Two New Novels Carry on the Walter Utt Legacy
Lainey S. Cronk, January 28, 2008
Legendary as a lecturer and beloved as a mentor, PUC history professor Walter C. Utt was mourned deeply when he died in 1985. A special endowment with its own board was established in Utt’s honor, and their most recent project to continue his legacy is the publication of two historical novels based on Utt’s work.
No Peace for a Soldier and its sequel, No Sacrifice but Conscience, both published by Pacific Press, are a skillful combination of two titles by Utt published in 1966 and 1977 (Wrath of the King and Home to Our Valleys), an unfinished manuscript that he left, and the work of author and professor Helen Godfrey Pyke.
Eric Anderson, one of the founders of the Utt Endowment and now president of Southwestern Adventist University, was advised that Pyke, who teaches at Southern Adventist University and has a long list of published titles, was the perfect person to complete Utt’s manuscript. “And she really was,” says Bruce Anderson, Eric Anderson’s brother and another founding member of the endowment. The endowment hired Pyke to finish the manuscript, and Southern granted her a Sabbatical.
PUC president Dick Osborn talked with Dale Galusha, president of Pacific Press, about the project. “I told Dick that Pacific Press would be very excited to work with the foundation to make this happen,” Galusha recounts. With that, the ball started rolling down the road to publication.
They decided that, rather than re-publishing the old titles in addition to completing the unfinished manuscript, Pyke would combine the material — and her own additional work — into two new volumes. Pyke immersed herself in the history of the stories, which take place in 17th century France and portray the plight of the Huguenots and Vaudois (Waldenses).
“I accepted the commission to prepare Dr. Utt's unfinished manuscript for publication with enthusiasm; however, since I had previously researched the reign of France's Louis XIV, I knew that to proceed intelligently I needed a great deal more information,” Pyke recalls. “Dr. Utt was a professional historian. This was his specialty. What he carried in his head, I had to find and assimilate.”
She also sought to find his narrative style — and successfully carry it on. “She found the voice of Utt,” Bruce Anderson says, expressing admiration for the skill with which Pyke executed her task. But the process wasn’t easy.
“I enjoyed this project,” Pyke explains, “but it was probably the most difficult writing I've ever done because I was doing it in the name of a writer whose work I have always respected but whose style and approach are quite different from my own. I'm glad Utt's family and friends are pleased with the results.”
Her work with the material involved “incorporating some of Utt's dialogue and action, organizing the flow of the story to match historical events, and deciding how all this should be connected with the earlier work,” she says.
The result is two books that are historically accurate but captivating as novels. “Pacific Press is very excited to be a part of bringing out this material for a new generation of readers,” says Galusha.
But for many, the books are more than pieces of literature — they’re pieces of a legacy. These books, says Anderson, are “an achievement, and represent PUC and the heritage of Walter Utt.”