Monday, March 14, 2011

FIRST: The Key to the Kingdom by Jeff Dixon

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Deep River Books (December 1, 2010))
***Special thanks to Arielle Roper of Bring It On! Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Jeff Dixon was raised in Florida and has always been fascinated with the man Walt Disney and the theme park he created. Dixon feels that any guest who would take the time to look would discover a story that will never be completed. It is against this canvas that Dixon paints this mystery, adventure, and thriller.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Grayson Hawkes learns how imaginative and elaborate Walt Disney World is when he accepts an invitation from a trusted friend landing him in a world he never knew existed. Suddenly unraveling a perplexing puzzle and trying to solve a mysterious disappearance, Hawkes navigates through the kingdom where knowledge of seemingly unimportant Disney facts and some divine help are the only way he can discover the answers and get out. In this world Disney trivia is no game…And the ancient key is the only way out.

Soon the lines between right and wrong begin to blur, and telling the difference between real and unreal become nearly impossible. Loyalty to faith, family and friends are stretched to the extreme in the pulse quickening adventure through a magical place where dreams really do come true.


Key to the Kingdom: A Real Treasure Hunt at Walt Disney World from Marc Percy on Vimeo.



Key To The Kingdom Trailer from Marc Percy on Vimeo.


Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Deep River Books (December 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1935265245
ISBN-13: 978-1935265245

My take:  There are a couple of things I need to set as background.  First, I'm the type of person who generally picks up a fiction book and doesn't put it down until I have finished it.  Second, while I enjoy Disney, particularly "classic" Disney, I'm not a rabid Disney fan.

This Disney-based mystery intrigued me though, and I was looking forward to reading it.  However, it was a long way into the book before I hit that "can't put it down" point.

If you can suspend your disbelief, this book is a lot of fun.  He roams Walt Disney World, going in and out of a bazillion attractions.  I did visit Disney (World more than Land) reasonably frequently from around 1975-1985, so there was a lot that was familiar to me.  The realism of the portions of the park with which I am familiar did make the whole setting of the story seem believable.

Hawk, the main character, is a pastor.  At no point in the novel does the tone get preachy or in-your-face.  But at least some aspects of Christianity are woven in.

If you are a Disney fan (rabid or not!) I think you would really enjoy this book.  The Disney history is fabulous, and the fantasy aspect is fun.



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Day One

Night

Halogen headlamps pierced the darkness of the cool central Florida night. The GPS guided the Mustang surging toward the coastal community of Port Orange. Racing along Taylor Road, Dr. Grayson Hawkes approached an unknown destination. Questions swirled in the tornado of curiosity whipping through the preacher’s mind. The glow of the dashboard light illuminated the business card propped against the gearshift; “1819 Taylor Road, Port Orange” had been neatly printed in blue ink. Flipping the card he read the name on the other side.

Farren Rales
Imagineering Ambassador
Walt Disney Company

Reading the name of his dear friend brought a slight smile to his face. Rales had been hired by the late Walt Disney himself as an animator at the Walt Disney Studios on Rales’s thirtieth birthday. In the years that followed he had worked on animated features, been involved in projects at Disneyland, and eventually became a part of that exclusive group of creative Walt Disney Company designers known as Imagineers. Rales was part Disney historian, part Disney philosopher, and a modern day keeper of the dream that Walt himself had begun.

Farren Rales had given him the business card with an invitation to meet the old Imagineer at ten o’clock this evening. The GPS announced a turn seconds before an inconspicuous dirt road veered to the right. Hawk responded sluggishly and shot past it. He instantly banked his ride into a U-turn that corrected his course. Slowly navigating the heavily wooded, chassis-jarring dirt road, he watched for signage. The headlights threw a glow on a sign that read Gamble Place Parking with an arrow that pointed right. He turned the wheel. A gate immediately came into view, blocking forward progress. Hawk looked over the steering wheel trying to decide whether he had managed to bungle the directions and gotten hopelessly lost. With the car idling, he got out and walked to the gate. Grasping the chain that held the gate closed, he saw the lock had been secured to the chain, but the chain was not fastened. When he dropped the chain, the gate lazily swung open. Hawk slid back behind the wheel of the car and it crawled forward as the dirt became softer below the tires. The Mustang eased up to a parking barrier, above which the headlights shone on a yellow house trimmed in green.

Exiting the automobile, Hawk left the parking area and made his way toward the house. There was a display in front of the walkway to the house that probably explained where he was. The automatic timer for the headlamps clicked off, leaving him standing in darkness. Sensing his eyes would never adjust in the moonless night to read the display, he remembered a flashlight that was hopefully still in the trunk of the car. He retraced his steps. In addition to the soft sound of his shoe steps in the sand, Hawk thought he heard something else moving near him. He came to an abrupt halt. Rales? Listening closely, he now only heard the sounds of the outdoor evening. The trunk popped open, producing a blast of light that momentarily blinded him. He fumbled for the flashlight and flicked the switch. The beam shone strongly as he slammed the trunk shut. He again moved toward the house. Sweeping the beam around him, he saw a large historical marker looming in the dark, over his left shoulder. He refocused the attention of the light on this newly discovered sign.

Gamble Place

In 1898, James N. Gamble, of the Proctor and Gamble Company and a longtime winter resident of Daytona Beach, bought this land on Spruce Creek for use as a rural retreat. In 1907 he built a small cracker cottage with an open front porch and a breezeway connecting a separate kitchen and dining room . . . In 1938, Gamble’s son-in-law, Alfred K. Nippert, completed the “Snow White House,” a Black Forest style cottage inspired by the Disney animated film classic, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The house is surrounded by a Witch’s Hut, the Dwarfs’ Mine Shaft, and an elaborate network of rock gardens. Collectively these buildings and grounds form a historic landscape now known as Gamble Place. This property was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

Obviously Rales had asked Hawk here because of the Disney connection. It had been a Disney connection that had started the friendship between the two men. Hawk had been introduced to Rales and asked the Imagineer if he would meet with him and his church staff to teach them the art of storytelling. The first meeting had gone so well it turned into a standing appointment each month. However this evening the invitation was for Hawk alone. Sighing deeply in an attempt to relax, Hawk listened closely and his ears tuned in to the sound of water gently playing along an unseen shoreline. The unexpected snap of a branch unleashed a wave of adrenaline spinning him in the direction of the noise. He peered into the blackness of the trees, searching for the maker of the sound, but heard nothing.

“Farren, is that you?” Hawk spoke with a bit more edge than he anticipated.

Silence confirmed Rales was not the source of the sound. “So when did you get so scared of the dark?” he muttered to himself. “And when did you start talking to yourself?”

Out of the corner of his vision he noticed a glimmer of light across the wooded darkness. With a bit of reservation he moved toward it. His shoes cracked sticks and crushed leaves, creating a symphony of sound that shattered the haunting noises of nature that had moments ago surrounded him. His flashlight began to dim. Shaking it violently he resurrected the brilliance of the beam, only to watch it fade into a momentary glow, and then disappear completely.

“Tremendous,” he said in frustration at the malfunctioning light. “Still talking to . . . and answering yourself.”

The point of light he had been moving toward disappeared as well. Pressing onward, he drew nearer to where it had been. Once again it appeared and this time looked brighter and stronger. Hawk’s trudging through the undergrowth yielded to softer ground as he heard a familiar voice cut quietly through the night.

“I began to think you weren’t going to make it.”

“I was starting to think you were playing a practical joke on me,” Hawk whispered back.

“Now, would I do that to you?” Rales laughed softly.

Hawk could now see much better as he approached the place where Rales stood. Farren had brought a lantern that illuminated the place he was standing and cast long shadows in multiple directions. Hawk descended the steps to join Rales on what appeared to be a recently created platform. The sound of the creek was closer and Hawk assumed they were now on the edge of the river. Rales was dressed in a pair of black slacks with a lightweight black windbreaker. Hawk did not miss the stealth attire and was getting ready to comment on it when Rales again spoke in a hushed tone.

“Any trouble finding the place?”

“I suppose not, since it’s out in the middle of nowhere!” Hawk decided to satisfy his curiosity. “And could you tell me why we’re whispering?”

“Didn’t you read the sign? We’re in a state park. It closed at dusk. We could get arrested for being here.”

“Then why didn’t we come here in the daylight?”

“Now, that wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?”

“Farren, we should clarify our definitions of fun.”

“Breaking into a state park is a story you’ll be able to tell for years!”

“I didn’t break in, the gate was unlocked.”

“So you opened it and drove on in.”

“You invited me.”

“Shhh,” Rales interrupted.

Hawk grew quiet and strained to hear sounds coming out of the darkness. He studied Rales’s tense features, trying to decide whether the old man was toying with him or was actually concerned that they might be caught after hours in the park. Rales’s face softened and he turned away from Hawk, letting his lantern shine toward a nearby wooden cottage that looked as if it had been plucked off of an animation cell from an antique piece of film. Hawk’s mouth opened slightly. Rales moved forward and panned the light across the front of this cottage that did not belong in this time or any other. It was recognizable as the cottage in the Black Forest of the classic cartoon Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Hawk’s eyes followed the movement of the lantern to the carved lintel and a stone trough. Rales moved toward the front door, fumbled with the handle, and then opened it. Looking back to Hawk, he motioned for him to follow him inside. Hawk entered, feeling like he was stepping into a fairy tale as Rales silently closed the door behind them.


The Key to the Kingdom: Unlocking Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom

© 2010 Jeff Dixon

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Disclosure:  I was provided with this book for the purpose of writing this review.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions in the My Take section are entirely my own.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Note from the author Jeff Dixon:

Walt Disney World is a magical place and the chance to weave a story in and around The Magic Kingdom was great fun. I hope that as you read the story you got a sense of that fun. Also as a fan of the "classic" Disney I hope that elements of the story based on classic Disney history caught your interest as well.

Thank you for your kind words about the adventure of Hawk and friends through the Central Florida area. It was my desire to create a story that would ignite the imagination of the reader and take them on a journey of suspense and mystery, mixed with a few thrills and surprises before they arrived at the last page.

I hope others will consider trying to solve The Key To The Kingdom for themselves.