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Shelby author releases first book about pandemics during a world pandemic

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 27, 2020

 James Byrnes, 61, of Shelby Township, began writing his book in 2017 and released his novel this year. The novel is a bioterrorism thriller that focuses on dealing with pathogens and pandemics.

James Byrnes, 61, of Shelby Township, began writing his book in 2017 and released his novel this year. The novel is a bioterrorism thriller that focuses on dealing with pathogens and pandemics.

Photo provided by James Byrnes

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A Shelby Township man released his first book, a teen and young-adult mystery book about a pandemic, called “Operation Arrow Fletcher” in May during a real-world pandemic.  

James Byrnes, 61, of Shelby Township, began writing his book in 2017 and released his novel this year.

The novel is a bioterrorism thriller that focuses on dealing with pathogens and pandemics. “Operation Arrow Fletcher” is a 268-page book in which a deadly pathogen has been stolen from a clandestine CIA bioweapons lab. The U.S. government is staying silent about the breach. Terrorist groups are looking for it, too.

The thriller delivers clues to the pathogen location known only by a 21-year-old girl named Carly Fletcher. However, she can’t remember the pathogen location because she suffers from a certain medical condition brought about by traumatic events. She is admitted to a psychiatric hospital and must escape the hospital and find her lost memory.

The various settings throughout the book take the reader on a tour of lower Michigan.

Byrnes was born in Detroit. He enlisted in the Marine Corp in 1977. He graduated from Oakland University in 1984 and taught for 30 years at an elementary school. He and his wife have two sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

He said it was quite the coincidence that he was working on a book about pandemics during a real-life pandemic.

“When my book was in the final stages of editing, I began to hear about something called COVID-19. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought the book would be released in the middle of a worldwide pandemic,” he said.

He began writing because he found he enjoyed reading and wrote for his teaching and business careers. Now that he has had more time, he found himself doing it more and more.

“I have always enjoyed reading. I did a little writing when I was teaching and running my irrigation business. It takes a lot of time. Now that I am retired and have sold my business, I have the time and luxury to write. It has been a passion of mine. Until now, I kept that passion mainly to myself. There will be more to follow. With my interest in science and its dangers, I find myself drawn to the thriller category. My dream was to become a suspense novelist,” he said.

In 1984 when he graduated college, he found that teaching positions were hard to come by and he did not want to teach in another state, so he took the law school entrance exams and enrolled in Cooley Law School.

“I think it was there that I honed my writing skills,” he said.

Byrnes’ editor, Cheryl Bogner, praised his dedication to putting the book together.

“Jim is a fun person to know as well as a dedicated writer. His writing hours are early in the morning — often 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. He had the idea for this novel over three years ago and didn’t have a clue it would be so current when it was published,” she said.

Bogner said Byrnes is similar to a character named David Farris because both of them were in the military, like a challenge and enjoy the outdoors.

She said Byrnes worked hard and took classes and did a lot of research to make the book the best it could be.

“Jim is the only person I know who has said he is going to write a book and actually did it. He took the classes he needed to take for publication, did research on who he would choose to handle his book and had several people advising him along the way,” she said.

Due to the pandemic, Byrnes said, book signings have been put on hold, but he plans on scheduling them when everything goes back to normal.

“I do plan on doing events once things get back to normal. With the pandemic, a lot of bookstore and library events have been postponed. My book is currently being sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository and Abe Books,” he said.

He said, overall, he is happy with the way the book turned out.

“I am pleased with how the book turned out. A lot of material goes on the chopping block during the editing process. I nickednamed my editor (Cheryl Bogner) ‘The Tornado.’ She could tear my writing apart, but after the storm, there was always a rainbow. I taught with Cheryl. She taught creative writing in the secondary grades and then went into the elementary grades. She is a gifted writer herself,” said Byrnes.

Byrnes said that, other than writing, in his free time he often enjoys golfing, hunting and fishing.

His book, “Operation Arrow Fletcher,” can be found on his website, www.byrnesgroup.net, and at other online booksellers for $17.99.

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