SACRAMENTO – Darrin May and and Devin Blankenship work behind the scenes for the Sacramento Kings’ Media Relations Department. Among the various aspects of their communicative positions, they both have to deal with local and national media outlets as well as tend to the needs and personalities of professional basketball players.
But for the last few years, outside of their duties, these two Sacramento State University graduates each had enough time to write novels that read like Hollywood, blockbuster films or strictly made-for-television movies.
May, the Kings’ Executive Director of Media Relations, just released his 276-page book, titled, “Look Around” through Martin Pearl Publishing.
The book, which centers around sports agent “Matisse Spencer (who is apparently a Black American),” is a fictional murder mystery that includes suspense, womanizing, self-indulgence, media scrutiny, sex, sports, entertainment, and courtroom theater.
Spencer somehow gets locked down with an old flame, but the relationship “takes a shocking turn” in the process.
May, a 1989 graduate from Sac State, is also the illustrator of his second novel, the first to be published. Everything May does involves writing. Therefore, to see his product come to fruition brings a touch of excitement, though not a great deal of it. While discussing the book with the OBSERVER, May spoke with confidence and a relaxed manner.
“I’ve been at this for so long that I’m just ready for the book to be out there,” May told The OBSERVER. “I’m not all that excited or anxious. All I know is that it’s time (to hit the bookstores).”
May likes to read books and watch motion pictures in his spare time. He used his favorite activities — experience in professional sports, and constant interaction with the media — to create “Look Around.” He also added personal experiences.
“It’s a story that kind of evolved into a murder-mystery,” May said.
“I just wrote what I had knowledge of and used sports as a backdrop. When you read it, you’ll find out that it’s really about relationships,” he added.
May revealed that he had to go around in circles to find the right publisher and literary agent (he went through two representatives) who would give his product the highest quality of marketability. Selling the book to others in the publishing industry is hard work within itself, May said.
“There were a lot of rejection letters,” he said.
“At the time, I was really trying to do it via agents, and they were going after major publishing houses. At a certain point, I was frustrated, I put it down for a while, then picked back up and went from there. I started looking at smaller publishing houses. Thus far it has worked out for me,” he added.
Blankenship, a 1999 communications graduate from Sac State and the Director of Media Relations for the Kings, jumped into the world of literary narratives with “Sherman’s Eagle.” Major Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was a military commander in the Civil War. Blankenship makes note that Sherman designed Sacramento’s street names through alphabetical and numerical means. But that’s not what the book is all about.
The protagonists in this just-released fiction is threefold: a disgraced college athlete, his beloved professor/mentor who disappears after the murder of his spouse, and the athlete’s ex-girlfriend. Blankenship intelligently included the Civil War (beginning with the title) and California’s state capital into a mystery loaded with a steroid scandal, a life-or-death pursuit, jealousy, racism, and a “mythical antiquity.”
“It’s very much like a Da Vinci Code-esque (novel) with the aspects of history melted in with fiction,” Blankenship said.
“Sacramento is so rich in history that I was able to use a lot of the Gold Rush and different aspects of how this thing (the antique) was founded and connected to the Civil War,” he added.
Blankenship’s research for this book started with one of Sacramento’s most precious and hidden treasures —- the underground city of Old Sacramento. Available for tours, the underground city that once served as an economic lifeline, is about nine feet below sea level.
“It started with the Sacramento Underground,” Blankenship said.
“That’s what started my research. After that I started making connections. I spent a lot of time researching it through the internet, pulling up old periodicals, and stuff like that,” he added.
Blankenship continued: “There is a ton of stuff on the underground and it was through those connections I started to realize that there are a lot stuff on the Civil War and on the East Coast as Sacramento was developing. I kind of melted them together and before my eyes…I had a story. I think it worked out pretty well.”
Unlike May, Blankenship has a family. Finding time to research and write “Sherman’s Eagle” was more than a challenge with those obstacle in place. Things had to be done at the strangest time of the day.
“There were a lot of late nights after work,” Blankenship said. “Especially, here (at Sleep Train Arena). After games I would go over to the (Kings’) practice facility and write for a couple of hours. I don’t travel as much as Darrin. But when I did a road trip here or there I would write. It was about trying to find your spots (to write). It was tough. Looking back, that was probably the easiest part. The editing, took for ever.”
After reading May’s first unpublished book and the “Look Around” manuscript, Blankenship decided to write “Sherman’s Eagle.”
“He’s the whole reason why I did it,” Blankenship said of May. “I called him the mentor in the process. He had written the second book and it was really well done. I thought to myself, ‘Imitation is the biggest form of flattery.’ So I decided to try it one summer. To this day he has always given me advice.”
May said Blankenship had a grasp of how he wanted to approach “Sherman’s Eagle.” His suggestions for Blankenship was secondary in the process.
“I gave him little tidbits here and there,” May said of Blankenship. “But he pretty much did that all on his own. At the end of the day, he well knows he can get all the advice you want. But you are the one who has to sit down and write it. It’s just you and you alone,” he added.
“Look Around” is currently available through Amazon as an eBook and will be released as a hardcover print in April. Sherman’s Eagle is also available in eBook and paperback through Amazon and other outlets in Sacramento.