March 9, 2015
Virgil Renzulli is a devotee of pro football, a big fan of Humphrey Bogart and loves anything with bacon. So what’s a guy’s guy like Renzulli doing writing a book on the Arthur legend?
“When Virgil first told me he had written a book on King Arthur, I said, ‘Come again?’” said Charlene Vasquez, director of ASU’s Cultural Relations, who worked under Renzulli for several years. “It took a while to sink in, because I saw him in a work setting, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Virgil enjoys mediation and I could see where that would spark his imagination.”
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That spark was ignited in 2013 when Renzulli began work on a trilogy of books while he was still working as Arizona State University’s vice president of public affairs. That same year, Renzulli bumped into award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes, who is also the director of the Virginia C. Piper Creative Writing Center at ASU.
“We got on the subject of fiction writing and Jewell offered to read one of my novels,” Renzulli said. “She read it and said, ‘You have potential. You didn’t fulfill it, and I will work with you over the next year to whip the manuscript into shape. I thought, 'Holy cow! What an offer!' So I took her up on it.”
Parker spent a full year with Renzulli, teaching him about plot, pace, tension and subtext. The result was "Caliburn: Merlin’s Tale," which was published this month by Bagwyn Books, a program of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
The 263-page novel takes readers on a journey and describes how the young Arthur is unwilling to accept the life destiny ordained for him, with disastrous consequences.
“When I started, I thought, in all of history, literature or fable, what is the clearest case of destiny? Answer: it’s Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king,” Renzulli said. “I also wondered what would happen if he didn’t keep the sword and said he wasn’t ready and was entitled to some fun? In that sense, my Arthur is the Johnnie Manziel of the Dark Ages.”
Other engaging characters are introduced in this epic fantasy as well: a new love interest, the daring and indiscrete Brenna; a new threat, the insecure and moody Maeve; and a new adversary, the Saxon King Vollo, a charismatic megalomaniac.
Even though Renzulli has written several other novels, he regards "Caliburn" as his first real book. Jewell Parker Rhodes certainly thinks so, who calls the book “a stylish, thrilling retelling of Arthurian myth. Readers will be captivated by Renzulli’s imaginative tale.”
Renzulli, who is currently a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, plans on promoting "Caliburn" at book fairs, local and national events and conferences. The book will debut at the Arizona Renaissance Festival, which runs weekends through March 29 in Apache Junction.
"Caliburn: Merlin’s Tale" is available in paperback at bagwynbooks.com, and as an e-book for Amazon Kindle, at www.amazon.com.