Bullet in the Chamber is personal. The story explores, in part, the heroin overdose that killed my son Stephen.
I came up with the title on August 24, 2011 – three days after Stephen went missing. He was gone for a week, but was eventually found dead in my car parked next to a Neighborhood Watch sign in a quiet residential area near my home in Washington, D.C.
Eight months later, I began writing the first draft, but I was only able to write six chapters before I had to stop. It was too soon.
I set the project aside for nearly two years — until September 2014. Over the next seven months, I wrote the first full draft. Portions of the original, agonizing chapters survive.
Many people played an important role in my life during the creation of the book. I’m especially grateful to my grief counselor, Adrienne Kraft. Adrienne listened attentively and actively as I navigated the shoals of grief. She helped me gain clarity and understanding about myself as a writer – and as a human being.
For more than two years, Adrienne and I met regularly at The Wendt Center for Loss and Healing – an organization I first became aware of when I was at the D.C. morgue identifying Stephen’s body. (www.wendtcenter.org)
I credit my graphic designer cousin Christine Ganas for her splendid work creating the book cover illustration. She brought to life my idea of a bullet in a syringe — a powerful image of how Russian-roulette deadly even one hit of heroin can be.
In Bullet in the Chamber, my protagonist, Lark Chadwick, is a White House correspondent for the Associated Press wire service when the Executive Mansion is attacked. I’m indebted to Josh Lederman, a White House reporter for A.P., for his insights on covering the White House in the digital age – and for his generous blurb.
I’m eternally grateful to my wife Cindy for her companionship and love. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about surviving the death of a child, it’s that there’s no one way or right way to grieve. Consequently, I needed to write the book, but Cindy may choose never to read it. And that’s okay. Even so, she was a constant and comforting companion during the writing process.
Finally, Cindy and I are humbled and grateful for the thousands of people who have supported us with their prayers, encouragement, and kindness.
John DeDakis, a former editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” is a writing coach and novelist living in Baltimore. His fourth, and most recent, novel in the Lark Chadwick mystery-suspense series is “Bullet in the Chamber.” www.johndedakis.com