"October Island," by William March, a Book Review
May 18, 2013 - October Island by Wm March by Little Brown & Co™© updated July 28, 2014
The Bad Seed
Mining for Evil, Finds Buried Treasure
They say as we age, we begin to remember our past better than our present. There have been words and works calling to me from my past. I am getting older, over half a century now, and sirens I heard as a youth are now echoing in my memory. Old datum is nudging me, trying to get me to recall inspiration.
As a youth, I watched a movie, that was created from a screenplay, that was from a book written by William March. Until recently, I did not put two and two together in realizing that William March passed away the same year "The Bad Seed" was released. He never knew how popular his work became, nor the impact it had on society.
Now that I have experience with which to measure, I am taking looks backward, so that I can gain understanding March's work from this mature point of view. I became more than curious about the writer; William Edward March Campbell (pseudonym).
As a writer I have been bombarded with thoughts and questions regarding this author. His experience, and the times he lived in. He was of the generation proceeding mine. The characters and the psychology found within"The Bad Seed", come from a deep place, and I had to learn more.
I started to research and attempt to find the actual book, "The Bad Seed" and during the search I found several works of William March. "October Island" is the first of his obscure books, no longer in publication that my good library have found for me. It was worth the search. His work is darkly delightful, and cannot wait to discover more of these buried, forgotten and almost lost treasures.
October Island by William March
Religion, Conversion, and Paganism
The disclaimer at the beginning of October Island advise that October Island exists only between the pages of the book.
Reverend Samuel Barnfield and his good virgin wife Irma embark on a mission field they created themselves. They are drawn to this island in the Pacific, that is beautiful, filled with tropical plants, birds, and indigenous Peoples.
As they land from the Mattie B. Powell the ship that brings them and their supplies to October Island, a first horrifying thought by Irma is that they must get clothes on the natives. They must cover someone's shame. The good Reverend does not seem as put out by the showing of breasts and intimate body lines.
The Reverend sees a field to harvest that was left intact by many before him. Mrs. Barnfield sees chores, tasks and a need for definite order. The Reverend self-motivated by a fear of hell fire knows that if he can somehow wipe the happy but ignorant smiles from the faces of the Islanders, he can bring them his God Jehovah. The good Irma just wants adoration. She hopes that with continual toiling, and good works, she will one day be recognized for her greatness; as humble as she carries her own divinity.
Over the years the Huhnerites (the Church body of the Reverend and Mrs. Barnfield), and other missionaries of other denominations had visited the island and been unsuccessful in changing the religious views of the Islanders. Archaeologists and other scientists had also visited October Island, hoping to learn the secrets of this People. They all left unfulfilled, and the Islanders continued in their ways, as they had since the beginning of Creation.
The Creation story passed down for generations of October Island was much older than Christianity.
"In the beginning, nothing existed but the sea and the sky. ...there was only emptiness, but in the sky above there were Raha, the Sun, and Baat, the Moon - two deities of equal power, equal brilliance - who had strayed into the realm that is now our world, and had remained to warm it."... [Chapter VII, Page 96]
Raha and Baat feel an attraction, but Baat keeps Raha at a distance until Raha could not be stopped and he hurled through space and clasped her in an intimate embrace. Baat; she cried, weeped and wailed but to no avail, Raha wanted satisfaction. "...as she struggled in his embrace, the warm holy milk of her breasts overflowed its springs, and fell into the cold seas, where it hardened into land; and thus it was that Ok-tur-haat was the part of the world first created, and the genesis of Shurabast itself, and its mystical Garden of Eden" [Chapter VII, Page 98]
The Barnfields could not know, nor understand the reverence the Islanders held for their place of Eden, but from the least to the leader, they were careful with all things living, and passed. The Radja was the chief of the Ok-tur-haat Islander's, and the Barnfields felt a bit disrespected that he did not stand out with the first group welcoming the new comers. What was never part of their culture was the reverence of all creation.
"...Since the Islanders considered the meeting of strangers not a public occasion, but an affair of the deepest intimacy, he (Radja) had concealed his casual nakedness under a headdress of shells and fruit and the elaborate ceremonial robes of yeallow and green feathers he wore..."
Radja did welcome the Barnfields with great pomp and ceremony, and with respect for all of the living things of the Island. He did wish these visitors would not come and make their lives more difficult, but they came and it was all part of a larger sceme.
Over the centuries the Island had been raided by other Peoples, and several thousand years earlier, barbarians had raided the Island, killing Islanders, pillaging and burning the Temple of the Shurabasts, destroying the power of the Shurabast's forever. The Ok-tur-haat's had a prophecy that an alien virgin would eventually come, who would appear twice to the Islanders and restore the Shurabasts to a 1,000 years of glory and happiness.
Wishes Coming True
Reverend Barnfield and Irma never consummate their marriage. It is well known she is a virgin. She has a lot of energy, and goes all over the Island, digging up Icons, tablets, and other religious items from the original Shurabasts, and takes them to the twin volcanoes formed of the breasts of Baat, and disposes of these pagan items.
She does not realize that her actions are lining her up for the Virgin Savior. The Islander's begin to show her a reverence that she has craved her entire life. Reverend Barnfield is much older than Irma, and after they had lived on the Island over 8 years, her husband comes closer to the end of his years. His desire is to go back to his snowy, and cold birth place of Virginia to be buried.
Over the years, the Islanders begin to pray to the God of the Barnfields in respect, and because the think this may be the link of power that will bring them their former glory. They have grasped the idea that Irma Barnfield is the one who they have been waiting for .She becomes the spokesperson for the Mission, and lets the Islanders know they are leaving. And, she will come back alone.
Praying to Jehovah - Oh The Sacrifice
The Barnfields had been gone some months, and the October Islanders; who had been so content and at peace with everything around them, become distressed. They follow the instructions of the Reverend Barnfield, prostrating themselves in prayer, fasting and doing anything they could imagine to speed the return of Irma Barnfield.
At first they decide to appease Shurabast (The combination of Raha and Baat), and make images of their children, who are the most pure, and sacrifice them to the twin volcanoes. When that does not work, they begin sacrificing their children. They are out of kilter, out of sorts, and have lost that peaceful way of life. They attempt to force their gods to do what they ask...as the Barnfields have taught them...
The Isands of the Pacific
Ok-tur-baat Island (October Island) is set near the Hawaaian Islands. At the time this book was written, Hawaaii had just become a part of the U.S.A.
Irma Barnfield has to take a slow boat, bury her husband, & find resources to return
Irma the Virgin Returns
It took a her about 8 months, but she made her return. She craved their adoration as much as they craved her presence back on October Island.
Upon her landing, and the great welcoming committee she was ecstatic. She looked around her beautiful flock, noticing the faces of those she cared for, she looked at the men and women...it was only after a little while that she began to ask; "where are the children?, where are the children?"
Company K by William March
October Island - Not Completely Spoiled
Since this book is so obscure, and without a public demand for a re-publishing, many of you will not read this. For those of you who have had your curiosity peeked, I have left out many interesting parts of this novel.
The same psychological insight found in "The Bad Seed" is at work in "October Island". It is not all spoiled. I have left many treasures yet to be unearthed here.