I’m ambivalent about the “naturalistic” school of Christian fiction. There’s a small group of Christian authors – and make no mistake, they are brave souls – who’ve decided that the gospel is badly served by the sugar-coating and bowdlerizing so common in Christian fiction. They believe it’s time to drop the taboos, because how can we expect people to believe what we say about heavenly things when we don’t tell the truth about earthly things?
I salute their courage and honestly, and I’m not entirely sure they’re wrong. I try to steer my own fiction closer to that line than many, so I’d be kind of hypocritical to condemn them. But I can’t deny they make me a little uncomfortable. It may be just because I’m old.
Tony Faggioli is the author of Another One, the first in a trilogy of supernatural crime novels starring Evan Parker, a Los Angeles police detective. The book is presented from multiple viewpoints, following Parker (an Iraq War veteran with PTSD) as he and his partner investigate the murder of a Hispanic gang member shot to death in a Korean neighborhood. We follow Father Bernardino Soltera, who is trying to help a young girl who has gotten pregnant by her gang member boyfriend, and is contemplating abortion. And Hector Villarosa, a gang leader just released from prison. He finds that his girlfriend has taken up with another man, and is contemplating revenge even as he struggles with guilt over setting his own cousin up to be murdered.
These men are bound together, not only by intertwined crimes, but by the visions they see – beings of good and beings of evil who respectively promise to protect or to kill and damn them.
Author Faggioli has some strengths as a writer. His characters and dialogue are excellent. The realism of his settings and descriptions are as good as you’ll find in any crime novel (I think – though he thinks a Glock holds a “clip”). I think he does a pretty good job of incorporating supernatural elements into a realistic story (a challenge I’ve faced myself, though never in this kind of gritty environment).
His weakness is his wordsmanship. Sentences like “Father Bernardino Soltera sat opposite the girl before him in his office and waited.” (Hint: you can drop the words “before him” and lose none of the meaning of the sentence.) And he has a problem with homophones: “reign” for “rein;” “council” for “counsel;” “cloistered” for “clustered.” While I was reading, I thought this was a first novel, which would make the errors somewhat forgivable. But it turns out Faggioli has written a whole series of novels before this, of which this trilogy is a spin-off. He should get a good copy editor; his stories are worth the effort and expense.
I did enjoy reading Another One, though it made me a little uncomfortable (probably on purpose). If you like this sort of thing and can handle a lot of obscenity, it’s worth reading. Cautiously recommended for its proper audience.