Here it is: the magnum opus of my grade school career. I wrote this book in fourth grade, and I didn’t finish another book until I penned Reality Check in college.
And, if you’d like some author’s commentary, read on below.
Yeah…this cover tells you pretty much how the story is going to go. There are going to be Indians. They are going to be presented as the type of racist caricatures you see in old western movies. I think I get a pass on the racism angle for only being in 4th grade, but I’m not sure. I certainly didn’t know any better back then.
You might notice that the Indian on the right has some bad acne. This is intentional, sort of. I was pushing down on the marker I was drawing with hard enough to leave dark marks where I started, then decided that said Indian should be a pimple-faced dweeb. His “How do you do?” is meant to be read in an incredibly cheesy comedic way, based on something I saw in a Looney Tunes cartoon.
It’s also a bit of false advertising. An acne-ridding comic relief Indian never appears in the actual book.
Why is my dad’s name Ronald Brooks when I’m credited as Charlie Martin? Because my family history is confusing and I take a nontraditional approach to who I call father. I was originally going to use my pen name of Charlie Martin-Brooks, but I ran out of room on the front cover. In the original draft, I did in fact use that name.
Yeah…this book had drafts to it. Sadly, the original is lost to all time. I wrote the narrative out on lined paper, had my teacher critique it, and then drew up the final version on a foam-like material that folds out into an accordion book.
Super Stars Co. was my made-up publishing company. I never actually went through the paperwork needed to turn it into a corporation, although I intended to.
Like always, I start out with a bang. Page 1: burned the frikkin’ house down!
Apologies to the actual Abnaki Indians, who probably were not the murderous pyromaniacs I’m making them out to be here.
Here you see my nonconventional take on time starting to emerge, as I jump back in time to show what happened before the first page. Apparently Abnaki chiefs of the 18th century were between 8 and 10 feet tall and ran around stark naked except for some brown feathers on their legs. I really can’t explain how I came up with that art decision.
The art is a little rough here. I think the black stuff on the page is the burned cabin. The large brown alien with tentacles is actually supposed to be a hill with some trees on it, I think.
Luckily, the Indian that attacked us was suffering from a badly swollen head and an inability to move without pointing his feet toward each other in some bizarre Abnaki dancing pose.
My dad is so badass that he can whip out a musket, shoot from the hip, and instantly kill an airborne Indian.
It’s worth noting that my dad has the same dark skin as the Indians here. That’s because my dad in real life had dark skin and was partially of Native American descent. His red getup here is representative of the hunting outfit he wore in real life. Of course, when you frame this not as Ronald Brooks but as William and make it all fictional, it adds an interesting twist to the story. Is William a renegade Abnaki? Was he a member of another tribe? Or did I only have one color of marker to use for skin tone?
This story stretched my boundaries some by dealing with a person’s whole life (or trying to – see below) rather than just a few moments. So the narrator goes from being a kid in Part I to an adult in Part II. I admit that I could have made the transition a bit better here – it seems odd to jump from my dad killing an attacker to me living on my own in Massachusetts. I guess my dad and the Indians went their separate ways at that point. I mean, nobody was going to kill my badass father, and he probably just crapped out a new log cabin, since he was so awesome. From then on, the Abnaki had no choice but to give him food, since they knew he was just going to take it from them anyway.
And that, children, is how the first Thanksgiving happened.
Note that the narrator has not actually shown up on panel yet. Maybe he’s like Tyler Durden. Or maybe his awesome dad is Tyler Durden and he’s really the one who stole food and killed the Indians. What a twist!
Oh yeah…and I have to apologize again for the whole “I am a horrible racist” aspect of this story. I don’t know if it’s awesome or terrible that the scalp-taking Indian looks like he’s dressed as Santa Claus here.
This is probably my favorite page in the book. It is also the most hilarious piece of art I have ever drawn.
I guess it’s obvious by now that this story was written in conjunction with a history lesson. Sadly, the editorial constraints put on me combined with the limited space allowed kept me from elaborating on these important historical tidbits that I keep name-dropping. If you wish to learn more about Rogers’ Rangers and the St. Francis Indians, consult your local public library.
The narrator finally makes his appearance! Why is his skin pale white when his dad has dark skin? Because, again, I based this book partially off of real life, where my dad had darkish skin and I am as chalky white as freshly fallen snow.
Back to the mysterious narrator, it’s only in the last act that he shows up. And it seems that he has no arms, nor does his rescuer. Did the first two parts of the tale just take place in his feverish imagination while he suffered as a prisoner of war who had been mutilated by his captors? What a twist!
It’s kind of odd that the narrator does nothing in this book but watch his dad kill some Indians and then get taken prisoner. At the same time, it’s very groundbreaking on my part. Interesting protagonists are such a cliché.
The years were not kind to the Abnaki chieftain. His head seems to have shrunk, and his girth has increased tenfold.
This ending is a bit lackluster compared to what I originally planned. In my original draft, the story continued all the way to the narrator’s death of illness years later and finished with a shot of his gravestone. My teacher said that it made no sense to have a narrator who had died. I tried to explain to her the eternal nature of a spirit and how death is only the beginning of the next great journey, but she told me to cut the ending. It was my first painful lesson in editorial interference. And yet she still didn’t catch my misuse of “your” back on page 9.
Perhaps in response to my teacher’s interference, I have developed a habit of using a lot of dead narrators in my tales. Both of my novels feature multiple point of view characters who have died and come back or who exist as spirits. Several of my short stories and unpublished works do as well. So take that, mean old 4th grade teacher!
As I said above, with my ending cut I had some space to fill. Hence this picture that just reiterates what had already been established in-story. Damned editors.
I had obviously forgotten about The Hundred of Ghosts in One Honted House! by then. History, thankfully, has not.
And thus ends my last grade-school book. Indians! is a culmination of all that I had learned as a writer up to that point. I finally grasped the need for an act structure, I included a lot of action, and I made sure to fact-check whenever I could. The story does have a few flaws, most notably this mysterious armless narrator who never gets a name and who doesn’t do anything except explain all the cool stuff happening around him. But as a partial history project, that’s not so unreasonable.
Sadly, I no longer have my original draft, which included my vision of a narrator who recounted his entire life. Despite my teacher’s objection, there have been several highly touted stories that involve narrators who are dead by the end of the tale. A good example would be Carol Shields’ The Stone Diaries, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. That could have been me, you unimaginative teacher! Curse you!!!