Retired Santa Clara County Sheriff Pens His First Novel

Retired Santa Clara County Sheriff Robert Winter has written his share of crime reports and technical literature over his 35 years in law enforcement.

But his first effort at fiction, “A Hill Toward Home,” which was recently released, is likely his last attempt at doing so, said the Gilroy native who now lives in Amador County.

“A Hill Toward Home,” set during the American Civil War, follows Jesse Logan, an East Tennessee native who returns home after growing up in the west. Logan, who serves as a sharpshooter in the Union Army, becomes romantically attracted to a young woman, but finds out she is a double agent for the north and south.

Winter, who served as Santa Clara County sheriff from 1978-89, said many of the characters in the novel are based off of real people, as well as some of his family, as the novel is a fictional recount of his own family history.

“My incentive to write this book came from my father, who was one of my favorite storytellers, and my interest in American history, particularly the Civil War,” he said. “While I started out trying to mirror friends and associates for my characters, the people in the book often took on personalities of their own and wandered off in directions I didn’t expect.”

Winter added that he spent a decade researching and rewriting the novel as challenges continued to  arise.

“My research often found conflicts and inconsistencies in the written accounts of some of the campaigns, characters and accounts of the battles,” he said. “I took what made the most sense to me, and used those in my story.”

For information on “A Hill Toward Home,” visit

Erik Chalhoub is editor of the Gilroy Dispatch.

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