Advocatus Diaboli: A Novel (The Catholic Themes, Book One)


Product Details

$23.95  $22.27
Many Words
Publish Date
6.0 X 9.0 X 0.52 inches | 0.75 pounds

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About the Author

William Baer is the author of thirty books including Times Square and Other Stories, Psalter: A Sequence of Catholic Sonnets, Classic American Films: Conversations with the Screenwriters, Luís de Camões: Selected Sonnets (translations from the Portuguese); and the Jack Colt Mystery series, New Jersey Noir. A graduate of Rutgers, NYU, South Carolina, the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, and USC Cinema, he's been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright (Portugal), an NEA fellowship in fiction, the T. S. Eliot Award, and the Jack Nicholson Screenwriting Award. He was also the founding editor of the Formalist, the founding director of the St. Robert Southwell Summer Workshops, and the film critic and poetry editor at Crisis.


It's much easier to depict wickedness than sanctity, vice than virtue. It's much easier to portray a whiskey priest than a genuine believable saint. The reason is simple. It's difficult to depict sanctity without succumbing to either the saccharin or the preachy. William Baer has shown himself a consummate novelist in the manner in which goodness is portrayed without preachiness in this gritty tour de force of a story, which has as many twists and turns as the finest page-turning mystery story. This is fiction at its finest.

-Joseph Pearce, editor of the St. Austin Review, series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions, senior contributor at the Imaginative Conservative; author of The Quest for Shakespeare

From the opening pages of William Baer's Advocatus Diaboli straight through to its moving conclusion, the reader is irrevocably hooked. Part detective story, part hagiography, part conversion narrative, Baer's novel tells the story of his wounded protagonist, widowed theologian and canon lawyer, Robert Rankin, who interrogates the life of a modern-day saint, forcing him to wrestle with the supernatural phenomena of mystery and miracle in the context of the adamantly secular world of twenty-first century America. This is a brave novel and a brave novelist, unafraid to address the unfashionable questions of faith and doubt, to posit the possibility (though never the certainty) of an immanent divinity at work in the lives of ordinary men and women, the human need for grace, and the power of redemptive suffering to save us from ourselves and each other. Baer writes in the tradition of Graham Greene, Walker Percy, Andre Dubus, and Ron Hansen, among others-Catholic fiction writers each of whom says "No! in thunder" to both the nihilism and easy belief of his era. Compelling and credible, Baer has given us that rare gift-a clear-eyed, intelligent, religious novel that eschews the pieties of doubters and unthinking believers alike.

-Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, professor of English, creative writing, and American Catholic studies, Fordham University, New York City; associate director of the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies; author of Andalusian Hours: Poems from the Porch of Flannery O'Connor

There is a pronounced cinematic quality to William Baer's new novel, Advocatus Diaboli, one that takes its scope from the hard-boiled film noir tradition to sweep the reader through a dark, hairpin curve of events on the trail of what proves much more than an unsolved murder, hushed up and long suppressed. Like the classic thrillers of this genre, the work's detectives, politicians, officers, journalists, and socialites find themselves in a quest for vital, profound things: the mystery of motive and the complexity of intent, the heights and depths of mortal capabilities, and the reach of a love that transcends the natural plane. Baer draws characters who face a world larger, stranger, and more vast than they at first know. Its sharp edges and fleshly longings are confused and influenced by forces modernity would like to ignore-ones of both great evil and divine good, that in the words of Solzhenistsyn, ultimately lie not in the physical world at all, but cut right through the center of every human heart."

-A. G. Harmon, JD, PhD, clinical professor of law serving as director of Bench and Bar Programs, the Columbus School of Law, the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC; author of Some Bore Gifts: Stories and A House All Stilled: A Novel