Abide and Endure and Exert Valor Always

Bold Beowulf replied, that brave son of Ecgtheow,
“Sovereign king, do not sorrow – it seems better to me
To finish the feud as friends wreaking vengeance
Than sorrow in silence. We simply decide
To abide and endure and exert valor always,
To find dignity in death. When his days are all done,
The worthiest warrior is well remembered.”

Beowulf: A New Verse Rendering by Douglas Wilson

Casting Out Pearls: Men and Reading Fiction

I wrote a piece for CBMW on why men should be readers of fiction. It was published this morning. Here’s an excerpt:

An explanation (or excuse) for this piece can be found in a certain truth, which seems to me very obvious, but which I have seen under attack: that men should be readers. And by readers, I do not merely mean readers of car manuals, the Internet, or those instructions on the backs of microwaveable meals. I mean readers of books, and especially, in this case, readers of stories.

This truth, I say, is under attack. It isn’t that men are lining up with protest signs or writing polemics or having bonfires. It is much more subtle than that. Ray Bradbury’s observation is apropos: “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” To bring the discussion into narrower focus: there are worse crimes than abhorring good stories; one of them is not reading them. Continue —->

Book Review: Back on Murder

6a00e3981f1e3988330120a665667d970c-800wiDetective Roland March is a homicide cop on his way out. But when he’s the only one to notice evidence of a missing female victim at a gang-related multiple-murder scene, he finds the second chance he’s been looking for.

March connects the female victim with another case involving the disappearance of Hannah Mayhew, teenage daughter of a famous Houston evangelist. None of his superiors are convinced, but they agree to transfer March to the Hannah Mayhew task force.

From there – in the immortal words of Barney Fife – things go “kablooie.”

Back on Murder is a great book. Not a great book “for a religious book,” but a great book, period. A rare and most welcome example of contemporary Christian fiction that does not induce vomiting.

That was harsh, but I meant every word.

Mr. Betrand manages to avoid the literary potholes that plague so many Christian novelists, by which I mean… wait a sec. Forget I said anything about potholes. We’re really talking about ditches, and the fact that Christians today are generally the dumbest drivers in the writing world. We seem to have forgotten what it means to tell a good story; but we sure as heck know what a tract looks like. I hope your airbag is working.

Back on Murder is not a tract. It’s a smart, well-written, and utterly unPreachy (yes, I made that word up ) piece of detective fiction. The characters aren’t cut from fiberboard, the plot is genuinely compelling – and not in a ‘waiting for the conversion scene’ way – and the dialogue is alive and kicking, even if the bodies are not.

Like I said, it’s just a great book.

Roland March himself is one of the book’s gems, mainly because he isn’t one. To adapt a line from Lemony Snicket, March is like a chef’s salad, “with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.” He’s proud, petty, stubborn, brave, heroic, and broken. He’s looking for redemption, a chance to get ‘back on murder’ before he gets cut loose.

But there is more than one kind of redemption. And by the end of the story, March has caught a glimpse of the kind with a capital R.

Wouldnt Hold A Candle

Mac nodded. He put the cigar in his teeth and pushed back the chair. Wait here a minute, he said.

John Grady listened to him going down the hall to his room. When he came back he sat down and placed a gold ring on the table.

That’s been in my dresser drawer for three years. It aint doin nobody any good there and it never will. We talked about everything and we talked about that ring. She didnt want it put in the ground. I want you to take it.

Sir I dont think I can do that.

Yes you can. I’ve already thought of everything you could possibly say on the subject so rather than go over it item by item let’s just save the aggravation and you put it in your pocket and come Tuesday you put it on that girl’s finger. You might need to get it resized. The woman that wore it was a beautiful woman. You can ask anybody, it wasnt just my opinion. But what you saw wouldnt hold a candle to what was on the inside.

– Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain (p. 215)