Santa Claus in “Tobit”

santaAs I researched the four historical novels I’ve written, I collected images relevant to the time that helped me write with the ‘flavor’ of the period.  In Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, Tobit’s son Tobias and his companion’s arrive in Savannah in search of Cherokee Jack on Christmas Eve.

“Andrew holds Dr. Graydon at arm’s length and examines his friend.  ‘Alas, I was hoping it was Santa Claus on this Christmas Eve,’ Andrew jovially states.  ‘But then again, it is still a bit too early, and he wouldn’t be knocking on my door, would he?  Look at you. Graydon, your beard does need trimming, doesn’t it.  No wonder I mistook you for the good Saint Nicholas.'”

When I wrote that passage, I recalled the 1881 picture by Thomas Nast that helped immortalize Clement Clarke’s timeless poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

me and santaYesterday morning, Marie and I strolled through an antique shop in our new community of River Falls, Wisconsin.  I found the ‘deal of the day,’ at least for this nostalgic Christmas-man.  For a mere $10, I was able to purchase this print of Nast’s picture.

As we approach the Christmas season, you might enjoy Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, and you might even consider gifting it to a friend with the knowledge that all royalties from Kindle editions of all my books go directly to the kids in Haiti.

Merry, early Christmas.  Santa Claus is alive and well.

The Sixth Day Film Update

Time is relative as Tobit relates in Tobit and the Hoodoo Man,

“I recall the night mother returned from the master’s house and explained to me that I was born in ‘eighteen-twenty-five.’  That knowledge meant nothing to me at the time.  As an old man, I learned that ‘1825’ was a year, and that a year was a measurement of time, the time it takes for the earth to travel around the sun.  That really confused me, because I thought the sun moved around the earth.  I saw it happen every day.  However long that passage takes – regardless of which body moves about which – I know that time is relative.  A long time to one man may be a short time to another.  A year is a long time for a man in bondage, but the blink of an eye to the man who enslaves him.”

Third ManAs books and creativity go, I liken myself to the man in bondage.  Three years seems like a long time in the creative world.  Three years ago, I was one of the lucky ones: two of my books, The Olympian and The Sixth Day each carried film options.  That is an exciting prospect.  Since then, despite the intense efforts of the producer, The Olympian is no longer on the table and under consideration.  That’s too bad because I was hoping against hope to see Sean Connery or Anthony Hopkins play the role of the poet Simonides who narrates the tale.

During these three years, I’ve learned much about the film industry.  As Ringo Starr told us in 1971, “You know it don’t come easy.”  The Sixth Day was in the hands of Hoplite Entertainment, but in recent months, Hoplite shifted its emphasis from feature film to reality TV.  The Sixth Day – with a working film title of “Third Man” – was no longer a part of their vision.  I can accept that.

bumpercrop filmsOn the positive side, no sooner had Hoplite orphaned the project than a new film company expressed interest in the story.  As of early February, the film prospects of The Sixth Day are legally and securely in the hands of Bumpercrop Films under the watchful eyes of Alistair McKenzie and Jasmine Fontes who penned the “Third Man” screenplay for the original project and produced The Sixth Day audio book.

If two out of three wasn’t bad for Meatloaf, I can tell you that one out of two ain’t bad for E.S. Kraay.  Will The Sixth Day ever make it to the screen?  Don’t know.  Though tempted in a cavalier way to say, “Don’t care,” I will admit that I would like to see it happen.  In its current version, Alistair and Jasmine’s screenplay reflects the powerful message from the book:  there is strength in faith.  It is a message that needs broader exposure, and a film would help in that regard.

I am grateful that the project is still alive and hopeful that something may come of it.  I will keep you informed.

The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas

a hero is bornAlthough it wasn’t published until 2008, I completed The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas in 2004.  I can’t believe it was over ten years ago.  Of all my books, The Olympian remains the best-seller.  It is available as a physical book, an eBook for Kindle and even an audio book thanks to the masterful telling of the tale by Alistair McKenzie.

During the early months of 2015, we posted a summary of Tobit and the Hoodoo Man in ‘eight movements.’  Years ago, Steven Pressfield told me that the great film director David Lean believed that all films could be reduced to “seven or eight movements.”  I like the idea.  Ever since Mr. Pressfield told me that, I watch films with a different perspective.

In 2009, we optioned the film rights to The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  The producer extended the option several times, but in 2013, he opted not to extend the option.  The business of film is as tough as it gets.

Early in the process, as he prepared his package for perspective investors, writers, actors, etc., he asked me to summarize the story for him in eight movements.  While I was never privy to his final package, I was pleased that he asked me for my ‘vision’ of the story on film.

As I did with Tobit earlier in the year, for the next several weeks, I will post the eight movements of The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas.  I hope it will bring back fond memories to those who have read it, and maybe encourage those who haven’t to read this book about human values.  Nineteenth century clergyman Henry Ward Beecher best sums up the heart of The Olympian when he wrote,

“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory.  He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.”

Join me in the coming weeks as I present The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas in eight movements.

Olympian

Tobit: Epilogue, 1925

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

Tobit and the Hoodoo ManEpilogue – Tobit (100) concludes the narration as he began it.  All of his friends are gone.  He is alone and prepares his own grave among the others he has buried beneath the ancient hangin’ tree.  He carves in deep letters,

“Tobit.

I lived here and I died here.

I was blind and I can see.

Etienne was lame and he can walk.

Ben was deaf and he can hear.

BELIEVE.”

 

As the sun sets, Tobit glimpses a man in the fading light waving to him.  A dog barks.  The man calls out, “It is time to come home to the peace of heaven.”  It is Gabriel.  Tobit lies down on the burial plot and closes his eyes.

I hope you have enjoyed this presentation of Tobit and the Hoodoo Man in Eight Movements with Prologue and Epilogue.  If you’ve read the book, perhaps you will read it again.  If you’ve not read the book, perhaps this presentation will encourage you to.

Peace.

Tobit: Eighth and Final Movement, 1865

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

 

Mississippi_ku_kluxEighth Movement – Return to Nineveh.  Tobias and Father Gabriel accept nearly $10,000 of Federal issue from Jack.  Sara agrees to a wedding that day if Tobias allows Jack to return to Nineveh as well.  All is agreed.  Father Gabriel performs the ceremony that afternoon to a packed and festive house.  Tobias, Sara, Gabriel and Ben depart the following day for Nineveh.  Jack promises to follow as soon as he has taken care of his business.  Dr. Graydon and Andrew have decided to purchase the Palace of Pleasure with Jack’s maître d’ FLO (40).  On the return journey, Gabriel tells Tobias to apply a touch of the remaining gall powder to his father’s eyes.  The reunion of son and parents is beautiful.  Tobias does as Gabriel instructs and Tobit can miraculously see.  They present Etienne with an artificial leg from Dr. Graydon.  The lame shall walk.  Tobit invests money to paint the plantation.  Three days later, on the sixth day of the New Year, Wolfenbüttel arrives, certain that he will assume control of the plantation.  The sheriff is with him and both are taken aback to learn that Tobit has the $2,000 to purchase the plantation as Ashur’s wife had offered.  That night, the Circle of Brothers (KKK) comes to Nineveh led by Wolfenbüttel and the sheriff, hooded like their accomplices to kill the slaves and steal back Nineveh.  As they prepare to hang Ben, old Mother Rachel fires her ancient gun and cuts the rope.  The jar of the rope opens Ben’s ears – the deaf shall hear.  As the thugs disarm Mother Rachel, the Wolf instructs his men to “string up the priest.”  As they do, the Wolf prepares to execute Ben, but before he can pull the trigger, “a devilish howl rolls like heavy syrup from the hangin’ tree.”  It is the old and long silent cry of the Hoodoo Man that Tobit heard the night he met Cherokee Jack, “Hoo … doo … few doo … you gits what fo’ yoo.”   The Wolf and the Circle of Brothers fire into the tree, but there rapports are met with laughter and another howl from the Hoodoo Man.  The Hoodoo Man descends dramatically from the tree and opens fire killing all but the Wolf and the sheriff.  A final confrontation between the Wolf and the Hoodoo Man leaves Wolfenbüttel dead with a bullet between his eyes.  They release the sheriff with the threat of the Hodoo Man’s certain vengeance if any harm comes to the people of Nineveh.  The Hoodoo Man disappears as quickly as he came.  Three days later, Gabriel celebrates his final Mass at the plantation and as he concludes, Cherokee Jack approaches driving a wagon with his worldly possessions.

Look for the Epilogue next week.

Tobit: Seventh Movement, 1865

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

 

Belle Watling's Place from "Gone with the Wind"
Belle Watling’s Place from “Gone with the Wind”

Seventh Movement – Jack’s Palace of Pleasure.  Tobias is anxious to meet Cherokee Jack.  Christmas morning, Andrew directs him to Jack’s Palace of Pleasure where Tobias meets and spends the afternoon on the front porch with Jack’s beautiful daughter SARA (17).  As light fades, Jack (55) makes his appearance and tells Tobias to be on his way.  Tobias says he has business with Jack and will return the next day to complete it.  He tells Jack he is lodging with Andrew.  That evening, Jack and Sara call on Andrew and dine with Tobias and his friends.  Tobias is clearly infatuated with Sara, and she is attracted to him as well.  During dinner, Jack relates his encounter with Tobit long ago and confesses his crime, and announces that he still retains the purse he promised to keep for Tobit.  Jack explains that he will give him the purse on one condition that Sara returns to Nineveh with Tobias.  Tobias adds one condition, that she return as his wife.  They agree, but as Jack and Sara prepare to leave, Father Gabriel mysteriously tells them Jack and his ladies will have need of Tobias this very night because guests “with evil intentions” will visit.  Gabriel explains what must be done.  Tobias returns to the Palace of Pleasure with Sara and Jack.  That night, four highwaymen enter Jack’s place intent on destruction.  Following Father Gabriel’s instructions, Tobias and Jack drug the brigands’ drinks with the gall and liver of the catfish.  The four men go insane and kill each other.

Tobit: Sixth Movement, 1865

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

santa clausSixth Movement – The Journey to Savannah.  The first night, they camp next to the Ogeechee River.  Father Gabriel instructs Tobias in the Indian way of catching fish and Tobias ‘noodles’ a giant catfish.  Gabriel preserves the heart, the liver and the gall claiming they have magical powers.  At Miller’s Junction, they encounter DR. GRAYDON (65) and BEN (65), a former slave whose ears have been disfigured.  He is deaf.  Rebel soldiers try to cause trouble, but Caesar comes to the rescue in a magical way.  Graydon and Ben accompany them to Savannah and bring them to the home of a shipper, ANDREW LOWE (60).  It is Christmas Eve, and Andrew graciously invites them all in to stay and celebrate Christmas with him.  Andrew is quite familiar with Cherokee Jack who runs a brothel in Savannah.

Tobit: Fifth Movement, 1865

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

plantationFifth Movement – The War is over.  TOBIAS (20) assumes the narrator’s role.  The former slaves of Nineveh operate the plantation as if it was always theirs.  Etienne (40) and Davie (41) remain with Tobit (40).  In December 1865, a priest wanders into the plantation on a blind mule led by a large dog, Caesar.  It is FATHER GABRIEL (23), and he officially marries Tobit and Anna.  After Gabriel celebrates Mass on a December Sunday morning, the slaves are startled when Wolfenbüttel (55) returns to the plantation.  He explains that Master Charles is dead and that his widow – whose first husband was Master Ashur – is now Wolfenbüttel’s wife.  Wolfenbüttel has returned to claim the plantation but reluctantly says that his wife will agree to sell the plantation to the slaves for $2,000, an impossible sum of money to expect newly freed slaves to have.  Wolfenbüttel will return the first week of January.  If the slaves are still there, it is because they agree to work the land for the Wolfenbüttels.  When the slaves meet the following morning to cast their lots, Tobit announces that he has money.  He explains his encounter with Cherokee Jack, the Hoodoo Man 25 years earlier.  Against his mother’s wishes, Tobias says he will go to Savannah and find Cherokee Jack.  The next morning, Tobias and Father Gabriel are gone.

Tobit: Fourth Movement, 1840 – 1865

Tobit and the Hoodoo Man, A Mystical Tale from the Civil War South.  A film treatment in eight movements with prologue and epilogue.

Fourth Movement – the Runaway is Captured, Tobit is Blinded and Marries Anna.  Tobit returns Master Ashur’s body to Nineveh.  Weeks later, a group of riders comes to Nineveh.  It is Masters Charles and Robert.  They have captured Cato, the runaway slave.  Tobit is accused of abetting Cato in his flight.  As penance, he must act as the executioner when they hang Cato from ‘the hangin’ tree.’  Reluctantly and remorsefully, Tobit slaps the horse from beneath Cato.  The deed is done.  Wolfenbüttel tells the slaves to leave the body to rot as an example.  Two nights later, Tobit removes the body and buries it.  When Wolfenbüttel learns that the body is gone, he demands that the perpetrator come forward.  When no one does, Wolfenbüttel threatens to execute a slave.  Tobit steps forward and announces that he buried the body.  When he refuses to tell the taskmaster where, Wolfenbüttel blinds him with a red-hot iron.  Anna tends to his wounds for weeks and he takes her for his wife.  Six years after the blinding, she bears him a son, Tobias.  Master Ashur’s

Broussard
Etienne Broussard

widow marries Master Charles, he moves to Nineveh, and Davie and Tobit are reunited.  … Twenty Five years pass … Etienne visits as a Colonel in the Confederate Army.  Master Charles, his wife and Wolfenbüttel abandon the plantation in the wake of the approaching Union army.  A Union officer comes to Nineveh and tells the slaves President Lincoln has freed them.  Tobit and the slaves assume control of the plantation.  Etienne returns injured and the slaves amputate his leg.