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 stevengore.com)

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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Rara Avis in Claremont Canyon

We’re going to stick with the wildlife a little bit longer.

Indigo Bunting (Photo by Pat Bachetti)Kay Loughman runs a beautiful and fascinating website called Wild Life in the North Hills. It’s all about the flora and fauna in Claremont Canyon. She has pictures of everything from a grey fox lounging on a patio chair to a banana slug slithering across a stone. She’s a keen naturalist and a skilled photographer. The only thing more remarkable than all of the natural beauty at our doorstep is how easy it is to forget it’s there during the course of a busy week. Loughman’s website is a good reminder.

We asked Loughman for the news this summer from the world of Oakland’s birds, bugs, and other critters. She said that the big story so far was the indigo bunting sharp-eyed birdwatchers spied in Claremont Canyon back in June. Common back east, the indigo bunting is very rare this far west. Phila Rogers wrote about it on her blog at the Lawrence Hall of Science.

Montclair’s Storyteller

He was exactly what NPR needed. Three years ago, Montclair’s own Glynn Washington entered an NPR contest looking for a new host. He won.

Now Washington presides over a burgeoning multi-media empire in downtown Oakland, of which the flagship is Snap Judgment – the freshest show going on NPR. OakBook interviewed Glynn way back when he was still just a contender. This week, the Trib and the Chron both did great profiles of Montclair’s newest radio star.

Snap Judgment is on at 11 pm Saturdays on KQED 88.5 FM and at 11pm Tuesdays and 1pm Wednesdays on KALW 91.7 FM. Listen anytime at www.snapjudgment.org. Submit your own snap judgment stories on the website, or call the “Snap Judgment” hot line at 888-304-7627.