I think of myself as a non-fiction essayist and journalist. But I read three chapters in a “Christian” historical novel last night and nearly cried myself to sleep.
It was that bad.
Take this dialogue, for instance:
“Then, in 1814 I was born,” said Allen.
“I want to say this, fellows,” Will said. “In the short time we have been members of this church, we certainly have learned to love the Kanes a lot. We think a lot of Alex and his wife Libby, and Able and his wife Vivian.”
Really? These two guys go to the same church and work on the same dock, but Will has to tell Allen who his own brothers are? And their wives?
Almost all the dialogue in the first chapter tells us what the characters already know. And what we, as readers, have no interest in yet.
The dialogue is stiff and the prose is wooden. But the action is, well, unbelievable. And I don’t mean that charitably.
Allen, Able, Adam and Alex have a dad named Abram who also works at the dock. He gets in a fistfight—one of three that day— because one of the dock hands calls his wife a “sickly old lady.”
She is, actually. But this supposed insult justifies slamming the guy. It’s OK though, because he witnesses to him after he helps him get back up. So much for being reviled and persecuted for righteousness sake.
And those 19th century dock workers. The language!
Even the sinners can’t think of anything worse than “sickly old lady.” And the boss thinks it’s a perfectly good reason to start a fight, for a man who, with his sons, uses every Christian cliché I can think of.
Maybe they were original then, but I doubt it.
The really sad part, however, is that the author has over 100 Christian westerns and historical novels to his credit. And over 2.5 million books in print.
It’s not clear if anyone ever finished one. Maybe some of them were good. But 100?
For several years I helped judge the Christie Awards, for best Christian books. I read several novels each year in speculative fiction (think sci-fi), but it was discouraging then and depressing now.
I don’t expect genre fiction to be great literature, but I didn’t expect it to be so bad.
Good fiction requires the willing suspension of disbelief. A lot of Christian fiction just requires belief. And no suspense at all.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know, one cliché after another.
Comments? Recommend a novelist. Or warn us.
Not interested in this topic? Here is a popular
post from the past about a web of grief.