Tuesday, July 12, 2016

13. One More Sunday by John D. MacDonald

I don't know if it is because summer is here (though I wasn't actually on vacation) or just the power of John D. MacDonald's page-turning prose, but I burned through this book.  One More Sunday is one of his later, thick "dramatic" novels (which I guess means not in the specific crime or mystery genre).  It's the story of a mega-church in the south.  Though there is a mystery that is in the center of it (a journalist disappears who was sent to cover the church), the book is really about the inner workings of the church, the flaws of all the humans that run it and it's slow descent into collapse as their human weakenesses pull it apart. 

I loved the first half, as MacDonald really delves into the setting, giving great details on the church's history, its geography and how it is run.  You get to see the database behind its fundraising, the operation that answers (and takes money from) the thousands of letters received each day, the security, the finances, its reslationships with big politicians and so on.  Things tend to get a bit saccharine and slightly unreal in parts in the second half, especially as characters have some dialogue that sounds very forced and unnatural.  There are a few too many uneducated hicks who somehow have a deep wisdom and a way too rich language to share that wisdom.  It also feels a bit rushed and in need of a tighter edit.  There are actually several typos, which suggest that it was actually rushed a bit.

Despite those minor flaws, I was hooked enough that I had to stay up late finishing it.  Something that happens very rarely to me these days, so I was grateful.  I love the way MacDonald doesn't pull his punches on sin.  Still in America, the media hems and haws on corruption and immorality of big names and we live in a culture where people still want to defend straight up scumbags because they are powerful or have celebrity.  There is none of that doubt in a John D. MacDonald book.  He shows you the big name preacher at his worst and it's very satisfying.

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