The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit from John Nardizzi, author of Telegraph Hill. Mr. Nardizzi discusses being a private investigator in the hometown for many fictional and real private investigators.
Life of PI
San Francisco is one of the capital cities of crime fiction–from Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, to Bill Pronzini’s Nameless Detective, and many others. What is less well known is how fact and fictional detectives run parallel lives in this city: San Francisco was also home to one of the fathers of the modern private investigator, Hal Lipset of Lipset Service.
Lipset commanded a Criminal Investigation Division in World War II. After he left the army, he settled in San Francisco and opened his own detective agency with his wife, Lynn. Lipset developed an interest in new technologies used in eavesdropping devices. Most famously, he demonstrated a bugged martini glass at a Senate subcommittee in 1968 (the olive was a microphone, and the toothpick an antenna). He worked on cases for The Black Panthers and the San Quention 6. His career was full of contradictions: along with notable defense work, Lipset was criticized for working on behalf of cult leaders in San Francisco, such as Jim Jones of the People’s Temple. His former employees later branched off to form world-renowned detective agencies, small boutique firms that continue to operate to this day. In another crossover between fact and fiction, some of his detectives conducted research on the life of Hammett. Lipset held no illusions about the vagaries of being a PI: “In the detective business, you’re either a hero or a bum.”
I was lucky to spend several years working as a PI in San Francisco at one of the firms in the Lipset detective tree. I often walked through the wealthy neighborhoods in the hills near downtown. Standing on Nob Hill, you can look down Jones Street to a different section called the Tenderloin–one of greatest mixes of wealth and poverty in the U.S., separated by just a few blocks. The Tenderloin took its name from a section of old New York City. In the late 19th century, a New York cop was promoted to midtown, where gambling and prostitution were rampant. He told a reporter that he had been “eating rump steak down in the Fourth precinct, but now I have a chance to eat some of the tenderloin.” People took this as a reference to taking bribes to look the other way, and the name came to be used as a pejorative for the city’s red light district.
Just as in Lipset’s era, the Tenderloin district remains a hard, often desperate place. But there was a certain poetry bubbling up from the San Francisco streets. My real PI life intersected in strange ways with my writing. In the process of interviewing witnesses around the country, a tremendous amount of writing flowed out of me. Often, people offered information that was irrelevant to the case, but was tremendous grist for a book—an odd quote, a story, a memorable gesture. So for me, San Francisco is the ultimate sleuth city, having started me on a professional path as a writer and investigator. Readers, do you have a place that has inspired you?
About the author:
John Nardizzi is an investigator, lawyer, and writer. His writings have appeared in numerous professional and literary journals, including San Diego Writers Monthly, Oxygen, Liberty Hill Poetry Review, Lawyers Weekly USA, and PI Magazine. His fictional detective, Ray Infantino, first appeared in print in the spring 2007 edition of Austin Layman’s Crimestalker Casebook. Telegraph Hill is the first crime novel featuring Infantino.
In May 2003, John founded Nardizzi & Associates, Inc., an investigations firm that has garnered a national reputation for excellence in investigating business fraud and trial work. His investigations on behalf of people wrongfully convicted of crimes led to several million dollar settlements for clients like Dennis Maher, Scott Hornoff and Kenneth Waters, whose story was featured in the 2010 film Conviction.
Connect with the author: Website | Twitter
About the book:
Telegraph Hill by John Nardizzi
ISBN: 9781939166111 (paperback)
ASIN: B009F3M9LQ (Kindle)
Publication Date: April 26, 2013
Publisher: Libboo and Merrimack Media
In the tradition of classic PI tales from Robert B. Parker and Dennis Lehane, John Nardizzi’s Telegraph Hill introduces private detective Ray Infantino searching for a missing girl named Tania. The case takes him to San Francisco, the city he abandoned years ago after his fiance was murdered. Thrust into his old city haunts, Ray finds that Tania may not be lost at all. Tania saw a murder; and a criminal gang, the Black Fist Triad, wants to make sure she never sees anything again.
Ray enlists help from an old flame, Dominique, but now he has three women on his mind. Meeting with various witnesses-ex-cops, prostitutes, skinheads-he relentlessly tracks the evidence. But the hunt for Tania fires his obsession with avenging the murder of his fiance.
When the triad retaliates, and blood begins to flow, Ray must walk the knife edge between revenge and redemption on the streets of San Francisco.
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