How an epic historical story inspired Benjamin Percy’s new novel…
It’s not necessary to be familiar with the 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition to the Pacific to read The Dead Lands, but it helps. That’s because this journey of discovery into then uncharted territory – “equivalent to blasting off to some far corner of the galaxy now” – was on the mind of writer Benjamin Percy when he wrote his new novel.
“I grew up in their shadow, in Oregon, and initially thought I might pursue a nonfiction project in which I would recreate their expedition,” Percy says. “Then my wife asked, ‘ How long is that going to take exactly?’ In the interest of being a better husband and father, I decided to make some stuff up instead.”
But while Percy may have looked back in American history for his inspiration, The Dead Lands is set in a future USA where “a super flu and nuclear fallout have made a husk of our world”. A few survivors cling on in “a walled- in St Louis, known as The Sanctuary”. Then, a mysterious visitor appears, who will forever change the fate of ( note the names) Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark.
Given the buzz around The Dead Lands it’s a huge step up in profile even for someone whose last novel, Red Moon, is being adapted by Fox as a series – so is Percy daunted or excited? Both, especially since his “hero” Stephen King emailed and “generously offered up some words of support”.
Suddenly, the book’s publication seemed all too real. “Once I confirmed that it wasn’t one of my friends pranking me, I had to go for a five- mile run,” he says, “because my whole body felt run through with electricity, double-volted with excitement and fear.” The Dead Lands will be published on 9 April and is reviewed on page 108. For our full interview, visit http:// bit. ly/ Dead Lands Interview.
The Dead Lands is Percy’s third novel.