In 1988, Hildebrand, the most successful rock star of that era and an actor who had brought to life one of the most famous horror characters ever created, disappears from his beach house, never to be heard of again. In 2009, while on a Carribean cruise, Savannah librarian Melissa Powers discovers herself being stalked by a mysterious cowboy. Agreeing to a midnight rendevouz with the man calling himself Travis Brandt, she discovers his real identity—Hildrebrand, coming out of his self-imposed exile after twenty years of hiding in the sand hills of Nebraska. Before the cruise is over, Melissa and Travis are involved in a frantic love affair ending in a hasty marriage, and the Nebraska cowboy takes the Southern spinster back to his ranch as his wife. In the midst of her happiness, however, Melissa feels as if Travis isn’t telling her the whole truth about why he left Hollywood. What is he hiding and why is he lying?
When I decided to have Hildebrand simply drive away from his Malibu beach house and disappear, I asked myself: To where?
Most people agree that if you want to lose yourself, go to a big city, but Travis is a Midwesterner. So I decided that, in spite of having lived in Hollywood for nearly ten years, and also touring the United States, when he decides to chuck it all, he goes home. Not back to Lincoln, necessarily, but to Nebraska, the Sand Hills, specifically…that fairly isolated north-central section covering a quarter of the state.
Typifying the classic prairie of the Great Plains, the sand hills are located above the Ogallala Aquifer, supplying shallow lakes to the area. Dunes may reach as high as 330 feet, and contain a variety of animal and plant life, ranging from several types of prairie grass to 314 species of fish, deer, wild canine, and birds. Although there are no native trees on the Great Plains, there are 720 mostly native plants.
Ambiguously for such a flat countryside, in this area are many buttes eroded by cutting winds, biting snowfalls, and torrential rains into fanciful shapes with even more exotic names: Chimney Rock, Courthouse Rock. Stretching across and rising above the bleak flatness, Chimney Rock rises 300 feet above the surrounding North Platte River Valley, its peak is 4,226 feet above sea level. When pioneers traveled the Oregon Trail, it served to landmark their journey halfway there.
It is this area of geographical isolation to which singer Hildebrand—horror star actor, rock idol, drug addict, and demon worshipper--escapes, to begin his transformation to Travis Brandt, rancher and lover of Melissa Powers, the one women he feels can restore him to complete humanity. And it’s in the stark and primitive beauty of the sandstone buttes, raising their jagged spires to the sky, that he begins his fight to save that humanity when the horror of his younger days resurrects itself to threaten his newly-found happiness.