with David E. Grogan
We are delighted to welcome author David E. Grogan to Omnimystery News.
Dave's debut mystery The Siegel Dispositions (Camel Press; November 2014 trade paperback) introduces ex-Navy JAG, now civilian attorney Steve Stilwell. We asked Dave to tell us more about how the book came to be written and published, which is the subject of his guest post for us today.
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Photo provided courtesy of
David E. Grogan
The Siegel Dispositions represents the end of an arduous but rewarding journey, which began at The George Washington University Law School. At the time, I was a mid-grade Navy officer in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. The Navy sent me back to law school for a year to study International Law so I could do things like negotiate treaties and advise Warfighters on the Law of War.
One unexpected gem I discovered at George Washington was a class in Human Rights, taught by an internationally renowned scholar, Professor Thomas Buergenthal. Initially, I wasn't enthusiastic about taking the course because Human Rights seemed like common sense, not something I needed to study. I couldn't have been more wrong. Professor Buergenthal opened my eyes to the critical importance of Human Rights both in policy and in practice. As an Auschwitz survivor, he spoke with particular authority, and his class discussions were the high point of my week.
Professor Buergenthal's course inspired me to learn more about Human Rights. One night I ran across a website that gave me the idea for a story — a story that might promote an awareness of Human Rights, but in a subtle, subliminal way. Now all I had to do was write it.
After graduating from George Washington, I was assigned to the Navy staff at the Pentagon. As an officer, I was expected to stay in shape, so I ran from the Pentagon to the Lincoln Memorial and back three or four times each week. With nothing else to do on the run but think, I formulated scenes in my head and then, after my kids went to bed at night, transcribed them. I often wouldn't finish until after midnight, only to get up for work at four-thirty the next morning to start the process all over again. A little more than a year later, I had a 124,000-word draft of The Siegel Dispositions, chock full of new author mistakes and extraneous material.
The product of blood, sweat, passion, and tears, and more importantly, critical editing, refining and tightening up over the course of several years, the book now stands at 85,000 words. The Siegel Dispositions begins in 1997 with the murder of an Auschwitz survivor in Düsseldorf, Germany. The ensuing story then weaves the five primary characters through murders, twists and turns in Germany, the United States, Israel and Syria. I'd like to highlight two of those characters because they are central to the story yet present polar opposites.
The protagonist is Steve Stilwell, a JAG who retires from the Navy after twenty-two years and then begins to practice law in Williamsburg, Virginia. While I've drawn some of Steve's background from my own to adhere to the rule "write about things you are familiar with," Steve is purely fictional. In fact, he's actually an aspirational character, the kind of attorney I want to be — not the attorney I am. Recently retired and a Navy man through and through, Steve looks at every situation through a Navy lens, and it shapes the way he approaches problems. He can always be counted on to do what he thinks is right, even if it might turn out to be wrong; and just like in the fog of war, it unfortunately sometimes does.
Michelle Siegel, a prime murder suspect, is a woman you will love to hate. Blonde, beautiful, aggressive and affected, she is every man's dream and every man's nightmare. The victim of one destructive relationship and another overprotective one, she is manipulative and narcissistic, but flashes of vulnerability give a glimpse through her veneer. Even so, Steve is never sure whether the vulnerability is fact or fiction. Michelle's duplicity, compounded by Steve's tacit difficulty dealing with beautiful women, creates tension throughout the story.
Just as The Siegel Dispositions represents a culmination of effort, it also represents a new beginning. My many and varied experiences in the Navy, and in particular my travels around the world, will give Steve Stilwell an unending stream of catastrophes to deal with and interesting people to confront or represent. Rumor has it, his next client will need help resolving a case in Saigon, but with the attorney-client privilege in effect, we won't know until the sequel is out on the streets.
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David E. Grogan was born in Rome, New York, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He studied accounting at the College of William & Mary in Virginia and later attended law school at the University of Virginia. He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
After law school, Dave joined the Navy and served on active duty for over 26 years as a Navy Judge Advocate. During his career, he prosecuted and defended court-martial cases, traveled to capitals around the world, lived in Japan, Cuba and Bahrain, and deployed to the Persian Gulf onboard the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS ENTERPRISE. Dave's Navy experiences influence every aspect of his writing.
Dave's current home is in Virginia Beach, where he lives with his wife, Sharon, and dog, Marley.
For more information about the author, please visit his website at DavidEGrogan.com, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.
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The Siegel Dispositions
David E. Grogan
A Steve Stilwell Mystery