Saturday, January 12, 2013

Deadrise by Robert Blake Whitehill (Spotlight, Excerpt)

DEADRISE (The Ben Blackshaw Series)Diving the frigid Chesapeake Bay for oysters soon after a late season hurricane, former Navy SEAL Ben Blackshaw discovers the fresh wreck of a speedboat mired on the bottom. It is jammed to the gunwales with crates of gold bullion worth millions. Blackshaw opens one last box from the wreck and finds a nuclear dirty bomb, its timer racing down toward zero just twenty-four hours away. If this were not enough, the final shock of the day comes when he recognizes the corpse bobbing at the helm of the wreck; a man who has been missing for fifteen years. Blackshaw’s father.

Piecing the shreds of evidence together, Blackshaw reckons that his irascible old man intercepted and stole both the gold and the nuke from an Iran-Contra style government black-ops deal brokered between two Islamist extremist cells by a corrupt U.S. Government cabal. Maynard Chalk was the agent who let the transaction go south in a moment of unforgiveable distraction. He’s got to recover the cargo as soon as possible, but to finish the job, he must temporarily throw in with one of the terrorist crews from the deal gone wrong; it’s the only way he can conceal his failure from a vengeful boss and save his own skin. Chalk and his jackal henchmen descend on the quiet, god-fearing people of Blackshaw’s isolated Smith Island home, determined to take back what’s theirs no matter what the cost in innocent blood. 

Blackshaw and his wily Smith Island neighbors must set aside a growing mistrust of each other in order to survive and repel Chalk’s invasion. Green-eyed suspicion naturally follows an influx of untold wealth and ultimate power; this might play into Chalk’s hands, inciting murder and mutiny within Blackshaw’s ranks. 

After a rocky start, Blackshaw finally persuades a small cadre of neighbors that their recent hardscrabble times could be set right if they manage to keep this orphaned gold for themselves, and somehow stop that nuclear bomb before it blows them out of the Chesapeake. 

To accomplish all this, they reluctantly tap into Smith Island’s darker heritage from the distant past as home to marauding pirates in the Chesapeake. Hundreds of years before they became good Methodists, the Smith Islanders emigrated from Cornwall, England. There, more than a few of their ancestors earned their keep by pillaging what they needed from merchant ships unlucky enough to sail without armed escort. Regrettably, the practice lasted long after settling Smith Island. The present dire circumstances set these good people at odds with their newfound and deeply held religious teachings; they must connect with their inner brigand or die. 

Mortally outgunned, and not seventy miles from Washington, D.C., Blackshaw and his cohort are pitted in a desperate last stand against Chalk and his bloodthirsty goons. If Blackshaw fails, his gamble will go down in history as the opening skirmish of World War III.

Image of Robert Blake WhitehillRobert Blake Whitehill is the author of the book Deadrise, a thriller set in the Chesapeake Bay area. Robert was born just outside Salisbury on Maryland's Eastern Shore peninsula. The family home lay next to the pond that powered a colonial-era relic, the Barren Creek Mill. He grew up sailing the Chesapeake Bay, and one of her most beautiful tributaries, the Chester River.

An early focus on feature screenwriting earned Whitehill film festival wins at the Hudson Valley Film Festival, and the Hamptons International Film Festival where he also received an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship for his script U.X.O. (Unexploded Ordnance). His feature script Blue Rinse, co-written with Andrea Shane is currently under option with producer Bill Jarblum (Charley Bartlett, The Little Traitor, Cloudburst), with Olympia Dukakis to star.

While writing many highly rated episodes of Discovery/Times Channel's The New Detectives, Daring Capers, and The Bureau, he served as the Vice President of Independent Film Acquisitions for the groundbreaking, developing and managing their Independent Film Channel.
Whitehill settled in Montclair, New Jersey with his wife and son. For a number of years, he has worked with the Montclair Ambulance Unit as an emergency medical technician. When not sailing, or knocking around the sky in a Cessna 152, Whitehill published several articles about his home waters in Chesapeake Bay Magazine.

Guest Post by the Author
Deadrise, One Draft at a Time
Robert Blake Whitehill

Writing Deadrise was one of the most gritty, arduous, transformational experiences of my life so far, in a class with marriage, fatherhood, working on an ambulance, and getting my private pilot license.  It was a tremendous, long term effort, with a wonderful result.  I looked for my bride, Mary, for more than forty years, and had actually given up hope many times I would ever meet her.  Two weeks after our first date, I proposed.  When you know, you know.  Thank God she said yes, which led to the birth of our son, Beau.  What a gift these two human beings are to me.  Learning to serve others on the ambulance in the worst ten minutes of their lives?  I will always be proud of that effort.  Flying off into the wild blue yonder by myself, and then with friends, makes for a profound perspective on the world and my place in it.  And then came Deadrise.

For good or ill, screen and television writing was coming easily for me at the moment when my agent, Matthew Bialer, at Sanford J. Greenburger, suggested I write a novel.  After a couple more years mulling a subject for the book, I got to work.  After finishing the first draft a number of months later (a large number of months), I realized Matthew meant for me to write a thriller, and not literary fiction.  You, dear reader, can be glad he intervened. 

It took me some time to climb out of the dumps.  I had gotten used to receiving awards for early drafts of feature film scripts.  I was spoiled.  Then I got real.  And that’s when the rewrites began.  Matthew Bialer was full of excellent advice on every new draft.  I am forever in his debt.  My textbooks in this time of apprenticeship were the works of Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Scott Smith, Carl Hiaasen, and James Lee Burke among others.  Eventually I got the thriller voice correctly, and there was a story.  An award-winning story  (Conversations Book Club Top 100 Books of 2012).  

Readers are genuinely digging Deadrise.  I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.  The real unsought treasure in this experience, the part that makes it so enriching for me, is hearing from actual readers personally, whether through emails, at signings, or during the Q&A a panels and talks.  It delights me to have moved from the writing phase, where my audience had no face or voice, to the post-published time when I can hear and learn from you directly.  You are full of good ideas, insights, and encouraging responses to the work.  With every email and review, I know I am blessed.  You can always catch up with me at  Writing back to you is a pleasure for me.  I look forward to the opportunity of replying personally.  Writing Nitro Express, the next book in the Ben Blackshaw series, for you, a real, non-imaginary you this time around, is inspiring.  In the meantime, thank you for being such thoughtful, generous, creative people!  You made all the sweat and hardship worth it.

Deadrise can be purchased on Amazon by clicking the book icon below.


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