The Big Empty2022 Silver Medal winner Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book: Fiction
Debut novel from the longtime journalist and nonfiction author
When Trace Malloy and Blaine Witherspoon collide on a desolate West Texas highway, their fender bender sets the tone for escalating clashes that will determine the future of the town of Conquistador.
Malloy, a ranch manager and lifelong cowboy, knows that his occupation-and his community-are dying. He wants new-millennium opportunities for his son, even though he himself failed to summon the courage to leave familiar touchstones behind.
Witherspoon, an ambitious, Lexus-driving techie, offers a solution. He moves to Conquistador to build and run a state-of-the-art semiconductor plant that will bring prestige and high-paying technology jobs to revive the town-and advance his own career.
What neither man anticipates is the power the "Big Empty" will wield over their plans. The flat, endless expanse of dusty plain is as much a character in the conflict as are the locals struggling to subsist in this timeworn backwater and the high-tech transplants hell-bent on conquering it. While Malloy grapples with the flaws of his ancestors and his growing ambivalence toward the chip plant, Witherspoon falls prey to construction snafus, corporate backstabbing, and financial fraud. As they each confront personal fears, they find themselves united in the search for their own version of purpose in a uniquely untamable Texas landscape.
"The Big Empty captures a moment when Big Tech seemingly promised everything. By turns funny and painful, Steffy's story builds like an accelerating freight train, reaching a fast-paced climax." -- The Epoch Times
"Like the titular land itself, Steffy's novel is uncompromising in spotlighting the strains that the drive toward material achievement puts on the individual in the face of nature's whims." -- Southern Review of Books
"The story hurls forward with a steady momentum, culminating in a heady-yet still persuasively realistic-climax. At the end, what lingers are the characters themselves, whom Steffy peers into with such love and empathy that readers can't help but root for them." -- Booklife
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