‘Border Songs’ author speaks in Blaine Tuesday

Published on Wed, Feb 16, 2011 by By Tara Nelson

Read More News

An award-winning author who made the New York Times book review will be visiting Blaine next week to discuss his writing.

Jim Lynch, author of “Border Songs” and “The Highest Tide,” will speak about his works at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 22, at the performing arts center (PAC). The event is sponsored by Whatcom READS!.

“Border Songs” is a fictional novel that takes place in Blaine and follows the life of Brandon Vanderkool, a fumbling dyslexic U.S. Border Patrol agent with a penchant for bird calls. The book won the 2010 Washington State Book Award and was named one of the top novels of 2009 by The Washington Post and The Oregonian.

Lynch will also discuss his 2005 novel, “The Highest Tide,” a fictional book centered around a 13-year-old boy who loves exploring the mudflats of Puget Sound.

A former reporter for The Oregonian, he now lives in Olympia with his family.

Q: What was your inspiration for Border Songs?

A: It started when I was a reporter for The Oregonian and I was their Washington reporter. I was basically free to write about whatever I wanted, and after 911 I came up and rode around with the U.S. Border Patrol and got increasingly fascinated with the possibility of a novel.

I was really struck by how the atmosphere changes on both sides of the border. Whereas farmers used to help each other and have casual friendly relations, when the federal government tripled their force along the northern  border, this invisible line went up. I thought that would make for good, provocative fiction.

Another thing that struck me was they weren’t catching Osama Bin Ladin or a bunch of terrorists but mostly these marijuana smugglers. Meanwhile, the U.S. was going through its peak on the war on drugs and Canada was pushing toward legalization so it struck me as a fun contrast. There actually was an amusement factor there, with all the motion detectors and surveillance cameras that kind of seemed like overkill.

Q: How has your perception of the northern border changed after writing this book?

A: There’s just something comical about the northern border. It’s like the border politicians totally dismiss it until someone brings it up and then they act all alarmed and the response is usually an over response, so the pendulum swings between forgetting about it and overreacting about it.

It’s so obviously an ungaurdable border and there really are security concerns, but we have to figure out a sensible way to deal with it. It seems like when the U.S. and Canada customs work together that’s a good thing, but trying to give an illusion that we can seal it, all you have to do is look at the geography to see it’s impossible.

Q: What has the response been from local politicians?

A: I got a phone call from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Washington), and I thought he might be upset with me but he was just calling to say he enjoyed the novel and wanted to commiserate about how difficult it is to be a congressman from a northern border district. We just had a fun chat about how hard it is to get northern border issues into the rest of congress’ heads.

The border patrol agents I interviewed all said they all really enjoyed it, too, and they understood I took liberties because I’m writing fiction.

Q: What’s your next project?

A: I just sold television rights to “Border Songs” and there is a Vancouver, B.C., screenwriter who is working on the pilot for a television show that will run in both countries. They’re looking at something more serious and provocative than Northern Exposure but still has some of that whimsy.

I’m also reading books that will help me with my next novel set around the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. I just read a novel called “The Oregon Experiment,” a story set in crazy Oregon with all kinds of leftist radicals. It’s really pretty amusing.