Michael Blake was on his way to meet with a DJ in February 2007 while in Atlanta, hoping to get his Chicago artists’ music exposed in that Southern city.
That was four year ago. Blake never made it back to Chicago.
Until earlier this month, that is, when Blake, who grew up in Austin, was released from prison on aggravated battery charges stemming from a fight that occurred during a traffic accident in Atlanta.
Blake says he was never in prison before and had a clean record before getting into a fight with the guy he says smashed into his car. While serving three years in an Atlanta prison, the music producer turned to writing. He ended up self-publishing his first book, The Holy City, a fictional tale set in Chicago’s West Side and North Lawndale neighborhoods and based on people and experiences Blake, 29, witnessed growing up.
“It’s about two young men in the neighborhood who are faced with different circumstances,” Blake said in a recent phone interview with Wednesday Journal.
The two main characters are brothers, the older choosing the street life while the younger tries to steer clear of that lifestyle but finds himself being pulled in.
“These are young guys who want to do other things in life, but they’re pushed into the street life,” Blake said. “It’s what a lot of young men are going through, coming from a single-parent home. They think they can get more love from the street.”
The 158-page book debuted in January while Blake was still serving his sentence. He released the book through Xlibris Publishing Company, which helps authors self-publish their own works. It’s available on Amazon and at Blake’s own website (michaelfitzgeraldblake.com).
Music was Blake’s chosen career path — producing up-and-coming R&B artists in Chicago. But he never considered writing a book until his incarceration.
He says he made a mistake four years ago during the traffic altercation. According the Blake, he was driving to meet with a DJ and was hit by another vehicle. Blake recalled getting out and asking for the man’s insurance information. The driver, he says, refused, and an already heated situation escalated.
“Words were exchanged, and I lost my cool and ended up striking the man,” Blake said.
He was arrested but didn’t go to trial until summer 2008. He was facing 15 years and had refused an earlier plea. The deal, he recalled, didn’t sit well with him.
“It was a non-negotiable plea deal,” said Blake, who credits his faith in helping him through the ordeal. “They told me I wouldn’t know what it was until I was before the judge. I decided to take my chance with the judge, but she still ended up giving me the full 15.”
He was released on parole on Sept. 7 after serving roughly three years, and said his family kept writing to the parole board for his release. Blake returned to Chicago and is currently living on the South Side.
After attending St. Angela Elementary School in Austin, he went to high school in neighboring Oak Park, graduating in 2000. Blake says he’s back to producing but has another book in mind to write. He feels his current book can help other young men.
“It took me to make a mistake to come up with a story that can make a difference,” he said.