Monday, July 14, 2014

Release of The Doc! An Interview with Timothy Desmond

Hi, Tim! Welcome to Murder Lab and congrats on the release of your new thriller, The Doc. This sounds like an interesting story combining several elements including my favorite topic, a medical thriller component. Tell me about your protagonist, Dr. Hank Houston.

TD – Hank has a mixture of interests besides his medical career. He is a shooting sports enthusiast who was an active competitor in high power rifle matches. Those matches cover several rifle types from United States military service rifles to custom built match rifles. With that sport, many reload their own match ammunition, and have dealer licenses, which Hank had also. So, he was a gun dealer, and then quit that in mid 1990s. Too, like many professionals, he is a private pilot, owning his own plane. Another hobby he is involved with is Civil War reenacting.

The novel begins when Hank is contacted by a dying friend who happens to be a Civil War reenactor. That's intriguing! Care to comment about how you came up with this character?

TD – There was a doctor friend of mine, who was the initial real life model, combined with my own interests. As I mentioned, novel character Hank is a Civil War reenactor also. His friend, Matt Sweet, was a patient who introduced him to that, after Hank quit competitive shooting. I believe it is very tough writing original and different characters. In art and science there is simultaneous invention happening. One can have different treatment and style, but it is still difficult to be original. Civil War reenactors are portrayed as “yahoos” in movies like Sweet Home Alabama and others, and even in the book Confederate in the Attic by Tony Horowitz [Vintage 1998], there is a comic or tongue-in-cheek point of view of reenactors. And while there are many novels with Civil War reenacting in them, like South of Shiloh by Chuck Logan [Harper 2008], and Tishomingo Blues by the late Elmore Leonard, both which I liked very much, they had killings at reenactments in them. I wanted to portray reenacting in a different light. I wanted Hank to be an unforgettable and different character.
Is the Civil War era a particular interest of yours?

TD - Yes, the Civil War events and the history are an interest of mine. I became a Civil War reenactor after going to a few events as a spectator. Then a friend took us to a Sons of Confederate Veterans dinner social and we joined a reenactment group there. I was in a Confederate infantry company and there were many different guys and gals in the unit. One was a veterinarian. Others were students, teachers, construction guys, gulf war veterans, history professors, civil engineers, corrections officers, accountants, manufacturing line workers. You get the picture.

It sounds like the story takes a rapid turn when a domestic black ops unit comes into play. What can you tell us about this unit?

TD – The core unit is a security private contractor called Safety Research Institute – SRI. They work in and out of their cover offices in the fictional Federal Accounting Office in Washington, DC. The SRI unit is one of many federal government contractors, and they are contracted with the real DHS.

Is this modeled on black ops you're familiar with in the nonfictional world? Or, if you told me, would you have to kill me?

TD – You are safe, as I honestly have no idea. This unit is a combination of musings over the years. I must say that it was first written in 1999, as I mention in a note at the end of the book, before TV’s 24, before 9/11, before Patriot Act, and other now-known dark things about government. But, here was the question I asked myself. If you were in charge of creating an operation that must be completely buried from the public and courts, how would you do that? In the mid 90s I wrote a short story about a private company security man, who’s job it was to get hostages released from third world entities. One might ask, if that company were a real company or a cover government company. I realize that many refer to CIA as “the company.” I’m not talking about CIA, but something larger and more sinister, with a multitude of companies.  

The excerpt posted on your blog is also of interest. Here, we delve into Hank's day job a bit. To what extent is The Doc a medical thriller? How else would you classify it?

TD - The idea is that there are several layers of sub-contractors that operate as private companies all over the country. Another arm of the SRI has their own hospital type institution which contracts with the federal court system to do the psychological evaluations of detainees or other wards of the courts. That unit also has done chemical induced interrogations. It is not a truth serum, as there is no such thing, but the drug these units use is a classified powerful formula of a conscious sedation type medication.   

Conspiracy writer Jim Marrs has said that the government and military use of drug experiments in the late 50s and 60s has stopped. But, what if it hasn’t stopped? Are ther still biological weapons here? That is dark, huh. In the 1930s, the German government used medicine, their medical community, to kill their own people.

I'll return to the murder of Hank's friend's daughter. What can you tell us about this character and how much we will see of her? Any specifics about her murder you'd like to tease us with?

TD – Dana Sweet is half the book, but she is the premise of the whole story. That is that Hank is trying to fathom, the reasons and answers for her loss. She was raised as a reenacting kid, and reenacted as a Confederate infantryman. She had a certain point of view of excessive government control that was caused by and increased after the Civil War. As a grad student in Virginia she was working on a paper about population control, which she thought would delve into a larger “control” premise for a thesis. She gets hired as an accountant in the FAO and also befriends some members of the SRI unit. One of those fellows likes her, but she falls in love with another Virginia Civil War reenactor who is a DHS agent. 

What else should I know about this novel that might not be evident from its cover blurb?

TD – At first I thought the latest blurb gave too much away, but I do realize there has to be the “hook,” as we know.  The recent news and stories about Snowden and the NSA where bloggers last year were posing the question, “do you think Snowden is a hero or a traitor?” brings up so much about what is close to us. The privacy issue and those pros and cons of abuse points of view are all relevant to this novel.

What else should our readers know about you?

TD – I was at a writers’ conference once. I had purchased extra interviews with agents or publishers. I sat before a publisher from a Los Angeles press.  Her first question was “Are you a cop?” Then “Ex- military?” My answers were, “No,” and after her brief view of my sample of novel, I was dismissed with the admonition that it was OK to say I had researched conspiracies for thirty years. I’m not a cop, CIA, nor NSA. I am an ex-state government school employee – high school science teacher.

And last, please tell our readers where we can buy The Doc.

Black Opal Books at:

Timothy J. Desmond
Amazon author page at:
Writing at:
Art at:

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