It is February 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!
This month's feature author is:
and his book:
After graduating from Mississippi State, he flew six years in the Air Force then twenty-nine years for a major airline. And now he gets to write.
He and his wife have been married for forty some-odd years and live in Texas—about twenty miles south of the Red River. He spends the biggest part of his time writing; she’s immersed in leading a comprehensive, women’s Bible study.
They like greasy hamburgers and Dr. Peppers, most species of warm-blooded creatures (the kind that don’t normally bite), and spending July in the mountains.
Abiding Darkness is the first book in the Black and White Chronicles.
It initially anchors itself in the relationship between two children.
Junior Washington is an eleven-year-old black child. He lives in a small cabin out on Cat Lake; his parents work for the Parker family. He’s loyal, he’s compliant beyond what would normally be expected of an eleven-year-old boy, and he’s a committed Christian.
Missy Parker, who lives on the other side of the lake, is the crown princess of the Parker family. At seven years of age she’s beautiful, wealthy, willful, and tough as a tractor tire. And—in the midst of the most defined segregation in our nation’s recent history—this little white girl and Junior Washington are best friends.
Only one thing stands between these two children and a storybook childhood . . . they are destined to encounter a faithful servant of the Author of Evil.
Abiding Darkness starts almost gently. The first sentence offers doubt, but readers may not see any real trouble surface until a few sentences later, and that’s mostly kid stuff, almost cute. From there through the second chapter readers are given a little more to think about . . . an opportunity to imagine what might happen to the children . . . especially the girl.
By the end of the second chapter intuitive readers will be taking a deep breath . . . they’re going to need the oxygen.
THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Summers were mostly reliable.
The always followed spring. They always got hot. And they always promised twelve weeks of pleasure to the three children at Cat Lake.
The summer of ’45 lied.
^ ^ ^
The whole thing started right there by the Cat Lake bridge.
They were playing their own version of three-man baseball when Bobby knocked the ball onto the road near the end of the bridge. Junior was taller and faster, but Missy was ahead in the race to get it. Bobby and Junior were older, but Missy was tough enough to almost keep up, and the boys usually held back some so they didn’t outdo her too much.
Missy was still a few yards from the ball when it rolled to a stop near the only car in sight. A boy taller than Junior stepped from behind the far end of the car and picked up the ball; he was followed by two more boys—one younger than Missy and another almost as tall as a man.
Missy slid to a stop in the gravel and yelled, “Hurry! Throw it!” Junior jogged up behind the girl and waited.
A heavyset man in a rumpled suit was standing in the road by the driver’s door; he allowed himself a long look at the girl and whispered something to the boy with the ball.
The boy nodded at what the man said and backed toward the car. The tallest boy moved up to stand by the man.
The fat man eyed Junior, then looked up and down the deserted road before beckoning to Missy. “Why don’t you come closer, and he’ll let you have it?”
Missy ignored the man and advanced on the boy with the ball. “Give it.”
When she walked past the taller boy, he fell to his hands and knees behind her and the one with the ball shoved her over his back. When Missy hit the ground, all three boys laughed. The man grinned.
In the near distance, a foursome of well-armed witnesses—tall, bright, and invisible—stood at a portal between time and eternity and watched Bobby Parker leave home plate and sprint for the bridge.
One of the group said, It begins.
Junior Washington’s guardian answered for the remainder of the small assembly, And so it does.
The three guardians conferred quietly about the events taking place before them; the archangel watched the unfolding drama in silence. The quartet—guarded by the wisdom of the ages against restlessness—waited patiently for a precise instant in time that had been ordained before the earth was formed.
The middle kid was plenty bigger than Missy, but she came off the ground ready to take him on. When she waded in, the tall kid grabbed at her. Junior got a hand on the strap of Missy’s overalls and yanked her out of the boys’ reach. He held her back with one hand and popped the tallest kid in the nose, hard enough to knock him down.
When the boy landed in the gravel, the man started swearing. He reached into the car, jerked a mean-looking billy club from under the front seat, and turned on Junior. “Okay, Black Sambo, let’s see h—”
Bobby was short steps from the trouble, running wide open, when the archangel broke his silence. The long-awaited time is come. He pointed his bright sword at a point between Bobby and the man with the club and said, In the Name of Him who sits on the throne, and for the Lamb—go there and turn the tide of evil.
Bobby—barely slowing when he got to the confrontation—tripped over thin air and rammed the business end of the bat hard into the man’s back. The man lurched forward, stumbled over the boy Junior had knocked to the ground, and sprawled on top of him.
Knocking the man down wasn’t what he’d planned, but Bobby knew better than to back off from a pack of bullies; he was talking before the man rolled over. “You keep your hands to yourself, mister.”
The red-faced man struggled to get up, cussing and pointing the club at Bobby. “Son, when a boy hits me, he steps over the line to manhood. That means you’ll get the same beatin’ I’ll be givin’ this nigger.”
On the Parker place, Negro folks were called black or colored. For the children, transgression of that rule meant someone was going to get his mouth washed out with soap. Missy and Junior froze when the man said the forbidden word; Bobby didn’t.
When Bobby squared his stance and drew the bat back, the man rethought his position. “You better put that down, boy.”
Bobby was only twelve, but he knew serious trouble when he saw it—and he was the one holding the bat. “I reckon not.” He and Junior and Missy had made a law about standing up for each other, and these strangers had chosen to be their enemies. If the man made a threatening move, Bobby was going to swing for his head and deal with the consequences later. “You’re on Parker land, mister, an’ you best be gettin’ off.”
The baseball bat had the man stymied. Exertion and frustration soaked his collar with the sweat. “This isn’t your land; it’s a public road.”
Bobby said, “That might be, but the land on both sides of the road belongs to the Parkers—an’ that’s us.” He looked the man up and down. “You ain’t from around here, are you?”
The man’s wide mouth and thick lips were not unlike those of a bullfrog; small, widely-spaced teeth and flesh-draped eyelids contributed to a reptilian appearance. “What if I’m not?”
Bobby cracked a hard smile. “’Cause if you was from around here, folks would’ve told you not to mess with the Parker kids—that’s us, ’specially the black ’un an’ the girl.” He pointed the bat at Junior and Missy. “That’s them two.”
From within the car a woman’s voice said, “Let it go, Halbert. Don’t be getting heated up over some white trash.”
When the woman called them white trash, Missy puffed up and started for the car. Junior grabbed the strap of her overalls again. “Stay quiet, Missy.”
The girl jerked loose and glared at Junior, but she stayed where she was...
My thoughts on Abiding Darkness so far...
This book is not for the faint of heart. It's also not for spiritual wimps. The beginning of the story gives you an impending sense of doom, yet what I thought might happen was not what happened at all. At least not through page 91. I have a feeling, though, that I've just scraped the tip of the iceberg in this novel and it already made me cry. The scene evoking such strong emotion was beautiful and powerful. Ironically, it was also full of head-hopping, but it was effective. I'm not convinced had I stayed in one POV that I would've gotten the emotional response I experienced. That said, I'm totally tied into this novel on an emotional level. I even read a few paragraphs to my husband last night because they were so full of spiritual "meat." I have a strong feeling that this is one of those books I'm going to think about long after I'm done reading it. I also suspect I will get something out of it that will change my life, even if in only a small way. It's just that kind of book. No preaching, but characters so real that what they say and do is something you experience with them. Looking at the cover, it totally fits the book. There is a sinister feel about the spiritual warfare. However, it would be more fitting if there was a stream of light shining through that darkness, because it's that way in the story. At any rate, I will probably never swim in a lake again. The author's description of the water moccasins and one of the events was so well done I'm going to avoid any semblance of dark water from now on. I felt the sticky blood and the scent of death. Ick. But it was compelling. Fans of Peretti will love this book. I can't wait to finish it and post a review, but honestly it's kind of like Cold Water Revival by Nancy Jo Jenkins in that sometimes I need an emotional breather. This one may take awhile for that reason only. Great stuff!