Award-winning novelist speaks to writers

Crimes of bandits, thieves or other outlaws always provide a good story.

At least, that is how James Carlos Blake became a prestigious author.

Award-winning author James Carlos Blake spoke Wednesday to an audience of professors and aspiring writers from the College of Arts and Sciences in the Campus View Room of the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building.

Blake, an essayist, short story writer and novelist, traveled to USF to speak on the subject of history and crime as strong subjects in much of literature.

What I aimed to convey in my speech was a general overview of history and crime as important elements in all of literature, but more importantly in mine, Blake said in an interview with The Oracle. History and crime have been two of the strongest elements in many of my novels.

Blakes speech was part of a larger public event in which Blake was awarded the USF Distinguished Humanities Alumnus Award, Blake himself a former student of USF.

Elizabeth Bird, chair of the department of anthropology and director of the Humanities Institute at USF, said this is the third time anyone has been given the award in the 10 years since its creation.

Its a mark of USFs maturity as a major university that wecan count such major writers among our alumni, Bird said. Were proud to recognize him as the 2013 Distinguished Humanities Alumnus.

Blake is a distinguished author in what he said many call the genre of historical crime


No one likes to be pigeon-holed or put in a category, but most people have described my novels as being deeply rooted in historical criminal figures, Blake said.

Blake said a lot of his interest in the rebel persona and historical outlaws comes from his childhood.

My part of the family that lives in Mexico, as opposed to the U.S. have always had shady elements to their business dealings, Blake said. I havent had contact with them in a while, but as a kid I used to visit them a lot. I loved them and I loved who they were even though I knew that they were doing shady things.

A brief reading of the prologue and first chapter from Blakes newest book, Country of the Bad Wolfes followed Blakes speech.

Wednesday marked the first time Blake has stepped foot on the USF campus since his time as an adjunct professor in 1972.

Coming back, this is a completely different world then what I knew, but I loved USF when I was here back in 72, he said. I loved the professors and I learned a lot … The professors that I had here at USF had a huge influence on my writing. Every time I concoct a character who is a professor, I always have some professor in mind that I knew here at USF.

Following the reading, Blake offered a brief question and answer section where he gave advice to the aspiring writers in the audience.

First of all, read good writers and read them carefully to see what they do, Blake said. Secondly, write some poetry. Even if you dont like poetry write some on the side, because that will make you very conscious of the importance of individual words.

Chase Lindsey, a senior majoring in creative writing, said Blake was inspiring if nothing else.

I think its great that the college brings these kinds of individuals here to show us what we can be and what is possible, Lindsey said.