LIMA — In his day job, Jeffrey Reed is constrained by two fundamental tenets: The facts and the law.
But when it comes to his hobby, Reed has no similar boundaries with which to contend. As an author whose first published novel recently hit area bookstands, his imagination is free to run wild.
Reed, a judge in the Allen County Court of Common Pleas, spends most of his days hearing evidence and testimony in criminal and civil cases that wind their way through the judicial system.
In his spare time — of which there is increasingly less of as the court caseload continues to mount — he immerses himself in his other love: writing.
Reed’s second book, “The Suicide Support Group,” was released to the public last month. It is available at bookstores locally and online at the Apple iTunes store, Amazon, Google Play, and Barnes and Noble.
The book was 12 months or more in the making, Reed said during a recent interview. Following long hours in the courtroom, Reed said he would sit down for “an hour here, an hour there — mostly on weekends” to work on his latest writing project that was equal parts hobby and passion.
“I’ve had an interest in writing pretty much all my life,” Reed said.
After honing his writing skills in college, the Lima native authored his first book five years ago. A fictional look at the death penalty and the array of heartfelt emotions the topic elicits, the book was never published.
“To be honest, it was pretty rough,” Reed said of his initial writing effort. “It needed tweaking.”
It was during his attempt to get the book published — albeit unsuccessfully — that Reed began working on what would become “The Suicide Support Group.”
The draft version of the book “changed a lot as I was writing it,” Reed said. “The whole thrust of the book isn’t what it started out to be. But after I was finished, I gave it to a couple friends of mine, English teachers, and asked them to look it over. I also gave it to a Sunday school teacher to read. They all gave me positive feedback.”
By his own admission, Reed’s book is “dark and disturbing in parts.” And while the author stressed that the characters and events in the book are entirely fictional, he admits the real-life tragedies that often play themselves out in his courtroom daily were an indisputable influence.
Seemingly all the major characters in the book come from dysfunctional families, with physical and sexual abuse a common theme throughout the novel.
“I know that these terrible things exist in real life, and the characters in the book were loosely inspired by some of those horrible events that I see as part of my job,” Reed said. “But really, this is just my hobby, and I want my readers to visit different places.”
Members of the Suicide Support Group — Daniel, Debra Sue, Phillip Lee, Teddy, Lonnie and Emma – and their conversations with a police investigator who is looking into the circumstances surrounding the mysterious death of Emma’s father form the basis of Reed’s book.
Non-spoiler alert: The ending won’t be revealed here. But there’s a good chance you won’t see it coming.
“The Suicide Support Group” was published by Page Publishing, which Reed described as a hybrid publishing house. The publisher provided some editing suggestions and offered help with marketing strategies, while Reed maintained final editorial control.
“And my royalties from the sale of books is very reasonable,” Reed laughed. “But writing is relaxing to me, and I get to go to difference places when I write.”
Reed added, “Folks who have read the book say they’ve enjoyed it, but I have no plans to quit my day job yet.”