Inspiration for The Apostle- J. A. Kerley

Category: Uncategorized

God Translators: Inspiration for The Apostle

The apostle packshot

It was 1978. I was down with the flu, sneezing into tissues and – my brain liquified by viral entities – watching daytime soaps. A news bulletin arrived, saying California Congressman Leo Ryan had just been viciously murdered in Jonestown, Guyana, there to investigate human-rights abuses at ‘The People’s Temple’, the home of a religious sect headed by the Reverend Jim Jones.

After his special squad of enforcers – the ‘Red Brigade’ – killed Ryan and four others, Reverend Jones convinced over 900 loyal followers to commit suicide by drinking cyanide, over 300 of them children. Those demurring were forced to drink the poison.

Homebound, I had little to do but fixate on the unfolding story over the next few days, fascinated that so many human beings had traded their freedom – and ultimately their lives – for  a self-professed ‘Man of God’ who was clearly unbalanced, paranoiac and violent, particularly toward the final days of his tragic journey.

Fast-forward to 2005: I’m pulling out of Jackson, Mississippi, and heading home to Kentucky. It’s Sunday morning in the Deep South and a cultural requisite to tune to hellfire-and-brimstone fundamentalist radio. I happened upon a preacher adamant about a passage in the Bible ‘that God wants you to understand, needs you to understand.’ It’s further explained that the true meaning of God’s crucial communiqué is available from the preacher for ‘only forty dollars’.

The salesman of this revelation was the infamous Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, a pentecostal preacher and televangelist disgraced by sex-related scandals in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It seemed that the omnipotent creator of time and space and vast whirling galaxies couldn’t communicate in plain language and had to rely on translation by a defrocked minister.

It’s religibiquitous: Jim Bakker’s sexual and financial pecadilloes paved the way for his fall from grace, yet he’s currently begging for money in the name of The Almighty. Benny Hinn has been exposed for false healings and a lavish lifestyle, yet retains a broad following and reaps millions annually. And let’s not forget Oral Roberts, who blubbered to his tele-congregation that unless they donated a fast eight million bills to his ministry, God would kill him.

The money poured in.

The newest wrinkle in religio-fundraising is the’“Prosperity Gospel’, a premise holding that Jesus’s caring for the poor was overblown and what Christ truly wanted was everyone materially rich beyond measure. You board this high-yield glory train by giving money that will – through faith – return a hundredfold.

But, of course, the prosperity preacher gets his palm fed first.

The above events and ideas share a commonality: Their practitioners misinterpret religious texts and dogma to benefit their causes, then convince others to buy into the lies. It’s con artistry, pure and simple. And sometimes with disastrous consequences.

These concepts and consequences have been tumbling in my head since I was captive to the flu and beholding the Jonestown horror, finally emerging as The Apostle. The story details grim happenings and heroic ones, and – as in any enterprise where larcenous religionists necessarily lie to themselves – some amusing ones.

The Apostle is not anti-religion. It’s anti-hypocrite, anti-charlatan, anti-lunatic. And to help lead the charge against false idols, Harry Nautilus has returned to the fold, Carson’s right-hand, left-hand, hand-you-never-knew-you-had-nor-needed man.

Brother Harry’s singing in the choir once again.


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Two Madnesses: Why I Write About Broken Minds

Category: Author Post

We’re very excited to welcome Jack Kerley, author of the addictive Carson Ryder series, to the blog today, who has written us a fascinating piece about broken minds…

In 1969 a madman named Charles Manson shocked the U.S. with a savage event: On Manson’s instructions, several of his followers—runaway kids, basically—ripped apart seven people in the Hollywood Hills. I was enthralled by the delusions of his “family” as the followers were called, most viewing Manson as a diety, though the motley group lived in squalor on a broken-down ranch.

Vincent Bugliosi’s book on the crimes followed, Helter-Skelter, and I read it repeatedly, fascinated by Manson’s hypnotic hold on the psyches of his sad and murderous crew who—even as Manson was tried and imprisoned—claimed their leader was beaming messages and instructions into their minds.

College came, and my thoughts turned elsewhere until someone called to say a good friend of mine, call him Jimmy, had taken bites of his brother’s collection of Beatle albums, and completely devoured the White Album.

Shaken, but intrigued–was it a joke?–I visited Jimmy at the home he shared with his parents. The disheveled bedroom I’d often visited was now as neat as a furniture showroom, pristine, dusted, the bed made military-tight. One more change: on every horizontal surface, desk, chest of drawers, cabinet, window sills, were thousands of pennies, randomly arranged, separated by two to five millimeters.

I’d been advised by former visitors to try something, but it would wait until Jimmy left the room.
He was in his bed when I entered, dressed in pajamas, his feet bare. When Jimmy stood to greet me, he produced a shoe horn and used it to guide his feet into outsized moccasins, the horn unnecessary, but somehow essential. His elaborate entrance into his shoes had the appearance of a ritual.

Thus shod, Jimmy turned his attention to his bed, noting the small wrinkles where he’d lain. Though easily smooth-able with a hand, Jimmy tore covers and sheets away and remade the bed entirely. Again, the feeling of a ceremony needing to be performed.

We spoke almost normally, what I’d been doing in college, mainly. I didn’t mention the gnawed vinyl records or other recent reports, like Jimmy’s refusal to drink from any vessel but a wooden mug. He was Jimmy, and yet he was not, an eerie and penetrating gaze in his eyes, his head cocked like listening between my words instead of to them.
He finally left for the bathroom. When the door closed, I did as former visitors instructed, shifting random pennies amidst the copper clutter … one penny on the desk, the chest, the cabinet. No coin was moved more than two millimeters.

I sat and waited.

Jimmy returned a few minutes later. Passing me and without even looking at the coins, he reached out and brought the three pennies back to original position. I could not have accomplished the feat had I made the pennied pattern a year-long study, and yet my old amigo had, under the power of his illness, felt the disorder in his coins, and returned them to correct alignment.

The moment had the feeling of a supernatural occurrence, yet was totally the product of a human mind. I’m not sure I slept that night, unable to stop re-thinking the event.

Jimmy’s delusions soon widened into the creation of small “objects of power”, usually medicine vials filled with colored stones or feathers. “Touch it, Jack,” he’d say, handing me a vial. I’d take it in hand. “Are you getting it?” he’d grin, hoping I was sharing in the charge from the talisman. I always assured him I felt the magic, which pleased my friend greatly.

Jimmy’s condition was soon diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia and, sadly, proved resistant to treatment. He spent most of his remaining life in and out of institutions. But when I saw him, in taverns usually, he was always happy. It almost seemed that the illness was where he felt best.

Thus the genesis of my stories: Two madnesses, one deadly and aimed outward, one benign save for it’s effect on Jimmy and his friends and family, but both exemplars of the power of the mind to shape alternate realities. The events never left my head and when it came time to write, I knew that many of my stories would be drawn, in some fashion, from broken minds and the worlds they build.

– J. A. Kerley

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January's Killer Review title is: The Hundredth Man

Category: News

thehundredthmanA body is found in the sweating heat of an Alabama night; headless, words inked on the skin. Detective Carson Ryder is good at this sort of thing – crazies and freaks. To his eyes it is no crime of passion, and when another mutilated victim turns up his suspicions are confirmed. This is not the work of a ‘normal’ murderer, but that of a serial killer, a psychopath.Famous for solving a series of crimes the year before, Carson Ryder has experience with psychopaths. But he had help with that case – strange help, from a past Ryder is trying to forget.

Now he needs it again.

When the truth finally begins to dawn, it shines on an evil so twisted, so dangerous, it could destroy everything that he cares about…

A Sunday Times Top 10 Hardback bestseller, The Hundredth Man is a brilliant page-turner that will keep you hooked from the very first page. To be in with a chance to review it, simply email