Brandon, Jay 1953–
Brandon, Jay 1953–
(Jay Robert Brandon)
PERSONAL: Born September 30, 1953, in Dallas, TX; son of James Robert (a business machines dealer) and Dorene (a secretary) Brandon; married Yolanda Cardenas (a teacher certification analyst), March 17, 1984; children: three. Education: University of Texas, B.A., 1975; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1979; University of Houston, J.D., 1985.
CAREER: Attorney and author. Called to the Bar of the State of Texas, 1985; Court of Criminal Appeals, Austin, TX, briefing attorney, beginning 1985; associated with Bexar County District Attorney's office and with Fourth Court of Appeals. Member, Texas Institute of Letters.
MEMBER: American Crime Writers.
AWARDS, HONORS: Editors' Choice Award, Booklist, 1985, for Deadbolt; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, for Fade the Heat; Gavel Award, State Bar of Texas, 1994, for article "You Be the Judge."
Deadbolt, Bantam (New York, NY), 1985.
Tripwire, Bantam (New York, NY), 1987.
Predator's Waltz, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1989.
Fade the Heat, Pocket (New York, NY), 1990.
Rules of Evidence, Pocket (New York, NY), 1992.
Loose among the Lambs, Pocket (New York, NY), 1993.
Local Rules, Pocket (New York, NY), 1995.
Defiance County, Pocket (New York, NY), 1996.
Executive Privilege, Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
"CHRIS SINCLAIR" SERIES; THRILLER NOVELS
Angel of Death, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.
AfterImage, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.
Sliver Moon, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.
Grudge Match, Forge (New York, NY), 2004.
Running with the Dead, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Jay Brandon is a bestselling author who has penned a number of suspense novels centered around Texas courtrooms. Some time after his second novel was published, Brandon, who works as both a writer and an attorney, told CA about his career path: "After giving up hope of selling a book in the near future, I decided I needed another occupation and started to attend law school. While there I sold my first novel, and it was published the month I was admitted to the bar. I'm beginning my legal career and my writing career simultaneously. I think it's a good idea to have more than one profession. It provides material for writing as well as a living, and it keeps me in touch with the real world (if that's what law is)."
Brandon's debut as a novelist came in 1985 with the release of Deadbolt, a thriller following a defense attorney who is hunted down by a former client/robber in search of the money he stole and hid. Tripwire, Brandon's second novel, appeared in 1987. In this suspenseful story, readers watch as the police try to determine if a man coming forth with claims to be the presumed-dead son of Elizabeth Truett, a witness to a murder, is in fact her son or a hired hitman. Predator's Waltz, the novelist/attorney's third book, was published in 1989, with his Edgar-nominated fourth novel, Fade the Heat, appearing one year later.
In 1990's Fade the Heat, the white son of Mark Black-well, San Antonio's just-hired district attorney, is accused of brutally raping a young black woman who works as a maid. The plot execution of "the corruption-tinged story," its "surprising twists and heart-in-the-mouth trial scenes," overshadowed the novel's weaknesses, according to Publishers Weekly contributor Sybil Steinberg, who maintained that Fade the Heat contains some directionless subplots, somewhat flat political and legal presentations, and some dialogues and monologues that "bogged down" the story. In contrast, Lorenzo Carcaterra stated in People Weekly that Brandon "has an eye for detail and an ear for the chatter of cops and lawyers." Carcaterra promoted Fade the Heat as "a tightly written, well-paced legal soap opera" that keeps readers guessing.
Brandon followed Fade the Heat with Rules of Evidence, a 1992 release that centers around a black lawyer who defends a racist, white detective charged with beating a black man to death. There is "an interesting contrast between" the two main characters, observed a Publishers Weekly contributor who expressed disappointment in the novel, stating that the story lacks "credibility" outside of its "suspenseful and savvy [presentation] of subtle legal strategies." A Kirkus Reviews critic similarly felt that the story was "disappointing," judging it as "good enough for a one-night stand, though the sparse story is bellied out with hints of subplots."
Fade the Heat's Blackwell reappears in Loose among the Lambs. After publicizing (for political purposes) the seemingly open-and-shut case of a serial child molester, Austin Paley from the district attorney's office is recognized as a co-molester of the young male victims. Despite political pressure, Blackwell follows up the claims against Paley. The 1993 novel's plot and characters are "credible," declared a Publishers Weekly reviewer who applauded the "appealing and vulnerable protagonist" and "painstakingly detailed plot" of the "dynamic courtroom drama."
Local Rules is a courtroom thriller that centers around the actions, or believed actions, of Wayne Orkney, a young man on trial in Green Hills, Texas, for causing the death of his friend Kevin Wainwright. San Antonio attorney Jordan Marshall agrees to represent Orkney in lieu of receiving a speeding ticket. The Green Hill public, who assume Marshall's client killed someone earlier but was never tried, wants Orkney to be convicted in the death of Wainwright. Despite seeing a "few holes in [Local Rules'] plot and an obvious red herring," a Publishers Weekly critic praised Brandon's book, describing it as having "swiftly moving prose" and good characterization. "Brandon's not especially strong on local color … but he knows how to put together a tight, believable courtroom melodrama," assessed Entertainment Weekly contributor Gene Lyons. "Readers who place [John] Grisham and [Scott] Turow at the top of their courtroom suspense list will be forced to revise the rankings," declared Wes Lukowsky in a Booklist review of Local Rules.
Brandon's Defiance County has also been favorably associated with the work of Grisham and Turow. According to Emily Melton in a Booklist review, Grisham and Turow fans will be delighted with the "lawyerly jargon, unexpected twists, and last-gasp surprises." Kelsey Thatch, a young prosecuting attorney in Texas, looks into twin murders in a small, divided town with a destructive secret. "An unexpected twist energizes this exemplary legal thriller," stated an impressed Publishers Weekly critic.
Described by critics as more of a thriller than a legal drama, Executive Privilege features a lawyer who winds up enmeshed in a politically unstable situation of the worst kind. When First Lady Myra McPherson enters attorney David Owens' office, she tells him that she wants a divorce from the president. She refuses to be specific, but Owens proceeds with the paperwork. President McPherson, however, has built his political reputation on family values. Being perceived as a family man, he resists the divorce. Worse, the real reason behind Mrs. McPherson's desires to escape the White House are tied to Wilson Boswell, a software mogul who has worked his way into the president's office for nefarious purposes. Soon, Owens finds himself the target of the president and Boswell's cronies, and the chase is on. Some reviewers felt the plot a little hard to swallow, but they admitted that Brandon keeps the plot moving. "Despite many less than credible plot elements," wrote one Publishers Weekly contributor, "this is an exciting read." David Pitt assured readers in Booklist that the novel offers "an expert blend of intelligent plotting and adrenaline-pumping suspense."
In 1998 Jay Brandon debuted a new series of books featuring San Antonio district attorney Chris Sinclair in Angel of Death. Brandon's ninth suspense novel is "an exciting combination of courtroom drama and psycho thriller," attested Pitt in Booklist. "[The] taut legal thriller pits an infinitely evil criminal against a preeminently good district attorney," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The story tells how an imprisoned murderer, Malachi Reese, manages to plot revenge against the district attorney from his jail cell. Calling Brandon's writing somewhat melodramatic, a Kirkus Reviews critic nevertheless anticipated that the author will "have you eagerly turning pages."
The next book in the series, AfterImage, has Sinclair and his fiancée, psychiatrist Anne Greenwald, investigating a homicide. Sinclair finds out that the victim's mother, Jean, is not only an old college girlfriend but also the mother of his child, Clarissa, whom he never knew existed. The "engrossing legal thriller [is] dominated by three complex and original female characters," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor.
More recent installments of the Sinclair series include Grudge Match and Running with the Dead. In the former, Sinclair has gotten Steve Greerdon out of jail based on DNA evidence, even though it was Sinclair himself who put him in prison eight years earlier. After Greerdon's release, however, the former convict appears to be the perpetrator of a cop killing. Greerdon claims he was set up, and now Sinclair must determine whether or not he let a killer loose or if there is a more dangerous conspiracy afoot. While reviewers noted that Brandon does not come up with a dazzlingly original plot, a Publishers Weekly contributor appreciated how the author gives his tale "an absolute aura of authenticity, even though the plot contains many typical thriller elements." Running with the Dead returns a character from Angel of Death. Convicted murderer Malachi Reese tells Sinclair that it was someone who looked like him who is to blame for the murder in the earlier book; further, the guilty party is now after Sinclair's daughter. Meanwhile, Sinclair has to contend with a flimsy case against a school administrator suspected of killing an accused rapist. Though admitting "this time he rehashes too much material from the past," a Kirkus Reviews writer nonetheless declared that "Brandon's courtroom scenes shine."
Although not without some flaws, the Sinclair books have earned wide praise from critics who feel that Brandon should gain more recognition in the thriller and courtroom genres. Wes Lukowski contended in a Booklist review that the "Sinclair series is an outstanding mix of courtroom maneuverings, evolving characters, and razor-sharp plots." A Kirkus Reviews writer asserted: "Laboring long under the shadows of Grisham and Turow, Brandon has yet to earn the recognition he deserves."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of Local Rules, p. 1633; June 1, 1996, Emily Melton, review of Defiance County, p. 1678; August 19, 1998, David Pitt, review of Angel of Death, p. 1972; September 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of Executive Privilege, p. 197; September 15, 2005, Wes Lukowsky, review of Running with the Dead, p. 34.
Entertainment Weekly, July 14, 1995, Gene Lyons, review of Local Rules, p. 49.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 1991, review of Rules of Evidence; May 1, 1996, review of Defiance County; September 15, 1998, review of Angel of Death; August 15, 2001, review of Executive Privilege, p. 1164; May 1, 2004, Jay Brandon, review of Grudge Match, p. 423; July 15, 2005, Jay Brandon, review of Running with the Dead, p. 766.
People Weekly, October 8, 1990, Lorenzo Carcaterra, review of Fade the Heat, p. 29.
Publishers Weekly, June 8, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Fade the Heat, p. 45; December 20, 1991, review of Rules of Evidence; December 20, 1993, review of Loose among the Lambs, p. 52; April 24, 1995, review of Local Rules, p. 63; May 1, 1995, review of sound recording version of Local Rules, p. 24; May 13, 1996, review of Defiance County, p. 56; September 21, 1998, review of Angel of Death, p. 73; January 31, 2000, review of AfterImage, p. 85; September 24, 2001, review of Executive Privilege, p. 67; May 10, 2004, review of Grudge Match, p. 41; August 29, 2005, review of Running with the Dead, p. 36.
All Readers, http://www.allreaders.com/ (October 6, 2006), Harriet Klausner, reviews of Grudge Match and Silver Moon.
Jay Brandon Home Page, http://www.jaybrandon.com (June 28, 2000).