Simply put, Andrew Vachss is one of the coolest people on the planet. He's an attorney in New York who represents kids caught in the court system, and he does the majority of this work for free. He also writes, and my favorite of his books is the crime series featuring Burke, a sort of gritty private eye who handles unusual cases with his self-made family of misfits. He started writing to earn more money to expand his legal services.
I admire Vachss because of his dedication to children, those who have almost no voice in our legal system. That right there is enough to make him a personal hero. He's also a heck of a writer, and he loves his dogs. If you want to read the Burke books, they begin with a novel titled Flood, published in 1985, and end with Another Life, published in 2008. Honestly, the series hit its stride with Hard Candy, Blossom, and Sacrifice, and I recommend those highly. Also, one of his stand alone novels, Shella, is a truly incredible, dark little book.
Check out Vachss' website, The Zero, for more information on his work and his writing, not to mention pictures of his gorgeous dogs.