Great Falls John Dibble is used to finding solace in Great Falls Park. He often walks the paths of the park with his dog Noochie. His familiarity with the park made it the perfect setting for his first novel, the mystery thriller "Difficult Run," named for the stream that first inspired him.
"I loved the name, it interested me so much, I knew I wanted to make that my setting, and from there it was necessary to have the story involve the park police and the park," he said. "I was working on another story when this one just grabbed me. I put the original one on the side and got into this one so quickly, because I knew I just had to get it all out on paper."
"DIFFICULT RUN" tells the story of a gruesome double murder in Great Falls Park. Park Police Detective M.J. Powers is tasked with solving the case, a case she quickly realizes has very little evidence to go on.
"I knew pretty early on that I wanted to have the detective be a woman," he said. "I’ve worked with women detectives, and one thing I’ve noticed is that they seem to trust their intuition a lot more when it comes to solving a case. That’s certainly the case with M.J."
After the crime in the opening pages, M.J. Powers embarks on a fast-paced journey that brings her across many different characters and more twists and turns than the Great Falls Park trails she spends the novel running and exploring.
Dibble, a Washington, D.C. based lawyer, used his experience as a prosecutor when it came to dealing with a case that seemed to go ice cold.
"I’ve seen a lot of cases that seem to have absolutely no leads, which often happens in homicides unless there’s a witness," he said. "There’s a lot of dead ends, and the pressure is always very high in a case like this, and I wanted to show how resolute M.J. was when it came to tracking down clues."
He also did his research when necessary. He went through the six-week Park Police Citizens Academy, spoke with friends that were experienced runners (M.J. Powers is an avid runner in the novel) and dove into the history of Great Falls Park.
"I’ve always spent a lot of time in the park, and I especially like taking the trails south, to Difficult Run. Once you get along the trail, everything just becomes a little more ominous, and seeing where the run hits the Potomac is just amazing," he said. "You look at it, and it seems to belong in a western wilderness, not 13-14 miles from the nation’s capital."
Dibble says he has always gone by the motto "if you write, you read." His favorite authors are the masters of the thriller, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, Stephen King, Vince Flynn, Lee Childs and Dean Koontz.
AS HE WROTE THE BOOK, his ideas would come to him on his walks through the park, which he would quickly jot down on notepads upon returning home.
"I had some great readers along the way, my wife especially, who would give me feedback. I think not doing that would have been a big mistake," he said. "You have to have other readers. I wrote it, so I should like it, but other people should be able to as well. And as much as I like to write, I like it more when people like what I write."
Dibble says that he has started thinking about possible sequels, involving M.J. Powers and the Park Police, but not necessarily Great Falls Park.
"Difficult Run" is available online at amazon.com and other retailers, in paperback and as an e-book.