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Published August 29th, 2012
Local Authors
Lafayette Author's Novel is Far from Science-Fiction
By Jennifer Wake
Lafayette author Jil Plummer Photo provided

Set in the year 2030, photojournalist Kendra Savage is recovering from the loss of her husband and young son following a worldwide pandemic in the novel Caravan to Armageddon by Lafayette author Jil Plummer. The story begins with countries cut off from one another and fearful of another outbreak. The broken and defiant 28-year-old photographer is offered an assignment to document a secret cross-country journey of celebrities from 11 countries in 13 travel trailers intent on restoring a sense of peace and regaining mutual understanding in the world.
While Plummer sets the book in the future, Caravan to Armageddon is not a typical science-fiction thriller. The underlying plot is centered on the book's main characters - each with their own complexities - and the timeless aspects of what comprises friendship and family. Often told through the eyes of Savage behind her camera lens, Plummer introduces her characters visually at first, adding layers to each as the book progresses: a clown from Peru, an opera singer from Italy, a poet from Africa. The book builds in intensity when different group members are attacked along their journey, and Savage begins a quest to find the would-be assassin.
Plummer says she drew her inspiration for the book's variety of characters from her travels as well as from the many adult ESL (English as a Second Language) students who attended her creative writing classes at Acalanes High School over the past 20 years.
"I loved my students and from their writing and just being with them I learned so much about the human spirit. There were the Vietnamese boat people, the Iranian refugees, the Russians, the Africans, many of whom had suffered things we cannot imagine," says Plummer.
Living abroad also taught Plummer much about people, she says. She worked on a banana plantation in Jamaica, trained horses in England, and visited family in Spain. She also attended boarding school on Vancouver Island, worked a couple of off-Broadway plays in New York, and worked for a Clown TV show in Hollywood where she befriended clowns, and all sorts of circus performers, including chimpanzees. Her husband was a photojournalist, and took her on assignments to Peru, Portugal and many countries around the South Pacific.
Plummer used her personal experience when writing about the American countryside unfolding in front of a long line of gleaming silver trailers. Years ago, she joined her husband on his first assignment, traveling by Airstream trailer with a group of French nationals across the U.S., through the national parks, to Washington.
"There we met at the State Department reception the foreign diplomats we would travel back with over the same route," Plummer says. The author kept a diary of the journey, including descriptions of the countryside, and personalities along the way. "The characters in Caravan are all fictitious, the cameras made digital and, of course, no assassins made our trip so exciting!"
In Plummer's novel, many of the Americans who interact with the caravanning group have a backwoods drawl often heard in the far corners of sleepy towns dotting the upper mid-west. And while in the beginning the voice of some characters can seem stereotypical at times, Plummer develops her characters in such a way that by the end of the book you are rooting for them all - at least for all the "good guys."
"I find that the main theme of my novels is how different people often are [from] how we first perceive them and that we should never judge without walking in their shoes," says Plummer.
Caravan to Armageddon is an enjoyable read that gives us a glimpse of the human spirit under the most stressful of circumstances. The novel is available on Amazon as an e-book and will soon be available in paperback.


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