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Paul Gaus: Tony Hillerman of the Amish

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When I first started writing, I thought my readership would be quite broad. And I suspect that will be true once these Penguin editions are advertised and marketed at a national level. But so far, my readers have been for the most part older people who have been interested in readings from the Scripture, and middle-aged to older people who want to read stories that are not particularly salacious, or charged with sexuality, or laced through with vulgarities. My stories are rather calm, and tame, and decent stories, although they are murder mysteries. They are still what I regard as decent literature that any Christian could be comfortable reading.

But what I’ve found as I travel is that people of all faiths are reading my books. What they appreciate is that I am addressing a serious issue in my fiction. They are not just frivolous mystery novels. They have “redemptive value,” as one person said it to me.

Interesting. How do you tailor what you write to the needs of that readership?

I did light editing of all the stories so that Penguin could publish the books in a way that would be agreeable to the Christian Booksellers Associations. This involved a few things. Once in a while the sheriff in my stories would use intemperate speech – a damn or a hell or something like that – and we took that out of the story. And in two of the stories there were mild references to somewhat extravagant sexual practices. And these aspects of the stories were not essential to the novel, so I agreed to edit them out. And so now Penguin is bringing out a whole new set of the novels that are identical to the original, but wouldn’t cause a believer to blush in reading them.

I think Americans are ready to read serious literature that is not laced with vulgarity. It’s as if thriller-fiction has risen to the point of a grand spectacle. And my books do not go in that direction at all. My books are tempered, reasoned, quiet, thoughtful – all things other than spectacle. And yet they address a very important problem, and they address the Christian lives that Amish people live.

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