Friday, March 20, 2015

Weeping and Writing--What Makes Me Cry When Writing

An Interview with author Douglas Bond

Written by Robert Treskillard on December 28th, 2013 @ 12:51:00 pm    (46292 views)

As part of a previous contest, I interviewed award winning author Douglas Bond, and wanted to re-post the interview here for all my loyal blog readers.
This is a great pleasure for me, because Doug and I met at the 2009 Reformation Day Faire up in Peoria, IL. Doug was speaking on the life of John Calvin, and our family was blessed through his gifted teaching and books. We’ve been able to see each other three times since then: twice at conferences in St. Louis, and then again when I flew out to Seattle for the ALA Mid-winter for a book signing.
Another fun detail is that Doug and his wife are great friends with a couple that my wife and I used to work with up in Twin Cities, Rick & Lisa Demass.
So, now for the interview!
TRESKILLARD: At what age did you realize you wanted to write? And if I may ask, what was the first creative thing you remember writing?
BOND: I’m not one of those guys who had a passion for writing from my training-wheel days. Not me! In high school I did everything I could to get out of writing–hated it. Writing was too much work. In Journalism class I signed up to be the photographer in large part so I could ditch out of writing articles. Sorry to disappoint readers who are young, passionate, aspiring writers. You’ll probably chuck my books out the window now.
So, all that to say, I’m a late bloomer as a writer. In college, however, I was asked to write an article for the college newsletter. Meanwhile, I was reading Spurgeon and being fascinated with his command of words. I really enjoyed writing that article (truth be told, it probably was terrible, full of fragments, split infinitives, and pedantic ugliness).
Later in graduate school I found that I absolutely loved doing the research and then writing my master’s thesis (it was supposed to be in the 35 page-ish range; mine wound down at 118 pages). Next I began writing some articles for magazines, ones that paid me for their right to publish the articles. That was fun. Shortly after that I began secretly working on writing fiction; I would slink around like a housebreaker, concealing what I’d attempted to write from prying eyes, terrified that sometime, somewhere, someone would find me out.
TRESKILLARD: Far from chucking your boots out the window, they’ll probably be bronzed one day, Douglas … you bloomed at just the right time! So, for question two, which authors, including Spurgeon, have had the strongest influences on your writing?
BOND: I know it seems almost cliche to admit it, but the imaginative works of C. S. Lewis have probably done more to inspire me than any other single author. I have also found great inspiration in the historical fiction of Rosemary Sutcliff, the Swallows and Amazons of Arthur Ransome, Flannery O’Conner, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Dickens (especially his Great Expectations). I would follow that line-up with the disclaimer that I don’t attempt to write like any one of them, though their works have significantly helped in the on-going process of finding my voice as an author.
TRESKILLARD: That’s quite a lineup of influences, and good company to be in. For the next question, what’s your view on e-books and the new publishing revolution? Are there any self-published e-book plans in your future?
BOND: E-books and the publishing revolution. I love books. My living room, front hall, dining room, bedrooms–every room in my house has books, lots of books, in them, old leather bound ones, new releases, and almost everything in between. I’m conservative by nature and the quintessential tech-tard, so put that together and you might expect me to be a teeth-champing opponent of e-books and the rest. But to be so would be akin to the Renaissance collector of ancient manuscripts setting up a picket line in front of Johann Gutenberg’s house in Mainz, Germany and chanting, “Moveable-type printing–it’s a sin. Move it to the recycle bin!”

Has electronic media changed the way we read and how we process information, maybe even how our imaginations work? I think it has, and not all for the good, I fear. Nevertheless, I don’t see how opposing e-books will solve the real problems. My wife was the first to get a kindle, and even I, techno meat head that I am, have read a few books on my ipad (especially when traveling and doing research abroad).
At the end of the day, however, curling up in front of the fire on a blustery evening, cup of Earl Grey in hand, Bach’s Orchestral overtures playing in the background, and reading a book–a real one, with pages made from trees–will always for me trump the sterility of the touch screen.
TRESKILLARD: Amen! And I love that mock picket-line chant in front of Johann’s house … hilarious! Next up is a question that I don’t intend to be morbid, but rather hopeful. How would you finish the following sentence?
At the end of my life, I want people to remember me and my writing as…?
BOND: Compelling, authentic fiction that when all was said and done left the reader enthralled with Jesus Christ; “I must decrease; he must increase.”
TRESKILLARD: So … If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead, who would they be? And, knowing you, I must also ask the follow-up question of what would you have for dinner?
BOND: That’s a tough question because there are so many I would love to sit down with over a delicious meal and talk and talk and talk. My first would be John Bunyan and his wife (and my wife, of course). I can just picture us sitting around a plank trestle table, wooden trenchers of coarse peasant fare, honey mead to wash it down with, and talking about Pilgrim’s Progress, of course, but I would want to ask him more about his book, The Mystery of Law and Grace Unfolded.

And then a meal with C. S. Lewis and Joy (and my wife, of course) at the Eagle & Child in Oxford (where I have eaten a number of times, but never with Lewis, though reading aloud from his books to some of my students after the meal). We would have steak and ale pie, he and Joy drinking beer, my wife and I, cider (Thatcher’s Gold, if you please), and talking about the change I have observed in his theology of free will from Screwtape (1942) to Magician’s Nephew and Silver Chair (both penned more than a decade later). And I would want to find out just what he disliked so much about most hymns (though I expect being in heaven since 1963 has changed all that). My wife would want to chat with Joy about her knitting, and I think Lewis would not think this unimportant in the slightest–and he would be absolutely right.
I think I would like to sit down with John Knox and his wife at Trunk Close on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, five children bustling about the place, my dear wife at my side, of course. We would be eating haggis, nips, and tatties, and drinking a Rhone wine he brought over from his time in Geneva. I would want to ask him what he wishes he would have done more of and what he wishes he had not wasted his time doing at all (I suspect, not being from the modern world, he would not entirely understand the second part of this question).
TRESKILLARD: Very fascinating! I had at first envisioned one meal with all three together, but of course three different meals, each appropriate to the time and person, is much more fun … and having it a family meal and discussion adds so much as well. Thank you for those details—I almost felt like I was watching it all happen. And speaking of watching … what’s this I hear about a DUNCAN’S WAR movie in the works? This is REALLY exciting, and I must know more, so fill us in!
Bond: I have gone from excited to cringing over one of my books being turned into a movie. It has been a roller coaster for me. So often when I go to see a movie based on a book I’ve read, the movie disappoints me. And I don’t want that to happen with Duncan’s War. And I especially don’t want the substance to be tampered with in any way; let’s not turn Sandy M’Kethe into a hand-wringing 90s parent. The guys spearheading this movie project won’t do that.

There’s still lots of hoops to pass through for Duncan to go from playacting in the opening scene of the book to actually being playacted in a real movie. But these guys (Phillip Moses, Producer/Director, and James Chung, Art Director, etc.) feel the same way I do about that. Nobody wants to do a lousy movie flop of this book. You’ve heard what John le Carre is supposed to have said, “Watching your book be turned into a movie is like watching your oxen be turned into bullion cubes.” Hence my cringing.

But all that said, they are in the “development and packaging” stage of creating this movie. I’m learning all kinds of new terminology from these guys. And the soft launch at the AFM convention in LA went far better than either Phillip or James anticipated. They were meeting with potential distributors and financiers who seemed very impressed with the grass-roots enthusiasm for Duncan’s War becoming a big-screen film. Over 1,100 likes and lots of people talking about on the fb page (https://www.facebook.com/DuncansWar), and all in about 4 days time. Now they need some deep pockets to make it a reality. Finally, all of this is in the Lord’s able and wise hands, and there’s no better place for me to rest either.


TRESKILLARD: It’s certainly a scary and exciting thing to have this happen … may this process be more like giving juicy steaks that feed hungry souls! So, with the potential for a Scottish movie in the works, it is quite appropriate to ask the next question … If you had to choose one place to live other than Tacoma, where would it be? Britain, Scotland, France, Switzerland, or _________? You’ve written about so many places that I won’t venture to guess the answer.
BOND: That is a good one. Before I answer, I want to pause and think of the line of poetry from Anna Waring, the Welsh poet and hymn writer, “Content to fill a little space if Thou be glorified.” I love traveling. I find it so stimulating to my imagination, and I especially love writing on location. While researching for Hammer of the Huguenots, I wrote in a huge cavern high up in the Cevennes in the south of France where as many as 900 Huguenots would gather in secret to worship the Savior. I sat there in the dark with my iPad and wrote what I was hearing, smelling, feeling, and what it must have been like filled with fugitive worshipers of King Jesus. So right now, I’d say I would want to live with my family in La Roque sur-Ceze, a tiny medieval village in the south of France, near where Huguenots lived and worshiped, suffered and died in the 16th century.

But I really do want to live in a little space where I can glorify the Savior–and after being away I always love coming home to my little corner in the Pacific Northwest.
TRESKILLARD: Your travels definitely add a sense of realism to your novels, and I can’t wait to read that cave scene! Do you have a favorite piece of writing (novel, non-fiction book, short-story, article, poem, or hymn) that you’d like to tell us about?

BOND: I wrote the initial draft of this scene at the early end of my research for Hammer of the Huguenots while sitting in the square around the village fountain at the coastal town of La Ciotat. At that point I wasn’t sure where it would fit in the big story; only later did it find its place near the end of the novel.

Caught

Philippe had never felt thirst like this. Burning and constricting so intense that he feared it was irrecoverable. He had halted, and almost collapsed at the village square in the town of Tillac near Navarre. At that particular moment he was so thirsty, hungry, and exhausted, he little cared if the enemy rode into the village and he was discovered.
He listened to the chuckling of the fountain, a massive stone bath, the water poised on the rim, here and there trickling over in rivulets that filled a narrow moat surrounding the entire structure. Four grinning stone dolphins spewed an unrelenting stream of water from their mouths, dribbles of it falling from their rigid lower lips.
Fountains worked like magnets, thought Philippe, drawing all living things to themselves. No one had to tell creatures to come to fountains. It seemed as natural as breathing to find refreshment in their cool waters. His horse had buried its mouth in the fountain and was breathing in great gulps of water.
Not only horses but all creatures knew what to do at fountains, including pigeons. Pigeons cooed softly from window sills, tile roofs, and the stone niches of the tall narrow arched windows of the parish church. In a flurry of clapping wings and contented squeaks, the gray and white feathered birds descended to the rim of the fountain, there to plunge their heads in the cool water for a refreshing drink. Not satisfied with a mere drink, several of them dipped and bobbed until they had drenched themselves entirely in the cool water. One flew to the top of the fountain, a large round stone capital that reminded Philippe of a cannon ball, there to dry its feathers in the sun. Philippe wiped droplets from his face as more of them flew off to their various perches around the square, dripping water from their feet and beaks.
Extending his hands haltingly, Philippe closed his eyes and breathed deeply at the feel of the cool water. For what seemed like weeks, he had had little time to look at his hands, what is more, to wash them. Ladling handfuls of water onto his arms he scrubbed away the layers of caked on dirt and grit and blood. He could recall few things in life that gave him as much pleasure as bathing his hands that day. And then, when his hands were sufficiently clean, he cupped them and breathed in a long cool drink, and another and another. He was on his knees now. Bathing his face and neck, he drank again in deep silence, as if it were a holy activity too sacred for words.
Through louvered shutters high above the little square, women and children—few boys and fewer still men—peered cautiously at the stranger bathing and drinking at their village fountain.
TRESKILLARD: Excellent scene! As a follow-up to that, have you ever found yourself weeping while writing?
BOND: Guilty, big time. The time that first comes to mind (there have been many) is when Sandy M’Kethe was fatally wounded in the rescue in Rebel’s Keep. My father was going through his induction Chemo therapy for AML Leukemia as I was writing the book. He had suffered every complication during six horrific weeks of hospitalization for the mega-doses of chemo they were pumping into his body, with several near-death episodes that brought us to his bedside in the middle of the night. I wrote that scene (I’m starting to choke up recollecting even) with more than verisimilitude informing my imagination; I had just been at my dying father’s side, stroking his brow, holding his hand, praying, singing, comforting and encouraging him with the gospel promises he had taught me. Yes, without apology, I cry like a baby as I write. Which makes it a bit awkward at times. I do a good deal of writing at Collins Memorial Library at the University of Puget Sound near my house. College kids don’t seem to appreciate it when a white-haired dude in his fifties is hunkered over his laptop blubbering like… well, like an old man.
TRESKILLARD: That’s a very powerful example, and I can relate. We really do pour our souls into our writing! For a final question … tell us about the book you are contributing to the giveaway — HAND OF VENGEANCE. Also, do you have anything new in the works? Any secret projects?
BOND: I loved writing this book! Hand of Vengeance, set in 8th century Anglo-Saxon Northern England, is a tale that emerges from the days of the mead hall, the battle axe, and the mounting threat of Viking plunder and pillage along the northern coast of Northumbria. The Lindisfarne Gospels are being crafted an th Venerable Bede is teaching and writing a few mile down the coast. The novel is my first murder mystery–and a tale that explores true biblical romance. Whether you love it or hate it, I doubt that you’ll put it down until the last page. So much enjoyed writing this book.

Today I began writing on my next historical fiction book, set in my backyard–almost literally! I guess it will be sort of a Bond version of some of the favorite frontier stories out there for young adult readers. Mine will have lots of beaver trapping, PNW trading musket shooting, salmon fishing, horses, HMS Beaver steamer for the HBC, small boat sailing, Douglas fir felling, log cabin building, trading and friendship with coastal Indians, frontier tensions between American and British settlers, the Pig War, and the rising storm to the Civil War. A good deal of it set at Fort Nisqually, a short hop from my front door. So no secret about it!

TRESKILLARD: Thank you so much for the interview, Doug. Your new novel sounds like it will be a lot of fun to write … and to read! Any M’Kethe’s involved? Oh wait, that’s another question … this interview might go on forever if I don’t stop.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

INKBLOTS--Exploding with new ideas for 'Blots!

This our first time back together for some time--too long! Great to be back with these fine gentlemen--seven of us tonight (Pastor Carl gets the prize for the most dedicated--he drove 90 miles one way to get here just for 'Blots. We are honored). We discussed at length, with what appeared to me to be mounting enthusiasm, prospects for Inkblots in the future. More to come on that score. Over Storyteller Pinot Noir (thanks to John Schrupp's exquisite literary taste in wine) and a Cline Zinfandel, we rehearsed some of the writing projects we have been or are working on (I shared a bit about my latest mania, World War I novel, set in France in the Western Front, my protagonist a lens to teen atheist CS Lewis. If you think I'm being a bit over-hyperbolic employing the word "mania" just ask my gloriously patient beloved wife).

Patrick is writing a collection of short stories, highly symbolic, weird, intriguing, first-person zombie narratives. Post-apocalyptic yarns designed to be stealth means of exposing the fallacy of irreligious secularism, and adorning a biblical redemptive view of the nature of reality in a horrifically broken world. Patrick did his first 'Blots reading probably two years ago or more, a vast tome of philosophy, the size of multiple volumes, in all likelihood, accessible to but a handful of terminally degree-ed academics. Now he has hit on a genre that has become the vehicle to convey much of the same complex content but with intrigue, humor, imagination, and skill. None of the rest of us are writing anything so accessible to the postmodern 14-24 year-old, that comes in the side door (or is it through a hole in the roof?) with biblical truth, as far as I can tell.

Young Atheist CS Lewis after WW I
Carl commented on the awesome vocabulary Patrick uses, but wonders if he has overdone it in places. Protagonist is human but pretending to be a zombie for his own self preservation. John pushed back on why the protagonist would be walking about in the forest, where he was susceptible to zombie attack. Patrick took it well and said he had not actually considered needing a reason; we talked about all fiction being contrivance, but it is contrivance that appears so real it doesn't seem to be contrived to the reader. Dougie Mac commented that Patrick didn't seem to have the witticism that his other writing has been so full of; I had to agree. It is always hard to tell when we just get a ten minute snippet, but I think it didn't have the refinement (Patrick seemed to feel the same way given his comment when he finished reading, something about it being a bit rough still, and hadn't looked at it for a while). John mentioned Voyage to Alpha Centore, intriguing book he is reading that reminded him of what Patrick is writing, a critique and expose on modern secularism.

Adam has been reading lots of PG Wodehouse lately. Previous material Adam has shared with us was a delight and reminded us of Agatha Christie. This feels like a macabre Victorian-esque yarn, steam punk-ish feel, though I admit that I am not a reader of the genre and know only little about it. Adam reads like an actor, which he is, so a delight to get the nuance of inflection as he reads. This is a witty fun piece. Adam is spare on attribution, because, in my opinion, he is used to reading from a stage script. I suggested attributing more early in the story, and as characters are well developed and their voice known to the reader, scale back then on attribution. It is Wodehouse-ian with banter and turns of phrase, Patrick felt it sounded like cliches in places.

We returned to our opening discussion and parted with some assignments for research and planning for the future of Inkblots. Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

WHY GRACE? Author Interview ByFaith PCA magazine


Interview in latest issue of byFaith

It was a delight to be asked by Richard Doster Editor-in-chief of PCA magazine byFaith for an interview, just out in the latest issue, on my new book GRACE WORKS! (And Ways We Think It Doesn’t), P&R, 2014, by Douglas Bond

BF: What compelled you to write GRACE WORKS?
Being a student of Church history. Church history includes a chronicle of the ways we “distort the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:7), abandon grace, and trouble the church with a contrary gospel (1:6-9). But it’s not just the other guys’ churches that make a mingle-mangle of gospel truth. The Bible and Church history relentlessly demonstrate that it can happen in your church and mine.
Who hasn’t heard preaching that was more about what we do than what God in Christ has already done by grace alone? I wrote GW because my own heart is prone to tear the grace of Christ apart and look to my own performance instead of the perfect righteousness of my Redeemer. I am prone to thinking that faith and obedience are conditions, fail to meet them and I forfeit justifying grace, to think that the gospel is a “responsible partnership” wherein “we determine our destiny by our faith and our obedience.” I wrote GW because I was hearing law-creep begin to erode the purity of the gospel of free grace in Christ alone—in our churches.

BF: Why write GW now? Because in every generation “Satan’s stratagem is that he does not attempt an avowed destruction of the whole gospel, but he taints its purity by introducing false and corrupt opinions” (Calvin). I wrote GW now to unmask the ways we “tamper with God’s Word” and teach a “disgraceful, underhanded” gospel (II Corinthians 4:2). The jury of church history is in. This can and will happen in your church and mine, hence, “We must exercise the utmost caution lest we allow any counterfeit to be substituted for the pure doctrine of the gospel” (Calvin). 
  BF: What will readers know/understand that they don’t know/understand now?

GW is about equipping the church to heed these warnings, and to root out the various ways we become partners with him in his relentless scheme to redefine the gospel—in our generation. In GW I explore the various ways we doubt that grace actually works and the various ways the Enemy makes covenant moralism look more attractive than the covenant of grace, and the devastating effect of gospel distortions on our children.

Each chapter of GW concludes with discussion questions drawn from Scripture and catechisms, and ends with ways to pray for gospel unity and discernment.

BF: And how will readers’ lives be different as a result?
In GW there’s no tidy formulas, or simplistic how-to strategies. None of that works. Grace works. Only the Prince of Peace breaks down dividing walls and unifies His church around grace itself, grace that truly does work, because grace is not a thing but a person, Jesus Christ.

Finally, GW is a book about rediscovering the loveliness of Christ. My hope is that readers will close the book bedazzled with the Savior, slack-jawed in wonder at a gospel of grace that works, that accomplishes all that our gracious Redeemer said it would.

Douglas Bond, author of more than twenty books, is husband of Cheryl, father of six, and grandfather of two. He is a ruling elder in the PCA, a history and English teacher, a speaker at conferences, and a leader of Church history tours in Europe.
(full profile)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hammer of the Huguenots featured in French newspaper

Le Midi Libre January 18, 2015
French newspaper Le Midi Libre (January 18, 2015) just ran a feature article on my writing of the HAMMER OF THE HUGUENOTS on-location in France. My son Cedric wrote the English language version from which Gérard Mignard (University of Paris professor emeritus and correspondent for the newspaper) translated the French version of the feature article. Here is Cedric's article in English and some scenes from France.


Hammer of the Huguenots: A New Novel on the Wars of Religion in France, by Douglas Bond (P&R Publishing, 2015)

With tantalizing descriptions of local cuisine, French Gothic cathedrals, medieval walled cities, dark caves in the Cevennes, lush vineyards in the Côtes du Rhône, and the salt marshes of Aigues-Mortes, there can be no doubt this book was written in the south of France. When most Americans think of France their limited knowledge expires with food and fashion. But American writer Douglas Bond, author of more than twenty books, is not like most Americans. Neither is his latest book, Hammer of the Huguenots, like most books about France. 

When pressed, your average American may think of the World Wars, and some may even think of Victor Hugo or Enlightenment philosophers. However, few indeed have any meaningful knowledge of the tragic history of the 16th century Wars of Religion.

Through careful academic, social, and gastronomical research, Bond has sought to uncover and convey this rich history and culture. And though set in the grim days of the mid-sixteenth century, no book about life in the south of France can be entirely dark. Writing on-location in 12th century La Roque-sur-Cèze, one of les plus beaux villages de France, and other locations in the south of France, Bond captured the quintessential warmth and atmosphere of these charming regions.

Using his genre of choice, historical fiction, Bond captivates his readers, draws them in, and places them into the center of a Huguenot family. Although sympathetic to the Huguenot cause, Bond follows the history where it leads.

INSIDER INFORMATION

Perhaps, it is best to reveal my own bias. Bond is my father. However, as one who has studied under him in writing and history classes, proof read manuscripts, and frequently discussed and debated
In the Calanques, south of France
issues of politics and religion, I am well placed to give both a predominantly objective and certainly intimate description of the author.

Having written numerous published books of historical fiction, biography, devotion, and theology, Bond has hit his stride as an author. For proof look no further than this book. Vivid descriptions and authentic characters with feelings like his readers, make Hammer of the Huguenots not just a joy to read, but make it seem to read itself—pulling the reader along as if an active participant in the living drama unfolding on the pages.

SUMMARY OF THE NOVEL

Contextually, this book spans the first three Wars of Religion from 1560 until 1570. Set initially in Aigues-Mortes, the story unfolds through the eyes of a Huguenot shipwright’s conflicted apprentice Philippe, bewildered by the prayers of his master Monsieur Beaune’s family. Bond’s protagonist wrestles with his confusion throughout the story: Why these drawn-out prayers over meals? What is the real bone of contention between the medieval Church and the Huguenots? And, why would anyone want to harm a family like his master’s?

Maurice, eldest Beaune son, passionate and adventurous, provides a fitting counterpart to the more introverted Philippe. Throughout the book, the young men’s relationship grows as they are drawn together by loyalty and peril. Meanwhile, Philippe’s friendship with Maurice’s charming sister Sophie also develops. To his bewilderment, this peace-loving Huguenot family Philippe comes to love, are the same people the medieval Church wanted to be rid of. As the story unfolds, the malicious designs of the enemy become unmistakably evident:

…the silence now broken by the clattering thunder of horses’ hooves pounding the cobblestones, the shouts and cries of men, echoing and reechoing off the narrow houses lining the streets that radiated from the church. Camargue horses, terrible in their whiteness, manes flowing, teeth champing…, and with every snorting stride, their riders spurring them on, straight toward Pastor Leclerc, the door of the church, and the worshipers within.

Forced into a conflict he does not understand and his friends do not want, Philippe joins the Huguenot cause out of friendship rather than conviction. But will that change? 

CONFLICT AND CHANGE

Change could well be considered one of the overarching themes of the book. Peace changes to war; friendship ripens into love; Confusion gives way to clarity; convictions shift from Rome to Geneva. All of France is changed by the tumult of the Wars of Religion nearly 500 years ago. After more than a century of bloody religious conflict, it is little wonder that many in France today feel more comfortable with irreligious secularism. English-speaking readers feel the struggle of the Huguenots as if it were their own, despite the centuries that lie between. Although Bond gives a satisfying exploration of the historical moment, the novel probes timeless human themes. 

Bond’s historical accuracy can be seen in his portrayal of the conniving, Italian-born, Catherine de Médici, a papal bull of  March 15, 1569 calling for the annihilation of all Huguenots, repeated royal edicts professing peace--then broken by Charles IX, and massacres at Vassy and Sens.

WHAT WAS AT STAKE?
Deeply concerned with discovering the heart of the Huguenot cause, Bond lets readers hear excerpts from several sermons delivered by the oft-forgotten reformer Pierre Viret at Nîmes and Montpellier. The setting for one message Bond recreated by an episode from his own time exploring in Nîmes. Caught in a violent summer rain storm, Bond, his family, and dozens of others took cover in Cathédrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor de Nîmes. This real 2013 experience became the setting for a historical sermon preached by Pierre Viret to several thousand people there in 1561.

“All that is necessary for your salvation has been offered and communicated to us in Jesus Christ. He alone is given to us for our salvation, and ‘is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.’ …I plead with you this day. Put off your idols. Find refuge in Jesus Christ alone!”

12th century village where a good deal of HH was written
Along with vernacular preaching, another emblem of the Huguenots was their public Psalm-singing in French. True to history, at great risk, the Beaune family boldly sings—often louder than Philippe deems prudent:

Let God arise in all His might,
And put the troops of hell to flight,
As smoke that sought to cloud the skies
Before the rising tempest flies.

It is only natural that Bond gives the psalm singing its due place in the story of the Huguenots—Bond, a writer of hymns for the new reformation, has written six books about hymnody, and was a consultant for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s God’s Greatest Hits 2012 television series. When not writing or speaking at conferences, Bond teaches at a classical Christian high school in America, and for his teaching of writing was awarded the regional “2005 Teacher Award.” 

Additionally, Bond and his wife Cheryl have led historical study tours in Europe since 1996—a source of many lasting friendships, several of which aided significantly with this book. One of these—a veritable modern-day Huguenot—Pastor Lionel Jauvert, direct descendent of Huguenots from the Cévennes, hosted the Bond family in his ancestors’ house, built in 1485, another source of inspiration for Hammer of the Huguenots.

WRITTEN WHERE IT HAPPENED
Many episodes in the book were written in either the exact location or a similar setting to the historical location. For example, one chapter has the protagonists taking refuge—as so many Huguenots were forced to do—in a cave in the Cévennes. Without the aid of road signs or trail markers, Jauvert led Bond to a remote cave where hundreds of Huguenots sought refuge to worship in safety. High above the village of Saint-Jean du Gard in the dark recesses of that cave, Bond drafted a fictional episode based on painfully genuine occurrences in that very cave five-hundred years prior.
Montpelier's Cathedral: where Viret preached
Another acquaintance, Gérard Mignard, resident of La Roque-sur-Cèze, and correspondent for Le Midi Libre, offered invaluable insight that helped Bond capture the local charm of his village, Provence, and the Côtes du Rhône. In addition to his regional expertise, Mignard introduced Bond to his local friends, gaining him entrance to a 12th century private chateau, yet another genuine setting for an episode in the book.

Food plays a central role in Hammer of the Huguenots. Bond and his family enjoyed many of the regional culinary delights of France, as evident throughout the book:
It was a meal he would never forget—steamed legumes; chevre cheese, blended with herbs and garlic; roast wild boar, killed that day in the hills above the farmhouse, dripping with herbes de Provence and butter sauce. Their host uncorked a bottle of local Grenache Noir; its dry complexity with a hint of spice lingering on the palate made Philippe wonder if miracles had ceased after all.

Although there are many delightful and even a few humorous episodes, the book’s historical context is grim and dark, indeed. Though France’s Wars of Religion have often been thought of as civil wars, Bond demonstrates otherwise. While King Charles IX rallied his forces against the Huguenots (influenced by his mother Catherine de Médici and his ruthless uncles, Duke of Guise and Cardinal of Lorraine), Bond makes the case that the conflict was not simply French against French, but far more the Holy Roman Empire with its multi-national mercenary army arrayed against France‘s Huguenot population, by some estimates, fully 40% of 16th century France’s population. Threatening severe censure against France, Emperor and King of Spain, Philip II was a significant force behind the violence against the French Huguenots. Not to be outdone, Pope Pius V, determined to end the conflict, issued a papal bull in 1569 calling for a crusade to exterminate all the French who aligned themselves with the Huguenot cause.  

COMMENTARY ON RELIGIOUS CONFLICT TODAY

Like radical Islamists today, the mercenary armies of the empire ruthlessly engaged in their murderous holy war. Bond depicts historical accounts of Huguenot congregations attacked while singing in Sens and Vassy, surrounded and fired upon by François, Duke of Guise’s men. Volleys from arquebuses left scores of men, women, and children dead or wounded in Huguenot temples. 
As hammer blows fell upon the beleaguered Huguenots, Bond demonstrates how, for a time, they grew stronger. “Tant plus à me frapper on s’amuse, tant plus de marteaux on y use!” It is from this well-known saying that Bond took the title Hammer of the Huguenots. Many Huguenots, to their
15th century chateau: lived and wrote an episode here
eternal comfort, discovered with Pierre Viret that “Truth under attack is strengthened.” Frustrated in their inability to quell the spread of the Reformed faith, the hammerers of the Huguenots warred on against them.
 

As Bond recounts the tragic history of France’s Wars of Religion, his bewildered protagonist continues wrestling with the questions that torment him. What he longs for is his Libération: escape from the complexity of life in a war-torn country. But, he realizes that he so desperately wants cannot be achieved by himself. Freedom—will Philippe ever find it? Perhaps in a manner he never anticipated. 

Delicately weaving fact with fiction, Bond pulls his readers effortlessly through some of the most beautiful landscapes in France, places them at tables filled with traditional delicacies, and walks them through the valley of the darkest days in France’s history. How could a people be so cruel toward one another? How can someone be so sure in her belief that she would rather die than renounce her faith? What would make two young men care so much about a few captured Huguenot preachers that they would risk their lives to rescue them?  

Read Douglas Bond’s Hammer of the Huguenots. These questions and more are explored in the captivating way that only well-crafted historical fiction can accomplish. This uncommon American writer has penned a refreshingly uncommon book for all to read.

Cedric C. M. Bond, a juris doctor candidate at Oklahoma City University School of Law, is son of Douglas Bond, author of Hammer of the Huguenots.