When Jacksonville-based lawyer Timothy McDermott needs a vacation, he heads to the beaches of 30A.
Vacationing in South Walton since the 1990s, McDermott, along with his wife and two daughters, relish their time at their getaway home in Blue Mountain Beach.
During the past several vacations, McDermott has been working on his first novel, "Deadly Propensity," which was published in April and is now available online.
McDermott has been practicing law for more than 38 years. Many of those years have been dedicated to representing major motor vehicle manufacturers, which served as inspiration for the novel. Constrained by legal jargon, McDermott could never fully let his creative urges flow with the writing that was required of his job.
"I thought writing would be a great outlet," he said.
After getting half-way through the writing process, McDermott shelved the book around 2000. After more than a decade, he picked the novel back up — this time with the motivation not just to finish it, but to publish it as well. He got a book agent in New York and delved into the world of self-publishing.
The end result is a suspenseful story about a family trying to prove, against all odds, that the death of a mother and the disfigurement of a son, was caused by a defect in the recently-introduced SUV model, the Mesa.
"I was interested not only in telling what I hope is a good story, but also in educating the reader about the legal work-up and high stakes strategizing that the lawyers engage in behind the scenes in these types of cases," McDermott said. "The public is generally not aware of that case preparation. Those pre-courtroom dynamics and emotional twists and turns behind the scenes can often be as interesting and nail-biting as the actual trial itself."
McDermott's real-life experience helped set a backdrop for the story, with fictionalized exaggerations. As a defense attorney for vehicle manufacturers his team would go and re-enact accidents, filming them with high speed cameras, to debunk plaintiff's claims.
"I was getting paid to do stuff that kids want to do," he said.
It was during these crash tests that McDermott thought of the plot for his book.
"I wanted to give readers a behind-the-scenes story," he said. "Show them how difficult and costly these cases are. And to tell a good yarn."
McDermott's main focus as an author is to enjoy writing and to give readers something to enjoy. It seems he has succeeded at both. "Deadly Propensity" has received positive reviews online, which has humbled and surprised the author, and he's already planning to write another book.
On his next visit to 30A, you might even see him feverishly jotting down ideas and plot points.
"I like to write on the beach," he said. "I'll have my legal pad, take a walk over to the observation deck and make up all kinds of stories."