Born in Stockton and raised in Sacramento, Michael Nava attended Colorado College and graduated from Stanford law school.
Although his ancestors settled in northern California in 1920, Nava prizes his Mexican connections, comparing Sacramento to Guanajuato in his Wikipedia entry. Nava, who is openly gay, began his legal career as a trial lawyer in the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office, prosecuting criminal cases and 50 jury trials. In 1999, he joined the staff of Justice Carlos R. Moreno, the third Latino to sit on the California high court. His first novel (The Little Death, 1986) featured a gay Latino criminal defense lawyer named Henry Rios, based in Los Angeles, who continued in seven novels.
In his work, Nava weaves Chicano history and folklore in his stories of detective Rios, who is a gay lawyer, and who like Nava moves from San Francisco to Los Angeles in How Town (1990) and investigates the city in The Hidden Law (1992), The Death of Friends (1996), The Burning Plain (1997) and Rag and Bone (2001).