quick! the heroes are in the barn!
Reading Time: 5 minutes (Sheri Hooley.)
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Hi and welcome back! Today, we turn our attention to Frank Peretti’s grueling slog, the 1986 fantasy novel This Present Darkness. Finally, the finale seems to have begun. And it starts with the two heroes meeting at last. Sort of. Yes, today we find out why the angels’ leader Tal was so okay with these heroes ‘falling!’ And today, Lord Snow Presides over the silliest coincidences ever.

quick! the heroes are in the barn!
(Sheri Hooley.) The heroes must be waiting to the left.

(Please click here to find the master list of previous This Present Darkness discussions. Also, any page numbers cited come from the 2003 paperback edition of the book. Quotes come from the book or other noted sources, unless I let you know otherwise.)

Chapter 31-32 Synopsis.

These chapters relate to the man-pain of our two heroes, Hank Busche and Marshall Hogan.

Hank and his wife Mary marvel over the behavior of the demon-possessed woman (Carmen) who came to their home earlier and then fled. However, they don’t have time to marvel long. She’s gone to the police to tell them all about how Hank totally raped her, and their response is, obviously, to immediately go arrest and handcuff the TRUE CHRISTIAN™ pastor.

The angels’ leader, Tal, is okay with all of this. He tells his angelic forces that now Marshall must “fall.” His plan is coming together.

Meanwhile, Marshall and his reporter Bernice head off to talk to the ex-secretary of the town’s Cabal-corrupted chief of police, Alf Brummel. Sara is fleeing the town for fear of further Cabal retaliation, but she stops in time to give the pair the key to Brummel’s office.

The journalists break into it and find some incriminating files, but get discovered by first Carmen and then Brummel (in a bathrobe) with Juleen Langstrat, his Cabal leader and girlfriend (also in a bathrobe). Brummel happily arrests Marshall, but Bernice escapes into the night. She decides to drive to Kevin Weed’s place.

(I’m no expert on police procedures, but absolutely none of this sounds even legal, much less legit. However, the police are in league with the Cabal of Satanic Wiccans (or Wiccan Satanists, Whatevs) (CSWWSW), so maybe that’s why it’s sooooo sketchy.)

The demons exult in their imminent victory and bicker with each other, you know, as evildoers DO. Meanwhile, we see each of our heroes, Hank and Marshall, nervously considering their respective cellmates in jail…

Gosh, y’all! Who oh who could their respective cellmates possibly be?

Seriously the Worst Plan Ever.

This is where I really just felt gobsmacked again with how ridiculous the angels’ plan sounds. They can’t possibly save Ashton without these two heroes “falling.” (That means getting arrested on trumped-up rape charges, in Peretti-Land.) That is literally the only way these angels could possibly imagine the heroes ever meeting.

We’ll get into Marshall’s psychology more in some later installment, but seriously: he’s all but a fundagelical Christian right now. He’s a soulwinner’s wet dream given form: just one light-switch flip away from conversion to TRUE CHRISTIANITY™.

As uninformed as Peretti keeps accidentally telling us this ruff-n-tuff newspaper editor is about his new and very tiny hometown, I’d figure eventually he’d run across mention of a church that’s exactly the kind he’s been pining to attend through the entire book. He already should have met Hank Busche, FFS.

But no, we’ve gotta have both of these men tossed in jail on trumped-up rape charges.

Devastating Accusations.

What did Frank Peretti think would happen after the story ends and the heroes have won their battles?

They’d just go right back into their jobs and everything would be fine? Like the world would reset like a sitcom episode? Nobody’d remember that they were accused — and as credibly as the Cabal could manage it — of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable?

False rape accusations are extremely rare — especially now that we’ve realized that Satanic Ritual Abuse didn’t actually happen. And that’s definitely a good thing. A false accusation like that can wreck a person’s life forever. I’ve read many such accounts, and it sounds like the people accused have a very hard time finding their footing afterward — for years after, maybe forever. Even those who love them the most may struggle with trusting them again. When the accused is a group, like that campus fraternity falsely accused a few years ago, they struggle too.

In evangelical Christianity, a big-name leader can get along for years with those accusations trailing after them like hungry kittens wanting food — and suffer very little even through those accusations’ insistent pawing and mewing. But once the charges stick, oh boy oh dear they stick hard. Even one very sticky accusation can end a pastor’s career forever. Just ask Lee Strobel’s old pastor Bill Hybels.

If some Christian told me that their omnimax god had allowed his faithful servant to face a false rape accusation for something something something big divine plan something something, I’d be beyond shocked — and I’d also be mortified for the Christian.

Actually a Nice Action Scene At LAST.

I will conclude this LSP by saying that Peretti did manage to burp out a nice action scene with Bernice escaping the cops. It’s fairly tightly written, contains decent characterization, and is decently well-visualized — I’d even say colorful. It annoyed me slightly less than the rest of the book.

Part of me suspects that he envisioned this scene from almost the start of the book. You can tell he really enjoyed writing it, whereas much of the rest feels like a slog between the set-pieces he was barn-starved to reach.

But the two chapters themselves feel like they’re following a very poorly-defined timeline. And of course they rely on false rape accusations as a vehicle for advancing a supposedly-divine plot.

These angels are absolutely incompetent, more a hindrance than a help to anybody. Luckily, the demons they face are even worse.

Today, Lord Snow Presides over a ridiculous plot contrivance that brings the heroes together — sorta — at last.

NEXT UP: A study about virtue signaling — let’s explore it tomorrow!

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Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow presides over a suggested topic for the day, but feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. We especially welcome pet pictures! The series was named for Lord Snow, my sweet white cat. In life, he actually knew quite a bit.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...