L.B.: My favorite character so far

L.B.: My favorite character so far December 30, 2003

Left Behind, pp. 22-37

One of the most successfully conveyed early characters in Left Behind sadly disappears from the novel once our heroes have left the plane.

We never actually learn this character’s name, and he never becomes more than a broad, comic stereotype. Yet he is semi-successfully rendered as a broad, comic stereotype, which may make him the book’s most notable literary achievement. (My reading of this character may be overly charitable in that I pictured him as played by Ned Beatty, and Ned could really put some life into even such a two-bit, stock-character role.)

Here is the entire saga of The Drunk Executive in the Seat Next to Buck.

pg. 22

Buck suppressed a smile when he noticed the woman’s pained expression. He climbed over the sleeping executive on the aisle, who had far exceeded his limit of free drinks, and leaned in to take a blanket from the old woman. …

pp. 24-25

Buck’s seatmate roused, drooling, when an attendant asked if anyone in the party was missing. “Missing? No. And there’s nobody in this party but me.” He curled up again and went back to sleep, unaware.

pg. 28

When the captain had come back on the intercom with the information about returning to the United States, Buck Williams was surprised to hear applause throughout the cabin. Shocked and terrified as everyone was, most were from the States and wanted at least to return to familiarity to sort this thing out. Buck nudged the businessman to his right. “I’m sorry, friend, but you’re going to want to be awake for this.”

The man peered at Buck with a disgusted look and slurred, “If we’re not crashin’, don’t bother me.”


The executive next to Buck snored. Before drinking himself into oblivion soon after takeoff, he had said something about a major meeting in Scotland. Would he be surprised by the view upon landing!

pg. 32

The man next to Buck stared at him and then at Hattie. He swore, then used a pillow to cover his right ear, pressing his left against the seat back.

pg. 37

The man next to Buck roused and squinted at the late-morning sun burning through the window. “What in blazes are you two talking about?” he said.

“We’re about to land in Chicago,” Hattie said. “I’ve got to run.”


“You don’t want to know,” Buck said.

The man nearly sat in Buck’s lap to get a look out the window, his boozy breath enveloping Buck. “What, are we at war? Riots? What?”

Buck never answers the man, he too looks out the window to see: “Smoke. Fire. Cars off the road and smashed into each other and guardrails. Planes in pieces on the ground.” At the sight of this carnage, LaHaye and Jenkins tell us, Buck’s mind begins racing, “Plotting how he would beat the new system.”

We never hear again from the two-dimensional “drunk businessman.” But unlike Buck, Hattie or Rayford Steele, he looked upon this still-unfolding horror and disaster and seemed genuinely horrified.

Unlike our heroes, the drunk at least seems to give some thought to someone other than himself — to recognize that the suffering and death he sees represents something more than an inconvenient delay in his own schedule.

That’s why, so far, he’s my favorite character in Left Behind.

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  • drieux just drieux

    There is something amusing that you are going back to the whole ‘late great planet earth’ group while we are currently up to Terrorist Threat Level What Ever. That while the so called vast liberal media is trying to figure out where their new news readers are going to come from if the younger generation doesn’t happen to have the pocket change to invest in the new health care tax saving programmes.
    Could the problem be that the ‘rapture’ has already occurred and that we are the ones left behind and all.
    You will forgive me, but for a long time now I have been obliged to explain to folks that unless Magog can get a convertable currency they are not really in a position to march south to get into the battle of armegeddon.
    Ah yes, wasn’t that whole WWIII thing suppose to have been the big scary thing prior to the whole WMD thing that has now become the whole Iraqi Flying Saucer WhatEver that is the popular excuse to be all upset with liberals this time.

  • Keith

    Since we are privy to Lehay and Jenkin’s spiritual proclivities we can take a guess at what they think about drunks and about alcahol inbibing in general. This makes it all the more ironic that a sinful drunk, flush with the devil’s own home brew, is the only character in the book, thus far, with anything that even resembles a functioning conscience. It’s sad really that in the LB universe, one must get plastered in order to become emotive. Or is there a bigger, more subtle message here, that the reason all these automatons were Left Behind is because they are, every one of them, self absorbed to the point of distraction? I know that’s giving the authors credit for literary skills they have not once demonstrated in any other fashion but it’s th eonly thing that might redeam this story at this point.

  • Murph

    If your character is going to be cardboard, at least make sure that it’s corrugated cardboard.

  • none

    What those of us here see as a proper response to a calamity is merely a sign of weakness to L&J. The best of the best have already been snatched away; the best of the rest will redeem themselves by becoming killers for God. From now on, action-movie machismo is the only virtue, and those who are weak will deserve to die.

  • Scott Cattanach

    “that the reason all these automatons were Left Behind is because they are, every one of them, self absorbed to the point of distraction?”
    Even the self-absorbed would be terrified past the point of worrying about keeping the cab line at O’Hare moving. Nope, L&H aren’t off the hook here. :-)

  • kevin

    “that the reason all these automatons were Left Behind is because they are, every one of them, self absorbed to the point of distraction”
    I read most of the first book, at the urging of my step-mom, and I really think that at some level they were trying to get that point across. There are a couple of other places where I thought I cuaght a wiff of that idea. The problem is that L&H are just such poor wirters that they don’t seem to be able to pull even a simple thematic trick like that off.

  • John Casey

    I applaud with awe your willingness to wade through this dreck. And utter dreck it is, but it’s important too, because so many people consume it, not knowing the intellectual poison they digest.
    If you’ve helped only one such person, you’ve done a major mitzvah.

  • Rebekah

    You should check out “Right Behind: A Parody of Last Days Goofiness.” It parodies both the poor writing and bad theology. As the main character, Buff, sits by the window in business class watching “the sun come up like a single tooth in a bleeding gum,” people start disappearing. The woman next to him asks for his help in finding her husband, and he explains that he’s been raptured (“I write bad apocalyptic fiction. I know things. Endtimes are my game.”) Then they find a pink wet thing amid her husband’s clothes: his appendix. Breast implants are left behind, too. It’s very amusing.

  • Vanya

    Stephen King’s “Langoliers” also has a clueless business man on a plane where passengers have dissapeared.

  • Scott

    Maybe Fred was raptured? :-)

  • pharoute

    odd that the gay porn spam-bot would find the rapture porn posts…

  • Alcoholics Insight

    Your story makes me wonder how many executives get drunk as a skunk when they fly to their next out-of-town business meeting :-)

  • Ken

    Well, shortly after watching the TV miniseries version of “The Langoliers” for the first time, I ended up on a red-eye flight from California to the East Coast.
    I was looking REAL HARD for any insane businessman and/or psychic blind girl on that flight. If I saw either, I was sure going to try to “get drunk as a skunk”…

  • ann

    We are better off today than we were eight years ago

  • hapax

    Now, now, “ann”, Fred’s only been doing the LB analysis for about three years now.

  • Drak Pope

    What’s with the thread necromancy lately? It’s getting kinda we-e-e-e-e-ird.

  • Michele

    Perhaps Benny Hinn had something to do with it?
    (Note, that’s Benny HINN, not HILL. *grin*

  • hapax

    @Drak Pope — I don’t quite understand the programming aspects, but apparently spambots attack defunct threads. Part of the commentary is an effort to revive them sufficiently to divert the spambots.
    I expect that most of it is idle boredom, though, brought on by the fact that our usual Thursday flamewar flared out unexpectedly early this week.
    We have to keep ourselves amused somehow until LB, and what better way than by chuckling at our own rapier wit?

  • Michele

    “rapier wit”? Cut it out! I much prefer our scything humor!

  • hapax

    Enough of this saber-rattling. I refuse to be your foil.

  • Skyknight

    You’re asking for the rest of us to glare daggers at you, mind…