Published in late 2014, William Forstchen’s novella Dies Irae could easily be read in a short afternoon (the audiobook, which I listened to, is 4 hours 37 minutes) and probably should be for the sake of maximum impact.
I was made aware of this book by Michael Bane on his Downrange TV on the Radio podcast. Having read it, I can see why he’s recommending it now.
The book is a gut punch, especially if you’re a parent. Forstchen himself said that it was a book he didn’t want to write. However, he was prevailed upon by some of his students, something we should be grateful for. However, it’s a difficult book to read, because it tells an unhappy story that could happen here any day.
Bob Peterson is a middle school teacher, and this day starts off just like any other day. He gets up, dresses and heads off to school with his middle school-aged daughter, Wendy. During the trip, we get some background on Bob and how he came to carry the little Ruger .380 that he conceals in his pocket, without regard to the potential consequences should he be caught.
You see, Bob Peterson takes his duty to care for his students to a somewhat higher level than many teachers. Bob has noted worrying occurrences around him over the last few years and he is acutely aware that a school shooter could target his school, his students–his kid.
What Bob doesn’t know is that ISIS is coming to call on his and other schools this fine October day, and they’re not expecting to survive their visit. This day is to be the worst series of terrorist attacks on American soil in history.
The majority of the novella is told from Bob’s perspective, with some cutaways to his wife and to the terrorists. These serve to flesh out and amplify the story without taking it off track. But most of the book is Bob, who is intent on saving his daughter and as many other students as he can.
Without giving away the ending, let’s say that the 2014 me would have been far more upset by it than the 2023 me is. In less than a decade things have changed enough that I had to give it a mournful thumbs up. Check it out and see what you think.