WORLD WAR I historical fiction--work has begun
WAR IN THE WASTELAND, World War I historical fiction (see more here)
Here's a blog post I wrote August 2014, on the centenary of WW I after our visit to the Western Front in France this summer. Many ideas gathered and doing some initial research on the idea now. I'd like an April 15, 2018 release (exact centenary of the day Lewis was wounded in the war). More at my blog: http://douglasbondbooks.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-sommes-ww-i-1916-12-million-died-in.html
It was November 29, 1917, Jack’s nineteenth birthday. It was also his first day of trench warfare. Some birthday party! Later he wrote about that day. “The first bullet I heard ‘whined’ like a journalist’s or a peacetime poet’s bullet. At that moment there was something not exactly like fear… a little quavering signal that said, ‘This is War. This is what Homer wrote about.’”
One day he had been a fresh young college student; now he was a soldier. After a hasty few months of training he was dubbed a Second Lieutenant in the Somerset Light Infantry and shipped off to France. Near Arras he heard that first of many bullets. When not dodging those bullets, he wrote down reflections on his experience.
The war—the frights, the cold, the smell, the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without blade of grass, the boots worn day and night till they seemed to grow to your feet… I have gone to sleep marching and woken again and found myself marching still. Familiarity both with the very old and the very recent dead… I came to know, and pity, and reverence the ordinary man.
April 15, 1918 at Mont-Bernenchon, near Arras, France, an artillery shell whistled louder and closer than the rest. Then it hit. Erupting in a deafening explosion, the shrapnel instantly killed Jack’s friend, who had been a father figure to him. And it hit Jack. He wrote, “The moment just after I had been hit… I found that I was not breathing and concluded that this was death.” Perhaps at the field hospital at Etaples, perhaps at a convalescent camp back in England on the Salisbury Plain, embittered by his experience, Jack began writing a poem:
Come let us curse our Master ere we die,
For all our hopes in endless ruin lie.
The good is dead. Let us curse God most High.
Laugh then and slay. Shatter all things of worth,
Heap torment still on torment for thy mirth—
Thou art not Lord while there are Men on earth.
Jack was his nickname. His real name was Clive Staples Lewis. The lines above appeared in his first book, Spirits in Bondage, a collection of poems Lewis wrote while a young atheist and that he described to a friend as “mainly strung around the idea that nature is diabolical and malevolent and that God, if he exists, is outside of and in opposition to the cosmic arrangements.”
Perhaps after suffering the horrors of WWI, his bitterness and cynicism is more understandable. There were horrors aplenty. On the first day alone of the Battle of the Somme, 20,000 young men’s lives were cut short, many of them so mangled by artillery shells, by the tramping feet of advancing and retreating soldiers, the debris, mud, and carnage that in the five-month battle more than 72,000 soldiers’ bodies were so obliterated that they have no known graves. Between 1914 and 1918, an average of 5,600 young men died each day of those four-plus years, more than 18 million lives in total. No wonder Lewis penned the cynical lines “laugh then and slay.” [the above is adapted from Bond's book STAND FAST In The Way of Truth]
Wars and rumors of wars: it is the history of the world. Greed and ambition of the powerful few results in another generation sacrificing its 18-25 year olds in the field of battle. So it has been and persists in being in a badly broken world, regardless of the creative and sophisticated ways we try to tell ourselves to just be nice to one another and it will all go away. History tells a different tale.
I'm reflecting on this now in August, the month it all came to a head in 1914, and I'm thinking back on our time earlier this summer in the somber valley of the Somme in northern France. One of our major objectives of this centenary visit was to go to Mont-Bernenchon where C. S. Lewis tells us he was wounded in The Great War 100 years ago. It was a tiny little place, and not even the museum curators I questioned about it knew of its connection to Lewis; we had to find it on our own. The cluster of houses that make up the village are new-medieval, rebuilt to look like the Old World dwellings they used to be before The Great War flattened them all. Only the 18th century church survived. And not a single person in the village that I spoke to had even heard of Lewis, forgivable since he was English and they are all French.
"The war to end all wars" was a Great War, if greatness can be measured by body count and futility: opening day of the battle resulted in a horrific 60,000 casualties, with average daily body counts in excess of the Bubonic Plague. A Great War, the grand achievement of irreligious modernism, but a war that did not remotely end all wars.
The scope of destruction and devastation is hard to fathom. One day while in France we explored the twelve mile limestone network of tunnels at Wellington Quarry, dug by New Zealand troops. 24,000 men were hidden in these tunnels, who then broke out on July 1, 1916, to the astonishment of unsuspecting German troops a few yards from the break out point. Initial victory was followed by a well-supplied reinforced German army; eventually only 800 of the original 24,000 men survived the conflict.
We paused at the St Vaast war cemetery where 44,800 Germans are buried. Then we stopped and gazed at the sea of stone markers at the Cabernet Rouge cemetery where nearly 8,000 allied soldiers are buried, more than half, "Known only to God." That is one of the unique and deeply troubling dimensions of this war, so many men were just obliterated, either their bodies never found in the mud and rubble and chaos of battle or there was no possible way of identifying the mangled human remains.
After exploring the trenches and more underground passages at Vimy Ridge where Canadian troops took heavy losses valiantly driving back the Hun, we paused to survey the 42,000 crosses marking the final earthly resting place of fallen French soldiers at Notre Dame de Lorette, national necropolis of France. We rounded out that day by an evening visit to Thiepval, where JRR Tolkien was wounded, and where the British commemorate the over 72,000 men whose bodies were so scattered and obliterated by the grinding machinery of war that no remains were ever recovered--not even a tooth.
I feel numb. The scale of devastation is too much to take fully in. All this in a war that snuffed out the life of 18 million average age 20 year old young men. When I attempt to envision how many crosses or gravestones that would be my imagination is exhausted. I simply cannot or don't want to get an accurate picture of the loss in my mind.
Then I am struck by the virulence of the irony. We war and hate, kill and destroy, why? Because we are intractable rebels against the God of love, life, and justice who created us. We think we're far better off on our own and resent his will and way. We think we can handle things better on our own. And then when we are forced to stare at the resulting destruction our devotion to secularism has caused, we cast about for someone else to blame; and so we turn around and point the finger at God and religion. We're certain that if people would just stop being so certain about their beliefs there'd be no more wars like this one--truly we're absolutely certain, beyond a doubt, about it all being God's fault and those who believe in him.
The grand Amiens Cathedral survived WW I
Such absolutist conclusions are ironic on many levels, not the least of which is that it was our devout devotion to Modernism that set the stage for this war to end all wars. Modernism said that we human beings could solve our problem by our economic strength, by our technology and scientific knowledge, by education, and by our military might. Its champions declared that "Success is the only measure of a just war."
Modernism was a ticking time bomb that exploded in our face 100 years ago, August 1914. And nobody paid for the enormous miscalculation more than the young people of that generation--the millions of young men who died before they could marry and have children, and the millions of young women for whom there were simply no young men to marry. Following our will and way produces barrenness, a wasteland; self-worship always has and always will. Cursing God, as then-atheist Lewis did in 1918, won't fix the problem. Cursing our neighbor and pitching our hope in national and military superiority in war won't fix it either. There is only one hope for a bludgeoned, broken, and barren world.
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God." Jesus himself, the Son of God, was the ultimate peacemaker, the "Prince of Peace." Sacrificing 18 million sons on the alter of national pride and ambition did not produce anything close to peace. But peace did require a sacrifice, a far costlier one even than those 18 million sons. God the Father made peace by sacrificing his only Son Jesus on the cross for hopeless sinners. In this benighted, war-torn world, it is only the way of the gospel of Jesus Christ that will restore all things to love, beauty, and peace. Jesus alone has accomplished what is needed to turn this God-forsaken wasteland into the God-glorifying eternal garden of heaven; he alone turns swords into plowshares. Come Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace!
Douglas Bond is a conference speaker, church history tour leader, and author of many books for adults and young people. Learn about his latest book GRACE WORKS! (And Ways We Think It Doesn't) (P&R, 2014) at http://www.bondbooks.net/graceworks.htm
Giles took this video of me at the British cemetery just on the outskirts of Mont-Bernenchon where Lewis, had he been killed instead of wounded, would most likely have been buried.
Giles (11) tells us about what happened at Thiepval, France near where JRR Tolkien was wounded in WW I and where, had Tolkien been killed instead of wounded, he would likely have been buried.
A FLURRY OF NEW BOOK IDEAS...
P&R Publishing has created a new series/collection of my books, THE HEROES AND HISTORY SERIES; Hostage Lands and the soon-to-release Hand of Vengeance are the first two in this series.The H&H series is designed to be the place where other ideas I have for historical fiction will collect themselves together into what we hope will be an invaluable collection of books for anyone who loves history. New ideas include historical fiction on Wycliffe (1300s), Huss (1400s), Huguenots (1500s), and most recently (after a fun family visit to Fort Nisqually today), a 19th-century Pacific Northwest, Hudson Bay Company yarn set in the Puget Sound and Fort Nisqually (very near my home). There would be a Scots connection (my lens may be a young Scots voyager), as there were many Scots immigrants employed by the HBC. I guess it would be sort of a Bond version of Little House on the Prairie. Lots of beaver trapping, PNW trading musket shooting, horses, HMS Beaver steamer for the HBC, small boat sailing, coastal Indians, and frontier tensions between American and British settlers, the Pig War context, and the rising storm to the Civil War. I'm really, really warming to this idea.
Historical fiction on JOHN WYCLIFFE
WYCLIFFE historical fiction final draft at publisher (completed February 2012--ugh, one of my favorite all time books, stalled in publisher hardening of the arteries)! This was a super delight to write. It ended up being about 12,000 words more than Hand of Vengeance, probably due to it being a biographical novel, with more material drawn and shaped from Wycliffe's writings, but what a rich time for me immersed in his works! Artist whipped out a cover prototype overnight! Not there yet but a good beginning from an able artist. Still working on title... (and cover art)
THE REVOLT, A Novel on John Wycliffe, or WYCLIFFE'S WAR, synopsis:
Hammer of the Huguenots, historical fiction underway
A story of betrayal and intrigue set in Renaissance France, where followers of the Reformation face prison, separation from family, and massacre or brutal execution--all for their faith in Christ alone.
This just in from my friend and retired University of Paris professor who helped me on the research:
“This summer I was pleased to meet Douglas Bond in my village, La Roque sur Cèze, in Provence. He was working on his next book dealing with the religious and tragic events which occurred in this part of France a few centuries ago. One reason (among many others) for Doug’s talent as a novelist is his immediate ability to feel and to give back the particular atmosphere of our villages as well as the temper of their inhabitants(Cévennes,Ardèche,Provence). In this precious book, authenticity oozes on every page, with a clever use of French colloquial expressions, thanks to his great literary qualities. In Hammer of the Huguenots, readers will discover and learn more about the tragedy which divided French people a few centuries ago. Thank you, Douglas, for your wonderful work!”
Gérard Mignard (Agrégé de l’Université, Docteur es Lettres)
Phillipe, shipwright apprentice, is bewildered by the religious conflict raging about him in 16th century France. The good news proclaimed by Viret and the Reformers at times sounds liberating to him, but it comes at a price: he must abandon his hope in the corrupt state church. Meanwhile, Phillipe's friendship grows with his master's children, until Huguenot communities are massacred and full-scale warfare breaks over France. Phillipe must decide where his loyalties lie; it may cost him more than he had reckoned. When Pastor Viret is seized and held in the dungeon of a Navarre fortress awaiting imminent execution, Phillipe and his friend must act. But if caught, it will be their heads in the noose and their bodies hanging from the battlements of the castle.
A story of betrayal and court intrigue set in Renaissance France, where followers of the Reformation can be stripped of home and property, thrown in prison, hunted down and massacred, or face brutal public execution for their faith in Christ alone. When every effort to bring about a peaceful resolution fails, France erupts in a succession of wars of religion. Some Christian families stand and fight, while others, facing the loss of everything, leave their beloved homeland and flee to the New World.
Much more to say about researching and writing immediately where so much of the history actually occurred (I'm hacking away in a 12th c house we stayed in, La Roque sur Ceze, in the Cote du Rhone). We had an unforgettable time in France writing this book. More to come about that with lots of pictures.
After more weeks of reading and research than has become usual for me, I finally broke into the story. The best storytelling is all about authentic characterization, and at last I feel like I have a handle on important characters in the tale: Maurice and Sophie, brother and sister in a Huguenot shipbuilding family, living on the Loire estuary near Nantes, and their friend, Philippe, a complex character who is bewildered by all the conflict between the Roman church that raised him (he was brought up in a Catholic orphanage by nuns) and the escalating tensions with the French Calvinist Protestants, called Huguenots. Maurice and Sophie's father has hired Philippe to do odd jobs in the ship yard, lately with more work due to the build up for the wars of religion.
Meanwhile, I've nearly settled on featuring the most neglected Reformer, Pierre Viret, who said, "If I did not have the conviction that it was God who was pressing it on, I would never enter a controversy with a single person." Pierre Viret's life, however, was plagued with controversy. His spinach soup was poisoned and he nearly died. He was attacked and badly wounded, in pain for the rest of his life. He was seized by RC French royal army, was nearly executed, and freed in a daring rescue by Huguenot Christians (1568-1570).
WRITING TUTORIAL and INKBLOTS
JOB'S HARD JOB, a children's picture book in verse that features highlights from the difficult task God called and, by grace, equipped Job to endure, recorded in the Book of Job in the Bible (I wrote the first draft of this book in 2003 when I first heard about the AML Leukemia that would eventually take my dad's life). P&R recently approached me with the idea of making this the first in a series of poetic retellings of OT books named for the main character (Ruth, Jonah, Daniel, Esther...). Reformation Heritage Books, (RHB) is also showing interest in this book. Contract signed with P&R for JOB'S HARD JOB and THE TRUTH ABOUT RUTH. Here's how it opens:
In ancient times there was
A blameless man from Uz,
An upright, wealthy man named Job,
Who wore a turban and a robe.
Of all the men of the east
This Job was far from the least;
With camels, donkeys, sheep and herds,
This man was rich in deeds and words.
Most recent sketches done by another student of mine, very promising. Other prototype illustration by Sarah Bye and Anne Stanton. And 2 prototypes below by Peter Orr, Seattle artist and former student of mine.
FORGOTTEN PSALMS: Reclaiming the Psalms for Worship. I was asked to participate in the PSALMS PROJECT at Union University March 6, 2009. Sponsored by The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and funded by a Lilly Foundation Grant, a number of men were brought to the campus to deliver chapel messages on the importance of Psalmody in worship. Each of our messages have been recast as chapters for a new book on recovering the Psalms in worship. Forgotten Songs, edited by Ray Van Neste, includes chapters by Leland Ryken, Ray Ortlund, Jack Collins, Douglas Bond, and others.
- A THIRD VOLUME IN THE FATHERS & SONS series? (Write) FAST... Based on how well STAND FAST and HOLD FAST have been received, P&R Publishing has asked Bond to consider this... Watch for updates and ideas here and at www.douglasbondbooks.blogspot.com
REFORMATION TRUST Profile biographies
Greg Bailey, Executive Director of Publication with Ligonier Ministries publishing house, Reformation Trust, asked me at the Ligonier conference in Seattle, October, 2009, to consider writing a biography for their Long Line of Godly Men Profiles series, with General Editor, Steven Lawson. The book profile on the life of John Knox is entitled THE MIGHTY WEAKNESS OF JOHN KNOX (click to listen to chapter one). This is a new genre for me, and a newpublisher, and I've enjoyed writing it very much. While in Scotland in April, 2010 I was able to do some boots-on-the-ground research for the Knox Profile. To release April 15, 2011.
And in rather rapid succession, I researched and wrote another biography for the Profile series, THE DOXOLOGICAL GENIUS OF ISAAC WATTS (click to listen), to release with Reformation Trust (Ligonier) September, 2012, proposal accepted,contract signed, advance paid, and manuscript complete.
- Listen to Bond's Key-note address on JOHN KNOX at 2009 Reformation Faire, Peoria, Illinois
- Join this site and watch for new audio and video clips on Knox and Scotland coming up after I return from leading the Spring, 2012 Covenant High School historical studies tour in Scotland, England, and Normandy.
My forthcoming non-fiction book with P&R GRACE WORKS And Ways We Think it Doesn't has been a challenging and enriching experience to write. In the book I attempt to examine the various ways the Enemy leads us along to corrupt the gospel in every generation. Satan's strategy to distort the pure doctrine of the gospel in every age is much like what Lewis wrote in Silver Chair, "...those Northern Witches always mean the same thing, but in every age they have a different plan for getting it." Grace Works unmasks the various ways we really don't think the free grace of Christ in the gospel on its own works very well--and then I attempt to demonstrate from Scripture and the best men, dead or alive, that Grace actually does Work.
I feel humbled and honored that Carl Trueman has written the forward for the book and Michael Horton, RC Sproul Jr., Joel Beeke, Marvin Olasky, Dr. Dominic A. Aquila and others have written appreciative commendations of it. Take a few moments and watch the book trailer filmed and produced by Lieren Sinnamon (2-time Bond tour traveler and film maker in the making) on location in Heidelberg, Zurich, and Geneva during the Reformation Tour, 2013:
Endorsements of Knox biography (RT)
"Another volume appears in The Long Line of Godly Men Profiles, this time a profile of John Knox by Douglas Bond. To this very interesting book about a very interesting man, Douglas Bond brings his compelling narrative style, honed in his previously-written novels. The Preface (“A Weak Man Made Mighty”) sets the tone for the volume, as Bond demonstrates in a variety of ways how God took Knox’s several weaknesses to make him one of the Reformation’s strongest figures. Citing Knox’s greatest strength in his submission to Christ, Bond then traces “power” in Knox’s life, whether it be power of prayer, pen, or predestination, or power in Knox’s preaching. For those wondering if the Pauline mystery of strength-in-weakness could become true for them, Bond’s portrait of Knox will prove as edifying as it is instructive."
Dr. T. David Gordon, Professor of Religion and Greek, Grove City College
"I am delighted to recommend Douglas Bond's latest book, "The Mighty Weakness of John Knox". Douglas Bond has written many, mainly children's, books on sixteenth and seventeenth century Scottish church history. He writes with the passion of a man who believes that the church today needs, for its spiritual good and sanity, to learn about the church of yesterday. In choosing to write a book on John Knox, Doug Bond has done the church today a great service. Knox was the towering figure of the Scottish Reformation. In many ways he was a reluctant hero, conscious as he was of his own weaknesses. However, as the title of the book makes plain, Knox's sense of weakness was overwhelmed by his sense of God's greatness. Indeed, as Doug Bond shows us throughout his book, it was Knox's constant sense of his own weakness that enabled the Lord to use him so mightily in his service. When Knox was asked to account for the wonderful success of the Scottish Reformation, he replied, "God gave his Holy Spirit in great abundance to simple men". Read this book. Learn from this book. Thank God for men like John Knox. Above all, pray that God would raise up like-minded and like-hearted men in our own day, and once again give his Holy Spirit in great abundance to men who are deeply conscious of their own weakness".
Ian Hamilton, Minister, Cambridge Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, England (Ian's off-the-record response to RT endorsement request: "I will be delighted to do this, on two counts: First, Doug Bond is a good friend of many years. Second, John Knox has been a good friend for many more years!")
"Though I love John Knox, I rarely enjoy reading about John Knox. Most biographers leave me feeling like a pathetic worm beside this mighty lion of Scotland. But, to my great surprise, this book lifted my spirits and even inspired me! Why? Because Douglas Bond has captured and communicated the secret of John Knox's power - a genuinely felt and openly confessed weakness that depended daily and completely on the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Mighty weakness! What an encouraging message for all worms who want to be lions!"Dr. David P Murray, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
THE BETRAYAL now published in Dutch, and soon in TURKISH!
Dutch publishing house, Den Hertog, has purchased translation rights from P&R Publishing and has released The Betrayal in Dutch. Het Verraad was released, November, 2009. Judging from the increased size of the book, Dutch appears to require many more letters to create words to say the same thing. Released June 1, 2009, The Betrayal sold out faster than any of my other books--in 5 months. It's now in its second printing. And now in TURKISH!
GUNS OF PROVIDENCE, 3rd in the Faith & Freedom Trilogy
Guns of Providence is complete and available. I've been reading it to my son Giles who has been doing his own illustrations as I read.
Listen to an audio excerpt: Guns of Providence
Russ Pulliam, with the Indianapolis Star, reviewed the book and wrote this about it:
"Like G.A. Henty in an earlier era, Douglas Bond offers a ringside seat on the War for Independence. Bond is a historian with unusual insight, tracing a Scottish Covenanter immigrant family and revealing the truly British origins of the American Revolution."
Above is the replica, USS Providence, John Paul Jones' first US command, to be featured on the cover
THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox
Richard Phillips, pastor and author of THE MASCULINE MANDATE, wrote after reading THE THUNDER, a novel on John Knox:
"Douglas Bond tells an incredible story that is little known today: God's grace at work in the life of John Knox and the struggle for the Reformation in Scotland. "The Thunder" is historically informative and spiritually inspiring, as well as highly enjoyable and fast-paced. Here is unfolded the life of a man filled with the grace of Christ and made courageous by his faith in God's Word. "The Thunder" is a book that believing fathers will want their sons to read -- in fact, it is an ideal book for fathers to read to their children. "The Thunder" is a gripping novel sure to stir the faith of anyone who longs to see the triumph of God's Word in our own time."
My original proposal synopsis:
Knox's life is a furiously exciting one and would connect to my C&C trilogy, especially as I would use the historical character, and author of Old Hundredth, William Kethe, as my lens to Knox. It would follow Betrayal well, which I'm told is selling well.
Thundering Scot, comes of age in turbulent, corrupt Scotland in the 16th century. Body guard of George Wishart, Knox finds himself a wanted man, besieged in St. Andrews Castle, siezed by the French at its fall, made a galley slave, released, then made fiery preacher of Reformation in Geneva, Frankfurt, and later his beloved Scotland. Intrepid before the lovely Mary Queen of Scots, Knox is unflinching before assassins and death in his stand for the gospel of grace in Christ alone.
Set in turbulent 16th century Scotland, the story opens with young John Knox taking up a two-fisted broadsword in defense of George Wishart, fugitive of Cardinal Beaton, who has accused Wishart of attempting to assassinate him. The action rises as Wishart is betrayed and arrested, imprisoned in the infamous bottle dungeon of St.Andrew's Castle, given a mock trial, convicted, and burned in a slow fire, the Cardinal looking on from his velvet cushioned window seat in the castle. Knox is caught up in the zealous rage of the Scottish supporters of Wishart, many of them new converts to Christ. The castle falls. Men are executed. Knox is made a galley slave where he suffers extraordinary deprivations for 19 months. Released, he is invited to join the English Reformers, offered a bishopric and a pulpit in London.
Knox develops impassioned preaching skills, early converts being his future mother in law and wife. When Edward VI dies and Bloody Mary begins her Protestant purge of her new realm, Knox flees to Calvin's Geneva (overlapping episodes will hint of The Betrayal). Trained, equipped, inspired, Knox returns for commando preaching in Scotland in 1555, staying one step ahead of Bloody Mary and the Queen Regent of Scotland, both intent on having his blood. Many converted to Christ. When Mary dies, Knox returns to Scotland in 1559, writes the Scots Confession 1560, comes to blows with French royal troops supporting young Mary Queen of Scots, finally triumphs with Parliamentary support of Reformation. Preaching, decrying public sins, standing boldly before murdering and immoral monarchs, assassins make attempts on his life, Knox at last prevails in Christ, dying in 1572.