comedy

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Camelot kidnap caper

Published 4:38pm Thursday, November 10, 2011

Former Dowagiac resident Larry Pontius is the present king of speculative thrillers.
First, in 2002, came his original speculative thriller, “Waking Walt.”
Nine years later the central Florida resident reappears with a Camelot kidnap caper, “Future King,” casting the real British royal family as action figures.
With King Arthur and Merlyn the wizard returning from Avalon and the former strapping on his sword Excalibur, there’s a bit of Harry Potter magic, a majestic sweep of history reminiscent of “The DaVinci Code” and perhaps a parable for across the pond to the Patriot Act.
Set “the day after tomorrow,” Prince Charles is now King Charles, ascended to the British throne with Great Britain beset by The Troubles, a crisis cauldron boiling over with inflation, unemployment and crumbling infrastructure.
England faces an even more dangerous threat from Prime Minister Alistair Saxon, a power-hungry politician who smells in the situation an opportunity to cement himself as dictator.
When King Charles refuses to bless an Emergency Powers Act handing Saxon total control, the prime minister summons his cronies to execute Thunderbolt, a plot to kidnap the royal family and keep Charles from speaking out against the EPA.
An asteroid streaks through the atmosphere and crashes into the Cornwall coast. Some see an old man clamber from the smoldering crater.
Merlyn, finally freed from the cave in which his nemesis imprisoned him 1,500 years ago, awakens his king, Arthur Pendragon, and sets in motion a rip-roaring yarn replete with Camilla Parker Bowles brandishing an assault rifle, hungry Prince Harry pulling a hat over his face to slip into a McDonald’s for sustenance and King Charles’ brush with pirates.
There are comical moments, like when the Knights of Camelford, aged occupants of a veterans home, assemble for battle — “codgers with cricket bats, canes, kitchen knives and other dangerous arms such as umbrellas and frying pans.”
Pontius, a former Disney marketing executive who actually started Future King before Waking Walt, disciplined his brisk writing style during years of creating commercials. His first novel imagined an enduring urban legend was true.
Perhaps the entertainment genius whose business practices this community studied earlier this year didn’t die on Dec. 15, 1966, but was spirited away for almost 40 years in cryonic suspension to await a cure for lung cancer, Linaqual.
The official announcement of Disney’s death was delayed a day until Dec. 16 and he was unceremoniously cremated, his ashes interred in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Glendale, Calif.
In 2002, I compared Pontius’ freewheeling fiction to a Carl Hiassen Florida crime novel crammed with kookie characters and E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime,” wracking readers’ memories at the mixture of real people like Michael Eisner and Frank Wells with fictional figures.
It was intriguing to snoop over Disney’s shoulder as he came to grips with not only the fate of Walt Disney World and EPCOT, which opened after his reported demise, but advances since, from microwave ovens to the internet.
Disney’s timing could prove triumphant, with a ruthless corporate raider launching a takeover attempt.
Waking Walt is still available on Amazon in hardbound, paperback and Kindle.
Pontius never knew Disney, but knows scores of people who did meet the mercurial master of Mickey Mouse while working for the company from 1974 to 1980, from marketing director in Florida to a vice presidency over both theme parks while living in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Two sons, Jon and Noah, were raised and reside in Dowagiac.
Waking Walt took six years to complete. Future King was meant to be his first novel until he picked up on the Disney idea from Marty Cummins, his landlord when he owned an ad agency in Orlando.
Both were aware of the rumor Disney had been frozen, but didn’t consider it fiction fodder before Cummins suggested it.
Larry’s first wife, the late Kathy Vickerman, was Miss Dowagiac 1958 and a founding member of Beckwith Theatre in 1990.
They married out of college and lived in Australia, where the boys were born.
Their marriage lasted about 10 years, until 1972. Pontius taught at Michigan State University for a couple of years. He married Harriet, a Universal vice president, in 1976. Bernie is his “constant four-legged companion.”
Pontius has also published poetry and written lyrics for more than 100 published songs.

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