Tag Archives: Brandt Dodson

A Conversation with Brandt Dodson, author of ‘The Sons of Jude’

Brandt DodsonBrandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, which he would later choose as the setting for his Colton Parker Mystery series. Although he discovered in grade school that he wanted to be a writer, it would be another twenty-one years before he would put pen to paper.“I knew in fifth grade that I wanted to be a writer. Our teacher had given each of us a photograph which we were to use as inspiration for a short story. The particular photo I was given was of several young men playing handball in New York City. I don’t remember all of the particulars of the story now, but I do remember the thrill that writing it gave me.”

Later, while in college, one of Brandt’s professors would echo that teacher’s comment.

“But life intervened and I found myself working at a variety of jobs. I worked in the toy department of a local department store and fried chicken for a local fast food outlet. Over the course of the next several years I finished my college degree and worked for the Indianapolis office of the FBI, and served for eight years as a Naval Officer in the United States Naval Reserve. I also obtained my doctorate in Podiatric Medicine, and after completion of my surgical residency, opened my own practice. But I never forgot my first love. I wanted to write.”

During his early years in practice, Brandt began reading the work of Dean Koontz.

“I discovered Dean’s book, The Bad Place, and was completely blown away by his craftsmanship. I read something like 13 or 14 of his back list over the following two weeks. It wasn’t long after that I began to write and submit in earnest.”

Still, it would be another twelve years before Brandt was able to secure the publishing contract he so desperately desired.

“I began by writing the type of fiction that I enjoyed; I wrote edgy crime thrillers that were laced with liberal amounts of suspense. Over the years, I’ve begun to write increasingly more complex work by using broader canvases and themes.

Since securing his first contract, Brandt has continued to pen the type of stories that inspired him to write when he was a boy, and that have entertained his legions of readers.

“I love to write, and as long as others love to read, I plan on being around for a long time to come.”

Brandt Dodson’s latest book is the crime thriller The Sons of Jude.

Visit Brandt Dodson’s website at www.brandtdodson.com.

Pick up your copy of The Sons of Jude at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sons-Jude-Series/dp/0857212052


B7C8YX Chiffon Scarf on white backgroundQ: Thank you for this interview, Brandt . Can you tell us what your latest book, The Sons of Jude, is all about? 

At its core, The Sons of Jude is about standing true in a corrosive environment. Having come from a long, multi-generational line of police officers on both side of my family, and having served with the FBI, I can tell you there are few environments more corrosive than law enforcement.

But the story is also about two people who must find common ground if they are to do the job required of them; if they are to serve the people of Chicago. Today, in a country that appears to be as deeply divided as ours is,and with a government that is as dysfunctional as ours is, the story is uniquely relevant.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

The great conflict of the novel comes from the gasoline and matches combination of detectives Frank Campello and Andy Polanski.

Campello has been with the Chicago Police department for the better part of 20 years and is engrained in the system. He is a cop’s cop. A man who sees things as they are and does what needs to be done. Sometimes he bends the rules. At other times, he breaks them. There is good and bad to his methods.

Polanski is Campello’s polar opposite. He isa man who believes in the rules and who lives fastidiously by them. He bends them for no one, even when the public’s greater good would best be served by doing it. Like Campello’s approach, there is good and bad to Polanski’s methods.

Addreporter Christy Lee, who has issues with Campello and Polanski, and we have a recipe for the kind of tension that’s needed to drive a story of this magnitude.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A novelist has to be observant. After all, story is about character and a novel’s characters must be real to the people who read about them. I don’t write about anyone I know, but I do tend to draw on my experience and people I have either known or met. Few of us are the angels we think we are, but most of us are not possessed by the demons we sometimes display. The old adage that there is good and evil in all of us is very accurate. I try very hard to show both sides of the same coin.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

Although I’ve tried to write by outlining in advance, I must admit it doesn’t work well for me. A great deal of the fire – the passion that comes with the birth of a new idea – tends to burn off when I make an effort to develop the story before I write it. I need the discovery process as much as the reader and have found that my best reviews tend to come with the novels on which I’ve done the least amount of pre-planning. Writers who do outline, and there are many, will often marvel at how the rest of us can write a story when we have no idea where it’s going. I’m not sure that criticism if fair. After all, even the most ardent outliner has no idea where the story is going until they begin writing, even if their writing is initially in outline form. I’m not alone when it comes to writing by the seat of my pants. Lee Child has said he’s a dedicated pantser too, so I figure I’m in good company.

Q: Your book is set in Chicago.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

I once lived in Chicago and know the city well. I used to take the train from Union Station to my apartment in Elk Grove, but often worked late and had to stay for the next commuter. One evening, in the fall of 1986, I missed my train and ended up staying late which gave me an opportunity to meet Kevin Costner. He was filming the climactic shootout scene for Brian DePalma’s The Untouchables and was very pleasant, indulging my many questions on the making of the film. Later, when the movie was released, I saw a scene where Sean Connery’s character refers to St. Jude as the patron saint of lost causes and policemen. Coming from a long, multi-generational line of police officers and having worked for the FBI, I tucked the tidbit away in the deep recesses of my brain. Later, when developing the idea for The Sons of Jude, I knew I wanted to tell the story of police officers who continue to go into the streets everyday knowing that while they may return from the battle victorious, the war is unwinnable. I recalled the line from The Untouchables and did some research. I learned that St. Jude is not only the patron saint of police officers, but of the Chicago Police department in particular. I knewimmediately I would have to set the book in Chicago and hence The Sons of Jude was born.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

To the uninitiated, Chicago means Al Capone, political corruption, and high-stakes crime. There is a great deal of that to be sure, but the Windy City has so much more to offer. Its neighborhoods, which play a large role in the book, are home to multiple generations of the same families who live, work, and worship there. I wanted to capture that sense of community and show how it drives people to stand up to corruption and take ownership of their own turf. Gangs and other forms of violent crime can’t stand against an engaged populace. There is no better place to see that kind of spirit than in Chicago. Despite the current upswing in violent crime, I’m confident that the people of Chicago will gain the upper hand. They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again. I’m convinced their commitment comes from their sense of community.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Andy Polanski has arrived home to a late dinner with his wife. The children are already in bed and Andy tells his wife about the kind of day he’s had. Since he’s a by-the-book kind of cop, he’s become the victim of daily attacks – some vicious; some juvenile – and his wife is trying to get him to resign from the CPD so they can start over in another city.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

This excerpt occurs during the discussion between Andy Polanski and his wife, Jenny.

Her eyes searched his. “You’re a good man, Andy. Don’t let them use you.”

     “No one’s using me.” He pulled her arms from around his neck.

     “Ever since that kid was shot there’s been unrest and the department is letting you take the fall for it.”

     He leaned against the counter and crossed his arms. It was a defensive posture; a position he was getting used to taking.

     “I know what I’m doing.”

     “Andy,” she said, her eyes searching his, “they moved you to the 28th to make themselves look good. They’re politicians, Andy. They’re politicians first and police officers second.”

     “But I’m not a politician, Jenny. I’m a cop. And a good one.”

     A wistful look crossed her face. “I know you are,” she said in a subdued voice. “But the good ones either leave or get changed. They don’t last.”

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

I think it was the late Robert B. Parker who once said that writer’s block was another term for laziness. I can’t recall a time when I’ve felt truly blocked, but there are times when I can’t seem to get the power to start the day. The words, if they come at all, come hard and the writing feels like an underwater game of basketball. When those times occur, I follow the lead of Dean Koontz. He once said that when he faced times of difficulty he’d pick up a favored book by an author he admired and read a few lines just to enjoy the use of the language. I’ve found that Dean’s method for starting the engine works well for me too.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I’d spend more time with my family. Both of my boys are grown men now, and we have a great relationship, but I don’t get to spend as much time with them as I’d like. They’re working and leading their lives, and I’m doing the same. But I miss them nonetheless. Time is fleeting. There is nothing as important as family.

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

There are so many it’s difficult to choose. I truly enjoyed Koontz’ Watchers and Lightning. I love Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man and I’ve read Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle so much the cover is worn down. But I must admit I’m a big fan of Dickens. I would like to have written GreatExpectations. I thoroughly enjoyed that book. Dickens had a way of keeping us focused on the important things of life.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

I’ve been told that the great Sinclair Lewis once walked onto the stage of a writer’s conference to lecture to a room full of want-to-be writers. Allegedly, he said: “Why aren’t you home writing?” before strolling off.

Most people I meet who want to write never get past the wanting stage. The best advice I can offer to anyone who desires to write is to do it. Nothing gets written on its own. But I would also strongly suggest reading as well. Read widely and deeply. If someone wants to write mysteries, they should read Agatha Christie. But they should also read Robert Crais. Both are mystery writers in the larger sense, but they are very, very different. Learning what has been done, as well as learning the craft is important. But all of that is for naught if you don’t sit down to write.



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Read-a-Chapter: The Sons of Jude by Brandt Dodson

read a chapterRead a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the crime thriller, The Sons of Jude, by Brandt Dodson. Enjoy!


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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.


Chapter One

Chicago Police Department

District 28 Headquarters

Monday, 11:00 a.m.

Detective Frank Campello stood in the doorway of the 28th district’s second floor squad room.  It was his first day back since the shooting, and everything looked the same.  Gun-metal gray desks stood nose to nose, the walls were still covered in nauseating beige, and the sound of hushed conversations filled the room, punctuated only by the occasional ring of a phone or the squeak of a chair. Everything was the same – except for Rand’s riderless desk.

Campello passed his late partner’s work station and slid out of his black leather jacket, draping it over the back of the chair.  A swarthy looking man of stocky build with close-cropped black hair and deeply-set brown eyes,  Campello preferred casual clothing to the department’s more generally accepted business attire.  On this day, he wore a black long-sleeved shirt that clung to his muscular frame, brown slacks and cordovan loafers.  A Sig-Sauer nine millimeter pistol rode on his right hip.

Taking his CPD mug to the coffee maker at the rear of the room, he met Detective Angelo Silvio.

“Welcome back, Frank.”  Silvio was stirring non-dairy creamer into his coffee. “I’m sorry about Rand.  He was a good cop.”  He tossed the stir stick into the receptacle and lifted the cup to his lips, pausing to blow before drinking.

“Thanks Angie.”  Campello filled his mug and returned the carafe to its nook.  “It’s hard to believe he’s gone.”

Silvio sat on the edge of the table that held the coffee maker.  “Things like this are always hard to believe.  How can a man like that, so full of life, be here one day and gone the next?”  He shook his head.  “It doesn’t make sense, Frank.  It just doesn’t make sense.”

“I’m sorry about Rand,” said Shelly Tertwiller as she approached. “I know you two were close.”  Tertwiller, a recent transferee to the 28th, was a detective with just two years less time on the department than Campello’s twenty.  Her coffee-colored eyes studied him from beneath a furrowed brow.  “You ok?”

“I’m ok.”

“I know everyone says this, but if there’s anything you need …”

“I appreciate it.”

“For what it’s worth, the buzz around here says you’ll come out fine on the other thing.” She was referring to his hearing before the IPRA, the all-civilian review board that replaced the previous Office of Professional Standards.  Campello’s killing of the suspect who killed Adams had automatically guaranteed him a review by the board.  All police-action shootings, regardless of their merit, went before the IPRA.

“I’ve already been exonerated, Shelly,” Campello said.

“Last week, wasn’t it?” Silvio asked.  “Where’ve you been Tertwiller?”

She gave her partner a hard look.  “Who’s talking to you, dummy?” She patted Campello’s hand. “That’s good to hear, Frank.  We’re all here for you.  You don’t stand alone.”

“I know.”

“We’re family.  When one of us goes down, we all go down.  It’s always been that way and it always will be.”  She held out her fist and he bumped it with his. “By the way, how’s your dad doing?”

“As good as can be expected.  He’s more forgetful, but he seems to like Marimar and they treat him well.”

“You see him?”

“I do.  Going this evening, in fact.”

She smiled.  “Good. Again, let me know if you need anything.”

“I will.  Thank you.”

“I mean it,” she said, turning toward him even as she was walking away.  “You need help with your case load … paperwork … whatever.  Bill and I have your back.”

Bill was her husband and a detective with the 31st.

“Got it.  Thanks Shelly.”

“Well,” Silvio said, “got to get to work.”  He held his hand out to Campello who shook it.   “We’re going to Jeep’s tonight.  You’re coming, right?”


Silvio smiled and slapped him on the back.  “Excellent.  Five o’clock.  First round’s on you.”

Campello grinned and reluctantly went to his desk to begin his first day without Rand; his first day without his partner and friend.

He dropped himself into his chair and undid his tie.  His desk, like the others in the room, was nose to nose with his partner’s, an arrangement that facilitated communication.  Across the great divide, Campello could see Rand, sitting with his feet up and a smirk on his face.   Hey buddy, how ’bout them cubs, huh?

Campello reached across the desk tops and took Rand’s mug in hand.  The Cubs emblem was nearly worn off and the white ceramic cup was chipped and stained from years of coffee abuse.

He rolled the cup in his hands before putting it in the left hand drawer of his desk along with his pistol.

Campello stabbed the computer power button with his forefinger, brooding on old memories until the machine booted up and the CPD emblem emblazoned on the screen.  Then he opened a window to Adam’s case load; it was significant – weighty, even – and there was little doubt the district commander would re-assign some of them.  But Campello wanted to review them so he could have a say in which ones stayed with him and which went elsewhere.  The list represented a lot of effort and team work – and he did not relish the idea of losing control after all the time they had put into them.

He scrolled down the list and began by first making note of the ones that were set to go to trial.  He ran his finger down the screen as he copied the case numbers in a spiral-bound steno’s notebook, silently mouthing them to himself.  His hand stopped halfway down the list at an unfamiliar file number.  It matched no known classification, suggesting it was a dummy, something Rand had likely been working off the books, anticipating an upgrade to official status in the future.

Campello made a note of it and then circled it.  He would research it later.

“You got a minute Frank?”  He looked up to see Julio Lopez, the district commander.

“I was just going over some of Frank’s cases.”

“You can do that later.”  He pointed his chin toward his office.  “Come on back.”

Campello slid the notebook in a drawer of his desk and snatched his CPD mug.  He paused at the coffee maker to top off the cup.

“Close the door, will you?”  The boss said, settling in the chair behind his desk.

Campello pushed it closed and sat across from Lopez.  The office was Plexiglas on three sides, floor to ceiling, and both men felt their meeting being covertly watched by the entire crew.

“You doing okay?”

“Yeah.  I’m fine.”

Lopez gave him a distinct non-believing look.

“I’m fine, Julio.”

“You have more time coming, Frank.  Take it if you need it.”

He shook his head.

Lopez’s eyes searched him, studied him, before accepting his statement on face value.  “Okay.  I guess you are.”

“Anything new on the shooting?” Campello asked.

“You mean, is there any new information?”


“No.”  He focused his gaze on Campello. “The IPRA cleared you.  Don’t worry about it.  You did the only thing you could.”

“I wish I’d fired sooner.”

“Don’t.  Rand’s time was up.  There was nothing you could’ve done.  We all know the risk when we pin on the star.”

“Maybe.  But that doesn’t help much.”

Lopez sighed.  “No, I guess not.  But it’s true.  You’ve got two choices, Frank.  You can blame yourself for this, or you can see it for what it is and get on with your life.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do.  That’s why I’m back.”

“Let it go.  Move on.”

“I have to move on, Julio.  I have no life beyond the job.  I have nothing else.  The department is my family. The fact is I don’t belong anywhere else.  There’s no one at home so I’ve got no reason to stay there.”  He lifted the mug again, and then paused to grin over the top of it.  “God knows I haven’t done so well in the marriage department.”

“Yeah, well, me either.”

Campello lowered the mug and set it on the edge of the commander’s desk.  “Four times for me.”

Lopez winced.  “Ouch.  Okay.  You win that one.”

Campello crossed his legs.  “You didn’t call me in here to chit-chat.”

“No.”  He folded his hands, resting them on the desk.

“What, Julio?  Just say it.”

“We’ve got a transfer coming in.”


“It wasn’t my idea.  It was arranged before Rand took a hit.  But with his passing, I thought you’d be the right guy for –”


Lopez sat back in his chair and ran a hand through his hair. “It’s Polanski.”

The flush of anger was immediate and Campello fought to control himself.  “Polanski?”

“The brass wants him transferred.  Since his allegations about the other shooting, the one in the thirty-first, he’s become too hot for them and a danger to himself.  The rioting there has escalated and they want him out of the district before he brings them any additional unwanted attention.”

“I don’t blame them.”

“I want him to work with you.  At least until I can figure out what to do with him.”


The commander crossed his arms, his expression growing mulish.  “I need for you to keep an eye on him, Frank.”

“No, Julio.”

The commander nodded toward the squad room.  “Those people out there respect you.  You’ve got a lot of time and a good record with the department.  There isn’t an officer in that room that wouldn’t walk into hell with you.  I need someone who commands that kind of respect to keep an eye on Polanski.  So far, we don’t have the rioting and unrest going on here that is occurring in the thirty-first.  Your killing of the suspect who gunned down Rand is justified in the mind of the public.  But if Polanski stirs up the same concerns here that he did in the thirty-first, we’ll see the same kind of trouble.  The brass doesn’t want that and neither do I.  I don’t think you do either.”

“I don’t want to work with him, Julio.”

Lopez sighed.  “It isn’t up to you, Frank.  For what it’s worth, it’s not up to me either.”

“What do you mean?  You’re the commander.”  His voice was rising.

“I mean I have bosses too, and they want him here and you’re open right now.  I can’t let him work alone.  I don’t trust him.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.  You’re replacing Rand with Polanski?”

Lopez glanced toward the squad room and then leaned forward in his chair.  “I’m not replacing Rand with anyone.”  His gaze locked on Campello, his tone quietly emphatic.  “Stuff happens.  Rand’s gone and I have a new man who happens to be Polanski.  So you’re going to work with him, and you’re going to do it now, or you can take more time off and then work with him when you come back.”

“Work with a turncoat?  Are you serious?”

Lopez spread his hands.

Campello stared at him in disbelief.  “When does this happen?”

Julio slid a note across the desk.  “We just got a call.  There’s a body at Navy Pier.”

“What?  Now?  I haven’t even had time to clear the case load and …”

But he no longer had Julio’s attention.  The commander was staring into the squad room at an immaculately dressed man standing just outside the office door.

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