Some in Hollywood might think folks on the Right have limited artistic ability and should stick with on investment banking and talk radio. Others, with a more open mind, believe people should pursue any vocation to which they feel called. A novelist in Minneapolis, thankfully, is not taking career advice from Hollywood. The Culture Alliance’s latest Fiction Friday newsletter focused on the work of Lars Walker, particularly West Oversea.
Lars Walker has written five novels, Erling’s Word, Wolf Time, The Year of the Warrior, Blood & Judgment, and West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure and Faith.
Wow. From the first sentence I was hooked. An Irishman taken as a slave by vikings passes himself off as a Catholic priest in Norway amid warrior heathen—and blood-curdling wackiness ensues. It’s fun, at times funny, and always compelling storytelling. It mixes fiction with history, faith with doubt, and most important, it’s wise and subversive, conveying a gospel message not just to the worshipers of Thor and Odin but to the readers as well. The law has its limits, and human sacrifice is not merely an artifact of ancient civilizations but something still to be excavated from the ruins of every heart.
For reasons that defy reason, The Year of the Warrior is out of print—at least according to Amazon. A book that Hollywood should be snapping up to make into as big an extravaganza as Pirates of the Caribbean is available only from some guy named Dweeble shipping tattered paperbacks to nerds like me out of his parents’ basement. But start there anyway, and buy two copies, in case you lose one in a fire. Then move on to Lars’ latest, West Oversea, then backtrack to Wolf Time, a prophetic spiritual thriller set in the near future.
This is high praise indeed given that Mr. Sacramone began his comments with
Anyone who has read my stuff in the past knows I’m not a fan of the fantasy genre. The minute I see that any story features dwarfs gamboling in the heath, guys in pointy hats wielding black magic (be they wizards or bishops), unicorns, faeries, glow-in-the-dark rings, quibbles, certified public accountants—you know what I’m talking about—I throw the thing down in a nonbiodegradable huff. These loony yarns are always set in the Middle Ages, where there isn’t a decent coffee bar in sight, and there’s always some stupid quest. (Did no one ever just stay home and change shelf paper in 1150?)
TAC’s S.T. Karnick briefly highlighted West Oversea: A Norse Saga of Mystery, Adventure, and Faith:
[It] is Walker’s fifth novel and the third in a series about the Vikings and the efforts of their leaders to establish a foundation for Christianity in their land and elsewhere.
Like the others in the series and Walker’s other books, it’s based on facts and is the product of meticulous (and loving) historical research on Walker’s part.
Here is an excerpt from West Oversea
“Thorliv, settle down,” said Astrid. “You’re like five-year-old at Jul-eve.”
We were in the hall at Tjora, the day before embarkation. We were at loose ends, looking for tasks still to be done and finding none. Everything was packed, the ship was loaded, all the arrangements had been made with Eystein and Deirdre for running the farm in our absence. We would sail with the tide in the morning, and we knew that we’d need sleep and that we wouldn’t be able to sleep. We were all more or less testy.
I grew tired of the smudgy air and took the path to the strand. I resented this strand a bit. It was gentler than the one at Sola, a harbor strand, and I missed the great angry surf.
I found that Erling had joined me. We stared at the arched back of Haastein island across the water.
“How many times have we talked by the sea at night?” he asked.
“The saints know. The sea’s a wondrous confessor.”
“We should be in a state of grace for some time then, for we’ll be in that confessional at least a couple weeks.”
“It will be some time before we walk on this shore again though.”
I looked at Erling. He was staring past the horizon, westward, the way we were going.
“Do you think we might not return? Are you afraid of the journey?”
“No. Life or death is in God’s hands. But it comes to my mind that if there were a place for me in Iceland, or even in Greenland, perhaps it would be best to stay there.”
“You? Out of Jaeder forever? Out of Norway forever?”
“I dreamed great dreams, but God knocked them down. I’ll never be the man I hoped I’d be in this land. Perhaps a sharp break is best.”
“Have you spoken of this to Astrid?”
“What does she say?”
“She says she’ll do what I do.”
“Would you feel right taking her away for all time?”
“Her kin is gone. Her mother’s dead now. All her other family, except for her sister in Sweden, died at Svold. She has naught to keep her.”
“Still, she’s lived in king’s households. How would a farm in Greenland suit her, do you think?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps Greenland’s a gentler place than we fancy. She’s carrying my son. I’d hoped to leave my son a great place in Norway. Perhaps I can still be a great man in Iceland or Greenland, rather than a smallholder here.”
“I don’t think you’ll be a smallholder long.”
“Two ships on the Greenland sea are a risky way to make your fortune.”
“As if you’d choose a safe way.”
“Let’s go back to the house,” said Erling. “Astrid and Thorliv are likely scratching each other’s eyes out by now.”
We headed up the path to the steading.
As we went Erling said, “Who are those?”
I looked up to see a company of horsemen coming on between the fields to meet us.
“Armed men,” said I.
“Not all armed,” said Erling. “There are three priests in the lead. With a spare horse in tow.”
“Then they come from the jarl.”
“Priests likely means they’re not here for a fight.”
“They’ll overtake us before we reach the steading, so there’s naught to do but face it out.”
And so we did. I’d met these priests before, at the Thing. I remembered they were German (most of Erik’s priests were Germans), but nothing more. Two of them were fat, one thin.
The senior priest (one of the fat ones) spoke to me. “Greetings, Brother,” he said in Latin.
“Greetings as well, Brothers,” said I. “I’d thank you to speak Norse. Erling has no Latin.”
“We have no errand to Erling. Only to you.”
“They’re being rude,” I said in Norse. “They’ll only speak to me.” Erling nodded.
“So what’s your errand?” I asked them.
“Bishop Adalbert has summoned you.”
“To what do I owe that honor?”
“His Eminence did not confide in us. You will come of course.”
I had no choice in the matter. “The bishop has summoned me,” I told Erling.
“I’ll come with you.”
“No. It’ll all be in Latin. I’ll let you know what he says when I return.”
So I set off with my escort. The extra horse was for me. I was unmerry. I didn’t like the new bishop greatly, and my Latin, never of the best, was rusty.
Nordskog Publishing’s “Introduction” to the novel, which includes the Publisher’s Foreword and First Chapter is available here (link to PDF document). You can learn more about Lars at larswalker.com and his blog Brandywine Books.
There might be some readers who dismiss fantastical fiction as not in the same league as “serious literature.” I would ask these folks to ponder the following excerpt from Matthew Dickerson’s and David O’Hara’s book, From Homer to Harry Potter: A Handbook of Myth and Fantasy.
“Why we read from Faerie”
We end by returning to the very question of why the reader should read the literature we have been speaking of. Why do we want mythic and imaginative answers? Why not stay with the analytic? In answer to this, philosopher Peter Kreeft once wrote:
Myths are even prophetic, pointing to the truth from afar, as Greek philosophy is prophetic. For God has not left himself without witnesses even outside Israel, though none of these other witnesses is divinely guaranteed and infallible. The human soul has intellect, will, and emotions; some knowledge of the truth, the god, and the beautiful. And God sent prophets to all three areas of the soul: philosophers to enlighten the inntellect, prophets to straighten out the will, and myth-makers to tease and touch the emotions with a desire for himself. The philosophers have an analogue in the soul, a philosopher within: our understanding, The prophets have an analogue in the soul too, a divine mouthpiece called conscience. And the myth-makers too have an analogue in the soul, a dreamer and poet and myth-maker within. [Peter Kreeft, Heaven: The Heart’s Deepest Longing (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1989)]
The myth-maker, the teller of fairy tales, and the writer of fantasy all may speak profoundly to the human soul. They do so through art, and imagery, including the imagery of magic in many of its forms, and as such they speak directly to the soul through the imagination.
Here are a few links to other stories and opinion from the publishing side of the Cultural Influence Professions.
- Catcher in the Rye author shaped the popular culture he came to shun
- Private Eye Fiction by S.J. Rozan
- Feminist Thrillers by Vera Caspary
- A very New York novel wins Newberry Medal
- An Introduction to Charles Williams’ fiction
- Marvel Heroes will be Heroes once again
- Sci-Fi Classic: A Voyage to Arcturus
- Choose your own adventure – Alan Jacobs on the work of Michael Chabon
- The Fog of Intervention – Stan Guthrie and John Wilson discuss David Poyer’s new novel, The Crisis