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'Valiant' a search for identity, balance, God

9/2/2014

By ABBY BELDEN

By ABBY BELDEN

abelden@dailynews.net

Bobby Haas has traveled the blacktop from Colorado to Hays countless times throughout his life.

But now he is bringing readers to Ellis County in a 1965 Plymouth Valiant with his book "Midnight Valiant."

While "Midnight Valiant" begins as a fun, entertaining, coming-of-age story for four college students, the storyline shifts as the search for identity, family and balance in life takes hold.

"The book is about our search for God," Haas said. "It's about a search for finding a balance of masculinity and femininity within our God, ourselves and in our culture."

"Midnight Valiant" jumps between two timeframes and introduces readers to characters such as Lance O'Neil, a Vietnam veteran, and to Becky Dreiling, a post-1960s flower child.

"I wanted that flower child of the '60s ... this very gentle, soft, very wise pagan. She follows the natural rhythms," Haas said. "The natural rhythms of the Earth."

It also introduces the younger "me generation" of the 1980s: Carkus Adams, Nattie Sinclair, Daniel O'Neil and John Gophe.

It is the Plymouth Valiant that brings all of the characters together in Ellis County on Dreiling's wheat farm, and it is there the clash of cultures and two generations meet.

Gophe, who is the book's narrator, is from a highly structured old-school Catholic background, and that patriarchal background clashes with the Goddess culture, or the free and gentle Wiccan lifestyle he encounters on the Kansas Plains at Dreiling's farm.

"Gophe is bringing that perception to that goddess culture of the Great Plains, and what mostly happens is he can't make sense of what he sees or experiences because it's not jiving," Haas said. "He's a very intelligent person but very naive."

But why base the book in Ellis County?

"I am rooted there, all the way back, as far as you can go," he said. "I honestly like that fact. I like the idea that I don't have much in me than Volga-German."

Haas said his great-grandparents and grandparents migrated to the area, settling near Victoria. Haas's parents also were raised in Hays. Though they moved before he was born, they made trips back to visit.

As Haas got older, he said he spent a lot of his time walking fields and driving around, stopping to write and sculpt and always was sure to catch the sunset each night.

His time and connection to the area provided a location for the book.

"There is something about the area that really draws me in, especially Victoria and Pfeifer," he said.

Some of the places he spends time at when in the area were included in "Midnight Valiant," such as the church in Pfeifer, or as its called in the book, "a church out in the middle of nowhere."

While Haas had a setting for the book, the general direction of where he wanted to go was not fully planned or structured.

"I had this general sense of it, but I didn't map this out at all," he said. "I started writing everyday. ... I really had no idea how this would play out. ... I knew where I was going, but I had no idea how I was going to get there."

So, he worked on the book, block by block, creating it the same way he sculpts.

"The more I chipped away, the more I could see what was coming out," he said.

For Haas, writing has been a career path, as he was a reporter and also an editor of a weekly newspaper chain.

"I have always been interested in writing," he said. "That's pretty much all I ever wanted to do. ... I have been interested in creative writing as long as I can remember.

"Midnight Valiant" is available at amazon.com, booklocker.com and can be ordered at bookstores.