Hello High Plains Radio Book Club Listeners. My name is Nina Blakeman and I’m the author of the Blow-up Man, a fictional thriller that takes place in a dispirited region of West Texas.
I always have loved reading, especially suspense and thrillers, but had never considered writing one of my own. Not until the winter of 2014-15, where a move took me to the rural countryside about three miles outside the agrarian town of Tulia, Texas. It was there that I became inspired.
Dilapidated houses, pens, barns, sheds, pieces of farm equipment dug half-way in and half-way out of the earth, partially filled in cesspools, and the base of a well with 1921 etched in once wet cement. All signs that lives were once lived there, but now have gone. Occasionally the wind will bring the sound of a distant train whistle, a herd of cattle from a nearby pasture, or a whiff of a startled skunk.
On a smaller scale, spiders are spinning their webs and securing their eggs in cottony pouches, wasps are building their hives, rattlesnakes are perfectly camouflaged in the tall prairie grasses ready to strike at the unsuspecting rat, small rabbit, the bare ankle or reaching hand.
'This is the back-drop I wanted for my debut novel,' I said to myself. I read too many books where the beautiful heroine steps out of a Park Avenue apartment in a designer suit on her way to engage in important meetings with important people to further her ever-exciting career.
But that’s not I wanted my book to be about . . . I wanted my protagonist to be perfectly flawed and the antagonist . . . I wanted the reader to hate her from page two. And I wanted it to play out in a place where the desolate savagery of man can’t be readily heard.
At the center of The Blow-up Man is the idea of the family construct. To most, it provides a sense of wellbeing and stability. However, the family is not a fixed institution but one of fluidity through marriage, divorce, death, norms and law.
Each family is unique, and in the case of The Blow-up Man, there is no exception. Formerly of Philadelphia, Madeline Brady is an urban socialite who is widowed and has grown daughter, Faye Brady. West Texas never quite suited Madeline, but when her husband had been transferred there, and she had to make do. With her daughter in graduate school, studying pharmaceutical science under the auspices of Dr. Todd Davis at Cullen State University, it didn’t really make sense for Madeline to relocate to the northeast at that point.
To Madeline’s disappointment, Faye and Todd married and any hopes of returning to Philadelphia were squashed. But Todd Davis has a past, one with the rural-residing Annette Dolce. Although quite beautiful, Annette is bigoted, racist, and a master manipulator. Faye threatens Annette’s idea of family. Todd’s once attraction for her was purely physical and resulted in twin girls that he shares with Annette. The girls are now pre-adolescent, but Todd never made an honest woman of Annette, and that is a fact she’s never forgotten.
Todd marrying Faye, Annette saw that as the ultimate insult. Family values clash, ethical lines are pushed back, and territorial boundaries are drawn. What little morals exist within Annette take a back-seat to anger, threats, and violence. Her idea of family is more akin to the night’s coyote pack with hackles raised, hunting down Faye and to take her family back.
For High Plains Public Radio Book Club, I’m Nina Blakeman