Dante's Forge

Michael R. Frontani

Book Cover

GENRE

ACTION ADVENTURE HISTORICAL FICTION OTHER

    Core Theme

    RETRIBUTION, COMING OF AGE

    TIME PERIOD

    19th Century

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, THE DUEL, THE KID

    CHARACTER LIST

    DANTE NERI (M/15) -- SPIRITED YOUNG SON AND BROTHER WHO MUST STEP IN THE FACE OF A FORMIDABLE VILLAIN IN ORDER TO AVENGE HIS FAMILY AND RESCUE HIS BRETHREN.

    JESSUP (M/30S) -- RUGGED MOUNTAIN MAN WHO BECOMES AN ALLY OF DANTE

    LORENZO NERI (M/18) -- DANTE'S BROTHER WHO STRUGGLES TO RECOVER FROM SEVERE WOUNDS FROM HIS CAPTIVITY UNDER ARNETT.

    ARNETT (M/60S) -- MEGALOMANIAC TOWN BOSS WITH AN INTENSE HUNGER FOR POWER AND A VENDETTA AGAINST DANTE'S FAMILY.

    GREY (M/20S) -- WISE NATIVE AMERICAN MAN WHO TELLS OF THE TOWN'S HISTORY AND BECOMES AN ALLY TO DANTE AND CO.

    CASS (M/TEENS) -- SPUNKY TEEN SON OF JESSUP WHO BECOMES DANTE'S CONFIDANT.

    Logline

    In the 1880s, the twilight of the Old West, a chance meeting in a frontier town reignites long-simmering animosities. Suddenly, fifteen-year old DANTE NERI and older brother LORENZO find themselves in a fight for their lives as this generational tale drives toward a final, bloody showdown.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 13-17,18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal,Male Leaning

    Setting

    Oak Grove, the frontier town run by Arnett and his 'boys'; The Springs, a hidden mountain community that harbors the Neri brothers after their escape from Arnett's jail.

    Based on a True Story

    No

    Publishing Details

    Status: No

    Starting Description

    Despite their father's warnings, fifteen-year-old Dante Neri and his older brother, Lorenzo, visit the frontier town of Oak Grove, where they quickly run afoul of the town's 'boss', who carries a long held hatred for the boys' parents and will stop at nothing to see them all dead.

    Ending Description

    Dante joins a force of men from the mountain community that harbored the boys after their escape from Arnett, who's leader, JESSUP, has been taken hostage by Arnett. A bloody battle ensues culminating in a final showdown between Dante and Arnett, and Dante's killing of the murderer of his father.

    Group Specific

    Information not completed

    Hard Copy Available

    No

    ISBN

    Information not completed

    Mature Audience Themes

    Extreme Violence, Language/Profanity,Substance Abuse

    Plot - Other Elements

    Coming of Age,Philosophical Questions,Twist,Happy Ending

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain,Internal Journey/Rebirth,Tragedy,Other

    Main Character Details

    Name: Dante Neri

    Age: 15

    Gender: Male

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Desperate,Faithful,Heroic,Naive,Skillful,Strong Moral Code

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Frank Neri, father of Dante and Lorenzo

    Age: 30-40s as time passes

    Gender: Male

    Role: Emotional

    Key Traits: Masculine,Modest,Badass,Complex,Faithful,Heroic,Honorable,Uneducated,Selfless,Skillful,Secretive

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Hilde Neri, mother of Dante and Lorenzo

    Age: 20-30s as time passes

    Gender: Female

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Confident,Faithful,Educated,Strong Moral Code,Romantic,Outspoken,Selfless

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Jessup, leader of The Springs, the mountain community harboring the brothers.

    Age: 40s

    Gender: Male

    Role: logical

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Masculine,Secretive,Leader,Heroic,Selfless,Skillful

    Development Pitch

    Dante's Forge is tailor-made for a feature film or television series. The narratives secrets are revealed slowly, but the action comes hard and fast, with heavy doses of narrow escapes, gunfights, and adventure. The secrets are many--Why is Arnett so intent on destroying the Neri boys--what history lies at the heart of this hatred? Much of this story is revealed in the recollections of GREY, the "injun" jailer (as Arnett would have it) who helped Dante and Lorenzo escape. He knew the boys' parents and he knows why Arnett is after them. JESSUP, the man who leads the mountain community of The Springs, becomes Dante, Lorenzo, and Grey's protector, and PAGE and GIBBONS, two other men, become like fathers to the boys after Frank is gunned down by Arnett and his men. But Jessup has his own secrets--nobody knows he is Arnett's boy (a fact not revealed until the climactic gun battle on the streets of Oak Grove. Jessup's wife, KATE, an army nurse during the Civil War, takes care of Lorenzo, who Arnett has left broken in a jail cell. Her daughter, MARY, and her best friend, Gibbons' daughter, ABIGAIL, take to the boys, and soon romance blossoms between Mary and Dante, and between Lorenzo and Ambrosia. All is good until the community is betrayed--but by whom? The answers to these questions and so many others are revealed slowly, like peeling an onion, until the biggest secrets are revealed at the end--when blood flows and legends are made.

    Genre

    ACTION, DRAMA, RELIGION

    Brief

    In the Old West, Dante endeavors to free his older brother Lorenzo from corrupt town officials led by the megalomaniac Arnett. However, Dante's father is killed in the escape. While Lorenzo is taken to a mountain community to recover, Dante heads to bury his father with the help of rugged mountain man Jessup and Native American Grey. Grey tells of the town's past, of Arnett's rise to power and of his falling out and vendetta against Dante's late parents. Soon, Dante assimilates into the mountain community with Lorenzo, but an attack from Arnett's men sees Jessup and his son kidnapped. Dante, then, leads a crew into battle in the town, eventually squaring off against the evil Arnett. Dante ultimately kills the villain and rescues his brethren.

    Overall Rating

    FAIR

    Point of View

    THIRD PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: FAIR

    Commerciality: FAIR

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: FAIR

    Structure: FAIR

    Theme: FAIR

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Yes, the book profile feels robust and informative.

    Draw of Story

    What drew me in immediately was the in media res quality of the opening pages. The author throws us right into the action and challenges us to catch up. Also, his writing style feels accessible and his descriptions are very clear, both of which help acclimate readers to the world of the story.

    Possible Drawbacks

    There is a sense that the momentum lapses in the middle third of this work-- There is a long stretch where there are little stakes and limited action in the present. Also, there is a sense that the heroes are nearly entirely reactive as opposed to proactive, which can make a story feel like it lacks a strong enough sense of forward movement. Perhaps better motivating the heroes at a given moment and giving them more to be afraid about while at the Neri family homestead, for example, would elevate the stakes. Maybe if Arnett and his men were always on their heels as opposed to just fraternizing in town would yield more consistent high stakes.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    This work is an inarguably accessible Western genre entry. The author gives his audience distinct characters, and he is certain to give them incredible obstacles. He does not shy away from the action, and he is sure to make sure that his violence always has consequence. All in all, this work is easy and fun to read, while still maintaining dramatic weight, which is not an easy feat to accomplish.

    Fanbase Potential

    This would probably not have a large fanbase as it feels exceedingly geared toward people who are already fans of the genre. There doesn't seem to be anything radically new here that would bode well for winning over new fans of the genre, and the action is just sparse enough to prevent this work from playing as a more commercial action flick.

    Awards Potential

    No, this would not have awards potential. As said, there is nothing particularly revelatory about this work. It is simply a competent, accessible genre entry geared toward a built-in audience. It's not as artistic or thematically resonant as the films that fare well in awards season.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    ALL THE PRETTY HORSES, THE DUEL, THE KID

    What’s New About the Story

    Candidly, there does not seem to be much about this work that stands out as particularly original. Many, or most, of the beats and plot points can be traced to genre entries of old, and even the characters seem to rely heavily on established genre archetypes. If this were were to become more original, it would entail a comprehensive review of what is well-tread genre tradition, and an effort should be made to twist, subvert, or evolve what has come before.

    Lead Characters

    Dante stands out for his spirit-- He is a loyal family member, the pain he is left with resonates. It is rewarding to watch him grow and progress as the story unfolds, culminating with him becoming a hardened man of the Old West.

    Uniqueness of Story

    This is not a rare gem as nothing stands out as particularly new about this text. Granted, it's well-written, clear-eyed, and accessible, but the author seems to rely quite heavily on genre tradition and archetypes without making anything his own. A cover-to-cover scan for what is getting stale and for opportunities to differentiate would be most welcome.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Indie, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation

    WORK IN PROGRESS

    Justification

    While certainly well-written and an accessible, entertaining read, this work stands to have much room to subvert and evolve the archetypes and genre traditions it draws from. If this work is to become its best self and if it is going to compete in the ever-competitive film market, it is going to have to rise above comfortable genre tradition and differentiate itself from what has come before.

    Tips for Improvement

    As noted, the author would need to give a thorough reconsideration of genre tropes and archetypes employed in this work. An effort to differentiate this work and its characters from others that have come before would function to elevate this work above simple, comfortable genre tradition.

    Brief

    In the Old West, Dante endeavors to free his older brother Lorenzo from corrupt town officials led by the megalomaniac Arnett. However, Dante's father is killed in the escape. While Lorenzo is taken to a mountain community to recover, Dante heads to bury his father with the help of rugged mountain man Jessup and Native American Grey.

    What We Liked

    What was most appealing about this work was the author's clear-voice and accessible writing style-- There is very little fat or bloat in the prose of this text. What is also most interesting about this work, although it comes with the territory, is that there is a real sense of consequence with the violence. Lives are lost, men are maimed, justice is done. When this work engages us in action, it is at its most memorable and effective.

    Film: This would be a good adaptation for film in that its violence and action feel cathartic and exciting. The end constitutes a climax that will be sure to be remembered, and the violence feels visceral in that we are observant of the consequence it seems to always have. The big screen would do this work and the action it contains proper justice.

    TV: This would be a good adaptation for TV in that its central conflict is big enough to sustain a season of TV. It's a story, in some ways, of a clan against a clan. A season of TV would require some building out, but it would certainly give more room to flesh out the villain in Arnett, and it would give plenty of room to let the backstory breathe.

    Key points:
    1. The settings-- Lush, interesting, and rugged vistas.
    2. The vile, power-drunk villain in Arnett.
    3. The hard-hitting, consequential action.
    4. The resolve and growth of the character Dante.
    5. The explosive, vivid, and cathartic finale.

    Synopsis

    Megalomaniac Western town boss ARNETT, 60s, and his loyal goons falsely imprison and beat a young man, LORENZO, 18. Later, spirited young DANTE, 15, returns to his family's homestead. He tells his rugged father FRANK, 40s, that his older brother has been taken by town officials. With that, Frank takes off on a days-long trek to town. The roughneck mountain man JESSUP, 30s, joins Frank's journey, as does the young Dante, keen to help free his older brother. In town, they manage to free Lorenzo with the help of Native American, GREY, 20s, and they flee on horseback. However, in the woods, they are confronted by Arnett and his men. Frank is killed in action before a storm breaks up the skirmish.

    Lorenzo, severely wounded from his captors, is taken to Jessup's mountain community, while Grey and Jessup accompany Dante to his homestead, where they bury Frank next to his late wife. Over campfires, Grey tells of Arnett's megalomania and skill for getting men to execute his every will. He tells Dante of his father's early years, how he fell in with Arnett's men and then became a drunk after participating in a massacre of Native people. Grey tells how Frank changed when he met his wife, Dante and Lorenzo's mother. He tells how Arnett became furious with envy over Frank going with HILDE, and how Frank and Hilde had to go on the run to avoid Arnett's power hunger and toxicity. Eventually, Dante, Jessup, and Grey arrive in the mountain community of "The Springs," where Dante reunites with his recovering brother.

    Dante and Lorenzo settle in nicely, with Dante befriending Jessup's teen son CASS, and with the brothers finding romantic interests in the community. One day, Cass and Dante suffer injuries in a bear attack-- a great scare for the community. And later, Arnett and his men ambush the community and manage to take Cass and Jessup as prisoners. With that, Dante and men prepare to retaliate and to rescue their brethren.

    Dante and men arrive during a major town festivity, and they cause havoc by setting an explosion. This draws out the nefarious Arnett and his men, and a wild shootout ensues. Arnett reveals that Jessup is, in fact, his estranged son. The heroes find themselves outgunned, and they take refuge in a church. However, Arnett orders the church to be burned down to draw his adversaries out. Soon, Dante emerges from the flames. He guns down Arnett's right hand man, before engaging the boss in battle. After taking a blow to the chest, Dante shoots Arnett in the throat, killing him. Dante discovers that his Bible blocked the round from piercing him. Soon, the town is renamed after Dante, who has fully come of age and hardened into a man. With his comrades rescued, he sheds a single tear before heading back to the Springs to bury their dead.

    About The Author

    Michael Frontani retired from academia in 2017 after nearly twenty years. In his career, Frontani published journal articles and book chapters on The Beatles and the Italian-American experience in top rung of academic publishers as well as his own book, the CHOICE award-winning The Beatles: Image and the Media. After retiring, Frontani turned his attention to his first love, writing fiction. Dante's Forge is his first novel.