Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can I Keep the "God" in God Damn?: Guest post by John Edward Mullen

John Edward Mullen:
Can I Keep the ‘God’ in God Damn? 

While attending the 2018 Bouchercon, I received an email from an independent editor reviewing my current work in progress. She expressed a concern that I was “hitting the God stuff too hard.” My protagonist is an 18-year-old Catholic woman living in a California gold-mining town in 1892. I didn’t think having her pray to God to save her father who’d been shot, or saying grace, or attending church would be a commercial issue. The editor thought some agents and librarians find religion a touchy subject and she suggested I downplay that aspect of my character and the times. As it happened, one of the Bouchercon sessions the next day was devoted to religion and mysteries. I asked the panelists “Is religion relegated to only a small corner of the mystery world?” I got mixed responses. Two panelists felt that you could write about a character with a religion in any mystery. But Mette Ivie Harrison believed 100 agents declined to represent the second of her adult mysteries because there is a prejudice against religion in the publishing world. Harrison’s protagonist is a Mormon bishop’s wife.

Maybe I should have known religion could be an issue. In 2014, I submitted my mystery novel Digital Dick to be considered for the San Diego Book Awards Best Unpublished Novel Award. I won, but only after the organization intervened when one of the judges took offense with Dick, my A.I. sleuth, because in the book, Dick insists he has a soul. (“That’s not possible.” Well, um, it’s fiction.)

In thinking about novels I have read, I recall a number of mysteries I would consider mainstream in which characters at least profess a religion. Stuart Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman series centers on two Chicago P.D. detectives, a Jew and his Catholic partner. Within the stories, they are referred to as the Rabbi and the Priest. Lieberman is often involved in activities at his synagogue. Frederick Ramsay wrote a three-book Jerusalem series in which the sleuth is the head rabbi of the city, circa 30 A.D. (Or should I say 30 C.E.?) Orhan Pamuk’s (more literary mystery) My Name is Red has the Ottoman Court and Islam as its backdrop. I just started reading August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones. Chapter two of this Shamus Award-nominated novel begins with the hero going to mass at St. Al’s (Aloysius) Catholic Church. Religious fiction? I don’t think so.

So, I could use your help. How much religion is too much in a mainstream mystery? Can characters believe in God? Can they practice their religion on the page? Or, like murders in a cozy, must prayer occur offstage? What religious behavior or language would turn you off as a reader, agent, or editor?

Can I keep the ‘God’ in God Damn?

John Edward Mullen is the author of the self-published mystery Digital Dick. He is currently writing the first of a mystery series set in the 1890s involving Nell Doherty, a young woman with a wooden leg who dreams of becoming a Pinkerton detective. John lives in the San Diego area.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stan Lee: R.I.P.

Stan Lee, Marvel Comics' Real-Life Superhero, dies at 95.

From Hollywood Reporter:

The feisty writer, editor and publisher was responsible for such iconic characters as Spider-Man, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther and the Fantastic Four — 'nuff said. Stan Lee, the legendary writer, editor and publisher of Marvel Comics whose fantabulous but flawed creations made him a real-life superhero to comic book lovers everywhere, has died. He was 95. 

Lee, who began in the business in 1939 and created or co-created Black Panther, Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Mighty Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil and Ant-Man, among countless other characters, died early Monday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, a source told The Hollywood Reporter.

Read more here.