What do an English Lit teacher, a British veterinarian, an ex-Pastor, an alcoholic librarian and a jobless millennial have in common? Good question. From the author of the award-winning Christian novel A Seed for the Harvest comes a humorous story of personal discovery and renewal. A first place award-winner in both the 2017 CIPA EVVY Awards and the 2017 Red City Review Awards, as well as a Silver Medal winner in the 2018 Illumination Book Awards, The Gills Creek Five brings a comic blend of characters into one setting for a most unusual men's small group. The story's ranging, witty and heartfelt dialog will prove enjoyable for readers already familiar with Greg Dodd's other works and new readers, alike. So, pour a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and enjoy the conversation.
"Dodd tells the story of five men brought together to form an unlikely book club in this Christian three-act play. Dane is a divorced English teacher with an unpublished novel. When he started a Christian book club for men in the classroom of a church in Columbia, South Carolina, he had no idea what sort of characters might show up. Rett, it turns out, is someone he knows: a garrulous former pastor with whom Dane attended college but who has since undergone a faith journey that he can’t stop talking about. Sam is a veterinarian transplant from England who has trouble picking up on social cues, which is why he’ll happily natter on about the most recent enema he’s performed on a cat. Overweight, 24-year-old Emile doesn’t have a “job-job, like most people,” but rather spends his time on “tabletop fantasy role-play games, like HeroQuest and Feng Shui.” Emile balks at the length of the selected book. Most colorful is Martin, the loquacious and oft-drunk jokester whose wife thinks he’s at the AA meeting down the hall. Dane has his work cut out for him attempting to herd these cats into a functional book club. Martin needles, Rett butts in, Emile complains, and Sam loses the plot. But as the discussion moves to the text and beyond, Dane finds this collection of odd men to be a surprisingly fertile community. Faith, fears, and failing marriages all come up as each man slowly drops his guard and bares his soul.
Dodd excels at the sort of dense, colorful dialogue necessary to sustain a play about a group of men in a room. Each of the five primary characters is so present and alive in their speech that the reader can easily picture them without the need of an actor to embody them. The standouts are Emile, with his halting, slangy utterances, and Martin with his hammy verbiage. The latter gets all the most writerly lines: “Regret is the fuel that drives our desire to get it right the next time. You take away all regret and we end up stumbling through life frying chickens at a KFC.” That isn’t to say that there isn’t some fat in the cross talk that could have been trimmed. Additionally, the fact that the group is reading Dodd’s previous book, A Seed for the Harvest (“It did win a medal for Christian fiction in some independent publisher book awards last year,” plugs Dane), walks a fine line between a metafictional wink and authorial self-indulgence. The Christian angle, while present, is not as heavy-handed as one might expect, and there are some thoughtful discussions on the nature of faith even if they end up in predictable places. It’s the character dynamics that really keep the reader turning the pages, however.
A thoughtful, funny play about men from a Christian perspective."
The Gills Creek Five by Greg M. Dodd is a classic stage play that centers around five vibrant, unique characters: Dane, Rett, Sam, Emile, and Martin. Set in South Carolina, specifically in a Sunday school classroom in a church, the play follows the metaphorical journeys of five men who have haphazardly (or by divine providence, you decide) come to study a book together every Wednesday night at 6:30 for eight weeks. The group comprises Dane, the group’s charismatic and enthusiastic leader; Emile, an overweight volunteer who lives with his mother; Sam a British veterinarian who seems a bit lost in life; Rett, a jovial former pastor with a predilection for speaking broken French and sprinkling French phrases throughout his lines, thanks to his six-year stint in Louisiana; and Martin, a wisecracking librarian’s assistant who stumbles upon the group, mistakenly thinking that it’s an AA meeting. In addition to being, on the surface, about a men’s small group, The Gills Creek Five also has a sort of meta-narrative that’s briefly explained in the foreword. The author, Greg M. Dodd, had previously written a novel that the characters in the play end up studying as a part of their weekly faith-centered men’s study group. The leader of the group, Dane, introduces the text by giving a little background on how he came to pick up A Seed for the Harvest. He explains that he met the author of the novel at a local coffee shop, The Lost Bean, and in the midst of their conversations about the author’s next project, a play, he learned that the author’s true intention in sharing his work and interviewing Dane about his experiences was to bring strangers that much closer to God through witnessing. This quick bit of explication serves as a little nod and a wink to the audience, who should know from the foreword that this was an actual encounter that helped shape the play they’re watching or reading. On every level, this play focuses on the meaningful connections and conversations that men have with one another and how that fellowship impacts the directions of their disparate, yet miraculously interwoven lives.
Whether or not faith plays a part in readers’ lives, this touching play will be sure to leave a lasting mark on hearts and minds of all ages. Beyond being about five men who gather together in a church setting to discuss a book, The Gills Creek Five serves as an enlightening testament to the resiliency and resolve of the human spirit. On top of being a brilliantly told story with an uplifting message, this play is flat-out enjoyable to read. The greatest thing that this play has going for it is the depth and reality of the dialogue. Immediately, the reader gets a developed sense of who each of the characters in the play is. Their voices jump off of the page, and without ever having to describe them explicitly, the author paints a vivid picture of each man. A large part of that vivid picture has to do with how real, raw, and riotously funny the dialogue is. At times, it seems as though the author might have actually jotted down his interviews with real people verbatim, even though it’s a work of fiction. It’s this commitment to the way that people actually speak that moves the narrative forward at a break-neck pace. Before the reader knows it, they’ve flown through the entire play. The Gills Creek Five sucks readers in and won’t let them go until it’s really engaged them in a powerful discussion about life’s meaning and the purpose of everyone’s individual journey along the way. And despite its depth, it still manages to be largely comedic. Regardless of religious persuasion, this play is worth a try for its universal truths and lighthearted, realistic dialogue.
The Gills Creek Five won 1st Place in the Humor category of the 2017 CIPA EVVY Awards.
The Gills Creek Five won 1st Place in the Spiritual/Christian category of the 2017 Red City Review Book Awards contest. The book is featured in the current release of the Red City Review Magazine, available for purchase on Amazon.
Greg M. Dodd's novel The Gills Creek Five won its third independent publishing book award, earning a Silver Medal for Christian Fiction in the 2018 Illumination Book Awards.