Skip to main content

Camp, John 1944–

Camp, John 1944–

(John Roswell Camp, John Sandford)


Born February 23, 1944, in Cedar Rapids, IA; son of Roswell Sandford and Anne Camp; married Susan Lee Jones, December 28, 1965 (deceased, May, 2007); children: Roswell Anthony, Emily Sarah. Education: University of Iowa, B.A., 1966, M.A., 1971. Religion: Roman Catholic. Hobbies and other interests: Painting, archaeology, photography.


Home—Near St. Paul, MN. Agent—Esther Newberg, International Creative Management, 40 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, journalist. Miami Herald, Miami, FL, reporter, 1971-78; St. Paul Pioneer Press, St. Paul, MN, reporter and columnist, 1978-89; writer, 1966—. Military service: U.S. Army, 1966-68; served in Korea.


Pulitzer Prize nomination, 1980, for series of articles on Native Americans in St. Paul Pioneer Press Dispatch; Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, 1986, for series of articles on a farming family in Pioneer Press Dispatch; Distinguished Writing Award, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 1986.


The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle (nonfiction), Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1988.

Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cuts (nonfiction), Holt (New York, NY), 1989.

(As John Sandford) The Night Crew (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 1997.

(As John Sandford) Dead Watch (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2006.

(As John Sandford) Dark of the Moon (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2007.

(As John Sandford) Heat Lightning (novel), Putnam (New York, NY), 2008.


The Fool's Run, Holt (New York, NY), 1989.

The Empress File, Holt (New York, NY), 1991.

(Under name John Sandford) The Devil's Code, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.

(Under name John Sandford) The Hanged Man's Song, Putnam (New York, NY), 2003.


Rules of Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1989, reprinted, 2005.

Shadow Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1990.

Eyes of Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1991.

Silent Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1992.

Winter Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1993.

Night Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1994.

Mind Prey (also see below), Putnam (New York, NY), 1995.

Sudden Prey (also see below), Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.

Secret Prey (also see below), Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.

Certain Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 1999.

Easy Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.

Three Complete Novels: Mind Prey, Sudden Prey, Secret Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2000.

Chosen Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.

Mortal Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2002.

Naked Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2004.

Hidden Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2004.

Broken Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2005.

Invisible Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2007.

Phantom Prey, Putnam (New York, NY), 2008.


Rules of Prey was adapted for film by Adam Greenman and released as Mind Prey, Jaffe/Braunstein, Ltd., 1999.


Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Camp is a versatile writer who has distinguished himself as an author of both nonfiction and mysteries. He is best known under the pseudonym John Sandford for his "Lucas Davenport" novels, a series of thrillers that all feature the word "Prey" in their titles, as well as for the "Jason Kidd" novels, which feature a clever computer expert who operates on the fringe of cyberlaw. Throughout the 1990s and into the first decade of the twenty-first century, Camp—as Sandford—has published the "Lucas Davenport" novels at a rate of almost one per year. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the "vast popularity" of the titles and credited this popularity to the author's "clever plotting, sure pacing and fully rounded villains."

As far back as high school, Camp knew he had a talent for writing. After earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa in 1966, he entered the United States Army, and it was there that he began to train as a journalist. Upon completion of his military service, he returned to the University of Iowa, where he earned a master's degree in journalism. He began his career as a newspaper reporter, eventually earning a Pulitzer Prize for a lengthy investigative series first published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about the difficulties facing one farm family in Minnesota.

Camp's experiences as a reporter inform his earliest books, both fictional and nonfictional. He once told Publishers Weekly that "most of the hard information in my books comes from a series I did in a newspaper." That series, in fact, was based on a group of incarcerated murderers who had formed a computer corporation in prison. Camp has since said that the opportunity to interview nearly fifty intelligent men serving life sentences was central to his ability to develop villains for his thrillers.

Camp's first book, The Eye and the Heart: Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle, is a catalog of Ingle's works seen in a touring exhibition in the late 1980s. Included in the book, which features an essay by Camp, are more than forty color reproductions of the contemporary painter's meticulously realistic works. Camp's next nonfiction publication, Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cuts, relates his insights about cosmetic and restorative surgery. Camp's observations derive from his time spent with surgeon Bruce Cunningham, who allowed Camp operating-room access. Critics found the book to be an engrossing and frank look at plastic surgery.

Camp began publishing fiction in 1989 with The Fool's Run, a suspense novel about an eccentric computer criminal hired to undermine a defense contractor. Kidd, the narrator and hero, is a painter, martial arts student, and occult dabbler who possesses considerable computer wizardry. He is hired to disable an aerospace company's information system. Accordingly, he wreaks havoc on the company's computer programs, but in so doing he also discovers the existence of a formidable foe. Critics praised Camp's first fictional effort, and several described The Fool's Run as fast-paced, suspenseful, and engaging. A second novel, The Empress File, finds Kidd embroiled in racial conflict. His employer, a black activist, engages him to sabotage a band of racist, corrupt officials in Mississippi. Kidd and his lover/accomplice LuEllen, a skilled burglar, soon manage to infiltrate the group and draw them into a scheme designed to result in their downfall. The officials, however, eventually discover that their operation risks exposure, and they retaliate with violence.

Both The Fool's Run and The Empress File were originally published by Henry Holt under the author's real name, John Camp. When Camp's agent sold the first "Lucas Davenport" novel, Rules of Prey, to Putnam, that publisher wanted to print it under a pseudonym. Putnam felt that the "Lucas Davenport" books would become best sellers, and the company reportedly did not want Holt to cash in on the success by riding the Prey books' coattails. Camp cooperated, choosing his great-grandfather's name, Sandford, as a pseudonym. That name is so widely recognized now that Camp is even using it on sequels to The Fool's Run and The Empress File.

Rules of Prey, the first novel in the series, presents Lucas Davenport, a resourceful Minneapolis police detective determined to apprehend a particularly vicious killer, Maddog, who preys on young women. At the scene of each crime, Maddog leaves a note relating his rules for murder. "Never kill anyone you know," reads one message. "Never carry a weapon after it has been used," reads another. Determined to jar Maddog's sense of gamesmanship, Davenport engages the psychopath in a dangerous cat-and-mouse contest, one with potentially fatal repercussions. Washington Post Book World contributor Daniel Woodrell, in his assessment of Rules of Prey, deemed it "a big, suspenseful thriller."

In Shadow Prey, the next "Lucas Davenport" novel, the detective opposes a terrorist network operated by local Native Americans avenging themselves against their white oppressors. Davenport discovers that one of the group's intended victims is a loathsome FBI agent who molests Native American children. The ensuing action builds to a violent climax. Another book in the series, Eyes of Prey, involves a murderous, drug-addicted hospital pathologist, Michael Bekker, and a disfigured actor, Carlo Druze. The two men commit murders for each other, with Bekker killing Druze's theater manager and Druze killing Bekker's wife. By working together, Bekker and Druze are also able to conveniently provide alibis for each other. It is left to Davenport, who is fighting depression and is involved in a rocky love relationship, to apprehend these criminals.

Subsequent "Lucas Davenport" titles have built upon their predecessors without becoming dependent upon one another. Davenport is always present in each story, but in some of them he plays a smaller role. Critics have commended the author for creating, in Davenport, a character whose career choice simultaneously stimulates and depresses him—like an addict, the detective cannot extricate himself from his work no matter how grisly the killings become, not even when they tear apart his relationships with women. It is the author's villains, however, who draw the most praise in the reviews. In Booklist, Wes Lukowsky suggested that the series has been sustained "most of all" by its plethora of "great villains." A Publishers Weekly correspondent likewise noted that the people Davenport vies against in his labors "are shrewdly conceived originals, cut from fabric way at the back of the bin."

In recent years Camp—again using the Sandford pseudonym—has taken temporary leave of his "Lucas Davenport" series from time to time to write independent thrillers featuring other heroes. He brought back Kidd in the novel The Devil's Code, a work described by a Kirkus Reviews critic as "computer skullduggery on an epic scale." He has also introduced Anna Batory, a video freelancer who speeds around Los Angeles, looking for footage of murder and mayhem that she can sell to the television stations. Batory finds herself a target for violence in The Night Crew, a thriller that Pam Lambert commended in People as "tough, fiercely intelligent and irresistible." Appealing as the heroine is, Sandford explained in an interview published on his home page, there will not likely be more Anna Batory novels, because "Anna is basically a female Lucas, minus the badge. And having two characters that similar, by the same author, is just redundant."

Reviewing The Hanged Man's Song in the Library Journal, Denise Garofolo remarked: "The fourth installment in Sandford's Kidd series finds Kidd's genius hacker friend Bobby brutally murdered and Bobby's laptop missing." Together with LuEllen, Kidd travels from Minnesota to Mississippi, and then Washington, DC, in pursuit of the killer, along the way encountering "chases, crooked politicians, identity theft, and plenty of peeks into the worlds of burglary and computer hacking." In an interview posted on John Sandford's home page, the author differentiated between his two major protagonists. Davenport, he said, "is an amalgam of cops I've known, a couple of movie stars, and the characters in any number of thrillers I've read in the past." He added: "There really aren't any cops like Davenport, because he's just too much like Sherlock Holmes, he's a little over the top." Kidd is hardly less extravagant. His creator described Kidd as "a criminal who does industrial espionage to support his watercolor painting habit."

Camp returned to the "Lucas Davenport" series in 2001 with the publication of Chosen Prey. In this, the twelfth installment, Deputy Police Chief Lucas Davenport decides to take matters in his own hands when a serial killer begins murdering young women in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Though distracted with sudden changes in his personal life, Davenport soon links the dead women with a prominent art professor at a local university, James Qatar. However, wrapping up the case before Qatar strikes again proves to be a daunting challenge for Davenport, one that nearly claims his life. The author "is in top form here," claimed a Publishers Weekly contributor, "his wry humor … lighting up the dark of another grisly investigation."

In Mortal Prey Lucas is pitted against an old nemesis named Clara Rinker in a novel a Booklist contributor called "among the most ambitious" of Sandford's efforts because he effectively "integrates the mundane domesticity of Davenport's life … with the terror of a circling killer." Naked Prey finds Davenport now a happily married father. However, commented David Koepple in an Entertainment Weekly review, "he's lost none of his powers of deduction" as he delves into two murders and "uncovers a corrupt community in which everyone from a mechanic to an ex-nun is keeping secrets." Hidden Prey pairs Davenport with a Russian intelligence agent to investigate a murder that might be the work of a supposedly defunct Soviet network "forgotten by the motherland," according to Lukowsky in Booklist.

Broken Prey finds Davenport on a case where the first victim was killed after having been both raped and flayed alive. The governor is concerned about the political ramifications if it becomes evident that there is a serial killer working his way through the Twin Cities, so Davenport is under more pressure than usual to find the murderer. He and his team track a sex offender named Charley Pope, a recent parolee, due to a tip. Though Pope has no history of violence, he would not be the first sex offender to take his crimes to the next level. Davenport also suspects Pope might have committed the murder in the shadow of three more hardened criminals he encountered during his time in prison. Booklist reviewer Lukowsy praised this installment in the "Lucas Davenport" series, calling it "a cut above recent entries in the series" and citing in particular the heightened suspense of the investigation.

With Dead Watch, Camp takes another step away from his Davenport character to tell the story of Jake Winter, hired by the president of the United States to locate a missing former senator, Lincoln Bowe of Virginia. When Bowe's wife suggests that Governor Arlo Goodman, a longtime rival of her husband's, is in some way responsible for his disappearance, no one believes her until she offers proof by way of a video tape that shows Goodman's associates threatening her. Though Winter moves quickly, Bowe is found dead shortly after he takes on the case, and he finds himself looking into the murder instead of the kidnapping. Both Bowe and Goodman have plenty of shady dealings in their backgrounds, giving Winter a long list of potential suspects who might have had their hand in the events. Reviewing for Booklist, Lukowsky praised Camp for his ability to reveal "an insider's knowledge of political infighting" as well as "his skill at creating memorable characters working through the maze of a diabolical plot."

Dark of the Moon offers readers an offshoot of Camp's successful "Lucas Davenport" series, as Davenport's sidekick at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Virgil Flowers, gets his own book. A string of murders begins in the tiny town of Bluestem when Bill Judd, at eighty-two years old, is burned to death inside of his own house by an arsonist. At first it appears to be someone with a grudge, as Bill was not well liked in town, having made a slew of enemies with a pyramid scheme a full two decades earlier. However, other, less reviled citizens of Bluestem are murdered in his wake, including Russell Gleason, the old town doctor, and his wife, as well as the retired sheriff for the county, Roman Schmidt, and his wife. Virgil goes in to assist Jimmy Stryker, the current sheriff, with the investigation, and he finds himself not only a welcome pair of additional hands on the case but interested in Stryker's sister, who is recently divorced. Unfortunately, critics found the pacing of Virgil's story far slower and less intense than the traditional books in the "Lucas Davenport" series. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews found the book to be "a high-fatality, low-octane procedural that has its points but lacks the wow factor."

In Phantom Prey, Camp returns yet again to his "Lucas Davenport" series. Davenport finds himself on the trail of a missing heiress, Frances Austin. Although no body has been discovered, he fears the woman is dead, particularly after he finds traces of her blood at the home of her mother, Alyssa. He begins by investigating the goth community in which Frances was active, more in hopes of finding clues to her fate and potential whereabouts than through any supposed links between the community and any crime. However, he soon finds that others in the goth circle, all friends or acquaintances of Frances, are being murdered, and he must delve deeper to determine what is happening and how a sizable withdrawal from Frances's bank account might be connected. Lukowsky, in a review for Booklist, remarked of this installment in Camp's ongoing series: "Expect another trip to the best-seller lists for one of the most consistently entertaining crime writers working today." A Publishers Weekly contributor declared the book contains "the kind of riveting action that keeps thriller fans turning the pages."

Camp once told a Publishers Weekly interviewer that he planned to continue writing books featuring his two popular protagonists, Kidd and Davenport, and was contemplating a new pseudonym under which to write mainstream novels of a more literary nature. "Those are the kind of strategies that you have to think about," he remarked, adding: "I like to write books that have real stories in them, but I don't know whether a person who writes thrillers, as I do, can write literary books; whether critics will accept them." This is not to suggest that Camp does not see his thrillers as legitimate literature. In his online interview, he said: "What I do is really pretty hard, and I appreciate it when people take my effort with some degree of seriousness, as well as enjoying the stories." He concluded: "Readers are the other half of the essential storytelling partnership. What writers do is create the skeleton of a dream, which is dreamt in full by the readers."



Booklist, March 15, 1996, Wes Lukowsky, review of Sudden Prey, p. 1220; March 1, 1997, Emily Melton, review of The Night Crew, p. 1069; March 15, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of Secret Prey, p. 1180; April 15, 1999, Jenny McLarin, review of Certain Prey, p. 1484; March 1, 2000, Wes Lukowsky, review of Easy Prey, p. 1148; April 1, 2004, review of Mortal Prey; May 1, 2004, Wes Lukowsky, review of Hidden Prey, p. 1518; April 1, 2005, Wes Lukowsky, review of Broken Prey, p. 1325; March 15, 2006, Wes Lukowsky, review of Dead Watch, p. 6; February 15, 2008, Wes Lukowsky, review of Phantom Prey, p. 5.

Entertainment Weekly, May 23, 2003, David Koepple, review of Mortal Prey.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2000, review of The Devil's Code, p. 1067; July 1, 2007, review of Dark of the Moon.

Library Journal, April 1, 2000, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Easy Prey, p. 132; April 15, 2000, Michael Adams, review of Certain Prey, p. 141; June 1, 2004, Denise Garofolo, review of The Hanged Man's Song, p. 196.

New York Times Book Review, June 7, 1998, Marilyn Stasio, review of Secret Prey, p. 47.

People, March 31, 1997, Pam Lambert, review of The Night Crew, p. 39.

Publishers Weekly, June 29, 1990, pp. 83-84; April 1, 1996, review of Sudden Prey, p. 54; March 10, 1997, review of The Night Crew, p. 49; April 20, 1998, review of Secret Prey, p. 47; April 19, 1999, review of Certain Prey, p. 60; March 20, 2000, review of Easy Prey, p. 68; September 4, 2000, review of The Devil's Code, p. 79; April 23, 2001, review of Chosen Prey, p. 49; March 10, 2008, review of Phantom Prey, p. 58.


John Sandford Home Page, (August 23, 2004).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Camp, John 1944–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . 12 Nov. 2018 <>.

"Camp, John 1944–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . (November 12, 2018).

"Camp, John 1944–." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series. . Retrieved November 12, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.