Wednesday, September 4, 2013

James O. Born - A Different Kind of Cop

When James Born worked as an agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he whiled away many long, uneventful hours of surveillance work reading novels by Tom Clancy and W.E.B. Griffin. When he was asked by crime fiction icon, the late  Elmore Leonard, to provide technical advice on police issues, Born was bitten by the writing bug and decided to pen his own stories – tales that would capture the real-life element of police work.  “I wanted to show cops as real people with wives, kids, bills to pay,” he says. “The job isn’t everything to every cop. They have lives too.”  Fourteen years later, Born is the award-winning author of five books he describes as “realistic police novels – not like the crap you see on TV.” His books give readers an up-close-and-personal look at police work, from the inside jokes to the moments of gut-clenching fear that come with the territory.
Born’s first novel, Walking Money, marked the debut of Bill Tasker, a state cop who becomes entangled in a complex web of embezzlement and double-crossing that puts him at odds with the FBI. Publisher’s Weekly praised the book as “a terrific debut…Born’s been there, and it shows.” Tasker reappears in Born’s next two books, Shock Wave and Escape Clause, where he goes on the hunt for a stolen stinger missile and investigates some shady doings at a Florida state prison. Born’s fourth novel, Field of Fire introduces readers to ATF agent Alex Duarte. Born’s editor liked the more serious Duarte character, so Born featured him again in his fifth book, Burn Zone.

Born’s next novel was perhaps his most unusual. Human Disguise, released in 2009, was such a departure from his other works that Born decided to go with a new publisher (TOR) and a new pen-name: James O’Neal. “I didn’t want people to be confused thinking this book was like my others,” Born explains. “I’m really excited about it because it’s so different.”  A near-future sci fi police story, Human Disguise is set in a post-apocalyptic Florida where Tom Wilmer, a lone detective, finds himself pitted against an ancient alien menace. The book took Born a year to write. His inspiration came from his experiences working for the government and from his Florida roots. “As a native Floridian, I love to think about where the state’s been and where it’s going,” Born says. According to Publisher’s Weekly  “…his (Born’s) self-assured, hard-edged writing style, solid characters and wildly entertaining thriller plot will keep readers enthralled."
A sequel, The Double Human, hit bookstores in 2010. Here, Tom Wilmer returns to go undercover in search of a serial killer unlike anything he’s ever encountered. Known as “The Vampire,” this killer is not human...and neither are his victims. Kirkus Review named The Double Human to its list of “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2010," and USA Today Bestselling Author David Hagberg compared the book to the George Orwell classic, 1984.

Born is a writer who enjoys everything about the process. He even claims to be “one of the few writers who like having deadlines.” And when he isn’t trying to beat those deadlines, Born enjoys reading, teaching at writer’s conferences, windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving, running, and sharing time with his family. “My goal never was to be wealthy,” he says. “If people read my books and respond to them, that’s what makes me happy.”
For more information, you can visit the author's website at


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  2. Good interview, as always, Jackie. I know Jim from Mystery Writers of America, Fla. Chapter, and his warmth and humor comes across here on the page (or, on my computer screen!)

  3. Great article, Jackie! Jim's a good writer and a good guy.