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The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The great sea mystery

City College anthropology Professor William Doonan’s second mystery novel, “Mediterranean Grave,” was recently published. The novel, like Doonan’s first, centers around an 84-year-old investigator who solves crimes on cruise ships. The Express Stock Photo

A tropical retreat on the open sea doesn’t sound like a bad way to spend the summer, especially if it provides a summer income and inspiration for a mystery novel series.

City College anthropology professor William Doonan spends his summers as a destination lecturer at sea gaining inspiration abroad for his mystery novel series. Doonan published his first mystery, “Grave Passage,” in 2009 and its sequel, “Mediterranean Grave” in January 2011.

Mystery novels are “escapist fantasies” for this anthropology professor who gives presentations to passengers on cruise ships about art, history and prehistory.

“I started thinking about that environment as a great place to set a series of mystery novels,” says Doonan, who has been lecturing on cruise ships for the past 10 years. “If a crime happens at sea, jurisdiction is a pretty vague issue, so I thought the open seas needed their own special investigator that’s when I came up with Henry Grave.”

“Mediterranean Grave” is set on a small cruise ship in the Mediterranean where a valuable artifact is stolen and Henry Grave has to solve the crime.  The second book includes more of Henry’s experience as a prisoner of war in World War II, says Doonan

Doonan’s colleague, political science professor Paul Frank, describes Doonan as well-traveled, smart, thoughtful, innovative, creative and humorous.

“You can see a little bit of Dr. Doonan in his characters,” says Frank. “His experience as a lecturer on cruise ships certainly lends to his legitimacy.”

Frank plans to bring Doonan’s second novel on his cruise trip this summer, and Doonan’s office mate, sociology professor Angela Block also has “Mediterranean Grave” on top of her “next to read” pile.

Block says the writing styles in Doonan’s stories are unique and interesting. She says his first novel lights up his sense of humor. “If you know him, you will recognize this when reading his work.”
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Doonan is a dual-national Irish citizen who was born in New York but grew up in New Jersey and still has family in Ireland. He went to college at Brown University in Rhode Island and earned his PhD in anthropology from Tulane University in New Orleans; he has taught at City College since 1999.

“If teaching doesn’t work out, I can always go on welfare in Dublin,” Doonan jokes.

With his quirky sense of humor and tales from travels across the world, Doonan’s classes are highly recommended.

“If you’ve not taken a class with Dr. Doonan, I highly recommend doing so,” says Block.

Doonan, as a man of many interests, says choosing a career path is a simple matter of logic.

“If your two passions are investment banking and candle making, I’d say go with the investment banking,” Doonan says. “You can make candles on the weekends.”

Doonan is currently teaching anthropology in Florence, Italy for the Northern California Study Abroad Consortium this semester.

“Traveling is a great way to develop some new perspectives on life,” Doonan says. “And some new angles for interesting plots and interesting characters.”

For more information on Doonan’s works, click here.

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