A religious professor’s novel is now available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the campus bookstore.
David Carlson’s “Enter by the Narrow Gate” is the first of his new mystery detective series, but the series’ progression began more than 20 years ago.
“I just sort of thought these detective stories would never go anywhere, other than they would just be fun for me because I really enjoyed the characters,” he said.
Carlson had all but forgotten about the first three novels in the series he completed when his literary agent called with good news in September 2015: Coffeetown Press wanted to publish them.
“It had been so long, I couldn’t even remember the title of the second one,” Carlson said. “That was a really great surprise.”
The story revolves around what Carlson calls “an odd combination” of police detective Christopher Worthy—a minister’s son who has lost his faith—and “an overweight and overly talkative” Orthodox monk named Father Fortis. The two are tasked to solve separate murder mysteries in New Mexico, but the cases become more intertwined as the story evolves.
“There were some people in my extended family who were struggling, and I felt at the time that I just couldn’t think of how to help them,” Carlson said. “For some reason that led me to propose these two characters.”
The series follows a precedent set by many well-known mystery writers: a root in mystery with a background in another topic.
Logically, Carlson’s related topic is religious studies.
“The reader not only is on a journey to figure out who killed these people, but at the same time we’re with a guy who has lost religious faith and a guy who is a monk with religious faith,” Carlson said. “I try to take the one character’s loss of faith as seriously and complex an issue as having faith because I don’t think losing faith is a simple thing. Usually something painful happens, and it’s a very complex situation, so I try to be fair to that.”
“Enter by the Narrow Gate” is Carlson’s first published novel, but the professor is no stranger to writing.
He published some nonfiction work about religious terrorism in 2011, and he will have another work about Christian-Muslim spiritual friendships released in 2017.
Carlson said he likes to share advice about revision with other creative writers that he received from a “no-nonsense” writing instructor he had in Wisconsin.
“One thing she said that I’ve never forgotten is most people write hoping to be loved, and that’s a disaster,” he said. “Writing is like taking a block of marble and chipping away until you have a piece of artwork. … You want all of it to be shared, but you have to let that go.”
Carlson finished the fourth book last summer and is currently working on a fifth.
“I think I’d stop writing when it stopped being enjoyable,” he said. “I don’t take myself terribly seriously. I don’t think I’m a great writer, but I think I’m a clear writer, and I’m proud of that.”