At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Plowing New Ground

I had plenty of time to think today. Had to decompress a bit after pounding out four thousand words over the last few days, so I drove down to Defiance, Missouri. Yes, the same Defiance that is the literary canvas for my Litany of Secrets. So inspired, I cycled from the center of Defiance (which is about a hundred yards from suburban Defiance) up the Katy Trail until I was about two miles from the Highway 40 overpass that crosses the Missouri River. It was on my way back that I snapped this picture from the bridge over the Femme Osage Creek. Those of you who have already read through LoS will know it as the spot where Cameron Ballack and Dana Witten have a conversation on a blustery February morning in chapter 60.

On the ride back, I was thinking about writing, specifically about the murder mystery/crime fiction genre, because I've been asked by some people if my novels are Christian murder mysteries. Please forgive me for not knowing what to make of that question. It's not that Christians automatically put out substandard products (unless you count a lot of Christian rock music in the 1980s and thus get ready to heave last night's pizza), but I tend to eschew a "Christian" label for my stuff.

Redeeming the murder mystery? Yes, of course. Seriously wanting quality, tradition, and values to shine through in my books? Absolutely. But I tend to follow C.S. Lewis on this one--especially his oft-quoted (and likely just as oft-paraphrased) words: "The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature."

Nonetheless, the "Christians writing good literature" has undergone quite an evolution. My dad sent me an article from The Weekly Standard which tells the recent saga of how Christian crime fiction has come of age. Walking the reader through the work of J. Mark Bertrand, whose more philosophical tome Rethinking Worldview is a great tool for thinking well, Jon Breen also points out how the world of "Christian" crime fiction (which I still can't stomach as a label) has evolved from its former strictures and has thus made a path into better quality literature for literature's sake. It is worth your time for a read.

The jury is still out on the label, though. I still like to maintain that I write across the evangelical-secular state lines; that I offer compelling, page-turning stories that resonate with the human spirit; that characters are capable of relentless, calculating evil (murderers) and heroic attempts of justice and altruism (the flawed yet determined heroes); and that events and people are capable of redemption.

Call me crazy, but there is plenty of room for those flowers in the murder mystery garden. The way I see it, it's fun to be plowing that new ground.

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