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The Zealot

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Just Published by Quinpinnacles Press

The Zealot
Book one of the Anvil Trilogy

a novel by R. LeRoy Green

Paperback: 408 pages
Quinpinnacles Press (Sept. 30, 2019)
ISBN 13: 978-1-947415-00-3
Price: U.S $16.95

When your most deeply held
convictions come into conflict,
they can tear you apart . . . .

The Zealot, a debut novel by career journalist R. LeRoy Green, is a story of faith challenged—a powerful psychological drama to which anyone can relate who has ever become disenchanted with a creed, a cult, an ideology, an organization, or an individual once held in high regard.

Calen Woodridge is a young missionary born in the faith and steeped in the rigid doctrines of his church—including the proclamation that its leaders spoke for God and were to be obeyed. Gifted and zealous, Calen seemed destined for a rapid rise to leadership until false rumors of misconduct reached the mission prelate. Without giving Calen a hearing, Prelate Garvey demoted him.

Dazed but undeterred and even more determined to make his mission a success, Calen worked to regain his unjustly tarnished reputation. Then a new prelate arrived who was quick to assume the worst about him.

When Calen refused to go along with other missionaries in his group on an excursion that was in direct violation of church policy, he was shocked by the new prelate’s reaction. Rather than commend him, Prelate Boyden made unfounded assumptions, censured him, refused to allow discussion, and reassigned him to mundane tasks at mission headquarters where he could be watched and kept out of trouble.

But Calen’s troubles continued to compound, his clashes with Boyden escalated, and his spiritual anguish intensified.

Upon facing a difficult personal decision, Calen made the decision prayerfully and acted as he believed the Spirit directed. But Boyden was outraged. He impugned Calen’s motives, questioned his devotion, and demanded that he recant or be sent home in disgrace.

How was it possible, Calen wondered, that a church leader could command him in the name of God to disobey the Spirit of God?

Which directive would Calen obey?
Could his faith survive the dilema?
And would he ever be able to face his family and friends again?

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Excerpt from the Author's Preface to The Zealot

THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. The characters are fictitious. The religious organization, Emissaries of the True Faith of Christ Jesus, described herein, is a fictitious church. The Epistles of Barnabas to the Anatolians and to the Nicomedians, as well as the Third General Epistle of Barnabas, quoted herein, are a product of the author’s imagination; no such manuscripts are known to exist.

The narrative of this novel, however, is based on a true story; the plights and conflicts encountered by the protagonist (as well as many of the story threads involving minor characters) are drawn from real life.

The reason for my decision to set The Zealot within the framework of a fictitious sect is simple: The story is not about a church. It is about the internal conflict, spiritual and psychological anguish, and character growth of a young man who confronts seemingly irreconcilable incompatibilities between his deeply held beliefs and his real world experiences….

On another note, in the course of writing this book, people who knew I was working on a novel would often ask me, “What genre?” That is a tough question. While the book has elements of several genres—literary novel, faith fiction, Christian drama, psychological drama, young adult, romance (the love story is a major thread in the book’s tapestry)—The Zealot does not fit neatly into most definitions of the standard categories. That is to be expected, because I did not write to a genre. I had a story to tell, and I have told it unconstrained by canon or convention, creating fictional characters placed in whatever real or imagined settings seemed appropriate to the telling. I will therefore leave it to readers and critics to ascribe a genre or generic hybrid to this or any of my works if they are so inclined....

— R. LeRoy Green
Aug. 15, 2019

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Read Chapter One of The Zealot for Free



Tempe, Arizona
February 1977

FIGHTING back a torrent of tears, Calen exited the mission prelate’s office, pulled the door closed, and paused for a moment with his hand still on the knob, attempting to regain his composure. His stomach churned. His head felt as though it would explode.

With difficulty, he took a deep breath, steeled his jaw in an effort to keep any emotion from showing on his face, then turned and walked past the secretary’s desk and past the empty work stations of the office staff toward a row of chairs along the far wall. Only one of them was occupied.

He motioned to the young man in the chair who had been his missionary companion for the last two days, pointed toward the prelate’s door, and mumbled, “You’re next, Reverend.”

Then he left the outer office, walked down the hall to the men’s room, and entered a stall. He needed to be alone.

Unable any longer to contain his anguish, Calen felt tears begin to cascade down his cheeks. His breathing became a rapid succession of short gasps. He felt an aching and stiffness in his neck and across his shoulders. A nausea rose in his throat, and the burning in his stomach intensified. He grew dizzy and lowered his head to his hand to keep from fainting.

A few minutes later, Calen heard the restroom door open. A voice called to him. “Are you all right in there, Rev. Woodridge?” The voice sounded far away and seemed to echo.

“I’m … I’m fine,” Calen managed to reply. “I’ll be out in a minute.” But it was not a truthful response. He could not face anyone right now. He was not sure he would ever be able to face anyone again.

The worst of it was he did not comprehend why he had been so severely reprimanded. He could not fathom how the choices he had made were wrong. He had been so sure he had done the right things. He had considered them prayerfully before acting. But Prelate Boyden took a different view and was in no mood to listen to “excuses.” He had given Calen no opportunity to inquire, no chance to explain. The censure had been painful, the more so because it seemed to him so unjust, but the presiding prelate of the Arizona-Nevada Mission of Emissaries of the True Faith of Christ Jesus was inspired of God and must always be obeyed as one must obey the voice of God. That is what Calen had been taught to believe since childhood, and it is what he always had believed.

“I don’t understand,” Calen muttered to himself just above a whisper. “I just don’t understand.”

There would be repercussions beyond the punitive action Boyden had just pronounced upon him, of that he was certain. Word would get around the mission, not just among the missionaries but among church members as well, and speculations about his supposed transgressions would abound. When his parents learned of it, his father, a prominent figure in the church, would be indignant, and his mother would be heartbroken.

But would it also mean a dishonorable dismissal from his mission? Perhaps even excommunication from the church?

And what God’s punishment might be just for talking back to his ecclesiastical superior the way he had, Calen dared not even ponder.

Knowing someone would be back to check on him shortly, he left the restroom, continued down the hall to the back door of the building, and slipped outside into the solitude of the night. He stood briefly on the steps, supporting himself against the brick wall, then walked around the building to the parking lot, climbed into the driver’s seat of the group van, and collapsed against the steering wheel, his face buried in his arms.

I’ve got to get away from here, he thought. He reached into his suit coat pocket for the keys, started the engine as quietly as possible, and pulled out onto the street, not turning on his lights until he entered traffic.

He had no idea where he was going and didn’t care. Destination did not matter; only flight. He headed east toward Mesa on Apache Boulevard, and his foot grew heavy on the accelerator as he pushed familiar landmarks behind him. Every building, every street name, every garden and fence that he recognized haunted him by its imposing intimacy, and he felt a compulsion to leave behind everything and everyone he had ever known.

Apache Boulevard became Main Street, then Apache Trail, and soon the city lights were behind him. The night was dark and starless. He knew he was now driving across open desert, but he could see nothing except what his headlights illuminated and the lights of an occasional approaching vehicle.

Seven miles beyond Apache Junction, his headlights caught a road sign marking the turnoff to the Superstition Wilderness Area. He hit the brakes and veered to a stop just past the turnoff. He had never been in the Superstition Mountains, but he had heard and read much about them and their mysterious legends. I could lose myself in those mountains. No one will ever find me.

Jamming the gearshift into reverse, he sped backwards, then turned left onto an unpaved road. Soon, he was able to discern the jagged ridgeline of the Superstitions faintly silhouetted against the darkness of the moonless sky.

Rather than follow the graded road all the way into the wilderness area boundary, as he grew close to the imposing escarpment, he turned off onto an unimproved side road—hardly more than a set of tracks blazed into the desert by four-wheel-drive vehicles. Driving too fast for the terrain, he bounced over rocks and ruts and careened around the curves in the blackness of the night, at times nearly losing control.

When the road turned away from the ghostly form of the mountains, he pulled off and continued toward them cross-country. For several miles, he followed the winding course of an arroyo until the terrain became so steep and rugged he could make no further progress. Then he left the van concealed beneath an overhanging ledge, in the hope that it would not quickly be found, and set off on foot.

The darkness was intense. He felt his way along the bottom of the gully, moving in the direction of the mountains whose just-visible ridgeline now towered above him. Unable to see obstacles as he came upon them, he tripped over jutting rocks and stumbled against spiny desert plants. Still he groped along, all but oblivious to scrapes, bruises, and lacerations and the accumulation of cactus spines in his ankles and hands.

A quarter-moon began to rise, its light diffused by a thin cloud, enabling him to see a little better where he was going. The arroyo steepened, and he climbed, working his way up and over a saddle between jagged pinnacles.

The eerie moonlight lent an aura of unearthliness to the grotesque rock formations surrounding him as he pushed farther and farther into the wilderness, mindlessly, aimlessly. Hours on end he wandered into the night, driven by despair, bewilderment, and the compulsion to run. At length, overcome with exhaustion, he collapsed.

Calen awoke shivering and throbbing with pain. His first thought was of Ciara, but that blissful evocation was instantly marred by a deep pang of guilt and a surge of horror for the mess he had unwittingly made of his life.

He had tried so hard to do the right thing, had believed he was doing the right thing, but somehow it had all gone wrong. The thought numbed his mind. He did not wish to think about it. He only knew that if he stayed where he was, he might be found, so he must get up and push on.

It was daylight, but he could not tell what time of day, as the sky was overcast. A bitter-cold wind whipped over the ridge, penetrating his light-weight suit. Blowing sand stung his face and eyes. Squinting, he turned up the collar of his suit coat and tried to pull the lapels together across his chest and throat to give himself a little more protection.

Acutely conscious of pains and discomforts he had not noticed the night before, he pushed on, putting more distance between himself and the place he had left the van.

The dry, craggy, sandy, wind-swept country through which he was passing, almost treeless except for an occasional mesquite or palo verde in the bottom of a glen, brought to his mind descriptions he had read of the wilderness of Judea where Christ had fasted for forty days and nights.

Even in daylight, Calen found himself stumbling as he walked. His legs were tired, and the smooth leather soles of his black dress shoes did not grip the rocks over which he climbed. Several times he slipped and fell, but each time he would get up and force his legs to keep moving. On and on he wandered through the harsh environment. His mind was not functioning clearly, and only for brief moments was he lucid. The rest of the time, a jumble of unorganized and incoherent thoughts raced through his head, imparting no pattern to his consciousness.

As darkness again descended, he felt a cold wind rising. He knew he needed to find some sort of shelter. Near the edge of a deep ravine, he spotted below him a rock outcropping that looked as though it might afford some protection.

He made his way, painfully, down the side of the ravine. His feet were blistered and raw. His legs throbbed. His whole body ached. He felt weak and weary. Strange it should be so, he thought. Two years ago, he could have hiked through rough terrain for days on end without tiring. In fact, up until six months ago, he had done enough walking and bike riding to keep in fair condition. But half a year sitting around mission headquarters had taken its toll. He was definitely out of shape.

Then, too, he was not properly dressed for this type of activity. Nor, for all of his outdoor experience, had he come properly prepared. Rather, he had acted on impulse. He had brought with him no water, no food, and not so much as a tarp for shelter.

Suddenly, he realized how ludicrous he must look making his way through the wilderness in a suit and tie, and he shook his head at the thought. But he could not shake the agony of soul that had driven him into this wild and windy desert.

Famished and fatigued, yet still unaware of the dehydration and hypothermia that were setting in upon him, Calen reached the shelter of the outthrust and fell to the earth on a barren spot of ground next to a large clump of cactus.

As he lay there, his tormented mind went back to the first day of his mission, and he remembered how full of joy he had felt just 22 months ago. How had it come to this?

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