Popular author to write novel set in Bermuda
Robert Blake Whitehill has tackled dirty bombs and human trafficking, now he is ready to take on Bermuda.
The popular author was inspired by a trip to the Island — he found the class tensions intriguing.
“It’s a bastion enclave of the wealthy who meld with a dynamic, entrepreneurial middle class, as well as with a stratum that struggles to make headway,” the award-winning screenwriter said.
“The inevitable tensions at the fringes where these demographics meet is all grist for a writer’s mill.
“This, along with Bermuda’s rich and varied history, makes it is a perfect setting for a Ben Blackshaw mission.”
Ben Blackshaw is the fictional hero of the 53-year-old’s four novels. His work has been compared with Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum; three of his books are being optioned for films.
The majority of the novels are set on Smith Island, Maryland, in Chesapeake Bay.
The area is sinking into the ocean due to geology and climate change and may be completely gone 50 years from now. Its 200 inhabitants are determined to hold on to their way of life.
Mr Whitehill believes they have a lot in common with Bermudians. Some Smith islanders are descended from 16th-century settlers from Cornwall and still retain an Elizabethan accent despite being only 120 miles from Washington, DC.
“Islanders share a rugged sense of individualism,” he said. “Smith islanders are Smith islanders first before anything else. People in Bermuda have that same sense of identity.”
He is not yet sure what will happen in his next book, but knows there will probably be a Category 4 hurricane.
“Both islands are subject to the vicissitudes of weather,” he said. “On Smith Island, when storms come, everyone just battens down the hatches and holds on. Same as in Bermuda.”
Mr Whitehill signed novels at the Bermuda Book Store when he visited on a cruise ship for a day last week.
He signed copies of his novels and bought every book he could find about Bermuda and its history.
“For this first visit, my wife Mary, my son Beau, 6, and I split up to absorb as much culture and beauty as possible, and then compared notes in the evening,” he said.
“Now I will study all the books I acquired at the Bermuda Book Store, learning in greater detail about the people, the history, the flora, fauna, climate, topography, and how these unique elements can be woven together into a Blackshaw adventure. Once a storyline begins forming, I will return to Bermuda and dig even deeper through conversations with as many as will take the time talk to me about this marvellous place. Then the writing can begin.”
He started writing while volunteering as an emergency medical technician.
“There have been some extremely difficult calls that have left deep scars in my psyche,’ he said. “I work out my post traumatic stress disorder issues through the writing, handing them off to my character Ben Blackshaw to address, or fail to address, whichever is more interesting.”
Mr Whitehill said he was also inspired to write by his father, Joseph Whitehill, an award-winning short story author and novelist.
• For more information, visit www.robertblakewhitehill.com