J.P. Morgan,
The Copper Indian
(Xulon Press, 2007)

The Copper Indian comes from the pen of a man whose life reads like a crime epic covering two decades of law enforcement practice and a similar period in academia.

In these days of books set in gritty 21st-century locales or else in fantasy lands, J.P. Morgan brings us down to Earth and back to the reality of the 1960s, a decade we usually connect to the Beatles, JFK and the Cold War. In The Copper Indian, he takes us on a very realistic fictional tour of duty with Jim Utze, one of the very few Native American police detectives.

The book is realistic but also full of surprises and some excellent humour. The descriptions of the police "expense accounts" have that taste of reality and serve to remind us of a period when people got things done -- possibly by bending rules and turning a blind eye.

The early section of the book is confusing with its juxtaposed timing, but when this settles down we get into a rollicking ride with dead men booked, junkies entrapped and police corruption investigations. A side plot that caught my attention was the partner with a heart condition who should not have been on active service, but who had a plan whereby if he dropped dead his colleague agreed to throw him off a roof "in hot pursuit" of a suspect so his widow could collect the pension. It is so ingenious and unlikely that it rings true.

The other plotline that fascinated was when Utze was involved in diplomatic protection.

If there were to be one criticism of The Copper Indian it would be that there are too many plots and occurrences. It reads more like a memoir than a novel. Having said that maybe we get a half-dozen short novels in its 244 pages.

Read it as novel, memoir or whatever -- but read it.

music review by
Nicky Rossiter

9 October 2010

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