When Newspaper Rivalries Could Drive the News

Veteran journalist Joe Strupp set his first work of fiction, The Crookedest Street, in '90s-era San Francisco, where city papers staked out political turf.

the crookedest street
Every San Francisco tourist must take the obligatory walk down the switchbacks of Lombard Street, reputedly the world’s crookedest street. In his new book, The Crookedest Street, Joe Strupp takes us on a different kind of stroll—albeit with plenty of twists and turns—along with a fictional cast of somewhat bent Bay Area politicians, developers and journalists. 

Strupp, a Maplewood resident, got to know San Francisco during the 1990s as a reporter for two Bay Area newspapers. The Crookedest Street, his second book for Maplewood-based publisher Amarna Books and Media and his first work of fiction, reflects many of the real-life characters he encountered and stories he covered during that period, when San Francisco had rival newspapers staking out political turf.

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“That’s where I got the ideas,” says Strupp, who started his journalism career at the Daily Journal in Elizabeth and these days works as a reporter for the Asbury Park Press. He acknowledges that the stories have been “enlivened and embellished” to advance the complicated plot, which revolves around election scandals, sex scandals, influence peddling and a contaminated shipyard site—all scenarios that may resonate with New Jersey readers (and will sound familiar to those who know recent San Francisco history). 

The book expresses nostalgia for the days when reporters were more colorful and local newspapers more plentiful and influential than today. “Not only was it fun,” says Strupp, “it was informational.” In Strupp’s book, the reporters, like the politicians they cover, can be good guys or bad guys. Strupp seems to savor both breeds.

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