A few month ago a customer asked me some questions about the fiction we sell.
Is there any criteria for the fiction you stock?
Are there certain authors that you trust?
Are some publishers better than others?
Are there any books you refuse to carry?
A few months ago, my boss, Lando Klassen, wrote an article entitled, "Christian Fiction, No Such Thing Anymore?" I quote:
I've been thinking about our fiction section at House of James. Like most Christian type stores we carry titles primarily from Nelson, Tyndale, Baker/Bethany, Zondervan and other “Christian” publishers and some from major general publishers.
For years many of our books had some kind of redeeming element or some kind of Christian theme woven throughout - yes sometimes it was forced and sometimes it seemed a bit cheesy I’ll admit. Now though, many of our books are better written but there seems to be virtually no redeeming value in them. For example, Liparulo’s Comes a Horseman, Ted Dekker’s Boneman’s Daughter and Steven James' Pawn. The thrill and chill factor is there.
I love a fast paced novel. I learned a lot about a serial killer’s style and a murderer who broke all the bones of his victims. Some of these books are incredibly awful, gory and graphic. In my store I have rarely censored anything in this department ( although once I put up a sign warning folks about the graphic language in Miriam Toews’ novel. It was over the top as compared to anything else we had ever carried - but a very good and important book nonetheless.)
However, lately I’ve been thinking we shouldn’t call it Christian fiction - just fiction, and forget entirely about who publishes it and its redeeming value – the only guiding principle is that it should be high quality writing and if there is profanity and graphic sex it should be somewhat reasonable.
Speaking with one of my staff the other day , she said John Grisham’s latest, The Associate, had one of the clearest presentations of the Gospel she’d seen in current popular fiction. Nothing like that is in any of the thrillers I've read from our store in the last 2 years or so.
Fiction readers! What do you think? What do you expect and want to see at the House of James in this area? Any good suggestions of quality fiction we should carry that is not currently sold in our store? Do you wonder why we do carry some books?
My boss and I diverge in our opinions about "Christian-type" fiction. I personally don't think we should carry fiction that details how a killer's mind works. Why should we be submerged in the darkness and cesspool of his soul? I love a good mystery or action thriller (James Scott Bell's books are excellent), but not for the gore, guts or grit - more for the plot, characterization and resolution. I dislike Christian "soap operas" but love the meandering Mitford series. I'm troubled by books that focus on brutality and evil but sappy "chick lit" infuriates me.
I'd love to hear your opinions, especially if they are strong!