Chad Boudreaux didn’t know what was in store for him when he was hired to work at the Department of Justice the night before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. After that dark time for our country during his stint at the DOJ and later at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, you could say that Boudreaux knows the ins and outs of Washington D.C. However his debut thriller set in D.C, Scavenger Hunt is not meant to be a lesson on homeland security, terrorism, or legal jurisprudence, nor is meant to have any subtle political significance. Instead, Boudreaux wants his readers to fall in love with the characters (especially Texan Blake Hudson) he’s created and enjoy the ride from the first page to the last.
Where did you grow up? Attend college? Where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Corpus Christi, where I graduated from Richard King High School (Go Mustangs!). I attended and graduated college from Baylor University in Waco (Sic’ em Bears!). Presently, I live and work in Hampton Roads, Virginia, where I’m the Chief Legal Officer for the company that manufactures most of our military ships, including nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. My family and I live in the city of Yorktown, where the American Revolution ended, but we also spend time at our nearby farm, which arguably is the most Texan spot in Virginia. It makes some Virginians nervous to visit our farmhouse and notice the Alamo photos and Texas Revolutionary flags (they don’t get it).
What’s your favorite spot for Tex-Mex?
My hometown Tex-Mex crown jewel is Kiko’s Mexican Food Restaurant & Cantina. My favorite in Austin is Matt’s El Rancho; my favorite in San Antonio is Pete’s Tako House (spelling correct). The running joke in my family is that I’m on a quest for the holy grail of Tex-Mex restaurants whenever I’m outside of Texas. So far, I haven’t found it, and I’m beginning to believe it doesn’t exist. Interestingly, I learned while working at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that because of U.S. immigration law concerning Salvadoran nationals (arising from the 1986 civil war in El Salvador), most “Tex-Mex” or “Mexican” restaurants north of Texas are actually Salvadoran restaurants posing as Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurants. I appreciate their marketing strategy, but unfortunately Salvadoran recipes (while tasty) aren’t what Texans expect from Tex-Mex (e.g., no cheddar cheese, salsa mild and runny, seafood heavy).
Who and where was your first concert?
Beastie Boys, February 17, 1987, at the Corpus Christi Memorial Coliseum. What a show. I think the city banned them, or slapped them on the wrist, for spewing beer on the audience at that concert. As an aside, I have kept every ticket stub from every concert, every movie, and every other significant ticketed event I’ve attended since that concert. Alas, I didn’t keep that one. Readers of Scavenger Hunt will notice that the protagonist, Blake Hudson, while on the run for his life, is wearing a Beastie Boys T-shirt.
You have quite a story about when you started working for the Department of Justice, can you share a little bit about what that was like? And the nickname they gave you?
DOJ hired me the night before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and I immediately moved from Austin, Texas, to Washington, D.C., and started my new job. I lived in a small condo on Capitol Hill not far from the U.S. Supreme Court, Capitol building, and Library of Congress. Although it was a dark and harrowing time for our country, the nation’s capital was vivacious and filled with energy, and I was involved in a great many high-visibility matters affecting our country.
A few years after that, U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary Michael Chertoff hired me to be the deputy chief of staff of the newly created DHS, an agency of more than 200,000 employees. That was the most challenging and rewarding job I’ve ever had, and it was there that I received the nickname “Texas Wrangler.” The name was based on a Congressional Quarterly article about Chertoff’s Inner Circle. Some of my friends from Baylor interviewed by CQ had told the reporter that, when I was president of my fraternity, I ran a tight ship and wrangled everyone in line. The name stuck.
Your debut thriller novel Scavenger Hunt, was just released. When did you realize that you had a story you wanted to write?
I realized around 2002 that there existed a hidden eighth floor of the Main Justice Building in Washington, D.C., headquarters for many of the top U.S. lawyers, including our U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Solicitor General. The elevators only went to the seventh floor, but there were eight sets of windows. That seemed strange. I conducted online research on the building but found little help. Similarly, Main Justice’s majestic library provided no clues. Coming up short, I sought out a man who’d worked at Main Justice for several decades—a silver-haired institutionalist—and he told me that, before they built the FBI building (across the street), the eighth floor had served as the old FBI ballistics lab. He said there was a secret staircase that led to the eighth floor, which was now more of a utility floor. Mesmerized by this news, I grabbed a custodian with access to the staircase, a flashlight, and a notepad and ventured to the hidden floor. Many of the notes I doodled on that notepad are now in Chapter Two of Scavenger Hunt. In a real sense, then, my first steps up that hidden staircase were my first steps in writing.
What does the title Scavenger Hunt imply?
This is one of my favorite questions of all my interviews. The title Scavenger Hunt implies that the protagonist, Blake Hudson, must collect a bunch of clues to figure things out and survive, and the reader comes along for the ride through each and every page. It also means that the clandestine team formed for Operation Scavenger Hunt will need to hunt the scavengers. The reader must determine who are the real scavengers and who are not.
Do you have another novel in the works? Give us a little teaser.
My second novel, initially titled Homecoming Queen, goes to my editor at the end of the month. It’s a story about a complicated but heroic young woman who must return to her South Texas hometown to save her little sister from a neglectful family situation before a monster hurricane destroys the town. But there is a problem. No one ever leaves Miranda, Texas, twice.
Here is the first paragraph:
“Refusing to knock, Maya Molina busted through the front door of her childhood home. She snatched the letter opener from the kitchen bar, weaponized it between her middle and ring fingers, and charged deeper inside the house. Enraged, she struggled to adjust her vision and locate her target. The afternoon’s sunlight couldn’t penetrate the living room’s drawn shades, and the television and jellyfish lava lamp provided the only lighting. In an instant, however, she homed in on his shaggy blonde hair. And then she attacked.”
How often do you get back to Texas? Where do you like to go when you visit?
I return home routinely to visit family. In addition to Corpus Christi, I have family in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Longview, and I have close friends in many other cities. Like many true Texans, I visit the Alamo often, and I’m hopeful that one of my children will attend Baylor University (like their mom and dad), so I can have more excuses to support my Baylor Bear football and basketball teams in person. All of my favorite Texas haunts seem to make a cameo appearance in my second novel, but in the meantime I hope everyone enjoys the adventures of Texan Blake Hudson in Scavenger Hunt.
Cover Photo credit Wendy Emley
Leona Barr is a freelance writer living her best life in the Texas Hill Country.