Many years, the Best Local Author in our Readers Poll is a writer of children’s fiction, romance, or fantasy.
This year, the Best Local Author, Kevin Grogan, won for a gritty, hard-boiled work of non-fiction about crime, ripped from local headlines.
Black Sheep White Cop: Savannah EXPOsed is the tale of Grogan’s time on a Savannah-Chatham Police rapid response team (EXPO) – a highly effective unit which, Grogan says, was actually too effective and was disbanded for embarrassing politicians.
(Fittingly, the book was released on May 22, 2017 – a year to the day that Grogan will be celebrated along with the other reader’s picks at this year’s Best of Savannah Winner’s Party.)
Grogan writes like the beat cop and homicide detective that he was, in a simple, straightforward, conversational, and occasionally profane style. The success of the book since its publication has surprised even him.
“Honestly, after spending a year and a half writing it, when I was finished I figured I’d end up giving 100 books away and that would be it,” Grogan recalls.
The genesis of the book came when Grogan was hanging out with some buddies “bitching about this and bitching about that,” he remembers. “That inspired to me to think about a lot of guys I had worked with, and eventually I just said, ‘I’m going to write all this stuff down.’”
Grogan says ironically that it took being busted for a DUI and being let go from the police force for him to be taken seriously.
“When I was out there working homicides and arresting bad guys, nobody, and I mean nobody, gave a shit what I had to say about anything. But after I got arrested, and then came out fightin’, now I’m a credible source,” he laughs. “I truly appreciate it.”
One of his main goals in Black Sheep White Cop was to tell the story of “a guy who was my sergeant then, but is now one of my best friends. But his career didn’t end the way it should have.”
Grogan is referring to Greg Capers, terminated from Savannah-Chatham Police in 2012 for a battery charge.
“Greg has a grandson now, and one day he’s going to Google his grandaddy’s name and some things are going to come up that aren’t so good,” Grogan says. “I wanted to write some of the things that were good.”
Grogan says Capers was an extremely effective crimefigher who was made a scapegoat for a deep form of police corruption – so deep, that Grogan considers the conviction and imprisonment of former Savannah-Chatham Police Chief Willie Lovett as a diversion.
“It’s funny – everyone said that there was some kind of organized crime ring in Savannah police. But Willie Lovett’s been in prison almost four years now, and the whole so-called organized crime ring still hasn’t been identified. That’s kind of crazy. So how valid was that?”
Grogan says public response to the book has been very gratifying, but in a sense, so has the news that has come out since the book’s release.
“All the things I said about Meg Heap, the little shots at people I took here and there, all turned out to be true,” he says. “I definitely zinged the powers that be – Al Scott, Edna Jackson, Stephanie Cutter – mostly for their apathy. I knew I was going to catch hell.”
When I point out that crime rates do seem to be significantly lower in Savannah now, Grogan admits, “The homicides are down, for sure, so they’re obviously doing something right. But if you notice, the aggravated assault number is up.”
Grogan has a simple answer as to why there’s such a big difference between the number of people shot here and the number who die.
“I honestly attribute that to the Trauma Center at Memorial Medical Center,” he says flatly.
“I can’t tell you how many people I saw as a cop at a crime scene, thinking that’s it, we’ve got a murder here. Usually that call comes within half an hour. You’re told they’re dead, it’s a murder, get on it,” he says.
“But more and more often that call doesn’t come, because their lives are saved at Memorial.”
Grogan says he is turning this first book into a screenplay. “And I’m about halfway through my second book,” he says.
“It’s a pain in the ass finding time to do a second book while I’m trying to sell the first one,” he laughs. “But it’s a good problem to have.” — Jim Morekis
Runner-up, Book: Free Rain, Jose Lucio