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Bookends: A grandfather’s bequest sends young man up a mountain October 19, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Between Heaven & EarthA grandfather’s bequest sends young man up a mountain

By Dan Davidson

March 2, 2014

– 900 words –

 

Between Heaven and Earth

By Eric Walters

Orca Book Publishers

247 pages

$10.00

 

Shared universe series are not a new thing. In some ways one might even trace them back to the Stratemeyer Syndicate books. This company created and produced a number of different series of books for teen readers (Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, the Rover Boys, and others). Using a technique that would be lifted whole by the pulp magazines later on (Doc Savage, the Shadow, the Spider, G8, etc) they created characters and basic plot lines and had the novels written under house names (Carolyn Keene, Frankllin W. Dixon and others) by a changing stable of anonymous writers, one of whom was Canadian Les McFarlane.

Of course, comic book companies do this all the time, with creative teams trading off books after maybe a year or two, or even just a mini-series, Earlier in the game their efforts were largely unaccredited, but that changed in the 1960s and most artists and writers are quite well known by their readers.

More recently, fantasy and science fiction writer George R.R. Martin has played a leading role in the continuing adventures of the Wild Cards superhumans, one difference being that the contributors to the series write under their own names. Another being that they probably make a lot more for a story than the $125 the original Stratemeyer Syndicate writers made per book.

Between Heaven and Earth is, for me, anyway, the opening entry in what Orca is calling Seven the Series. Seven grandsons are left a bequest by their dying grandfather, that being the opportunity to undertake an adventure that is somehow connected to something he did during his long life. He was all over the world, doing a great many things, but in his will he’s tried to come up with a challenge that will fit the individual lads and also, he clearly hopes, further their development as young men.

The stories all take place within the same time frame within a relatively short period after the reading of the will. The young men range in age from 15 to 17, with most of them being 17. They are all Canadians except one, who is American. They have known each other all their lives, except for the one that no one knew about.

DJ (named for his grandfather, David McLean, so David Junior) is the eldest of the seven, and sort of the leader. He has always been good at anything he tries, whether academics or sports (though he favours the latter) and has always had a sense of being in charge and being the best, his grandfather has set him a task that will test both of those assumptions.

He is to go to Tanzania and attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, a formidable task which requires him to take direction, learn humility and discover that perseverance and character have more to do with succeeding than he would ever have guessed.

Outfoxed and robbed by street kids (while he as trying to help them) within hours of his arrival in the country, he finds himself beholden to a girl three years his junior (Sarah or Mambiri) and gains the anger of her father. Mr. Odogo, the leader of the climb, when he honours his promise to insist that she become one of his porters on the climb. Little did he know this would break a taboo and give him not only the youngest, but also the first female, porter on the mountain. Certain that he will outlast the elderly Doris, he learns that when it comes to coping with mountain sickness, age and physical fitness are just part of the story.

Walters, who has been writing young adult books since 1993, has 70 books to his credit at this point, and cam up with the basic idea for this series. He enticed John Wilson, Ted Staunton, and Richard Scrimger. Norah McClintock, Sigmund Broumer and Shane Peacock to join him in this adventure and Orca Books bought into it releasing all seven volumes as a matched set in 2012.

By doing this, he’s avoided one of the problems that might have arisen if he had tried to write all seven books. Writers do tend to develop a “voice” over time and all seven books might have ended up sounding the same. With seven different writers handling the chores, there isn’t much risk of that. I don’t envy the work of the editor though. There is some communication among the grandsons (mostly by texting) to link the books together and some of the background for the Grandfather David would have had to have been harmonized. Keeping everyone in sync would have been a tough job.

You don’t have to read these books in any particular order, although the one titled Last Message does suggest that you might want to save it till the end. I should mention that one of them is set on the Canol Road. This first one was good stuff. If I do get to the end, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, the series seems to have sold well and the publisher is planning to bring out another set of books by the same writers in the fall of this year.

 

-30-

 

 

 

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