a Buzzard Digital interview with author Jason James Barry
Buzzard Digital: You wrote a police memoir, “The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and the Pull of Police Life.” Readers might find it surprising that one of the book’s early chapters centers on you in middle school. Tell us about that chapter, “A Danger Side,” and your intention behind it.
Jason James Barry: Most cops in the 1970s and 1980s kept notes of their work. As a state trooper then, my father lived a life very intertwined in his. And there I was at 10, 11, 12-year-old finding all these police notes he hid at home. That made me feel accomplished then, at a time when it felt the world had ignored me as this awkward, quiet kid.
Buzzard Digital: Did he leave them for you to find? Why was he hiding his notes? And why were you looking?
Jason James Barry: I was on this road to finding out about my father — and how I could compare to him. He was frustratingly distant as a person. I didn’t find out why he was until after I grew up. As I got older, I learned that these notes were all different cases that weighed on him. Some sensitive. Some dangerous. Some frustrating.
Knowing what I know now in my own career — having been a cop and a DEA agent — I’d say he was afraid for us of what he was investigating. And he sure as hell didn’t want me to find them, but I did.
Buzzard Digital: How did you balance writing about the “inside baseball” of policing — with your father’s intent, presumably, to keep that part of his life from you?
Jason James Barry: I don’t know how he could have expected me not to try. If we were cut from the same cloth, and I’d like to think we were, he was defined by staring things down, defiantly. As a boy trying to find out about himself, I needed to shine light on the mystery of who my father was to begin to map out my own life, and I found that in his notes and cases.
And there I was in junior high with all of this swirling in my head, as I was trying to make cuts for basketball, figuring out where to fit in. Looking back, that was such an odd juxtaposition for a kid to be juggling. Adolescence, girls, and mysterious crime notes. So of course that goes into the storytelling of what brings a person into police work.
Buzzard Digital: It becomes clear that “The Midnight Coffee Club” isn’t a collection of war stories or chest-thumping. How would you describe the book’s central theme?
Jason James Barry: It’s very much a self-discovery story. It centers on a son emerging from the shadow cast by his father. There’s a lot of discovery in this book, and I found out a great deal about myself by going into police work. That’s at the core of the book. I hope someone curious about police life finds that in this story.
Buzzard Digital: I think they will. Thanks for this insider view of your book.
“The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and the Pull of Police Life” by Jason James Barry is published by Prattlon Digital Media. Jason James Barry is an award-winning essayist and journalist who served as a police officer in Connecticut and as a DEA Special Agent.
Copies of “The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and the Pull of Police Life” are available in paperback on Amazon and at select locations in Southern California.