Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fictional evil and theological truth

I first encountered J. Mark Bertrand at his great Bible Design and Binding blog, but he has recently been posting more frequently elsewhere, at another of his blogs, Crime Genre, where he writes about crime fiction — including his own. I have acquired the first book in his series, Back on Murder and will read it soon. I'm looking forward to it even more based on what he describes as his intention here in "Theology and Noir":
.... I'm a writer with theological interests, so my ears perk up when mention is made of that sort of thing. To me, the tropes of crime fiction lend themselves to an exploration of big questions about meaning and evil. But some religious readers don't like the realism of such fiction — the most feedback you get from them is based on whether or not they perceived the book as a "clean" read — while some crime readers don't want philosophical or theological ruminations getting in the way of the body count. Since I like what I'm doing in the March novels, it's good to get confirmation that the crime and the questioning work together.

Kevin Tipple's review of Pattern of Wounds suggests as much, even going so far as to say that the theology discussion "heightens the continuing sense of noir":
Furthermore, the theology discussion regarding good/evil and the role of God that comes up several times in the novel actually adds to the complexity of the novel and provides character depth. It also heightens the continuing sense of noir that was present in the first book and is also present here.
When you're writing about themes like sin and evil, it's important not to stack the deck. Bad arguments shouldn't win over good ones just because they support the author's preferred stance and he wants to deliver the "right" answer. Everybody has a case, as one of my professors used to say, and as the author you have to let them make it. One of the weaknesses of so much religious fiction is that the cleric or clerical stand-in always speaks ex-cathedra. You know from the beginning his is the argument that will carry the day. In the real world, it's just not so. I try to write about these issues the way they develop in reality, as opposed to following the conventions of fiction. .... [more]
Crime Genre: Theology and Noir

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