Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gen Y readers and Blood Flats (I)

I want to thank everyone who has read Blood Flats so far, whether in the paperback or Kindle format. In this post, I want to thank one group of readers in particular.

Since the Kindle downloads of Blood Flats started selling, I have been especially grateful for some of the feedback that I have received from younger readers regarding the book’s two youthful protagonists: Lee McCabe and Dawn Hardin.

One reader said that he couldn’t stop thinking about Dawn Hardin’s character for days. Another reader told me that Lee McCabe’s response to his own circumstances compelled him to make some critical changes in his own life.

As the author of a novel, those are the kinds of emails that you live for.

As most readers will know, I am in my forties; so I make no claim to being a part of the “younger generation.” My formative years took place in the 1980s and early 1990s, when today’s younger generation was busy being born.

Nevertheless, there are certain aspects of being young that transcend generational differences.

Take the Blood Flats character of Lee McCabe, for example. Lee is a former U.S. marine and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. At the age of 23, he is eager to get on with his life. He plans to attend college while he works part-time at a blue-collar job. Even though he is still young, he is troubled by the vague notion that he should be farther along by now. He doesn’t want his life to pass him by.

All of us, when we are young, go through a phase in which we have a strong desire to get on with things already. That feeling of straining at the bit—wanting to make your mark in this world—is universal. What I felt in 1990 or 1991 is basically the same feeling that so many young people are experiencing today.

But things don’t go as planned for Lee McCabe. His hometown has been taken over by violent meth traffickers. One of them lives next door. Lee knows that it will only be a matter of time before he is drawn into the traffickers’ web of violence.

And to make matters worse, Lee cannot appeal to the law. Sheriff Steven Phelps, the primary legal authority in Hawkins County, Kentucky, bears a grudge against Lee.

Why does Phelps despise Lee? Well, as they say: It’s complicated…

Years ago, before Lee was even born, Phelps had a youthful affair with Lee’s mother, Lori. Ultimately Lori spurned Phelps to be with the man who would become Lee’s father. As Lee’s parents are both dead, Phelps has one target for his anger: Lee McCabe.

In our youth, we all occasionally have the feeling of having to bear unearned guilt and unearned grudges. While few of us will suffer because of the romantic entanglements of our parents, there are other ways in which we become the center of misplaced anger when we are young.

When I received my first post-college job, I was working in a factory with a number of older men who resented the fact that I had acquired a university degree. They repeatedly referred to me as “that &%$# college boy.” (I now wonder if any of them actually knew my name.)

While I laugh at it now, a situation like that can be intimidating at the age of 22 or 23. For most of your life at this point, you have been accustomed to thinking of people of the older generation as your mentors and protectors: teachers, parents, coaches, etc.

When you are young and someone of the older generation vindictively turns on you for the first time, the effect can be disorienting. You realize that you are now an adult, and you are basically on your own.

If you’ve read Blood Flats, you will know that much of Lee McCabe’s struggle is generational in nature. He is forced into a private war against older antagonists on both sides of the law. Being older and more established, his enemies usually possess greater resources than he does.

In my next post, I’ll address this theme as it relates to the character of Dawn Hardin---a former honor student whose life takes a wrong turn into a downward spiral of addiction and street crime.

Thanks again to the readers of Blood Flats---especially you younger readers!

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