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Review by Phil Shropshire
Lets be honest: Blowback is a commercial
novel. It doesnt aspire to deepness, Paul Auster-like contemplation or exhausting
Tom Clancy detail or even outright Walter Mosley poetry. The Burroughs cut-up technique is
not employed in this novel, nor is there a nod to Doug Couplands oddly positioned
and erratic computer graphics. What Blowback is: a light, enjoyable, frenetic read that we
in the review biz like to categorize as a page-turner. Its the kind of book whose
international intrigue, nuclear detonations and interracial politics scream out for a
quick conversion to the screen with the likes of Wesley Snipes or Michael Jai
Whitethe black lead character here is a former track star who can perform an
improvised triple jump, so cast appropriatelyportraying the books lead
character, Richard Whelan.
Our writer, Eric Fullilove, is a black high achiever who is a graduate of MIT and has a
number of professional accomplishments to his credit. His lead character Richard Whelan is
a black high achiever who is a graduate of Harvard and has a number of professional
accomplishments to his credit. Fullilove, who has taken the adage write what you
know to heart, takes his literary doppelganger and makes him a black national
security advisor in a future Republican administrationquite realistic in these dark
and scary times where Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice may in fact be determining the
fate of the globe. The writer then proceeds to twist Richard into some very painful plot
entanglements which involves the murder of his white girlfriend and the detonation of a
neutron bomb by the Indian government in the tense Kashmir region. Both events happen at
the same time. So, while our hero has to advise the president on how to avert World War
Three, he also has to beat a murder rap. And off we go, as my old English prof and noted
Pynchon critic Terry Ceasar used to sarcastically say.
Remembering that Mr. Fullilove, according to his bio on the Internet, got his start
writing screenplays, this book does feel like two of the aforementioned Wesley Snipes
films, namely the sequel to the Fugitive and the Art of War. But it also raises some
interesting points about black middle class life, the messy politics of interracial dating
(imagine if Powell and Rice had once been a couple before Powell started dating a white
woman and youve pictured the triangle)even for black supermenand even an
insight or two about both Pakistan and India having the bomb. In fact, there might even be
a word of wisdom in regard to our current War against Terrorism, or as Eric writes:
The very concept of India and Pakistan having
nuclear weapons would have been anathema to Gandhi and were the evidence not of
technological achievement but of the truly regressive qualities of hatred and fear. He
often wondered what Gandhi would have made of the world had he survived to see it, the
horror of the nuclear flash that consumed so many cubits of dirt from far underground, and
the chain reaction not of enriched uranium but of the governments of Pakistan and China in
their rush to match if not exceed the destructive power held in New Delhis hands.
And he feared, too, feared deep in his heart, that when you strike down a man you
must kill his family and his children too, lest they rise up and seek their revenge, not
with the sticks and stones that children use to forcibly settle their arguments, but with
atomic weapons. But they had shared and liberated a nation together, the Hindus and the
Muslims, and there were Muslims throughout India still. So, he thought always, how does
one kill the families and children of those who should be our brothers without killing
For the record, the writer states in an interview that his book is about tactical war and
not terrorism, but to be frank, the same players that dominate todays
newsAmerican heads of state reacting to crisis, Pakistan, India, Kashmir, Muslims,
China, nuclear weapons, soldiers in mountains and a persistent state of crisisshow
up in Mr. Fulliloves book. Personally, I think thats kind of lucky for the
writer. Eric says his book is selling real well. Big shock there. In summation, an
interesting light read that often feels like one big chase scene. Its not in the
Walter Mosley leagueor that rarefied and elite league where the commercial novel is
also literary, poetic and wisebut Blowback should put Eric Fullilove on the very
short list of the most bankable and commercial black writers out there and Im
looking forward to that film deal being signed any nanosecond now.
The author graciously allowed an interview and
here it is:
(Picture of the Author)
Well first of all, what do you think of the timing of your book's publication? I'm sure
you were horrified about the trade center bombings. But I'm sure a part of you, hidden
deep in the more capitalistic recesses of your soul, must have smiled when the term
"blowback" kept coming up on CNN and Fox and newspapers...Or has this event even
affected your sales? Would you feel any guilt if one of the worst terror events of our
time made you a millionaire? (I'd feel no guilt, but maybe you're a better man than me...)
1)The book isn't about terrorism,it's about a corrupt CIA, so the timing
isn't as big a deal as with other books that deal directly with terrorism. In fact, it's a
good thing that the book isn't about terrorism becausethere isn't anything anyone could
think up that's as horrific as the events of 9-11. I would hate to be Steven Coonts, who's
book "America" was on thebestseller list and dealt with a series of terrorist
attacks on...New York and DC. Now, who the heck would want to read more about a
hypothetical when the reality has already occured?
2) As to the actual effect on my novel, "blowback" in the news or not, the chill
in movies about subjects even remotely related to anything that might possibly be
considered sensitive probably has cost me a near term shot at a movie deal. Rest assured
that the worst terrorist attack in modern historyprobably prevented me from being a
million...well, a guy with some bank.
3) ALso, the last thing to remember about books is it takes a year between when you make
the deal and the book hits the stands. So Blowback isn't an"instant book" rushed
out because Harper Collins wanted to make some quick bucks.
4) Even if events had influenced my sales, which I'm not at all convinced they have, I
always thought the book did exactly what it was designed to do, e.g., be a fast and
furious read, and set up the character for future escapades. Didn't need or want any help
from actual events, and we would all be better off if nine one one hadn't occured.
(and as far as I'm can tell, Blowback is selling pretty well...)
Well, I'm sorry to hear that you think that the 911 timing might have hurt your movie
option potential. When I was reading your book it reminded me a lot of Steven Barnes, who
is probably one of the more successful (as in paid) black writers out there. By the way,
as a poor writer, I don't begrudge or disrespect the commercial writer. When you don't
have any money you respect writers who make money, trust me. But getting back to the book:
what was your inspiration for the Pakistan/India/China scenario? I imagine this has been
war gamed to death but where did you come up with the chain of events and why exactly
would China nuke New Delhi? And the other question I had, and this has to do with current
events, is that if its true that we could--in your book--initiate a Pakistan/Indian war in
order to occupy China, couldn't China fund a terrorist war in Afghanistan in order to
perhaps draw our forces away from Taiwan, just to strike a paranoid conspiratorial
notion...Also, what are your thoughts on 911? What are the appropriate responses? Should
black folks have a different view of the bombings? I think I know what Richard
Whelan/Colin Powell would say, but what do you think?
Inspiration for Pakistan/India/China scenario: Hasn't been done before in Thriller
fiction. China has been done to death, but in ways that suggest the "stupid
Chinese" are cannon fodder for American "smart bombs." Research revealed
the Chinese connection to Pakistan and sponsorship of their nuclear weapons. The Chinese
don't like so populous a nation near their borders. The blowback angle was just inspired
As indicated in the book, China would hit New Delhi if a) they thought they were going to
attack their client state Pakistan and b) they thought the US must know about it and not
give a damn, which, given that the Chinese think that the US has sold India a copy of what
the US sold China, is very plausible. So the chinese would think that the US gave India
the goods and tacitly approves (by doing nothing) India's use of them to invade Pakistan.
Nuking India would be seen as a surgical "decapitation" strike to turn off
hostilities. To the fools who believe there's anything surgical about nuclear weapons.
I'm not sure where you get the notion that India/Paksitan is a ploy to occupy China. That
isn't in the novel, nor is it hinted at. Just remember one thing- Asia is far away, and
the prospect of war in that part of the world should scare the shit out of everyone. The
two modern conflicts that
the US didn't win were in Asia, Korea and Viet Nam. Both were terrible wars.
Think about going to somebody's house to rumble, and they have a billion brothers and
sisters who keep coming out of different bedrooms to kick your ass while your family is
coming from across town.
911: These events should be viewed in the context of what has happenedsince the end of the
cold war and all the tragedy that has struck American society:
Columbine and all the high school/postal mass violence
The Cole destroyer
Nine one one.
The end of the cold war has allowed all the hate in the world, both internal and external,
to be focused on the US, whereas before, with the threat of the 'evil empire,' enemies
were either allies and fighting proxy wars for either the US or the Soviets, or they were
attempting to play one or the other for money, guns, whatever. That duopoly is gone, and
it is amazing how many former allies have turned against the US:
Iraq-(we armed Saddam in his lengthy war against Iran prior to him going
Afganistan (we armed them against the Soviets).
Nine one one will be marked in history as the day the US began to reassess
its role as the lone superpower in the world, because the old models don't
work, and no one wants to be the red white and blue bullseye for every
asshole with an agenda. Whether we build a roman style empire or continue
with the I'm okay, you're okay pax americana approach remains to be seen.
But it is a turning point of potentially historic proportions.
The other way historians may mark nine one one? If we aren't careful, it
may mark the begining of the 21st century depression. Not recession.
Depression. Because the economy is weak, and would have remained weak
after the technology speculative bubble that's been unwinding for the last
18 months even without 911. But with it, and the huge shock to the system
that the world economies have received? Consumers are 66 percent of the
economy. Autos alone are 5 percent. If people stay at home, don't spend,
don't do the big ticket items that keep the factories humming, then you get
a continuing deflation that feeds on itself.
In the 20s and 30s, the depression produced what's called a liquidity trap,
where monetary policy didn't do ANYTHING to lift economic activity because
the pervasive deflation that had occured made any economic activity or
investment unthinkable. That deflation was led by the bursting of a
speculative stock market bubble and a complete loss of faith in good times.
The Federal reserve has cut interest rates 6 or 7 times this year, to
little or no effect. The stock market has been deflating for a year and a
half. The notion of chemical or biologial or any kind of terror attacks is
cramping people's sense of faith in good times. Anywhere.
See the parallels?
Well I find your prognosis of a depression to be very depressing. But I know that 911
couldn't have helped the economy in any way. Very depressing. I also apologize for
misreading your plotline. I thought there was more to it than arms manufacturer greed, but
I don't want to give away too much of the plot.
I was curious about the lead character though and its resemblances to the author. Our lead
character is a high achieving black male who's attended Ivy League schools and walks
between both white and black worlds. The author is a high achieving black male who went to
MIT--which I think is more impressive than going to an IVY League school--and who walks
between white and black worlds. Now, I can see why you wouldn't make your lead character a
white, bisexual, female wiccan worshipper who just happens to advise on national security
matters--that might be a bit of a stretch--but the character seems like an alternative
universe proxy for yourself, at least in appearance. That's not bad or anything. We need
black superheroes and I think your book talks about how the life of the overachieving
brother isn't exactly gravy. (Trust me: I can relate to that line about white teachers
despising you if you're clever...what's that Richie Havens line: "despise you if
you're dumb, hate if you're clever".) Also, the two lead characters were written, I'm
guessing, before Condy Rice and Colin Powell made the scene of the inner circle security
apparatus, or were you anticipating this or was that just a happy accident?
A global depression isn't a certainty, it's just something that we have to
watch out for and be very careful about. 911 is an event unprecedented in
modern history (half a million investment, 60 billion damage) and we should
therefore be on the lookout for unprecedented effects, effects that defy
conventional or historical policies and economic levers.
Richard Whelan certainly shares many of my experiences, but he's better
looking and more of a ladies man than I am. And I don't know much about
guns, much less being a crack shot. But most black people can identify with
his racial realities- people wonder why there isn't an Einstein for this
generation, some super genius who unravels some great mystery of the
universe, and my sense is that he or she is probably sitting in some public
school someplace mired in a system that doesn't care about or recognize his
or her talents nor even think it's possible that such a person could have
Whelan is also a far cry from the heroine of my first two novels-a white
Colin Powell had already been national security advisor when this was
written, in fact early versions of this had the character remarking that he
was "no Colin Powell." Condy Rice was simply fortuitous-both prove that the
position isn't a stretch.
Your responses have been thoughtful and enlightening. What's your next project?
Thanks. Next up, a direct sequel to Blowback...