Uhnak, Dorothy 1930-2006

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Uhnak, Dorothy 1930-2006


See index for CA sketch: Born April 24, 1930, in New York, NY; died of a deliberate drug overdose, July 8, 2006, in Greenport, NY. Police officer and author. Uhnak was a decorated New York police detective who later wrote award-winning crime novels based on her real-life experiences. Interested in police work from a young age, as a girl she enjoyed hanging out at her local police station and even helped the officers by occasionally typing for them. After attending City College, she joined the transit police in 1953 and was promoted to detective two years later. Uhnak was decorated twice for bravery on the job, including one time for restraining an armed mugger. Feeling some of the pressure of being a woman in the New York City Police Department, she left the force in 1967. Uhnak earned a B.S. from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 1968, and that year published her first novel, The Bait, which won an Edgar Award for best first novel. The story features a character named Christie Oparam who was very similar to Uhnak and would appear in two more crime novels: The Witness (1968) and The Ledger (1970). Christie was the inspiration for the television series Get Christie Love, which aired in the mid-1970s. However, Uhnak's first big commercial success was the much more ambitious, multigeneration novel Law and Order (1973). It was later made into a television movie, as was 1977's The Investigation, which was adapted as Kojak: The Price of Justice in 1987. Uhnak was accused of basing her murderer in The Investigation on a real case, but the author denied that she had been inspired by the case of convicted child-killer Alice Crimmins. Other novels by Uhnak include Victims (1985) and Codes of Betrayal (1997), as well as the nonfiction title Policewoman: A Young Woman's Initiation into the Realities of Justice (1964). In her later years, Uhnak suffered from severe chronic pain from injuries she had suffered and often spoke about committing suicide, which she ultimately did.



New York Times, July 12, 2006, p. C12; July 26, 2006, p. A2.