Brandt Dodson was born and raised in Indianapolis, where he graduated from Ben Davis High School and, later, Indiana Central University (now known as The University of Indianapolis). It was during a creative writing course in college that a professor said, "You're a good writer. With a little effort and work, you could be a very good writer." That comment, and the support offered by a good teacher, set Brandt on a course that would eventually lead to the Colton Parker Mystery Series. Brandt comes from a long line of police officers, spanning several generations, and was employed by the FBI before leaving to pursue his education. A former United States Naval Reserve officer, Brandt is a board Certified Podiatrist and past President of the Indiana Podiatric Medical Association. He is a recipient of the association's highest honor, "The Theodore H. Clark Award". He currently resides in southwestern Indiana with his wife and two sons and is at work on his next novel.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Are Alive and Well
It was a lot like watching our government use a dime’s worth of copper to produce a penny.
When I was a kid growing up during the 1960s, I didn’t have a TV. The one television we did have, left this world with a bang and a hiss as the last episode of Gunsmoke I would see for the next seven years vanished from the screen in a thin blue line.
That was 1966. It would be 1971 before I’d see Gunsmoke again. During the ensuing years, my brother and I groped in cultural darkness as we struggled to participate in discussing the latest episode of Batman, The Green Hornet, Laugh-In, or any of the other television classics of that era. We were still living in the days of Car 54 Where Are You? and that classic of all classics, My Mother the Car.
Yep. We were right on top of it. Cultural icons in our own right.
But we could read. And we read all the time.
One of my favorite stories, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, enthralled me with the notion that a kind and gentle man could have a dark and misanthropic side. And it’s a notion that has apparently stoked the imagination of many writers.
Incredible Hulk and Batman, to name just two, play off Stevenson’s story.
Well, I’m pleased to announce that Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are alive and well.
By day, I’m a practicing podiatrist. I treat everything from painful calluses to limb-threatening infections and do everything from fitting my patients with braces to performing reconstructive surgery. I’m close to my patients and enjoy their friendship.
That’s my Dr. Jekyll side.
But by night, Mr. Hyde takes over, and I become a throat-slashing, knife-wielding, gun-toting killer. You see, I kill people in the shadow of the night. And I do it to lead others to Jesus Christ.
Like I said, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are alive and well. And they’re living in me.
My Dr. Jekyll works fifty hours a week—sometimes sixty—with days that start in hospital rounds at 7:00 in the morning and often finish with meetings that end at 7:00 in the evening. In addition, I supervise and teach residents, give lectures and Grand Round presentations, and serve on clinic committees. Generally, by the time I arrive home, have dinner, and spend time with my family, I have an hour or two to write.
But those hours are golden, and they’ve allowed me to produce two novels a year. It’s a time of escape. A time to let go of kindly Dr. Jekyll and allow malevolent Mr. Hyde the access he demands.
My novels confront the dark side of life in an effort to show the light that Jesus affords. But in the process of writing my stories, I cloister myself in my office and begin by conjuring up the darkest of human motivation.
I want to off someone.
When I began the first novel in my Colton Parker series, Original Sin, I was looking for an idea that would allow me to play off the duality of Stevenson’s story. I spent days manipulating words, ideas, and thoughts. But with each effort, I seemed to produce less and less. It was a lot like watching our government use a dime’s worth of copper to produce a penny. I was going nowhere and getting there in record time.
But one evening, while watching cable news, I saw a report about a retired nurse living in Chicago, whose lifeless body was found by her neighbors. The nurse, it seems, had been shot multiple times, a particularly heinous crime considering she kept largely to herself and had no apparent enemies.
My antennae went up, and I promised myself I would follow the story until the police found the murderer of this kindly old nurse.
I didn’t have to wait long.
The next evening, after a particularly challenging day at the office, I sat down to watch the news and catch up on what was happening. Lo and behold, the reporter said that the police had already cracked the case. Her podiatrist, it seems, had killed her because of an unsettled dispute the two were having.
At that moment, Mr. Hyde took over and I began to ask the age-old question that all writers must eventually ask themselves: What if?
What if the nice nurse wasn’t so nice? What if she had a dark side? What if she had a . . . dual nature?
The nurse didn’t. She was every bit as nice and kind as everyone said she was. But I could create a character that wasn’t. So I did.
My Mr. Hyde created Emma Caine, the murder victim in Original Sin. I chose the name Emma because of the sweetness the name implies. After all, who could not like Aunt Em? And I chose Caine to mark Emma’s darker side. Caine did kill Abel, didn’t he?
Once I had that in place, I thought I was on a roll. Far from it. I still had a day job. So when the sun came up, Dr. Jekyll came to life. But that didn’t mean Mr. Hyde died altogether.
During my day job, my mind is on the work at hand. But in the quiet moments of the afternoon, in the deep recesses of my mind, Mr. Hyde begins to stir. I switch tracks and take my train of thought from the newest antibiotic to the best way of offing someone and making the case as challenging for my detective as possible.
So I write things down. I run ideas past patients and colleagues. I watch people all day for their nervous ticks, mannerisms, or colloquialisms. I observe and record, then filter the day through my imagination.
But when the workday is over and the sun goes down, Dr. Jekyll takes a breather and Mr. Hyde rises to the surface. It’s time to off someone. It’s time to compartmentalize.
Both men are alive and well. And as long as I live a dual life, they will continue to exist.