The Youngest Templar is set during the third crusade and Richard the Lionheart’s fight for the Holy Land. Knightfall takes place in the late 1200-1300s and shows the Order in decline. Indeed, Philip and Pope Clement will scheme to destroy the Knights Templar.
Still, even though it is a different period in their history, readers of The Youngest Templar will find many common themes and settings.
What to do with Godfrey’s sword?
Landry is um, close with the queen, Philip the Fair’s wife Joan. Could this be the reason for Philip’s desire to destroy the Templars?
The destruction of the Knights Templar was fraught with betrayal and intrigue. This looks like it will lead us up to their imprisonment and condemnation as heretics. In the middle ages, with the church even more powerful than monarchs, an accusation of heresy was more serious than a charge of murder. The penalty was death. Usually by being burned at the stake. Or a red hot poker inserted in a place that is probably you’re least favorite place to have a red hot poker inserted.
Last week I spoke about the costuming for this show. Kudos to the costume designers. The royals are decked out in purple, the color of royalty. And the crimson crosses on the tunics of the Templars are bright like beacons. They also did an excellent job with chain mail. This was the era before plate armor came to be common place, but mail was essential to a Templars protection during battle. You can see the early designs of plate armor on horses, who were strong enough to carry it. It would be a few years before armor could be built that was light enough for men to wear and maneuver in, but strong enough to deflect weapons in close combat.
Young Parsifal, the farm boy who carried the dying Godfrey’s sword to Landry in the first episode, proves to be an action hero. He has to kill to keep from being killed and taking a life impacts him deeply. Landry convinces him they have no time for sorrow. They must leave.
We now realize the Templars are being hunted. It’s done quite well, and hard not to root for these characters. As it turns out, Parsifal has no family so Landry asks him to stay and train to be a knight.
Also, these Templars yell at each other a lot.
Still waiting for Jeremy Renner to show up. There is nothing in his IMBD listing, but all of the pre-publicity for the show said he would be appearing in a couple of episodes. I hope he brings his Hawkeye bow!
Philip the Fair spends a lot of money distracting the nobles and his subjects from the fact that he is broke. Pope Boniface shows up. That just makes it worse. He would like money. He arranges a marriage for Philip’s daughter to try and help Philip out of debt. Women didn’t exactly have a lot of choices in the Middle Ages. Now Philip is in the Pope’s debt. I’m pretty sure that was all part of his plan.
Now, they want the Grail. It went missing on the retreat from Acre. Sinking to the bottom of the sea.
How will they find it?
Does Godfrey’s sword hold the key?
Knightfall airs on The History Channel on Wednesdays at 10pm.
I had my doubts when the show was announced. But so far it’s two episodes in and I’m hooked.
The Third Crusade. In the Holy Land that the Knights Templar call Outremer, a young squire, born an orphan, is ordered by his Knight to carry a sacred relic to safety. It is the most precious thing in all of Christendom. Men would gladly kill him to possess it. Knights from his own order are driven mad in their quest to have it for themselves. And only he is trusted with this sacred duty.
But every duty has a price. Pursued by evil Knights, Saracens, and secret agents of the King, Tristan will be tested at every turn as he fulfills his mission: return the Holy Grail to England.
Will he succeed? Or will the nefarious forces aligned against him prevent him from fulfilling his duty?
If you’ve seen Knightfall and want to read more about the Templars, The Youngest Templar trilogy is a great place to start!
Knightfall is the new scripted series from the History Channel about the Knights Templar.
1. Knightfall starts with the siege of Acre.
The Templars have lost the Holy Land. They are being trashed talked by a Saracen. Don’t ever trash talk a Templar. (You might kill them, but you’ll pay for it). The forces of the west would not control the Holy Land again.
2. The costumes, weapons and other props seem historically accurate.
The single sail, shallow draft boat in the escape scene shows somebody was paying attention. Weapons and clothing are so easy for a production to get right but so many don’t. So far, so good.
4. They talk about the Templars original mission
They were originally sent to the Holy Land to protect religious pilgrims on their way to and from Jerusalem. They also meet in the commandery and mention Jacques DeMolay, the last Grand Master of the Order. Well done, History Channel!
5. Philip IV of France is a character
Also known as Philip the Fair. He will ultimately imprison and torture the Templars. He already looks like he has acid reflux.
Here are some other observations.
I thought the first episode of Knightfall was well done.
Brother Landry is the main character. He wants to fight. Not sit around Paris. There was a division among Templars about their role in protecting people in cities where they had commanderies. Landry seems to believe in the original Templar mission of protecting religious pilgrims and the weak and downtrodden. Some garrisons actively patrolled the streets of their cities, protecting Jews, especially. Some garrisons took no action in city affairs.
Landry wants to lead the Templars back to the Holy Land.
A sword through the back of the head is always a good way to end a fight.
Now we have a young farm boy ordered by a dying knight to take a sword to another Templar. Boy this sounds familiar. “Take my sword to Brother Landry, he will know what to do with it.”
Templar’s were supposed to take a vow of poverty and chastity. It appears Landry has a girlfriend. They’re also rich. A very broad interpretation of vow.
Intrigue starts to bubble with Landry as acting master, his fellow knights are questioning his leadership.
The Jews are forced to leave Paris. They are set upon by the Kings ruffians who want their wealth.
Landry and the Templars arrive to do some butt-kicking.
I can only hope that you’ll watch and that Knightfall becomes as popular as The Vikings! The History Channel has a pretty good track record with their scripted dramas.
No spoilers for the ending. But I’ll say I’ll be watching more Knightfall.
Also, Knightfall has a connection to The Youngest Templar. They are not aware of it, but the show is produced by actor Jeremy Renner. He plays Hawkeye in the Marvel movies. Hawkeye is an archer. Hawkeye has always been my favorite Avenger. Robard Hode is an archer in the Youngest Templar. This cannot be a coincidence. If you’ve never seen Jeremy Renner talk about his role as Hawkeye, checkout this clip from the Jimmy Fallon show.
Knightfall airs on Wednesday nights at 10pm on the History Channel. Check your local listings. And read The Youngest Templar trilogy to learn more about the world of the Templars. And even if you don’t want to watch a new show, you can still read The Youngest Templar trilogy. It’s totally allowed.
My newest novel, Prisoner of War, is on sale now. It is another based on a true story, of a young boy who joined the service in 1941 at the age of 15. His home life was not so good. But he was big for his age and in those days, if you could get a relative to vouch for your age, you got in. That’s what he did.
I changed the names to protect the privacy of the families but the story is true. In Prisoner of War, young Henry Forrest was sent to the Philippines. There his true age was discovered. He was to be sent home. His departure was scheduled for December 8, 1941. Needless to say, he didn’t make it.
Along with thousands of American and Filipino troops that surrendered to the Japanese he was sent on the Bataan death march. He survived it. He managed to survive life in a Japanese POW camp where he was tortured and beaten. As Japan was driven back by the Allied advance, he was removed to Japan where he was put into forced labor at a steel mill. Finally, at age 19, he was liberated when Japan surrendered. Try to imagine that for a moment. At an age when you should be in High School, this hero was suffering unimaginable treatment by a horrific enemy.
Prisoner of War is a story of war and survival. Henry Forrest is forced to find a way to keep his humanity in the face of ultimate evil. He will find the best and worst of men at war. And in the end he will learn he is more courageous than he thought.
Prisoner of War is receiving great reviews. Kirkus calls it “gut-wrenchingly vivid.” School Library Journal says it is “A powerful read.”
1) The USS Indianapolis was a Portland Class heavy cruiser. When it was first commissioned in 1932, it was referred to as the ‘jewel of the fleet.’ It was the ship President Franklin Roosevelt sailed on during his goodwill trip to South America. During World War II, Admiral Raymond Spruance often used it as his flagship, while he commanded the 5th fleet.
2) The Indy won ten battle stars in service during World War II. In March 1945, a Kamikaze attacked the ship. Anti-aircraft guns managed to shoot down the plane, but not before it managed to drop its 500-pound bomb. The bomb went through the ships superstructure before detonating below decks. The explosion cost massive damage, but did not sink the ship. It was able to make it to a repair facility under it’s own power.
3) The Indianapolis then sailed to San Francisco for a major repair and refit. Once finished, the components of the first atomic bomb were loaded on board and the ship was given orders to deliver their cargo to Tinian. The USS Indianapolis departed San Francisco July 19, 1945 and stopped for refueling in Hawaii on the way. Arriving at Tinian July 26, their voyage established a speed record for that distance that still stands today.
4) On July 28, 1945 the Indy was sent to the Leyte Gulf where it was to join a fleet for the panned invasion of the Japanese homeland. On July 30, 1945, shortly after midnight, it was struck amidships by two Japanese torpedoes. The ship was so badly damaged it sank in under twelve minutes. Nearly 900 of the 1200 crewmembers managed to abandoned ship. Three and half days later only slightly over 300 men survived.
5) Charles Butler McVay, the Captain of the USS Indianapolis, survived the shipwreck. He was later court martialed and found guilty for hazarding his ship by failing to zigzag (a technique ships used to avoid submarines). Even though the Navy made the unprecedented decision to bring the commander of the I-58 submarine that sank the ship as witness for the prosecution. The commander stated in his testimony that the zigzag maneuver would not have prevented his sinking of the Indianapolis. Captain McVay was found guilty, the only Naval officer in World War II to be court martialed for losing his ship in combat.
Obviously, they are old men now. All of them, these crewman of the USS Indianapolis, admit that they treat each day like a precious gift. Some of them are stooped and walk with a cane. Or a hand placed gently on the arm of a doting family member. Some resort to wheelchairs when the day grows long and the legs tired. They say that Father Time is the only enemy that is undefeated. If that is true, these men have already given him a poke in the eye and are now putting him through the fight of his life. Father Time never met men like these.
You see it when you shake their hands and look in their eyes. There you find steel. As you walk among the memorials of their fallen shipmates and see the photos and letters placed their by their families. It is easy to imagine them frozen in time as the young men they once were. They had dreams and aspirations. And they willingly put them aside to defend a nation.
I had the great fortune to meet these men, a group of survivors of the crew of the USS Indianapolis. I’d written a book called Into the Killing Seas. A middle grade novel based on the true events of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the worst disaster at sea in US Naval history. The novel features two young boys who stow away aboard the ship and find themselves thrust into the middle of this horrific disaster. The granddaughter of one of the survivors discovered the book, read it, and facilitated an invitation to the reunion. I could not have refused.
Each year those survivors still able to travel, gather at a hotel in Indianapolis and remember. They reminisce and tell stories. They bring their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. These are more than survivors of the worst disaster at sea in US Naval history. They would never admit it, but I will say it for them. They are giants among men. They remain modest, even deferential. And to a man they don’t consider themselves heroes. The heroes, they say, ‘are the 879 men who didn’t make it back.’
It was a cloudy, overcast night on 30 July 1945. Hot, with unrelenting humidity. The Indy, as she was called, was headed toward Leyte Gulf. They were near the equator, and to escape the heat, dozens of crewmen moved their bedrolls to the deck to sleep with some hope of finding a breeze or cooler air. Little did they know this simple act might have saved their lives. At fourteen minutes past midnight, two Japanese torpedoes rent the Indianapolis nearly in half. The damage was so severe the ship sank in twelve minutes.
Three hundred of the crew perished in the explosion and went down with the ship. The remaining nine hundred men abandoned ship. For nearly five days they floated in the running seas of the South Pacific. Covered in diesel fuel, they had little to no water or food. Some didn’t even have life jackets. They suffered horribly form dehydration, salt water ulcers, sunburn and exposure. And worst of all, endured what scientists have called the ‘worst human shark encounter in recorded history.’
By luck and happenstance, on the fifth day they were spotted in the water by a plane on routine anti-submarine patrol. Rescue planes and ships were summoned. By the time the remaining crew was pulled from the water, only 317 still survived. One of the men at the reunion recalled ‘they took us aboard the ship and gave us chicken broth and cigarettes. I sure did like those cigarettes.’ If you believe in luck or fate or destiny or just weird coincidences, then you will find it interesting that 317 men survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. 3-1-7 is also the area code for the city of Indianapolis.
It is one of the most amazing survival stories of modern times. In researching Into the Killing Seas, I learned a great deal about the ship, it’s Captain and crew and the aftermath of the shipwreck. But I quickly realized that my book, nor any book, could measure up to the real story of the courage, determination, and perseverance of these men. Words can’t convey what they possess. And the amazing thing is, despite all they’ve been through, they retain a sense of humility and grace that is at once both charming and confounding. How could ordinary men who survived something so mentally, emotionally, physically and psychologically taxing be so at peace and self-assured? If I were to hazard a guess, I would think that if you defied death to such a degree, everyday life must be a breeze.
The mission of the reunion has changed now. It is no longer just a gathering. It is about preserving and maintaining a legacy. About never forgetting. Never letting their story slip beneath the waves of the passage of time. It is no exaggeration when I say that attending this event and meeting these men changed my life.
My father was a World War II veteran. I grew up in a very small town, so it probably exaggerated the effect, but every able-bodied man in town my father’s age was a veteran. My dad seldom talked about the war. But being at the reunion, talking to these men, who before 30 July 1945, considered themselves just ‘regular Joe’s’ changed something in me. My dad never considered himself anything special, and neither do the the men of the USS Indianapolis. Millions of men just like them served. Hundreds of thousands paid the ultimate sacrifice. But meeting them somehow helped me understand that sacrifice on a much deeper level.
Some of the stories I heard were astonishing. I met a young man, currently serving on a Navy submarine. His grandfather was an Indy survivor. When he passed away he was cremated. The Navy had his ashes shipped to his grandson aboard the sub. Then they traveled to the exact coordinates where the Indianapolis sank. The grandson returned his grandfather’s ashes to the sea. So that he could finally rest with his shipmates.
Another son of a survivor tearfully told me how his father came to every reunion until he could no longer travel. So his son dutifully went in his place. He passed away a couple of years ago while the reunion was in progress. They sent the flag used at the event and his father was buried with it. His son still comes each year.
I heard about one of the survivors whose esophagus was so damaged by the fuel he swallowed, that after the rescue he was sent to the Great Lakes Naval hospital to recover. There he met a nurse who cared for him. They fell in love and were married nearly fifty years.
In the lobby of the Hyatt was a ten-foot replica of the USS Indianapolis. One of the crewmen pointed to a spot amidships and told me ‘here is where I got off the ship.’ Only he said it the same way you and I might say ‘I’m running out to the store for a gallon of milk.’ Who possesses that kind of courage?
Time passes. A few weeks ago, the keel was layed for a new USS Indianapolis, being built at a shipyard in Northern Michigan. One of the survivors of the original ship attended the ceremony. It was the passing of the torch. In a few years there will be a shiny new ship, with a new crew of honorable young men and women full of hopes and dreams.
And willing to put them aside for a while to defend a nation. That is the legacy of the survivors.
And it will live on.
I would like to ask your help in preserving the story of the USS Indianapolis and it’s crew. Many of the survivors and their families were delighted that Into the Killing Seas tells their story for a younger generation. Rightfully their legacy should live on. I was more than happy to attend the reunion and sign books and donate all the proceeds from book sales to the Survivors organization. Now I’d like your help to keep the story of these men and their sacrifice alive. First, please share a link to this blog post with your friends. Next I’d like your help in getting this book in the hands of young readers. If you buy a copy of Into the Killing Seas and donate it to a school or library, send me a photo of your receipt. I will match your donation to another school or library and any royalties I make off purchases for this campaign will be donated to the Survivors organization. Please help me spread this story. Or visit USSIndyReunion.com to make a donation. Please don’t let their legacy slip beneath the waves. Thank you in advance for your generosity.