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Brandt Dodson comes from a long line of police officers on both sides of his family, extending back to the 1930s. He was formerly employed with the Indianapolis office of the FBI and uses this background to imbue his novels with the realism his readers have come to expect. He is the creator of the Colton Parker series as well as several stand-alone novels and short stories. The Sons of Jude is the first in a series featuring the Chicago Police Department, soon to be followed by Chicago Knights. Brandt lives in southern Indiana with his wife and their two sons.
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About the Book:
When Chicago detectives Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are assigned to investigate the murder of Trina Martinez it seems like an ordinary homicide. An unfortunate young girl in the wrong place at the wrong time has been brutally murdered. But their investigation is halted by a wall of silence, a wall erected by powerful interests that will render their inquiry a lost cause.
Then they enlist the support of reporter Christy Lee – and come under immediate fire. Polanski is arrested. Campello threatened. Christy is attacked.
It’s the case that every cop gets. The one that changes his life. The one where justice is elusive and the hunter becomes the hunted.
Frank Campello and Andy Polanski are The Sons of Jude.
Book Trailer Link:
Would you call yourself a born writer?
I think so. I know that as a boy I would often write stories in spiral-bound notebooks and try to sell them, and I can remember looking forward to the opportunity to write short stories in my grade school English classes. It was one of the few things that I can remember coming easily. In high school, I won an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. on the basis of an essay I’d written. And my first novel, OriginalSin, was written in a week, longhand, and was picked up by an editor the following week. It led to a three-book contract.
I’ve often taken the right-brain, left-brain tests that are supposed to show whether you are a character-driven novelist who feels the need to outline or a plot-driven novelist who writes by the seat-of-the-pants. My results have consistently shown that I’m both. And that’s accurate. I love plot-driven novels that are imbued with fully-realized characters. Sometimes I outline; sometimes I don’t.
I do what I do, but I don’t know how I do it.
What was your inspiration for The Sons of Jude?
The inspiration came from two sources, extending over a period of about 24 years.
My wife and I were living in the Chicago area in the fall of 1986 when I missed my train on the way home from the city. I had to hang out at Union Station while waiting for the next one and stumbled onto the set of Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables. They were filming the climactic shootout scene that occurs with Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia. I promised myself that I would see the film when it was released, and I did. Early in the movie, Sean Connery’s character, Malone, refers to St. Jude as the patron saint of lost causes and policemen. Coming from a family of cops, the line stuck with me.
Fast forward to the late summer of 2010. My agent was approached by a publisher looking for a crime novelist. They wanted a police procedural and since crime thrillers are my forte, I was asked to draft a proposal. I was watching a retrospective about the events of 9-11, and saw dozens of police officers charge into the buildings in hopes of finding survivors. The heroism I saw made me wonder why cops do what they do when they know it’s a lost cause. An arrest today does not improve the situation for tomorrow. Crime still happens. It was then that I remembered the line from The Untouchables and I did some research. I learned that not only is St. Jude the patron saint of policemen, but of the Chicago Police Department in particular. I liked the concept of showing the stresses a police officer must confront in the face of overwhelming odds, and so The Sons of Jude was born.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
I’ve always been intrigued by the concept of the loner; by the person who stands against the odds even when they are overwhelming. My favorite movies include: High Noon, The Untouchables, and FriendlyPersuasion. It is no secret that Gary Cooper is in most of my favorites, because he often played the part of a loner standing up for the thing that is right even when no one else would. That theme occurs in most of my fiction. But there are others.
The importance of family is a recurring theme. The relevance of fathers in the lives of their children surfaces repeatedly in my fiction. So there are these repetitive themes and they are nearly always moral stances. Moral choices that often go against the grain.
How long did it take you to complete the novel?
This was the first novel that I’ve outlined to any great extent. I spent a couple of months thinking about it and playing it out in my head. Because of the theme – standing true in a corrosive environment – the novel could have become pedantic very quickly. I wanted to avoid that. But I also like to push the envelope; to try new things. I have always written as a “pantser” before, so I wanted to take time to flesh this one out.
The actual writing took about three months, once I knew where I was going. I’m not sure I’d consider myself an outliner, yet, but I’m no longer a pure pantser either. Each novel has been a new, more challenging process.
Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.
I think all writers are disciplined to a greater or lesser extent. It would impossible to produce a novel-length manuscript without it.
I practice medicine during the day so most of my writing is done at night. I’m a podiatrist specializing in surgery and the treatment of difficult-to-heal wounds. If I can, I write on my lunch hour and always at night. I usually begin around 9 pm and will write to 11 or later. Weekends are choice time, too.
I nearly always begin by re-reading my previous day’s work. But if I’m still having trouble getting started, I’ll read a few lines from a favorite author. That nearly always helps to stoke the fire. I write for a word count and won’t quit until I have at least a thousand words. On a good day, I’ve been known to produce 5000 words of useable script. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
I nearly always begin with a theme in mind. This is good in some ways because it forces me to develop the framework – the skeleton – on which the whole story will hang. It also helps me develop the plot.
But it can also work against me, if I’m not careful, because, as I’ve mentioned, the work can become rather pedantic. Even preachy. I don’t want that. I want to entertain.
The most challenging part of writing The Sons of Jude was to not slip into a mode where I portray the Chicago PD or the Chicago political system in clichés. There is corruption in Chicago, just as there is in any other city. But I didn’t want readers coming away from the book thinking that Chicago cops – or all Chicago politicians – are on the take. That’s simply not true. Most cops in any city are decent hard-working, self-sacrificing people. I’ve seen it too many times to not believe that and that includes Chicago.
What do you love most about being an author?
Writing is escapism for me. I’ve always loved learning new things. Writing stories – novels or shorter length – gives me that opportunity. I get to do research and meet new people, but I also get to role play. I can be anyone at any time and in any place. What other occupation allows you to do that just the way you want to? I’ve known screen writers who longed to become novelists for the solitary approach that novel writing gives them.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
I’m with a small press and, yes, I’m happy with that decision. I get more editorial and marketing support than some of my friends who are publishing with bigger houses and fewer headaches than my friends who are self-publishing. I’m in that happy middle ground.
The process happened rather quickly for me. I pitched my novel at a writer’s conference the week after I’d written it and that led to a three-book contract. My editor immediately took the novel apart, explaining to me that there were parts he liked and parts he didn’t like. That was quite a shock. I said, “But Nick. I thought you loved it.” He said, “I do. But not these 42,000 words.”
I did a lot of re-writing, but he was right. His suggestions made it a better book.
Where can we find you on the web?
I’m all over the place which is pretty good considering I didn’t even know what ‘the web’ meant until I started publishing.
I have a website: www.brandtdodson.com and I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I always respond to reader’s questions and I enjoy the opportunity to correspond with them. It’s a nice thing to be able to do.