New Murder Mystery by G.M. Ford Set in Ocean Beach

by on July 25, 2019 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Bob Edwards

An award winning mystery and thriller novelist, G.M. Ford has just published a new book, Heavy On The Dead (Thomas and Mercer, Seattle, 2019) that is set largely in Ocean Beach.

From the first pages of the book when a body is discovered next to the Santa Cruz Avenue stairs during a beach cleanup to an episode searching for a homeless man along the San Diego River, to the protagonists battling traffic on Sea World Drive at rush hour, Heavy On The Dead has numerous local references that most OBceans will recognize.

It’s tempting to go on and on about the fun OB details that permeate the novel but articles with spoilers suck, right? Just get a copy and read it, already!

The novel is the twelfth in a series of books that feature former Seattle private detective Leo Waterman. The previous books were set in the Northwest but as this novel opens, the detective and his associate Gabe have relocated to Ocean Beach as part of a self-financed “personal witness protection program” after they have become the targets of a white supremacist group. The location change and the author’s skill at integrating the back story means that it’s no problem to jump into this series without having read any of the other books.

Scene of the crime: a body is found near the Santa Cruz stairs. Photos by Bob Edwards

The novel provides a mainly positive depiction of Ocean Beach though it examines our town – warts and all. The protagonist, Leo, “gets” OB and clearly loves it, but he is also aware of the contradictions between the interests and power of super rich or politically well-connected citizens and those of ordinary people. He also recognizes some of the downsides of OB’s legendary reputation for tolerance of homeless or eccentric people. A different set of opinions of Ocean Beach, as expressed by a couple of hit men who are roaming OB in search of the detective, provide some contrast to Leo’s generally affectionate view of the Beach Area.

A story restricted only to Ocean Beach might seem limited or claustrophobic but this novel avoids that when plot twists necessitate visits to Tijuana, the Mojave Desert, and scenic Lemon Grove. It’s mainly OB that is the starring locale, however, with scenes from Sunset Cliffs to Robb Field and from the pier to up on the hill.

Without being didactic or preachy, the novel touches on important issues of the day including gender identity, sex trafficking, and elder abuse.

“Down By The River…”

Filled with great dialogue, humorous observations by the detective hero, and a plot that relentlessly moves forward with interesting turns of events, this is one of the best mystery books I have read so far this year. Throw in references to our home town and you have a book that should prove enjoyable to most OB Rag readers.

I spoke to Fran at Run For Cover, Ocean Beach’s independent book store on Voltaire and the good people there will be happy to order Heavy On The Dead for interested customers. You can also find the novel in eBook and other formats online.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

carole stone July 28, 2019 at 3:45 pm

Thanks Bob for turning us on to this fun novel based in our home town


Kate Bell October 12, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Without giving up the whole story, the article invites the reader to investigate the book out of curiosity of the references to Ocean Beach. Well written!


Larry Edwards October 24, 2019 at 5:08 pm

I enjoyed this book and recommend to others, whether you’re an OB-cian or not.
Also check out his earlier books.


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