Pasadena Voice article

Pasadena Voice article

Novelist John Burley Returns to Pasadena for Book Signing at Library

(excerpt from article by Sharon Mager of the Pasadena Voice;  published July 15, 2015)

If someone met John Burley walking down the street with his broad smile and ingratiating demeanor, they would never guess he had murder on his mind.  The successful suspense author and emergency room physician is a Pasadena native and a resident of Northern California.  Burley visited Mountain Road Library on July 11 to meet with fans, read passages from his latest novel, "The Forgetting Place," and autograph paperback copies of the book. 

In Burley's debut book, "The Absence of Mercy," the main character, Dr. Ben Stevenson, is a medical examiner in a cozy, close-knit Ohio town.  When a teenager is brutally mutilated and murdered, Stevenson must handle the autopsy.  The father of a teen, the doctor is shaken by the tragedy.  Later, a young woman is brutally attacked and left for dead, but she amazingly pulls through.  Ben and his wife are fearful for their children.  The murder has an effect on Ben's marriage as his wife begins to withdraw, and as secrets are slowly revealed, Ben finds his community, his family, and his world begin to unravel.  "The Absence of Mercy" won the National Black Ribbon Award, which recognizes a new voice in suspense writing.  Burley's reviewers compare him to Patricia Cornwell, Harlan Coben, Robin Cook, and Kathy Reichs. 

In Burley's second book, "The Forgetting Place," Dr. Lise Shields works at a Maryland correctional psychiatric facility and finds herself drawn to a young patient who doesn't seem to belong in the institution.  The administrator offers no help and the young woman is followed.  Lise discovers she's in the midst of a conspiracy.  The book, like the first, pulls the reader in and doesn't let go.

So how did Burley add his career as a writer to that of a physician?  He always enjoyed reading and writing, and Burley said being an avid reader is the best training for becoming an accomplished writer.  His favorite books as a young boy were in "The Hardy Boys" series.  As he grew, he added books by Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and Dean Koontz.

Though he wanted to be an author for many years as a youth, as an adult he wasn't sure he could support himself, so he went for a back-up career and became a doctor.

"I took a twelve-year hiatus," Burley said, chuckling.  He attended University of Maryland, College Park, for his undergraduate work, underwent graduate studies in Chicago, and came back to the University of Maryland for his residency. 

After completing his education, Burley found he still wanted to write.  So juggling his duties as an emergency room doctor, husband, and father, he began taking several days a month to begin his first book.  Three years later, he was ready to look for a publisher, and more than two years after that his first book went to press. 

About twenty people attended the Mountain Road Library event.  Some were family and friends, and others were curious to meet and listen to the homegrown successful suspense writer.  Burley's parents, Dennis and Cari, brought snacks.  Burley's eight-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, accompanied her dad.  Carrying her American Girl doll and chatting with guests, Mackenzie said it's fun traveling with her father to the book signings. 

Burley grew up in the North Shore community on the Pasadena peninsula and graduated from Chesapeake High School in 1989.  He has fond memories from his youth.

"Chesapeake was a fabulous school," Burley said.  He enjoyed track and field, soccer, baseball, and basketball.  He was also a drummer in the marching band.  English was his favorite subject, though he also excelled in science.

His middle school science teacher, Barbara Johnson, now retired from Chesapeake Middle School, attended the library's book signing. 

Johnson said Burley had a strong interest in science and was an excellent student who came prepared with his homework.  "I wasn't surprised he became a doctor," she said.  She was, however, pleasantly surprised he added "author" to his accomplishments and said she's pleased to see how Burley uses his medical knowledge throughout his writing.

He returns at least once a year to visit his parents and enjoys coming home to the 'Dena.  Burley said he appreciates the "greenery" in Maryland.  Looking back, he misses the movie theater at Jumpers Hole and an old familiar Chinese restaurant that is no longer around.  But mostly, he misses his family and friends.

"I miss being close to a network of friends I've known for decades," Burley said. 

For more information about Burley and his books, visit


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