When readers meet Evan Wycliff in the first book, he’s a lapsed divinity student from a devoutly Southern Baptist family, but he’s also fascinated by astrophysics. After forsaking both Harvard Divinity School and MIT, he returns to his farm roots in Southern Missouri. When he’s not serving as a guest preacher, he’s using his investigative skills to track down neighbors who have fallen way behind on their auto loans. Bachelor Wycliff lives in a modest trailer, and some evenings he thinks his only friend is Jack Daniels. Although he might not be an agnostic, he’s certainly a fretful believer who has serious doubts.
In these novels, Evan gets involved in criminal plots and intrigues as an amateur sleuth because sometimes he’s the only clever fellow in this small rural town who is willing to help after the authorities have given up.
In Preacher Raises the Dead, Evan reluctantly takes on the role of full-time minister and walks straight into more responsibility and trouble than he can handle. He attends to near-death experience (NDE), late-stage dementia, long-term coma, and consequences of the pandemic. His old nemesis investment banker Stuart Shackleton is back – and claims to be converted. Shackleton’s money sustains a critical-care medical breakthrough, the building of a new church, and a career boost for Evan as a celebrity evangelist. Are these thrilling transformations part of a divine plan, or has Evan sold his soul?
Author Gerald Everett Jones explains how his writing process generates plot twists and surprises: “In writing these mysteries, I’ve surprised myself many times over. It will therefore surprise me if readers find anything in the plots predictable. I resolved at the outset to let my subconscious self do most of the work. And after the stage was set and the characters stepped onto it, many times they told me where they wanted to go and said whatever they wanted to say. I haven’t always worked like this. Years ago, when I wrote mainly technical and business nonfiction for publishing houses, I wrote to strict outlines, and I sought approval from in-house editors if ever I chose to depart from the agreed plan.
“When I set out to write Preacher Raises the Dead, I had the notion of describing both near-death experience and coma. In the beginning, I didn’t know who would be stricken or how those subplots would turn out. Many other plot elements were likewise uncertain right up until the words flowed into the manuscript draft, including questions about some of Evan’s most basic religious beliefs. His philosophy of life is bound to be controversial. The very thought of a practicing minister who is too often an agnostic will raise eyebrows. But do churchpersons have occasional doubts? I don’t doubt it.”
Commenting on Jones’s talent for surprising the reader, novelist John Rachel, author of Blinders Keepers and The Man Who Loved Too Much, writes in his review of Preacher Finds a Corpse: “This is an excellent read from such an engaging storyteller! It really sucked me in. That last page did cause a triple-take, quadruple-take, and whatever comes after, up to about eight. Jones is definitely one of my favorite authors.”
Likely questions from readers about Preacher Raises the Dead might be: “Should churches take views on the pandemic or on political parties or candidates? Are near-death experiences physical or metaphysical? How do ‘right to die’ laws affect treatment of patients in long-term coma?” And, perhaps most telling of all: “Can an agnostic be a practicing minister?”
Preacher Raises the Dead is available for pre-order now in trade paperback from booksellers worldwide and in Kindle ebook format from Amazon. Book release is set for Tuesday, March 1, 2022.