AN APPRECIATION OF THE APOCALYPTIC APEX TITLE BREAKING THE WORLD AND ITS AUTHOR JERRY GORDON
Hello everyone! The purpose of this article is to celebrate Apex Books’ back catalog. My favorite title is an apocalyptic thriller by Jerry Gordon that will seriously blow your doors off. It features the perfect blend of horror and science fiction that Apex is known for, but its multiple facets give all readers something to grab onto. The writing is also very clean, which I know can be a concern for book buyers, especially if this will be a gift.
Breaking the World seamlessly combines the dramatic and very dangerous fifty-one day standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidian Church. The U.S. government vs David Koresh-a religious leader with rock star charisma. Gordon presents this tragedy with super researched accuracy, then combines it with a fast-growing pandemic that is changing the world for the worse every second. If that isn’t bad enough, the folks in the white house make a decision that will change the great state of Texas FOREVER! Do the events both fictional and non, prove out Koresh’s prophecies? Did the government lose sanity and abuse their power? Who are “The Fallen” and what are they after?
Told from the viewpoint of 15 year-old Cyrus, Breaking the World is a crazy roller coaster ride that questions everything. Gordon’s use of this character is perfection. Even without being forced to live in a funky religious commune by his divorced mother, Cyrus has a lot going on. He’s standing on the edge of manhood, but still retains the sense of humor of a child. Fireworks and Playboy magazines. He and his friends try to find their place while having to obey a man who often does things they don’t agree with. Readers get a front row seat to the 51 day standoff from inside the Branch Davidian Compound. Changes come hard and fast, keeping your eyes glued to the pages.
My original review of Breaking The World when it came out in April of 2018 was very enthusiastic. I gave it FIVE STARS and a spot on the Skullcave “Wall of Fame.” When I reread it this month I found that it’s still one of the best novels I’ve ever read and it retains its Five Stars. If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy this excellent book. I highly encourage you to get yourself a copy today!
AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR JERRY GORDON
BJL: Hi Jerry! All I can say is how amazing it is to reread Breaking the World and find so much more cool stuff to enjoy about it. This is a really complex work!
Jerry Gordon: Thank you! That’s very kind of you to say
BJL: How long did it take you to complete this book, starting from the initial vision to the
paperback I’m reading?
JG: Breaking the World started as a short story set in a post-apocalyptic future that made ominous references to a fallen world with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians. The story was well received, and I ended up pitching the world-ending part of it to a small press publisher as a novella. After I wrote it, the publishing industry took a downturn and the deal fell through. I then decided to sell the novella to another publisher, but a couple of writers convinced me to turn it into a novel. Timeline-wise, I spent three full-time months researching the original novella and about the same amount of time writing it. When it came time to transform that original work into a novel, I spent another six months on research and followed that with a year of writing.
BJL: Thanks for sharing that! I think it’s important for readers and aspiring writers to have a good understanding of how much time goes into building a book. Not to dishearten anyone more to show them they’re on the right road when they spend time getting it right.
BJL: Another question that I’m sure many readers are wondering about is: How did the fusion of the Branch Davidian Church standoff with U.S. Law Enforcement and fictional apocalyptic events based on David Koresh’s beliefs along with nuclear warfare come about? Your absolutely seamless integration of these pieces really had me going for a bit! I almost called a friend about the pandemic in Mexico that I’d never heard of previously!
JG: So many books either skip the actual end of the established world or they give it the “flashback treatment.” I wanted an entire novel to live and breathe in that space where everything falls apart, and not in a generic sense. I wanted to ground the reader in a historic moment that felt so real, the fictional elements of the story would sneak up on them!
Twenty-five years ago, over one hundred ATF agents in full body armor stormed the Branch Davidian church in Waco, Texas. Military helicopters circled overhead as both sides traded gunfire. When the smoke cleared, four agents and six church members were dead. A fifty-one day standoff followed the botched raid, dominating the news. Before it was all over, tanks were deployed against a church in America. It’s almost unthinkable!
What made this bit of history so enticing? The fact that the Branch Davidians
believed that government raids signaled the beginning of the end of the world
I took that meticulously researched history and made small deviations, the kind only someone with expert knowledge would recognize. Then I added increasingly larger moments, all designed to seem plausible. ‘I wanted to avoid raising suspicion and leave the reader with a sense that they had forgotten or overlooked some bits of history. I took a lot of inspiration from Orson Wells’ performance of War of the Worlds.
BJL: Your efforts were very effective. I remember feeling almost panicked as the shift you speak of began to happen. At first, I was convinced that this was a real part of history the government had covered up during the crisis situation with the Branch Davidian Church. Especially with the level of firepower and psychological warfare techniques used. Well played, sir!
JG: Thanks, Brian. A lot of it came from doing years of research. When you’re connecting to a historical event in time that generated so much interest, randomly making things up isn’t going to win any points with readers.
BJL: During your time of in depth research for Breaking the World where did you get all this highly detailed information?
JG: I read just about anything I could get my hands on! Congressional testimony, FBI reports, court cases, and books written by survivors on both sides. I also watched obscure television interviews, read David Koresh’s interpretation of the bible, and even listened to his rock music. In fact, a CD of his music was made for the most unusual giveaway of the book launch! All the while, I was assembling moments to explore and questions to ask. That helped me understand how Koresh thought about the world. I learned the way he talked and how he moved. When Koresh started showing up in my dreams, I knew it was time to stop researching!
BJL: That being said, why did you choose fifteen year-old Cyrus as the narrator of this very intense book?
JG: I wanted a neutral point of view to sort out the actions of the Branch Davidians and the FBI. An atheist teenager dragged to the church by his born-again parents gave me a protagonist that could question both sides of the conflict. I also felt that a younger character at the crossroads of adulthood made the situation even scarier. After completing the first draft, I realized I had written the end of the world as a metaphor for growing up. Read into that what you will about my personality!
BJL: Yeah, when you think about it, a lot of teenagers feel that way. I liked the references to Holden Caulfield and Mick Jagger as the warring personalities inside Cyrus, as well. It gives readers something tangible, instead of random adjectives. Speaking of the way you gave us handholds to grab onto Breaking the World with I think the quotes you inserted between chapters are great.
JG: Thanks. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with quotes. Originally, I envisioned a quote preceding every chapter, but that seemed to break up the narrative flow a bit too much. So I settled on a quote every other chapter. Most came to mind while I was writing. The hardest one to nail down was the James Kuntsler quote that comes late in the book. It arrives at a moment when you’re not sure if the characters are going to make it or not. It’s a quote about the probable downfall of the human race that perfectly handles the world hanging by a thread. I went through a dozen quotes before settling on that one!
BJL: Something that many people seem to be stuck on is, why did a “peaceful church group” have all that firepower handy?
JG: There are a couple reasonable explanations for this. From a practical standpoint, their “stockpile of guns” was truly an inventory for a business that helped keep the church afloat. They partnered with a licensed gun dealer to buy old guns and parts that they could recondition and sell for a profit. When the ATF raided the church, they found the gun room almost empty because all the guns were off at a gun show being sold.
Beyond the business side of things, many church members lived onsite and owned personal firearms. Texas gun culture is a very real thing and when you pair that with their belief that they were close to the end times, you have some well-prepared people. So it wasn’t as unusual as some readers might think.
BJL: Breaking the World ends in a fairly open-ended fashion. Was the plan to leave room for a future sequel or more the realization that that your characters were going to be parting ways soon and doing things that wouldn’t line up with the original story?
JG: When I was a boy, I read Stephen King’s The Mist. The ending of my book is a bit of a love letter to that story. This will be lost on those who’ve only seen the movie, but King ended that story in a way that allows readers to imagine and retain hope for the characters. I’ve tried to do that with Breaking the World. That being said, there is an outline for a follow up novel, City of Refuge.
BJL: Well that’s cool on both answers! I’m on the end of those who’ve only read the book, because that’s my favorite way to enjoy Stephen King’s work. My imagination gets to go out and play, just like it did with Breaking the World. Hopefully your work will inspire writers, much like Stephen King’s pushed you in the right direction. It’s certainly inspired me to try my hand at novel writing!
Thanks a million for agreeing to this interview. It has been a pleasure and I appreciate your encouragement, too!
JG: Thank you for doing this, as well. Keep writing!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this feature as much as I enjoyed being a part of The Apex Books Back Catalog Blog Tour! For more information, please check out www.jerrygordon.net and ApexBookCompany.com Jerry’s work is available through Apex Book Company, Barnes & Noble, and of course Amazon.com where you can also follow Jerry and see what he’s up to next. Thanks for reading Damaged Skull Writer!