If you follow my blogs then you'll know about my project "Cops Writing Crime" - so far I've collected over 100 crime fiction authors who have been cops or law enforcement. See the page here Also: Cops Writing Crime
I've only read a small handful of these authors, so one of my reading goals for this year was to start getting into the works produced by my fellow former officers from around the world.
So, number one on my Cops Writing Crime TBR pile was Bruce Robert Coffin, a former cop of nearly 30 years service in the US.
Coffin's debut novel is Among the Shadows, and centres on Detective Sergeant John Byron. It sits pretty firmly in the crime thriller camp, and it has that very most important quality any novel in this sub-genre should have - I didn't want to put it down. I don't do spoilers, so you're not going to get bits of the story here. Suffice to say the plot is gripping.
Of course, my interest with my Cops Writing Crime project revolves around the sheer realism cops-turned-authors can, and do, bring to writing crime fiction, whichever sub-genre they're creating in. The great Joseph Wambaugh was my first ever exposure to this, whilst still a serving officer myself. It resonated so much.
Coffin's work is right up there on the realism scale. Hardly surprising given his long service as an officer. But aside from the realistic crime story and details, it is all those brushstrokes of police life that define such writing. Among the Shadows is right up there with Wambaugh in its superb characterization of police and how they interact, both with their "clients" and with each other. And each other on so many levels - professional and personal are inseparable in real police life, and Coffin captures this flawlessly. What's not flawless, of course, are the cops themselves, and again this aspect is perfectly crafted in this novel. The conflicts for the characters here are both external and internal, and drive their motivations, for good and bad. There's no shortage of corruption in this tale, just as there isn't in real policing. No doubt Coffin had to survive that dark side of the Force, and I can relate to that. In fact, every aspect of this novel simply oozes evidence of bearing personal witness.
I really, really enjoyed this novel and Coffin's direct and realistic prose. If you like your police thrillers realistic, it doesn't come better than Bruce Robert Coffin. Read him.
His second novel is out now, so I'm ordering that ASAP.
Bringing you hard-boiled and noir tales of crime and corruption. And various related opinions!