Bruce Robert Coffin here manning the helm of the Maine Crime Writers blog. This month I thought I’d share a bit of insight into my protagonist Detective Sergeant John Byron. People often ask me, who is John Byron? Me? Someone I worked with? Or is Byron totally made up? I guess the honest answer is that he’s comprised of all of those things.
When I began working for the Portland police in 1985 the department was largely comprised of officers from Irish and Italian descent, many of whom had lived their entire lives in the seaside community. These officers were the same officers who trained me. They taught me to be fair-minded, thorough, compassionate, and when necessary, tough. In creating Detective Byron I wanted to capture the essence of those same officers. I wanted to show the readers what it was like to be a cop in the city where you’d been raised. Adding to Byron’s complexity, I made him a second generation badge. Byron’s father Reece was also a Portland police officer which meant that Byron grew-up around cops and had been privy to the colorful war stories they told.
Like most of us John Byron was greatly influenced by his parents. His mother was a strict Irish Catholic who saw to it that John attended Catholic schools. Byron’s father didn’t adhere to much in the way of organized religion. In fact, Reece Byron was much too busy drinking and cavorting with other women to even adhere to the sanctity of marriage. And it goes without saying that Reece wasn’t much in the way of a positive role model either.
For all of his faults, Byron’s father was still a good cop. He was one of the original members of the police department’s Special Reaction Team (SRT), Portland’s version of SWAT. Reece was an “old school” cop who knew everyone on his beat by name. He could be gentle when it was called for and firm when it wasn’t, as many of the patrons of the old rough and tumble Portland waterfront could attest.
Byron’s parents separated then divorced when he was still a teenager. Shortly after the divorce Reece died unexpectedly and tragically. Both of those incidents made a lasting and painful impression on John Byron and played a large part in shaping the man and the cop he would ultimately become.
In the series debut, Among the Shadows, we meet the adult John Byron. Byron is the detective sergeant who runs the violent crime unit in Portland’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID). He is separated from his wife of twenty years and battling alcohol addiction. Living in a dingy little apartment in Portland’s West End neighborhood, Byron’s life is in disarray. The one thing John excels at is homicide investigations, but his crumbling personal life is putting his career in jeopardy.
If you’d like to learn more about Detective Sergeant John Byron, pick up or download a copy of Among the Shadows or Beneath the Depths. I promise it will be one hell of a ride!