The Strange Man Tour Wrap

I survived reading a horror novel! Greg Mitchell’s The Strange Man proved to be much more than I expected, in a good way, and I’m glad I didn’t shirk behind my horror of horror. πŸ˜‰

We had a modest tour this month — 23 bloggers posting 41 articles which included reviews, interviews, discussions of salvation, the bogeyman, and the horror genre.

As always there are the three-post bloggers who then become eligible for the coveted CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award. Those individuals and the links to their articles are as follows:

Take time this week to read over the articles, then please add your voice to the rest and vote for who you think should receive the April CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award. You have until May 4.

Published in: on April 21, 2011 at 5:20 pm  Comments (4)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Strange Man, Day 3

Last month I wrote an article for Speculative Faith about the horror genre entitled “What Gives You Nightmares?” It was a bit of a reversal for me, as I admitted that I now understand books classified as horror can be explorations of the spiritual. Sure, there are some that exist primarily to incite an adrenaline rush, but the more serious novels do more.

We have more in this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell. Granted, there are still plenty of adrenalin-rush-inducing scenes in the book — horror is front and center in the story.

Accompanying the horror was a good deal of violence, and yet the story doesn’t exist for the primary purpose of igniting fright. Rather it uses fear as a prime mover toward God. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Story. Dras Weldon, like all the other young adults in his dying town, was raised on tales of the bogeyman. Of course he didn’t believe them. Who would?

But then Dras didn’t believe in much else either despite the fact that his father, before his illness, was the pastor of the local church, and despite his own religious experience as a nine year old.

Instead Dras seemed stuck in adolescence. He partied hard, lived for himself, sponged off his parents, let his home become a pig sty. Oh, wait, that rings a bell.

Yes, like the other more famous prodigal, Dras had an older brother, Jeff, the good one who took over the pastoral duties from their father. And like the protagonist of the parable, Dras came to his senses. How that happened and the ramifications for his best friend Rosalyn and, in fact, for the whole town, made up the better part of the story.

And you know I wouldn’t think to spoil your reading experience by telling you more, right? πŸ˜‰

Strengths. For those who have been looking for a book of Christian fiction that fits into the horror genre, this is it. Others have danced on the edge, but this one puts a demon and gremlins front and center.

A strength? Certainly, since that’s what author Greg Mitchell was aiming for. He established a credible town with believable characters and brought monsters into their midst. From the horror side of things, I think he succeeded in what he intended to do.

I think he also succeeded in bringing the issue of salvation front and center. Is a person saved because he prayed a prayer at youth camp one summer, even though he’s been a hell-raiser ever since? How does a person convince others that his life is new when he comes to his senses?

On a writerly note, I think Greg did a wonderful job making the ne’er-do-well protagonist into a likable, sympathetic character. From the beginning I pulled for Dras to change, to do better, to stand up, to become a man of integrity.

Weaknesses. Some people thought there was too much violence in this book. For me, because it’s horror, I was not surprised by the level of inhumane treatment or the raw descriptions. Consequently, I am NOT listing the violence as a weakness.

Rather, the things I saw are issues of craft — things readers probably won’t notice, though they might be pulled from the story by them and not know why.

First was the point of view. In reality this story was more nearly written in the omniscient view, a camera-lens perspective — which makes sense because it was first written as a screen play. However, as a novel it was forced into the view of multiple individuals. Unfortunately there were many point of view characters and unintended shifts, so the story had an uneven feel.

Perhaps a larger issue was some inconsistence in the story world. For example, at a certain point the sheriff mandated a curfew for the town. In one scene, the fact that people were to be off the streets by nine fueled the action. In the very next scene, however, the principle character seemed oblivious to the existence of a curfew. As did all the drivers whose cars Dras dodged during two critical parts of the story.

      * * * SPOILER ALERT * * *

Another example is how the evil forces treated Dras. Since he was marked by God, the Strange Man said he couldn’t touch him. However in a later scene, the forces that seemed to follow the Strange Man’s orders nearly squeezed the life from him.

Dras also was able to out run, or nearly so, the gremlins chasing him, but in an earlier scene one of the characters in a car couldn’t stay ahead of them.

      * * * END SPOILER ALERT * * *

These inconsistencies didn’t ruin the story for me, but they certainly did pull me from the fictive dream. And since I don’t take to horror, I guess I really didn’t mind so much. πŸ˜‰ Others, however, might.

Recommendation. I applaud Greg Mitchell for writing a horror story for the Christian market. I applaud Realms, the publisher of The Strange Man for taking the risk to put horror into Christian bookstores. Certainly, the story will appeal to those drawn to the dark — a significant number of young adults, I believe. And perhaps this is a book Christians can give to their unsaved friends steeped in the genre. I recommend it to all those readers.

Published in: on April 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm  Comments (1)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – The Strange Man, Day 2

Some things can't be ignored

It just won’t do.

Try as we might, there’s no way to miss the elephant, so we might as well give him prime time.

Rather than discussing genre as I hinted at in my Day 1 post about Greg Mitchell’s The Strange Man, I want to look at a bit of theology — the slam-dunking elephant tromping across the pages.

The story hinges on the main character (always a good thing for a novel). Here’s what Jason Joyner has to say about the protagonist (who, for those of you unfamiliar with the book, is NOT the strange man):

Dras Weldon is your typical adult adolescent, not willing to grow up and out of his world of comic books, action figures, and B horror movies. The fact that his childhood best friend Rosalyn is looking to actually move on from Greensboro isn’t helping. He is tired of hearing criticism from his older brother, the pastor, as well.

When The Strange Man decides the time is ripe for Greensboro’s harvest, Dras is an unlikely combatant. He doesn’t have anything to fight with, unless he can reconnect with his withered faith in time.

Let me elaborate a little. Dras is a hard-drinking, disrespectful, user. Not of drugs. Of people. Rosalyn is his best friend, and he’s even in love with her, though he won’t admit it. But night after night she puts up with his drunken stupors, seeing him safely home no matter what condition he’s in.

And his family? His father is dying, but Dras can’t remember to be at family dinners. His mom is so programed by his past behavior that when he drops by she automatically reaches for her purse, thinking he’s come to ask for more money. His brother is convinced of the same thing.

And yet, Dras considers himself a Christian. After all, he prayed a prayer at camp one year when he was nine.

Never mind that he admits all he knows about the Bible is that the first book is Genesis and he thinks the last one is Revelation. Never mind that he has no interest in spiritual things, demonstrated by the fact that he only goes to church to appease his family — and then arrives late, with a hangover, and nods off periodically.

Trust me when I tell you, in spite of all this, author Greg Mitchell admirably makes Dras a sympathetic character. Consequently, the reader is hoping for change and cheering Dras on when he confronts, not only his own demons, but those of the entire town.

But back to the theology. The strange man, a demon set on devouring the shriveling community of Greensboro, sees Dras as standing in his way. But apparently God has marked the boy, and the strange man can’t take him out directly.

So apparently Dras thinks he’s a Christian and God thinks he’s a Christian (maybe), but everyone else in town believes he’s a messed up screw-up capable of doing anything.

Dras himself says his life was the single most influential thing in keeping Rosalyn from coming to God.

So there’s the question. Is it really possible for a person to be a Christian, yet have no evidence of Christ in his life?

I’ll be honest. I’ve heard about people who supposedly believe you can pray a “sinner’s prayer” and then live however you want without fear of eternal judgment, but I’ve never met anyone like that (at least that I know of).

The people I know who prayed to ask Christ into their lives either walk away and don’t claim to be Christians any more, or they struggle at different levels to understand what being in God’s family means on a practical level. This “I’m a Christian but no one would guess it” is new to me.

What’s more, I’m pretty convinced it’s not Biblical.

Mind you, I’m aware that Christians still sin (though there is a segment of professing Christians who claim they don’t — very Job-like in their insistence that they do no wrong). What I’m wondering is this: will a Christian show no interest in God?

After all, Christians pretty much agree that our faith is about relationship — ours with God, which makes us then care about the other people in our lives. So if a person doesn’t read Scripture, pray, listen for God’s voice in the preaching of the Word, if he only treats people in his life with selfishness or anger or disrespect, how is it possible for him to be a Christian?

If it were true that a person has become a new creature in Christ, ought there not be some small bit of evidence?

CSFF Blog Tour – The Strange Man, Day 1

This week the CSFF Blog Tour is featuring The Strange Man by Greg Mitchell. This supernatural suspense is the second of three books published by Realms, an imprint of Charisma House/Strang Book Group, that we are featuring during this first half of 2011.

Interesting fact. The Realms imprint came into being under the watchful eye of Jeff Gerke (also an author, writing under the name Jefferson Scott), now the head of his own publishing company, Marcher Lord Press.

Years before bringing MLP into being, Jeff envisioned an imprint dedicated to the publication of Christian speculative fiction. Realms was his first effort to bring that about.

While Jeff moved on after launching the first set of books, Realms continued with some modification. Now this fiction arm of Charisma House focuses on inspirational stories, specifically an unlikely pair: supernatural thrillers and prairie romances.

It’s an interesting marriage.

As I’m sure most people expect, the CSFF tour is featuring only the supernatural thriller half of the couple.

Supernatural thriller, of course, is a euphemism for Christian horror — a genre author Greg Mitchell is familiar with. He first conceived of the idea for the story that became the first book in the Coming of Evil Trilogy more than ten years ago.

At the time, he wrote the story, inspired by an episode of the Twilight Zone, as a screen play. When the script didn’t find a home, he eventually undertook the job of rewriting it as a novel. He decided first to self-publish The Strange Man in 2007. Later he revised the story yet again and sought publication with a traditional house. Realms acquired it along with the next two books in the trilogy.

Greg admits he has a love for monster movies and comic books, but he also wants to communicate his faith. Consequently, he was the perfect author to write a faith-based story with a Strange Man and accompanying gremlins.

How do the two fit together? That’s a topic that may need some exploration. (I’m guessing that the people who thought Mike Duran’s The Resurrection didn’t have enough suspense won’t have the same to say about this one). In the meantime, watch this video trailer, then see what others on the blog tour have to say about The Strange Man (the book, not the author! πŸ˜‰ )

Published in: on April 18, 2011 at 1:47 pm  Comments (5)  
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