by Chris Malburg
Cardinal David Caneman took just three years to engineer his ascension into the CEO’s office of Vatican Bancorp. His cabal of fundamentalist zealots now quickly moves to seize the world’s largest institution. First by publicly assassinating the Pope. Next by replacing him with Caneman. Finally by giving the masses a common, everyday object—unquestionably used by their savior—to rally behind. For centuries, folklore has claimed the sacred item laid in wait sealed within the Church’s lost treasury vault. Caneman races to unearth the vault—if it exists. He has bet everything that he can find the blessed object, surely buried within. He intends using it to sweep the faithful from their ungodly ways and into his personal standards of piety.
The Taliban took just two years to overthrow Kabul. Armed with over a billion faithful worldwide and a $200 billion war chest—and the sacred Broom Of Formia—Cardinal David Caneman figures it will take him just half that time to conscript the hearts and minds first of Europe, then…
Jackson Schilling enjoys his happy, early retirement. He attends minor league ball games near his home in Elkhart, Indiana. He’s an amateur chef. And Jackson Schilling is a hunter. Then the SEC drafts him. Come on, Jack. One last audit. It’s mandatory after an attempt on the Vatican Bank Chairman’s life. But Jackson Schilling is no ordinary auditor. And it was his Commander in Chief who personally ordered him drafted. Schilling exhaustively uncovers Caneman’s deadly purpose. First he must stop a professional assassin from completing his mission against the Pope. Now the hard part—derail a fundamentalist faction led by a brilliant, ruthless [and some would say] saint to over a billion faithful. Jackson Schilling battles a force growing faster and more deadly than the Crusades, the Inquisition or the Taliban ever were. Legitimate governments will surely topple, becoming answerable to one man and his band of strict fundamentalists if Schilling fails.
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A little humor injected into the story serves a wonderful purpose and raises the entertainment value if done right. I work in the action/adventure genre. My characters are constantly on the run and facing unspeakable evil. Any humor used will slow that action for a bit. So how to reconcile the two—fast-paced action and slower humor. Here’s how I do it.
First, characters—Jackson Schilling, the Pope and Sister Mary Pat for sure—are portrayed to be real people. Real people cannot run flat out without taking a breather. Same thing with the story that is God’s Banker. Same thing with my readers as well. As a writer, I want to give my readers that same breather every so often. I created an often-humorous relationship between the Pope and his good friend, Sister Mary Pat. How often in real life would you imagine a nun actually gets to tell the Pope:
”Oh wow,” said Mary Pat in a mocking tone. “Now that’s impressive. We’re up against four times the armed men, ground penetrating radar and—”
This would not happen in real life. Yet the banter between these two loyal friends gives a welcome break in the action and lets readers see the two characters, as we would like to imagine them.
Placement of the humor is another element. Again in God’s Banker there’s a scene where Schilling and his small band of men are fighting a force four times their size. Things aren’t going so well for Schilling & Co.—at least readers don’t think so at the time. Then in the middle of all this:
“We’d better put a stop to this before someone gets hurt,” said Schilling.
With that one line readers understand a few things: Schilling is in total control of the situation and he’s having fun that he’s reluctant to stop. It’s a funny line delivered on point and with precision timing.
The judicial use of humor gives everyone—characters as well as readers—a much-needed rest. It also adds to the richness of the tapestry I’ve created. I say judicial use because in the action/adventure genre a little humor goes a long way. You can’t let it diminish either your character’s credibility or your credibility as the author.
I work really hard at establishing credibility with my readers right from the beginning of the story. I do this by incorporating as many real facts as possible, and then allow the fictional aspects to revolve around them. Once I have the reader’s trust, I try never to lose it by making a silly mistake—such as using too much humor or blowing the timing of it.
There’s a scene where Schilling is shot and his partner, Smitty, needs to perform emergency surgery. I researched the medical journals and emergency manuals. I wrote the scene as best I could and had it reviewed by ER doctor. Still, I received an email from a real physician complaining about the count of bandages Smitty used. To that reader I had lost credibility. Still, he kept on reading. Fortunately I didn’t make any other mistakes that he found. Because he did go on to say in his note that my error did not diminish his appreciation of the book. Here’s the point: We’re going to make mistakes. Try as I might, I’m not a professional sniper, nor am I a surgeon. I do the best job I can. If I retain the trust of a majority of my readers and still somehow manage to entertain the rest, I’ve done my job.
Chris Malburg is a widely published author, with work spread over 11 popular business books--includingHow to Fire Your Boss (Berkley) and Surviving the Bond Bear Market (Wiley, March 2011). In his other life, Chris is a CPA/MBA, a former investment banker and now the CEO of Writers Resource Group, Inc., providers of professional financial literary content to corporations. That’s the professional side of Chris’ career. The fun side began when UCLA’s Writers’ school taught him to transition from biz-speak to fiction. GOD’S BANKER and the first installment in the Enforcement Division series, DEADLY ACCELERATION, both combine Chris’ natural talent for story telling with his professional command of the high-stakes investment world and what money and power do to some people.
GOD’S BANKER came to fruition from Chris’ hospital bed while recuperating from an athletic injury. As a long-time endurance athlete, Chris is no stranger to the surgeon’scalpal. Over 130,000 words later, GOD’S BANKER was complete. “It just poured out me,” says the author. “I carried my note pad to physical therapy; made plot notes during the hours in the gym doing rehab; even while on my long bicycle rides through the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean where we live. Slowly endurance returned and with it, GOD’S BANKER.”
Chris Malburg lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Marilyn. Their hobby is raising service dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind. As of this writing, they have raised eight Labrador retrievers and have had three make the cut for placement with their disabled partners.
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