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Review by Phil Shropshire

 

Let’s be honest: Blowback is a commercial novel. It doesn’t 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 Coupland’s 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. It’s 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 White—the black lead character here is a former track star who can perform an improvised triple jump, so cast appropriately—portraying the book’s 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 administration—quite 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 you’ve pictured the triangle)—even for black supermen—and 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 Delhi’s 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 ourselves?”


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 today’s news—American heads of state reacting to crisis, Pakistan, India, Kashmir, Muslims, China, nuclear weapons, soldiers in mountains and a persistent state of crisis—show up in Mr. Fullilove’s book. Personally, I think that’s 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. It’s not in the Walter Mosley league—or that rarefied and elite league where the commercial novel is also literary, poetic and wise—but Blowback should put Eric Fullilove on the very short list of the most bankable and commercial black writers out there and I’m 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)



Interviewer:

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...)

Eric Fullilove:

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...)

Interviewer:

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?

Eric Fullilove:

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 "what if-ing."


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:

Waco
Columbine and all the high school/postal mass violence
Oklahoma City
Saudi barracks
African embassies
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:

Noriega/panama
Iran
Iraq-(we armed Saddam in his lengthy war against Iran prior to him going
after Kuwait)
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?


Interviewer:

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?

Eric Fullilove:

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
any.

Whelan is also a far cry from the heroine of my first two novels-a white
female telepath...

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.

Interviewer:

Your responses have been thoughtful and enlightening. What's your next project?

Eric Fullilove:

Thanks. Next up, a direct sequel to Blowback...







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