Saturday, June 06, 2009

Piers Paul Read 'too Catholic' for modern Britain

Tucked away in the 'Arts & Entertainment' section of The Times is a report which should be given much greater consideration by the paper's Religion Correspondent. It transpires that Piers Paul Read's latest novel, The Death of a Pope, has been rejected by his agent, Gillon Aitken, because it is 'too Catholic'.

Imagaine that. A novel about a pope that is 'too Catholic'. Outrageous. One wonders if a book about His Grace might not be 'too Anglican', not to mention 'too Protestant'. Or is it simply that, like bibles, prayers and support for marriage and the family, it is simply 'too Christian'?

The novel, described as a thriller, tells 'a fictional tale of a former priest accused of terrorist activities against the real backdrop of the death of John Paul II and election of Benedict XVI'.

Riveting stuff. The Church of England couldn't even begin to compete with such religious spectacle and political theatre. It sounds like everything that a religio-political novel should be, and doubtless contains an awful lot more substance than the absurd fantasies of Dan Brown (which have earned millions for both author and agent). But Mr Read has been rejected because he is an orthodox Roman Catholic 'and this sentiment comes over in the thriller'.

Mr Aitken apparently told Mr Read to 'take out some of the Catholicism'.

Mr Read responded, quite rightly, that he didn't want to.

It is a curious persecution of an orthodox Roman Catholic, for if Dan Brown has established anything with his Opus Dei novels it is that there is an enormous (and lucrative) market for works of fiction with religio-political conspiracy themes, even (or especially) in an anti-Christian age of rabid secularism.

Perhaps Mr Read should turn his hand to writing a novel about Christians who behead Muslims. His agent would be sure to accept that.


Blogger The Whitby Independent said...

In these circumstances of religio-political correctness gone mad,, your Grace might have spared the flames and not gained his crown of martyrdom.

Burning heretick bishops must cause a most shocking carbon footprint.

6 June 2009 at 22:10  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

So Evelyn Waugh and Graham Green and G K Chesterton wouldn't have got a look in today.

Piers needs to change his agent. Surely there are other ones around. This agent has probably waxed fat on Piers' work hitherto.

Also why not publish privately like J L Carr used to do?

6 June 2009 at 22:40  
Anonymous Hank Petram said...

I had never read anything by P.P. Read until a few months ago, when I read The Templars (a mere ten years after first publication). It was good, but not quite good enough to spur me to go on and read any of his other books. But from what you've said, Your Grace, I think I'll give Death of a Pope a try.

7 June 2009 at 01:58  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Your Grace, it is heartening that PP Read declined the advice of his agent. Surely it's the job of an agent to represent the author since the author is paying for the service? In this instance the agent is dealing with an author who is already published and therefore a fairly good bet.

I always believed it was the job of a publisher to chose what it wants or doesn't want to publish. But then, the story of publishing is one of mediocrity, nepotism and missed chances. Look at how many passed up the likes of James Heriot and JK Rowling, to name but two highly popular authors. Compared to their vast readership how many people have read the Satanic Verses? Populist books are rarely highbrow but their are entertaining. They are the books that put bread and butter on a publisher's table.

Look at how many tawdry, ghost written celebrity offerings find their way into the remainders bin. Just how many celebrity chef cookbooks can a shelf hold? "Autobiographies" of narcissistic teenage singers who have barely lived? Gimme a break.

And they wonder why people don't buy so many books anymore?

Given your very brief precis, Your Grace, I might make the effort to drive all the way to the nearest town and see if the book is worth the fuss. I enjoy an intelligent, well written thriller. As for the Brown effort, someone gave me a copy and I didn't get past the first chapter. It's dire.

As far as setting the story around Lambeth Palace is concerned, The Death of a Lightweight Beardy would hardly get my heart racing in anticipation. It would probably involve a gutter press front page splash about an adulterous vicar who regularly takes tea with Nick Griffin.

7 June 2009 at 08:28  
OpenID jamestheless said...


Very good! Although I'm afraid clerical adultery wouldn't even raise an eyebrow these days.

Just as the Roman circus-goers needed ever more gruesome spectacles to titillate their increasingly jaded palates, modern audiences need something stronger to excite them.

Hank Petram,

Years ago I read a secondhand copy of "A Married Man" and had the same response.


A change of agent seems to be the obvious action.

Talking of G. K. Chesterton, I've just started reading "Orthodoxy".

I particularly like his comparison between the lunatics in Hanwell and materialists: both have a theory which fully explains everything to their own satisfaction, and they cannot be reasoned out of it; but their world view is completely self-centred and misses something which is essential for being a fully functional human being.

7 June 2009 at 09:49  
Anonymous David Murdoch said...

I'm sure he could find another agent. There are plenty of publishers who would take that work.

I mean, seriously, even if only roman catholics bought the work (which is somewhat unlikely) there is still a massive market even in that. It's a shame that works like Mr. Read's that give an accurate portrayal of the church into a thrilling story, don't get the same kind of attention that false depictions like Mr. Brown's receive.

God Bless,

7 June 2009 at 19:08  
Blogger ZZMike said...

Reminds me of the line given to the Emperor Joseph in "Amadeus": "Too many notes". In this case, "Too Catholic".

james: You will enjoy "Orthodoxy". I recommend "The Everlasting Man" also. You can find it on Amazon (along with "Death of a Pope"). Read the first few pages of Everlasting Man (on Amazon) - I think you'll be hooked.

Everlasting Man

8 June 2009 at 22:33  

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