Mike Jahn Papers
1976-2004


Finding Aid Prepared by Patrick Lawlor
Published in Electronic Form September 2004


Date Range: 1976-2004
Size of Collection: 4 linear ft. (ca. 50 items in 7 boxes)
Date of Acquisition: Gift of Michael Jahn, 1984; 4 September 2004
Material on Microfilm: No material on microfilm
Terms of Access: Shelved Off-Site. These boxes will take 1 to 2 business days to retrieve. Please contact us prior to your arrival to arrange for use.
Permission to publish materials must also be obtained in writing from the Director of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.
Restrictions on Use or Access: Permission to publish materials must be obtained in writing from the Librarian for Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Location in Stacks: Off-Site
Processing Information: Processed by Henry Rowen, 1996; Patrick Lawlor, 2004
RLIN ID: NYCR86-A24

BIOGRAPHY

       "Who am I and how did I get to be that way? In pursuit of whales, torts and words. In 361-some-odd years in New York my family has managed to move an astonishing 120 miles a third of a mile or 7 city blocks a year as fast as some species of tropical vine. In nearly four centuries we have driven relentlessly west from the eastern tip of Long Island to the hard granite of Manhattan on and around which we have camped for most of the past two centuries. My feeling is that we hit the Big Apple and said let's stay here. This is as good as it gets.”

”Here's a short history of this epic trek. My Yankee ancestor, Obediah Rogers arrived with his family from Lynn Massachusetts in 1640 landing in Southampton as one of the first English settlers of New York and beginning the family's centuries-long quest for whales great-great-granddad Halsey Rogers was a Sag Harbor whale ship captain torts and words. My family left the Hamptons before too many generations had passed escaping well before the launch of the Hollywood years and leaving behind but a lonely ancient gravestone. The westward drive along the South Shore of Long Island landed us in Brooklyn and New York City over 150 years ago they were separate cities then and involved the accumulation of relations who were more recent and clearly more colorful arrivals in America. Among my Danielle Steeley forebears were an Irish trolley-car driver who became chauffeur to American aristocracy a German innkeeper who ran a waterfront bar by legend a city block long that served the workers building the Brooklyn Bridge and his lawyer son plus a French educator one of twin brothers abandoned as children in a seaside resort town. Prominently there was a family of Spanish immigrants from Barcelona and Pueto Mahon on the Spanish Balearic Island Menorca north of Majorca and Ibiza. They ran four hair dressing saloons and bathing establishments in Brooklyn. Those shops go back far enough for one to have been destroyed in the famous Great Conflagration of 1848 its proprietor injured and forced into retirement at the age of 24. Famous in the family of my great-grandmother Angela Comellas Jahn was Uncle Juan Quevedo a Spanish-born career American Navy man crewmember on the Perry Expedition to Japan in the 1850s and gunnery officer aboard the USS Brooklyn during the Civil War at whom Admiral Farragut may have been yelling when he uttered his famous if historically embellished command Damn the torpedoes--full speed ahead.”

”My Latino relation finished his career as storekeeper (purchasing officer) at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, in the cove to the far left in the photo below. Both my parents were born in New York City my father in Queens my mother in Manhattan. My father was a reporter and union activist with the New York Newspaper Guild at the legendary Brooklyn Eagle in the years leading up to World War II. He covered the Hindenberg Disaster the Lindberg kidnapping and Hitler's attempt to established the Nazi Party in America among other things. My mother is the bookish one of those rare moms who gives her young son A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Dubliners and Ulysses to read so he can see the career coming way off and know what to expect former-librarian daughter of the Irish trolley-car driver the Third Avenue trolley when it was still horse-drawn He wound up driving assorted vehicles for John Ellis Roosevelt cousin of President Teddy and finally becoming caretaker of the man's summer estate Meadowcroft. While my author instincts keep me in New York City where most of the family has spent most of the past two centuries Meadowcroft where I did some growing up as a child leaves me with a yearning to write an Agatha Christie-style mansion mystery. Don't be surprised if Donovan turns up in such a place while on vacation one of these years. Of the various possible ethnic surnames E English French Spanish German and Irish E that I might have been tagged with fate knew that eventually I would pen the mystery titled Murder on the Waterfront and named me after the guy with the dockside bar. The building at One Old Fulton Street still stands. You can see it blurred and misted by history like my NATO family just to the right of the bridge tower on the Brooklyn side in the above photo which was taken from the top of the World Trade Center. The historic building began life as the Steamboat Ferry Inn circa 1830. Careful readers of Murder In Central Park will recall that name as adorning a beer bottle.”

”Weegee and Me”

”I followed my father into newspaper work at the age of 11. My father was then editing a weekly newspaper in Sayville, NY This is the aforementioned resort town a picture book hamlet of sand gift shops and Rotarians on the South Shore of Long Island halfway back to the hallowed Hamptons digs. Once known for Blue Point Oysters and the summer estates of the very rich Sayville now is famous worldwide as the place to catch the ferry to the gay parts of Fire Island. My father started me as a printer's devil in the back shop and two years' later bought me a camera and turned me into his emergency photographer. I covered fires arrests and car wrecks Wheady stuff for someone that age being given a press badge and a pass through police lines Wand worshipped Weegee the legendary New York City police photographer who inspired the character played by Joe Pesci in his 1992 movie The Public Eye. After a while I traded my Speed Graphic for a typewriter and drifted into writing and editing becoming news editor of another weekly at the age of twenty. “

”I got my first apartment in Manhattan in 1966, on the Upper West Side while a part-time graduate student at Columbia University and a full-time supplicant to the gods of freelance writing. And it was during the antiwar disturbances at Columbia in 1968 when reporters were sitting up all night playing cards with my fellow sleep-deprived Columbia officers waiting for the thousands of tactical police officers swarming the campus to attack that I heard about and shortly thereafter got my first newspaper job in Manhattan as folk and rock music reviewer at The New York Times replacing Bob Shelton the Times’s legendary reviewer who discovered Bob Dylan and had just retired to write a biography of him. Writing as Mike Jahn the byline I had been using since my Weegee days I worked that beat for six years. I covered the Woodstock Festival and hung out with many of the countercultural and pop music icons of that age--and wrote quite a few of their obituaries. Occasionally I took one of their photos, the one over there of John Lennon, recording in America for the first time in 1972 is an example.”

”Eventually I tired of watching people I liked die, and after two-year stint as a TV critic and celebrity interviewer--Leonard Nimoy gave my son a Tribble that now is displayed prominently on his mantle--I built on the notoriety that a daily Times byline gave me to live my real dream writing fiction for a living. At first I signed up with MCA Universal to produce novelizations of its TV and motion picture properties. Those included The Rockford Files The Six Million Dollar Man Switch The Invisible Man with David McCallum and Black Sheep Squadron. I still do this sort of work from time to time a fact that is inescapable if you look me up on Amazon.com most recently with Dragon The Bruce Lee Story and The Frighteners a Michael J. Fox movie that I like to describe as Ghostbusters meets The Seventh Seal. That training gave me the courage to write my own original fiction and my first original mystery The Quark Maneuver Ballantine 1977 won the Edgar Award for best paperback original mystery. A handful of paperback originals later in genres that included science fiction Armada and historical Kingsley's Empire as well as a dalliance with experimental fiction and following a byline switch to Michael Jahn I made the jump to hardcover fiction starting the Bill Donovan Mysteries in the early 1980s with Night Rituals.”

“By 2002, I have published about 50 books. While most of my years in Manhattan were lived on the Upper West Side and Donovan began his illustrious career with the West Side Major Crimes Unit before moving up to command of the citywide Special Investigations unit I also lived on the East Side near the United Nations and in the Brooklyn communities of Flatbush and Sheepshead Bay. I now live in Manhattan and thereabouts. When I am not writing I indulge myself in rereading those writers who influenced me. Among the mystery writers that would include Georges Simenon Leslie Charteris Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. Among the other writers who moved me are Joyce O Henry the Depression Poet Kenneth Fearing read his St. Agnes Eve a fine noir poem Jack Kerouac sometimes I feel I have been rewriting that last paragraph of On the Road for thirty years and especially Meyer Mike Berger creator of the About New York column in The New York Times and inheritor of O Henry's talent for describing the little guy just getting by on the streets of New York get his Meyer Berger’s New York Random House 1953 if you can find it. As for Georges Simenon I have been known to refer to Donovan arrogantly maybe but I hope not entirely inaccurately as New York's Maigret. Donovan does have Maigret's intuitiveness and psychological insight. And to refer to Marcy Donovan's multiracial wife and now the mother of his child as New York's Emma Peel. Well her black leather catsuit days are behind her now, she's a mommy. As Donovan showed, we all grow up sometimes against the most amazing odds. Marcy still steps in now and again to help her husband with cases. As will his son. That's New York. It is New York that you get in reading my books.”

“Beyond my family and writing, the city is my one true love. It is this city that fills the imagination and warms the spirit and even if you write about the view from the World Trade Center a young man who is raiding the Tuesday night trash pickup seeking to furnish his flat with the castoff furniture that wealthy families still shove out onto the curb an Afghan immigrant selling hot dogs so he can afford his studio apartment on Northern Boulevard or an old man trying to get a warm winter sleep atop a steam vent along the West Side Highway when the wind is blowing in raw and knife-edged from Jersey and the rest of America across the Hudson there is a majesty in New York City that you don't find elsewhere. That's what I write about. That's New York." Mike Jahn 3 September 2004

SCOPE AND CONTENT

       Manuscripts (with some correspondence and related items) of many of his crime novels



I. NIGHT RITUALS & THE QUARK MANEUVER

1 & 2          Manuscripts, proofs, and printed copies of two novels by Jahn: Night Rituals (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., c1982) and The Quark Maneuver (New York: Ballantine Books, c1977)


II. MURDER IN CENTRAL PARK

3          Correspondence
       1 folder


2          Manuscript, with ms corrections
       3 folders


III. MURDER IN CONEY ISLAND

3          Manuscript, in four spiral notebooks
       3 folders (notebooks 1, 2 and 3)


4          Manuscript, in four spiral notebooks
       1 folder (notebook 4)


IV. MURDER ON FIFTH AVENUE

4          Correspondence
       1 folder


4          Manuscript, with ms corrections
       3 folders


V. MURDER AT THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

4          Correspondence
       1 folder


4          Related article
       1 folder


4          Manuscript, with ms. corrections
       2 folders


5          Manuscript, with ms. corrections
       1 folder


5          Manuscript, setting copy
       3 folders


5          Page proof
       3 folders


VI. MURDER ON THEATRE ROW

6          Correspondence
       1 folder


6          Reviews
       1 folder


6          Manuscript, first draft
       3 folders


6          Manuscript, final draft
       3 folders


VII. MURDER ON THE WATERFRONT

6          Manuscript, incomplete draft
       1 legal pad


VIII. BOOKS

7          City of God, signed paperback


7          Crooks, Crimes and Christmas, signed


7          Murder in Central Park, signed


7          Murder on Fifth Avenue, signed


7          Murder on Theatre Row, signed


7          Murder on The Waterfront, signed