Ocean Beach Has a New In-Residence Mystery Writer: G.M. Ford

by on October 11, 2019 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Bob Edwards

A resident of Ocean Beach since 2017, mystery writer G.M. Ford seems to have settled in to the OB lifestyle. With over twenty books published, the author’s latest novel Heavy On The Dead (reviewed in the OB Rag this past July) in set mostly in OB.

Ford participates in a local writers group that regularly meets at Te Mana on Voltaire. He reads the OB Rag and social media webpages such as the Social OB Facebook page. Perhaps most importantly, he has thrown himself into one of the most pressing controversies our community faces in the 21st Century:  Where does one go to get the best fish taco in Ocean Beach?

I joined Gerry Ford at one of his favorite watering holes and taco purveyors, South Beach Bar and Grill on Newport Avenue, where we talked about various topics including his move to OB, his writing process, and the American publishing industry in the digital age. What follows is based on that interview, supplemented with notes taken by Rag blogger Frank Gormlie at a presentation given by Ford at the Ocean Beach Library in early September.

Educated on the East Coast, Ford spent 37 years living in Seattle. He moved to Ocean Beach two years ago with his wife, author Skye Kathleen Moody.

“I got sick of the weather,” Ford said, and when he was ready for a move, OB seemed like the place to go. “In the Eighties I used to visit a friend who lived in Point Loma at one of the marinas. In the evening, we would ride helmetless on a Vespa to OB where we would have a few beers and eat $1 tacos,” he said. Such good time memories prompted his move to the beach area.

Since his arrival in Ocean Beach, it has been a real education for the author. “Everything I used to know about the beach, I got from Brian Wilson. Huaraches (sandals)? What’s that?” he asked with a grin that says he knows exactly what they are.

After 37 years in Seattle, a place he describes as a “real book town” he now finds himself in San Diego where there is more “a culture of the body” as opposed to Seattle’s “culture of the mind”.

He seems particularly fascinated by the fact that some people can be so unhappy and angry in a near-Paradise such as Ocean Beach, and he added, “The response to homelessness has divided OB in half. There’s a resentment of people who chose a vagabond lifestyle.”

While he is personally tolerant and sympathetic, he says he understands the resentment felt by locals who have to deal with some of the issues that homelessness brings to our community such as sanitation and theft problems.

In Heavy On The Dead, his 12th book featuring private eye Leo Waterman, the protagonist has been forced to flee Seattle after a contract is put out on him by a white supremacist organization. One theme of the book is a newcomer’s take on the quirkiness of SoCal beach culture, but the book also touches on issues such as wealth disparity, gender fluidity, and sex trafficking.

Ford is currently working on another book in the Waterman series that will explore the contradiction in OB between “the two camps…the freethinkers and the others”. It will be about “tweekers, trolls, junkies, and the conflict and divide” in our community, he said at his OB Library presentation.

Just how long he will be able to continue having his books published is another issue that concerns Ford.

“The writing business I started in no longer exists”, he said. Millions of people self publish and the big publishing houses are fussier.

Publishers resist innovation and change and want the new book to be the same as the old book, rehashed. “They’re very nice people,” he says of his publisher but the industry has new ways of doing things. He’s sick of traveling the PR circuit and refuses to do road trips for book signings.

For now he is content to continue a professional career that has lasted 40 years and to enjoy his new community and his fascination with a lifestyle so different from the Pacific Northwest. Occasionally he will explore other parts of San Diego including visits to the grave of seminal mystery writer Raymond Chandler, who is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery. But for the most part, he says, he rarely leaves OB.

Ever the professional, five mornings a week he writes a thousand words. In his seventies, Ford shows no signs of slowing down at a time when most people of a similar age (such as this reporter!) are cutting back on everything except physician’s visits and extra trips to the bathroom at night.

After downing our tacos and beverages, we shake hands and step out into the bright sunshine of Ocean Beach. People are smiling and enjoying the beautiful weather. Surfers are stoked that there’s some decent surf after a period of no waves. Out of town visitors are buying ice cream for their kids.

By the sea wall, a vendor has set up a booth selling marijuana products just a day after another entrepreneur was popped for doing the same thing. Some locals walk by and check out the goods with a smile, others scowl at him. One dude gets in his face, taking photos as he aggressively tells the vendor that he’s breaking the law.

Just another day of utopian blue skies and gritty realism on the mean streets of OB, of “Sunshine/Noir” as another local author, Jim Miller calls it. Seems like there might be a story there…

[Editordude’s Note: the OB Library has several copies of Heavy on the Dead, as well as a number of other GM Ford novels.]

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Bryan Kitley October 11, 2019 at 5:56 pm

Enjoyed the article, and enjoy Ford’s books. Currently reading Soul Survivor. Love OB, have family there and visit regularly.

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Avatar Terrie Leigh Relf October 11, 2019 at 8:58 pm

Thank you for interviewing, G.M., Bob.

Here’s to the next novel . . . I can hardly wait!

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Avatar Terrie Leigh Relf October 13, 2019 at 11:36 am

P.S. Loved Heavy on the Dead!

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