Build­ing a mys­tery, Santa Fe-style

Nov­el­ist David Carl­son

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Jen­nifer Levin

For some­one in my field, New Mex­ico is a bit like a candy store,” said David Carl­son, a pro­fes­sor of re­li­gious stud­ies at Franklin Col­lege in In­di­ana. “There are so many lay­ers of spir­i­tu­al­ity — from the Anasazi to the Pueblo com­mu­ni­ties, His­panic Catholi­cism, the monas­ter­ies in Santa Fe, and the Sufi com­mu­nity near Sil­ver City. Some peo­ple do pub crawls; I do that with old churches and old wor­ship spa­ces.”

Carl­son’s re­search area is re­li­gion and vi­o­lence. He is the au­thor of Peace Be With You: Monastic Wis­dom for a Ter­ror-Filled World (Thomas Nel­son, 2011) and En­ter by the Nar­row Gate, a lit­er­ary mys­tery pub­lished in Novem­ber 2016 by Cof­fee­town Press that is the first in the Christopher Wor­thy and Fa­ther For­tis mys­tery se­ries. He com­pleted the man­u­script for En­ter by the Nar­row Gate nearly 20 years ago, wrote a sec­ond book in 2004, and then wrote a third in 2014 af­ter spend­ing a decade or so fo­cus­ing on non­fic­tion work and speak­ing en­gage­ments. When his agent called to tell him that all three nov­els had been picked up by Cof­fee­town, a small pub­lisher in Seat­tle, he re­al­ized it had been so long since he wrote them that he couldn’t re­mem­ber all of the ti­tles. Read­ing them again be­came part of the edit­ing process, which in­cluded up­dat­ing the tech­nol­ogy used in the de­tec­tive work. He en­joyed spend­ing time again with his main char­ac­ters — a po­lice de­tec­tive from Detroit and a Greek Ortho­dox monk. “So I started writ­ing a fourth in­stall­ment in De­cem­ber of 2015, and it sort of flowed out of me.”

In Gate, Fa­ther Nick For­tis is on sab­bat­i­cal at a Catholic monastery in Truchas, New Mex­ico, re­search­ing Ro­man Catholic chants. A few days af­ter his ar­rival, a nun, also a vis­i­tor at St. Mary of the Snows, is mur­dered in an iso­lated re­treat house. Fa­ther For­tis’ old friend, Lt. Wor­thy, comes to qui­etly as­sist with the in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion while he is in Santa Fe on a miss­ing-per­sons case: a wealthy, trou­bled col­lege girl from Detroit who dis­ap­peared on a spring-break trip to New Mex­ico.

“Some would say it’s a buddy se­ries, but Wor­thy and Fa­ther For­tis are very con­trast­ing per­sons,” Carl­son said. “A Sumo-sized monk who talks a lot and a de­tec­tive who grew up in a par­son­age, but due to some hor­ri­ble things that have hap­pened in his job and his fam­ily, he has lost his faith. I’ve not made that a big piece of the mys­tery, but I try to treat his loss of faith as an is­sue as com­plex as hav­ing faith.”

Gate is rich with ques­tions of re­li­gion and faith, the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two, what hap­pens when re­li­gion turns to fa­nati­cism, and how easy it is to mis­in­ter­pret some­one else’s spir­i­tual mo­ti­va­tions. The mys­ter­ies even­tu­ally con­verge in a boy from Acoma Pueblo named Vic­tor and hinge on the Pen­i­tentes, the lay Ro­man Catholic brother­hood known for graph­i­cally reen­act­ing Christ’s cru­ci­fix­ion dur­ing Holy Week. Wor­thy is paired with Lt. Sera Lacey of the Santa Fe Sher­iff’s Depart­ment on the miss­ing-per­sons case, and there is quite a bit of ten­sion be­tween them over the na­ture of the Pen­i­tentes’ tra­di­tions. Whereas Wor­thy as­sumes the mem­bers of the brother­hood have a sick fas­ci­na­tion with pain and tor­ture — an at­ti­tude that leads him to alien­ate lo­cals when­ever he brings it up — Lacey has a deeper un­der­stand­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.