The recent police thriller “Jamaica Plain” is just the first in a series of novels whose hero will continue to be based in JP, the English cop-turned-author penning the series told the Gazette.
“The plan is that [series hero] Jim Grant is based in Boston, working out of Jamaica Plain,” novelist Colin Campbell said in an email. “So he will return to Boston in other adventures, and in fact I am currently writing book 5, which is set in Beacon Hill, with Grant still stepping on toes in Jamaica Plain.”
The novel’s hardboiled version of Jamaica Plain is a sometimes wild mix of real locations, such as the Purple Cactus restaurant, and the fictional—most memorably, a strip club on the shore of Jamaica Pond where dancers writhe to action-movie theme songs.
As the Gazette previously reported, Campbell has never been to JP, instead being charmed by the neighborhood’s name on a map and using Google Earth images to view its streets. But, Campbell said, he intends to get a first-hand look at JP in late September during a Boston book-signing stop.
“I expect to visit the main locations and take photos, maybe drop a copy at the JP police station,” said Campbell.
That is the same police station that Campbell has blown up with a hand grenade in one of several action-packed scenes.
The novel follows English cop Grant on his visit to Boston to interview a suspect. His trip soon involves plentiful sex and violence, as he discovers a mysterious criminal pulling the strings of supposedly peaceful JP. Grant’s survival of the E-13 Police Station explosion earns him the media nickname “Resurrection Man,” which is also the name of the novel series.
The novel’s Jamaica Plain is heavily Irish—with residents who enjoying hassling an English cop—and a place where most homes fly American flags and have “Support Our Troops” stickers on the windows. As the novel puts it, “The family homes of the better-off. Jamaica Plain. The face of Middle America. Peaceful America.”
Real locations include CVS in central JP, Doyle’s Café, the Orange Line and Woodlawn Street in Forest Hills. Fictional spots include a Seaverns Avenue hotel and a bar at Child and Lee streets. Grant also ventures downtown and to Mission Hill and West Roxbury, the latter depicted as a semi-rural hinterland.
A key scene involves a bomber at the Hynes Convention Center on Back Bay’s Boylston Street—very close to where the real-life Boston Marathon bombs went off just a week after “Jamaica Plain” was published in April.
“The marathon bombing was a reminder that what we write is sometimes overtaken by reality,” Campbell said. “I wrote ‘Jamaica Plain’ a couple of years ago, but whenever a book or movie includes something terrible that later happens in real life, it sends a shiver down your spine. You can only feel for the relatives and victims and know that you didn’t prompt the actions that caused such a tragedy.”
Campbell, whose writing career was sparked by entering a James Bond short story competition, cited the classic Bond novels as one reason he chose a real-life setting for his series.
“Since the stories and characters are fictional, I wanted to make the locations real,” he said. “I remember reading that Ian Fleming used to fill the James Bond novels with named items such as cars and food and weapons to offset the outlandish nature of the plots—grounding them in reality so that readers would accept the rest. I like to do the same with the settings.”
Campbell, 58, is a former British Army soldier who served as a police officer in England’s West Yorkshire region for 30 years, including as a crime scene investigator. Since retiring in 2006, he has become a full-time writer in the thriller, horror and children’s fiction genres, as well as competing successfully as a tennis player.
Campbell readily admits that his fictional hero Grant shares a lot of similarities with him—including a dislike for American cops’ ready use of guns.
“They say that all fiction is partly autobiographical,” Campbell said. “Yes, I was in the army. Yes, I was a typist. Yes, I was in the police force. Yes, I once had sex in the shower. And no, I didn’t much like firearms.”
The next “Resurrection Man” novel, due out in April 2014, is titled “Montecito Heights” and will see Grant travel to Los Angeles.
“Jamaica Plain” is published by Midnight Ink Books and is available at Amazon.com. (At this writing, the copies owned by the Jamaica Plain and Egleston Square Branch Libraries were both checked out.) For more information, see Campbell’s website at campbellfiction.com.
JP in ‘Jamaica Plain’
The following are some JP locales as they are fictionalized in the police thriller “Jamaica Plain.”
Centre Street: “…basically Main Street USA. Mostly single-story flat-roofed businesses with hardware stores and laundromats, a CVS Pharmacy, and a handful of restaurants and bars. He was still reeling from the Santa Fe chicken salad he’d eaten at the Purple Cactus—more specifically, the size of the salad. He reckoned you could have grazed a herd for a week just off that one plate.”
Jamaica Pond: “Calling it a pond was like calling your bathtub a washbasin.”
District E-13 Police Station: “The District E-13 station house was a modern red brick building and, like most police stations, it was plain and functional. Nothing fancy. All business…There was a smell of coffee and cracked leather that was at odds with the newness of the building.”
Washington Street: “This wasn’t downtown with all its glitzy lighting and reflective skyscrapers. This was a dirty back street on the outskirts of town, even if that back street was the longest road Grant had ever seen. Washington Street ran from downtown to the back of beyond. God only knew how the postman ever found an address.”
Woodlawn Street: “John Cornejo’s house was a traditional green-painted clapboard on Woodlawn Street. It had a porch, a yard, and the inevitable stars and stripes hanging above the steps. It was the smallest house on a tree-lined street that ran up the hill towards a dead end backing onto Forest Hills Cemetery, a more permanent dead end.”