Longtime Santa Clarita resident Rodger Howard has a lot of stories to tell after spending more than 30 years covering Los Angeles news as a photojournalist.
“I covered all the major stories that you can think of: the earthquakes, fires, floods, O.J. trial,” the Emmy-award winner said.
While Howard never considered himself a writer, he found himself keeping a daily journal throughout his career.
“I wrote down every day what stories I covered,” Howard added. “Whether it was interesting or not, I would still write it down … so I have 30 years of journals in the garage in a box with every single story written in there.”
After telling a number of these stories to family, friends and even curious strangers — most of whom always had a million questions when he’d tell them what he does for a living — he’d heard enough times that he should write a book about his experiences.
So eventually, he decided to do just that, just last month publishing his first book, “fOCUS,” which he said tells the “almost 100% true tale of an intrepid news photographer.”
Howard decided to choose a handful of stories and create a cast of characters to weave them together, with the book following a cameraman, who is faced with both glitz and glamor and violence and crime.
“People don’t think about who’s behind the camera when they watch the news,” Howard said. “They see the story after it’s all put together and edited, but they don’t think about what went into making that story … that a lot of things were seen by the crew that aren’t seen by the person watching the news. They absorbed a lot of information and a lot of emotion that doesn’t show up on the TV screen, and that’s what the book tries to deal with.”
“You get the hang with celebrities and athletes, but at the same time, there’s an awful lot of ugliness, and it does affect your mind and how you look at the world,” Howard said.
While the characters and their lives are a work of fiction, each of the stories themselves is very real, using more of the obscure and unknown stories, rather than popular ones, Howard added.
“I wanted stories that the average person doesn’t know, the average person would say, ‘Wow, you did that?’” Howard said. “So, I just went with what came to mind as something that affected me.”
Again, while not a writer, Howard’s an avid reader and took inspiration from Richard Price and novelists’ writing to tell his stories, even drawing from some of his colleagues’ experiences in addition to his own.
“I went back into my memory and tried to relive things as accurately as possible,” Howard said. “What was I feeling? What was I seeing? What happened that day.”
Though not committed to writing each day, Howard said it was a 10-year project, which he’s now excited to see come to fruition as a book for both audiences: industry professionals and the public.
“People who aren’t in the business are going to say, ‘Wow,’ and people who are, (are) going to say, ‘Yeah, I get it,’” Howard added.
“fOCUS” is out now and available on Amazon via amazon.com/fOCUS-Rodger-Howard/dp/173538349X.