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“There’s a Boy in Here” – Book Coverage

by Ginger Marin

The following is book coverage I did long ago for an entertainment company.

There’s a Boy in Here: Authors: Judy & Sean Barron

SYNOPSIS:

This is the story of the BARRON family: from the point of view of mother JUDY and her autistic son SEAN, told in alternate narrations, as much as Sean is able to look back and decipher his early childhood actions. Other family members include father RON and younger daughter MEGAN.  They lived in Poland and Boardman, Ohio, roughly 60 miles from Akron.   The book was four years in the writing, begun when Sean was 25-years old, after he decided he wanted to help others understand the nature of his illness, seeing it from the inside out.  In 1965, at the age of four, Sean Barron was diagnosed AUTISTIC, a word the Barrons had never heard before.  It was the search to define that illness, then the fight against it that lead to Sean’s emergence from his fate with the ultimate proof that he had in fact emerged, the writing of this book!

After Sean was born, he cried incessantly, never consoled by food, having his diaper changed, or being held.

At the age of fourteen months, Sean began to exhibit a series of inexplicable behaviors.  He never made eye contact with his mother, nor for that matter took any notice of her whatsoever.  He hated to be held, twisting and squirming away from her much like a trapped, frightened animal.  He developed seemingly irrational, compulsive, destructive, repetitive actions such as taking toys, kitchen utensils and anything else he could find, plopping them onto a tabletop and just as fast whacking them off just to see them fall.  The behavior went on for hours at a time.  It was to be one of many such distractions that sent Judy into such a rage that she resorted to screaming and spanking.  Her only reprieve was when little Sean would exhaust even himself and fall heavily asleep.

Sean’s other favorite activities which would extend for hours at a time were picking at the fibers of a carpet, flicking light switches on and off, flushing objects down the toilet and throwing crayons down the heat register where they would, of course, melt.  He was of particular nuisance to his mother who stayed with him all day and an abomination to relatives when the Barrons visited for family dinners.

Judy’s mother didn’t even support Judy’s belief that something was wrong with Sean.   The grandmother loved Sean dearly and treated him as normally as she could, ignoring his misbehaviors as much as she could.  However, with Judy it was another matter.  Judy literally had to grab and shake Sean to get his attention.  Over time the shakings grew harder just as did the spankings.  Sean only grew angrier.  He despised his mother since she was the primary source of his scoldings.

Pediatricians refused to acknowledge Sean’s strange behavior, nor his excessive diet, eating only starches, but never fruits or vegetables.  Theirs was a ‘he’ll grow out of it’ attitude.

Almost two years after Sean’s arrival, daughter Megan was born, a happy, healthy child, a total contrast to Sean in every way.  Sean ignored her too until much later when she became his staunchest supporter and best friend.  Well over two years of age, Sean still had not uttered a word, let alone babble, until one day when he muttered a series of numbers.  Soon after, Judy figured it out.  Sean could tell time to the second!

At age four, spankings worsened for Sean when Judy resorted to a wooden spoon.  She hated herself for being as much out of control with her own behavior as Sean was with his.  Ron and Judy finally sought psychological help for Sean with DR. COHEN.  While Sean ran rampant through the doctor’s office, his parents discussed the circumstances of Sean’s birth.  They were told they shouldn’t have had their second child so close in age to Sean, and that by kneeling next to Sean when they spoke to him (height was intimidating) their child would react better.  Judy and Ron could hardly believe their ears.

Sean was taken to a Speech and Hearing center, a neurologist, and a neurological pediatrician who practiced in AKRON.  Judy resented being treated in a highly condescending fashion, once again blamed for all of Sean’s misbehaviors.  DR. LOGAN diagnosed Sean’s autism and prescribed medication. He also sent them to a clinical psychologist, a DR. ROSSI who was to provide a behavior modification program.  Sean showed only the slightest improvement with the program and over time Sean learned to despise Dr. Rossi’s therapy sessions.  Judy lost whatever little bit of confidence she had in this doctor when the doctor admitted even he resorted to spanking Sean for not properly explaining a bit of behavior.

Dr. Logan prescribed a second medication after the first stopped working.  This one sent Sean into such a frenzy, his parents feared for his life.  No more medication they said…no more Logan!  But, Judy will never forget Dr. Logan’s pronouncement about Sean: “you’ll wish your son had been born blind, deaf or retarded because autism is the worst…if there’s any progress it usually stops at puberty; you may have to institutionalize him”.  Judy’s and Ron’s only response: “NEVER!”

Sean’s next big step was kindergarten at age five.  His parents hoped and prayed somehow the change of pace and scene would catapult Sean into someone half normal.  It actually worked a little.  The routine of class hours and what was expected of him, comforted Sean.  At home, though, his behavior worsened; he became a storm of activity, flying through the rooms, destroying much in his path.

At age six, Sean became addicted to speedometers.  Moving cars or stationary it didn’t matter.  It was an addiction that almost cost him his life when he ran into the street to look at one of them.  Next, Sean’s fascination with dead-end streets, followed by fear of left-hand turns that sent him into deafening rages each time the family car was to make one.  Sometimes all it took was a single spoken word to send him into a rage.   His list of “RULES” grew: the family had to sit in certain chairs; no one could arrive in the kitchen in the morning before him; he had to be the last one on the school bus going home each day.  He hated the number 24 because the number 24 schoolbus was always late.  He hated his teacher because she was 24 years old!

When Sean was 9-yrs old Judy got a job teaching reading to sixth-graders.  Sean became fascinated with murder cases and murderers.  On one occasion he awakened his parents by standing on the edge of the bed and asking them what they think would happen if he poured gasoline on the bed and lit it.

At age 10 and in fourth grade, Sean is enrolled at BEECHBROOK FOR EMOTIONALLY DISTURBED CHILDREN, located in Cleveland.  He attends for nine long months, returning home only on weekends.  It’s a sad time for all. Sean is tremendously unhappy; his family misses him but at the same time, they’re able to experience what it means to live a normal family life.  Therapy sessions at Beechbrook fall into the same category as those that preceded them – blame the mother.  Finally the Barrons could take no more of it and Sean departed Beechbrook for good rejoining his fifth-grade class.

In February 1976, Judy’s mother died.  She was Sean’s only ally as he saw it.  It had a profound effect on him. In his own words he describes realizing for the first time that he had loved her all his life but he could never tell her.

Soon, Sean decided he needed a sense of humor.  He hoped to achieve one by memorizing every line of every scene of every episode of “GILLIGAN’S ISLAND”.  It neither gave him a sense of humor nor endeared him to anybody.

In spring of his 14th year, Sean experienced what he described as the most terrifying thing to ever happen to him: his father stopped speaking to him for eight days.  Ron couldn’t stand Sean’s negativity and anger any longer and swore he would never speak to his son again.  Sean was devastated and did whatever he could to get back into his father’s graces: clean the house, mow the lawn, whatever.  Finally his father apologized.  So did Sean and in his mind, Sean, promised to control his own behavior all the while knowing it was an impossibility.

At 15, Sean entered high school.  Because he never was able to look at himself in the mirror, he constantly appeared a mess.  He couldn’t work buttons or shoelaces.  Most problems, he felt, couldn’t be fixed so he simply ignored them.  He became deeply interested in Astronomy.  What easier way was there to pretend he did not exist in our sphere of reality?  What easier way could there be for Sean to travel as far away from Ohio and the source of his grief than in his imagination to other planets?

His biggest change came in March 1978 when the family moved to LOS ANGELES.  His parents, good friends with singer MAUREEN MCGOVERN from their hometown in Ohio, were to co-manage her career and write lyrics.  Sean was apprehensive but also hopeful he could escape the torment of his schoolmates.

Sean’s biggest breakthrough came at age 17 when the family watched the film on TV called SON RISE about an autistic boy.  He recognized himself and following the movie, Judy acknowledges having her first real conversation with her son.  It was then that Sean declared war on his disease, and growth, while extremely hard for him, came in bits and pieces over the years to follow.  Sean realized he wanted to help other people.  He took a “Coping” class and soon worked as a volunteer at a neighborhood nursing home.  Sean started to learn to deal with his compulsions.  While there were times when he still flipped out and grew angry with Judy, she now knew she could at least bring him back from that brink.

In June of 1980, Sean graduated high school and decided to go to college to study elementary education.  He got a job as a teachers aide at a preschool.

The EMERGENCE from autism came between Sean’s 17th and 19th years.  All his life he had been destructive, negative, self-absorbed, insensitive and heartless.  All that changed. He began to read newspapers, he bought an old car and developed a love of vintage jazz.  He even learned to play the trumpet.

Still, Sean knew he wasn’t out of the woods yet with regard to his own behavior.  It would be a lifetime of trying to control what had once controlled him.

The family lived in Los Angeles for five years before Judy and Ron told Sean they would have to move to NEW YORK to continue their work with Maureen McGovern.  Megan agreed to leave Los Angeles, but Sean, instead, made the decision to go back to Ohio…to where his problems began.  Judy begged him not to but he went anyway.  He lived in YOUNGSTOWN where he finished school at the university.  Sean lived a lonely existence for a long time before reaching out.  He became a volunteer at the school’s crisis center and for the first time in his life he came to understand the magnitude of others’ problems.  He started to make friends.

At the end of 1985 he met his first real girlfriend, LYNNE, with whom he stayed three years.  It was a loving, caring relationship, so important that he dared to reveal his childhood autism to her.  It didn’t matter to Lynne one bit; she loved him all the more.  When the relationship ended this time, Sean’s world did not and he went on to date again.

Sean graduated college in June 1987 with a degree in early childhood education.  Megan graduated from New York University and the family flew to Ohio to give them both a graduation party.

Sean now works full time in rehabilitation at a nursing home in Youngstown.  He loves his life in Ohio and his job and he still does volunteer work (with Alzheimer’s patients).

He still fears the angers inside him.  Perhaps his biggest challenge will be to constantly be on guard against the old habits that might lure him into old behaviors.  His biggest love – his family!

Note: Sean wrote his portion of this book from his home in Ohio, while Judy wrote from New York.  They collaborated over the telephone.

COMMENTS

Upon reading this book, one must believe the parents to be some kind of saints for having not only put up with, but loved and supported such a child as Sean whose hyperactive, compulsive, irrational, cold-blooded behavior made him appear a devil-child.

Most of our sympathies lie with the parents, particularly Judy in the early stages.  But two strong images come to mind that clearly depict Sean’s tormented life: his cowering in a corner of Dr. Rossi’s office after the doctor spanked him and his running after the family car on the grounds of Beechbrook begging to be taken home.

The device using Sean’s narration to counter his mother’s to explain his behavior is well-served.  He allows us inside his tortured mind as much as he can with memories of why he loved to throw things down the heat register (to see where they would go and how far; what was down there), why he played games with people (needed to control conversations; needed attention), why he couldn’t stop doing repetitive destructive actions (sometimes to see how things work; fascination with movement; it was his only satisfaction) and why he hated his mother (she stopped him from doing the things he loved to do).

All emotions are in play in this book from love to hate, anger to pity.  On one occasion father Ron destroys Sean’s room, so frustrated and angry with the years of destruction on Sean’s part.  We empathize with his behavior, just as we do with Judy’s frustration that keeps her yelling and hitting Sean.

In his teen years we see Sean’s growth, now more visually than ever before.  We see him progressing in school with greater rewards, more mature behavior and more effort on his part to relate to the real world.  Ultimately, the biggest payoff of all, seeing Sean as he is today, working, functioning and loving.  We “see” him writing this book, over the phone with his mother, a woman he despised, a woman he couldn’t even look at.

If developed, the first THIRD of the screenplay should encompass Sean’s early childhood.  The events are so emotionally exhausting up until that time we would need a turn of events to both ease the level of frustration and to shape our sympathies in favor of Sean.  That mainly comes in Sean’s early adolescence when the concept of cause and effect begins to take hold of his sensibilities.  At 17, when he sees the movie SON RISE we know we are edging toward our payoff.  Sean declares war on his disease.  The struggle ensues and eventually Sean and his family triumph.

The book is the experience of one family and one autistic boy at a time (1965 at age 4) when very little was known about the disease.  It is not a “how to” book for getting children to emerge the disease and therefore, if developed for television, I would like to see the last five minutes or so devoted to an explanation of the disease, the current belief of origin (biochemical) and new ways to treat it. An interesting report showed, that with the help of a guiding hand, the autistic child could work a typewriter to express his own feelings and even write stories!  Also, let’s not forget all the reports of autistic children working with dolphins.

As autobiographical material and an excellent character study of a family struggling to cope, I highly recommend this book for development.  And depending on casting, it would work well in either Television or Features.

Article by Ginger Marin. To learn about her acting, visit Ginger Marin’s IMDB page.

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“The Master Stroke” – Book Coverage

by Ginger Marin

The following is book coverage I did long ago for an entertainment company.

The Master Stroke: Author: Elizabeth Gage

SYNOPSIS:

It’s 1955 when women were being shut out of the business world and computer technology was still in its infancy.  FRANCIE BOLLINGER (23), ravishing, supremely intelligent (degrees in math, business and computers), fluent in several foreign languages, bright and honest, goes looking for a job at NYC’s MAGNUS INDUSTRIES, the world’s leader in finance and manufacturing.  The Corporation was founded by ANTON MAGNUS, an immigrant-nobody with the audacity to infiltrate and marry into high society through unscrupulous means.  It was a trademark that made him one of the world’s most dangerous men.

Bypassed by the personnel department, Francie seeks other means of entry.  She studies the failings of the Domestic Products Division and waltzes into the office of its director to present him a plan for turning a profit.  It’s a brilliant business plan and it’s Francie’s baby.  This is her first taste of working for the corporate giant and it leaves a horribly bitter taste in her mouth.  Francie is completely shut out of getting any credit for her hard work when the Domestic Products Division soars in profits.

Francie moves her career along, this time in an unusual act of boldness and an equally bold plan to computer-link Magnus’ European subsidiaries.  Anton’s son JACK MAGNUS (30’s), the man destined to take over for his father, heads the division.  After sending her research to Jack through interoffice mail where it’s promptly ignored, she decides to deliver it personally to him at home.  She sneaks past the doorman, knocks on Jack’s door, certain he will throw her out.  Instead, the most gorgeous man she has ever seen, invites her in and patiently listens to her plan.  Her plan is approved by the Board and she gets the go-ahead to implement it.  At the meeting, she first sets eyes on the God of Magnus himself, Anton, a steely man of enormous power and wealth.

Jack Magnus, handsome, wealthy, the world’s most eligible bachelor, invites Francie to a party at his family’s house, given for his sister GRETCHEN, who had just given birth. Aside from a vast array of dignitaries, Francie formally meets Anton, his wife…the extraordinarily meek VICTORIA and the youngest child in the Magnus household, JULIE (late teens, the wild one).  Jack gives Francie a lesson in what it means to be a Magnus, showing his disdain for his father, a feeling also illustrated by the two daughters.  The wild and troubled Julie makes her usual scene by getting drunk and passing out at the party.  It’s later discovered that she is a victim of her father’s incestuous advances, just as older sister Gretchen had been.  Francie also meets BELINDA, who’s to be Jack’s pre-arranged wife, the woman he’ll have nothing to do with.  Jack makes his first advances on Francie, a stolen kiss that sends her reeling.  She backs away but cannot forget that kiss in the days to come.

Francie goes to Europe to implement the computer-link.  Paris, London, Lausanne, other cities follow.  Her home base is Paris where company man ROLAND de LEAUMES takes her under his wing and presents the computer plan to other skeptical company officials.  In the months that pass, he becomes her right hand man, trusted, invaluable.

About this time, Julie decides to go slumming one night to a sleazy New York City bar.  She gets more than she bargains for in the name of JOHNNY MARRANTE, a low-class Italian stud, who lives for sex, the more brutal the better.  Julie becomes enraptured by this just as she becomes more deeply entwined by the power he has over her.   She visits him frequently, stealing away at night when the rest of high society is safely hidden in its rich cocoons.  Hard raw sex rivets her to this unsavory man.

Jack arrives in Paris to check on the plan’s progress, also to see Francie and an affair is begun.  It’s hot and wild, filled with abandon.  Jack promises undying love and asks for marriage.  Francie cannot deny him.  They plan to wed after the computer-link is activated.  Faced with serious computer programming problems, Francie devises a unique solution.  Just as the link is to occur, Francie is called back to NEW YORK and Magnus.  She arrives to find her job terminated, her office cleared and a letter from Jack explaining his abrupt marriage to Belinda….”nothing is as it seems.”

Magnus activates the computer-link.  It’s a stunning breakthrough in computer technology and overseas communications.   Magnus again takes credit for Francie’s work.  Anton sends Roland a good deal of money for orchestrating the theft of Francie’s programming.  The turn of events leaves Francie dumbfounded, especially regarding Jack.  He hated everything his father stood for.  How could Jack have betrayed her?

After recouping, Francie sets up a computer consulting firm called Compu-Tel, using the same type of program she designed for the Europeans. She meets SAM CARPENTER, a down-to-earth sort with computer expertise and they join forces.  The company grows and Compu-Tel soon takes on a bevy of employees.  A cautious romance develops between Francie and Sam.  One day Magnus Industries files suit for patent infringement against the computer programs that Francie has been using.  Magnus stole the concept from her and now they’re suing her for using it.  After stealing the program, Anton ordered a patent on it, something that Francie had never thought of doing.  Compu-Tel slowly goes into oblivion, Francie again thwarted by the wicked Magnus.  But Francie has an ace up her sleeve.

Meanwhile, Julie meets a childhood friend with whom she had a crush, SCOTT MONTEAGLE, now an English barrister after his family lost all during the depression and moved to England.  Over time, the two renew their friendship and romance blossoms.  Scott is gentle and a gentleman, a contrast so deep to what Julie has been used to, she cannot help but love him.  She knows her father will disapprove of her relationship and disinherit her if she tries to marry Scott. Nevertheless the two plan marriage, Scott being totally disinterested in her family’s wealth.  He is the only good thing Julie has ever known, a purity so complete it could even wash away the filth of her soul.

All along, Sam’s been working on his own computer invention called 9292, miniaturizing its monstrously large size.  Francie convinces Sam to work faster to get the job done because there’s a market of small businesses out there waiting to control their own financial destinies via computer.  Francie organizes her most trusted employees and she and Sam work tirelessly in the utmost secrecy to develop the world’s first small computer mainframe.

It’s to be called MOLLIE.  DANA, Francie’s, best friend from college who’s been working closely on the project, is one day  abruptly fired by Francie.  Dana’s been selling Compu-Tel secrets.  Francie takes greater security measures that even her colleagues don’t know about.  In the midst of developing Mollie, Jack Magnus re-enters Francie’s life, now divorced from Belinda and still swearing undying love to Francie.  Jack blames his father for all the evil and wrong-doing against Francie.  Jack’s left Magnus Industries, lost his inheritance and will start over by building his own company.  Francie takes him back, saying she will marry him only after her invention is unveiled.  Jack accepts the conditions.   Sam is heart-broken but determined to see through his friendship and business relationship with Francie.

Julie pursues her relationship with Scott and despite all warnings, Scott is determined to get her father’s permission for  marriage.  Afterwards, the lovers plan to live in England, on his Barrister’s salary.  Oddly, Anton grants their wish.  At the same time, Jack has notified his father of his plans to marry Francie.  Weddings are planned all around.  But it’s not like Anton to relent on matters such as his children marrying little nobodies.  Anton has something up his sleeve.

That something has to do with Jack.  Jack hated his marriage to Belinda and he knew the only way he could get out of it and still have his dream of owning Magnus Industries, is to cut a deal with Anton.  That deal involved Francie’s computer MOLLIE.  Jack’s been spying on Compu-Tel.  As a result, Magnus Industries has developed the MC2000 with the intention of beating Compu-Tel to the marketplace with a mini-computer.

Jack is ultimately willing to sacrifice Francie to get his inheritance.  She’ll eventually come around, he thinks, goaded by the Magnus magic just as his mother Victoria had been.

Julie’s affair with Scott has not gone unnoticed by Johnny Marrante, who refuses to give up his golden princess for any man, let alone a British faggot sap like Scott.  Johnny threatens Julie and one day goes too far, drunk and brandishing a gun at her.  Julie has now known true love and this time, she’s unwilling to give it up, not for her father and surely not for Johnny.  She snatches the gun from the table, kills Johnny, then obscures all evidence as she sneaks out of the apartment, sure her secret is safe.  She takes the gun with her. After all, she’s not of his world so no one will ever suspect her.

Enroute to London, Scott opens an envelope with a series of photos of the naked Julie having sex with Johnny.  Sickened by the photos, he calls off the wedding.  Anton makes another visit to his daughter’s bedroom, revealing his knowledge of the Marrante killing and taunting her with Scott’s breakup.

Meanwhile, Jack convinces Francie to marry him earlier than the Mollie unveiling. While on their honeymoon, Magnus will unveil its prototype computer thus beating Compu-Tel.  Francie goes along Jack’s idea.  The Magnus family is waiting at the church ready for their coup.  Everyone’s there but Francie and it finally sinks in to both Anton and Jack that Francie’s stood Jack up.  As far as Anton is concerned it’s war and he’s going to do Francie in once and for all.

The next day MC2000 takes the business world by storm, and all the credit for developing the most impressive computer technology ever seen.  Francie does not sue for patent infringement.  Compu-Tel seemingly disappears until the day Francie had so carefully planned for approaches.  The MC2000 develops massive programming hitches.  Magnus customers complain and the company is spending enormous amounts of money trying to placate them.  Compu-Tel slowly, assuredly and brilliantly infiltrates the market….the little computer company that could.   In a Fortune magazine interview Francie surreptitiously tells the business world about the theft. Magnus stocks fall and Anton suffers humiliation.

Drunk and angry, Anton pays his daughter Julie another nighttime visit.  Only one thing is on his sordid mind.  A fight ensues and this time she takes refuge in Marrante’s gun.  She fires and Anton collapses onto the bed, bleeding and he eventually becomes paralyzed.  Ironically, Julie spends the rest of her days taking care of her invalid father, but also taking great pleasure taunting him with her voluptuous body as well as with Francie’s business successes as she drops the Wall Street Journal in his unfeeling lap.

COMMENTS:

Wealth, power, beauty, love, incest, hate, treachery beyond belief, corporate and sexual intrigue amid glitzy European locales and the mystery of high society, THE MASTER STROKE has it all.  Characters are well drawn and complex, holding one’s interest throughout.  Essentially an engaging soap opera filled with too many foolishly steamy sexual passages.

The main story is strong and interesting and it’s easy to care for the characters of Francie, Sam and in the beginning Jack (later he earns our hatred as much as we despise his father).  We pity Julie and her mother Victoria for their inability to stand up for themselves.  One roots for Francie all the way and delights in her brilliant snaring of Anton and Jack.  The story takes place 1955 to 1961 and assuming the author’s research with regard to computer breakthroughs at this time is correct, plausibility is satisfied.

It’s good trashy summer reading fun.  For TV, a two-parter a la Danielle Steele.

Author Ginger Marin is an actor, freelance writer and storyteller.  You can also find her on Google+

“A Captive in the Land” – Screenplay Coverage

The following is screenplay coverage I did long ago for an entertainment company.  The formatting is a little difficult to duplicate here, but you can get the gist.

TYPE OF MATERIAL: Screenplay
Category:Drama/Adventure
Number of Pages: 119
Circa: Present
Publisher date: Nov. 1984
Location: the Arctic
Title: “A CAPTIVE IN THE LAND”
Analyst: Ginger Marin
Author: Lee Gold
Date: May 22, 1991

LOGLINE: AMERICAN METEOROLOGIST AND A RUSSIAN PILOT FIND FRIENDSHIP AS THEY ENGAGE IN A BITTER STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL IN THE ARCTIC WILDERNESS.

SYNOPSIS

The crew of a Royal Air Force transport plane, carrying American meteorologist RUPERT ROYCE (30’s) over the Arctic, spots a shadow on the ice below.  Despite orders to fly a straight course at high altitude so the accompanying scientists can take accurate readings, the PILOT, CO-PILOT, and Royce, decide to change heading to fly low over the shadow.  They discover that the shadow is the site of a plane crash.  Two bodies are seen near the plane, and the body of another, still strapped in his seat, is leaning against the wrecked plane’s instrument panel and the body moves.

Realizing that the man is alive, the RAF crew decide to drop one man with supplies by parachute to aid the injured at the wreckage.  Rupert Royce volunteers.  He will wait at the plane site while the crew of the RAF transport, flies on to THULE, a three hour journey, from where they will send help. That help isn’t expected to arrive until the next morning. Royce, along with a number of parachuted supplies makes the jump, then sets out to the site of the crashed plane.

The two bodies spotted while he was aboard the RAF plane are indeed dead.  Royce makes his way to the third, who is unconscious, and still strapped in the cockpit seat.  While unharnessing the man, Royce discovers the plane is Soviet, and that he is risking his life to save a Russian, an unsettling prospect.  Royce then carries the RUSSIAN into the part of the wrecked plane’s fuselage, which is partially intact, takes off the man’s icy clothing and pops him into a sleeping bag. Royce then holes up with parachute nylon stuffed into gaps in the fuselage to keep out the cold and snow.  Also inside the fuselage are the frozen bodies of other Russian crew members which Royce removes to the outside of the plane.

The next day, the RUSSIAN awakens, and in halting English, it is established that his name is ALEXEI ALEXEIVITCH VODOPYANOV, also in his 30’s. He slips back into unconsciousness as a storm rages outside.  Royce does his best to care for his companion and seek out other supplies and kerosene for a small stove that he found in the wreckage.  When Vodopyanov again awakens we discover that his back may be broken, as he cannot use his legs.
The two spend days and night inside the fuselage, trying to stay warm and communicate as best they can.  Meanwhile, storms continue outside, and there are two incidents when the snow rushes into the fuselage, nearly toppling the plane and burying the two of them.

Royce uses every ounce of his strength and then some, to maintain their safety amid the storms.  Vodopyanov becomes increasingly frustrated that he cannot help because of his injuries.  Over the length of time, night into day, and against the bitter cold and the darkness inside the fuselage, the two grate on each other’s nerves.  They do all they can to maintain civility but, of course, they know, it is just the two of them against adversity.  Eventually, however, they come to care for each other.

At one point, the sound of a plane engine is heard. But Vodopyanov, who awakes first, cannot move to signal it.  He tries to rouse Royce who is unconscious from a combination of carbon-monoxide poisoning from the kerosene and fatigue from his efforts to fight the storms and safeguard the shelter. Eventually, Royce comes to, rushes outside with his lantern to signal the plane. But he is too late. The plane is already leaving.

Times passes, two weeks and still no help has come for them. Using star charts and a sextant, they plot their whereabouts and the decision is made to leave the plane and head for land, and what they hope will be salvation. Royce fashions a sled to carry Vodopyanov.  They pack up tenting materials and food supplies and head off across the great expanse of ice. It is an extremely hard journey, and at one point, Vodopyanov tries to commit suicide by throwing himself into the icy water so that Royce won’t have to pull him any longer.  Royce saves him and tells Vodopyanov as best he can that there would be no reason to continue without him.

The going across the ice is made a little easier when Vodopyanov discovers he can use some of the parachute nylon to fashion a sail to catch the wind.  The two set up a tent camp at night, then continue on their journey during the day.  They are so exhausted and in pain that they hardly recognize the sound of dogs barking. The sounds near and we see sleds, dogs and people come toward them. The men are ESKIMOS from a nearby village who take Royce and Vodopyanov on their sleds to safety. It is clear that the American and the Russian, who have struggled against so much together, shall remain brothers till the end.

Box Scores:
Premise:          good
story line:       excellent to good
structure:        good
characterization: excellent
dialogue:         good

Author Ginger Marin is an actor, freelance writer and storyteller.  You can also find her on Google+

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