My current novel – working title “Basic Theology for Fallen Women”, has three central characters: two are women who have long-term involvements with married men, and the third is (not to put too fine a point on it) a tart, albeit a high-class tart. Here are the opening paragraphs.
The Catholic Church has always had a problem with sex, and never more so than in that of the extra-marital variety.
A certain Catholic bishop reflected gloomily upon the problem of adultery in his diocese (it was a large diocese, and there was a lot of adultery) and after much thought and some heartfelt prayers, he hit upon an idea. A self-help group for adulterers! Why had no-one thought of it before? There were self-help groups for drug-users and alcoholics, so why not for those who were slaves to their illicit passions? It was a wonderful idea, and he knew just the person to lead the group.
Father Cuthbert O’Donnell was not pleased. He was a shy man, he had never led a group before, and he had enough problems on his own doorstep without extending his boundaries any further. When the Bishop approached him he prevaricated and he reasoned – he even cited his asthma attacks – but to no avail. The Bishop was insistent. The meetings must obviously take place somewhere away from the big towns where people might know each other, and Father Cuthbert’s little village was just the place. Money would be provided for tea and biscuits, and the Bishop himself would put in motion the business of recruiting people to attend, making as sure as was possible that the individuals concerned did not already know each other.
‘And how will you do that, your grace?’ Father Cuthbert enquired boldly.
The Bishop tapped his nose and smiled. ‘I have my ways.’
‘But – ‘
‘No buts, Father. I’m sure you will carry out this duty as conscientiously as you do all your others.’
‘Adulterers Anonymous?’ hazarded Father Cuthbert, accepting defeat.
‘No no, Father. Theology. We will call the meetings Basic Theology for Beginners, to preserve confidentiality, and avoid embarrassment.’
And that was the start. To Father Cuthbert’s surprise, the group went well, the members seemed to enjoy the opportunity to discuss their problems with their fellows, and gradually, some of them came to see the error of their ways.
Within six months, of the ten original group members, just three were left. Five had broken off their irregular liaisons, one had resorted to divorce, and one, tragically, had killed himself, thus (as Father Cuthbert sadly informed his fellows) further compounding his tally of mortal sins.
Notwithstanding the fine example of some of their fellows, and unmoved by the suicide, the three remaining members of the group – all women – seemed unwilling to mend their ways, and after consulting with the Bishop, Father Cuthbert informed them that it was with much regret that he had decided that he could no longer extend to them his hospitality (not to mention the coffee and biscuits) at the presbytery. If they wished to continue their meetings, they would have to find alternative premises.
Alice, Mavis and Gabs decided to do just that. This is their story.
The novel is now completed, and has my agent’s approval, so she is now in the process of submitting it to publishers. Watch this space!