The Code book cover

Charleston lawyer Sean Keefer didn’t study creative writing as a student at the University of South Carolina, but he did read Stephen King’s classic nonfiction book about the art called On Writing. When the idea for his first novel sparked into his head 15 years ago on a plane ride, he remembered something in King’s book that stuck with him: “Write what you know.”

Keefer

Keefer, a lawyer for the past 25 years, would end up finishing and publishing his first novel, The Trust, in 2011. More than a decade later, Keefer released The Code, his fourth book, and the third part of his Noah Parks Mystery series. The series, which consists of The Trust, 2017’s The Solicitor and now The Code, follows the adventures of Charleston-based attorney Noah Parks.
“After I wrote the first two books, after I realized I was starting to create the Noah Parks universe, I realized that the first book I wrote was written as kind of a 10-year attorney,” Keefer said. “As I started to write through the first couple books, a lot of questions popped into my head: What’s Noah’s background? How did he first come to practicing law? What’s the backstory of the dog?”

The Code is a prequel to The Trust. The story follows a younger Noah Parks who is confronted by the murder of a very good friend. He teams up with a newly minted Charleston detective, also a childhood friend, to discover the details of the murder. The investigation takes them deep into Charleston’s underground, and ties into a curiosity that Keefer found in research for the novel.

“The Code ties together an early, early book written in South Carolina, going back now almost 200 years,” Keefer said. The book he’s referring to is The Code of Honor; or Rules for the Government of Principals and Seconds in Duelling. It was published in 1858 in Charleston, and outlines the details involved in organizing and executing duels to settle disputes. The system of dueling had mostly fallen out of favor following the end of the Civil War and was basically eradicated by World War I.

“I researched the book. I was just fascinated by what a dueling history that Charleston had,” Keefer said. Without wishing to spoil the events of the novel, that history plays a huge part of the story in The Code.

Keefer’s writing career has developed over the years. “If I put my focus to it and I had ample time, I could probably write the first draft of the book in six or seven months,” he said. He points to each of the Noah Parks books taking shorter and shorter time to complete: seven years for the first, six for the second and five for the third. “My goal is within three years to have the next book out.”

In between writing The Solicitor and The Code, Keefer wrote his only nonfiction book, Mediation in the Family Courts of South Carolina, a legal treatise on family law mediation that Keefer felt a certain compulsion to write.

“I was shocked that there was no book in the state of South Carolina that was on that topic, and I’m kind of tickled I was the first person to write it,” Keefer said. It’s a dense, informative tome, and Keefer himself said it’s a book designed to be used as a resource instead of a novel.
“I don’t know that I’ll ever write another one, but I’m happy that I did,” Keefer said of the experience. He prefers writing narrative to nonfiction. But he’s proud to have completed Mediation, as well as the Noah Parks series. “There’s a reward to be able to look at the bookshelf and see that it’s gone from one book to now four. It’s a tad bit surreal but it’s neat.”

Keefer is also a musician and has been making music far longer than he has been writing novels. His latest EP, A Dog Walks into the Sunset, is available on all streaming platforms and his website, SeanKeefer.com. He also has a new EP in the works for the beginning of 2023, as well as plans to record more songs in the spring. Keefer is a singer/songwriter/guitarist, playing mostly Americana and alt-country. He plays festivals throughout the state when he can.

As for the Noah Parks Mystery series, Keefer said he has a roadmap. The next book in the series has a topic and a backdrop in the works, though he’s not spilling any beans about the details. He also said he knows what his next standalone novel will be. But for now, The Code is available in bookstores, online venues like Amazon and through his publisher riversturnpress.com.



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