T.J. Dawson and I go back more than a dozen years.

The disgraced small-town Florida cop — who’s a lot better with his custom .44 than he is at love — made his first successful public appearance in a short story that made the top ten in Creative Loafing’s fiction contest in 2010.

I spent the next several years developing Canebrake, a Florida crime novel with T.J. at the center. I queried it with several agents and got some good feedback. In 2020, I submitted it to the Black Spring Press Group for their Crime Fiction Prize where it received Honorable Mention.

One of the marketing tools used by publishers to promote books are book trailers. It’s almost exactly what you think it is — like a movie trailer, a minute or two, with maybe a voice-over, some graphics. I watched a few and decided that I’d like to make my own for Canebrake.

I approached my friends from Good Enough Films — Josh Martin and James Snyder, the guys behind ‘Merican Wasteland — and over the course of several weeks, we drafted a script that worked. We spent a couple of days at Studio Fluxx in Clearwater, and shot a trailer for Canebrake. The set, the props, the efficiency with which they put this together — all of it was nothing short of extraordinary.

If I told Josh and James how much fun it was participating in the shoot, they’d probably never invite me back. It was nothing short of a damn good time.

Let me be clear on this point: the final trailer far, far exceeds my expectations. And I think when you watch you’ll agree. It is absolutely phenomenal.

My hope, of course, is that it’ll catch the eye of a literary agent out there who will want to take a look at the full manuscript, and then get it published.

I want to say a few words of thanks: first, to Josh Martin, the director and a cinematographer of immense skill, and to James Snyder. Without them, this would never have been made. Not even close. These are the kind of guys who remind you what a joy it is to work with real creative professionals.

Part of what made this whole thing so cool is that so many people were involved. Every studio hand, every actor volunteered their time to make a few moments of T.J.’s story come alive. To each of them I am incredibly grateful.

I created T.J. Dawson with the idea that a guy filled with anger, bitterness, and resentment would need some help to take down the bad guys, despite being a Hulk-like colossus. It never even occurred to me that someone could actually embody him. But that’s exactly what my friend KD General did.

Like I said, I’ve been living with T.J. — in my head — for a dozen years or so. We’ve gotten close. But KD is family, and so there’s really no one else I would rather have bringing T.J. to life. I am grateful beyond words. KD and everyone around me will just have to live with me getting a little emotional every time I see him standing there, being T.J. Dawson — that big cop in a small town, stopping at nothing in the name of vengeance.

That incredible voice-over is done by an immensely talented actor named Warrington Etienne. I am so glad I got to work with him on this project and to get to know him a little. I was pretty picky about how he read the script — and the excerpt, which follows — and so I am grateful to him for his seemingly endless patience and more for his time and talent. I am quite eager to see what he takes on next.

This is a little bit unconventional. Trailers are supposed to be promotional tools, put out by publishers after a book is published and on the market. So my thanks to you, too for reading this far and for participating in something unconventional by watching this awesome trailer. I really hope you enjoy it.