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Alum seeks thrills in new career as novelist

February 01, 2010

For several years following his graduation from the College of Law at ASU in 1998, Graham Brown did what he was supposed to with his Juris Doctor degree, practicing at a small firm, then joining the Maricopa County Attorney's Office and finally handling the legal needs for a start-up corporation.

Brown had written the first draft of his first novel while in law school, then, as many writers do, he shoved it into a drawer and forgot about it. It was only after his wife encouraged him to go to a writer's conference in 2002 that he began to seriously consider using his skills for a different purpose.

The result is that Brown, who now lives in Tucson, has had his first book, a thriller titled, Black Rain, published by Bantam Books, a division of Random House. Its sequel, Black Sun, is in the publisher's hands, too.

Both Black Rain and Black Sun, are thrillers about covert government operative Danielle Laidlaw, who leads an expedition into the deepest reaches of the Amazon in search of a legendary Mayan city. Assisted by a renowned university professor and protected by a mercenary named Hawker, Laidlaw's team journeys into the tangled rain forest, unaware that they are replacements for a group that vanished weeks before, and that the treasure they seek is no mere artifact but a breakthrough discovery that could transform the world.

Brown, a Chicago native with a degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, came to law school in 1995 because he wanted a career that would give him the freedom and resources to think creatively and to travel. He has two favorite memories of law school, one about longtime professor Jon Rose, whose contracts class Brown took his first semester.

"We were talking about ambiguity in contracts, and he asked me this fantastic but complicated question, but it was long and I was trying to work on the first part in my mind as he was asking the second part, and I didn't hear or register that second part," Brown said. "Now I'm nervous, I'm sweating and I thought I'd prepared, but I'm still not ready.

"And Professor Rose says, 'Mr. Brown, is something wrong with my question?' I cleared my throat accidentally, and all I could say was, 'It's a little ambiguous.' The whole class busted out laughing, and he laughed too. I really enjoyed that class."

The other fond memory is the day of his first Moot Court competition when, after months of his classmates appearing increasingly unshaven, unkempt and exhausted, they came to school like shiny new pennies. "All of a sudden, everyone's in business suits and ties and their hair done and faces made up, and I thought, 'Oh, we look like lawyers finally.'"

Years later, when he turned his attention back to his book, Brown found that some of the skills he learned in law school transferred to his new career as budding author. Rather than organizing his class notes as preparation for exams, he was converting his rambling ideas for the novel into chapter outlines. And, although Black Rain is fiction, Brown wanted the book's information about the Mayan culture and rainforests to be factual, and he was no stranger to research thanks to law school.

"As a writer, you have to be diligent, taking one thing you have learned and branching off into other ideas, and it's very similar to the process of putting a legal argument together," he said.

Brown also developed interesting characters with conflicting points of view who demonstrate the ability to organize and then argue their opinions in the book, much as an attorney would in a courtroom, Brown said.

Brown will sign copies of his new book during an event at 7 p.m., Feb. 10, at The Poisoned Pen, 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd., #101, in Scottsdale.

Janie Magruder,
(480) 727-9052
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law