Wednesday, July 16, 2014


After five chapters that broaden the character of Quintus LeClaire and _ to a lesser degree _ Canyon City police chief Sam Moody and three that focus on other characters, the spotlight of "The Leather Man" shifts entirely onto Ben Steinbrecher, the title character, and his family.

Chapters 12 and 13 reveal a surprise: The nickname "Ben" is the shortened form of Benaiah, not Benjamin. Benaiah was the royal bodyguard of Old Testament kings David and Solomon. The newborn Steinbrecher receives the unusual name because his birth dimensions _ 12 pounds and 24 inches long _ remind his father of the importance of the number twelve in Christian theology. They set the Rev. Frederick Steinbrecher thinking:
Were there not twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles of the Lamb, twelve gates of solid pearl in the walls of the holy city envisioned by St. John and twelve angels standing sentry there? It seemed obvious to the minister that his son was born to some special purpose which would require equal portions of earthly fortitude and spiritual guidance.
Benaiah was a good role model. The son of the high priest Jehoiada, his unswerving loyalty to the Israelite monarchs was notable even by Bible standards, and his lack of fear was astonishing: Chapter 12 begins with the story about Benaiah chasing a lion into a pit and killing it there, apparently unbothered by the tricky footing created by a rare snowy day. The elder Steinbrecher hoped to inculcate the qualities of courage and steadfastness in his firstborn son and frequently referred to Benaiah and other Hebrew warriors in his bedtime stories.

In a short span of Chapter 12, Benaiah grows into a gifted athlete whose favorite sport is football. His talent as a tight end earns him a scholarship to North Dakota, his state university, and he stars for the Fighting Sioux, apparently destined for NFL stardom until he tears a knee ligament during his senior season. The career-ending injury comes on the heels of his marriage to Gloria Wise. It isn't long before Gloria's selfishness appears as a thread that runs throughout the rest of the book, and the marriage that should strengthen Ben becomes part of his life challenges.

The last part of the chapter is touching. Frederick gives Ben enough money to pay for a still-experimental knee reconstruction in an attempt to revive his career. It helps steady the joint, but not enough to allow Ben to ever try his luck in the NFL. Tearfully he promises to repay the money, but his father cuts him short:
"It doesn't seem to me that you remember the text of our first conversation about your operation," Frederick said. "I did not loan you the money. Don't you remember the Parable of Talents? The Lord wanted to see some gain on what he imparted to each servant. The varying amounts were inconsequential _ it was how the money was handled that was important. You took a chance on something that had the potential to enrich your life and your family's. It doesn't matter that the operation failed; your decision was correct."
Chapter 13 uses a playful, Bible guessing game between Ben and Sam Moody to reveal the meaning of Ziklag, first mentioned in Chapter 8.


1 comment:

  1. My son's name is Benaiah Steinbrecher. I might have to check out your book.