A cop’s daughter on Father’s Day

When I began researching the life of Wyatt Earp, I knew almost immediately that I would be able to present Wyatt fairly and compassionately in my novel, DOC. You see, I actually believe in honest cops. I’m realistic, but not cynical about that.

I am a cop’s daughter. Among other things, my dad was a Marine MP during the occupation of Japan. In civilian life, he was a town constable, a uniformed patrolman, a plain clothes detective, and an undercover narcotics officer. He capped his law enforcement career with five terms as the Sheriff of DuPage County, just west of Chicago.

Police work was dinner table conversation in our house. I understand the tedium and the crappy pay, the shift work and the constant threat of danger. I am familiar with the way cops divide the world into three categories: Cops, Citizens and Idiots.

To my father’s continuing astonishment and chagrin, I was evidently born a Democrat, but I grew up with guns and that experience has influenced me in unpredictable ways. One of my earliest memories is my father taking me out into a stubbly cornfield in November. I must have been about four. He knelt down behind me and put the shotgun to his own shoulder but showed me how to sight the gun and squeeeeze the trigger. I don’t remember being frightened by the bang. I just remember his body cradling mine and the sense that if my dad said something was okay, I was safe.

By the time I was 13, in 1963, I was spending Saturdays with Dad on the police range: firing off a box of cartridges with a bunch of macho guys who were impressed that I could “qualify” with a .357 magnum, a handgun that weighed almost as much as I did. In the 1970s, when the women’s movement for equal rights was picking up steam, I was already comfortable with men; it felt natural to compete with guys and win sometimes.  I expected to earn their respect and to enjoy their camaraderie.

As Dad himself could testify, I take crap from nobody, but I try not to ascribe to malice and sexism what is really rooted in cluelessness that could be corrected gently but firmly. My father instilled in me the confidence and sheer nerve it took to decide that I could write a book like Doc and, in doing so, redefine two iconic figures of the American West: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. More importantly, my childhood experience of my father’s respect, interest and support laid the foundation for 40 years of marriage to a great husband and 25 years of mothering a fine son. Thanks, Dad.



9 thoughts on “A cop’s daughter on Father’s Day”

  1. His influence shows in your novels. You “get” men. So many of your main characters are male and you describe their personalities with accuracy. My wife is continually amazed at how many women expect men to be just slightly different variations of themselves.

  2. Just finished reading Doc. It felt more like a pleasant conversation than a novel. I think you could take the phone book and make it interesting. Thank you for sharing your talent.

    Blessings, Bethany Brown

  3. I am half way t hrough DOC (my spotted saddle horse is called DOC) and I am enthralled. I wonder if you are familiar with JAMES LEE BURKE’s novels. You have his grasp of evil, justice, religion and character.
    your new fan, Longarm

  4. I am almost finished with the audio Books on Tape version of Doc. I love this book, and as mentioned by others, I feel I know these characters very well by now. At first I was not sure I would enjoy a story about the ‘macho’ wild west, but I was wrong. I have a new understanding of what it must have been like to live in those times, and Doc’s musings about integrity, life, and death keep returning to my thoughts. By the way, the reader, Mark Branhall, is excellent — he really brings each character to life. I am planning to see you at Anderson’s Bookshop tonight and looking forward to it.

  5. Beautiful tribute to your dad, Mary! And ditto for me on what Dennis and Bethany both said above! You make this world a MUCH better place by sharing your talent and yourself!
    Blessings to you all!!

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