A JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY IRISH & IRISH AMERICAN AFFAIRS
Winter 2020 / VOL. 20 ISSUE 1
Cop Turned Author Finds His Irish Roots
By: James Bartlett
“I began working as a part-time sportswriter at a now defunct twice-weekly newspaper in Glendale when I was in high school, but when I realized the folks there weren’t exactly making huge sums of money I reflected on my upbringing.”
His father was a police captain in Glendale at the time and Martin began considering law enforcement after law school didn’t stick.
“In 1981, my close friend asked me if I had an interest in applying for LAPD with him, so I did. I started the police academy in April, 1982, and retired in May, 2002, by which time I had reached the level of assistant watch commander at Northeast station.”
After that career of 20 years, Martin also spent time as the night commander at the Cal State Northridge (CSUN) from 2003-2005, and then more than a decade at the LAPD museum as executive director, followed by a stint as assistant director of security and at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.
Martin explained that while he had never done the official DNA testing, he knows he has Irish roots, specifically through his paternal great-great-great-great grandfather, who immigrated to America in the 1700s, and that of his maternal great grandmother.
Martin certainly has Celtic roots generally, noting that he grew up using his middle name. “It wasn’t until I joined LAPD that I was called Glynn; my middle name is very Welsh – Bridgyn.”
Research shows that the surname Martin may be of English, Scottish or native Irish origin. Those of Irish origin are believed to stem from “Mac Giolla Mhartain” meaning “son of the follower of (St.) Martin.”
That name was anglicized as “Gilmartin” or “Kilmartin,” and the family was a branch of the O’Neills, who originally held territory in the barony of Clogher in Co. Tyrone before being displaced to the adjoining counties of Sligo and Leitrim.
Additionally, perhaps the best-known Martins were strongest in Galway City and county for centuries, and were of English extraction.
As for Martin, he’s only made one trip to Ireland, which was alongside a trip to England for his 25th anniversary in 2011.
“We stayed in Dublin and very much enjoyed the sightseeing there, then took a bus tour to Northern Ireland. The countryside and history were impressive. For me, the best part was the visit to Belfast and learning more about the Protestant/Catholic conflicts and. in particular, the peace brokered by the US.”
It was several years before that – in his early days at the museum – that he first met Ellroy.
“He was a big supporter, and wanted to write a book to benefit the police museum. He had previously worked on a photo book that featured vintage crime scene photos, and envisioned something with his stories associated,” Martin said.
Martin and a team of volunteers – including his daughter Megan – culled through the museum’s dusty archives and found there was enough from 1953 alone for a book. They scanned photos, researched the story behind them, and sent them to Ellroy, who then wrote the narrative text.
Martin added an essay and the statistical data, and the finished book spent four weeks on The LA Times bestseller list, with all the proceeds going to the museum.
More recently, Ellroy wrote the foreword for Martin’s last project, a book of essays and photographs about the infamous Night Stalker murders, which was a Photo Friends publication to benefit the LA public library.
“Neither of us profited from either book, and have come to know James as a very charitable person, who uses his many talents to benefit others,” said Martin
He particularly remembers two cases during his career with the LAPD,
An unhappy recollection involved Jim Pagliotti, one of Martin’s police academy classmates, a roommate, work partner at Hollywood station, and groomsman at his wedding. Just months away from his own wedding, Pagliotti was shot and killed during a surveillance operation.
“Both of his parents have passed away, so I represent his older brother at parole hearings in our efforts to keep the killer imprisoned,” according to Martin.
The second memory is of the period 1990 until 1993, when he was a major narcotics detective working a squad assigned to investigate South American traffickers. In May, 1991, they served a search warrant in the Santa Fe Springs area and it led to a major bust.
“All told, we recovered more than five tons of cocaine, two separate federal prosecutions were brought, and all the 13 people we arrested were either convicted at trial or pled guilty. Our seizure remains still holds the LAPD record.”
He’s currently he’s back in the blue as executive director of the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides financial aid to the families of LAPD members killed or injured or in the line of duty.
As for the future, he said that “when it’s time to retire, I hope to go to the beach somewhere. I very much enjoy the water, my children, and my friends – and my dog. I also live in close proximity to both of my parents, so keeping everyone close by and well is and will be part of the plan.”
There’s one other thing:
“I hope to write some more books!”
In recent years, Glynn Martin and his co-author and friend James Ellroy have celebrated a couple of successful books. Riding high on the interest in true crime, the 2015 book LAPD ’53 and last year’s Satan’s Summer in the City of Angels: The Social Impact of the Night Stalker were both big hits.
Being hard-boiled and outspoken were attributes perhaps invented for Ellroy. His edgy and compelling books The Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential have famously made the transition to the big screen, and the men’s partnership has been cemented by a near-obsessive interest in the Los Angeles Police Dept. (LAPD) and its history.
A native of Glendale, Calif., Martin recently celebrated his 60th birthday, and has been married to his “first and only” wife for more 32 years. His 26-year-old daughter has just finished her second year of law school, while their 23-year-old son recently received his bachelor’s degree.
A long-time supporter and volunteer at the LAPD Museum in Highland Park, Martin originally planned to become a sports journalist.