Sunday, 2 August 2015

K is for KEPPLAR

You may be surprised to find KEPPLAR returning for The Madagaskar Plan. Kepplar?! Wasn’t he burned at the stake in the first book? As it turns out, no. I always knew he was going to be a main character in the sequel.

In the first draft of The Afrika Reich, there was an extra scene that explained Kepplar’s true fate, leaving the door open for him to appear again. It came at the end of Chapter 34, after Hochburg threatened to burn him alive. Thirty-Four is the longest chapter in Afrika Reich and this additional scene stretched it out too far. In subsequent drafts, I therefore moved the scene to Chapter 37, including it as a flashback while Hochburg looked over the map of central Africa. As it happens, 37 is the shortest chapter in the book and this time the Kepplar scene affected the clipped pacing I wanted. Its inclusion didn’t feel right.

‘Feeling’ is important to me as a writer. There are a whole series of technical and structural considerations when writing a novel and for the most part these guide my writing. Sometimes, however, things can be technically correct (there was no reason why the Kepplar scene couldn’t be included in 37) but instinct tells me otherwise. Writing is a pirouette of technique and intuition.

In the end I decided to cut Kepplar’s final scene altogether... which led some readers to point out what they perceived as an error. When Hochburg’s helicopter takes off in 37 there’s only one pyre beneath him i.e. Dolan’s. Now you know why: Kepplar was never burned; his story makes better sense across the two books. I filed away the deleted scene, and with a few tweaks, it appears as originally written in Chapter 17 of The Madagaskar Plan. So Gruppenführer Derbus Kepplar is back...

An even more famous deleted scene... see PPS below

Except he’s been demoted, to Brigadeführer. And with his demotion a change of character. Nazis are often portrayed as fanatics in fiction, but Kepplar is a disillusioned fanatic; a man increasingly distant, and weary of, the cause that once inflamed. He is also grappling with the issue of violence. One of the criticisms about the first book was that people said all the Nazis were violent sadists... when this was empirically not borne out by the text. Kepplar does not commits a single act of violence in the whole book. The same is (almost) true in the sequel.

PS – just in case you miss it, his parting line in Madagaskar is meant as a joke!


PPS – I could think of no photo to illustrate this entry, so I put ‘deleted scene’ into Google. As you’d expect hundreds of movie stills came up... but I was intrigued by the one I have used. It shows Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark clutching hold of a U-boot’s periscope... this explains how he manages to get to the island where the Ark is opened. I always wondered how he survived the sea journey. Sometimes you can cut things and the audience doesn’t notice; others times they are left scratching their heads in bewilderment. Apparently the scene with Harrison Ford was half-filmed before Spielberg decided to cut it altogether.

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