BY MAGGIE BEAMGUARD || Insider Editor
Take two resort communities, a couple of retired army veterans, a hurricane and a breached earthen dam, throw in a mention of the Pinehurst Traffic Circle and breakfast at Greenebow’s and you have a story that could be ripped from local headlines. Add a dead body, and you get a murder mystery.
Moore County readers might just feel like they recognize a neighbor or two, or maybe even themselves, in the fictional pages of “Body in the Dam,” written by Seven Lakes resident Todd Brown.
The book tells the story of Derwood Flynn, a retired veteran seeking a quiet life and a renewed relationship with his teenage daughter. When a local dam fails, revealing a murder victim buried inside, Derwood teams up with District Attorney Maggie Kidd to get to the bottom of things.
“It’s the story of his evolution from being somewhat of a loner and trying to self-medicate some of his own memories as he gets out into the community and becomes more engaged and involved in a fundamental way,” Brown said.
Brown’s connections to the community and his life experience provide ample fodder for the story he weaves.
He spent four years on active duty as an Air Force flight surgeon, followed by a residency in emergency medicine at UCLA. He later worked in private practice and also pursued a clinical research fellowship. Brown currently works at FirstHealth as a part-time ER physician and a part-time administrator.
While Brown’s own family goes back many generations in northern Moore County, he moved to the Sandhills with his family in 2009, first to Southern Pines and then to West End where they farmed for about 10 years.
“I used to raise grass-fed beef and pastured poultry and natural-raised pigs. And we did rabbits and all sorts of stuff,” he says. “We did that for a long time. That was fun. My kids grew up on the farm doing farm chores.”
Brown seems like an unlikely author, someone more likely to be seen wielding a stethoscope than a pen. But with his first book he has fulfilled a longtime dream. “I always said I wanted to be a writer.”
He attributes his interest in writing to his love of reading.
“I’ve always liked to read,” he said. “I used to be one of those kids who would hide behind the chair in the living room and read books while others were watching television.I studied English and biology in college. But English was my favorite.”
Brown made efforts to write in the past but life would get busy. Then COVID-19 hit.
The Browns built a house in Seven Lakes West and moved in during the pandemic. His work schedule changed, allowing more freetime. “I think a lot of people had that experience during COVID where they thought about the structure of their life and their day and how they spend their time,” he said. “So I was a part of that trend.”
In his new surroundings and with more control over his schedule, Brown started writing.
“I do like to write in the morning,” Brown said, describing his process. “I like to get up and have a cup of coffee and sit at my desk in an office in my home where I can look out on the lake. It’s so peaceful and lovely in the morning.”
It was a peace standing in sharp contrast to his experience as a newly elected member of the Seven Lakes West Board of Directors.
“Right before my tenure, around 2020, there was a lot of controversy about lake use. Passions were pretty high among various segments.”
Around the same time, the ongoing legal issues regarding the failure of the Woodlake Dam in Vass were on his mind.
“So the confluence of all that stuff just sort of got me thinking about what would happen if people went overboard with their passions. And that was the genesis of this story.”
A fan of Agatha Christie, Brown chose the genre of mystery to explore themes of conflict, community and the human capacity to grow.
While the story explores the anxieties and disagreements of people concerning the use of resources, Brown is quick to note, “It’s not about anyone here, of course. It’s just a story.”
But the nature of people does intrigue Brown.
“It’s probably true everywhere, but in this neighborhood and in Moore County and in North Carolina in general, there are a lot of really interesting characters — people who have done really interesting things,” he observes.
From the large military community here, to the transplants from around the country, to the local farmers, there is a great diversity of backgrounds. “There are different perspectives and lifestyles right here locally. Some people have been in urban areas and some rural. And some have been business tycoons and some have been farmers. And some of them have been soldiers.”
Brown finds them all compelling. “It’s fascinating to see how people who have such accomplished backgrounds disagree so vehemently about things. It’s just really interesting. And all of these people have valid viewpoints. They are smart people, well meaning people – and they just deeply disagree.”
Brown wrote one of the characters, DA Maggie Kidd, with his three grown daughters in mind.
“I have a bunch of daughters,” said Brown, who also counts three former female exchange students among his extended brood. “The idea was to role model imperfect and flawed characters who are trying to do the best they can and to evolve and grow — with a strong female lead.”
When Brown finished the book, he didn’t have intentions of publishing. But his wife and some close friends encouraged him to consider it. His editor, John Paine, helped further refine his efforts.
There is more to come from Brown. His second book will include the same characters from “Body in the Dam,” which he hopes will become a series. He is also developing a fantasy young adult novel.
“The Body in the Dam” is available digitally or as a hard copy on any e-book platform such as Amazon, Kindle or Nook. An audio book will also soon be available.
Contact Maggie Beamguard at email@example.com.