Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Reluctant Hero in Gunner's Run

A couple days ago, a mother informed me her teen son had decided to use my novel Gunner's Run for Speech class in school.

"In Speech class?"

She explained he needed to memorize a passage of something and then recite it to the class. Out of all possible books, he chose one of mine. What an honor!

That conversation prompts me to share a few words about Jim Yoder, the reluctant hero of my World War II story. Of course, hero is a word Jim would never use for himself. In fact, when he leaves his Indiana home and enlists in the Army Air Corps, that move is an act of rebellion to get away from his Christian upbringing. In the military, Jim becomes a waist gunner aboard a B-24 Liberator bomber. Through a series of events I won't describe here (I hate to spoil a story), Jim ends up exactly where he never expected to be--one the ground, alone, inside Nazi Germany. Can he make a run back to England before the Germans catch him? Is it time to end his run away from God?

Rather than ruin the story for those who haven't read it, let me focus on Jim as a person. He's nineteen. His dad is a mailman in the small town of Elkhart, Indiana. Jim has a knack for engine repair and hopes to be a mechanic if he can survive the war. Nothing about Jim himself elevates him above any of the other airmen stationed in Shipdham, England. He doesn't even aspire to lofty deeds. However, when circumstances conspire to throw this young Hoosier into situations beyond his control, he must deal with it. He'd rather be safely back home, but that's not an option. Step by reluctant step, Jim must walk a path he would rather not tread if he ever hopes to see his home or the beautiful girl Margo again. Fallible? Definitely? Unsure of himself? You bet he is. Perhaps those are the very qualities that make readers identify with Jim as he sets his sights on England and decides to attempt a run for home!

Your turn to reflect. When you enjoy a good book, is the fictional hero or heroine faultless? Invulnerable? Never tempted to do wrong? Always makes the smart decision? Probably not, because those qualities would remove the conflicts and tensions that we love to experience with that person, right?


  1. Great post, Mr. Barry! I love trying to figure out what makes me like characters in books. My favorites are people who are scared to death of something, but make the right choice anyway.

  2. Leah, thanks for stopping by. I share your opinion about characters who face impending dangers. In my experience, it's easier to craft despicable characters who do rotten things. Achieving just the right balance of fear and weakness in a good character can be a delicate operation. Too much weakness and fear makes the protagonist look wimpy. Too little fear (when he/she should be afraid!) can make them look naive or even cocky.

    In my current story I'm working on, Rankin experiences many fearful moments. I hope he survives with both body and faith intact!

  3. Rick, as a former store manager of a Christian bookstore, I can say that the cover design on the book is one of the best I've seen. It is colorful, attactive, and draws the eye in...

  4. Thanks, Darren. However, full credit for the cover goes to graphic artist Craig Oesterling. I loved it the moment the editor emailed a jpeg and said, "Here's what the cover art will be." I use a 2' x 3' poster of it at book signings, and one man wanted to buy a DVD "of that movie on the poster." I had to explain it's a book, not a movie." Maybe someday?