Preserving a sanctuary during wartime
January 27, 2012
Small boys with swords and guns often fantasize about defending their neighborhoods, their streets, their homes or their church from bad guys. In Sanctuary, Pittsburg, Kansas native Terry W. Drake plays out his fantasy in the recreation of history. The time period is World War II. The location is Bergamo, an ancient town in Italy--the battleground with Nazi renegades who are pillaging and plundering as they rip their way through the countryside with American troops on their tails and townspeople determined to defend, brick by brick, their landmarks as well as their lives and those of their families.

The battle ultimately centers around the local Roman Catholic church, St. Francis, where the priest Father Damien (we never learn whether this is his first or last name) becomes part of the local resistance. He takes on the role of defender of the village and of his church--not just his faith but the physical building as well where a handful of citizens have sought sanctuary. He proves to be a strong, energetic, resourceful and wise leader as the townspeople prepare for the coming of Colonel Anton Fahn and his regiment that has attacked and plundered the sister city of Clusone to the north.

The good priest surprises the enemy when he engineers the planning and execution of the demolition of a key bridge in order to slow down their march. With a weapon in one hand, Father Damien also helps keep spirits as high as possible, hoping to be saved by approaching American troops who have landed just six hours away. In the midst of the chaos he even oversees the birth of a baby.

The thin volume’s strength may be in its brevity. A first-time writer might be tempted to tell his tale on a grand scale, with page after page about how souls, minds, weapons and hearts fit into the global scheme of World War II or the war throughout Italy and Europe. Drake, however, wisely chooses to keep his canvas small, concentrating on painting a rather intimate word picture of the effort and emotions of a few brave souls in what might be an otherwise unmentioned section of Italy.

We often learn a lot from small, seemingly ordinary tales and compact settings, if we look around and see and care what others are doing to make their contributions. For the wisdom he shows in focusing his story, Drake is to be commended.

There is even some description of war from the point of view of the average German soldier--what he thinks about his role in the war and his hope to be able to return home to his family after the conflict ends. This personal touch is a virtue of Sanctuary that gives the story more depth. There is little if any physical description, however, of the town, the church and the cast of characters. A bit more detail would have added to the story.

Do's and don'ts of writing

The book can be a guide, a marker for other would-be writers, first, in following Drake’s example and making the leap into initial authorship a short one, with a carefully selected subject that is not overdrawn, but, secondly, and not in following Drake's example, in creating a work not in dire need of proofreading or editing. In Drake's case there are far too many typographical or grammatical or editing or phrasing errors, redundancies, and misspellings. Several times one sees references to an “advantage point,” as if it were a book on how to play tennis.

Drake turned to writing after a long career in public utilities. He once attended a Roman Catholic school in Pittsburg and was an altar boy. He was in the Air Force during the Vietnam era, before completing schooling at the University of Missouri in Kansas City which led him to become a certified public accountant. He became manager of the Board of Public Utilities in Kansas City, held a similar job in the U .S. Virgin Islands before heading back to the Kansas City area to retire.

As a writer Drake does show potential. The right inspiration, however, requires some more guidance and oversight.


Title - Sanctuary
Author: Terry W. Drake
Publisher: xlibris, Corp. (Apr. 14, 2011), 146 pp.
$19.99 (paperback)/$9.99 (Kindle) at amazon.com
ISBN-10: 1462856934/ISBN-13: 978-1462856930


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