Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In Character: John Kersten

And here's the second of my two character blogs. John Kersten is a character who has been lingering in the back story of one of my two main characters, Tom Stryker. John was his mentor and professor in his student days, and best friend to Stryker's late parents. He's unaware of the reasons Stryker abandoned his former profession. And though he's only referred to in Heaven & Hell (when this vignette takes place), he will turn up in Sword of the Faith, my next book, which serves as a prequel, and I intend to use him again down the line. A bit of an easter egg for you: John Kersten is a name that turns up in a branch of my extended family...

There are several actors I could see as the character, such as Sam Elliot, Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges, or Wes Studi....

His parents were my best friends. He was like the son I never had... hell, my daughter was half in love with him. Okay, I'll admit... that sounds stranger then it actually is. The fact is that his family and mine were close, and yes, I felt like a father to him. He followed in his mother's footsteps... and mine, for that matter... put himself towards a career in archaeology. And if he'd married my daughter, nothing would have made me more proud.

Which is what makes what he decided to do all the more disappointing.

Tom Stryker seemed to be born to archaeology. It's the profession his mother chose for herself even before she met his father. He had a deeply felt curiousity about the past, about finding out the secrets of history. He had a bright mind, patience in spades. And he grew up hearing stories about ancient Egypt. His parents practically raised him on those stories. So it was little surprise that he breezed through school as fast as he did, getting his degree and getting out there in the field. Even after his parents died, he still applied himself to finishing up, to contributing to a life of scholarship and knowledge. When he'd come home, he had a place here. I'd see the way Tara would look at him... and maybe if things had been different... well, in the end, that didn't matter.

It's been a year now. He was a few months past graduation, on a dig in Egypt. He and his work crew were working a site near Lake Nasser. A remote valley, and it felt like a promising spot. It was the sort of dig that might well have taken years. If not a lifetime. And then something happened. I still don't have all of the details, but there was a terrorist incident. Tom and his crew were held captive. And when it was over... it was as if he had changed.

He abandoned everything. All of the work he had done to get to where he was. His responsibilities as an archaeologist. He threw that all away, ended up walking away from the profession, and for what? Last I heard, he's a consultant. Hell, the world's got too many of those as it is. He's turned his back on what used to matter to him. 

I'm glad his parents didn't live to see this, as bad as that sounds. They wouldn't understand it either. My wife tells me I've got to let it go... but how? All the good he could have done, a bright mind like that. Wasted.

Maybe it would be easier if I hadn't come to think of him as family. If I hadn't had all these thoughts in the back of my head about my daughter marrying the son of my best friends. If he'd just been another former student. If that had been the case... I wouldn't have cared this damned much.

I haven't spoken to him in a year. That last time... I said things that I can't take back.

He was like a son to me. Now... that bond is broken. And nothing can ever make that right again.


  1. Nice and clear that you have to figure out how to get him to take up archaeology again and then maybe you can patch up that relationship. Sounds like an interesting idea. Space Cowboys meets Egyptian dig.

  2. Oh so tasty.... Now want to read more.
    Love all the actors you picked but I am a huge Sam Elliot and Wes Studi fan.

    cheers, parsnip

  3. Now why is it that Tom Stryker sounds a whole lot like someone I know very well?

    It won't surprise you to hear that I really like this. I've loved everything you've done with the book and the characters. You've got a winner here, partner.

  4. This is indeed intriguing. Sam Elliot seems like a great actor to play Kersten when it becomes a movie. Excellent appetizer. Give us more.

  5. Sam Elliot is one of my all-time favorites.
    This passage is really good. Can't wait for more of it.

  6. I got completely confused (sooo easily done!). There I was thinking - oh noes you're sharing this very personal heartbreaking heartfelt story about this guy who was like a son to you and whom you'd gladly have seen your daughter marry... then wham. Oh dear. It's a story!!! This isn't you!! It's Wes Studi! :-)

    Talk about art imitating life or the other way round or something! :-) take care

  7. Delicious! Want to read more. Love your choice of actors *drools* I agree with Norma, you've got a winner here!

  8. Gosh, the more you share from Heaven & Hell, the more it's clear how deep and rich a story you have going on. I really love Sam Elliot and Chris Cooper...and Jeff Bridges too of course!

  9. Good work, William! I think your character choices are spot on for his one. That dry and cold way of looking at things really rings for this character.

  10. William, I have a feeling this book of yours is going to go far. Remember us little people when you've hit the big time!


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