Archive for the ‘Guest Columns’ Category

Suspense and Spiritual Nuggets in ‘Book of Dreams,’ Says Reviewer

Monday, November 7th, 2011

By Mary A. Hake
Guest Reviewer

I have long been a fan of Davis Bunn’s books and enjoy the variety of subjects and the complexity they contain in story and plot. So I was willing to stick with Book of Dreams when it initially progressed slowly, gradually weaving its web like a spider poised to catch the reader.

Soon I was caught up in the drama of terrorizing nightmares, international finance intrigue, an ancient book with seemingly spiritual power, and the characters inhabiting this tale—with their fears and vulnerabilities, their losses and triumphs.

Psychologist Elena Burroughs, who practices at Oxford, has studied dreams and authored a bestseller on the subject. When a secretive client comes, accompanied by bodyguards, Elena embarks on a journey of exploration she’s not certain she wants to pursue.

Her faith is stretched as she surrenders her profession and her entire life to God’s work. He is calling her to something far beyond her “dreams,” yet intertwined with strange dreams and real danger. As a priest told her early on, “The Lord clarifies.” She and the rest of the international cast find this to be true.

This novel offers thrills of both suspense and spiritual nuggets of truth. I marked a number of pages containing treasures for future reference.

The possibility of the story’s potential financial disaster actually occurring in modern times is unsettling.

The probability of learning to trust God no matter what happens is reassuring.

Thanks, Davis, for another provocative read that gives me much to chew on mentally.

Mary A. Hake is a freelance writer and editor, with hundreds of published pieces in periodicals and books, including a Creation curriculum for children. She also frequently reviews new books. Mary serves as president of Oregon Christian Writers and has helped with OCW conferences for many years. In addition, she chairs her local Library Advisory Board. Her website is maryhake.com.

Mark Young Interviews Davis Bunn

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Yesterday I shared a review Mark Young wrote about my new novel, Lion of Babylon. Today, I’ll pass along a Q & A Mark did with me:

By Mark Young
Guest Columnist

Davis Bunn is a superb writer, whose many novels continue to intrigue, entertain and inspire readers. This author is a Writer in Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University in England, while managing to migrate back to Florida for part of each year where he undertakes another one of his passions—surfing.

MARK: Thanks again for joining us to discuss your latest novel, Lion of Babylon. As I read this novel, I became fascinated with the amount of detail you folded into the story. I came away feeling like I had received a deeper understanding about this troubled country and some of the issues it faces. Which sources did you draw your information from to write this novel?

DAVIS: I worked for a number of years with a Swiss-Arab consortium, first as Assistant to the Chairman and then as Marketing Manager for one main division. I was the only non-Muslim in the management structure. I was twenty-five years old when I started there.  To say the least, this was a real eye-opener. I lived about six months of each year at our headquarters in Switzerland, and the rest of the time in Africa and the Middle East.

I left that job to become a consultant based in Germany, and it was here I came to faith, and then began writing two weeks later. Since then I have been back a number of times to the Middle East and Africa, and have long wanted to base a story there. This was my first real foray, however, and I am thrilled with how the story has turned out.

MARK: As I mentioned above, the level of kidnappings seems to have escalated in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was removed from power. As you point out in this novel, one of the last acts Hussein did before the occupation was the release of over 100,000 criminals. Can you share with our readers about the scope of this problem based upon your research and contacts? Does this account for a significant number of kidnappings, or are there other considerations at play?

DAVIS: The crime situation in Iraq is often masked by the overall violence and bombings. This is only natural, since the terrorist bombings are what most affect the American service personnel still based in the region. But for the average Iraqi, the problems of crime and lawlessness are equally vital. I used the kidnapping issue, which is a very grave threat to all families with children, as a means of showing what life was like there for the average citizen.

MARK: In your novel, one of the main characters is Sameh el-Jacobi, a lawyer and a member of the Syrian Christian Church, which you mention is the majority church for Iraqi Christians. Can you tell us a little about the history of this church and whether it has any influence on the current situation in Iraq?

DAVIS: This was one of the great delights of this book, learning about the Christian churches of Iraq and the surrounding countries. The Syrian Christian Church has its roots in some of the very earliest missionary journeys. Some say it was one of Christ’s own disciples who founded the church. Whatever the actual beginning, there are churches still intact today that are built upon foundations laid in the third century—around 225AD.

MARK: From your research and contact, can you tell us a little more about any positive alliances or progress being made in that country today? In your novel, there is a hint of optimism, of a hope that divergent groups might be able to come together in that country working toward peace. Is this possible, or are the cultural and religious differences so vast that there is little hope?

DAVIS: The optimism is real, just as the hope that Jesus brings. These peace initiatives are a strong and vibrant part of our heritage of believers. They are often referred to as faith-based peace initiatives, and are usually headed by a former member of Congress or a senior White House official. Chuck Colson, head of Prison Fellowship and former aide to President Nixon, is heavily involved in a number of these issues, mostly related to the treatment of prisoners and their families.

MARK: Your novel is titled Lion Of Babylon. This symbol of the lion is repeatedly used in Babylonian history and carried forward into today’s Iraqi culture. Even an Iraqi-built version of a Soviet battle tank was dubbed the Lion of Babylon. How did you settle on this name? What significance does it play in your novel or is this something the readers should find out for themselves?

DAVIS: Because of the crucial role this plays in how Marc is perceived, and really who he grows into as a man applying his faith to his world, I would rather leave this for the readers to discover in the book.

MARK: Your main protagonist, Marc Royce, came from an intelligence background with the U.S. State Department. Last year on this blog, we interviewed former anti-terrorism agent Fred Burton, (author of  Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent and his forthcoming book. Chasing Shadows), who served for sixteen years with the Counterterrorism Division of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service. Is this the branch of service your main character emerged from or was he from another division within State? Did you have your own contact inside DSS or gain your information from other sources?

DAVIS: Yes. The State Department Intelligence operation is the smallest of the American intelligence groups. Their primary remit, or main task, is to protect all non-military American operations – like embassies and safe houses – outside the US borders.  I had actually started this story planning to use the CIA, but this had already been used so successfully by other authors whose work I admire, and State intel was relatively unknown. Then I was introduced to a wonderful woman who has served both as a senior operative and then as assistant to the director – the role Marc Royce plays – within the organization. This was a genuine prize. She is a fan of my work, and was happy to take me into their HQ and walk me through their operation. Such opportunities are one of the greatest joys of researching a new story.

MARK: I highly recommend to those who enjoy a real page-turner to pick up a copy of the Lion of Babylon. They are in for a real treat. What does the future hold for you now that this novel is about to be released? Can we be look forward to any more stories like this in the near future?

DAVIS: I am currently busy with the sequel to Lion. The title is Rare Earth, and it is due for release in May of next year.

MARK: Again, thanks for joining us. We wish you well upon the release of this novel.

About Mark Young: Writer, husband and father. Write mystery, suspense, thriller novels. Life experiences include three decades in law enforcement, six years working on newspapers. A Vietnam survivor serving with Fox 2/5, 1st. Marine Div. USMC. Visit Mark at the Hook ‘em and Book ‘em blog. http://hookembookem.blogspot.com/

‘Lion of Babylon’ Character Sketches

Monday, May 9th, 2011

By Laura Christianson
Guest columnist

During March, I published character sketches for the Acts of Faith series on Davis Bunn’s blog.

Davis’s new novel, Lion of Babylon, is set to release July 1, so I thought now would be the perfect time to introduce you to several of the major players in that book.

Lion of Babylon is set in present day Baghdad, Iraq. Marc Royce, a former State Department intelligence agent now living in Baltimore, is contacted by Ambassador Walton, retired chief of State Department Intelligence.

Marc’s former boss informs him that several Americans who live and work in Baghdad (including Marc’s best friend) have gone missing.

Marc’s assignment—should he choose to accept it—is to travel to Iraq, locate the missing persons and return them to safety.

Here are several of the key people Marc meets along the way (no plot spoilers; I promise):

Sameh el-Jacobi – A lawyer and member of the Syrian Christian Church. Sameh has a reputation as “the most honest man in Iraq.”

Leyla – Sameh’s niece and his right hand at work. Leyla and her young daughter, Bisan, live with Sameh and his wife, Miriam.

The Imam Jaffar – (Imam designates a scholar or religious leader). Jaffar’s father (the Grand Imam) is the religious leader of Iraq’s Shia population, the majority of Iraq’s Muslim community. Jaffar is the heir apparent to this title.

Major Hamid Lahm – Senior guard-captain at the prison and Iraqi policeman from a Shia family. A graduate of Baghdad University with a degree in criminology, Major Lahm hopes for fairer treatment for his people.

Barry Duboe – Senior official at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and deputy head of station for the CIA. He is described as “aggressive, bullish, loud, and perpetually angry. But he was also bluntly honest.”

Jordan Boswell – Deputy to the U.S. ambassador in Iraq.

Josh Reames – Known as “the leopard,” Josh is an American “ghost” operating outside the official remit (in other words, he is Special Ops).

Hassan el-Thahie – a Sunni and former Baath Party official. “An extremely intelligent and crafty businessman.”

Farouk el-Waziri – Leader of one of Iraq’s oldest merchant families. He is a major exporter of dates and holds the Coca-Cola franchise for Iraq. His eldest son, Taufiq el-Waziri, is described as “a firebrand… a troublemaker.”

Fareed – An Iranian member of the resistance.

When you read Lion of Babylon, I recommend setting aside several hours. The fast pace makes the book difficult to put down, and you’ll want to read it in one sitting. Enjoy!

Laura Christianson manages Davis Bunn’s blog. The author of three non-fiction books, Laura owns Blogging Bistro, a company that helps businesses and individuals enhance their Internet presence.

Practicing the Discipline of Waiting

Friday, March 25th, 2011

The following comment was written in response to my blog post about ‘waiting’ by author and speaker Joy Gage. It was so lovely I thought you might enjoy reading it as well:

By Joy Gage
Guest Columnist

You should see the red rocks of Sedona dusted with snow. Two weeks ago we saw snow all around us. Yesterday it was 70 degrees. We love living where we see snow every year yet never have to plow through it. It seems the best of both worlds.

From my youth I learned “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

But I have never found it easy.

Waiting is one of the many disciplines a writer practices. With practice everything else about the craft becomes easier. But waiting remains the same–a difficult discipline.

Three years ago I grew so tired of waiting that I quietly threw in the towel. My agent never seemed to have time to give the feedback I needed; one publisher after another looked at my “very interesting historical novel” and found a reason not to publish it. My muse disappeared as I grasped another pressing responsibility–caring for our daughter who was dying with cancer. I looked back over my time in the publishing world–a respectable record but I had hoped to do so much more. I assumed the time had come to bow out, to quit trying and to be content with teaching on line for Jerry Jenkins.

When our daughter died, (2 years ago) she left such a hole in the family that we collectively reeled for more than a year. I filled my time by volunteering three days a week for a worthy cause. I made a great effort to get involved in the womens ministry at my church. But neither area proved to be the right fit for me. That year did not seem like a waiting period. It seemed more like the final bookend that closed off a former period of my life. But it was not.

God had other plans.

Last summer with no prior pondering an idea for a project came to me–a co-writing project with my husband. The book is finished and is being reviewed by a publisher. So we wait. Since that time I have submitted another proposal and am currently finishing a WWII novel.

In October a study on faith/obedience which I wrote for a mission board was released in Arabic. It has been distributed in Egypt and Jordan and 200 copies are on their way to a country I cannot disclose. A non commercial venture for which I must wait until eternity to discover any impact it will have.

In February within the space of 10 days at least a half dozen people contacted me about my book, When Parents Cry. This book was published over 30 years ago and after numerous editions (including a mass paperback by a N.Y. publisher) went out of print. The current interest has caused me to begin pondering a writing project that screams to be written. I have learned that as a believer, whatever God calls/equips us to do is ultimately in His hand. With Moses we pray, “establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Thus the sales reports and the royalty checks do not tell the whole story. The publisher may determine how long a book stays in print but only God can determine how long that book has an effective ministry.

You are one of the two most gifted writers that I know. And you find ways to minister to other aspiring writers. I have watched you circle a room, encouraging people everyone else overlooks. I pray that while you wait that God will encourage you in many, many ways.

Many, many blessings,

Joy

Character Sketches for Acts of Faith Series

Monday, March 7th, 2011

By Laura Christianson
Guest columnist

When I read a series, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the vast array of characters who populate the pages. The Acts of Faith series was a pleasant surprise, because several characters play key roles in all three books.

I read The Centurion’s Wife, The Hidden Flame, and The Damascus Way back-to-back-to-back, which I highly recommend, because each succeeding book begins where the last one left off. And while there are a lot of characters, Davis Bunn and Janette Oke weave them in naturally and give us time to get to know each character.

I created a “cheat sheet” to help me keep track of the characters in the Acts of Faith series, and I thought I’d share it with you. Don’t worry; my character sketches don’t include any plot spoilers.

I will give you one hint about the theme. In my opinion, the premise for all three books is: What if you discover the truth about Jesus, and the truth shatters your life?

Now, on to the character sketches!

* Indicates characters who appear in all three books

The Centurion’s Wife

A.D. 33, in Caesarea, Judea province and Jerusalem

The action takes place immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion, during the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot, or Pentecost.

Key characters

Leah, age 19

Originally from Verona, Leah had been born to wealth and position. But a because of a financial calamity in her family, Leah now serves as maid for Pontius Pilate’s wife, Procula.

*Alban, age 24, a centurion

Alban commands one of Judea province’s outermost garrisons. The son of a chief in Gaul, Alban is described as “a foreigner who has managed to rise to the rank of centurion.” Alban is not only a fierce warrior, but he is also a kind, skillful leader who is respected by his men.

*Jacob, age 12

Alban’s favored servant.

*Linux Aurelius, Pilate’s aide

A handsome, bold Roman officer, Linux is an aristocrat born in Umbria (northern Italy), who serves as Pilate’s official messenger.

Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea

Herod (along with the high priest, the Sanhedrin, and Pilate) believes that the Roman power structure is in danger from fanatics who claim the carpenter’s son, Jesus, is their Messiah. He says to Pilate, “They are out to destroy us. If they can stir up a large enough rebellion, we will both suffer for it.”

Pontius Pilate, Governor of Judea

Pilate lives in an opulent palace in Caesarea, and at the beginning of the book, he is leaving for Jerusalem, where he’ll be in charge of maintaining the peace during the annual Passover festival. Pilate orders Alban to infiltrate the ranks of followers of the prophet Jesus to learn whether there is a threat against Pilate or against Rome.

Claudia Procula, Pontius Pilate’s wife, Roman royalty

Plagued by nightmares and headaches, Procula commissions her servant, Leah, to inquire on her behalf about the followers of the prophet, Jesus.

*Abigail, a young Judean follower of Jesus

*Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary and stalwart servant of the Lord Jesus.

The Hidden Flame

A.D. 33, Jerusalem

The action begins immediately after The Centurion’s Wife ends, six weeks after Jesus’s crucifixion. In Chapter 2, we jump forward 25 months.

In the midst of great political unrest, followers of the Way live in fear, but simultaneously seek God’s will. The themes in this novel resonate as deeply in the 21st century as they did in the first century.

Key characters

*Abigail, Linux, Alban, Jacob, and Martha from The Centurion’s Wife

Stephen, a young man and follower of the Way

Born a slave to a Greek, Stephen received his freedom as a gift when his master died. He serves the risen Lord with a quiet passion.

Ezra, a senior merchant

A  widower with two children, ages 4 and 6, Ezra’s trading empire stretches from Jerusalem to Damascus and Rome.

Sapphira, Ezra’s youngest sister

Wife to Ananias, Sapphira married into a family of Jerusalem merchants. She is a follower of Jesus.

Gamaliel, elder Pharisee who serves on the Sanhedrin, the Temple Council

Long-time mentor to Ezra, Gamaliel is a perceptive listener and a mediator.

Enos, personal aide to Herod Antipas

Head of the palace staff, Enos is a greedy man, not to be trusted.

Peter, a disciple of Jesus

Marcellus, new governor of Judea (after Pontius Pilate)

A man shaped by idleness and indulgence, Marcellus is angling for the position of consul of Rome (an extremely powerful political position, one who acts as a bridge between the emperor and the Senate).

The Damascus Way

Circa A.D. 40

The story takes place mainly in Tiberias, the Samaritan Plains, and the Megiddo Plains.

It is no longer safe to be a follower of the Way. Spies are everywhere and charges of misconduct – religious and otherwise – are leveled daily against those in the community. As a result, people who trust in the risen Jesus are dispersing from Jerusalem. As they attempt to forge new lives in unfamiliar places, they learn to listen to God’s voice, lean on God’s protection, and trust God amidst life’s uncertainly.

The core question this book addresses is: How can I live so that when someone sees me, they are pointed to Jesus?

Key characters

*Jacob (now 20 years old), Abigail, Martha, Linux, and Alban from the first two books.

Julia, a young woman, daughter of the wealthy merchant, Jamal

Jamal, a Syrian trader and merchant of Greek lineage

Julia’s father, Jamal, owns a large caravan and the trading grounds outside Tiberias. He is away from home many months at a time, dividing his time between Tiberius and Damascus.

Helena, Julia’s mother, a Samaritan

Zoe, Helena and Julia’s beloved servant, a follower of the Way

Saul of Tarsus, a young Pharisee

Tall, lean, and hard, Saul is a religious version of a bird of prey. Certain of his authority, Saul will sentence any man who opposes him to death.

Philip the evangelist

An educated, quiet man and one of Jesus’ disciples, Philip is highly respected among followers of the Way for his passion and dedication.

Dorcas, age 4, Abigail’s daughter

Cornelius, senior centurion within the Italian Guard

The Italian Guard is the preeminent brigade in Judea and is staffed by Rome’s elite.

Yelban, village elder in Nain and at the market in Megiddo. Tavern owner.

Helzebah, a woman from Sychar

In the Bible, Helzebah is the Samaritan woman at the well whom Jesus met. Her witness is responsible for entire villages becoming believers.

Simon, a wizard who lives in Nain

A famous wizard, Simon is known throughout Samaria. In the Bible, you’ll find his story in Acts 8:9.


Laura Christianson manages Davis Bunn’s blog. The author of three non-fiction books, Laura owns Blogging Bistro, a company that helps businesses and individuals enhance their Internet presence.

‘The Meeting Place’ Fresh and Vibrant Across the Years, Says Reviewer

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Today I welcome guest reviewer, Casey Herringshaw, who is reading The Meeting Place, one of the first novels Janette Oke and I co-authored. She says, ” This is the third time I have read the book and it holds just as much joy now as it did then.”

By Casey Herringshaw
Guest Reviewer

It’s the third time I have picked up The Meeting Place (Song of Acadia #1) by the talented duo of Davis Bunn and Janette Oke and it’s like I’ve never read it before. The story remains fresh and vibrant across the years since it was first published to just last night when I closed the cover on the final page.

Every good story is about a relationship, a love story. Not a romance, but love. Love between friends, child and parent, a husband and wife, a love for country. The Meeting Place has this and so much more. I am always drawn in by the depth of research that must have gone into this book. The landscape becomes another character, especially the meadow where Louise and Catherine meet.

The characters in their actions, their struggles and their determination against a time that must have felt every bit as uncertain as our own, makes them extremely endearing to me. Which I think is one of the reasons I love this book — it doesn’t matter that it was based three hundred years ago. It could have happened today and I can only hope to face such trials with the grace of the Robichauds and Harrows.

It goes without saying that this book has more than impact, it has spirit, valor, heart-wrenching moments, moments of forgiveness and crossing boundaries no one would have thought passable.

It is a story that retains its freshness and beauty long after the final page has been turned. What else could you expect from such a talented writing team?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. Taking the words and stories God has placed on her heart and putting them on paper is one of her highest passions in life. Casey is a member of ACFW. You can connect with her through her personal blog, Writing for Christ and her writing related group blog, The Writer’s Alley.

Police Officers in Fiction: Bad Cop, Bad Cop?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The following wonderful (and most reassuring) note comes from Mark, in response to Laurie’s criticism of how I portrayed police officers in The Great Divide:

Laurie, I appreciate your view point since I was a police officer for 26 years. The portrayal of bad cops in fiction has become almost routine, a characterization that allows writers to develop conflict without much effort. However, I find Davis Bunn’s characters very balanced and realistic. He does a great job of creating his characters with all their human frailties and mistakes without stepping over that line. His novels, THE GREAT DIVIDE and WINNER TAKE ALL, are among my favorite.

Let’s face it. In the real world of law enforcement there are a few bad apples out there who reflect poorly on all those good officers. But these bad apples are few in number, as should be the fictionalized bad cops we read about. We are all very human. At times,even well-meaning humans make mistakes because of the frailty of their nature. Sometimes they lose sight of who they are and what they are supposed to be doing. Good fiction should capture these moments without exploiting them.

That being said, I appreciate all those in law enforcement out there who are trying to do a very difficult and challenging job. May God protect your sons, Laurie, as they do His work.

Santa and Grandma (Guest Column by Bob Arnold)

Friday, January 14th, 2011

This is just too good not to share. It comes via Bob Arnold of Atlanta, Georgia, a longtime fan and devourer of good books:

Santa & Grandma

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered. “Even dummies know that!”

My grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. “No Santa Claus?” she snorted. “Ridiculous! Don’t believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go? Go where, Grandma?” I asked I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.

“Where” turned out to be Kerby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.

“Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it. I’ll wait for you in the car.” Then she turned and walked out of Kerby’s.

I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he had no coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that. “Is this a Christmas present for someone?” the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.” The nice lady smiled at me. I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa’s helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk.

Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.” I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open.

Finally it did, and there stood Bobby. Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95.