Article in The Washington Current

Photo by Mark Regan

Current Staff Writer

David Swinson took a
roundabout path to becoming
an author, writing his
first novel as a retiree after experiences
in Hollywood and D.C.’s
Metropolitan Police Department.
But “I always knew I wanted to
write,” he said, and the impetus
for his crime novel, “A Detailed                              
Man,” came when he was still
working as a detective. “This book
has been in my head for a long
time,” he said.
“A Detailed Man,” published
this winter, follows veteran D.C.
detective Ezra Simeon as he takes
on a high-profile case involving
the murder of a young escort.
The investigation brings
Simeon in contact with a lonely
professor at the University of the
District of Columbia and a posh,
confident software developer who
lives in Dupont Circle. Pursuing
his instincts in spite of practical
reasons not to, the detective digs
into the connection between the
two men and the murder.
Swinson envisions “A Detailed
Man” as the first in a series of
crime novels featuring reappearing
characters, and taking place on the
same streets where he once lived
and worked.
Swinson joined the D.C. police
academy in 1994 and started out
as a uniformed officer in the
Adams Morgan area of the 3rd
District. He later advanced to
become a detective, specializing in
burglaries (which he describes as
“the gateway to every crime imaginable”)
and particularly “narcofencing”
— investigating locations
known to traffic in both stolen
property and narcotics.
He ended up in the Special
Investigations Bureau and the
now-defunct Career Criminal Unit,
debriefing criminals and taking on
cases that could last several years
or even go international. In 2003,
he won the honor of “Detective of
the Year.”
Police work in D.C. was a second
phase of adulthood for
Swinson, who also spent more
than a decade in a vastly different
environment in California.
“I fell into the punk rock
scene,” Swinson said of his postcollege
years. Almost accidentally,
he landed in the job of concert
promoter for two venues in Long
Beach, booking acts like Devo,
Social Distortion and the Red Hot
Chili Peppers. “I had some wonderful
times with all of those
bands,” he said.
He also pursued his interest in
filmmaking, producing the cult
classic “Roadside Prophets.” The
surreal road movie — penned by
“Sid and Nancy” screenwriter
Abbe Wool, and starring Adam
Horovitz of the Beastie Boys —
came out in 1992.
But Swinson’s experience with
the film soured him on
Hollywood. “I started seeing the
script get lost in translation,” he
said, and he grew to despise “the
politics of filmmaking.”
At the age of 33, he did an
about-face. “I made a decision to
become a cop in D.C.,” he said. “It
was where I wanted to be.”
The location choice wasn’t random:
Swinson moved into the
Dupont Circle condo where he’d
spent a large part of his childhood.
Growing up, his family had traveled
the world with his father’s
Foreign Service career, but D.C.
was always home base.
To transition from punk rock
and Hollywood into the “paramilitary”
atmosphere of the D.C.
police academy was “scary at
first,” Swinson said. He quit cigarettes
and put himself on a strict
regimen of push-ups, sit-ups and
running. “The structure did wonders
for me.”
And though police work
involved some inevitable disappointments
— “you realize that
although you’re doing some good
stuff, you’re not changing much,”
Swinson said — he never experienced
the same disillusionment
that he did in Hollywood.
“It got in my blood,” he said of
his career as a detective.
These days, Swinson lives with
his wife and young daughter in
Fairfax Station, Va., and has
devoted himself to writing after
retiring from the police department
in 2009.™
Though his personal experiences
certainly informed the details
and setting of “A Detailed Man,”
and Swinson prides himself on a
“realistic, not Hollywood-style”
portrayal of the city of D.C., he
said the story isn’t based on any of
his real-life cases. In fact, he
began writing with a character in
mind, rather than a plot or ending.
“I liked the idea of a character
who was really flawed,” Swinson
said of Det. Simeon, a divorced
man who lives alone, carries on a
long-distance but platonic relationship
with a female friend, and, at
the outset of the novel, is healing
from a case of Bell’s palsy that
leaves half his face immobilized.
“A Detailed Man” starts with
Simeon working in quiet isolation
on the cold-case unit. But the sudden
death of a colleague — a
friend from his academy days —
jolts the detective into a more
demanding reality. Taking over a
homicide case his friend had
investigated, Simeon challenges
himself and some of his authorities
in pursuing some initially
improbable leads.
Swinson said this character
might not feature as prominently
in his next novel. “I’ll probably
get more into my love/passion for
burglary,” he said, hinting that
Det. Simeon may be partnered
with a “more innocent-looking
detective … someone like a
younger version of myself.”

Swinson will appear at One
More Page Books in Arlington to
celebrate the book launch for “A
Detailed Man” on Saturday, Feb.
11. The event will take place from
3 to 4 p.m. at the store, at 2200
North Westmoreland St., #101.

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