Ron Fritsch has published a four-book series of Promised Valley novels: Promised Valley Rebellion, Promised Valley War, Promised Valley Conspiracy and Promised Valley Peace. The novels have won a number of awards and highly favorable reviews. The series is complete.
In the epic Promised Valley adventure, prehistoric farmers inhabit a fertile river valley they believe their gods promised them in return for their good behavior and obedience. Their enemies, hunters roaming the mostly barren hills beyond the mountains enclosing the valley, believe their gods gave it to them.
Both sides, though, value individuals who partner with persons of their own gender. Because they have no children to raise, they take leadership positions, especially in times of war.
The four Promised Valley novels ask whether civilization and history, with their countless heaven-sanctioned wars and genocides, could've begun differently.
The individuals who live, struggle, revel, die and survive in the novels confront fundamental questions:
How factual are the stories their ancestors handed down to them?
Despite those stories, are they and their enemies equal human beings who deserve to be treated as such?
Are their gods—who appear to be the same deities for the farmers as well as the hunters, even as they exhort both of their supposedly favored peoples to kill the other—truly benevolent gods?
Or do their gods, outside of those ancestral stories that might not be true, simply not exist?
Fritsch grew up in rural northern Illinois. His father and mother were hard-working tenant farmers who loved to read. So did he and his siblings (one older sister, one older brother, one younger sister).
Fritsch obtained a bachelor's degree with honors from the University of Illinois (major: history; minor: English literature) and a law degree cum laude from Harvard Law School.
Fritsch lives in Chicago with his long-term partner, David Darling.
This is an interview Fritsch did with Feathered Quill Book Reviews following its highly favorable review of Promised Valley Peace, the fourth and last novel in his Promised Valley series:
Today we’re talking with Ron Fritsch, author of Promised Valley Peace.
FQ: It is clear to me that you devoted much heart and soul toward character development and depth. How difficult will it be to turn out the light and close the door on Promised Valley and begin a new project?
FRITSCH: Your assumption about devoting “much heart and soul” in writing the four Promised Valley novels is absolutely correct. I published them in successive autumns from 2010 to 2013 (Promised Valley Rebellion in 2010, Promised Valley War in 2011, Promised Valley Conspiracy in 2012, and Promised Valley Peace in 2013). But even before I published Rebellion, I’d spent several years living with my characters night and day. I already miss them greatly. It’s as if a large group of friends—the “bad” guys as well as the “good” ones—suddenly went missing from my life. But it hasn’t been difficult to begin working on a new project. I’m apparently addicted to having characters in my mind and writing their stories. My new “friends” are getting as sassy and bold with me as Blue Sky, Rose Leaf, Wandering Star, and all the others in Promised Valley did.
FQ: In our previous interview of Promised Valley Conspiracy, I asked if you had plans to develop Promised Valley for the ‘big screen’ to which you said you would. How are your plans coming along?
FRITSCH: At the time of our previous interview I thought I might finish the four novels and immediately start writing screenplays for them, one film for each novel. After my partner and I, enticed by the first three seasons of the BBC’s Downton Abbey, viewed the entire Rome series on DVD, we began to wonder if one-season-per-novel television screenplays might better serve the complexity and many characters of the Promised Valley tale. Because we haven’t answered that question yet, I’ve started writing a stand-alone novel (more about that later).
FQ: I cannot help but think you must have experienced many moments throughout writing the series where you dreamed about your characters. Which character resonated most with you in Promised Valley Peace and what actor (or actress) would you envision playing the role (and why)?
FRITSCH: You’re so right again. My Promised Valley characters showed up in my dreams almost every night. And they still do. Every time I view a film or television drama that draws me in, I imagine the actors playing roles in Promised Valley. Wouldn’t she (Reese Witherspoon, say) be wonderful, I ask my partner, as Rose Leaf? My protagonist/main character is clearly Blue Sky, but playing him will be as difficult as acting gets. Severely suffering from what we’d call PTSD, he goes into a strange trance and fights on, killing whoever needs to die next. Can I suggest three related characters and the people who should play them? The Jake Gyllenhaal of Brokeback Mountain as Wandering Star. He shamelessly manipulates Blue Sky and admits he needs him in the same breath. Susan Sarandon as his mother, Dancing Song. Despite having seen it all, she’s still in love with life, letting “joy itself,” as she says when another character suddenly dies, “guide her feet in dance and her voice in song.” Tom Cruise as his father, Lightning Spear. Maimed and vindictive at the pinnacle of his youth, he’s now as cracked as his kingdom.
FQ: Horses play a more prominent and significant role in Promised Valley Peace. Why wait until the final novel to portray this premise?
FRITSCH: I wanted to show how the Promised Valley people gradually learned to use horses. Blue Sky’s grandparents acquired the first of them from the river people, as stronger but more wilful substitutes for oxen. Blue Sky, Rose Leaf, and Morning Sun secretly defy their parents and ride them. When the valley people face extinction, they use them for the heavy hauling they need to defend themselves in their upper valley. After two hill-boy refugees devise a way to ride horses in their hunts, riding them in battle becomes the obvious next step. Horses are to the Promised Valley people what nuclear weapons, guided missiles, and drone aircraft are to us. They’ll win you every battle you fight—but only as long as your enemy doesn’t have them.
FQ: You pose an interesting concept to the reader in your analogies of how the people are guided by the “gods.” What is your philosophy toward the “gods” guiding humans and your take on the notion of: “there are no coincidences in life”?
FRITSCH: In this telling of the Job story, the supernatural deity or deities who supposedly rule the universe lose out to human reason. As Blue Sky insists, his grandparents didn’t exchange most of what little they possessed for a river trader’s unwanted animals, i.e. horses, because some gods in a faraway, unseen heaven had asked them to. They did it because they were the desperate victims of a foolish king.
FQ: There are many complexities to the story as well as an abundance of key characters. How did you keep track of who was doing what during the writing process?
FRITSCH: I lived with these characters and their stories night and day for years. I came to know them—and I continue to know them—as well as any actual humans I’ve ever met. I dutifully maintained lists of characters and scenes throughout the writing of all four novels, but I rarely had to consult them to answer who did or said what at some earlier point in the story. I almost always knew. The lists were useful to assure me I had everything right.
FQ: You’re quite descriptive toward the Promised Valley landscape and the diversities between the hills and valleys. Is there any particular real place you spent time to develop the lay of the land in your fictitious Promised Valley?
FRITSCH: Even as a child, I knew I wanted to write a story about people peacefully occupying an exceptionally fertile river valley surrounded by mountains keeping out their enemies. Whenever I took auto trips with my family and friends through mountains and saw such a valley—always within the United States—I’d think it was the valley in my story. As I describe it in the Promised Valley series, though, it would have to be located in a temperate area in Eurasia or northern Africa.
FQ: I want to thank you for the pleasure of reading Promised Valley Peace. I’m looking forward to your next adventure. Would you care to share what that may be?
FRITSCH: And I thank you for the pleasure of reading your reviews of Promised Valley Conspiracy and Promised Valley Peace. I like to think of the novel I’m presently writing as fitting within a “Midwestern Gothic” genre, if there is such a thing. It’s set in a mostly German-American farming community in northern Illinois in the middle of the Twentieth Century—the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. After the Second World War a young boy’s mother runs off with the lover she openly consorted with while the boy’s teenage father was fighting and drinking his way across northern Africa and western Europe. The boy’s father kills himself, leaving the boy in the care of his grandfather. The community suspects that man, however, of committing fraud and even murder on his way to ownership of the largest farm in the county. I best not say more!
To learn more about Promised Valley Peace, please read the review at: Feathered Quill Book Reviews.
Where to find Ron Fritsch online
Where to buy in print
Promised Valley: The Complete Series
by Ron Fritsch
Promised Valley: The Complete Series is an ebook boxed-set of the four Promised Valley novels by Ron Fritsch: Promised Valley Rebellion, Promised Valley War, Promised Valley Conspiracy and Promised Valley Peace.
Promised Valley Peace
by Ron Fritsch
Promised Valley Peace is the fourth and last novel in Ron Fritsch’s Promised Valley series. The conspirators and their allies from the first three novels give up on the gods and discover how to use horses in warfare. They prepare to employ them in a last battle to bring the prehistoric enemy hunters and farmers together as one people in a “new kingdom” and end warfare between them forever.
Promised Valley Conspiracy
by Ron Fritsch
Promised Valley Conspiracy is the third novel in the four-book Promised Valley series by Ron Fritsch. The farmers and hunters have ended the fighting in the horrific war they started in the second novel, Promised Valley War. Both sides understand, though, that new and possibly even more deadly fighting threatens--unless they depart from the thoughtless hatred of the past.
Promised Valley War
by Ron Fritsch
Prehistoric farmers inhabit a fertile river valley they believe their gods promised them. Their enemies, hunters roaming the barren hills beyond the valley, believe the gods gave it to them. The persons among both peoples most curious about their "eternal" enemies and most willing to treat them as equals nevertheless set the stage for what they fear more than anything else: another horrifying war.
Promised Valley Rebellion
by Ron Fritsch
Promised Valley Rebellion is a story of forbidden love set in prehistory. The early farmers’ king refuses to allow the marriage of the coming-of-age prince to the daughter of the farmer who saved the king’s life in the last war with the hunters. Her gay brother decides he has to help his sister and the prince, his boyhood friend, correct the flagrant injustice. That leads them into a rebellion.
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Smashwords book reviews by Ron Fritsch
- Amgalant One: The Old Ideal
on Feb. 19, 2012
Amgalant One: The Old Ideal is the first novel in Bryn Hammond’s historical fiction trilogy set in northeast Asia in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. Hammond’s protagonist is the person we know as Genghis Khan.
One of the many delights I encountered in this novel was that it’s written from the point of view of the Mongols. We speak of the Great Wall of China as if it were a single smartly executed defensive structure built by the civilized Chinese to keep out their “barbarian” neighbors to the north. Maps of the “Great Wall” reveal that it’s actually a number of mostly parallel east-to-west walls. The Mongols and their allies viewed these walls as offensive movements by the Chinese to bring more and more “barbarian” territory into China.
Thus: “these ghastly dead gigantic insects that crept across the steppe. . . . These ugly mean-spirited possessions of our mother earth, these worms, these anti-liberty flags and wind-blown banners to imprisonment, these thistles in the grass, these lines of poison. A nomad can do poetry, on walls. The Wall is what we hate. Civilization is what has done us wrong.”
Another joy for me is Hammond’s unique style, which isn’t meant for quick reading but for reading and contemplation. Here are some tidbits:
“‘Too stupid for battle. Is that a sort of oxymoron?’ His uncle the khan fixed an eye on him. ‘An oxymoron’s the other thing.’”
“At the worst news in the Mongols’ history, she wept for joy.” (She’d also learned that the man she loved had survived a disastrous war fought against both the Tartars and Chinese.)
“Survivors, for their punishment, have the worst sight.”
“Even a suspect action can have a nice consequence.”
“There’s a funny trick with knowledge of the future: you’re not meant to act and twist things up. You’re almost meant to know and then forget—go on as if you didn’t know.”
“The world’s early kings were sacred kings and had to be. Religious awe: tried-and-true to subjugate minds and overthrow the insistent, rowdy equality of tribes. In general, religion is found hand-in-glove with despots.”
And I’m so glad to see these “uncivilized” Mongol “barbarians” portrayed as people whose humanity and intelligence equal, when they don’t exceed, our own.
The son of a chieftain and his brothers abduct the bride of a member of another clan. They’re pleased when the groom makes no futile attempt to fight them off. They didn’t want to harm or kill him. The bride, who’d invited her abduction by staring approvingly at her abductor, wastes no time in deciding she’d rather have him for a husband than the man she’d been promised to.
The new couple’s first child, born on the worst day of that disastrous war, is Genghis Khan.
This is the kind of historical fiction I love. I greatly enjoyed the time I spent with Hammond’s Mongols.
- Being Anti-Social
on June 16, 2012
Being Anti-Social, set in present-day Melbourne, Australia, is award-winning author Leigh K. Cunningham’s second novel for adult readers. Because I thoroughly enjoyed her first, Rain, I looked forward to reading Being Anti-Social as soon as she published it. I wasn’t disappointed.
Mace Evans is one of five children in her family, with two older brothers and two sisters, one older and one younger. She’s 38 when the novel begins, and she’s unmarried, childless, and “anti-social,” according to her older and “unloved” sister, Shannon. She’s also a severe disappointment to her mother. On the other hand, she respects and admires her younger sister and her brothers. She considers her father “cute, cuddly, lovable, and a beacon of life.”
Despite her proud independence and desire to be left alone, Mace is also one of a group of five women who’ve been friends from their high school days—but she admits she continues to like only one of them, Kimba, “the voice of reason.”
Mace is “rather successful” in her “career as a finance executive,” even though she tells us her co-workers consider her “unfriendly,” “abrasive,” and “offensive.” On the other hand, she’s kind to her secretary and secretly enjoys the fights her peers so frequently engage in.
The novel begins with Mace’s admission of the crucial mistake she made in her life. She fell in love with Ben, married him, and remained in love with her “perfect husband” to the end of his short life. (He’s dead from leukemia when the novel begins.) And yet she caused their separation and divorce by embarking upon an affair with another man, Joshua, who was “a star when it came to bedroom achievements.” After Mace ended the affair, Joshua vengefully told Ben about it.
Mace and her siblings, friends, and co-workers journey through a few years in their late thirties and early forties. They have affairs, fall in love, marry, have children, separate, divorce, and attend funerals. Mace finds it easy to commence affairs with attractive men who ultimately prove disappointing to one degree or another. The question for her, and the reader, is whether she’ll ever find a man to replace Ben.
Mace herself might not wish to claim to be a sympathetic protagonist in the story of her life, but she is, nevertheless. She insists she doesn’t care what the people in her life think of her, and yet, she admits at one point, she does.
In her dealings with her family, friends, and co-workers, Mace Evans reveals an intense dislike of pretense as well as an ability to openly mock those who are guilty of it.
Mace is also delightfully sarcastic in the manner of Oscar Wilde, her “mentor and life coach,” a number of whose bons mots she quotes at appropriate moments in her story.
Consider this: “I might become a crazed old spinster who wears quilted dresses and odd socks, and drinks merlot yoghurt smoothies while terrifying neighborhood children—it would not be all bad.”
And so I found myself laughing, time after time, as one can only do while confronting the sweet sorrow of human life and death in the world we live in and simultaneously maintaining one’s sanity.
Thank you for this story, Leigh. I loved it from its beginning to its end.
on June 16, 2012
Rain, Leigh K. Cunningham's first novel for adult readers, is a page-turning story of three generations in a small-town Australian family during forty turbulent years from 1965 to 2005.
The tale mostly, but not exclusively, revolves around a second-generation mother, Helena, and her third-generation daughter, Carla. Even as they deny they need to, they give their lives to the men and boys who are their fathers, sons, brothers, and lovers—and receive in return enormous grief.
And yet this is no mindless indictment of the male characters. For instance, at the beginning Helena and her sister Grace, heiresses to their father's sawmill business, both favor the physically desirable Michael Baden. He readily returns the interest of the more attractive sister, Grace, to the point of consummating a youthful affair with her.
Grace, however, has her eye on a more glamorous life than Michael can be a part of. A worker in the mill, he's a bastard grandson of the impoverished and physically abused woman who claims to be his mother. He's also a victim of severe playground abuse for nothing more than being who he is.
When Grace leaves for a more worldly existence in Sydney, Michael turns his attention to the "sensible and comfortable" Helena. This reader finds it difficult to blame either of them for what follows.
Abuse—psychological, physical, and sexual—dominates Cunningham's story. And yet all of her characters—no matter how possible it is to say they invite their own grief—are sympathetic. This reader wanted each of them to succeed, even as he grew in his knowledge that most of them wouldn't.
The playground bullies and the gang-rapists of a fourteen-year-old girl in a nighttime cemetery are faceless, as they should be in this kind of story. Nobody has to be convinced those hobgoblins exist, even in fiction that blissfully—in this reader's humble opinion—eschews paranormality.
But what this reader most admires in Rain is Cunningham's unsentimental but intensely moving style of writing. She has no need to tell you when she's touching your heart. You simply feel it.
- Living the Afterlife, a Death and Chronos flash fiction collection
on May 05, 2014
I’m quite fond of River Fairchild’s Death and Chronos stories collected in Living the Afterlife. That Death, otherwise known as Thanatos, and Chronos, otherwise known as Time, are “sidekicks” shouldn’t surprise us. And with the fate of the world and all mortals in their hands, their doing what male buddies do so well—goofing off—causes big-time disruption for the other gods and goddesses and endless amusement for the reader.
What’s not to love about these guys? Most people see peanut-popping Death as “a nice-looking young man,” if they see him at all. “Only those whose time has come would see the skeletal visage.” And with this character, “Death on a Harley” acquires new meaning.
When Chronos decides to remove his anachronistic green shag carpet, embedded with the peanuts that get away from bony Death, he chooses to replace it with gold shag. Angry at Evil for making time go backward, Chronos tells him all we need to know: “You can’t screw up time this way. That’s my job.”
The other characters in these delightful adventures of Death and Chronos include a butt-kicking War, a cherubic Eros, an earth-loving Gaia and the Fates, the three sisters who spin the thread of one’s life, measure it and cut it.
Did I mention River Fairchild’s writing? This is her description of Nyx (Night), the goddess Chronos is in love with: “Midnight hair swirled about a gown made of starlight.”
- Darkest Days, Blackest Nights
on June 07, 2014
The six short stories in River Fairchild’s Darkest Days, Blackest Nights are delightfully dark.
In “Brush Strokes” an artist’s last painting of her garden exacts revenge on the art world that snubbed her during her lifetime.
In “Blast from the Past” a fortune teller encourages her customers to take what she knows will be tragic “missteps.” “She reveled in the chaos of sending them straight into the downward spiral.”
In “Enter the Light” the aging ruler of a walled city-kingdom discovers how to regain youth for himself from his subjects’ need for vengeance. “He reveled in their despair. It fed him. It gave him life.”
In “Man in the Moon” an “Institute for Behavior Modification” turns out to be just as ominous as it sounds.
In “No Strings Attached” a prostitute—working for the other side, one might say—takes far more from her johns than they bargained for.
In “Time in a Bottle” a homeless man learns how to time travel to alternate stories of his life, each of them more horrific than the one that came before.
Does Fairchild leave us without a happy ending in sight? I’d have to say she’s left us with six.
- Just Another Day in Purgatory
on Aug. 14, 2015
Those of us who are addicted to the antics of River Fairchild’s immortals Death and Chronos, otherwise known as Thanatos and Time, will gladly welcome Just Another Day in Purgatory. Once again, the two old friends go from scrape to scrape with such other immortals as Gaia, War, Evil and Atropos, the fate whose “giant pair of scissors” or “abhorred shears” cut the thread of life. But a few unusual mortals such as the “irresistible” Jezebel and the haughty Jeeves play their parts to keep the fun and games going.
One of the most enjoyable features of Fairchild’s Death and Chronos stories is the endless wordplay. When the guys decide to pay a visit to hell on Death’s Harley, Death says, “Even though we have the best of intentions, we’ll take the unpaved road.” And the music from Death’s sound system is, of course, the theme song from Death Takes a Holiday.
Once again, Death loses the peanuts he loves in Chronos’ “anachronistic” gold-shag carpet. “Don’t fret,” Death says to Chronos during one crisis. “Time is on our side.” Death later says, “I’m neutral. Nobody escapes me in the end. I say live and let live.” After our heroes are forced to escape through Gaia’s carnivorous flower garden, Chronos needs to treat the bites on his legs. “Good thing the flowers weren’t taller,” he decides.
Thank you, River Fairchild, for more Death and Chronos.
- Demon in the Basement
on Sep. 28, 2015
“Her artwork spoke of elemental fears and ancient curses. The splashes of paint tapped into primitive awareness and dark thoughts.” So River Fairchild describes the artwork of Susan, painter and ax-murderer in “Blood Reflection,” one of the thirty-two stories Fairchild has collected in Demon in the Basement, along with the novelette bearing the same title as the book.
Fairchild is, of course, describing her own artwork in this book.
These are stories of relentless horror. Few of Fairchild’s characters, innocent or guilty, young or old, survive the mistakes they seem driven to. In “Metamorphosis” Lauren and David board a flight 643 from Miami to London leaving at one p.m. What are they thinking? The flight numbers add up to thirteen. The plane leaves at thirteen hundred hours. Below it’s path lie the Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, Amazons. Good-by, Lauren and David.
When a character in “Awakening” finds out she’s married a man who owns an ancient English castle, or another in “Served Cold” discovers she’s inherited an ancient Irish castle from an aunt she’s never met, you know they should run as fast as they can in the opposite direction. Fairchild’s characters, though, almost never do that. They seem to want to embrace the disaster as much as I, the reader sitting safely on his living-room couch, want to watch them do it.
I especially like the young people in “Food Chain” flocking to Southern California beaches when the temperature of the Pacific along the coastline suddenly rises. This seaweed Jaws works on so many different levels for me.
My favorite moment is in the novelette of the title when (spoiler alert) Robert discovers his best friend Tommy having sex in a field with Evelyn, who is Robert’s fiancé. Neither Tommy nor Evelyn has given a thought to Robert’s living in a house with a demon who might wish, for its own reasons, to share its power with Robert. The lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky says it all.