Englewood’s Dave Cheadle sorts through his material in preparation for his third and final installment in the apocalyptic Freak series.
Englewood author mixes religious intrigue and history in suspense trilogy
BY PETER JONES
Dave Cheadle has had a long relationship with the end of the world.
As a teen in the 1970s, he would read the bestselling The Late Great Planet Earth by day and down popcorn to post-apocalyptic cinema by night. If it wasn’t coffee-table analysis of the end-times, it was Mel Gibson rummaging through dystopian Australia in Mad Max.
Then, with literature’s year of 1984 in the proverbial “near future,” the young Cheadle wrote a letter to the Canadian government with an eye on escaping the “American Armageddon.” Maybe he could homestead in the barren Northwest Territories.
“I had two buddies who were going to go with me, but we couldn’t find any girls to go,” Cheadle said with a laugh.
With those plans aborted, Cheadle spent years in research, majoring in philosophy and earning his stripes as a Christian scholar and writer. He became increasingly fascinated by the cycles of history, political turmoil and the literature of Biblical prophecy.
On the shelf, next to Cheadle’s New Testament: The Fourth Turning, a book by William Strauss and Neil Howe that suggests history moves in 80-year cycles, each culminating in a cataclysmic event and “new order.” England’s War of the Roses, the American Revolution and the double whammy of the Great Depression and World War II were all part of the historical equation.
Freak Fall, published in 2015, was the first in Dave Cheadle’s self-described “supernatural apocalyptic thriller” trilogy. Courtesy of Dave Cheadle
The next climax would be around 2020, according to the authors.
“I’ve always seen patterns in history and I just had a sense that in my lifetime that we would see another world-war disaster. Something big was going to come,” Cheadle said. “We are so sensitized to terrorists and bomb attacks at nightclubs that we’re living at the edge. This happens throughout history all the time. These cycles are predictable.”
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and the stock-market crash seven years later, the sometime pastor began putting 2 and 2 together in ways more prone to a mystery-thriller than fire and brimstone or a dismal analysis of history.
The result has been the Englewood writer’s Freak book series. With its mix of action, mystery, detailed historical context and Biblical esoterica, the trilogy is a marriage of the Christian Left Behind books and Dan Brown’s bestselling The Da Vinci Code.
“I call this a supernatural apocalyptic thriller,” Cheadle said.
Borrowing its title in part from the usually disparaging “Jesus freak,” the series takes an arguably more scholarly approach than the pop novels of Left Behind. Cheadle’s decidedly earthly settings for heaven and hell may surprise the layman, as might the books’ subtle optimism, even in the middle of post-apocalyptic chaos.
“The thrust of this trilogy is best put by one person who reviewed it on Amazon, who said it’s scary with a big hint of hope,” the author said.
So far, Cheadle, 58, has self-published the first two installments, Freak Fall and Freak Unleashed, with hopes that a small imprint of a major publisher will eventually pick up the last book, Freak Ending, and reprint the entire series.
The “freak” of the title is quite literal—a flawed televangelist who miraculously survives a 9/11-like day of global terror—a “freak” survivor, as it were, with a now-severely mutilated face befitting his gruff persona and blunt apocalyptic forecasts.
Cheadle’s critique of mainline Christianity may be even more controversial than his doctrinal views and action-packed premise. As the self-named Freak becomes an ominous pop star of the end-times, he treats the apocalypse like a second-century plague, imploring the “faithful” to walk back into the “fire” and act like Christians.
In one more memorable scene set at Red Rocks amphitheater, Freak angrily challenges the self-satisfied crowd out if its rejoiceful salvation in face of the apocalypse.
“We’re pathetic in the Western Christian church, where we want gourmet coffee in the lobby and say, ‘Tell us all about forgiveness, but don’t tell us about sacrifice and suffering,’ It’s in the midst of catastrophe that you actually rediscover what it means to love your neighbor,” Cheadle said.
The first two Freak books have gotten largely positive reviews, both from regular churchgoers and secular readers just looking for a good page-turner.
“Nobody’s been angry with me and a lot of people have been absolutely enthralled,” the author said. “An agnostic wrote a review—he said, ‘You’re making me think about a lot of stuff that I’ve never thought through before.’ He doesn’t buy it hook, line and sinker, which is great.”
Author Dave Cheadle pulls a few notes out of his shofar, an ancient Jewish musical instrument constructed from a ram’s horn. The shofar is one of many more esoteric religious references that play a role in his mystery-thriller books. Photos by Peter Jones
Although the author is—by Biblical letter—uncertain of the hour of the apocalypse, the other “good book,” The Fourth Turning, is willing to go on a limb. As an amateur historian, Cheadle remains reasonably convinced that something big will happen in the next few years—apocalyptic or not—as the world closes its most recent 80-year historical cycle.
Even though the nonpartisan and nonfiction The Fourth Turning has captured the fancy of Trump advisor Steve Bannon, per a recent story in Time, Cheadle is quick to say he does not choose political sides in his reading of history or future catastrophe.
“I didn’t care if it was Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. There was no way either one was going to be able to avert the crisis and momentum of history, which is taking us to crisis,” Cheadle said. “Donald Trump may get us there quicker, but only by a few years.”
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