South Side grad's first novel a Dan Brown-type thriller

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Micah Dank, who wrote his first novel, “Decoding the Phoenix” under the pen name MD Tchaves, became inspired to write during his time at South Side High School.
Micah Dank, who wrote his first novel, “Decoding the Phoenix” under the pen name MD Tchaves, became inspired to write during his time at South Side High School.
Courtesy Micah Dank

Rockville Centre native Micah Dank released his first novel last August and is now working on the second installment in a planned trilogy that blends fact and fiction with religion and secret society.

Dank, 34, who wrote “Decoding the Phoenix” under the pen name MD Tchaves, graduated South Side High School in 2001. There, he said, his English teacher, Russell Reid, got him interested in reading and inspired him to write novels.

Dank graduated from Hunter College with an English degree in language literature and criticism, and a few years ago gained an interest in astrology and the astronomical origins of religion.

Now living in Baldwin, Dank currently runs the logistics department for a Manhattan start-up, writing in his spare time. He wrote the 50,000-word novel in two weeks he said, and spent two years editing it.

He held a book discussion and signing at Turn of the Corkscrew Books and Wine in Rockville Centre to spread the word, and the book is being sold on Amazon.com.

“I know the answer to the world’s deepest secret,” Graham Newsdon, a functioning alcoholic, Harvard medical student and the novel’s protagonist, declares in the opening page. After stumbling across a puzzling communication from his deceased Navy Seal brother, Graham must work to unravel a litany of secrets.

With the help of his long-term girlfriend, his quirky Mensan best friend, and his wild and athletic best girlfriend since childhood, he sets out to decode this complex cryptogram, which he soon discovers is charged with the potential to unhinge the very control that certain government officials are intent, at all costs, on maintaining.

“I kind of built a story of a kid loses his brother — and he has to get to the bottom of the mystery — around the astrology,” Dank said. “… The topics are complex enough, but I wanted to make sure that it was easily [understandable] to any reader.”

While educating the reader with facts he said are not taught in schools, he wanted to provide what he called “a new take” for readers who enjoy Dan Brown-type thrillers, like himself.

“It’s kind of like a Da Vinci Code,” Dank said, referring to Brown’s world-renowned bestseller, “but the kids are kind of smartasses.”

One reader, Joseph Collica commented on Amazon.com: “MD Tchaves ‘goes there.’ He goes where most people are afraid to. He challenges everything you think you know in a way that’s not shoving your face in it. The information presented is appealing to anyone, regardless of your religion or political beliefs.” Another, named Amy, posted, “If you are planning on reading this I also recommend that you clear your schedule for the near future as you will not be able to put it down. MD Tchaves did an amazing job at engaging and drawing in the reader. The only breaks I took were to do further research on multiple different topics that were touched in this novel.”

The first-person narration is conversational, as Newsdon goes on tangents throughout as readers quickly learn about his personality. “I think it’s the most natural,” Dank said of that style of writing. “It [closes] the distance between the reader and the protagonist … and takes them along for the ride.”

The biggest challenge of writing a novel, Dank said, is the constant rewriting in an effort to make sense, be relevant and ensure the direction of the novel is where he wants it to go. Though the process can be difficult, the South Side graduate has not slowed down. He hopes to release the trilogy’s second book this year.

“I’m obsessed with this story,” Dank said. “I think about the characters all the time, I think about things for them to say. “… It shows that intelligence and humor don’t always mix, but I’m trying to make that happen.”