Decided to get on a marketing push for The 41st Sermon after an avid reader I know really well and very much trust called it the best of my works he's read. And another reader I trust chimed in his approval, too.
It's one of my most undersold works and that puzzles me. More on that later, but first a little of the back story.
I was managing editor at The Olathe (KS) Daily News when I wrote this book. It was a good stretch in my life then. I had been able to assemble a great newsroom and we were doing really good news reporting. As a suburb to Kansas City, we beat the KC Star 2-1 in circulation and whipping them daily on local news coverage. It embarrassed them greatly when my court house reporter, Andy Hoffman, was able to find out and break the Royals cocaine story before the KC Star. (At that time, they had a morning and afternoon edition and their afternoon edition could only quote our morning story; that, folks, is called a sweet clean scoop in the newspaper world).
But what I really wanted to do was write novels. I would get up at 5 a.m., two hours before I headed to work. My son, who not yet in his teens would also wake himself up to practice the piano (Koji Attwood, google him, he went on to get a doctorate from Julliard and has a performing career). I was in the basement pecking at an early computer, an Atari 1040, if I remember correctly, and he was a floor above practicing.
On Saturdays, we drove from Olathe to Lawrence where he had an hour lesson with a KU piano professor. My wife shopped downtown Lawrence; I sat in the "Casbah" coffee shop and edited and rewrote.
I didn't keep any writing diaries, so I don't remember how long it took me to complete it. I never start with any sort of outline. The only thing I knew about The 41st Sermon was than a middle-aged Episcopal priest was headed on his yearly, weeklong work-vacation at a fishing resort to rest and write the outlines of his sermons for the coming year.
I didn't know what was going to happen to him when he got there. When his parishioner's wife showed up alone, things started to get interesting. You create characters and start to live with them in your head and they come to life for you and you hope you can bring them to life for the reader.
I've written another blog about the connection to that great Southern writer Walker Percy and won't repeat that here because this is the link.
I thought I might use the scan of that note to create some curiosity among Percy fans about The 41st Sermon. And, it's odd, the link above is one of my most visited blog posts. But it hasn't seem to have translated into downloads. It could be the Percy fan base, which has quite a few academics, look down their noses as self-published works and this whole ebook phenomenon and have refused to go digital. I've made it a free download a couple of times through Kindle Select program and usually free downloads will be followed with buys. But not this time.
It could be there are too many points of views, but I thought they were handled well and all those points of view provide the reader with information the individual characters don't have about each other. I think it makes the reader a sort of an omniscient viewer, but one who will encounter some surprises along the way.
I liked Father Talley and his struggles with his faith and his sexuality and himself. I liked Molly, the very sexy and independent siren. I liked Fr. Talley's wife, Kathryn, and her own road of self-discovery with the help of the psychiatrist, Richard, who is Molly's wife and has his own secrets to keep. I think the interactions of these people have an Updike sort of feel to it.
I think the novel deserves more readers and I hope this might encourage more people to get the book.