Skip to main content

Season 4

Episode 11: “What’s a futtock shroud?”: a conversation with Robert Blake Whitehill

Monday, October 16, 2023

we are currently working to improve the audio player. Please check back.
Robert Blake Whitehill show between Jim and Lionel during the recording of this episode

This week, we talk with Robert Blake Whitehill, the author of the Ben Blackshaw thrillers. Deadrise, the first book, takes place in the Chesapeake Bay, on Smith and Tangier Islands and the surrounding areas. We talk about this history of those islands in relation to the books, as well as the meaning of the title, and boats called Deadrise, and work boats like the Winnie Estelle. Our conversation branches off into related authors Carl Hiaasen, and Elmore Leonard. The movie Jim mentions but can't remember is Barton Fink. Robert talks about a screenplay he is working on about Robert Smalls who commandeered a confederate gun ship during the civil war and went on to join the US House of Representatives.

We discuss Frederick Douglass, who was born in Robert’s home town. Lionel is reminded of two books we have discussed: American Nations, and Union by Colin Woodard. Impressed by Robert’s vocabulary, we veer off into nautical terms used by Patrick O’Brian’s use of language in Master and Commander, for example, what is a futtock shroud? We discuss the best way to define a thriller, and Robert draws the example to the TV show Banshee. We bring up other notable related novels in this genre including The Jack Reacher books by Lee Child, The John Clark novels by Tom Clancy, the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald, the Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte Series by Arthur W. Upfield, and Chesapeake by James A. Michener. Lionel is reminded again of The Shock of the New by Robert Hughes. Robert talks about flying his Cessna 152 out of New Jersey and Lionel and he get excited about the future of Air Taxis.

Thank you to Robert Whitehill for spending time with us talking about all these things. We’d love to have him back to discuss his later books.