Author and musician Andrew Peterson has written a book on artistic creativity for everyone, called Adorning the Dark. It will be released in four days. (Already Amazon’s #1 seller in Music Encyclopedias. What?)
This isn’t a technical “this is how you write a song” kind of book. There are plenty of those, and I don’t happen to think they do much good. I wanted to write something that would be helpful to all manner of disciplines: songwriters, novelists, poets, painters and pastors—but also parents and teachers and accountants and carpenters. One of my soapboxes in the book is that everyone’s creative. Everyone. And my hope is that the principles I cover in “Adorning the Dark” can be helpful no matter what field you’re in.
I was looking for a new mystery series to read – especially one that would be cheap – and I thought I’d give Andrew Peterson’s Nathan McBride series a try. I’d say it’s not really a mystery, but is pretty good of its kind, though not to my taste.
Nathan McBride and his friend Harve run a private security company. But they have ties to the FBI (it doesn’t hurt that Nathan’s father is an influential senator) and sometimes they’re called in to do dirty work that permits agency deniability. Nathan was a Marine sniper in the past, and bears on his face and body a set of scars that testify to the time he spent under torture in Nicaragua.
As First to Killbegins, Nathan and Harve are asked to assist in an FBI attack on a compound where three brothers are holding a cache of Semtex, which they’ve been selling to fringe groups. The brothers prove to be more resourceful than expected, and Nathan ends up killing the youngest brother, an action that saves lives. But the other two brothers get away through a tunnel nobody knew about, vowing to get even. They get their revenge shortly after, through a horrific terrorist act.
Now Nathan and Harve become the sharp end of the federal
government’s response – they will hunt the brothers down, secure the Semtex,
and kill them, employing any means necessary. For justice and national
security, the gloves are off now. But they will also discover some shocking
betrayals, at very high levels.
First to Kill is an exciting excursion in a kind of story that doesn’t really ring my bell (except for Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger books, which are a special case). Such stories are revenge fantasies, where the reader can enjoy the hero’s ruthlessness. The hero will violate people’s rights, and even employ torture, for a higher good. I have no doubt that there are situations when such things may be justified (it relates to the whole just war doctrine, which I believe in), but I’m not really capable of enjoying such stories.
The writing wasn’t bad, except for a couple places where
exposition got repeated, as if the author had moved a few sentences and forgot
to omit the original passage. Also at one point it confused the sequence of
But all in all it was pretty good of its kind. If you like
this sort of thing.
This year, singer-songerwriter Andrew Peterson removed the Facebook and Instagram apps from his phone, because the socials, not just these but all of them, ask more from us than we can give.
We all know about the tendency on social media to make our lives look like it’s better than they really are. I’ve considered seeing what would happen if I posted a picture of myself with bloodshot eyes after a tearful argument, or a quick video clip of me grumbling about something that didn’t go right, or (the horror!) me with my shirt off to show why I’m trying to get more exercise. That’s not to mention the hellish tendency to put too much stake in how many likes or follows we got today. Comparison is the thief of joy, said Teddy Roosevelt, and social media is foundationally comparative. It’s comparison on steroids.
In those days, I was restless without a book in my hands, without the hope of some new story around every turn to enliven my deadening senses. Unlike most of my friends, I didn’t want a truck or a job or a scholarship; I wanted a horse and a quest and a buried treasure. But there were no real quests anymore. Not in my town.
Andrew Peterson describes his love of fantasy and science fiction as a kid, how that called him out of himself, and what the Lord did with it in his life.
I looked out her window and saw crabgrass, old trucks, clouds of mosquitoes, and gravel roads, a rural slowth that drawled, “Here’s your life, son. Make do.” But my books said, “Here’s a sword, lad. Get busy.” A persistent fear sizzled in my heart, a fear that there existed no real adventure other than the one on the page, and that I was doomed never to know it.
Peterson’s website, The Rabbit Room, is a wealth of imaginative writing, talking, and singing.
Andrew’s work resonates with me for several reasons.
First, Andrew expresses a childlike wonder toward this world and our place in it, waking us up and seizing our imaginations until we see—truly see—the wonders of existence. I gravitate toward music and books that lead me in the way of wonder.
Second, Andrew’s albums are steeped in biblical allusions and Scriptural imagery—all of which grow more powerful the more you study Scripture and the more you put his songs on “repeat.” There’s a richness to his lyrics that rewards the contemplative listener.
Third, Andrew’s songs bear the mark of authenticity, giving voice to a faith that is firm in its grasp of the truth and yet honest in its experience of doubt or suffering. The result is a compelling portrait of Christianity in all of its messy glory.
I enjoy this music too and have long wished Peterson great success. His music is marvelous. I’ve tried to burrow this song in my head since buying the album a couple years ago.
“Most of you probably don’t know this,” he said, “but when I was in high school I had every intention of either going into animation or penciling Batman comics. I’ve always loved illustration, but am a total hack when it comes to drawing (which, thankfully, led to a music career).”
So Peterson isn’t drawing the shows himself, but “I would really love to see the Wingfeather Saga play itself out in a different format that might just get Janner’s story into many more kids’ imaginations.”
Andrew Peterson just released a new album, The Burning Edge of Dawn. It’s marvelous. He sat down with Jeffrey Overstreet this weekend to talk about it. Overstreet enthuses over the friend.
Peterson’s songs and lyrics are full of sweeping metaphors, making his songs accessible enough for people of all ages and all experiences, even as they are specific enough to speak of his own specific pilgrimage as a musician; as a novelist (his fantasy series had the same editor and publisher as mine, and was released at the same time, which is how I was blessed to meet him); as a Nashville “community organizer” . . . as a sort of folk pastor; as a “book guy” . . .