These days I’m the author of a series of thriller novels featuring Dr. Derek Stillwater, a troubleshooter for Homeland Security. Derek’s particular area of expertise is biological and chemical terrorism. He’s been favorably compared by reviewers and readers to Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer and Jack Reacher. (Yes, I’m flattered). The most recent Stillwater novel is THE FALLEN.
In March I had a book launch party at Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I wisely stocked the store with family members. While I was giving my spiel, apparently Robin Agnew, Aunt Agatha’s owner, leaned over to my brother and asked him if I looked like Derek Stillwater. To which he responded, “When he was younger.”
I can’t tell you how bizarre an exchange that is to me.
In addition to the Derek Stillwaternovels I’ve had a couple standalones. One is an e-book for Kindle, DANCING IN THE DARK, which features Joanna Dancing, a high-level bodyguard and security expert. She ain’t me.
My first novel, DIRTY DEEDS, features Meg Malloy, a computer troubleshooter who made a fortune before the dot-com bubble burst and now spends her time doing short-term computer projects. She ain’t me, either.
What brought this home in an amusing way was friends of mine recently read DIRTY DEEDS and they said to my wife, “Meg Malloy is you.” To which my wife responded, “I guess I should read it, then.”
She ain’t Meg, either.
Except …well, Meg has a take-no-prisoners attitude that does resemble my wife’s. (Alas, my wife is not a millionaire, dammit!)
So am I Derek Stillwater? Well, he has advanced degrees in microbiology and biochemistry. I have a BSc in microbiology and public health. He was in Army Special Forces. I never served in the military. He was raised in various third-world countries by parents who were missionary physicians. I was raised in Davison, Michigan by parents who were a bank supervisor and elementary school secretary (although they were fairly religious). Derek’s into kayaking and martial arts. I’m into kayaking and martial arts. Derek lives on a boat. I live in a ranch-style house in a suburb (although the idea of living on a boat has a lot of appeal).
I’m not Derek. Yet … we have the same attitudes about bureaucracies and chain-of-command; in other words, no patience for them. He’s a bit of a hypochondriac; so am I. He has panic attacks; I don’t (really). There is an attitude we share and a worldview that is similar.
It does remind me a bit of the final scene in the movie IRON MAN, when Robert Downey, Jr., stands up and says, “I’m Iron Man.”
But I’m not Derek Stillwater. (At least not all the time).
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