Local author pens first novel based on real-life work with Coast Guard

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos novelist John Gordon works at his desk.

Longtime Los Altos resident John Gordon combined his knowledge of two subjects familiar to him – the Bay Area and the work of Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers within it – to craft his latest book, “Crash Course: Volunteer Patriots Confront Deadly Terrorists.”

The novel, released earlier this year, is the author’s sixth self-published book and his first work of fiction. Prior to “Crash Course,” Gordon wrote and self-published nonfiction works including “Over Seas: A Spirited Guide for Enduring International Flights” and “Manure,” an autobiographical account of his experiences as a city kid working on his uncle’s farm during the summers of his teenage years.

Transitioning from those nonfiction works to the fictional “Crash Course” proved challenging for Gordon.

“For me, coming from a standpoint of writing nonfiction, building a story, building the characters, building the multiple storylines and having it all come together was like a giant puzzle,” said Gordon, a retired vice president of human resources for a tech company.

While solving the puzzle was difficult for Gordon, the pieces eventually fit together, and he found the experience to be ultimately satisfying. He said he writes as a hobby to keep his brain stimulated and active.

Writing is just one of the local author’s hobbies; others include traveling and working as a volunteer with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which he did for 14 years until the end of 2016. Gordon left the auxiliary when he began traveling more; he has visited Russia, China, Cuba and South and North Korea. The author chooses to keep his travels separate from his writing and opted to set his recent work closer to home.

‘Write what you know’

“Crash Course,” which Gordon described as a “thriller,” takes place mainly in San Francisco and follows Coast Guard volunteers who face a terrorist threat. Although the story is fictional, he said the setting and the practices of the volunteers are accurate.

“They say, ‘Write what you know,’” he said. “I know the San Francisco Bay and Coast Guard Auxiliary procedures, activities and missions on the San Francisco Bay. I also wanted to bring attention to the extraordinary works and sacrifices of the Coast Guard Auxiliary.”

While working as a volunteer for the auxiliary, Gordon cruised the San Francisco Bay to complete search and rescue missions.

“As skipper, my boat and crew assisted dozens of boaters in distress, often rescuing them from hazards and towing them to a safe port,” he said. “All were accomplished safely in spite of the often rough conditions on the bay.”

Although he is no longer volunteering with the auxiliary, Gordon continues to boat on the bay two to three times a month, and still sometimes performs rescues.

Gordon has distributed his novel to friends and acquaintances. He said he has received both positive feedback and constructive criticism, which he is taking into account while working on the sequel to “Crash Course” that he has outlined.

One reader, Gail Carnevale, was introduced to the book by teammates on the softball team she and Gordon play on. Carnevale said she would recommend the novel to “people who are interested in local history” and whodunit fans.

“The book is entertaining and an easy read,” she said. “The characters are interesting and it is peppered with mystery.”

For more information on Gordon and his books, visit

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