[img_assist|nid=5973|title=Scars on the Face of God|desc=|link=node|align=right|width=175|height=262]What do you get when you take a story of ancient satanic text and mix corporate corruption, an ailing child, and an elderly church caretaker who has lost his faith? You get C.G. Bauer’s thrilling novel Scars on the Face of God. Set in a small town in Pennsylvania, it tells the story of Johannes “Wump” Hozer and his fight for justice against a company that has been polluting a small town. C.G. Bauer’s new novel is full of suspense and mystery, taking the reader on a roller coaster ride through modern horror laced with ancient hysteria.
Your novel “Scars on the Face of God” is inspired by the “Devil’s Bible.” How did you first come across the “Devil’s Bible?”
The movie The Devil’s Advocate (Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves) produced an ‘aha’ moment when Pacino’s Satan talks of ‘rewriting history.’ It made me ask if there was evidence of attempts to relate religious events in history from Satan’s viewpoint. An internet search produced the Devil’s Bible, aka ‘Codex Gigas,’ which translated means ‘The Giant Book.’ A 13th century religious artifact now on display in the National Library of Sweden, dubbed at one time the eighth Wonder of the World, and a spoil of one or more European wars, the enormous and lengthy (nearly 700-page) Devil’s Bible was written as a penance, according to legend, in one night by a Bohemian monk with the help of the Devil. It gave me chills thinking about how perfect a plot anchor it could be for a horror novel. I should note here that the setting of the novel is not a foreign county in medieval times but rather in 1964 in a German Catholic parish in fictitious Three Bridges, PA, a town I set just outside Philadelphia in Bucks County. How the allegedly demonic manuscript found its way to a small parish in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is something readers will need to learn on their own.
Can you give us a quick blurb of your novel?
Church caretaker Johannes “Wump” Hozer, 65, survived a knockabout childhood as an orphan and a stint in prison (his nickname is from the sound a crowbar makes when it hits a man’s head) with the help of his beloved wife Viola. He’s lost his faith mostly because the Catholic Church has apparently ignored the repeated salacious behavior of the parish’s monsignor. On a second front he’s taking matters into his own hands, looking for satisfaction against a tannery that is dumping waste into the local water supply, something Wump is sure caused his son’s leukemia. What he doesn’t count on is resurrecting a 19th century hysteria that leads to confronting what may or may not be the anti-Christ. It’s old-school, personal horror laced with suspense and mystery, and I’m really happy with how the multiple plotlines worked so well together.
How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
An admission: Originally conceived, Scars was to be a mainstream novel. Kudos to my wife Terry for giving it traction as a paranormal/horror thriller by passing a comment about a few of the characters; something she saw in them that I hadn’t. A plot spoiler, so I won’t go into her comment here, but I found it potentially so intriguing that I needed to act on it, which sent the novel in a different direction. The clincher came after my epiphany around the Devil’s Bible. A classic example of an author learning what the story is about after having started to write it.
What type of research did you do for your book?
There was what I considered to be an abnormal cluster of impaired children living in my northeast Philadelphia neighborhood during my childhood. Couple that with having read Jonathan Harr’s nonfiction A Civil Action, which chronicles the alleged effects of dumping carcinogens into the environment by leather tanneries in a small town in Massachusetts. Additional research revealed that there was a proliferation of leather tanneries around the Philadelphia region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (Note: The tannery waste dumping issues and the impact they have on the novel’s Philadelphia setting are strictly fictitious.) A writer friend revealed that tanning leather could be hastened by using dog feces in the process, knowledge passed down from his grandfather who during poorer times had collected neighborhood dog droppings and delivered them to a local tannery; debatably one origin of the phrase “pay dirt.” For a somewhat livelier and colorful aside, I endowed my protagonist’s childhood with a similar pursuit.
More input from my wife, a social worker and my best muse: In mid to late 19th century there weren’t enough U. S. laws to protect children from abuse by their parents. [Alert to readers: graphic image coming.] Child protection groups cite anecdotally that orphanages were built in some urban environments because local sewer systems couldn’t handle the volume of infant bodies being discarded into them by poor families with too many mouths to feed. With too few laws to stop such barbarism it wasn’t uncommon for some of the outraged citizenry to invoke local animal rights and abuse statutes and penalties in attempting to stem this and other child mistreatment when it was discovered.
You’ve spent much of your life living in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, among many other places. Why did you choose PA for your novel and how did your years of living here influence your novel?
I’m a product of Philadelphia Catholic schools and Penn State University, and I received excellent educations from both. I could say that this fits into the “write what you know” writing method but the story could have had been told in multiple eastern U. S. settings where growth of 19th and 20th century manufacturing had caused urban expansion to encroach unregulated into rural areas. So choosing this environment was frankly a comfortable thing for me, where I felt I could visualize the events better because of an inherent feel for and attachment to my home town. Plus there is one other key relationship the novel shares with the area: the fictitious orphanage that plays so prominent a role in the multiple plotlines is fashioned after St. Vincent’s Home in Tacony, truly a Philadelphia icon. It’s ceased its existence as an orphanage, is now part of a program of Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia known as St. Vincent Homes, providing services to Philadelphia’s abandoned, abused and neglected children and their families. Dating back to its life as an orphanage, it’s been providing these services for over 150 years.
How long did it take for you to write your novel?
The novel took three years to complete (I have a very demanding day job) then over a year to interest a publisher in it. Drollerie Press is a little-engine-that-could small press that delivers stories steeped in legend and fairy tale. Inspired by the legend around The Devil’s Bible, Scars was a natural fit for them. Available from Drollerie first as an eBook, the publisher released it as a trade paperback in December 2009. In its electronic format it’s a finalist for a 2010 EPIC Award (formerly known as the “Eppies”) in horror, awarded annually for excellence in electronic publishing.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Hands down, narrator Wump Hozer is my favorite. Writing him in the first person provided for a strong, in-your-face voice. He’s a man’s man with a nearly debilitating burden, the recent loss of his son, a burden that drives him to confront utility company bureaucrats, tannery management, and Archdiocesan dignitaries. He’s aged gracefully, is sure he can still beat the snot out of men half his age and, if necessary, do the same to demons many centuries his senior. He’s very much in love with his wife of forty years and is quite attached to the nuns who run the local orphanage, and to the orphanage’s residents. He’s closest to one orphan in particular, the ambitious but slow-witted Leo, his gopher for parish custodial duties.
What do you hope people will experience while reading your novel?
I want them to continue to turn the pages. I want to thrill them with characters’ insights and discoveries. I want them to be so drawn into the story that they try to finish it in one sitting. I want them to experience a character’s pain, feel his adrenaline rush, her euphoria; his shock and awe; her surprise at an ‘aha’ or a twist; his and her sentimentality and humanity. I want readers to say, “Whoa. That was good. What else you got?” What they won’t experience: excess squeam. While displaying blood and guts was necessary and fun to do in spots, the novel isn’t terribly horrific in this regard. I’ll add here that no zombies or vampires were harmed in the creation of this work of fiction simply because no zombies or vampires are in it. Not that there’s anything wrong with them. I love zombies. My wife says she’s married to one.
Did you incorporate your personality into your novel? Are there any characters who share your personality?
My personality is surely in there. Hopefully it’s only the more interesting attributes. With Wump it’s his stubbornness and his short-fused responses to hopeless situations, where he tells his infinitely more powerful adversaries to go screw themselves. Not necessarily a smart thing to do but he does it anyway, daring them to make their move. He shows plenty of misplaced hubris but also a ballsey-ness I feel we all aspire to.
Where can readers find you?
My website, cgbauer.net. The novel is available in print and electronically from publisher Drollerie Press and the other usual outlets such as Amazon (AmazonSCARSlink)
and Barnes & Noble (BarnesSCARSlink), or order it through your local independent bookstore (IndieboundSCARSlink). It’s also available as a Kindle eBook at Amazon and in other electronic formats at eBook venues like Fictionwise, Books on Board, etc. My short fiction has appeared in the crime/pulp ezine Thuglit (issue #29) and has been podcasted by Well Told Tales (horror/crime/pulp; WTT #60; 9,000 free audio downloads of my short story “You’re A Moron”). As always, if the writing resonates for a reader, feedback and reviews are welcome—encouraged—in any venue the reader finds my work.
P.S. to PS: Thanks so much to the folks at Philadelphia Stories for giving this Philly boy the chance to chat about his work. Continued success to the magazine, a valued publication highlighting the Philly literary scene!