By Loren C. Steffy
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.
Loren Steffy is the author of five books of nonfiction: Deconstructed: An Insider's View of Illegal Immigration and the Building Trades (with Stan Marek); The Last Trial of T. Boone Pickens (with Chrysta Castañeda); George P. Mitchell: Fracking, Sustainability, and an Unorthodox Quest to Save the Planet; The Man Who Thought Like a Ship; and Drowning in Oil: BP and the Reckless Pursuit of Profit." He is also the author of a novel, The Big Empty, which combines a sweeping appreciation for history and the struggles of small-town America with an examination of technology and the social and economic changes that come about when the two meet head to head.
Steffy is also a writer-at-large for Texas Monthly and a managing director for the communications firm 30 Point Strategies, where he heads the 30 Point Press publishing imprint. He is the founder of his own imprint, Stoney Creek Publishing, a company committed to stories and narratives from unique voices. Stoney Creek has an award-winning team of editors and designers who are committed to producing high-quality books in less time and with fewer hurdles than traditional publishing.
He writes a regular blog, Loren Steffy's Writings and Ramblings, which can be viewed through his website at www.lorensteffy.com. He has appeared on CNBC, Fox Business, MSNBC, the BBC and the PBS NewsHour, and is regular guest on local television and radio news programs in Houston.
Prior to his current positions, Steffy was the business columnist for the Houston Chronicle for nine years and his writing has been published in newspapers and other publications nationwide.
Before joining the Chronicle, Steffy was the Dallas bureau chief and a senior writer for Bloomberg News for twelve years. He covered a variety of business topics in Texas and across the country, including the collapse of Enron. His reporting on the demise of Arthur Andersen was selected for the 2003 edition of the "Best Business Stories of the Year." Before joining Bloomberg, Steffy worked at the Dallas Times Herald, the Dallas Business Journal and the Arlington Daily News.
Steffy holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas A&M University. He and his wife, Laura, live in Wimberley, Texas, and share their home with 3 rescue dogs and an ungrateful cat.
"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."
"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."
"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."