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Novel desire

Photo by Erin Prawoko
Westwood writer Jan Brogan's third novel, "Yesterday's Fatal," hits bookstores tomorrow.
By Greg Duggan/Daily News stafff

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As a child growing up in New Jersey, Jan Brogan said she always wanted to be a writer.

The Westwood resident realized her goal and is making a career as a mystery writer, with her third published novel, "Yesterday's Fatal," hitting bookstores tomorrow.

Brogan's father, a lawyer and city councilor, encouraged her to try journalism, which she studied at Boston University and which led to jobs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

"I really like it, it's a great career," Brogan said of journalism. "But I knew in the back of my head, I had a long-term plan that when I had kids I would try to write a novel."

Brogan's mystery novels take place largely in Boston and Providence, R.I., and feature investigative journalist Hallie Ahern as the main character.

In "Yesterday's Fatal," Ahern digs into a car insurance fraud ring that collects money through planned accidents. Brogan explained that people pay a fee to sit in the accident-bound cars, then collect a portion of the insurance payments.

"I'm fascinated there are people whose lives are at such a point where this is a good investment, and worth it to take those risks," Brogan said.

The author, who still does some freelance journalism, said the similarities she shares with her main character end with the profession.

Ahern battles with an addictive personality and, in past novels, struggled with gambling and sleeping pills. Though Brogan said she does not have the compulsive qualities of her main character, she has watched friends and families deal with alcoholism and finds people coping with addictions fascinating.

When she turned her writing focus to books, Brogan said she had no intention of becoming a mystery author. She described her first novel, which was never published, as a comedy in which the devil comes to a small town as a personal financial planner.

The turn to mystery writing, however, came naturally for the journalist, who had developed investigative and interviewing skills while working at newspapers. "People see my work as dark. I see it as funny," Brogan said.

Brogan does her writing in a room in the upstairs corner of her Stonegate Lane home, where she lives with her husband, Bill Santo, and children, Lannie Santo, 20 and Frank "Spike" Santo, 17, and dog, Amber.

The author already has another Hallie Ahern story in the works. Inspired by a series in The New York Times about teens using webcams and being enticed into online pornography, she's written 100 pages toward a mystery that dealing with the Internet.

Barnes & Noble on Rte. 1 in Walpole is having a launch party for Brogan and "Yesterday's Fatal" at 7 p.m. on May 11.

Daily News staff writer Greg Duggan can be reached at 781-433-8355 or by e-mail at

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