The Detective’s Notebooks

Jim Irving kept notes from his days as a private eye. Forty years later, he published his first novel.

“Arlington has a rich history and is evolving from a bedroom community to a business community, which is changing the character of the place,” the author explains. “The main character, Joth (short for Jonathan), just sits in his little office on Wilson Boulevard waiting for someone to walk through the door. He is unable to keep up with the changes happening around him.”

The second book in the trilogy—Friend of a Friend—will be published this summer, while Irving is diligently refining the third, Friend of the Court. All three titles feature Joth Proctor as the central protagonist, and they are sprinkled with references to local landmarks, such as Whitlow’s on Wilson (which recently announced it will close in late June after 26 years in Arlington), Rock Spring Park and the Arlington Courthouse.

While being published hasn’t brought fame or fortune, Irving says he has enjoyed attending a few virtual book clubs to discuss Friends Like These. It helps to live in a community of avid readers. “Arlington has everything you want—green spaces, close to Washington, and people who are warm, intelligent and interesting,” he says.

What lies ahead? The author’s personal life story may offer some clues into the settings for future Jim Irving novels. He grew up in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a place that lures him back at least once a year. He lights up when talking about his childhood home. “It is an unusually self-sufficient and self-defining place, perhaps because you have to cross a bridge to get to it,” he explains. “People know and trust and rely on each other there.”

He reminisces about sailing and biking around the coastal city’s beautiful beaches and tide pools with childhood friends with whom he remains close.

In addition to those of Virginia, Maryland and D.C., he is a member of the Massachusetts bar.

So perhaps, in the future, Joth Proctor will travel to the New England coast, abandoning the frenetic life of an ever-changing Arlington. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen too soon. Irving still has many notebooks from his private eye days in Northern Virginia that have yet to be plumbed for literary gold.

Tamar Abrams lived in Arlington for 27 years before retiring from a career in global health communications. She downsized to a smaller place in Falls Church City in 2019 and now works as a strategic communications consultant and writer.


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