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James Comey knows the politics of NY law enforcement. Now, he's writing about it

Former FBI director James Comey before testifying on Capitol Hill in 2018.
Mark Wilson
Getty Images
Former FBI director James Comey before testifying on Capitol Hill in 2018.

The new fiction novel Central Park West draws from James Comey's experience in the FBI and as a U.S attorney for the southern district of New York.

Who is he? A man of many titles.

  • You probably remember him as the seventh director of the FBI, who held that role from 2013 until 2017, when he was fired by former President Donald Trump.
  • Comey also spent the earlier part of his career working as a U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, and worked in law enforcement for years.
  • Since leaving the FBI, Comey has turned to writing. He has several nonfiction titles under his belt, but most recently used some of his career experiences as fodder for the fictional Central Park West.
  • What's the big deal? Comey's latest work draws on a pretty obvious link between his own life and this narrative.

    The cover of Comey's new novel.
    / Mysterious Press
    Mysterious Press
    The cover of Comey's new novel.

  • Comey's years of experience gave him the unique perspective to tell the story of Central Park West — about the mob and murder, as well as the notorious rivalry between the Manhattan D.A. and the U.S. attorney's office.
  • Here's how he described it to NPR: "I used to describe them to people as blood sworn enemies, except when they're living together and having a baby. So there was a lot that we did together and a lot we fought over. I used to try and take the D.A. [Robert] Morgenthau to lunch on a regular basis to try and build, repair, whatever damage was done.

  • Want more on politics? Here's Consider This on what's going on with Twitter.

    What are people saying? NPR's Mary Louise Kelly interviewed Comey. Here's some of what he had to say.

    On a line in the book about the NYPD and FBI.

    "The constant warring between the FBI and NYPD only added to the tension, and New Yorkers were naturally a pain in the ass." — Central Park West

    From my upbringing and my professional experience [the] FBI and NYPD are Godzilla and King Kong ... They're like siblings — sometimes they play really well together, sometimes not so much.

    On why he decided to try his hand at fiction:

    An editor of nonfiction nudged me to, and at first I resisted. And the farther I got from the work, the easier it became to think about giving it a shot. And so I decided to try, and found it addictive. And now I want this to be my job.

    It's not a hobby for me. I need to have a job. And I found this harder than nonfiction, but a lot more fun.

    On a character's monologue towards the end of the book:

    "Our job is to lock up bad people, to protect good people. I've never really thought of our job as finding truth. Our job is to live in gray." — Central Park West

    [This character is] trying to channel something that I learned through my career, that there's a difference between truth and justice. You can know something in your heart of hearts. But the justice system is built around the question of: Can you prove it and clear a threshold and convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt?

    And those are two different things. There's lots of things that you may know to be true that can't be proven in a way that allows the justice system to hold somebody accountable. And that's a hard thing to learn. It's a hard thing to realize when you first start out and you're all fired up about standing up to represent the United States. But it's something you learn when you deal with cases. Bad people sometimes get away. And we've set up the system that way so that we reduce the chances of innocent people, of good people, being unfairly convicted.

    On the case against Trump, who has plead not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records:

    I read the indictment and the accompanying statement of facts. I don't know much more than that. I don't have a view on the merits because I don't know the facts, but I think this is wonderful in the sense that the American people can see how the rule of law works, especially in the case of a person who's tried to take a flamethrower to the rule of law in America over the last seven or so years.

    This is how it works: A grand jury returns an indictment; a prosecutor presents in court; the defendant has counsel; he has the judge offer him discovery; and it will proceed in the ordinary course. This is the system that is the bedrock of our democracy. And however it turns out, this is showing the American people that the rule of law has held in America. And that's a good thing.

    So, what now?

  • Comey's already got the sequel to Central Park West in the works.
  • The trial date for Trump's case is set for March 25, 2024.
  • Learn more:

  • 4 new books by Filipino authors to read this spring
  • 1 complaint led a Florida school to restrict access to Amanda Gorman's famous poem
  • Kennedy Ryan's romances are coming for your heartstrings
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.