Monday, July 21, 2014

Alabama Book Spotlight: Starett by Arthur V. Deutcsh

I'd like to begin this intermittent blog series with a book barely connected to Alabama, a novel by Arthur V. Deutcsh. He came to Birmingham in 1981 and served 10 years as the city's Chief of Police. He may thus be the only published novelist among police chiefs in Alabama history.

This front and back cover is the Dell paperback edition published in January 1980. The third image is the front cover of the Arbor House hardback edition which had appeared in 1978.

The hardback dust jacket announces the book as simply "A novel by Arthur V. Deutcsh". By the time the paperback appeared, the cover declared that Starett was "A Scorching Novel by a Twenty-Year Veteran of the N.Y.P.D." 

Deutcsh apparently published only this one book. His dedication reads, "I have dedicated some off-duty hours to this book and the entertainment of fiction readers. In real life, I've dedicated twenty-two years to my city's finest profession, the police force. Neither of these dedications would have been possible without the help of my lovely wife and six children."

Deutsch was tried for tampering with governmental records while in Birmingham and received a 12-month jail sentence and a $2000 fine on the misdemeanor charge. He and three other officers were indicted for altering arrest records of Mayor Richard Arrington's daughter Erica in December 1990. Deutsch filed an appeal in July 1992. 

I have found curiously little about Deutsch online. I did not find the outcome of his appeal or an obituary. I did find a 1987 article about Deutsch's pursuit of a thief while he and his wife Elaine were out walking near their home. 

I have yet to read Starett but hope to get to it one day. Who could resist a novel with a cover tag like "His business was death. Both the cops and the Mafia called him one of their own."

Arthur Deutsch is not the only Alabama policeman to publish fiction. James Byron Huggins, who worked in the Huntsville Police Department among many other jobs, has published a series of popular novels. Sorcerer published in 2006 seems to be the most recent.

Lee Kohn worked for the Mobile Police Department from 1977 until 1993. He has published several novels such as Badge 13. 

[Added 8-23-14]

 I recently came across a copy of the "Just A Chat" feature the Birmingham News ran years ago dated June 12, 1991. The subject was David Harris, an Irondale police lieutenant at the time. He mentions having written one novel, "The Visitation," about a policeman who fights a demon in a small Southern town. He also notes he's far along on a second novel, "All Creatures Here Below," "a futuristic love story." I've been unable to find any further information about these novels. 

If you know of other Alabama law enforcement officials who have published fiction, please comment below. Join me again next time for another obscure book somehow related to Alabama!

[Added 8-29-14]

I found an old file I had on Chief Deutsch that contained some further articles. "Deutsch may have had a stroke, his doctor says" ran in the Birmingham Post-Herald on January 27, 1995. This article noted that "Since falling down a long flight of stairs at Birmingham City Hall three years ago, the specifics of Deutcsh's declining health were never publicly disclosed." The article notes his misdemeanor charge of record tampering as noted above had been overturned on appeal. His attorney Mark White said Deutcsh did not understand due to his mental status. 

Earlier articles in my file focus on Deutcsh's literary career. "New chief's book about cop-gone-bad gets attention now" the Birmingham News noted in a November 11, 1981, article. A brief note in the News on September 28, 1986, described his upcoming appearance at the Avondale Community School for a talk on mystery writing and his recent workshop at the Birmingham-Southern College Writers Conference. 

An April 20, 1984, article in the UAB Kaleidoscope declared, "Police chief finds second love as aspiring writer." This item notes an episode Deutcsh wrote for the television series McCloud that starred Dennis Weaver as a policeman from the west working in New York City. Deutcsh's script for "The 42nd St. Cavalry" featured McCloud riding a horse through the city.

Source for paperback edition: my collection

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon


  1. There is a lengthy article about Deutcsh in the March, 1985 Life magazine, pp 19-22. I discovered it while randomly looking through old Lifes and wound up here while looking online to see whatever became of him!

  2. Hey, thanks for that info! I wasn't aware of that item. Does it discuss his fiction??