November 3, 2020

Burden of Proof

Davis Bunn

Burden of Proof, as its name suggests, is a courtroom drama. This is also a story about reliving past mistakes. In that sense, it is a novel based upon the 'what if' scenario of time travel.

But none of that is what I want to talk about here.

My earliest memories are all about the ocean. My grandfather was one of the very first homebuilders on North Carolina's Outer Banks. I remember as a kid, my grandfather sold off lots in the middle of the island, just square portions of bare sand off the one north-south highway running through Kill Devil Hills. The price? I hope you're sitting down. A half-acre went for eleven hundred dollars. If they had my grandfather build their cottage, he threw in the land for free.

Just like today, right?

Prices for a cottage started at three thousand bucks. My grandfather gave them two choices. Ground level houses were built of concrete blocks. Wooden houses were built on stilts. Welcome to Hurricane Alley.

When I was twelve years old, I became a dock boy at the Holiday Marina in Kill Devil Hills. I was paid the immense fortune of fifteen bucks a week for sixty hours of sheer bliss.

In this story, the marina was shifted seven hundred and ninety miles south to Cocoa Beach. Same structure, same ratty parking area, same now-public boat dock. And yes, I used to spend some truly wonderful evenings sprawled at the end of the pier, waiting for the day's last sailboats to return, and watching some spectacular sunsets over the Inland Waterway. I dearly loved those hours.

When I was fourteen, I added competitive swimming to the mix, but only in winter months. Summers I was always back at the end of that pier.

When I was fifteen, my best buddies from the swim team took me surfing for the first time. Emerald Island in November - without a wetsuit, mind - was coooooollllld. Surfing was such a high, I didn't notice the cold until I couldn't feel my feet on the board.

When I was eighteen, I took my first trip to Cocoa Beach. The place was magic. The surfing, especially around Sebastian Inlet, was superb. Warm water in December. Magic.

And now on to the matter at hand. I wrote the first forty pages of Burden of Proof nine years ago. A man is given the chance to travel back in time and redo the worst day of his life. Like that. But it just wasn't enough. I felt like I was onto something really, big. But it wasn't there yet. The story needed...something. So, I set it aside. Once every year or so, I'd go back and reread those initial pages. And then...

Last autumn I realized what I had to do was extend my palette. This wasn't about a guy going back in time, rescuing his brother, saving a court case that reshaped his family's existence...None of that. I had it all wrong. This story was about...

Time becoming a mirror.

I have continued to surf. Almost fifty years now of living the salt-water life. I've hunted waves in Africa, the Indian ocean, Southeast Asia, Mexico...

I've met a lot of guys who never, not once in their entire lives, looked beyond that framework of existence. Everything was viewed through the lens of finding the next perfect wave.

It's not just surfers, of course. Any guy who becomes passionate about a segment of their world risks losing perspective. I can see every woman who reads these words nodding their heads in agreement. This was the key. It hit me one day out in the line-up, just fabulous waves coming in, surfing with guys I've known for decades. And seeing how so many of them, the ones who fought and struggled to keep surfing at the center of their worlds and lives and days...

Their enjoyment, their sheer delight, their fierce passion...


The light, put as simply as I know how, had gone out.

So, this was the missing element. And this became my story. How a lifelong waterman, facing death from melanoma, was offered a chance to go back in time and redo the moment when he lost control.

Initially all he sees is the chance to save his brother's life.

But once he is back...

He sees his life anew. And the cost his single-minded perspective wreaked on everyone.

Only now he had a chance to make it right.

If he can manage not to make the same mistakes all over again. 

Davis Bunn  is the award-winning author of numerous national bestsellers, with sales totaling more than eight million copies. 

His work has been published in twenty languages, and his critical acclaim includes four Christy Awards for excellence in fiction. He and his wife, Isabella, live in England.

Davis Bunn was the cover of Southern Writers Magazine in September 2013.  Click Here and scroll down to the cover with Davis Bunn. You will enjoy his story.


  1. Davis, thank you for guest posting on Suite T today. I am looking forward to reading your new book. I love the concept...Time becoming a mirror.

    You reminded us, that just because it doesn't work right away, you can lay it aside, and come back to it later. That is very important for a writer.

  2. Davis, what a great post. I can see why you've sold millions of books. And the concept of Time is fascinating to me as well. Best wishes.