James O. Born is a former U.S. Drug agent and State Law Enforcement agent. Each of his novels is based on some aspect of his career. His third novel, Escape Clause, won the inaugural Florida Book Award for Best Novel. Born’s fifth novel, Burn Zone, features ATF agent Alex Duarte. All the novels are published by Putnam.
In 2009 Born will have the first in a series of science fiction novels published by TOR under the name James O’Neal. The novels are police stories set in the near future.
James O. Born is a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). He has been involved in investigations in such areas as organized crime, violent crimes, economic crimes, drug cartels, and public corruption.
Before working with the FDLE, Born joined the U.S. Marshals service in early 1986 as a deputy marshal, assigned to the Miami and West Palm Beach offices. One year later, he transferred to the Drug Enforcement Administration. In four years with DEA, he was assigned to the West Palm Beach field office, and traveled within the United States and Panama. He spent a great deal of time in Miami during the height of the drug wars. His investigations at DEA generally focused on cocaine smuggling from Colombia. In addition, he worked undercover in a number of situations, in one case volunteering to assist the ATF as an undercover agent in the Ku Klux Klan during an explosives investigation.
On long surveillances when he had several hours of down time, Born would often read novels. Being in law enforcement, he enjoyed reading about the military and, at this time, began reading books by Tom Clancy and W.E.B. Griffin.
About this same time he met Elmore Leonard and started providing technical advice on issues such as police tactics and firearms. After a while he thought he might like to try and write his own stories. Many of his story ideas came while sitting on surveillance late at night with nothing to do and no one to talk with.
Drug cases tended to all have similar characteristics with few twists. In comparison, it wasn’t until Born started working as a Special Agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement – working on everything from serial robberies to complex fraud cases – that he realized how every type of investigation has its own physics. Each type of case is driven by a different kind of crook and often a different kind of cop. Someone who is a good narcotics detective may not be able to work a homicide.
The more Born read, the more he realized that many people’s view of police work, including some police officers, came from TV shows and novels. It seemed like people wanted cops to be bigger than life or fit a certain mold. Born felt compelled from the beginning to capture the real life element of police work. From the endless stream of practical jokes and verbal sparring to the surprise and fear a cop can feel when he has to risk his life.
It has now been fourteen years since Born started writing, and ironically, he has the same editor as W.E.B. Griffin and Tom Clancy – the very authors he spent his time reading during those long surveillances years ago.
Born currently lives in suburban Palm Beach County with his wife Donna, and two children, John and Emily.