Like the protagonist of his novel, James E. Crouch is an outsider living in Appalachia. In a previous lifetime he had an academic career in the field of religious studies, teaching in locations as disparate as Oklahoma and Japan. More recently he has been translating theological works, primarily from German to English. With the publication of Family Values he is beginning a new career.
Tell me, Jim, when did you first think about writing fiction?
I can tell you exactly when and where it happened. It was in the mid-1960s, and I was in a Weinstube in the village of Lustnau, a suburb of the university-city of Tübingen in southwestern Germany.
Most of the people in the room were American scholars on sabbatical who had come to Tübingen to meet Ernst Käsemann, a New Testament professor who had written an article on the historical Jesus in which he took issue with his Doktor-vater, the famous Rudolf Bultmann.
It was the visiting scholars who were interested in the historical Jesus; Prof. Käsemann had moved on to other interests. One evening he mentioned in passing that during the war he had walked from Greece back to Germany.
I was dumfounded. Only later did I learn that, because of his anti-Nazi political stance, he had been imprisoned by the Gestapo and then drafted into the Wehrmacht. And it was as a common soldier—a machine-gunner—that he had participated in the movement of the German forces out of Greece.
That night I left the Weinstube thinking: There is a story there that needs to be told. Somebody needs to write a novel about common soldiers, among them pastors and theologians, walking from Greece back to Germany.
And so you set about to write that novel?
I did not. I completed my degree in Tübingen, came back to the United States, and got a job at a university. I had a family to support, and any writing I did over the next few years was non-fictional and, for the most part, academic. But the seed had been planted. And without knowing it, I had the itch to write fiction.
Published: October 15, 2016.
Fiction » Religious
A collection of short stories and two novelettes by the author of the Tim Sloan Appalachian series. The title story is set in second century Antioch and features the Gospel of Matthew. The second novelette ("Tommy") is a continuation of the Tim Sloan stories.
In his second year as the lay pastor of a small country church Tim Sloan once again is confronted with a mysterious death. This time his own nightmare-driven depression and the chronic poverty of his Appalachian community force him to face the reality that he too may be facing foreclosure time.
Published: January 28, 2012.
Fiction » Literature » Literary
Tim Sloan’s job as pastor in a small country church in Appalachia is a cover. He is really looking for his mother’s killer. During the search he becomes embedded in the small community and its web of relationships in ways he never anticipated. These relationships challenge both his cynicism and his religious beliefs and lead him to changes that surprise both him and his friends.