From the bar to the book
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Date: August 2007
| 'Through his fiction, Andrew Nugent explores extreme situations such as murder, suicide and child abuse.'
Suzanne Elvidge talked to author Andrew Nugent
In his black trousers and dark grey polo shirt, you might say that Andrew Nugent looked like a retired barrister, or perhaps a retired school teacher.
At a push, you might even say he looked like a monk. But you probably wouldn’t say he looked like a published author of two crime novels, including examples of brutal abuse and language that might shock the readers. But actually – he is all of these.
After the death of his mother when he was eight, Andrew Nugent decided he was going to become a monk – in his words, he saw the rest of his life as an ‘away match’.
He entered the Order of St Benedict, and is currently the Prior of Glenstal Abbey, Limerick, having spent the whole of his monastic life as a teacher, housemaster and headmaster. He has worked in Israel and the USA, and spent nine years in a Benedictine monastery in Nigeria.
When Andrew was in Nigeria, in 2000, he began writing. It started to escape the difficult environment, including the loss of two colleagues and of his brother, and as a way to explore his ‘inner landscape’.
His writing included spirituality and theology, and perhaps surprisingly, murder mysteries. But in some ways, this choice of crime fiction is not all that startling - the law was in his genes.
His mother was a solicitor and his father a barrister, and he was called to the Bar before becoming a trial lawyer. His published books are ‘The Four Courts Murder’ and ‘Second Burial for a Black Prince’, with the third novel (currently called ‘Soul Murder’) accepted by his US publishers.
Through his fiction, Andrew Nugent explores extreme situations such as murder, suicide and child abuse, focusing on the reaction of the ordinary people left behind to cope.
Each book includes waif characters – orphans or ‘near orphans’ (children who have lost one parent), that really reflect himself – boys dealt a tough hand and coping as he wished he himself had coped.
But should Christians, especially monks, write about these brutal parts of life, and use this kind of language? He explained that all of human life is in his books, and he is trying to say it as it is.
We (especially the Church) have to face reality – after all Christ was brutally murdered. And the choice of words isn’t just to shock (though it can do, and it had to be moderated for his American audience).
When I asked him what his confreres really thought of his writing, he admitted he is a little concerned about what they will think about the third book – while he changed the name and the location, the story about the murder of a housemaster is firmly set in his own monastery.
However, he suspects that while half of the brothers would admit that they read his books, a quarter probably read them but would not dare admit it!
He writes to give morality a good name and to give people hope, rather than to convert the world – however, there is one topic that Andrew Nugent will not touch – writing about being a monk. He is afraid of the response from the brothers!
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