JUDGING ANGELS: Something Different & Thinky, but Shooty, too

Timothy Dostoevsky Capps
(well, might as well be)

"Dostoevskyan... theological climax." - reviewer D.C. Alan.

I had long ago tried to sell my publisher on the tagline, "Like The Brothers Karamazov, only funnier." (It's true, though.)

She was not amused.

So now whose laughing, huh? If you want to make an author insufferable, put "Dostoevksyan" somewhere in a review. I shall now be known as Timothy "Dostoevsky" Capps, a.k.a. St. Corbinian's Bear. I'm already ordering a new monogramed bathrobe with the initials "T. Dostoevsky C."

Can I get a "Chestertonian?" Please?

But seriously, that is high praise, and if it is deserved to some small extent, than I am actually humbled and more than gratified.

The State of Reviews

Every review that has come out for Judging Angels has been highly favorable. Every Amazon review is Five-Star. The problem has been a matter of getting the word out and having written a novel not even the author can explain in three or four words.

If you are reading this, here is your opportunity to check out an offbeat, original 500-page novel that combines police procedural, crime, psychological thriller, romance, urban fantasy, and a lot of mordant humor in a Catholic-ish novel for grownups that deals with themes of temptation and marriage.

More than one reviewer has also called it a "page-turner."

First, thank you, Mr. Alan, for a review that demonstrates the time you spent thinking beyond the simple story in Judging Angels that is a barely adequate backbone for some heavy philosophical inquiry, character development in depth, and, at times, a believable snapshot of people tormented by their own bad decisions.

I especially enjoy criticism that might make me a better novelist. Although some elements, such as the news reports and the police, were written broadly to have a little exaggerated fun with a criminal defense lawyer's nemesis or two, I have to concede that one or two discussions with Andy lack the snap and realism of most of the other dialogue.

Can you judge a book by its
cover? Pretty close.
On the other hand, an old friend from my Navy days in Sigonella, Sicily, a fellow JAG lawyer, recently posted that they reminded him of the conversations we used to have back at Sig. Get two lawyers together with a religious or philosophical bent to them, add a few beers, and their discussions might surprise you.

Of course, it hardly needs saying that authors like good reviews. In fact, authors would trade a child for a review like this one, or the one in Dappled Things.

These are literary folk, who judge a work beyond how closely it holds their attention, or the supercool plot twist at the end where it was the Bear only dreaming he was on a train - a train whose passengers were all the people he had eaten in his lifetime.

And yet, the Amazon reviews are also glowing - every one of them five stars.

So, is this post at least partly me begging you to buy my book?

Of course. I spend much time in a bear suit over at St. Corbinian's Bear's Ephemeris, a Curious Entertainment for Discriminating Catholic Ladies and Gentlemen. Or am I a Bear who wears a human suit over here? I don't even know anymore. As long as I get regular exercise from my private dance lessons with Ginger Rogers, I feel psychologically healthy and well-grounded in reality.

Bears, once they lose their fear of humans, become nuisances who beg constantly. For $almon. For Amazon reviews. For people to buy their dubious novels.

(Oh, dear, "a 'thing' for redheads?" Is it so obvious? I'm lucky to be married a beautiful redhead or I would be in hot water. For the record, Ginger was not a redhead. Her name was "Virginia," which was shortened by family to "Ginger." At least no one has looked at the cover and wondered if I have a thing for feet, which I totally don't.)

Rare photo of St. Corbinian's Bear with a terrified Ginger Rogers sometime
in the 1930s. The Bear, however, looks quite pleased with himself.

So What About a Movie?

A movie? MGM's Louis B. Meyer never read a book or screenplay. He would have someone tell him the story and exercise his uncanny insight into the American movie-going public's psyche to green light it or not. Something tells me Judging Angels would not fit into the era of "Its a Wonderful Life," or "The Bishop's Wife." He would probably have (or fake, as he was known to do) a heart attack at the end.

So, is it like City of Angels, then? Is it one of those romances between an unsociable teen and an Angel of God who is willing to give up everything because she's just so damned cute?

No. Without making any negative comment whatsoever on other hardworking authors who are doing far better than I am, it has nothing to do with that popular subgenre of Young Adult urban fantasy romance.

While I welcome inquiries from people with large sums of money to buy screen rights, and have no doubt it would make a fine movie, it would face the same marketing problem as does the book. Any novel that takes more than three genres to categorize is a hard sell. People like what they like, and are unwilling to gamble their money and time on something original, let alone "idiosyncratic."

"This is not real money. I'm a disgraced public defender. But I'm pretty
clever, and my new hot, redheaded girlfriend fights like a girl, if the
girl is an angel or something. So the two of us and my elderly boss
are going to track you down and, uh, when we do... okay I don't
have that part figured out yet, but you better give back Sandy." 

And if it were made, it would probably look like Mel Gibson's 1996 "Ransom" with Jessica Chastain as the mysterious "Red."

Okay, You have My Attention. What is Judging Angels Like?

My wife reads a lot. She would probably never choose this book. She reads series by authors she has liked. She likes those improbable mysteries that take place in some irenic setting like a bonsai club in Kansas town with the highest per capita murder rate in the country. Hell, it takes longer to tell her what Judging Angels is about than it takes her to read something she knows she's going to like! That's just the way people are.

But people who start reviews by saying, "I usually don't like books like this..." wind up giving five stars. That's because they don't know that Judging Angels isn't in the class of "books like this..." It is a surprise. Something different that people seem to like, even if they have a hard time categorizing it after having read it.

With good guys that won't stay good and bad guys who won't stay bad, some people who won't stay dead, and main characters who don't even know who they are or why they are here, except for cryptic comments from a crow's feather sometimes worn as a fashion accessory, it is just hard for people to take a chance on. I try to tell them "But, really, it's a serious book for grownups on serious themes wrapped in a wild ride of a story."

I could say C.S. Lewis meets Raymond Chandler and that would be pretty accurate. Like Neil Gaiman, maybe, or Terry Pratchett, or Dean Koontz (minus most of the horror), I might suggest, without claiming the same level quality for myself (although, now there is that "Dostoevksy" thing out there...) 

The least misleading thing I could say would be, if you read St. Corbinian's Bear, or the other stuff I have out there, and it entertains you and makes you think, then, you'd probably like JUDGING ANGELS. It's is like taking the Bear out of the Woodlands and putting hin in a human setting. As a human, though. That sounds like it would fun, doesn' it?

And while there's more to it that that, it doesn't short the reader on the flying lead and the crack of aluminum baseball bats, or clever teens and mad schemes "just crazy enough to work."

Thanks again for Mr. Alan's great and instructive review.


  1. The Bear as a human, eh? Not sure I can picture it. Humans are less logical and enormously less coherent. But if the Bear WERE a human . . .hey, this could get really good!


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