After a shocking courtroom tragedy, a disturbed Vietnam veteran and the vindictive judge who sent him to prison become an unlikely pair of time travelers in a chaotic multiverse. The fallen angel who rescues them wants to guide them to a radiant new life. But first they must return to the scene of a ghastly crime.
Billy Worster was a naïve teenager ill-prepared for the gruesome realities of war. The sole survivor of a deadly massacre in a Vietnamese jungle, he avoided certain death only because he ran away when the shooting started. Riddled with guilt, he comes home to a dusty Texas farm with post-traumatic stress disorder and the crazy notion that he can fly in and out of parallel worlds.
As Billy struggles with addiction and questions his sanity, he is arrested on a drug charge and ends up in the courtroom of Judge Madeline Johnston, a bitter old judge tormented by a dark secret surrounding her father’s death. She callously tosses Billy into prison, but when a greedy executor files a lawsuit to steal his inherited land, Billy is hauled back to her courtroom in chains, where a stunning twist of fate launches them into the sky on an odyssey of discovery and healing.
Spanning forty years from the jungles of Vietnam through infinite, parallel worlds, Rip the Sky examines how the power of forgiveness can lead us toward a better life, no matter how many worlds we may live in.
Inspiration for writing Rip the Sky
By Mark Packard
My inspiration to write this book arose out of a lawsuit I handled for a kind gentleman who was the caretaker of a widow’s land. She rewarded my client with the gift of her land in her will, and her four nephews, her only blood relatives, were outraged. One of the brothers filed a lawsuit, which was frivolous, in an attempt to obtain ownership of the land. Surprisingly, in the barren Texas Panhandle there really is a patch of land with green grass, trees, and running water. It stretches a bit north from the tiny town of McLean but mostly south toward the other small towns of Clarendon and Wellington. It’s extremely valuable land, owned by doctors and wealthy oilmen, and my client inherited a nice bit of it. This became Billy Worster’s world. An oasis, a patch of Eden, hidden in the dusty wasteland. One important caveat, my client was not a veteran of the Vietnam War, and he did not struggle with addiction.
I have seen friends and family members destroyed by addiction, and I know from personal experience that those afflicted with addiction issues are good people who suffer from an illness. As a result, I wanted Billy to be a tender-hearted person who struggled to heal himself.
The inspiration to add a judge as a primary character came to me one day in a courtroom as I watched a judge abuse an attorney for no reason. I began to wonder why the judge was compelled to act so cruelly to someone powerless to fight back, and I also thought about the man who tried to steal my client’s land, and it occurred to me that they were both addicted, not to drugs or alcohol, but to greed and power. In the throes of their addiction, they were willing to trample anyone. I thought sending them on an adventure with a Vietnam veteran who was addicted to drugs and alcohol would be an interesting story.
On a personal note, the idea about the sky ripping came to me after a teenage tragedy. My best friend drowned in front of me when I was sixteen. In my despair, I would stare into the blue sky and imagine that it could rip open, and that by flying through the hole in the sky I could enter a new world where different choices were made, a place where my friend did not die. Decades later, I read about the theory of the multiverse, how choices and quantum calculations lead to parallel lives, and I began to hope, and maybe even believe that my friend was alive, somewhere out there through a ripped sky. I was suddenly compelled to write about it.
I was not quite old enough to get drafted and sent to Vietnam. That was good for this country because I would have been a terrible soldier. I have great respect and admiration for those who served in Vietnam, and for the sacrifice they made. Many of them are struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and, like Billy, saw things that will haunt them forever. I wanted Billy to battle post-traumatic stress disorder to honor their courage and to show how the horror of war can wreck a life.