From the Booking Desk:
There are times when I am working on this blog when I have to stop and pinch myself. Is this really happening? Today is one of those days.
I have long been a fan of Kate Charles. Kate has the ability to write about the Church of England with both respect and a critical eye – not an easy feat by any means. Kate is also the co-organizer of the annual St. Hilda’s Crime and Mystery Conference (which is very near the top of my bucket list) and a member of the legendary Detection Club (which Martin Edwards recently stopped by to discuss with BOLO Books). These are just a few of the many reasons that make me so honored to have her visit us here at BOLO Books.
With new editions of her Book of Psalms mystery series about to go to press, I was thrilled that she agreed to talk about the controversial series in historical context.
Without further ado, may I present to you, Kate Charles.
When A Drink of Deadly Wine was published, almost 25 years ago, it wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by the Church of England. I was, at that time, working as a parish administrator in my local church, which is how I gained the specialised information about the inner workings of the C of E to enable me to write the novel. I dared to tackle a subject which was, then, the Church’s dirty little secret: the fact that a large number of its clergy were gay, in spite of the official prohibition. It seemed to me not only wrong but wickedly hypocritical that clergy in stable gay relationships were ignored (at best) and forced to live a lie, while a blind eye was turned to those engaging in promiscuous encounters. Thus I wrote a mystery novel which dealt with the threat of ‘outing’, years before that term hit the popular press. What, I wondered, would happen if a popular clergyman with an exemplary family life actually had a past he wouldn’t want his congregation to know about?
A quarter of a century on, the attitude of the public at large has changed hugely when it comes to the acceptance of gay relationships, both in the UK and the US. In the Church of England, though, perhaps not so much – at least officially.
What has changed is that people are now talking about it, in the Church as well as in the streets. There is a widespread awareness that the Anglican Church would be in a bad way if its gay clergy all walked out on it, and that its policies are out of step with society’s understanding of justice and non-discrimination. The Church is now seen as the ‘bad guys’, promulgating unequal treatment. Indeed, the recent law allowing same-sex marriage in the UK specifically excludes the Church: it isn’t even optional for the Church or its priests to offer marriage services or blessings to its gay members. Not only can they not be forced to perform such marriages, they are legally not allowed to do so, even if they want to.
How cheering, then, that in this climate of change and re-evaluation, SPCK – a publisher long associated with mainstream, orthodox works of theology and Church history (they were founded in 1698!) – has decided to begin publishing fiction, and chose to re-publish A Drink of Deadly Wine as one of its first offerings under the new fiction imprint Marylebone House. They asked me to write up-to-date introductions for all five of the Book of Psalms series, and are issuing them with stunning new covers – and a whole new lease on life! Those somewhat subversive mysteries may not quite be mainstream just yet, but they’re now properly available for the first time in over twenty years.
Maybe there’s hope for the Church of England yet …
From the Booking Desk:
Thanks for stopping by BOLO Books, Kate. I hope that the re-launch of this impressive series is a great success. I know I’ll be buying a new set, as those new covers are gorgeous. Folks, if you haven’t read her yet, please give Kate Charles a try – you won’t be disappointed.