On cosy murders

By , 2 February 2007 7:48 pm

Readers, I present you a puzzle. I have in my mind the detailed outline of a super series of books which, based on what I now know about publishing, ought to do stunningly well. Now before I come onto my puzzle let me outline the books. They are set in an imaginary but picturesque part of South Wales, not a million miles removed from where I live, in a more or less present day setting. The protagonist is an ungodly university-based geologist, in his early 30s, with more than the usual hangups about life, women and most things but with some sort of traditional morality which stops him from having the language and behaviour that gives a writer problems. He lives in a wonderfully picturesque and rundown cottage given to him (with strings) by his aunt in wooded countryside that runs down to the sea. There he lives alone with a battered Land Rover and a black dog who out of sheer perversity he has named ‘Snowy’. As the book opens we see how, in order to supplement his meagre income, he is forced take on as a lodger an American theological student who has a living faith and a very different attitude to most things.

So we have the ‘buddy movie’ thing and also the conflicts over belief. During the course of these books it will transpire that our naive right wing American actually, has something going for him. All this, course, is mere background to the murder story that emerges involving a sinister and powerful figure in the science world with a lot to conceal. Book 1 ends with the murder solved, and the murderer dealt with, but hints that there were people who protected him. In book two we are introduced us to our American’s beautiful sister and glimpse more of this sinister group of people who get up to a lot of skulduggery.

Isn’t it just wonderful? I could see it running for about five or six books; each 100,000 words longs with only gentle violence, but full of deep and pious comments on life and the universe. (and the dog). Can you imagine the television series? ‘Fantastic,’ I hear you say, ‘what’s the problem?’ Quite simply, it is this. I just can’t get excited about the idea. Oh, if it was between writing these books and being unemployed I’d do them. And if you offered me a million dollars I’d write them. But somehow, I just can’t fall in love with the books.

Now it could be this is because, deep down inside me, there is a genuine artistic streak, and I’m not simply a hack writer. My guess is that it’s not that, but possibly something related. I think it is that I believe that writing should in some way push against barriers and the job of the writer (and particularly the Christian writer) is, to use the phrase often used of preaching, ‘to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable’. Interestingly enough, I suspect, the worst and probably most accurate criticism of Christian writing from outside the faith, is that it is simply too cosy.

And even murder stories can be cosy.

5 Responses to “On cosy murders”

  1. theplainstate says:

    I say you should work on a fantasy series next. One with no scifi elements involved. I am not trying to tell you what you should do. Or be bossy. I am just saying what I think I would like to read from you in the future.

    I mean if you are writing in the Christian market, I don’t see how fantasy would fail. They are selling “like hot cakes” and most of them are pure alagorical poo (sorry for using the PPP word… I will try to watch my mouth from now on).

    I think if you did a fantasy from the same straightforward approach like you did LATS, I think it would sell. Or really just do ANYTHING new in the Christian fantasy genre and it would be a hit in my book.

    No offence, but I am not a fan of any other christian speculative faith writters whom I have read their materials thus far. I feel like they don’t know how to go off of Lewis and Tolkien’s path more than two or three feet at a time. It’s because you can never make someone elses artwork as well as they could. So all the attempts seem to be utter failures. No offence to the loverly authors that must be behind these books.

    So yeah, go for a fantasy maybe? When I said straightforward approach, I meant how in LATS the God in the series is the same God we worship today. Not some fancy ellu’rawcanEE’to powafambaTARZANA God that only seems like our God in some ways. You could really make it known that this God was our God, and you could address so many intreasting theological questions (i’ll admit that that is one of the things I like best about LATS). You could have a fall, you could have teh GOD have some long scene telling your main sqeeze (the main character) how he created life on this planet after life on some other planet failed. YADA YADA YADA, buttom line…

    I think you could make a great epic fantasy…

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for this. Two observations. One, I will probably stick with fantasy; I know my way in that genre and it does interest me.
    Two, I wish fantasy did sell. It doesn’t particularly for me. think it is a peculiarity of the Christian world that it doesn’t care for fantasy. Why is worth exploring.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dear Sir,

    You have a God given tallent,
    and It may be at a later date you will find a passion for this book.

    It sounds good to me, but I am of the mind that you could right anything and it would be great. I am so looking forward to the last book in your lamb of the stars series.

    Thank you for all your insight, and if the Christians of this day cant see the value of your books ( or Christian sci-fi)than where are we headed?

    Why did God give us immagination?
    There is a whole spiritual world alive and active going on right now even as we speak, do they ignore this as well? What are they afraid of?

  4. Robert says:

    Mr. Walley,

    I think the story is a fine idea, but I have to agree. Christian writing to the outside world does, at times, seem too safe and quaint. Funny how our expressions through the arts can reflect such a presumed safety, when in fact we are in great turmoil most seconds of the day. If we are too comfortable, we should wonder if we are living the faith we profess. I would hope to see such a story from you, but only if your gut and spirit (and more importantly, The Spirit) is in it. Thank you for using your writing talent to build up the Kingdom. I have thoroughly enjoyed the LATS series so far, and have been greatly encouraged by your bravery and creativity in this vein. Lord’s guidance be with you, Mr. Walley.

  5. TerryD says:

    Chris, I read your Speculative Faith article, and I agree that without the “what if…”, most of the color is lost from the palette of life. (I know.. cheesy metaphor) But true nonetheless.

    Regarding the fantasy genre, I personally think there can be, and perhaps needs to be, far more to be had in this area. Two “what if” books I’ve greatly enjoyed are Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” series, and Charles Sheldon’s “In His Steps”. Coming from widely different points of view in some ways, but focusing on the same question: “What would happen if God’s people took up the challenge to be all that He’s created them to be?” I can’t think of any “what if” with more potential than that.

    So there’s a fantasy series for you. “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” – The Spirit of the Lord falls on His chosen ones as interstellar fleets, or tribal armies, or whatever, square off. The future of creation hangs in the balance…

    I know – pretty predictable. But there’s my two bits. Thanks for listening, and be encouraged with the writing. You have a gift, and it’s much appreciated. God bless.

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