Blanchard, Alice 1959-
BLANCHARD, Alice 1959-
PERSONAL: Born February 28, 1959, in Hyannis, MA; married Doug Dowling (a writer and director), January, 1993. Education: Emerson College, B.F.A. (film studies).
ADDRESSES: Home—West Hollywood, CA. Agent—Andrea Newman, Amsel, Eisenstadt & Frazier, 6310 San Vincente, Suite 401, Los Angeles, CA 90048.
CAREER: Author and screenwriter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Bunting Institute Creative Writing fellowship finalist, Radcliffe College, 1988; first place for fiction, New Letters Literary Awards, 1989, for "Corporation Beach"; PEN Syndicated Fiction Award, 1990, for "Claybottom Lake"; Madison Review Fiction Contest finalist, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts fellowship, both 1991; Centrum Artists-in-Residence fellowship, 1992; first place, Iowa Woman Fiction Competition, 1994, for "Puddle Tongue"; H. E. Francis Short Story Competition finalist, Ruth Hindman Foundation, 1994, for "Blindfold"; Writers' Workshop International Fiction Contest honorable mention, 1994, for "The Blue Pontiac"; Emerging Writers Fiction Contest finalist, Treasure House Publishing, 1994, for "Make Believe"; Katherine Anne Porter Prize for fiction, 1996, for The Stuntman's Daughter.
The Stuntman's Daughter (short stories), University of North Texas (Denton, TX), 1996.
Darkness Peering (suspense novel), Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Also author of screenplays; contributor of fiction to periodicals, including Iowa Woman, Turnstile, 1989 New Letters Literary Awards, William & Mary Review, Nebraska Review, Worcester Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review. Has had her fiction read on National Public Radio's "The Sound of Writing" series.
ADAPTATIONS: Film rights to Darkness Peering have been sold to Propaganda Films.
WORK IN PROGRESS: More screenplays.
SIDELIGHTS: Award-winning writer Alice Blanchard is the author of short stories and a novel, as well as screenplays, which she writes with her writer/director husband, Doug Dowling. Her first book-length collection of short stories, The Stuntman's Daughter, garnered Blanchard the prestigious Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction.
The Stuntman's Daughter contains eleven tales. The title story—which first saw print in the William & Mary Review—features Leona, whose late father was a stuntman. Her small-time-actress mother remarries, this time to a man who tries to molest Leona. Leona runs away, and, in an interesting twist, takes her family's mobile home with her on her journey. "The Accident Radio" concerns a volunteer fireman who cannot stop running to fires reported over his radio, despite the fact he has been told to give up this activity after suffering a major heart attack. "The surprise twist in this story," according to George Needham in Booklist, "is particularly shattering." "The Boarder" tells of two young girls who attempt to thwart a relationship between their widowed mother and a boarder whom the family has taken in to help pay the bills. Part of their motivation stems from the sisters' lack of belief in their own father's demise. "Claybottom Lake"—which first appeared in the Worcester Review—is told from the viewpoint of a stepfather who has come to feel great affection for the tomboy daughter of his new wife, but who still cannot win the young girl's trust and love. "Blindfold" sees an adolescent boy gain sympathy for a blind boy who is his rival for a girl's attention. Other pieces in The Stuntman's Daughter examine the despair of a couple—particularly the husband—faced with the doleful knowledge that their newborn daughter is afflicted with Down's Syndrome; the plight of a lesbian whose life has been shattered due to her inclinations toward violence but who manages to hang on to her identity; and the struggles of a deaf girl who has been deprived of both parents.
The Stuntman's Daughter was well received by critics. Needham praised the "small, precise, sympathetic strokes" with which Blanchard delineates her fictional characters. A Publishers Weekly critic hailed Blanchard's stories as both "disturbing and affecting," and also declared that "it's easy to see why" The Stuntman's Daughter captured the Katherine Anne Porter prize. The critic summed the pieces up as "webs of fragile domestic intricacies." A Kirkus Reviews critic cited the author's use of "wry, sardonic dialogue" and used adjectives such as "arresting" and "unconventional" to describe the tales collected in The Stuntman's Daughter.
Blanchard's transition from short stories to suspense novels resulted in equally high praise from critics who reviewed Darkness Peering. In what Library Journal contributor Carol Stern called a "fast-paced, well-written thriller," Blanchard explores the conflict between professional and family honor as police officer Rachel Storrow investigates two murders in the quiet town of Flowering Dogwood, Maine. One murder occurred eighteen years ago when a mentally challenged girl was murdered while walking home from school. This case was closed after Rachel's father, the chief of police at the time, committed suicide after stress from the case caused an emotional breakdown.
Rachel reopens the case after getting a chance lead on the old case only to discover that her brother, Billy, was a suspect. This uncomfortable situation grows even worse for Rachel when one of Billy's coworkers suddenly goes missing and is feared dead. Rachel is torn between her need to find out who the killer is and her suspicions that her brother is the perpetrator. "Torn between her loyalty to her family and her duty as a cop," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic, "Rachel unwittingly finds herself confronting the same issues that troubled her father." The reviewer praised Blanchard for her "swift and cinematic" prose and the "gutwrenching, ironic twist" at the novel's conclusion. Library Journal reviewer Karen Anderson similarly lauded the novel as an "intricately plotted mystery as well as an intriguing portrait of a young policewoman."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1996, George Needham, review of The Stuntman's Daughter.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1996, review of The Stuntman's Daughter.
Library Journal, July, 1999, Karen Anderson, review of Darkness Peering, p. 128; November 1, 2000, Carol Stern, review of Darkness Peering, p. 154.
Publishers Weekly, April 15, 1996, review of The Stuntman's Daughter, p. 61; June 14, 1999, review of Darkness Peering, p. 47.*