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In Jay Brandon’s world, there’s always something mysterious going on. Innocent people are framed. Lawyers make inexplicable moves in court. Inmates exact their revenge against their enemies from behind bars. The San Antonio attorney is the author of 10 thrillers, many of them set in the legal world. Before Scott Turow or John Grisham published a mystery, Brandon’s first novel hit the shelves. It was 1985, the year he graduated from law school. “I always wanted to be a writer,” Brandon, 47, says. “Then, after trying to get things published for several years, I decided I needed a fallback position.” So he studied to be a lawyer and ended up selling two books when he was still a student: “Deadbolt,” which was written in 1980 and published in 1985, and “Tripwire,” written in 1979 and published in 1987. (Turow’s book on law school, “One L,” was published in 1977, but his first mystery didn’t come out until 1987. Grisham’s first thriller was published in 1989.) Brandon, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas and a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center, also has a master’s in writing from Johns Hopkins University. Since law school, he’s pursued two careers. In one, he’s written nine more published books, eight of them mysteries and one nonfiction work, “Law and Liberty: A History of the Legal Profession in San Antonio.” In the other, he’s worked as an attorney with the San Antonio Court of Appeals and the Court of Criminal Appeals and been a prosecutor for the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office. For a few years in the early 1990s, Brandon wrote full time and handled a few appeals, then went back to a full load of cases. “I liked being in a courthouse and talking to people,” he says. “I didn’t like being in a room alone.” He now has a solo practice, doing family law and criminal appeals. And he continues to write. His latest book, “Afterimage,” came out earlier this year. With a full-time law practice, writing takes up less of his time now, Brandon says. On good days, the writing just flows. Other days it goes slower. It would go faster if he wrote a series or followed a pattern, but Brandon has resisted that, saying he likes creating new characters. And he has no desire to write about a real case, preferring to entertain readers with stories from his imagination. IN THE KNOW Many of Brandon’s novels take place in San Antonio, where he lives with his wife and three children, but a few unfold in fictional small towns in Texas. His characters are his own creations. Still, readers often claim they recognize their own hometown masquerading behind another name or personally know someone he’s written about. His first book, written before he attended law school, has a lawyer as a protagonist. Since he began practicing law, his books often include courtroom drama. “I don’t take events from real life, but knowing how things work helps,” Brandon says. His books have been well received and landed on some regional best-seller lists, he says. In addition, moviemakers have picked up options on them at one time or another, although no movie has been produced yet. Reviewers have praised Brandon’s ability to write courtroom melodrama. A review in the Dallas Morning News on “Local Rules” says the author “delivers all the drama inherent in conflicts between the law and humanity… .” The Houston Chronicle, writing about “Predator’s Waltz,” says “Brandon is a skillful narrator … adept at raising the emotional ante… .” Brandon, a Republican who was defeated in his bid for a spot on the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio earlier this month, likes the combination of writing and practicing law to make his living. Notes Brandon, “I know how things really work in courtrooms and courthouses, and I enjoy sharing that kind of thing with readers.” MYSTERIES BY JAY BRANDON “Deadbolt” (1985) “Tripwire” (1987) “Predator’s Waltz” (1989) “Fade the Heat” (1990) “Rules of Evidence” (1992) “Loose Among the Lambs” (1993) “Local Rules” (1995) “Defiance County” (1996) “Angel of Death” (1998) “Afterimage” (2000)

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