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Most mystery writers have as much direct knowledge of crime—as perpetrator, investigator, or even victim—as sci-fi scribes have of distant worlds. Sure, Dashiell Hammett was a private eye, and Edward Bunker was a convict, but they are exceptions. Edward Dee is, too: He spent 20 years with the NYPD. Of course, inside knowledge doesn’t always make for good storytelling, but Dee has managed to balance the two in his noted series of police procedurals. Dee’s stories spin pretty far out on their hubs of authentic detail, sometimes verging on surrealism. In his latest, Nightbird, for instance, a mysterious street juggler figures prominently in the investigation by detectives Tony Ryan and Joe Gregory into the apparent suicide of a young actress who just got her big break. Dee talks about his work with Westwood One radio personality Jim Bohannan and signs copies of Nightbird at 6 p.m. at the Ripley Center, in Room 3111, 1100 Jefferson Drive SW. $18. For reservations call (202) 357-3030. (Mark W. Sullivan)