Scott Blackwood is an award-winning author based in Chicago. See full bio.
New York Times Book Review The title story in this impressive and accomplished debut collection imagines the emotional ache of the doctor in Jonestown, Guyana, who discovered the followers of Jim Jones after they drank that infamous cyanide-laced punch … Read More
We Agreed to Meet Just Here: Chapter 1 The river winds through the cedar and oak clotted hills west of our city. Along its limestone bluffs, where Tonkawa Indians once lived, now sprawl lavish Mediterranean-style homes. Gazing from the terraced deck… Read More
Scott Blackwood is the author of the forthcoming novel, SEE HOW SMALL, which will be published by Little Brown & Company, Fourth Estate/ HarperCollins U.K., and in translation by Ponte Alle Grazie in Italy. His previous novel, WE AGREED TO MEET JUST HERE, won a 2011 Whiting Writers’ Award, the AWP Prize for the Novel, The Texas Institute of Letters Award for best work of fiction, and was a finalist for the Pen Center USA Award in fiction. The New York Times called his first book, IN THE SHADOW OF OUR HOUSE, “acute, nimble stories, an impressive, accomplished debut.” His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, Boston Review, Southwest Review, Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Journal, and The New York Times and been anthologized in Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing. His two narrative nonfiction books, THE RISE AND FALL OF PARAMOUNT RECORDS, VOLUMES I & II, tell the curious tale of a white-owned “Race record” label that began in a Wisconsin chair factory and changed American popular music forever. Co-produced by Jack White, the Paramount books have been featured NPR’s Weekend Edition, Sound Opinions, and in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. A former Dobie Paisano Fellow and long-time resident of Austin, Texas, Blackwood now lives in Chicago and teaches fiction writing in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Southern Illinois University.
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Little, Brown & Company, January 20, 2015
See How Small is superb. In prose that’s as fine as any being written today, Scott Blackwood plumbs the depths of a story that is alternately haunting, terrifying, and achingly tragic. Blackwood illuminates the human condition even as he breaks our hearts —Ben Fountain
Fourth Estate/HarperCollins United Kingdom, January 15, 2015
Order See How Small (Fourth Estate /HarperCollins U.K. edition) here
This little gem of a book puts on lush display Scott Blackwood’s talent for measuring and connecting the previously un-connectable in lived experience, and making of it an entirely new whole which we immediately accept as true, natural, exhilarating, even inevitable. —Richard Ford
Winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award for fiction, the AWP Prize for the novel, and Texas Institute of Letters Award, We Agreed to Meet Just Here is a lyrical mystery that delves into the very nature of disappearance. Once gone, is anyone ever really gone? Order We Agreed To Meet Just Here
Powerful. Ambitious…beautiful music, line by line. —Andre Dubus
In the Shadow of Our House is an award-winning collection of nine thematically linked stories where people live on the cusp of the past and present, saddled with the knowledge that “sometimes what you’re thinking can’t be dovetailed with what you do.” “If you had lived long on our street, and drunk late at our parties…” Read More from NY Times ”First Chapters” Excerpt Order In the Shadow of Our House
The true revelations arrive in the narratives… [which] bring the musical past to life in such a surprising and revealing way… —LA Times
A creative nonfiction narrative about the curious rise of Paramount Records, a white owned “race music” label which began in a Grafton, Wisconsin chair factory and created arguably the greatest archive of popular music in American history. Paramount–despite its cheapness, bumbling ways, and willful ignorance of its black audience–recorded such early jazz and blues greats as Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Ethel Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Skip James, and Son House, and changed American music and culture forever.
Read More in Rolling Stone
A creative nonfiction narrative about Paramount’s final astonishing years and the unexpected rise of the Delta Blues. By 1928, after launching the recording careers of Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, Blind Lemon Jefferson, King Oliver, Alberta Hunter, Ma Rainey and Blind Blake, Paramount was entitled to a breather. But just as it seemed the label might be losing steam, it began a second act that threatened to dwarf its first. From 1928-32, the label embarked on a furious run for the ages, birthing the entire genre of Mississippi Delta blues recordings by the likes of: Skip James, Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Rube Lacy, Ishman Bracey, The Mississippi Sheiks, and the incomparable Geeshie Wiley & Elvie Thomas, who it turns out, were not what they seemed. This is the story of how it happened, moments of decision and accident that changed how America thought of itself. The paradoxical story of how Paramount—a company only interested in profits—created the richest repository of the young nation’s greatest art form as well as intimations of all that we’ll never hear, America’s ghost voices.
Release Date November 18
Whiting Writers’ Award–winner Blackwood (We Agreed to Meet Just Here) has produced a genre-defying novel of powerful emotion, intrigue, and truth. From the opening pages, which artfully skirt from past to present, it’s clear that an atrocity has befallen Elizabeth, Zadie, and Meredith, the three teenage girls staffing the front counter at Sandra’s ice cream shop. Killers assault the girls, bind them, and set the building on fire. The merciless crime’s aftermath, affecting everyone in the Texas town—including devastated, revenge-consumed mother Kate, town firefighter Jack, and the arsonists themselves—forms the core of the story as each character’s life is detailed through the 60 brief, vividly realized chapters. As anniversaries of the murders pass, Blackwood resurrects the three young women on a ghostly plane. They populate Kate’s dreams, hang around town, and appear to the eccentric Hollis Finger, who may hold the key to solving the crime. Reminiscent of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones and based on a similar, still-unsolved 1991 case in Austin, Tex., Blackwood explores the effects of senseless crime on an innocent, tightly knit community, using deft prose to mine the essence of human grief and compassion. (Jan.)
Similar…to Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, this lyrical, abstract, and less sentimental novel by Blackwood…may haunt literary fiction readers long after the unsettling ending.
See How Small has much to say about the mysteries of the human psyche, the far-reaching effects of violence, and the disparate ways grief works on people…all relayed in dreamlike prose and shrouded in ambiguity.
Deaths of the innocent, and the various means and tactics by which the living manage to go on in the aftermath of unsolved horror, form the heart of Scott Blackwood’s haunted and haunting novel, See How Small. His prose is crisp and his narrative approach is fresh and inventive, calmly pushing forward, with characters rendered so convincingly you think about sending cards of condolence or calling with advice on the investigation.
See How Small is superb. In prose that’s as fine as any being written today, Scott Blackwood plumbs the depths of a story that is alternately haunting, terrifying, and achingly tragic. Blackwood illuminates the human condition even as he breaks our hearts.
See How Small is the sort of book that is so good, it’s difficult to even talk about it. You want to just place it in people’s hands and say, ‘Shhhhhhh, just slow down and read this.’ Blackwood takes the most devastating story imaginable and lifts it-heart and soul-into something transcendent.
Scott Blackwood is a wizard, and in See How Small he puts his skills to dazzling use as he anatomizes a town and a crime. Best of all is the deep empathy he brings to his characters, innocent and guilty, wise and confused; all of them are given the grace of his understanding. A vivid and astonishing novel.
This little gem of a book puts on lush display Scott Blackwood’s talent for measuring and connecting the previously un-connectable in lived experience, and making of it an entirely new whole which we immediately accept as true, natural, exhilarating, even inevitable. He is a lovely sentence writer, and this first novel sparkles with invention.
A sense of imminent and unskirtable dread hangs over Texas native Scott Blackwood’s finely wrought first novel, We Agreed to Meet Just Here…a triumph of language and atmospherics and–as we’re drawn deeper into the characters’ private worlds, hallucinations, and dreams–a travelogue of unfamiliar emotional terrain.
Entering Blackwood’s debut novel is like plunging straight into a dense, white fog. You have to keep your arms up, because you know something is coming, even if you can’t see it. And Blackwood plumbs that sense of dreadful anticipation for all it’s worth in this numinous, abbreviated tale of suburban woe.
Long after you’ve closed the book, you’ll find yourself haunted by…random passages, like the leaping man from the helicopter who forever falls in the mind of the pilot. But for all the novel’s fleeting, almost ghostly quality, its crowded telling leaves a reader with ears ringing, wanting more.
We Agreed to Meet Just Here is not a story about redemption, and it is not a story about making peace and meaning out of terrible events. Instead, this lyrical portrait of mystery and longing functions like a piece of music—a sad piece of music that gives voice to a yearning that is both general and specific. The narrative voice alternates between the songs of soloists and the swell of the full choir. Blackwood constructs his movements like a conductor, artfully choosing scenes that echo each other…
As we enter debut novelist Scott Blackwood’s intimate world, Winnie Lipsy is sitting in her backyard in Austin, staring up into a tree. She’s not bird-watching, but imploring her 8-year-old son to please come down before he falls and breaks his arm. Isaac falls, breaks his arm. That’s about the only thing predictable about the Texas writer’s revelatory debut novel, which builds on the solid foundation of Blackwood’s 2001 story collection “In the Shadow of Our House.” What’s most amazing about “We agreed to meet just here” — the title pops into the hit-and-run driver’s mind when Natalie, smiling, “explodes in the Blazer’s highbeams” — is Blackwood’s trenchant and expedient use of ideas and language.
Scott Blackwood’s new novel, We Agreed to Meet Just Here, manages somehow to be both spare and all-encompassing, a mystery that delves into the very nature of disappearance: Once gone, is anyone ever really gone? Blackwood proves himself a master of connection; he depicts with almost miraculous brevity (the book is only 164 pages long) how seemingly unrelated events, actions, even thoughts, dangle strings that eventually get caught up in one another and weave a community together…
THE title story in this impressive and accomplished debut collection imagines the emotional ache of … MORE >
Blackwood penetrates life’s shadows with disarming candor, piercing the gloom Of contemporary domesticity in … MORE >
A strong debut collection about family disasters and betrayals explores ordinary dramas extraordinarily. Forced change … MORE >
It’s an impressive object, the Cabinet [of Wonder], with the heft of a hellhound, but the true revelations arrive in the narratives held in this first of two volumes, released in November. The market is filled with so-called definitive box sets. Few, however, bring the musical past to life in such a surprising and revealing way…
Interview and Reading s from The Rise and Fall on NPR.
Interview with Dean and Scott Blackwood.
Through scrupulous research, audacious design, and ostentatious packaging, this two-volume collection’s first installment does precisely what the best box sets intend to do—add proper deference and context to music that remains vital and significant…at once, it’s a history lesson, a dance hall, a bandstand, and a smoky blues parlor, all tucked neatly into one sturdy box. This is the Cabinet of Wonder, indeed… In the beginning and, really, throughout most of the label’s history, the executives at Paramount and its parent company did not seem to understand the important trove they were building…That same oblivion resulted in the incomplete records and the destruction of the label’s archives when it went belly-up, a scene vividly limned by Scott Blackwood in the wondrous [Paramount book]. Such retrospective ignorance makes the trove of The Rise and Fall that much more remarkable, valuable, and edifying. This is almost-lost history, faithfully restored.
Blackwood provides less an exhaustive history than a poetic, character-driven account that evokes a mood and context through which to understand Paramount’s impact and the tableau of Chicago amidst the Great Migration. Building from the academic work of co-producer Alex van der Tuuk’s 2003 book Paramount’s Rise and Fall, Blackwood casts a scene and atmosphere, his lyrical sketches of artists and settings inspiring more potential stories to be further pursued than answers…the text becomes a threshold for entry into the music and the exhaustive catalog of period artwork in the cabinet. An extraordinary project…