Guest Blogger: Jeri Westerson

History and the Religious Thriller

By Jeri Westerson

When you write about the medieval period, religion looms large. Of course, I’m talking the Catholic Church when it truly was a universal (catholic) church, where everyone who was Christian was Catholic and any reformists were to be condemned. In the time period that I write—late fourteenth England—being a reformist was dangerous but not necessarily life-threatening. That was later, in the fifteenth century (after all, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition).

I’m always looking for something interesting for my disgraced-knight-turned-detective Crispin Guest to deal with, besides murder. And I remembered reading about the Judas Gospel a few years ago. It’s only one of several “apocryphal” gospels, meaning “hidden”, or those that weren’t accepted at the time when the early Church fathers were deciding what to include in the New Testament, like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. But the Gospel of Judas would be sufficiently intriguing and dangerous enough for my detective to discover and try to fend off forces beyond his control. Judas is the “traitor” in TRAITOR’S CODEX, but the “traitor” is also Crispin, whose treason got him disgraced and banished from court in the first place.

By delving into its strange history, the religious reformers of the day (called Lollards), and getting him mixed up in murders and a mysterious agent of the Church out to get this book to destroy it, Crispin has his hands full doing his detecting.

The Judas Gospel, as did many of the apocryphal gospels, had a different voice from the four chosen gospels we know of today. It follows a very spiritually eastern path with its emphasis on one’s inner divinity, and that Judas was the favored Apostle not John, the one to whom Jesus entrusted this distinctly different philosophy. It’s presence certainly made Crispin think about what it means to be a faithful Christian, when the most auspicious decision one could make in the day was whether to follow the orthodoxy of the Church, or follow Lollard tenets. Lollards did not believe, for instance, that baptism and confession were necessary for salvation. They believed in the laity reading scripture in their own language and they considered asking intercession of saints and statues a form of idolatry—essentially, the beliefs that would eventually come to fruition in Henry VIII’s reformation in the sixteenth century.

When I started writing my series, I was interested in the medieval setting, with its mores and society so very different from our own. The challenge was to world-build just enough so that readers not wholly familiar with the fourteenth century and the court of Richard II, would be able to relate to my characters. Authenticity sometimes wars with accuracy (I give you the taste of the language, for instance, instead of writing it in Middle English), but history is never sacrificed for plot. Sometimes it’s tight-rope walking that fine line, but it’s never dull.

Disgraced knight turned detective Crispin Guest is caught in a deadly conspiracy within the Church to suppress what they consider a dangerous relic from falling into the hands of the reformist Lollards. But murder and betrayal are the coin of the realm amid the turmoil stirred up by a mysterious nemesis. Crispin struggles to find a killer and might have to bring a painful truth to light while avoiding falling into the lethal hands of a shadow organization within the Church.
Buy links: Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Traitors-Codex-Crispin-Guest-Mystery/dp/0727888757/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2BH7SKBABH45&keywords=traitors+codex&qid=1561419959&s=gateway&sprefix=traitors+codex%2Caps%2C248&sr=8-1Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-traitors-codex-jeri-westerson/1130151313?ean=9780727888754#/Indiebound  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780727888754Google Play https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Jeri_Westerson_Traitor_s_Codex?id=7MeDDwAAQBAJKobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/traitor-s-codex

Los Angeles native JERI WESTERSON is the author of twelve Crispin Guest Medieval Noir Mystery novels, a series nominated for thirteen national awards from the Agatha to the Shamus. Jeri also writes the urban fantasy series, BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN. She has served two terms as president of the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, twice president of the Orange County Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and as vice president and California Crime Writers Conference co-chair for the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime. See more about Jeri at JeriWesterson.com or visit BOOKEoftheHIDDEN.com

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