Friday, October 21, 2005

Pepe -- the complete rough draft

Well, there it is. There's still work to be done in editing and making it a reading experience that will be enjoyed by all, and acceptable to prospective publishers. I would like it to be readable by the same age group that reads Harry Potter. That, all by itself, probably means a lot of re-editing.

There are two aspects of this book that I feel are blogging material. The first is the subject, the life of a homeless street child.

Ever since viewing a film reel in my Bible School Missions class by the Salician Fathers, entitled Gaminos, the subject has interested me. I'm grateful to the professor of that course for making sure that I got a private viewing of that film, as I had actually missed class that day. Gaminos was set in a Latin American capital, I forget which one. 'Gaminos' is the local Spanish term for street kids. The film was about the work of a Salician Father who used to go out to befriend the children of the streets. He told about how he had to be careful not to come on too strong, or he'd lose them. Because street children are fiercely independent, they are sensitive to any attempt to institutionalise them. His whole work had to be one of 'no strings attached.' If nothing else, he'd simply get them things they needed, or befriend them when they were in trouble, even if they went right on living on the streets. Once they were confident of him, some of them consented to move to his shelter, with the full understanding that they could leave whenever they wanted.

A few years later, in Thailand, I lead a few co-workers in opening up an evangelistic centre in the South. When we moved in, we realised that a couple of homeless people were living on the premises, a man and a boy. Since they weren't related, we invited the boy to stay on with us. He did for about a week. In that time, he stole my heart.

He went away again after that one week, but that experience forever changed me.

My first (unpublished) novel, The Emissary, about the Apostle Shaul, involved a fictional first century street boy as one of the main characters. He first appears in the prologue, so you don't have to read very far. It's on line.

Much later, I got the opportunity to work for a year at a Catholic centre located in the biggest slum in Bangkok. That place is the inspiration for Mercy House, one of the main settings in Pepe. Fr. Antonio, Mother Clara, 'Madam Zudu', Phil Grub and Tony Ryan are characters inspired by real people I met there. Actually, Tony Ryan is me. The Bangkok slum is also the inspiration for Dockyards Community where Pepe lived.

Because the story line involves many other aspects, such as politics and royalty, I couldn't set the story in Thailand. I do want to be welcome back there. The social problems of the city of La Fonta, particularly the homeless children, slums and gangs, are a synthesis of Bangkok, Moscow and various Latin American cities. The level of corruption in my fictional country is much greater than I believe exists in Thailand. The monarchy is based on European traditions. The fictional nation of Cardovia would be somewhere on the Mediterranean, but it isn't stated exactly where.

The other aspect that bares blogging is that it is a parable of the Kingdom of God. The book is targeted to the secular reading audience, hopefully including young fans of Harry Potter (though it won't remind you of Harry Potter in any way). However, in the course of the story, Pepe realises who he really is, and with help, regains the throne, and the nation becomes an almost utopian paradise (The actual events in the narrative are not to be taken as a statement of my view of eschatology, however).

When he realises who he is, and becomes the rightful king -- though not yet crowned as such -- he is given a stone, called the Stone of Cardo. It has powers that are as effective as the purity of his heart. At its most intense state, it can potentially destroy evil, along with anyone who refuses to release his or her evil ambitions. Good things begin to happen, but only at the rate determined by the purity of Pepe's heart. That represents what I believe to be the life force of the church, and answers the question as to why the church is so ineffective in transforming society today, and what we must do to regain our cutting edge.

I've mentioned Harry Potter twice already. I do hope to reach a young audience, knowing that older people will read it as well (the intellectual reading level of an average adults is actually quite low). However it definately not in the style of J.K.Rowling. It's probably more like William Gibson. Making something something so Gibsonian readable by 10 year olds, will probably be the main challenge.

I believe it has enough action evenly paced throughout to keep people reading. I did learn that lesson from reading Harry Potter. Thank you, Ms. Rowling

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