PERU — As a father, Miami Circuit Court Judge Robert Spahr used to combine his imagination and daily interactions with people to create bedtime stories to entertain his two young boys.
Spahr, an Indianapolis native who has resided in Peru since 1979, would share with his sons, Timothy and Anthony, the stories of two boys — the forest-living Torto Elkentorch and his urban buddy, Lyle Bandercoot, who were under threat from a nearby empire.
Though he never had any stories written down to read to the boys, Spahr would encourage his sons to read and investigate on their own.
That was in the mid-1980s, and Timothy and Anthony Spahr are now grown men working as lawyers in Peru. But they still fondly recall the stories their father used to tell them.
“I can’t speak for my brother, but I know, when he would read to us, I would want him to keep going. I didn’t want him to stop,” said Anthony, now 31 years old. “It really had an impact on me.”
Yet even all these years later, the boys’ fantasy-adventure tales are still having an impact for the Spahr family, as they have recently spawned several books and perhaps a movie.
Following years of encouragement from his wife, Nancy, Spahr wrote down the first words of a book about Torto’s adventures on Sept. 6, 2006.
Now, for two hours every night, Spahr writes stories that have been in his head all those years. He said he still draws inspiration from people and events he encounters during his days in the courtroom.
“Rob’s books capture much of his own personality and experiences,” said Nancy. “He draws from his own childhood experiences and knowledge of history, adding elements from his vivid imagination and value system. It amazes me how he ties characters and events together between the books.
“When he wrote the first book, I understood it simply as the story he had told our sons in installments many years earlier. The books have become so much more than that, though, as characters and events have linked together into a tale of far greater scope and complexity than I had first envisioned.
“For our children, grandchildren, and future great-grandchildren, the books provide an intimate view into the many facets of this man they are related to.”
Since 2006, Spahr has written four books in “The Adventures of Torto” series and the judge is currently working on another series of books entitled, “Alabaster City Flawed — The Memoirs of Sir George William Europea,” which takes place 60 years before the Torto character’s adventures.
The new series details the history and settings of the Torto series, and Spahr said his next book, “The Awakening,” as well as two proceeding books are translations of journals found by the two Torto characters.
“The books are all 12 chapters and they have good and bad guys; just like life,” said Spahr. “You find things just don’t happen accidentally, and bad things do happen to good people; just like life.
“When I write, there have been times when I’ve heard a word or something came into my head and I had no idea what it was about. Then I investigated it, and discovered it was a real place or person.”
Since he no longer has children at home to share his stories, Spahr began in December reading chapters of his books to various audiences throughout the city.
And like young Anthony who didn’t want to sleep until he heard more stories from his father, Janice Clemons looks forward to hearing Spahr’s words.
“I really can’t get enough of it,” said Clemons, who recently listened to Spahr during her lunch hour at the Miami County Courthouse. “His books take you on a journey and you can get lost. I really don’t have time for pleasure reading, so this is how I get it and it is really enjoyable.”
The judge-turned-author is also gaining a following. His books are available at the Peru Public Library; he’s recording the books for the vision impaired; the books can be ordered at www.adventuresoftorto.com; and he has thoughts of one day translating his fantasy-adventure books into a movie.
“One of my favorite aspects of the books is the way suspense can build and culminate in an unexpected outcome,” said Nancy. “I have often marveled to him, ‘How did you think of that?’ I can imagine the stories as action-packed adventure on the movie screen. Because the books are fantasy, Rob is free to juxtapose elements of the world we know with a time, place and events of his own imagination. Things and characters in the stories don’t always have to make sense as we might know it.
“As author, he can give free rein to his imagination. As readers, we do best to be open to the unexpected, to ideas and a presentation that may seem a little unusual or different from what we are used to.”