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The Real Private Eye Behind San Francisco Crime Novels

Author Patrick Hoffman on his new book, Every Man a Menace.

 

If Patrick Hoffman’s second novel, Every Man a Menace (October, Grove Atlantic Press), about the tangled web of criminal drug trafficking enterprises behind a single murder, crackles with authenticity, chalk it up to his CV: He’s a private dick. (He even worked five years for the S.F. Public Defender’s Office.) We asked about mining his work for his fiction and brushing shoulders with the city’s underworld.

Do any of your real-life cases make it into print?
Not exactly—more like the texture than the specifics. That realness comes from being in that world.

As your second novel, did this one come easier than your first?
It went faster. But for the first year and a half, I wasn’t working, only writing. But the truth of the matter is that even when I’m not working a job at all, I can only write for two or three hours a day. It’s good to get out in the world. Investigating gets me out into different situations, interacting with people instead of [being] at home with the cats. 

Is being a PI as thrilling as most people assume it is?
It’s definitely not as glamorous, but it can still be interesting. I just went to interview someone for a murder case—we met at a gas station, and he hopped right in the car. But I’d say the biggest misperception people have—my biggest pet peeve about the way it’s portrayed, especially in Law & Order—is that people are always home when you knock on their door. In the real world, a lot more people aren’t home, or it’s the wrong door. So you just go on to the next one.

 

Originally published in the October issue of San Francisco 

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