The PI in Piedmont Pines

Graham Gage lives with his wife in Piedmont Pines, but the nature of his work doesn’t allow him to spend as much time at home as he’d like. Running down arms traffickers isn’t the sort of trade one can ply solely in Oakland. When he’s not in on the trail of a criminal mastermind in a place like Kiev or Geneva, Gage can be found walking in Redwood Park or enjoying a bowl of pho at his favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Little Saigon. In October he’ll prevent a global financial cataclysm and save the United States from falling into the hands of religious extremists.

Steven Gore (Courtesy of

Graham Gage is the literary invention of Steven Gore, a very real resident of Piedmont Pines who also walks in the Redwoods, likes the pho at Pho Oakland Number One on E. 12th Street, and who worked as a private investigator for 25 years before he sold his first thriller to HarperCollins. That book, Final Target, was Graham Gage’s debut to the thriller-reading public. The next Gage installment, Absolute Risk, comes out at the end of October.

While his private investigator’s office is in San Francisco (Gore’s was on Grand Avenue), Gage is not an heir to Sam Spade. He’s not a womanizer, he doesn’t drink, he’s not particularly brooding or troubled in a noir-ish way. Like his creator, Gage went to grad school at UC Berkeley before becoming a private investigator. Gage was a philosophy student. Gore was in the political science department before he quit. He decided that “the world didn’t need another book about Thomas Hobbes.” The world got another PI instead. He started out investigating for the Alameda County Public Defender. Eventually he opened up his own shop.

Gore didn’t spend much time trailing unfaithful spouses. He worked on several large international cases, untangling the finances of crooked Ukrainian politicians, for example. He tracked a shipment of heroin found in a Fremont warehouse back to its source in the Golden Triangle. Sometimes he worked for the defense, and sometimes he worked for the prosecution. He always saw his job as the clean, unimpeachable business of providing accurate information. “Ninety percent of investigation is getting people to tell you things,” he said.

When Gore decided to stop working full-time as a PI and write, he first tried to write non-fiction accounts of some of the things he saw and heard over the years. He found that fiction came easier. The speed and ease with which he found a major publisher would make anyone with an unpublished manuscript on the hard drive gnash their teeth in envy. In addition to the Gage franchise, Gore sold a series featuring a retired San Francisco cop who lives in Shasta in the lead role.

Gore lives with his wife Liz, who was his PI partner for many years, and who continues to work as an investigator. Gage’s wife is an anthro professor at UC Berkeley. Just as Gore shunned the trappings of the traditional private eye for his character, he said he always recoiled when he saw someone in the profession revel in the mystique of the PI. With a short beard and a baseball cap, Gore looks like the poli sci professor he might have been.

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