Sandra Brown’s new thriller is set in North Texas, but our neighbors to the north own a large part of the story.
Integral to the plot of “Seeing Red” (Grand Central Publishing, $27) is an act of domestic terrorism reminiscent of the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995.
In Brown’s fictionalized version, the Pegasus Hotel in downtown Dallas is destroyed in 1992, with 197 people killed. But from the smoldering building comes Major Franklin Trapper. Among the people he has rescued, he is carrying a 5-year-old girl. The major becomes a national hero.
On the 25th anniversary, a scrappy TV reporter, Kerra Bailey, snags an exclusive interview with the legend. But immediately after the live telecast, armed men come knocking on the major’s door.
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Thus begins a twist-filled conspiracy thriller in which no one — not even the bad-boy Fort Worth private investigator who has love/hate exchanges with Kerra — is exactly what he or she initially seems to be.
We chatted with Brown, a native Texan who lives in Arlington, about “Seeing Red.” It turns out there’s a fascinating story behind her story.
Is it true that you have a personal connection to the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City?
My children were students at Oklahoma University when the Murrah Building was bombed. My daughter was about six blocks away that morning, taking classes at the Medical Arts Building. So she felt the blast.
Three weeks later, at the graduation ceremony in the First United Methodist Church, the stained-glass windows had been blown out and the aggregate floor was cracked.
It was the kind of thing where everybody there knew somebody who knew somebody. It made an impact on the whole country, but it really made an impact on us who were even tangentially connected.
Another element of the Oklahoma City bombing inspired you: the famous photo of the fireman carrying a toddler out of the building.
That iconic photo made an impact on everyone in the world who saw it. It was horrible and heartbreaking. It really resonated with me. And I got to thinking about other iconic photos of history.
There was the raising-of-the-flag at Iwo Jima, the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-E Day, the Vietnamese girl running naked down the road, covered in napalm. Each of these photographs tells a story that affect people in a profound way.
But how do they impact the people who are actually in the photographs? In the major’s case, he has made a whole career out of that photo and the fame. It defines him for the remainder of his life. What must that be like? And what must it be like for someone to live in his shadow?
Speaking of fame, how do you handle it?
I never think of myself as famous.
You’re being too modest. You’ve written 68 New York Times bestsellers. There are more than 80 million copies of your books in print. No doubt about it: You’re famous.
Let me tell you a story. I got stopped by a state trooper in deep East Texas. I was on my way to see a friend who lives in Lufkin. You have to go through these little speed-trap towns. So I was creeping through this town, going exactly the speed limit, and I still got pulled over.
I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me! I was going 51 miles an hour in a 50 speed zone!” And the trooper said, “I didn’t stop you for speeding. I stopped you because you don’t have a front car tag.” So I shut up and gave him my license and he went back to his car with it.
When he came back, he handed me the license and said, “I’m not going to give you a ticket, just a warning. By the way, I called to check on your tag and all the ladies in the office are going crazy. They want me to ask if you’re THE Sandra Brown. Are you famous?” I said, “How am I supposed to answer that?”
The truth is, I don’t feel like I’m famous. I feel like I’m somebody who worked very hard and got very lucky.
The book is filled with references that only North Texans will get. Do you have a favorite?
The hotel is called the Pegasus. People who aren’t from here and who don’t know Dallas probably won’t know that’s significant. But if you’re from the area, it definitely will mean something.
- By Sandra Brown
- Grand Central Publishing, $27