BARSTOW The premise for "Can Showbizzers Crush Crime?" the new book by Barstow author Frank Hickey involves a former New York cop coming to the fictional desert town of Basta, Calif., and finding that Basta has a crime problem.
Shortly after arriving, protagonist Max Royster, fired from the NYPD for "mental disease," meets a group of out-of-work show business personalities who collectively think they could do a better job at law enforcement than the official police of the town.
The real-life backstory of Hickey, 60, is just as unusual.
"It probably is my birthright," Hickey said with a laugh as he discussed the book's plot. "My mother was a Broadway actress, and I've been a detective since I was 22. And I always heard show business people saying they could do a better job without the restraints of government authority, and Miranda decisions and routine."
Hickey has been living in Barstow full time for about a year, but said he's been visiting the city since 1999, staying for usually a week at a time. He discovered Barstow while working for the LAPD in his mid-40s.
"The Los Angeles job was very stressful," Hickey said. "I worked in the inner city. I worked in Southwest division, South Central, where they filmed 'Training Day' while they were filming it and I was in the middle of a lot of that. To escape that kind of stress I would drive out to the desert. And I found Barstow."
Hickey held a release party for the book in Barstow on Dec. 14, and he's been surprised at the number of positive responses to his newest work.
"The important thing is not so much my book, but mothers and fathers of Barstow are showing their kids the book and saying there are writers around here," Hickey said. "You can go up to them and talk to them. There are real people that are writers here in Barstow. Because Barstow, as you know, doesn't have a book store. And that's a real lack, especially for the younger generation."
Hickey began writing at age 12. He stresses that the new novel is fictional and does not reflect his opinions of the real-life law enforcement professionals of Barstow.
Hickey began his career as a detective spending time in the Manhattan District Attorney's office and as a private detective. He joined the LAPD at 43 and now, at 60, he is enjoying life in Barstow.
"Being very much a New Yorker I don't have a car," Hickey said. "And Barstow is walkable to me. Everything is within an hour or less. I enjoy not having a car, and I enjoy being surrounded by this beautiful landscape."