RARA-AVIS: San Francisco Bay Area Cop/Writers

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 29 Oct 2001

The Bay Area is not quite as rich a source for cops who write cop fiction as LA, but there've been a few.

JERRY KENNEALLY Jerry, a Bay Area PI, is (not surprisingly) best-known as a PI novelist, particularly for his books about Nick Polo. But like so most fictional PIs (and quite a few real-life ones for that matter), Jerry started out as a cop. Specifically as a member of the San Francisco PD. While not abandoning Polo, he's been putting that official law enforcement experience to use in two recent novels featuring Inspector Jack Kordic of SFPD Homicide, THE CONDUCTOR and THE HUNTED, both of which have a number of "international thriller" elements added to the usual police procedural ingredients. To the best of my knowledge, Jerry's the only SFPD veteran to write novels about the SFPD.

JOSEPH D. McNAMARA Possibly the highest-ranking cop to write cop novels, McNamara started out as a uniformed police officer in the NYPD. Rising to the rank of deputy inspector (one grade above captain in NYPD's hierarchy) while still in his 30s, he left the Apple to accept a job as head of the force in Kansas City, MO, becoming the youngest major city police chief in the country. From there he went took over the police department in San Jose, CA, at the southern tip of the Bay Area. He's written four very good cop novels. The first three, THE FIRST DIRECTIVE, FATAL COMMAND, and THE BLUE MIRAGE, feature Finnbar Fraleigh. In the first book Fraleigh's a detective sergeant in the police force of an unnamed big city in the south Bay Area, located somewhere between Silicon Valley and Santa Cruz (which is to say, the police force of San Jose). In the second, he transfers to the newly-formed police force of Silicon City, which is a fictional city in a real place. McNamara imagines what might happen if every city in Santa Clara County, north of the San Mateo County line and south of San Jose, plus all the unincorporated area in between, merged into one municipality. In FATAL COMMAND, Fraleigh's the Chief of Detectives. In the BLUE MIRAGE, he's the acting police chief. Talk about meteoric rises! His fourth book, CODE 211 BLUE, is a stand-alone set in The City, and featuring an SFPD inspector in the lead.

DAVID SCANNELL Another former San Jose cop (though a grunt rather than a boss), Scannell's only novel, THE HOOD, is about the search, by a San Jose (the city is specifically named; not hinted at) police sergeant, for a serial rapist.

ROBIN BURCELL is an officer in the police force of Lodi, CA. Strictly speaking, since Lodi is located in San Joaquin County, which is not one of the nine Bay Area counties, Robin's not a Bay Area cop, and her first book, WHEN MIDNIGHT COMES (a combination romance/police procedural/time travel adventure), is set in modern-day Miami and Regency-era England. Her second, however, the award-winning EVERY MOVE SHE MAKES, is set in The City, and features SFPD's first female homicide inspector as the main character. Right after the book was accepted by the publisher, Robin proved prescient when SFPD, for the first time, assigned a woman inspector to its homicide detail.

STAN WASHBURN is one of the most highly-respected artists in the country. In addition to his "day" job of producing paintings and lithographs, he spent some ten years as a reserve officer in the Berkeley PD. He's written two novels, INTENT TO HARM (based loosely on the famous "Stinky" serial rape case) and INTO THIN AIR, and one short story, "Beat Routine" (which appeared in a Scott Turow-edited anthology of legal mysteries the title of which escapes me just now), featuring Officer Toby Parkman of the police department of a Bay Area college town Stan chooses to call "Bancroft," but which any Bay Area resident will recognize as Berkeley.

ME For the sake of completeness, I'll mention that I also started my law enforcement career in Berkeley, first as a civilian employee of the campus police, then as an officer in the city police, and that two of my published short stories (and all too many of my unpublished ones) have been set there.


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