Camp was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the son of Anne Agnes (Barron) and Roswell Sandford Camp. His mother's family was German and Lithuanian. He received a Bachelor's in American History and a Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa.
From 1971 to 1978, Camp wrote for The Miami Herald. In 1978, he moved to Minneapolis and started writing for The Saint Paul Pioneer Press as a features reporter; in 1980 he became a daily columnist. That year he was a Pulitzer finalist for a series of stories on Native American culture. In 1985, during the Midwest farm crisis, he wrote a series entitled "Life on the Land: an American farm family", which followed a typical southwest Minnesota farm family through the course of a full year. For that work, he won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing and the American Society of Newspaper Editors award for Non-Deadline Feature Writing. He worked part-time at the Pioneer Press in 1989 and left the next year.
In 1989, Camp wrote two novels that would each spawn a popular series. The Fool's Run (Kidd series) was published under his own name, but the publisher asked him to provide a pseudonym for Rules of Prey (Prey series) so it was published under the name "John Sandford". After the Prey series proved to be more popular, with its charismatic protagonist Lucas Davenport, The Fool's Run and all of its subsequent sequels have been published under John Sandford.
In 2007, Camp started a third series, featuring Virgil Flowers, who was a supporting character in some of the Prey novels, including Invisible Prey and Storm Prey.
- Rules of Prey (1989) ISBN 0-399-13465-4
- Shadow Prey (1990) ISBN 0-399-13543-X
- Eyes of Prey (1991) ISBN 0-399-13629-0
- Silent Prey (1992) ISBN 0-399-13742-4
- Winter Prey (1993) ISBN 0-399-13815-3
- Night Prey (1994) ISBN 0-399-13914-1
- Mind Prey (1995) ISBN 0-399-14009-3
- Sudden Prey (1996) ISBN 0-399-14138-3
- Secret Prey (1998) ISBN 0-399-14382-3
- Certain Prey (1999) ISBN 0-399-14496-X
- Easy Prey (2000) ISBN 0-399-14613-X
- Chosen Prey (2001) ISBN 0-399-14728-4
- Mortal Prey (2002) ISBN 0-399-14863-9
- Naked Prey (2003) ISBN 0-399-15043-9
- Hidden Prey (2004) ISBN 0-399-15180-X
- Broken Prey (2005) ISBN 0-399-15272-5
- Invisible Prey (2007) ISBN 978-0-399-15421-8
- Phantom Prey (2008) ISBN 978-0-399-15500-0
- Wicked Prey (2009) ISBN 0-399-15567-8
- Storm Prey (2010) ISBN 0-399-15649-6
- Buried Prey (2011) ISBN 0-399-15738-7
- Stolen Prey (2012) ISBN 0-399-15768-9
- Silken Prey (2013) ISBN 0-399-15931-2
- Field of Prey (2014) ISBN 0-399-16238-0
- Gathering Prey (2015) ISBN 0-399-16879-6
- Extreme Prey (2016) ISBN 978-0-399-17605-0
- Golden Prey (April 25, 2017) ISBN 0-399-18457-0
Lucas Davenport is the protagonist of the "Prey" series. In the first three novels, he is a maverick detective with the Minneapolis Police Department, a lieutenant acting independently, running a network of street contacts. At the end of Eyes of Prey, he's forced to resign to avoid excessive force charges, partly due to his knowledge of the connection of a senior police officer to that case. He returns in Night Prey as a Deputy Chief (a political appointment), running his own intelligence unit. Beginning with Naked Prey, Davenport is an investigator for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, acting occasionally as a special troubleshooter for the governor of Minnesota in politically sensitive cases. He serves in that capacity through Gathering Prey at the end of which he quits working for the BCA, later becoming a United States Marshal. He's known for his unorthodox and manipulative behavior as a detective, reminiscent of "Dirty Harry" Callahan. He is not a leader, but a loner who works with a small circle of capable, straight police friends.
The novel Mind Prey was sold for a TV movie, and the Davenport was portrayed by Eriq LaSalle. Another of the novels, Certain Prey, was adapted into a movie in 2011 by USA Network starring Mark Harmon as Davenport.
Davenport is described as a tall, slender, wide-shouldered man with a "permanent tan" that gives his very blue eyes a kind expression, contradicted by the "chilly" smile of a predator, particularly a wolverine. Dark-haired, but streaked with gray, Davenport has a face marked by a fine scar from his hairline to the right corner of his mouth (caused by a fishing hook accident) that gives him "a raffish air" and also "a touch of innocence, like Errol Flynn in Captain Blood" (Rules of Prey). In the very first Davenport book, the hero is described as "slender and dark-complexioned, with straight black hair going grey at the temples and a long nose over a crooked smile. One of his central upper incisors had been chipped and he never had it capped. He might have been an Indian except for his blue eyes." His tooth was chipped during an ice hockey match in his youth. His amateur career had peaked as first-line defenseman for the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota. Davenport has suffered a few bullet and knife wounds over the course of his career, and is permanently tan no more.
Davenport is street-wise, has a wide network of contacts among all levels of society in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and on occasions finds solutions to criminal investigations by thinking like a criminal. He is also skilled at using computers and other technological sources of information. In recent years as a senior officer of the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension he has been able to call on the services of several specialized research professionals. Beyond these things, he is lucky, a characteristic mentioned in more than one book.
He is not above skirting the law and accepted procedures to move a case forward. He even uses news media contacts to leak secrets to freak out criminal suspects or motivate laggard senior officialdom. Unforeseen civilian deaths sometimes result from these schemes. Davenport is a police celebrity, having shot and killed many suspects in the line of duty. Quite apart from those deaths caused in spontaneous gunfights, Davenport has been suspected -- appropriately -- of engineering some outcomes so that the death of a miscreant is virtually certain. Unusually for a police officer, he has more than once been a target of assassination attempts by criminals; his numerous contacts in the media consider him a good interview, but editors persistently criticize his violence. Davenport feels no hesitation about killing defenseless criminals who present no threat to him. In the first Davenport novel, Rules of Prey, he makes a mechanical device to create the illusion that he is in a gunfight when he kills Louis Vullion, aka "the Maddog", the criminal in that matter. He does not want Vullion to die painlessly. That was his sixth police killing. The total today is ten. While Davenport is thought of as lucky, it's a remarkable thing that any criminal who wishes him harm can find his home and attack it, even though he does not have a public phone listing.
Davenport is independently wealthy, having achieved success first through the creation of Dungeons & Dragons-style role playing games. He started and later sold his own software company that first created personal computer games for private users, and later, emergency simulations for training police and other emergency workers. He dresses fashionably, favors European-cut clothing, and drives his personal Porsche 911 and Nissan truck or van while on duty. The Nissan seems to have been replaced recently by a Lexus SUV. Early on, he was depicted as a womanizer, fathering a daughter, Sarah, out of wedlock from a running affair with blonde television news reporter Jennifer Carey. Sarah lives with her mother and a stepfather, and Davenport visits her frequently. As the series progressed, Davenport settled down with and eventually married the highly paid maxillofacial surgeon Weather Karkinnen, who in Winter Prey once saved his life with an emergency tracheotomy after he had been shot. The couple have a son, Samuel Kalle Davenport, called Sam in the novels, and in Buried Prey, Dr. Karkinnen was advanced in pregnancy with a daughter. Living with the Davenports is Letty West, a once-feral teenage girl encountered in Naked Prey. Lucas and Weather formally adopted Letty in 2008 close to the time of the Republican nomination convention in that year, an event that prompted a detailed Davenport investigation, and she then changed her name to Letty Davenport.
Before that, however, Davenport had numerous sexual encounters with suspects, victims and fellow officers, including Detective Sergeant Marcy Sherrill, a subordinate, and Lily Rothenburg, a detective lieutenant of the New York Police Department. By Buried Prey, Sherrill had succeeded Davenport as chief of detectives in Minneapolis, and Davenport was close to his 50th birthday. At the end of Wicked Prey (2009), he and Weather adopt Letty, now 14 and an aspiring television reporter mentored by Jennifer Carey -- Davenport's old lover, and mother of Sarah.
Davenport has a reputation as a "gun freak" (Rules of Prey) and at the start of the series owns thirteen - a 9mm H&K P7 with a 13-round magazine, a 9mm Beretta 92F, a small .25 automatic of unstated make that he wears in an ankle holster as a hideout gun, two Colt Gold Cup .45 ACP competition pistols, three .22 pistols (a Ruger Mark II, a Browning International Medalist and a left-hand bolt-operated Anschutz Exemplar) and four recovered (hence untraceable) street guns including a Charter Arms .38. In the flashback section of Buried Prey Davenport carried a Glock pistol (presumably the Glock 17) as his sidearm when in uniform and a Smith & Wesson Model 40 revolver in plain-clothes. In Rules of Prey, Davenport uses one of his street guns, a Smith & Wesson Model 39, to fabricate a self-defense justification for executing serial killer Louis Vullion.
Lucas' other weapons include a Browning Citori over-and-under 20 gauge shotgun, a .243 deer rifle of unstated make and model (Chosen Prey) and a Colt Magnum Carry .357 revolver (Naked Prey). In the earlier two books, Rules of Prey & Shadow Prey his standard sidearm is the P7, but in Eyes of Prey he later adopts a .45 Smith & Wesson of unstated model; he retains the P7 as a "dress gun" for off duty carry. In Silent Prey, he uses the Colt Gold Cup as his sidearm while in New York. As of Certain Prey onwards his usual sidearm is a customized .45 Colt Gold Cup, carried with the chamber empty; something that gives him problems when his left arm is in a cast. In Invisible Prey, he has a cache containing: two "cold" pistols with magazines, a homemade silencer that fits none of his guns (he kept meaning to throw it away, but never did), an old-fashioned lead-and-leather sap, a hydraulic door-spreader that he'd picked up from a burglary site, $5,000 in $20 bills in a paper bank envelope, a pill bottle of amphetamines, a box of surgical gloves and a battery-powered lock rake. In Buried Prey the cache contains at least the rake along with a ring of "bump" keys, a small crowbar, a pair of white cotton garden gloves and a LED headlamp. By Storm Prey he has acquired, and uses, a detachable magazine Beretta shotgun of unstated model, probably an M3P. In Stolen Prey Lucas uses a 9mm Beretta 92F as his main sidearm, presumably because he had a cast on his left arm and it would present an issue if he needed to insert a shell into the chamber of his customized .45 Colt Gold Cup. He switches back to his customized .45 Colt Gold Cup in the next book, Silken Prey.
Letty herself has two (known) weapons, both .22 rifles. One is a single-shot Harrington & Richardson in .22 Short and the other, bought for her by Lucas after the H&R was confiscated by the police after Letty's biological mother was killed by a crooked cop, who got shot by Letty before escaping, a Remington pump-action firing .22 Long Rifle. In Buried Prey she and Lucas practice shooting together with the Colt and Beretta pistols. In Stolen Prey Letty uses Lucas' customized .45 Colt Gold Cup to kill two would be assassins.
Born and raised Catholic, Davenport has a strong interest in reading, poetry and war gaming. As the series develops, Davenport exhibits a number of anxiety disorders, including mood depression and chronic fear of flying on fixed wing aircraft. He received psychological help from a nun professionally trained as a counselor, whom he knew as a local friend when they were both children. The nun sometimes offered him profiles of unknown criminals in the early books.
Davenport refers to himself as "mostly a Democrat". He has four children: Sarah (with reporter Jennifer Carey), Sam (with surgeon Weather Karkinnen), Letty (adopted after her mother was killed) and a newborn daughter, Gabrielle, with Weather.
"Prey" author John Sandford told The New York Post in June 2002 that he first thought of Davenport as a sociopath: "He had a problem with women. Even when he was in a relationship, he'd [have an affair with] some [other] women. But then he changed, mellowed out ... . I want him to have a happy ending. I don't want him to wind up a bitter, lonely guy."
In September 2004, he told the Budapest newspaper Vasárnapi Hírek: "I've always thought of him as a kind of sociopath who is slightly warped. Of course, Davenport changed a lot throughout the stories, he became calmer... " Later, the promiscuous young Davenport was presented as a married man because "I wanted to show that Davenport is capable of love and he doesn't just collect women, like in the beginning." Both statements appear in the www.johnsandford.org website.
- The Fool's Run (1989), by John Camp; reissued 1996 as by Sandford ISBN 0-8050-0990-6
- The Empress File (1991), by John Camp; reissued 1995 as by Sandford ISBN 0-8050-1545-0
- The Devil's Code (2000) ISBN 0-399-14650-4
- The Hanged Man's Song (2003) ISBN 0-399-15139-7
Kidd also has a prominent role in Silken Prey and Extreme Prey.
- Dark of the Moon (2007)
- Heat Lightning (2008)
- Rough Country (2009)
- Bad Blood (2010)
- Shock Wave (2011)
- Mad River (2012)
- Storm Front (2013)
- Deadline (2014)
- Escape Clause (2016)
- Deep Freeze (October 17, 2017)
The Night Crew (1997) ISBN 0-399-14237-1
Dead Watch (2006) ISBN 0-399-15354-3
Saturn Run (with Ctein) science fiction (2015) ISBN 9780399176951; 0-399-17695-0
"Lucy Had a List". Published in Murder in the Rough: Original Tales of Bad Shots, Terrible Lies, and Other Deadly Handicaps from Today's Great Writers (2006), a short story anthology by notable authors, the fourth title in the sports mystery series edited by Otto Penzler. ISBN 0-89296-017-5
The Eye and the Heart (1988) ISBN 0-8478-0888-2
Plastic Surgery (1989) ISBN 0-8050-0897-7
Murder in the Rough (2006)
- Uncaged (2014) ISBN 0-385-75306-3
- Outrage (2015) ISBN 0-385-75309-8
- Rampage (2016) ISBN 0-385-75313-6