Russell Blake has a masterpiece here. The book overflows with fear, mystery, murder- all eloquently put. It is most definitely a page-turner. Most importantly, it will make you stop and think. Mr. Blake claims the book is fiction. However, he readily admits that,
“It is almost impossible to verify with complete certainty what is fiction when examining the world of covert operations and intelligence agencies.”
An extremely conceivable conspiracy drives this story at a fast pace. A mysterious manuscript contains dangerous information. The ugly truth can change history and the world, as we know it today. Our unlucky hero finds himself in the possession of this manuscript. He is now the target of a powerful group that will not allow this to become public. Innocent people die in the quest to retrieve this manuscript. Will our hero make it out of this alive?
K-You have stated that you believe the best fiction comes from a blend of fact and fantasy. This book reads more like fact rather than fantasy. Given your intimate knowledge of these entities may I ask if you have a military background?
R- I’ve never served in the armed forces.
K-Is there anything in your own life that inspired you to write the story?
R-Well, there are some things that are similar, but I’d prefer not to go into detail as to what the similarities are. Let’s just say that there’s a little of me in all my protagonists.
K-As a writer, I admire other authors that are able to “open a new world for me”. You have a very descriptive style that allows the reader to feel and see the story. Is this something that just flows from you?
R-Yes. I’ve been told to dumb down my style, and to cut back on the exposition and narrative, but frankly I think that what you wind up with is writing that could be anyone’s at that point – sort of a bland, vanilla writing style I’m utterly uninterested in. If that’s what I needed to do to have people buy my books, I think I’d give up writing. No offense to the monosyllabic authors out there who have been successful, but I would like to take more of a note from Umberto Eco, Chuck P and David Foster Wallace than from James Patterson. Although I’d love to have his income…
K-You and me both...Where is your favorite place to write?
R-I’ve written all my books from the same desk, so that’s probably the place.
K- I was guessing that it was the beach.
I love Mexico. I usually vacation there at least once a year. What influenced your permanent move to Mexico?
R- I was looking to broaden my horizons, and had grown tired of the pressure cooker, consumer-driven lifestyle of the States. I wanted something relaxed, where it was warm, the beer cold, the water blue, and the native friendly. Mexico naturally beckoned, and I’ve never had a single regret moving here.
K-Getting back to the fact that the book is a little too real: Is it true that you actually live on the West Coast of Mexico in a neighborhood surrounded by drug lords?
R-Yes, and no. I mean, it’s not like they are surrounding my town or anything. But there are always plenty of bad guys in any area, and mine is not unlike the rest of the country in that respect. Although if you look at the murder rate, it’s actually lower here than in most similarly sized U.S. cities. That should tell you a lot. Not to discount the very real danger in some areas – anything near the border is ugly, as are some cartel towns and some resorts near Mexico City. But guess what? There are equally ugly areas of the U.S. I just prefer not to go to them, just as I didn’t go to the American ones when I was in the U.S.
I think the brush Mexico gets painted with involves a lot of hysteria and generalizations, some of which are deliberate – the U.S. has a large segment of the population that’s coming to retirement age, so if it doesn’t want to lose a whole lot of tax base and retirement funds to warmer, friendlier, cheaper countries, it has to make them seem as unappealing as possible. Otherwise why would anyone stay in the U.S., if you could live for half as much at a considerably higher quality level somewhere else? No, those places are dangerous and scary and, ugh, different, so best to spend your vacation money in Hawaii or Florida and keep paying twenty grand a year property tax for the privilege of being in the U.S. If that sounds cynical, it is. Which comes through loud and clear in many of my books.
K-Well, I see your point. I would love to retire in Paradise. You're in a beautiful place.
I’d like to do a little exercise, if it's okay with you. I’m going to provide a scene from a book and I would like for you to re-write it in your own style.
R-All right, but I do go on, as you know from my books…
K- Okay, here it is:
Just do your work, Consuela. Don't imagine things. You got a lot of shit to do today.
She was a small women and she was fast. She would finish cleaning this house and then move on to the next. The more houses she could clean, the more money she could send back home, to her family. Her children were still in Mexico with her parents. She was hoping to bring them to America one day.
Think about the kids and get your shit done.
Then she saw the bloody towel thrown in the hallway. Her heart was pounding so loud she could hear it. She noticed the bedroom door was closed.
Mr. Ryan never left that door closed.
Her legs were shaky as she slowly walked towards the door and opened it.
Then the screaming began.
A soft breeze stirred the jacaranda blossoms outside the open wooden windows of the old house, the air heavy with humidity, the uneasy remnant of a distant squall. Inside, the clamor of a bucket knocking against the scarred wooden banister announced that the cleaning girl had arrived to perform her grudging chores. Leathery hands gnarled by a lifetime of manual labor were more expected on an elderly peasant woman than on a twenty-nine year old of diminutive stature, but Consuela couldn’t turn back time. She’d had to do what she could to make ends meet, and in a harsh environment, that often meant backbreaking tasks nobody else wanted to do – strawberry picking for fourteen hours a day, working in the tomato fields the same hours, or scrubbing floors and toilets with corrosive chemicals that hardened her skin as much as they’d tarnished her soul. None of which her placid expression betrayed. Outwardly, she was inscrutable; invisible to the privileged for whom she worked.
The cleaning gig was better than some she’d had. At least it enabled her to care for her children in the only way she was able – monthly Western Union transfers to her parents, who were raising them while she paid their bills from afar. It wasn’t her first choice, but she’d gotten caught up in the business of living as barely more than a girl, and soon the adventure of forbidden midnight rides in musty cars with the dangerous love of her life had been replaced by the reality of an infant girl, with another on the way, the father long gone to greener pastures, leaving her with only regret and responsibility.
She hummed under her breath, a tune from home, from the fiestas that made Saturday nights in her rustic village near Veracruz bearable. On mornings like this, the dream of a small yellow clapboard house, with a little yard, perfectly manicured, on the outskirts of this town, in the impossibly prosperous U.S., her children playing safely in it, speaking English – the language of opportunity and of power, and wealth – was the only thing that got her through the day. Mornings after the big weekends were the worst. The clients always left a mess, knowing she, or someone like her, would clean up after them. Mondays were always the same, and she resigned herself to another long afternoon if she was going to clean two homes before nightfall.
Which she would do, even if it killed her.
Because she needed the money. It was always about the money.
Finished in the foyer, she moved towards the master suite, the heavy mahogany door with its ornately hand-carved panels a reminder of centuries past. As she rounded the corner into the hall, she hesitated, momentarily confused. Even as she registered something on the gleaming hardwood floor, her nose detected a distinctive metallic smell – the smell of fresh blood. At first she thought it was one of the cats, injured or killed by the damned dogs. Consuela hated the dogs, and was always relieved when they were elsewhere; she didn’t care where. They scared her, reminding her too much of the ugly angry men in her life. Dogs were always like their masters, she thought as she struggled to make out the form in the dim light.
She peered in the gloom, and abruptly realized it was one of the owner’s thick white terrycloth towels, soaked in blood, the jaunty teal thread of the embroidered R of his last name – Ryan; Senor, no, Meester Ryan – standing out from the crimson stains, which were slowly turning rust-colored.
The silence of the empty house was fractured by an explosion as the metal bucket hit the floor with a crash, startling her into action, her fingers having reflexively dropped it. The ammonia in the water made her eyes tear, and she was about to curse when she heard it…faint at first, and then again, a little louder.
Scratching. At the door.
Consuela approached the battered pewter lever with a trembling outstretched hand, anxiety now in full bloom. Scratch. A tiny internal voice argued against proceeding any further, told her to turn, to run, to get away from this cursed place, the money be damned. Meester Ryan never closed this door, or any door, for that matter. She didn’t know what it meant that today it was shut, but she was sure that whatever the reason, it couldn’t be good.
The scratching continued, and her ears strained, catching something else. Something like an animal, wounded, caught in a trap, like she’d seen once as a child on a trip to her grandfather’s farm, when a hare had gotten snared and nearly torn its neck off trying to escape. Consuela had learned a terrible secret that day. She knew that rabbits could scream. The sound had never left her, and even now, as the hair on her arms stood up, she was reminded of that ugly sound, as she had been for months after in now-faded nightmares.
She hesitated, forcing down the fear that was blossoming inside her, and then swung the door open, mop clenched in her free hand like a puny club.
Her eyes widened even as she heard the gurgled plea from the thing on the bedroom floor. A thing that had once been…
Outside, a covey of quail soared into the April sky from the field across the way, startled by the piercing shrieks echoing from the house. Screams that went on forever, unheard on the rural country road; screams of a horror that would never fade, and that promised the rabbits would have company in Consuela’s psyche for the rest of her life.
K- I love it! You are a wonderful writer. I will keep this close by for inspiration.
R-I try to open as many doors for the imagination as possible when I write, and am constantly torn between a Hemingway approach of only a few words, and a DFW approach of pages, enjoying the way words splash on the page for the sheer joy of the musicality to the cadence. Obviously I give in to the DFW more than the Hemingway.
K- It’s working for you. Thank you so much for the interview. I will definitely be reading the rest of your books. I am hooked : )