Meet Your Neighbor: John Scanlan, 32
Palm Beach policeman John Scanlan had always wanted to write a book, if only because cops see things that can make great true crime books. But researching nonfiction takes time and money Scanlan didn’t have.
So he decided to write a novel. “My wife went back to work, and I was left with an abundance of time on weekday nights. She would go to bed, my kids would go to bed, so I would sit down and give it a shot.”
The first draft took eight months, and was immediately rejected by several publishers. After four more months of work the 200-page “Of Guilt And Innocence” was accepted by publisher Sunbury Press Inc. It’s a tale involving a 5-year-old being abducted in Boca Raton intertwined with another investigation into an elderly murder victim in Davie.
His most valuable writing hint came from someone he’s never met: James Patterson.
“I thought every book had to be a literary classic, written with the thesaurus next to me. And then I read an interview with Patterson where he said, ‘I can’t write like James Joyce, I can only be James Patterson.’ And that opened things up for me.”
The 32 year-old Scanlan has been a policeman for eight years. His grandparents live in Hobe Sound, but he had never been to Palm Beach until he came here for his job. “Obviously it’s beautiful, but it’s not what you typically train for.”
Scanlan has just about finished his second novel, which is, like his first, a stand-alone. His favorite book is John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and he’s a fan of the novels of James O. Born, a local author who’s also in law enforcement.
Writing fiction means he had to ignore his training as a policeman. “As an officer, you’re trained to look at everything. In your report, you even describe the weather. But in fiction, you have to show, not tell. When you’re a cop, your goal is to find out who did it. When you’re writing a book, you know who did it, but you can’t give it away. You have to think like the criminal who’s trying to cover his tracks.”
What music are you listening to:
I’m a huge Jimmy Buffett fan.
What’s your favorite junk food?
What’s the best advice you ever got?
From my father: Be yourself.
What do you do to get away?
I go camping and to Disney World with my wife and kids. Time with them takes my mind away from the department and from writing.
What’s your biggest accomplishment?
A book called “Of Guilt and Innocence.”