help stop the magical forces arrayed against Llewellyn.

Becoming a cop in real life was an obvious choice for Cullen. His father, grandfather, great grandfather and great uncle were all Lowell cops, starting with Jerome Cullen being pinned with the first Lowell Police badge in the family in 1909.

His father, John R. Cullen, and great-uncle, Richard Cullen, both made captain before retiring.

Cullen joined the Air Force after high school, and spent four years in a fire, crash, rescue unit, serving in Germany during Operation Desert Storm. He joined Lowell Police in 1996, four years after his father retired.

Five years later, he and retired Sgt. Norm Levasseur became the first two Lowell Police officers to go to work at Ground Zero, going to New York to help out the Port Authority about a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The experience landed Cullen in a recruiter’s office once again.

This time he joined the Army, and requested a unit that was being deployed.

The Army tapped Cullen to be military police and sent him to Pakistan and Uzbekisten. Though he only signed up for a year, he ended up staying 18 months since his initial contract ran out before his unit returned. He opted to stay until his unit came home.

Back in Lowell, Cullen earned a promotion to sergeant in 2011, the same year he finished law school and passed the bar exam.

Cullen doesn’t do criminal defense, but he does work with veterans on complex issues like disability, though he’s stepped away from practicing law to help make time to write.

His wife laughs and says it’s an understatement when Cullen says he can’t sit still.

“I don’t stop. I’m always moving forward. I get bored,” Cullen said. “I’m always doing some sort of hobby or some sort of project.”

“I always wanted to write a book, but never quite got around to it,” he said.

But then a few years ago Cullen got advice from a friend who had published, and committed to writing a set number of words per day.

“I picked 1,000,” he said. “I did my best to hit 1,000 per day. Sometimes I’d go over. Sometimes I’d go under. If I did 900 one day, I’d try to do 1,100 the next day.”

The process wasn’t over quite yet, but Cullen had learned.

“You’ve gotta get it out there or no one’s ever gonna know about it,” Cullen said. “Then you do revision after revision. You polish it until it’s ready, then your editor tears it apart and you do it again and eventually you get a final product.”

Getting to a final product took Cullen about two years the first time, but only about eight months the second time.

“It’s one of those things where there are certain things you can’t learn until you do it,” Cullen said. “But once you have that first book out, that second book just comes out a lot quicker. You already know what not to do.”

His biggest piece of advice to others who want to start writing, is simply to do exactly that.

“Just write,” he said. “There are people walking around out there with best selling books in their heads and no one will ever read them because they didn’t put pen to paper.”

For more information on Cullen and his books, visit: