Category Archives: books

Me, Brandon, and Sue

Brandon Maxfield has died

Me, Brandon, and Sue




It is with a heavy, heavy heart that I share the news that Brandon Maxfield has died. Here is the official public statement:

Brandon Maxfield died on November 13th at age 29, at home in Willits, CA, due to complications from quadriplegia incurred at age 7 in the accidental discharge of a defective handgun.

Brandon garnered international notoriety in 2005 after obtaining a $24 million verdict against notorious Southern California-based ‘junk gun’ manufacturer Bryco Arms, when a unanimous jury found the handgun’s design was a significant contributing cause of his injuries. When the manufacturer declared bankruptcy, trying to recreate itself and sell off existing defective handguns, Brandon created nonprofit Brandon’s Arms to solicit public support and block the sale. While Brandon’s public bid to re-purpose the manufacturer’s assets ultimately failed, he succeeded in keeping over 20,000 unsafe semiautomatic pistols off the streets. At Brandon’s request, these handguns, which could have generated $2-3 million dollars to help with his medical expenses, were instead ordered destroyed by the bankruptcy court. As Brandon insisted, “I’m not going to let him put one more kid in a wheelchair.”

Brandon’s case resulted in the first ever U.S. jury verdict holding a functioning firearm defective in its safety design, after the manufacturer, attempting to hide a jamming problem, deliberately precluded the user from engaging the manual safety during unloading. Brandon’s case was notable for its refusal to enter the “guns are good / guns are bad” debates of previous litigation, insisting instead that guns should be made reasonably safe for the user and innocent bystanders, like any other consumer product. He is widely acknowledged to have singlehandedly forced the closure and expulsion from California of the country’s most prolific Saturday Night Special manufacturer.

During his shortened life Brandon’s selfless efforts were honored by the California State Legislature, the City of San Francisco, Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke about him on the Senate floor, and he appeared on every national news program. Brandon’s efforts were also recognized by the Legal Community Against Violence (now Smart Gun Laws), Public Justice, and the American Trial Lawyers’ Association, among others.

The book Move to Fire chronicles Brandon’s story and is currently under development as a feature length film.

Born and raised in Willits, CA, Brandon was well liked, socially active, a mega-fan of music and the WWF, and despite his disability, graduated from Willits High School with a 4.0 GPA. A private memorial service will be held by the family, who offer their gratitude to Brandon’s many friends and fans, and encourage them to post tributes to Brandon on the Move To Fire Facebook page.

At the family’s request, media inquiries should be directed to Mike Harkins, via

Here is the Los Angeles Times obituary:

L.A. Times —


A year of Move To Fire – here come the holidays

It’s been a roller coaster of a year since I released Move To Fire. Here are the highs and lows:

  • Shortly after its release I get a wonderful reaction from best selling author Seth Godin and he gives me the book’s first blurb (a personal and professional highlight).
  • Publishers Weekly not only gives it a starred review, it follows that with the placement of Move To Fire at the top of its first ever IndieWatch booklist, a new quarterly feature listing well-reviewed, independently published books (ditto that personal/professional parenthetical above).Move To Fire -- "a taut thriller"
  • Award winning author — and friend — Brian Fies gives it a heartfelt, objective, great review.
  • Amazon reviews come in and they’re positive; readers really like the book; as a bonus, many write that “I couldn’t put this book down,” which is very special because that’s exactly what I had wanted to achieve.
  • I get representation by one of the best nonfiction agents in the business
  • The book gets a nice mention by stellar journalist Robin Abcarian in her LA Times feature about the attorney featured in the story
  • My screenwriting partner and I start to get a sliver of legitimate interest in a film project based on the book

Notice the lack of anything mentioning sales? Yeah, it’s tough, and I find it hard to express just how much I appreciate everyone who bought a copy. It’s a struggle, and your loyalty, and leaps of faith, will never be forgotten.

Let’s use the lack of sales thing to transition to the low:

  • We submit the book to major publishers for consideration — names that even only occasional readers would recognize —  and ALL praise it (“…astonishingly well written…”), and pass on it, because “we just don’t know how to ‘position’ it…”, or, as one summed up, “books about guns don’t sell.”

Been fighting that idea, that this is “a book about guns,” constantly.

But I know, I got nothin’ to whine about, really.

So this is an update, a thank you, and to whatever the next year brings. I’ll keep you all updated… (think movie, movie, movie).

Move To Fire in the L.A. Times

Journalist Robin Abcarian did a nice profile piece on attorney Richard Ruggieri. Move To Fire is mentioned in article and in an accompanying photo you can see the book on a shelf behind Ruggieri. check it out here.

Attorney Richard Ruggieri

Attorney Richard Ruggieri

How to grow a book — The seeds of Move To Fire

These are just a few notes from the notebook I used while watching attorney Richard Ruggieri’s closing statement in Brandon Maxfield’s case, which was the first time I saw the attorney ‘work.’ The note in the upper right references how Ruggieri had told his young client not to attend due to the sensitive, difficult issues Ruggieri would be talking about. Upper left are quick notes about the jury, and below are notes about Ruggieri explaining that he wasn’t asking for sympathy for Brandon, but rather for empathy. Although I’d done some research on the story prior to this day, Ruggieri’s closing statements and his masterful connection with the jury convinced me to write Move To Fire.

93,000 words grew from these

Publishers Weekly puts Move To Fire at the top of its first IndieWatch list

Publishers Weekly features Move To Fire

Publishers Weekly features Move To Fire

Move To Fire was at the top of the featured books in Publishers Weekly’s first every IndieWatch list!

Publishers Weekly 2016 Spring IndieWatch List

New Move To Fire excerpt — Ripples

The pilot set a course that paralleled highway 101 and, at some point, overtook Sue and Clint in their car below. Both vehicles were moving the family away from their previous, normal lives and toward an unknown future. Brandon was flying away from a normal childhood, leaving behind games of hide and seek in the woods, adventures on his bike and baseball games in the summer. Whether he lived or died, he would never take another step, never wave hello or goodbye, and never hug again.
Ripples from the accident moved through the entire community, and the effects would touch, alter, and impact hundreds of lives. From its small but explosive beginning, the accident’s economic and financial impact on people, schools, the health care and legal systems wouldn’t be fully realized for years, but the effect on the local emergency services and medical system was already substantial, quickly hitting the tens of thousands of dollars in hard costs for the sheriff, paramedics and CDF responses, the ambulance and emergency room treatment, physicians and staff.
The ripple was now moving south at an altitude of two-thousand feet. Every passing minute the REACH chopper was in the air was a minute of calculated risk, and this flight would add $5,000 to the growing costs of Brandon’s accident.
As in so many other aspects of their lives, the family was no different than many blue collar and low income working families, in that they had no health insurance to speak of, nothing that would address anything as catastrophic as Brandon’s sudden medical and health care needs. At a point in the very near future, they would be forced to deal with the paperwork, documents and liens associated with all of this, but right now their toll was psychological, emotional devastation.
The drive to Santa Rosa Memorial hospital took almost ninety minutes. When they arrived, Sue and Clint were told the flight had been redirected to Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, another ninety-minute drive to the southeast.
They had left Willits an hour and a half ago, not knowing the condition of their boy, but because the helicopter had not stopped in Santa Rosa, no one there had any information about Brandon. Clint and Sue wouldn’t know Brandon’s condition for at least another thirty minutes.