Sin, Salvation and Shadowmancer
G.P. Taylor, as told to Bob Smietana
Zondervan, 2006, Hbk, 248p. ISBN 13 9780310267393 ISBN 10 0310267390
As entertaining as a Roald Dahl story, this book says as much about the grace of God as it does about G.P. Taylor. We learn about his near death experience as a child, which led to a quest (in churches and seances!) for knowledge about the afterlife, to his teenage years as a punk who was expelled from school. He became involved in the music industry where he got to know Richard Branson and Sting. He then became a social worker, then a policeman and then a vicar. Unlikely as all this may sound when stated baldly, in the book it unfolds as seamlessly as the plot of one of his novels. The hand of God on his life is evident from beginning to end of the book and this gives it a unity through all his adventures which range from the sad and bizarre to the hilariously funny. In his teens he was desperate to become famous. Ironically it was only after he became a vicar that this happened in a way he never expected.
Having read Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass which portrays God as a senile hater of humanity he decided to write a novel to show young people what God is really like. Shadowmancer succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, becoming a best seller, at one point billed as “hotter than Potter”.
Unfortunately with fame came stress and health problems, which meant he had to leave his obviously very effective parish work. But even here he traces the hand of God as his influence spread from the parish to “a world full of people, just like me, who need Jesus”. Among his many speaking engagements will be the LCF Annual Lecture in York this October. Do come and hear this remarkable writer.
One small query. Why does a writer of Taylor’s calibre need a ghost writer?
Postscript on Philip Pullman
Although he had written Shadowmancer in protest against Pullman’s novels, Taylor e-mailed him after his first heart attack to ask how he coped with the stress of fame. Pullman immediately ‘phoned back with his ‘phone number. Taylor writes,
“I will always remember that simple act of kindness. I still disagree with Philip Pullman the writer but I have a great respect for Philip Pullman the human being. He is a kind considerate moral man who acts more like a Christian, although he does not believe in God, than many Christians I know.”
Taylor says that although Pullman’s novels are theologically dangerous he has every right to publish them and says he does not want “to live in a country where books are burned, where authors are not free to write what matters most to them”. With freedom of speech and religion coming increasingly under attack librarians must surely agree and hope that atheists like Pullman do too.
Contributed by: Ngaio Malcolm, MA, DipNZLS, who has worked in school libraries in Great Britain and New Zealand.