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A second career

D.C. cop publishes novel, works on sequel

(Published July 16, 2001)


Staff Writer

MPD Officer Quintin Peterson prepares press releases as part of his job as a media liaison officer, but heís busy working on a sequel to his D.C.-based novel on his own time.

He registered his first copyright on an unpublished science fiction story when he was 13.

Now, at 45, he has a published novel about crime and corruption in the District that feeds off the reality of his career as a D.C. police officer.

Quintin Peterson, a media liaison officer for the Metropolitan Police Department, spent a year juggling his career, taking his son to Tae-Kwondo classes and writing a book called SIN, acronym for Specialized Investigations Network.

"Itís a work of fiction designed to look like itís true," said the native Washingtonian. "Cops who write crime fiction are able to capture the flavor of the city they work for."

SIN is all about espionage. The officers involved in this undercover project, called the "Janus Project," are given second identities, or alter egos. Government funding provides them with the money they need to get the job done and they have one goal.

"They go undercover and infiltrate this drug operation," Peterson said.

The book follows the main character, Officer Doc Holloway, as he goes undercover, hoping to make a difference in the District.

Peterson said people have come to his office off the street looking for him to sign their copies of his book. He said he plans to write a trilogy with the same character and is halfway through the sequel to SIN. He hopes to have it on bookstore shelves by next year.

Even as a kid, he was writing or telling stories.

"I was always the kid who had all the other kids sitting around me with their mouths open," Peterson said.

His father was in the Army for 23 years and by age 12, Peterson had moved seven times. He even lived in Japan for a year. He played baseball and soccer with other kids when he lived on Army bases, but making friends was never something he was very concerned about.

"I just didnít do it," he said. "What was the point? I was going to move anyway."

He went to Oshkosh North High School in Wisconsin on "A Better Chance (ABC) Scholarship," a program that provided college-preparatory education for disadvantaged, talented kids.

In high school Peterson wrote for the school newspaper. His name was also on the 1975 list of Whoís Who Among American High School Students. He was still in high school when he won the University of Wisconsinís Science Fiction Writing Award and the National Council of Teachers of English Writing Award.

Peterson has been on the police force for almost 20 years, but being a cop wasnít something he always dreamed of doing.

"I was a playwright, but I didnít see it going anywhere," he said.

He wrote and acted in several plays at the University of Wisconsin in Green Bay. Some of his titles are "Daylight," "No Question" and "The Cheapest Hope in Town." He entered "Daylight" in a 1976 competition for the Lorraine Hansberry Writing Award. He would have won for being the sole entry in the category he should have been in, he said, but a mistake placed him in the wrong category so his play didnít win.

He also dabbled with the thought of becoming a doctor but said he couldnít stand the thought of "cutting into people." So when he saw that the police department was hiring, he decided to apply.

He started off as a patrol officer in the Second Police District for three years. After that he became a dispatcher in the communications office for two years. He applied for a position in the public information office 15 years ago and was hired. He is still sent out on the streets, but only once every eight weeks.

Peterson said he likes working both on the streets and behind a desk. But he has just one small complaint about the office job.

"Itís very frustrating Ė they call us and ask us anything and everything that doesnít have to do with the police department," he said. "Itís refreshing to go on the streets. Thereís always something going on that I can deal with."

Peterson said the worst part about the job was his rookie year. The rookies had to deal with the calls when someone reported a bad odor coming from a nearby residence. He said it usually meant an elderly person had died but since no relatives visited them, no one knew they died until the stench started. The rookies had to go to the site and wait for the medical examiner, who would sometimes take hours to show up. Peterson said the smell was horrible.

"You canít dry clean the smell out of your clothes," he said. "You have to get rid of them, even the socks."

Obviously, writing is not as smelly of a job.

Even though his book is about an undercover operation, Peterson said heís not too hip on the idea of doing it himself.

"Itís more dangerous Ė you have no gun, no badge," he said. "You have to gain their trust by spending time with them."

Peterson is a self-proclaimed science fiction and crime fiction junkie. He said he loves Star Trek, Star Wars and anything science fiction. He loves to read books by James Patterson, another crime-fiction author, and watch shows like "L.A. Confidential." As far as writing, he said he already has plans after he puts in his 25 years at MPD.

"Thatís what Iíll do when I retire Ė Iíll write books," he said.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator