The demise of the clerical novel and murder mystery

Readers of this blog will perhaps know that I am a big fan of the ecclesiastical whodunnit. I do like a whodunnit and to have one set in churchy circles is just the icing on the cake. I’ve blogged about this before and I still look out for new authors to thrill and delight, as well as enjoying old familiar writers. However, it would appear that publishers don’t feel the same way about this genre any more.

First it was Catherine Fox who I noticed tweeting about trying to find a publisher. Now Catherine excels at the clerical novel, although she has written other books as well. I’m not sure if her latest is a whodunnit or not but she’s an author that I would keep on my wish list and read anything she wrote, frankly. Another is Kate Charles whose series of Callie Anson books kept me going throughout my ministry. I gather that she has written another but can’t get a publisher either. I’ve even tried writing to the publishers begging for note of their next one, but no reply.

So, why won’t publishers publish in this genre? Is the church so out of favour? I bet PD James doesn’t have this trouble. I reckon you don’t have to know about the church to enjoy an ecclesiastical whodunnit, because it does make a wonderful setting. Ellis Peters got that one right.

So that got me thinking… why is the church such a good setting for a murder? The juxtaposition between good and evil? All those ‘holier than thou’ characters? (They obviously don’t know the church that well!) The physical setting? Dark corridors, gloomy buildings, atmospheric graveyards, spooky organ music? The supernatural element?  (You’ll find all of the above in a good Phil Rickman, by the way.)

If there are any publishers reading this, can I put in a plea please? We want more clerical murder mysteries. Actually, I don’t mind if there isn’t a murder… a good ‘churchy’ read will do me fine.

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5 thoughts on “The demise of the clerical novel and murder mystery

  1. PD James probably belongs to the last bastion of authors who often used churches and who publishers would never say no to, but now that Dalgleish is gone…

    I find this all particularly strange as television producers over the last eight or so years have edged more towards ecclesiastical setting for their whodunnits.

  2. Maybe they could start talking to one of several e-book publishers and then when they reach a sales target they could look to get a physical book publishing deal. A number of writers on Amazon seem to “sell” the first ebook in a series for free and then charge £3 or whatever for ebooks 2 & 3.

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