Hall of Fame – Jan Burke (’71)

Jan Fischer Burke
Class of 1971

Hometown: Los Alamitos
Current Residence: Long Beach

At Los Al, Jan Fischer was in the science club, an officer with GAA, a member of the Future Teachers of America and the Library Club.

Now she is the author of eleven best-selling mystery novels and a collection of short stories, and the winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s 2000 Edgar® Award for Best Novel, for Bones, and received an Edgar® nomination for Best Short Story for “The Abbey Ghosts.” Her short stories have won the Agatha, two Macavity awards, and the Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Reader’s Award. Her books and stories have been published internationally. Nine was recently optioned for film.

Jan is also the founder and director of the Crime Lab Project, an organization working to raise awareness of the problems facing crime labs and forensic science. She has been a speaker at meetings of the American Society of Crime Lab Directors, the California Association of Criminalists, the California Association of Crime Lab Directors, and other forensic science organizations. She is a member of the board of the California Forensic Science Institute.

Jan was born in Houston, TX, but her family relocated to Long Beach when she was six years old. Her family moved to Los Alamitos just as Jan and Los Al were about to begin their high school experience.

Of her high school days, Jan told one interviewer:

“The Griffin was the Los Alamitos High School mascot. Most of us did not know what a griffin was until we were at that high school. A formidable, mongrel mythological beast was an appropriate symbol for that unusual public high school — it used experimental methods of teaching and flexible scheduling of classes. I adored it, but it probably contributed to a small degree to the amount of goofing around I did in high school. (Other factors played a bigger role.)Still, I learned the consequences of goofing around, and a number of other invaluable lessons that had little to do with the curriculum. The faculty was terrific. I fell in love with history in high school, largely because the faculty there taught it so well. “

She received a B.A. in history from California State University, Long Beach, where she worked as a researcher on an oral history project interviewing “Rosie the Riveters.” Recently she was honored as a distinguished alumna of the college.

After graduating from Long Beach, she went some time at She later became the manager of a manufacturing plant for a large corporation.

From the age of seven, though, she wanted to write. She completed her first novel, Goodnight,Irene in the evenings after work. It was sold unagented and unsolicited to Simon & Schuster and published in 1993. She received a surprising boost from a new fan when, during his first White House interview after taking office, President Bill Clinton said he was reading Goodnight, Irene.

She soon left her day-job to write full-time. Since that time, Simon & Schuster has published eight Irene Kelly novels, Flight, a spin-off novel featuring homicide detective Frank Harriman, Nine, a standalone thriller, and 18, a collection of her first eighteen short stories.

She taught writing for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has been the keynote speaker at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference. She edited the first edition of Breaking and Entering, Sisters in Crime’s guide to getting published, and served as an Associate Editor on Writing Mysteries: A Handbook by the Mystery Writers of America, edited by Sue Grafton. She is a longtime member of Sisters in Crime and has served on the national boards of Mystery Writers of America and the American Crime Writers League.