From fact to fiction with novelist John DeDakis, who is making swing through Aspen | AspenTimes.com

From fact to fiction with novelist John DeDakis, who is making swing through Aspen

After a long career in journalism, John DeDakis turned to writing fiction. But he hasn't given up on covering the most pressing issues of our times.

A White House correspondent for CBN News during the Reagan era, DeDakis then spent 25 years behind the scenes at CNN, closing out his journalism career as an editor for "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

He's writing fiction full time these days, bringing real-world relevance to page-turning mystery novels. His latest is "Bullet in the Chamber," the fourth book in his series of Lark Chadwick mysteries. The book follows Chadwick, a White House reporter for The Associated Press, as she navigates the aftermath of an attack on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The novel also touches on the opioid epidemic that's tearing through the country, in a subplot inspired by the heroin overdose death of DeDakis's 22-year-old son in 2011.

DeDakis is currently on a Rocky Mountain book tour with stops in Montana, Wyoming and events here in Aspen today and Saturday.

"Life doesn't always turn out the way you expect," he said in a phone interview from Bozeman, Montana. "In real life we call it a crisis. In journalism we call it a story. And in fiction we call it a plot twist."

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DeDakis will discuss the new book and the arc of his career this evening at Explore Booksellers. On Saturday at the Pitkin County Library, he will give a writing workshop covering the creative side of writing a novel — voice and character and such — along with the business aspect of getting an agent and marketing.

"One of the things I teach people is to write what you know and to be as self-aware as possible because there's a lot of grist in your personal story that can inform whatever story you create," he said.

After his son's death, for instance, DeDakis knew he had to fold the experience into his work.

"Fiction is meant to be entertaining and page-turning," he said, "and I felt that it would be a catharsis to be able to explore that without it being painfully personal. It was still pretty painful, of course, but it was a catharsis to be able to write about it."

He has also been considering collaborating with a psychologist on a book about grief.

Like many fiction writers before him, DeDakis found invaluable training in journalism.

"The best preparation was that journalism, in order to be effective, has to be clear and concise," he said. "Whether it's newspapers or a nonfiction book, each sentence has to be clear. It doesn't have to be flowery or convoluted or complex. The best communication is clear and succinct. And especially broadcast journalism teaches you that."

For his next Lark Chadwick mystery, DeDakis said, he is working on a book tentatively titled "Fake" that jumps off from the current debate about so-called "fake news."

"I'm not looking to make a political statement," he said. "The importance of truth and authenticity transcends politics."

That said, DeDakis is flabbergasted by the current White House administration's attacks on the free press and by President Donald Trump's vendetta against DeDakis's former colleagues at CNN.

"It's really troubling," DeDakis said. "He says journalists are 'the enemy of the American people.' Really? That is astounding. And it's frightening when the president is trying to undermine the trusted entities in our society."

atravers@aspentimes.com

IF YOU GO …

Who: John DeDakis

What: ‘Bullet in the Chamber’ talk and book-signing

Where: Explore Booksellers

When: Friday, Feb. 23, 5:30 p.m.

More info: http://www.explorebooksellers.com

What: ‘From Novice to Novelist,’ John DeDakis Writing Workshop

Where: Pitkin County Library

When: Saturday, Feb. 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

How much: $60

Tickets and more info: http://www.explorebooksellers.com

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